Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Maui, Maui. I absolutely love this island and wish I could have stayed longer. After arriving we stopped at Leoda’s for lunch, which was simple and delicious. We also grabbed a couple pies [yum!] because Thanksgiving was the next day. My favorite was the banana cream pie. After settling in at The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel we set of to see a luau at The Royal Lahaina. This was a ton of fun and made for a great first night on Maui.

We woke up and decided to explore so we jumped in the jeep and took off north from Ka’anapali. Driving around Maui is kind of funny because every tourist/traveler we came across was using Fodor’s Maui Revealed book to find all the good spots. We drove until we got to Nakalele Blowhole where we decided to hike down to see it in action. I highly recommend this because it’s not only unique and cool, but also a beautiful view of the coastline. Not to mention, super windy.

We then kept going on HI-340 and stopped for banana bread and a massive shaved ice from Lorraine’s. She sells the fresh bread out of her garage and has seating for tourists and bikers that come to relax for a bit. After grabbing this snack we continued on. As you go the roads get more and more narrow and at some points there is only enough room for one car to pass, which can make you nervous if you don’t want to fall off the side of a cliff. We continued this drive by making a large circle around the West Maui Forest Reserve back to the Lahaina area where we grabbed dinner. This is definitely a tourist area with many shops and restaurants. We were also somewhat underdressed because most people were dressed for an evening out while we still had our swimsuits on under our clothes.

The next day we decided to explore the famous Road to Hana. If you’re going to do this route you should pack a cooler and start early in the morning to allow enough time to stop and hike at more than one spot. There are too many hidden spots to count and each one is uniquely beautiful. Some have very limited parking, which is another reason to start early.  We drove all the way to Hana before heading back the same way we came. We stopped to see a few more waterfalls before catching the sunset at Ho’okipa Beach Park where we also had the privilege of seeing some sea turtles resting. We then decided to freshen up before dinner this time. We ate at Lahaina Fish Company, which was so incredible delicious that I didn’t even take pictures. We ended up trying a couple different entrees and an appetizer that we split so we could each try the different flavors. [This is my absolute favorite way to dine out]

The next day was our last so we relaxed on the beach [finally] and ventured to beaches close by. This was perfect because we could lounge in the sand or swim in the ocean, but had the entertainment of the surfers to enjoy.

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The Big Island

Let me start by saying that flying for 10 hours isn’t the most fun, but landing in Hawaii makes it all worth it.

My first flight landed in Honolulu with enough time to grab a bite to eat before the second flight to Kona. The first full day we jumped in the jeep and took off exploring. We started going north around the top of the island stopping at beaches and lookout points.

Green Sand Beach on the southern point of the island was my favorite. Luckily, our 4wd jeep was able to make it in because it’s about 5 miles one way and it was, of course, sunny and hot. Once we parked the jeep among the other 4WD vehicles [only about 3 others] we trekked down so we could explore and get in the water, which was amazing. After some more exploring we decided to make our way back to the main road and drive to Mauna Loa volcano.

We went to the lookout point of Mauna Loa, but it was hard to see the actual crater because of all the steam. After, we drove past all of the hard rock [lava] to the Holei Sea Arch. There is rock everywhere and it all looks different depending on which lava flow it came from and how recent that flow was. It’s incredible.

We ended this day by stopping at the visitor station of another volcano, Mauna Kea. This volcano is dormant. By the time we got to station on Mauna Kea it was dark outside so we didn’t go all the way up. The visitor station is full of telescopes though, which was great. We were able to see so many constellations and stars from this point.

Big Island

Big Island

We explored and stopped at so many beaches while on this island, but there is still so much to see and do. I’ll just have to go back!

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Favorite Travel Moments of 2015

2015 was an incredible year for me with travels to so many beautiful places.  Here are some photo highlights in no particular order!

 

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Paros, Greece

Paros was gorgeous, but one of my favorite parts was during our “booze cruise” around Anti Paros…cliff jumping. The adrenaline junkie in me couldn’t wait to jump into the salty water. It was SO fun!

