Weekend City Guide :: Kauai

weekend city guide kauai

A few years ago we had tickets booked to Bali, Indonesia. We were pretty stoked to be heading there, but before we could get too far into the planning process, a few important things happened:

  1. We got engaged.
  2. Two Malaysia Airlines flights ended in tragedy.
  3. Our flights were with Malaysia Airlines.
weekend city guide kauai
I was more of a chicken than this cock.

I don’t know about you, but there was pretty much no way I could handle 24+ hours flying with them given the crashes. We also decided, that maybe we should cancel our flights (sooner than later) to get as much money as possible back. Assuming, that after all this, there may not be a Malaysia Airlines business for much longer. We also figured we should be responsible with our money, since we were now planning a wedding.

The tough part was that we had been looking forward to a nice tropical vacation in November and now we weren’t going to get one. But like true, nearly-zero-responsibility adults, we decided that just wouldn’t do. We made the decision to go to Hawaii instead. Neither of us had been since we were kids, and we able to get decent flights. We went for 2 weeks. Spending just over a week on the island of Kauai and a few days on Oahu.

weekend city guide kauai
Isn’t this how glamorous everyone is at the beach?!

What we didn’t take into account, was how fucking expensive Hawaii is. We weren’t out shopping or getting drunk every night and having big fancy dinners, but the cost of 2 weeks in Hawaii worked out to about as much as we spent the year before for 5 weeks in Europe. I will point out that November in Hawaii is nearly peak season, and November in Europe is pretty much the opposite of peak season. But still, it was outrageous.

Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Isle”, its where some of the most weekend city guide kauairecognizable scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed (as well as over 70 other films/TV shows). We stayed just outside of Kapa’a, at this VRBO on Wailua Bay. The host was great and the unit came with everything we could need. We loved the location so much we were researching how much it would cost to buy a unit there. (spoiler alert: it was out of our price range).

Wailua had everything we needed within a quick drive/reasonable walking distance. There were a few different restaurants to choose from (not just chains) and a Safeway nearby. We went out one night, but otherwise just bought our groceries and BBQ’d at the condo. We were able to get super fresh Ahi Tuna steaks from Safeway which was a dream!

One day we spent driving Route 56 up to the north side of the island to Princeville and the 560 through Hanalei. It’s not a long drive, but we made a real trip of it.

Our first stop was the Kilauea Lighthouse. The parking lot was a zoo but the view was fantastic and definitely worth the stop.

weekend city guide kauai
“Secret” Beach

Our second stop was Kauapea Beach (also known as Secret Beach). It was a beautiful beach, that took a short but respectable hike to get to. I remember feeling like I was going to die coming back up. The trail is unmarked and the water was not great for swimming. I stood just close enough to get my feet wet and even then I misread it and got knocked on my ass. Tyler attempted going deeper and thought better of it. They were literally surfing maybe 20ft from shore, it was nuts. The beach is about a kilometer long and you can easily feel like you’re the only one on the beach. At the far end of the beach you can gain access to a waterfall. Which we didn’t do, because we were content with our view that required no additional walking.

weekend city guide kauai
Hanalei Bay
weekend city guide kauai
Hanalei Valley & one of my fav pics ever.

We continued on to Hanalei Bay, which was very busy, but also beautiful. Duh, seriously? I don’t think there is a “meh” beach on Kauai. We stopped at Kalypso Island Bar & Grill (the website leaves something to be desired, but I got my fill of Mango Daiquiris and coconut shrimp so I was happy). We made pit stops along the way to check out other beaches and view points as we made our way back to the condo. One thing to note is that Kauai has wild chickens, which were prevalent on this side of the island.

weekend city guide kauai
Kalalau Valley Lookout

The next day we headed down Route 56 the other direction towards Route 50 and Waimea Canyon Dr. It took about two hours of driving but we made it to the top of Koke’e State Park. We definitely had to switch up who was driving as I started getting carsick. When we got to the top we had a quick picnic and made our way to the view point. We got about 5 seconds of a view of the Pacific Ocean through Kalalau Valley before the clouds closed back in. We made our way to the Waimea Canyon lookout point. The state park has lots to do, and the lookouts are great, but the canyon had a lot of people and tour buses to deal with.

weekend city guide kauai
Waimea Canyon Lookout

There is a best time for viewing the Kalalau Valley (or the entrance to Jurassic Park) which happens to be between 8am and 11am, as the clouds are just too thick in the afternoon.

