Monterey, Pebble Beach and Carmel

Friday September 30, 2011

Hearty breakfast at our place (Sue’s personal chef was called into action) and we were off to explore Monterey.

This was artichoke country, stretching all the way to our place in the sand dunes.

We walked around the cannery row area and had our first sighting of seals and sea otters.  We had some very excited kids, as well as Ryan and Tegan.

John Steinbeck wrote a novel Cannery Row and they call this area Steinbeck Country

Shots of Cannery Row


We drove a 17 mile private road to Carmel through some beautiful country, with very expensive golf courses and houses along the coastline.

The golf courses were magnificent including Pebble Beach


A seal colony on a rock not far off shore.  They were making a lot of noise.


Getting a better look at their antics


The guys were enamoured with the squirrels we came across


The guys taking it in


We walked around Carmel, which was a very cute town, with some big brand stores servicing the well heeled locals.  We lunched in a swiss cafe, which got the 2 thumbs up rating from us all.


When picking up some supplies I spotted the Hosties Twinkees, a fabled thing of my youth, only seen in comic books with sea dragons and xray specs.  I was educated with the importance of these sweet morsels when I watched the documentary Zombieland.

We had pre-booked all of our accommodation except for the following night, as we were unsure where we would like to stop.  Our plan was to research from our Monterey accommodation, but without an internet connect, that proved difficult.  I txt’ed the owner of the property asked about the interntet password as I could see a wireless network, and he txt back saying only dialup (if you brought a modem) or cell access.  Hmmm, doesn’t meet the “internet” indicated on the accommodation, but any how, that meant a diversion to a neighbouring town to get some starbucks and use their wireless.

After consulting tripadvisor’s ratings and hit a couple of no’s before securing our accommodation.

We went for a walk on the beach for a while, and I returned later to get some sunset shots.

Our accomodation


Tegan leading the charge to the beach

Beach shots


One of the shots I grabbed whilst chilling out (literally in tshirt and shorts) at sunset

A really nice day, and ready to hit the Big Sur in the morning and on to Santa Barbara overnight.

Leaving SF, on to Monterey via Google

Thursday 29 September 2011

I headed across town to grab our hire car whist the rest of the crew got their last minute souvenirs and finalised our pack up.  I managed to make it back across town without a prang, so a good start before picking up the crew at our apartment.

I was stoked that Simon, who I have worked with before, and who now works at Google was able to organise a tour for our family of the Plex at Mountain View.  When I initially asked Simon about the possibility many months back, he said he would be at Mountain View in September also.  Bingo!  Unfortunately, he flew out just before we arrived, so he said it would be unlikely, but he may be able to work something out.

You know you have arrived when you see a google maps marker on the side of the road

He caught up with Adam, who is an American, but had worked in Oz for a while, living in Bondi, and we had met on a couple of occasions, and I determined he is a terrific guy from our meetings.  Thankfully he is now a SF local with his wife, and agreed to show us around.  He was gracious, informative, amusing and a terrific host.  I am so pleased we got to have a tour of the campus with him.  Seems Ryan’s career aspirations may be wavering from being a surgeon, as he asked me what he needed to do to work for Google.

Our host Adam and I in front on the google slide

I guess after seeing the free food, that has different cuisines for each building, as well as everyone smiling, and what I think impressed Tegan the most (being the animal lover she is), you can take you dog to work, and it sits near your desk, you can walk in the parks around the campus, and they have specific doggy buses to transport pets (and their owners) around.  They also had a bowling alley, cinema, football fields and bikes to allow you to cycle around the campus.

The bowling alley


Adam showng Tegan the Snacks you can have between chef cooked meals


We made some purchases from the google shop, and dropped Adam back to his office building and we were rolling to our digs oustide Monterey.

Heading into Monterey

We had a quick look around our place, which is built just behind the dunes, and headed to find some groceries.  We couldn’t get over how cheap everything is, and had to contain ourselves from buying too much.

Our place was perfect, except no internet, though some would argue that is perfect…

We had a nice night in, and rested up for our exploring in the morning.

Woods and Wine

Monday 26 September 2011

We popped down the road to the Blue Mermaid  to have a in and out brekky if they can do it, before we are picked up in 30 minutes for our tour from Extranomical –  Redwoods and Sonoma tour .

