Mele Kalikimaka

Santa’s Helper!

For Christmas 2017, my family decided to meet in a tropical location since the past two Christmases have been ski vacations.  Since Zika is endemic in many tropical areas, Hawaii was one of the few Zika-free places we could go.  Twist my rubber arm!

Diamond Head, Waikiki

My parents booked a house near Hanalei, Kauai which was awesome because the North Shore is my favorite part of the island.  We were between Hanalei and the Na’pali Coast so it was a really awesome location.  On the way, I had a several hour layover in Honolulu so I went to Waikiki.  It was beautiful!

I walked on the beach and stopped at The House Without a Key in the Halekulani Hotel.  I had a few drinks while listening to Hawaiian music.  It was so idyllic!  I also have a new tropical drink favorite.  Move over Pina Colada, meet Hale Passion (Rum, Passion Fruit, Almond, Coconut, Light Cream)!

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Switzerland Day 9: Gimmelwald-Grindelwald

After the Via Ferrata ended in Gimmelwald, we walked around for a bit in Gimmelwald. I had heard it was Rick Steeves favorite Swiss village and while I get it, I also don’t.  It’s really quiet and idyllic but why this village over another in the area?  IDK.  But it was very pretty but fairly quickly, we saw the village and hopped on the funicular to Mürren.

I know this is cliche, but this photo does not even come close to capturing the incredible beauty.  Source

We took the train from Mürren to Wegen to Kleine Schdeigg.  The train ride was amazingly beautiful with an incredible, gorgeous view of Lauterbrunnen Valley and the 400 foot waterfall.  I was trying to take it all in, but somewhat distracted by realizing we had to pay a small supplement for that part of the train.  Although the conductor told me to enjoy the view and he would come back, I felt a little stressed trying to find exact change in CHF.  If I ever go back, I would like to see it stress-free and two, I would probably want to hike to a little overlook and just sit and look at the view.  It really was amazing.

View from our window- Eiger Mountain, I think?

We got off the train at Kleine Schdeigg and hiked down to Grindelwald, passing the famed Eiger mountain along the way.  Along the way, we stopped at Alpizen for beer and a berry tart with the most amazing whipped cream.  The hike was really beautiful and I’m sure I took pictures, but I can’t find them.  We arrived in Grindelwald and to the 22 bus to Naturfriend haus, a hotel/hostel that was really nice and overlooked the village.  There was a laundry facility (5 CHF wash, 3 CHF dry).  We had made arrangements to eat dinner there and we enjoyed a really nice meal of bread, salad with salami and melon, bright yellow curried chicken and rice and finished off with ice cream.  Showers that night felt great and we were ready for the next phase of our trip, Ticino!


Switzerland, Day 9: Klettersteig Via Ferrata (Mürren-Gimmelwald)


When we were planning the trip, it was really important to SMS that we do a Via Ferrata, or Iron Path.  There are several in the Alps and, basically, you walk on the side of a cliff along hammered in rungs while double-clipped into a steel cable.  When you get to an iron stake securing the cable to the rock wall, you unclip and reclip one at a time so you always have one contact point.

Both of us thought it sounded really cool and it was a high priority. The easiest way to do it is to rent the equipment from a local outdoor store since the setup is different than a regular climbing harness.  Basically, it’s two carabiners each on a slightly springy energy absorbing lanyard, both attached to a climbing harness.  We rented the equipment the night before because we wanted to start before less-experienced people got on the trail.  Each morning, the store has a rush of customers when it first opens at 9 but by going within about an hour of closing the day prior, the woman had no problem renting us the equipment for a 1-day price.  This is only possible if you don’t need a lesson on the equipment, which I highly recommend if you feel unsure!

Via overview

We got on the Via Ferrata around 8.  We had it to ourselves, apart from three other people- all young men who were zipping along.  The Via Ferrata starts in Mürren and descends to Gimmelwald.  There are multiple rungs hammered into the cliff, narrow trails, multiple ladders and two bridges along the way.  Local guides have access to a lockbox that allows a climber to zipline across one of the gorges but for people on their own, there is an equally cool (cooler, even?) 3 cable bridge.


I had so much fun although my sporadic fear of heights kicked in on the Nepal bridge.  The initial part had handrails that were too high so I was just walking on an unstable planked narrow bridge.  Ack!  Don’t worry, I was definitely attached via the gear but I just really wanted to hold on with my hands too!

The Via descends over the course so it’s not too strenuous.  The biggest factor is going to be comfort with the equipment.  There are also outings and guides for hire, so don’t let inexperience stop you.  It is really fun and an incredible way to see one of the most beautiful valleys in Switzerland!  We were done by mid-morning and continued our day by traveling to Grindelwald.  See the next post!