After this we headed to Polihale State Park. It’s 15 miles of beach that isn’t weekend city guide kauaiprotected by any reef. You DO NOT swim here. The waves are the full force of the Pacific. I wouldn’t recommend driving a small car here, but it is possible (we did), but some clearance would be best. One of our co-workers comes here and camps on the beach, actually he camps on a lot of the beaches, but this one for sure. He’s a bit of a lone wolf, with some quirks; we’ll call him adventurous.

weekend city guide kauaiThe next day we did a catamaran cruise of the Na Pali Coast. This coastline is only accessible by boat or hiking. We looked into doing the hike, but there are some dodgy areas, where a fear of heights would not be helpful. The hike takes about 2 days and is said to be one of the best, so maybe one day. But likely not any time soon. The cruise was a lot of fun. We did it with Holo Holo Charters and had a great time. I would definitely book one of their other tours given a chance. This coastline is amazingly beautiful. I think it looks awesome in pictures, but the pictures don’t do it justice.

So there, that’s 3 jam-packed days on the island of Kauai. We spent a weekend city guide kauaidecent portion of time relaxing on beaches too. As the island is small, we could manage to split the day up more or less, with adventuring in the mornings and beach in the afternoon (or vice versa). I realize this isn’t a city guide, and technically more of an island guide… but just go with it.

The Basics:

Accommodations: Our VRBO was perfect. It was a great area for accessibility and it had everything we needed, plus a fantastic view. If we could live here we probably would. Keep in mind, there are no elevators, so, you will have to use the stairs if you are on an upper floor.

Transportation: Rent a car. There are buses, but its just so much easier to have your own car. You can get more places faster and enjoy the scenery more, making pit stops for photos and snacks.

weekend city guide kauai
Ahi Tuna

Food and Beverage: Fresh Seafood. Today’s Catch. Ahi Tuna steaks from Safeway. GET IT IN YOU.

Watch Out For: The waves. The deep blue is a fickle bitch. Read the surf reports, heed the warnings. Check out Kauai Beach Scoop for their list of the best swimming beaches on Kauai. Keep an eye on your kids and familiarize yourself with rip current safety.

weekend city guide kauai
YUM

Also keep an eye on your budget. Kauai is not as expensive as Oahu, but its still more expensive than mainland USA. I wouldn’t bother going shopping or buying anything in the tourist shops, but if you must, set a dollar limit. We spent about 4 days in Waikiki and the costs were almost equal to our 10 days on Kauai.

Must Sees: Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali Coast. They are just too beautiful to miss.

Things We’ll be Doing if We Get a Redo: Any of the other Holo Holo Charters tours. (We did the Napali Sunset Tour). One day maybe, hiking the Na Pali Coast.

Traveling with Kids: I would definitely bring kids here, the island is quiet and not touristy. But make sure you have your eye on them at all times and they are wearing personal flotation devices. Even the most chill looking beach can be dangerous.