Our tour guide, Rick was fantastic, though the strong Italian accent at the start of the tour had me wondering how much local knowledge he would have. He didn’t fail to impress with his knowledge, humour and attention to detail throughout the whole day.

We headed across the Golden Gate bridge and into the not so great vision. Again…

We traveled to the Muir woods and we had a 1.5 hours to wander around.

Arriving at the entrance to the woods

Shots of the woods and some wooden folk



We then headed off to the Sonoma wine region.

Climbing out of the woods enroute to Sonoma

We visited the Jacuzzi Winery for our first tasting.  We tasted 6 wines as well as a dessert wine served in a chocolate shot container, then you eat after sipping a little of the wine.  Fred our host taught us (well me) about the dominant nostril, and the right way to sniff wine. We left with 2 bottles of wine and some olive tapenade.

Entering the Sonoma region


Jacuzzi Winery and our bus


Fred our host


We had lunch at Sonoma square, and had a stroll around.  It was a very nice area, and we could see it would be a lovely weekend escape for the SF locals.

We headed off to another winery, which was a little lame for the amount of time we had allocated but we still tasted, bought a bottle of Rose, and waited for the bus for 40 minutes.

Rose purchased

We then headed back towards San Francisco via Saussilto.  The weather was finally nice around the bridge area so we stopped for impromptu Golden Gate pics, which was awesome due to our bad luck with the visibility to date.

Finally saw the bridge without cloud / fog


We chilled out for a bit and them we headed out for some Italian and a stroll around the fisherman’s wharf area.


Quick Surf, goodbyes and off to San Fran

Saturday September 24, 2011

Last sun up in Waikiki, and Ryan was promised a surf if he could get himself up early enough, so we had an hour in the water which was a nice way to end our trip.  We got back, and got into the packing in ernest, as we were out the door at 11:00 for the airport.

Paid our respects to the Duke for the last time

We cashed in our receipts we had collected at the ABC stores (you get a gift depending on the amount spent, and we had enough for a couple of gifts)


Last trip to the ABC store



Last walk out the entrance to our hotel


We arranged for Mark from Hawaii23 to give us a lift to the airport, and again, he was great service, and we highly recommend using him if in the area.


We got to the airport, checked (and paid $25 each) our bags with Hawaiian Airlines 22 to San Francisco.

Our plane almost a green light

Ryan killing time with a game


Where are our bags, 4 tired people here…

A little over 5 hours in the air, and 3 hours lost in time zones, had us in late local time, and we were all tired and needed to get some sleep for our city tour in the morning

Last full day in Waikiki

Friday September 23, 2011

Today was a designated “slow start” day, and had me trying to catchup with the blog, though not a bad office to do it from.

Tegan and Chelsea headed down on the lilos for a play in the lagoon.



Julie and Chris came over to look at the photos and catchup on some email and facebook, as they didn’t have any access from their place.  I posted up some pictures on facebook and tagged them between the wedding and the luau yesterday, so their family and friends had a chance to comment on them.

We hit the beach for 2 hours, and even though my ribs are pretty sore, it is so much fun to be surfing with Ryan, and I think he is hooked.  I also took Tegan out on the same board, but it was a little difficult on a board a little too small for us, but we still had some fun!

Ryan out the back

Staf coming past

Tegan having a paddle

I dropped back our car, and called in on a ukulele shop, where I was soon parted with my money.  This was the souvenir I wanted from Hawaii, and will hang out with the rest of the guitars at home.

Which one is coming home?

New family member

Sue and Tegan hit the shops, whilst the boys hung out at the unit and watched the surfers and the view.  We headed down to watch our final Waikiki sunset, and everyone headed back to ours for some pizza dial in carbs.

Checking out the sunset

Tegan and Ryan at Sunset

Sue and I at Sunset

Pizza from Round table c/- recommendation from Michele, a work mate of Sue’s 

Wedding Day

Thursday September 22, 2011

Well the main day had arrived, Julie and Chris’s wedding.  Their wedding had been the catalyst for our trip to Hawaii and the onward journey.  A nervous Chris arrived at our door, with his wedding outfit  in hand.  The girls went to get their faces on, whilst the 4 boys went surfing for 2 hours.  The surfing was so much fun, and great way to get rid of some of Chris’s nervous energy.