The photos below are roughly in sequence on what you’ll see along the way (well, SMS won’t be there but you know, the trail!)…

Near the Start, secured to the cable
Base jumping station.  SMS was braver than I was.  Even secured in place, I thought “Hell no am I getting close to that edge.”  Base jumping scares me!
Hanging loose!
Tyrolienne (Zip Line nearby)
More trail-like
Steep ladders!
Nepal bridge

Switzerland, Day 8: Bundalp – Griesalp – Interlaken – Mürren


We woke up with twenty of our newest, closest friends and got ready for the day.  We had a trekker’s breakfast of muessli and bread- v. carb heavy!  We headed down towards Bundalp, starting over a few hundred meters of snow.  Fortunately, there was a rope and the very side of the path next to the rock was partially bare rock so we made it even though our shoes weren’t the best.

We stopped at a dairy along the way and bought some Alpkase, fresh (raw?) cheese that we bought from the farmer and ate at a picnic table.  It was heart-shaped- tasty and cute!  We stopped at the dairy shortly after we had a discussion as to whether to hike over another pass to Mürren or go to Griesalp and take the bus-train combo to Mürren.  I really wanted to hike but SMS felt we had already seen the type of terrain and experienced the somewhat barren hike and he didn’t want to have a repeat adventure.  I pouted and was bummed out but the dairy quickly lifted my spirits.  I realized that our chosen way was a lot more fun and SMS was right.


I perked up even more as the hike became more and more beautiful.  We walked through gorgeous meadows and pastures and really, it was almost other-worldly beautiful.  We stopped at Berghaus Bundalp and had coffee and Hobelkäse.  We talked to one of the waiters/family members who said we were on “the most beautiful way” to Griesalp.  He had recently been in Miami and, although he said he liked the U.S, he asked why would he want to be anywhere else but here when it was so beautiful.  He definitely had a point!

After our second cheese stop of the morning, we continued on through fields, farms and pastures.  We saw herds of sheep, goats and cows.  One little goat was bleeting on the side of the cliff.  I wanted to help it but as SMS pointed out, we weren’t really that well-equipped plus the goat would jump down when it got hungry or thirsty (it really wasn’t that high up).

We walked by landslides and glacier-created rock formations, which was pretty cool.  We meandered into Griesalp, speeding up a bit when I heard the beep of a PostBus.  We were so lucky!  We made it with four minutes to spare, completely unaware of the timetable.  If we had missed it, we would have been waiting about two more hours!

We then had several connnections, with bus-train-train-train on our way to Mürren.  It was very easy with short layovers.  We took advantage of 30 minutes in Interlaken Oest by hopping into the connecting river between the lakes.  The water felt amazing and we felt very joyful and happy!

When we got to Mürren, we were very thankful for our shower.  We walked around quite a bit and rented gear for our Via Ferrata adventure the next day.  We ate at the hotel and then went to bed, exhausted.

Switzerland, Day 7: Blüemlisalphütte


We woke up, very excited to begin our hut-to-hut hiking adventure.  We picked up our laundry from Womy- 25 CHF for a shopping bag full.  We took the train to Kandersteg and then sent our suitcase ahead for pick-up two days later.  It cost 12 CHF and was one of the better bargains of the trip!   That way, we only hiked with two small backpacks.


Our destination was Blüemlisalphütte, a mountain hut at 2,840 meters.  We took the funicular up to Lake Oeschinensee (1600 m) to save a little bit of time.  We started hiking around 1330 and arrived around 1700. The hike was really interesting.  We hiked around the lake and then up into high pastures.  Then the trail turned very gravelly and vegetation went away.  It looked like the moon.  Across the valley, we could see a large glacier field.  It turned out that a lot of overnighters at the hut were there for traversing that ridge and/or ice climbing.  There was a separate ice-climber room since they all got up around 0300 to set out and climb while the ice was still firm.


Back to the hike.  We could see the hut about 2/3 of the way there and it stayed stubbornly far away for another hour.  Finally, we got there.  It was a great experience but a little tiring!  I promptly bought a beer when we got to the hut- SMS had water.  Probably smarter but definitely less delicious 🙂  At dinner, we sat at a table with 3 Swiss and 1 Austrian men.  2 were alpinists and 2 were father-son hikers recreating a hike the father had done 3 decades prior.  We were glad to talk to them because they said the snow field that covered the first part of our planned hike the next day was actually quite small and there was a rope to hold onto.  Phew!

Dinner consisted of soup, salad, sausage and rice, and plum pudding.  The food was super salty, which was probably beneficial for everyone’s athletic pursuits.  We went to bed fairly soon after dinner.  The bedrooms were communal, with two long racks with mats laid out.  SMS and I slept next to each other but to either side were complete strangers.  Very close quarters but a cool and different experience.  We used our sleep sacks and slept fairly well.