Nap Time is the Best Time

There is no time during a parent’s day, more glorious than Bed Time. The relief can only be compared to the second best time of day, Nap Time. Nap time is the best time. I write this here today, in my pink fuzzy housecoat, stuffed up nose, enjoying a reheated coffee. Today’s morning nap is necessary. Everyone needs it. Unfortunately, it looks like Callahan has other plans.

nap time is the best timeYou see, Callahan doesn’t nap at daycare, like AT ALL. Maybe you don’t have kids, or you’ve forgotten how important sleep is to these tiny little terrorists. But they NEED their naps. If they skip a nap, or don’t nap at all, it doesn’t mean they will just sleep longer that night or go to bed earlier. NOoOOooOoOooOooOo, that would be too easy. No, a skipped nap means the rest of your day goes to shit. You can write off everything else you had planned for the day; call it a forfeit, pay the fine, and move on.

nap time is the best timeWhen Callahan was a teeny baby and we were in the teeny apartment, I used to get bored when he napped. It was great because I felt like I had accomplished something; and getting him to sleep truly was a test in will power, creativity, and strength. I would shower, get “dressed” and then I would sit there, quietly, drinking my coffee and waiting for him to wake up. Yes, that’s right. I missed him and I was bored. It didn’t help that the apartment was so small I couldn’t do much. Eventually I figured out how to do laundry or ride the bike, but it took a while to build up that confidence that I wouldn’t wake him.

Once sleep training was accomplished and we were in the new place, napsnap time is the best time suddenly became THE BEST THING EVER. I could clean up, exercise, shower, eat, do whatever I wanted! It was great! He napped consistently, twice a day for about 3 hours total, it was awesome. Flash forward to now:

Now, it seems Callahan only wants one nap. He fucks around in his crib for an hour at each nap, is a general pain in the ass, works himself up. Ugh. So we caved, we said fine little man, today you can have only one nap. We kept him up, went to the park, gave him snacks, whatever it took to keep him happy until our pre-determined nap time. It worked, for a few days, until the snotpocalypse/cough/ear infection he had just finished getting over reared its ugly head.

nap time is the best timeAre you fucking kidding me?! WHY?! That’s not fair! These babies, they are just little predatory germ sponges. They absorb whatever disgustingness their daycare friends have, lick the shopping cart handles, and let the germs lay dormant until you try and change their sleeping habits, or go on a holiday, or you’re not feeling good. Then BAM!!

SNOT IS EVERYWHERE.

So today, I’m home sick with whatever godforsaken plague he’s brought nap time is the best timeus. Like a cat bringing his owner a dead mouse, kids bring you colds. Tyler’s sick with it, and Callahan is still, you know it! Spewing snot everywhere and refusing to nap. So I’m forcing this one, this kid needs as much sleep as possible. I need a break from jumping up to wipe his snotty nose with my fingers, because that’s all I have time to use before the giant pendulum of snot completes it’s collision course with the couch. And sleep will make you health(ier).

nap time is the best timeSo if you’re wondering, no, he’s still not asleep. All his stuffies and blankets are on the floor, and the battery on the baby monitor is dying. Sometimes, when he’s napping and I don’t want to do anything, I like watching videos of him from earlier in the day or week. Because yes, even though I need a break, I still miss him.

But not today little man, you will nap, so help me God…..

…..by the time I finished writing this, I had caved and pulled him out of the crib. And he has the audacity to yawn in my presence.

Nap Time

Weekend City Guide :: Arras & The Canadian National Vimy Memorial

Two hours north of Paris, is Arras. This is the town closest to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Its absolutely beautiful, and très French. In 2013 we arranged to swing out to this town so we could visit the Vimy Memorial for Remembrance Day.

We took the train out to Arras, and when we couldn’t get a cab, we decided to walk to our hotel. Little did we know, we had a long ass walk ahead of us. It was Armistice Day, and a Sunday, and this town was dead. We got to our hotel, where the reception didn’t speak any English. We tried going out to get some lunch, but only found one actual restaurant open and they would only serve us steak et frites. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic steak but to serve it with fries?!

We decided to go explore this sleepy town and stumbled upon a rugby clubCanadian National Vimy Memorial and some houses, but that was literally it. We made our way back to the hotel, grabbing a pie on the way and basically died in our room; spending the entire rest of the day in bed watching Dumb and Dumber on YouTube and eating take out pizza. Thankfully this little rest helped Tyler get over the worst of his cold.