Get Ready  –  All boys showered and on time for deaprture

Get Set – Car brought up by valets, have rough idea where we are heading, cold drinks for those not driving, so none for me.

Get Lost – We ended up overshooting the beach venue by 10 miles!!!

We have 10 minutes to get there and I swing into a service station and ask staf to get directions.  He comes back with a printout that they had at the ready… Seems we are not the first people to have trouble looking for the venue.  We make “very good time” and arrive and park next to the limo though no sign of the girls. We since found out, they were behind the very dark tinted windows.  Thankfully the limo driver says photographer and celebrant not arrived as yet, so at least we aren’t the last to arrive!

It was a lovely wedding service, and I ended up shooting 400+ shots for Chris and Julie.  They did have a professional photographer and videographer, but it was nice to show them some of the photos nice and quickly.

Exchanging of sand as part of the ceremony

The married kiss

Even the groom had his accessories

The three sisters

My bride and Candice

Me with the tin lids

So more photos taking at the beach of the couple, then Ryan and I back in convertible, all others back in the limo with beverages.  A quick change then off to the Luau, which was the designated wedding reception for us, and put on by Julie and Chris with a deluxe package at Paradise Cove.


Wheels on the bus go …

Newly weds on the bus

We were greeted with Mai Tais and shown to our stage front seats.


The girls with real and fake Mai Tais

We then had some time to participate in the some activities on offer, we had a go at:

Canoe riding

Spear throwing

Making head bands for the girls

Fake tribal tattoos

Our family in the canoes 


Candice getting fake tribal tattoo on her back,

Some of us caught the sunset, before heading to the welcoming ceremony where we were entertained with more great Hawaiian music and Hula dancing.

Ryan and I as the sun sets

Check out the sky!

After the opening of the pit and unveiling of the pig, we headed to our seats for the start of the show.

The shows incorporated all of the polynesian cultures, so were were greated with a NZ Haka, which was a bit unnerving during the Rugby World Cup!

All of the shows were fantastic, but the highlight was definitely the Somaoan fire dancer.

A call for volunteers to do the Hula dance onstage went out, and Julie was straight up there.

The meal was delicious, as were the included drinks, and we headed back towards the bus hoping to not have a repeat of our 1.5 hours it took to get there.

With the bus crowd, somewhat “loosened”, our bus host has us playing games with other buses, where as we would pass, we would do:

flash our cameras at them

do the Robot dance

do the YMCA

and many others.

This made the time go by fast, as well as it only taking half the time as well.

Our family plus Chelsea heading back to our digs for some rest, and ready for our last full day.

Dukes Brekky, Surfing and Sunset cocktails

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Feeling much better after a long sleep, so our family of 4 decided to head to Duke’s for Breakfast.  It was a lovely morning and the buffet breakfast had a fantastic choice.

We got our fuel onboard and decided to cruise the shops for a bit, and bought a few things.  Whilst out, we found where the restaurant and bar, “House without a key” was, and made plans to head there to watch the sunset with a cocktail in the late afternoon.

Ryan and I headed down for some surfing lessons, and there 1 hour lesson was very generous as it moved past the 90 minute mark.  It was also a bonus that we had a group lesson, but with just the two of us in it, with instructor Oki.  The girls had a swim and laze at the beach and could see us in our lesson.

Tegan lazing at the beach

and in the water




Can just make out Instructor, Ryan and Sean middle of shot

Ryan started off slow, but quickly was getting better rides than his Dad.  Dad wasn’t used to the longboard, at least that was his excuse.


Ryan looking confident

Dad not so as evasive manoeuvre attempt is made

We quickly decided to have a surfing session every day for the remainder of our time.

We showered up, had some lunch, then why not do some more shopping?  We dumped our shopping and headed to House without a Key.  We arrived around 4:30, and got a fantastic table as there wasn’t many people there.  This soon changed and I was glad we erred on the side of caution.