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Darth Vader and I staring at each other…awkward is it?

Meeting Darth Vader before seeing the premiere of The Force Awakens was so much fun, but also because it was a moment and weekend I was able to share with my brother, the biggest Star Wars fan I know.

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Before rafting in the Alps

If you’ve never been rafting you should go, but if you’ve never been rafting in the Alps you definitely should. This was an experience I will never forget because we were laughing so hard the entire time and didn’t even notice the freezing water.

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Eiffel Tower

Of course, this is a favorite moment of mine because it’s Paris. Who doesn’t think about going here and staring at this giant?

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Green Sand Beach, Hawaii

I spent Thanksgiving in Hawaii and it was amazing, but this beach is my favorite. We had to use the Jeep’s 4WD to get here and climb down to get to the beach, but it was so worth it.

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Paddle boarding in Cinque Terre, Italy.

While exploring the towns that make up Cinque Terre a few other girls and I rented these Stand Up Paddle boards. Amazing.

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Disneyland, Paris

Disneyland was the best. This could be because I’m a Disney nerd or because it’s on my bucket list, but either way it was great. We did everything and had so much fun in the process.

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Swimming in Munich

Munich is one of my favorite cities already, but during our bike tour we jumped into the Isar river [brrr] before continuing on to a beer garden. This whole day was fantastic and won’t be forgotten.

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Madrid, Spain

Madrid holds a special place in my heart now because it is the first city I traveled solo. While sometimes scared or lonely, I learned so much about myself and am so grateful for the experience.

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John Lennon Wall, Prague

Prague is an amazing city and I absolutely loved my time there. This being said, I was super excited to see the John Lennon Wall because it’s so well known.

 

Of course, I did and saw so much this year that I could go on forever. I’m also noticing that a lot of my favorite moments include water, which obviously means I was a mermaid in a prior life [I’ll keep dreaming]! 2015 was a great year, but I can’t wait to see what or where 2016 brings me.

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The Force Awakens at Disney World

When my brother and I decided to go to Disney World during the Christmas holiday we intended to see The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios because 2015 is the last year they are being shown. What we didn’t realize was that our trip coincided with the release of the new Star Wars movie [Episode VII]. Disney had a special event that we splurged on because how often does this happen?

The movie release day [Thursday, December 17] was very exciting. My brother and I started the morning waiting in line at Disney Springs [formerly Downtown Disney] to pick up our event tickets and swag bags. After this we went to Hollywood Studios where we played in the parks and met some characters before returning to Disney Springs to wait for the movie along with a few thousand of our closest friends. After walking the red carpet into the theater and waiting a couple of hours we finally saw the movie [don’t worry, no spoilers]. After, we went back to Hollywood Studios for a special ticketed event to celebrate the release of The Force Awakens.

This party at Hollywood Studios was full of Star Wars nerds and it was fantastic. We were offered Yoda’s favorite drink [green tea frappuccino] while walking down Sunset Boulevard. Our first stop was Aerosmith’s Rock-n-Rollercoaster because it was Star Wars themed just for this event and did I already mention NO LINES? Yes, there were a lot of people, but not enough to have long lines [awesome!]. After nerding out on the Rock-n-Rollercoaster we rode Tower of Terror because once again NO LINES! Then, of course, we made our way over to Star Tours [Star Wars ride]. After this we backtracked to the main stage in the center of the park where there was a DJ and dance party happening while waiting for the special Galactic Spectacular fireworks. These fireworks were fantastic and synchronized perfectly to Star Wars music. We slowly made our way to the exit after the fireworks because it was almost 2am and we needed some sleep.

Well done, Disney!

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Paros, Greece

Where do I start? This island is insanely beautiful and so different from Athens.