The next day was Remembrance Day, and there would be a ceremony at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, more intimate than the “official” ceremony on the Sunday. The Monday not being a statutory holiday, meant the majority of the attendees at the ceremony would be Canadian expats and travelers. The ceremony (and memorial) is organized and run by Canadian university students who do placements there.

Canadian National Vimy Memorial
morning dew on the craters

I arranged with reception (via Google translator) to book us a cab bright and early the next morning. We didn’t want to miss the ceremony, or a chance to do a tour of the site. Tyler and I both agreed that this is one of the highlights of our travels. It was a beautiful day, and the ceremony was perfect; respectful, intimate, and it just really hit you, to stand there on Vimy Ridge on the 11th of November with a bunch of other Canadians.

Canadian National Vimy MemorialIf you get a chance to do this, DO IT. Even if its not for Remembrance Day; just get there and do the tour of the trenches. It is fascinating and awe inspiring, and will leave you feeling so insignificant and full of gratitude simultaneously. The students working at the memorial do an amazing job. They know their stuff and are very passionate about it. The tours through the trenches are chalk full of information and the groups are kept small, making it easy to ask questions and get meaningful answers. The memorial is about a 40 minute drive outside Arras, so you will need a vehicle, or you can take a taxi. If you are attending the Remembrance Day or Armistice Day ceremonies, be sure to book your cab in advance and get there early.

Canadian National Vimy Memorial
In the trenches

The town of Arras didn’t seem like much at first glance. But now that it was a Monday things were back to normal. We had clearly made a wrong turn the day before, heading into the more rural area of town. Our cab driver dropped us off right in the centre of town, lo and behold, there is a freaking beautiful city centre! He explained on our drive back from the memorial, that Arras was almost completely leveled during WWI. When they rebuilt it, they did so in a Flemish-Baroque style architecture. This was not a style native to the area or time, but the townspeople liked it, so they went for it! For some reason I have NO pictures of it, I must have temporarily lost my mind.

There are shopping areas, a large square, and underground tunnels you Canadian National Vimy Memorialcan explore. The tunnels were built to connect people’s cellars during medieval times, and then were used during the wars to hide residents and Allied troops from opposing forces and bombs. Our focus on the Vimy memorial and Tyler getting sick, meant we didn’t get to explore much of the town, but we did get to have our first taste of stinky French cheese. We went out for a late lunch and I chose the “Arras-stye Chitterling Sausage”. Turns out it was a pig colon sausage in some sort of white sauce. It was fucking fantastic. Aside from one home cooked meal on this trip, that was the best meal I had. Even after finding out it was pig colon, I said NO RAGRETS! I’d do it again.

The Basics:

Accommodation: This was the hotel we stayed at. It has been updated and looks great in the pictures. Don’t be fooled though, on the map it seems like a quick jaunt, but it is not. It’s a long ass walk. Doable, but you’ve been warned.

Transportation: You can get there by train. You can walk basically anywhere in town, or get a cab. But you will definitely want a cab or a rental to get to the Vimy memorial.

Food and Beverage: Follow your nose! 😉 I’ve been looking for the restaurant we ate at, but can’t find it. I would recommend eating anything cooked in the local “Arras Style” based on the one meal I had.

Watch Out For: Holidays, this place shuts the fuck down and you’ll be nearly stranded.

Must Sees: The town square and the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

Things We’ll be Doing if We get a Redo: Les Boves (the underground chambers) and Les Carrières Wellington (the underground network of tunnels connecting Les Boves).

Traveling with a Kid: Arras will be fine with little ones, the Vimy memorial might be a little too quiet for small kids? I think it would be a fantastic experience for older kids (maybe grade 5 or 6 upwards).

Have you visited Arras or the Canadian National Vimy Memorial? What are your thoughts or suggestions? What would you do/not do?