Seats were plentiful when we arrived

Very yummy Mai Tais



We had some wonderful cocktails, and were joined by Julie, Chris and Chelsea as the band started playing.We were then entertained by a hula dancer, as we watched the sun set over the water.

The band serenades

The Hula Dancing was wonderful as the sun set

 View to Diamond Head from HWAK

Sunset draws the people out

Chris & Julie wanted to call it an early night with their wedding the following day, so we got in contact with Candice and Staf, who weren’t keen to leave their pool to join us earlier, and they had just gotten their beeper from the Cheesecake factory.

After the regulation 1 hour wait, we were seated, and we were handed the largest menu I have ever seen.  22 pages of items, and about another 12 of pictures and information.  We were warned the the portions were large, and they were!  The cheesecake was very good, with Sue and I sharing a white chocolate, macadamia and caramel slice.

We passed by the Duke statue on our way home

North Shore drive

Monday September 19, 2011

We were awoken at 5:00 by tour company (from yesterday) wanting to change the dropping off Staf’s bag left on the bus.  We were in a margarita induced coma, and it took a bit for the strange ringing sound to compute…

I decided I needed to expel the evil green liquid from my pores, so I went for a run, and to take in the sites.  It was a struggle, but I was glad for it as it did the intended job of sweating, clearing the head, and punishing myself not to be seduced by cheap margaritas again.

Today was the day that we had hired a convertible and were heading to the North Shore.  We arrived at our hire car office via the courtesy bus, and after giving our reservation number, we were told “your rental is for next week”.  Oh man…  So do you have a car we could rent?  Only a compact, at a big price…  Ok, we need to think about this…

So there was a McDonalds next door, with free wifi.  There was also another rental company there, but the line was massive.  I got to work on my iphone to see if there was a rental available online through them.  I found a convertible was available and booked it for 10 minutes time.  Result!

We went through the booking process at the counter, and heading downstairs to get our car.  No car available… Hmmm.  They said they were trying to find one, and after 30 minutes a car turned up.  The attendant was very apologetic and friendly and gave us a day off our rental and a later bring back time which was a softening to the increased price we paid from my original booking 3 months ago.

Meanwhile, Sue was busily txt’ing her sister Candice as they has also rented a car, and we were travelling with.  We made a rendezvous point and tentatively left the parking garage to meet up with Staf, Candice and Chelsea (Chris and Julie off with wedding planner and enjoy the last breath of single life together)

Candice and Staf’s blue car, ours in the background

Our car

We stopped off for a swim on the west coast.

To the North Shore!

Best iphone app investment yet, Co-Pilot USA

I grew up fantasising about Sunset Beach, Pipeline and Waimea Bay, so it was great to tick it off the life list.

Sunset Beach

Tegan and Chelsea at Sunset Beach


Dad sneaks an elusive last second hug as the shutter clicks

The girls heading to the water at Waimea Bay

Pano of Waimea Bay, no swell what so ever!

Whilst at the North shore, we wanted to try the stables of a shrimp van lunch and some shaved ice, and both didn’t disappoint!

Our shrimp van of choice

We had either all shrimp pictures here, or the steak and shrimp.

I think we were all relieved that all had the very garlicky delicacies, as they were very strong! It was then on to the shaved ice, and we managed to find the highly rated Matsumoto’s shaved ice.

There were people everywhere, I am guessing a good lonely planet rating helps out.

Enjoying the shaved ice.

We headed off and got in around 7:00 PM, for a quick tidy up, then off to Dukes for 8:30 dinner, which was very nice.  We will sleep very well tonight!

Pearl Harbor

Sunday 18 September, 2011

Ok, so posting the last 4 or 5 days way late, it has been non-stop, but lots of fun!

Today we headed off on a Pearl Harbor tour, which the bride organised very well for all 9 of us. We were picked up early close to our hotel, after some nervousness over where exactly we were to be picked up, we were off.  Some very informative commentary on the way about local customs, the school wherre Barrack Obama went, and the build up to the attack on Peral Harbor.  Sean was spending time figuring out, ok, this is some great info, he is going to want a tip, how much is reasonable again…

On the bus

I won’t go into the details of the various exhibits at Pearl Harbor, but it is a very impressive display and memorial of a very significant event, 70 years ago.  It is great that they were able to secure the Battleship Missouri, so as to mark the book ends of the war that the USA entered.  There is a memorial above the Arizona, where so many men lost their lives, and when the war began for the USA, and the Missouri is where Japan signed the surrender documents.