We took a ferry to the island and it was definitely the largest ferry I’ve ever been on. The ride was about four hours so we shifted from napping, eating, and talking to pass the time. Once we arrived on Paros we took our bus to the Hippocampus Hotel, which was right across from the sea and had a stunning view. After throwing on our swim suits and grabbing some sunscreen we walked a few minutes down the road to the beach and jumped right in the water. It was cold, but refreshing and the saltiest water I’ve ever been in. I was in the water until way after my fingers and toes started looking wrinkly and pruny-that’s how refreshing this water felt.

Later, we went into [Old] town for dinner and the sunset, which was stunning. It helped that we had a great seaside view. After this some of us went out to check out the bar/club scene back in Naousa. It was a lot of fun and once again we found ourselves seaside.


The next day was our boat day [booze cruise-ish]. We hopped on our boat and set off to explore Anti-Paros and the Aegean Sea. The highlight of this incredible day was definitely cliff jumping. Almost everyone jumped after climbing up a rock that at times didn’t feel so steady. After our exhaustingly fun day on the water some of us went back out for dinner in Naousa. We split appetizers of calamari, tzatziki, eggplant, and pasta. Of course we paired this with a nice white wine.

The next morning we took the ferry back to Athens for one more night before heading off to Italy!


-KK

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Athens, Greece 

I was so relieved to finally make it to Athens after a delayed flight and literally running through the Amsterdam airport to make my connecting flight. Upon arriving at the President Hotel in Athens, I found my friends that I was meeting. After freshening up we ventured out to Taratsa, a restaurant with a fantastic rooftop view of the Acropolis and Parthenon. I totally pigged out on falafels, fresh tomatoes, pita, and hummus while everyone else also had different meats.

The next day we stopped in Syntagma Square to see the Hellenic Parliament Building and the [dance-like] changing of the guards. After, we walked up the Acropolis to see the Parthenon and the stunning views from the top. Once we returned to the bottom it was time to explore the city and get some lunch. A bunch of the girls and I decided to split a few things so we could all try them: tzatziki, spinach and cheese pies, calamari, pasta, and kabobs. It was absolutely delicious! We then made our way to Bretto’s Wine Bar after doing some window shopping [and actual shopping]. Bretto’s is a hip little wine bar that has such a large variety, but I stuck with a Greek sparkling wine and it was the perfect choice. We continued wandering the streets and exploring until we stumbled upon the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which isn’t entirely intact, but is still equally awesome.

At this time we needed to meet the rest of the group to make our way to the “secret sunset spot” so we stopped for sandwiches and wine to take with us and met everyone for our walk to this mysterious place. After climbing a lot of stairs we ended the walk at Parko Thiseio (spelled many different ways). On one side we had an incredible sunset view and on the other side we could see the massive Parthenon. After the sun went down we decided to go out so we hit up a couple local spots for a few cocktails before making our way back to the hostel.

-KK

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Packing Dilemmas

After staring at my bag for over a month and trying to figure out how I am going to have everything I need for 43 days in Europe…I finally took the plunge. I started by gathering everything that I wanted to take, but don’t necessarily need. Then I packed everything I thought I wanted and then removed a few items from each packing cube and tried again. I repeated this until I was satisfied that no space was wasted with useless items. Rolling my clothes was also a huge factor in being able to fit everything into the packing cubes.


Large Packing Cube:

  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 workout tanks
  • 1 pair Nike shorts
  • 2 t-shirts for sleeping

Medium Packing Cube 1:

  • 2 rompers
  • 4 dresses (1 maxi, 3 casual)

Medium Packing Cube 2:

  • 3 short sleeve tops
  • 5 sleeveless tops
  • 1 kimono

Travel Clothes:

  • Black leggings
  • Comfy grey short sleeve top
  • Black sweater
  • Scarf that opens up and can double as a blanket (stripes)

Not Pictured:

  • Shoes (chacos, 2 black sandals, grey vans, shower flip-flops)
  • Toiletries
  • Bras and underwear
  • Swimsuit (1 black 2-piece) 
  • Quick drying towel
  • GoPro

The bag I am using is a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 . It looks like a duffle bag, but has straps so I can carry it on my back. I chose this bag because I can open it from the middle opposed to opening from the top and searching for things at the bottom of the bag. This is a way that I can stay organized while moving around every few days.