After arriving, and checking in any bags larger than a wallet, we headed to the movie theatre to get the background to the attack.

Chelsea and Tegan in the theatre (hopefully about to be quiet)

We then headed out on a launch to the Arizona memorial.

It was a sobering experience to see all the people who had lost their lives, and at such a young age.  Some people were brought to tears in this room.

The names of the fallen

Tegan and Chelsea at the memorial

Some of the Arizona is above the water level

Approximately 8.5 litres of oil still surfaces from the ship each day

Candice and Staf taking in the memorial

USS Missouri from the Arizona memorial

  We then headed back to the main park area, had a look around the rest of the sites (and shops) and jumped on the bus to head to the Missouri.

Heading towards the Missouri

The guns were huge, I think I heard this was where “that” Cher film clip was dine, but I wanted to erase that fact from my memory

Some of our crew

After the tour, we headed to our apartment where we all enjoyed a few drinks, some snacks and the view.  We made some rough plans for dinner, knowing a table for 9 at late notice maybe a stretch. Tegan and I headed to the lagoon for a swim, which was a refreshing end to the day.

We ended up finding an ok place for us to all eat, and the margaritas were very tasty, very large, and ver cheap.  It may make for an slower start to the day tomorrow…

Staf and Candice enjoying the margaritas

Our second Saturday (in 2 days)

Saturday September 17, 2011

We were coasting into Honolulu, after some fitful sleeping overnight, Ryan only got an hour or so…

Sunrise out the window of the Deathstar

Mark from Hawaii23 was there to greet us in the pickup area, and was very helpful with information, including even though he is a local, sometimes he doesn’t get tipping…  He mentioned a “Block Party” that was on in the evening, which sounded like a great plan.  We also had heard about the ABC stores in our research, but they were everywhere!  Mark joked that ABC stood for “All Blocks Covered” and he wasn’t wrong.  ABC stores carry a lot of stuff, from souvenirs, snacks, bread, milk, alcohol,  floating lilo’s (for an extra 60 cents they will blow them up) as well as the novelty items you don’t see in stores at home.

Some of the ABC fare

We dropped Candice off at her Hyatt digs, and headed for ours nearby, the Aston Waikiki Beach Tower.  We got to the hotel around 8:30 AM and was told our room would be ready around 3:00.  We made use of the change rooms to get out of jeans and into beach gear, and decided to make a plan before killing 6 hours, running on little sleep.  I decided to go back and ask if there was another room available, and whether we could upgrade.  After a frenzy of key tapping, there was one available, but for an extra $90 per night, and on the highest level before the penthouses.  I said I better check with the SHE-EO.  Sue and I discussed, and for 7 nights, it was a little too expensive for us, so I went back, thanked them for their trouble and started to head off.  “How much ISN’T too expensive” came the call as I was heading off.  “Oh, I don’t know, what do you think is reasonable”  So we ended up with a good rate, and could check in now.  Result!

We managed to get an apartment on the 38th floor, looking over the ocean, towards Diamond head and looking inland towards the mountains.  The view was stunning, and the apartment well appointed with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, lounge, dining and a big balcony.  I will post a tour of apartment in a later post.

Views from our balcony

We headed out to grab some breakfast and have a look around.  We decided it best if we all grab some rest, so we bunkered down for a bit.

I got up after a couple of hours and decided I should go to the Ala Moana shopping centre to grab some clothes, and I didn’t bring much at all.  It was an epic bus trip each way (took an hour each way because of traffic) but I got a couple of things in quick time.  The shopping centre was massive, and you could spend a lot of time there, which I am sure Sue will 🙂

When I got back, the block party was getting started, and we all headed out for a few hours to look at the stalls, grab some food and enjoy the ambience.

Block party from our apartment.

It was packed, especially near the various live music

Some of the food stalls had lines 30 metres long!

We all started to flag, so we headed back to our various apartments to get some sleep before our Peral Harbour tour in the morning.