I am officially ready to take on Europe! You can follow my adventures on Instagram

-KK

[Comment below if you have any unique travel tips]

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Irish Musings

Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to travel and explore Ireland three times. The first two times I visited while nannying and the third time my mom and I went on an incredible culinary tour. One of my favorite parts about being in Ireland is being around so much greenery and so many kind people.

During the culinary tour we were fortunate enough to taste food from pubs, castles, restaurants, and five-star hotels. There were so many incredible experiences during my Irish explorations, but my favorite was being able to share the trip with my mom. We had so much fun exploring Giant’s Causeway even when it started raining and we were the only ones left looking around. I ate [and drank] so many delicious and inventive items that it took some time to adjust to food back home. We were also fortunate enough to experience the Titanic exhibit in Belfast, which was stunningly emotional.

Along with the incredible sights and wonderful company, we were lucky enough to taste some of the best food I have ever had. There are too many meals and pictures to choose from so I picked two that were exceptional. The first [L] is from Lough Erne Castle and was so delicious. Each course attracted  a different taste bud and was so fresh. The second [R] was  prepared by Derry culinary students and was more traditional, but still amazing. We started off with a shot of buttermilk, which wasn’t my favorite, but other people loved. Then moved onto a goat cheese stuffed pastry with browned berries. Finally we sampled poitín with our dessert. Poitín is Irish moonshine and is actually quite good.

Although I’ve been to Ireland 3 times already I would absolutely go again. There are still so many cities, towns, pubs, and sites I haven’t visited and would love to experience.

 

 

Disclaimer: I love goat cheese so I ate quite a bit while sampling food in Ireland.

If you want to know a more specific map of where I traveled in Ireland then check out the “Where I’ve Been” link at the top of this page!

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To Ski or Not to Ski?

I recently took a weekend getaway with some friends to Cataloochee, NC. This was my first time hitting slopes that were covered in fake snow instead of real, fresh powder [spoiled, I know].

I am a snowboarder, thanks to my father, but on my last ski trip with my family I decided to ski instead of board. I LOVED it…mostly because I wasn’t constantly falling on my ass, but also because I was able to use two separate feet instead of having them attached as one. When deciding to go with my friends on this trip I knew I would snowboard because I would save money not having to rent any equipment. Let me just say, snowboarding on fresh powder is better than snowboarding on ice, at least in my opinion.

the group!

While on this trip we ventured to Asheville [only about 30 min. away] for dinner/drinks and again for brunch. What an incredibly diverse city! There are fantastic restaurants, shops, street musicians, and so much more. While grabbing food one night we tried an appetizer of fresh pretzels with a Fat Tire [beer] cheese dip – oh my gosh…delicious! The Thirsty Monk Pub and Brewery was such a perfect place to hangout with friends. We enjoyed our brunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe – yummy! I will definitely be going back to Asheville to experience more of this unique city.

 

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EPCOT: Food and Wine Festival

Being able to drink around the world is one thing, but being able to drink and eat around the world in one day is something entirely different.

My mom and I decided to take a trip together, but wanted to go somewhere close and fun so we decided to go back to Disney World for the millionth time. Being in EPCOT during the Food and Wine Festival was completely different from going on a normal day, but in a good way. Once you get over the crowds and lines the day ends up being an adventure.

Mom and I

We sampled food and drinks from at least 16 different countries. Beginning with Australia and ending with Scotland was an incredible way to get a taste of delicacies that I’m not used to trying in the states.

Beer Flight & Breakfast Hash

Shrimp Lo-Mein & Mango Bubble Tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney has perfected this festival because they only serve sample sizes, which worked out perfectly for us. We didn’t get full all day because we would choose one [or two] food items and one drink to split from each country. This way we were able to taste the flavors, but were also able to continue sampling all day instead of getting stuffed at one tent. I would highly recommend going to the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT one year, it really is great!

 

 

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