Russian Gulch and Pt. Cabrillo and Pt. Arena Lighthouses

On Sunday, SMS and I continued our Mendocino County adventure.  After we packed up, we walked around Mendocino Highlands for a bit.  It was so windy and I think SMS was a little over it, but I wanted to check out the Northern part.  Yes, it did look the same as the rest but it was all so beautiful that I couldn’t help but want to explore.

Russian Gulch Waterfall

On the way to the hike, I wanted to stop at Pt. Cabrillo lighthouse.  It was cute and we toured the museum, a preserved assistant light keeper’s house.  The lighthouse was only open on the ground floor.  The views were spectacular and the lighthouse and surrounding buildings (including cabins you can stay in) were very cute with their red roofs.

My best picture of the day- with a real camera, not an iPhone!

Our main focus for the morning was the Russian Gulch State Park.  I had read about a 36 foot waterfall so we decided to check it out.  There’s a pretty easy hike along a fairly level trail.  The loop is about 6.4 miles but we took the shorter part of the loop in-and-out for 5 miles total.  While the forest is pretty and it was nice to hear the creek along the way, the highlight was the waterfall.  It was very beautiful.  It was pretty amazing that such a seemingly small creek could cause that big of a cascade.  We took a few artsy photos since SMS had his camera gear.  That was actually pretty fun because we were iPhone-less for the weekend so I had to count in my head to measure his exposure times.  He hasn’t developed his film yet so I’m not sure how well I did, but I hope it turned out alright!

The blowhole

At Russian Gulch, there’s also a blowhole.  It’s basically a big sinkhole with a fence around it to protect people from falling in.  It wasn’t as dramatic as Hawaiian blowholes I’ve seen, but it’s probably pretty cool during high tides and storms.

A banana slug!  SMS spotted it and I was very excited to see one!

A tree overgrowing the stump of another, older tree.  It reminded
me of a Cambodian temple!

After the hike, we stopped at Frankie’s Pizza.  Despite glowing reviews I read before the weekend, I thought it was fine.  Nothing special but since it’s pizza, it was still a pretty nice lunch!  Frankie’s also has a sugarcane mushroom ice cream that’s worth trying for the novelty.  It tastes a lot like butter pecan.

Pt Arena Lighthouse and our Prius!

Then we started along Route 1 on a meandering trip back home.  We stopped at Pt Arena lighthouse, just making it before 3:30.  This meant that we could go to the top of the lighthouse although our squeaking in under the wire earned us an eyeroll from the docent.  Who cares!  We ran up the 151 stairs and got a nice 5 minutes up in the tower where we heard about local history from a local Native American and just kind of looked out on our own.

CAPT SMS, up in the lighthouse keeping watch

After that, we just headed home on a beautiful scenic road.  North of Jenner, the hills were a vibrant green and looked beautiful in the golden hours.  No pictures except mental ones but it was really beautiful.  We stopped in the Marina district in San Francisco for dinner.  We were a little wishy washy about where we wanted to eat but then we saw Saiwalk.  It’s a Vietnamese street food restaurant and after so much time in the (not so) chilly wind, pho sounded awesome.  It was pretty tasty, filling and reasonably priced so we were happy.  Then it was homeward bound.

San Diego Sunday

East Village with very retro-looking trolley

SMS and I had a wonderful Sunday in San Diego.  We saw so many things over the weekend, it made me wonder what I did when I lived in San Diego.  Oh yeah, work.  Not that I was terribly overworked but residency was busy.  Moreover, it’s different to vacation in an area than to live in it.  Example A: All the people who live in San Diego and rarely go to the beach!

On Sunday morning, we were a little lazy.  Then we decided to grab a pre-brunch snack.  We were thinking of Hillcrest but ended up in Little Italy due to parking issues.  We went to Cafe Zucchero, where SMS bought the heaviest doughnut I’ve ever picked up.  It looked light but the middle was stuffed with dense, delicious cannoli filling.  It was delicious.   We split the doughnut (so restrained!) and had an espresso each before heading to Bottega Americano for brunch.

Bottega Americano

Beautiful sugar cookie, looked better than it tasted :/

The whole family was there for Rip’s birthday brunch.  We had a great time.  The brunch got off to the perfect start with present opening.  Who wants to wait in suspense?  SMS and I went the classy route with a bottle of wine but we got beaten in every other way by his sister and Michael’s gift.  Starting with the unicorn card, the present ended up being a squatty potty.  And in looking up the link for all of you gentle readers (you’re welcome!), I realize even more how awesome the present is.  Especially when opened up in a public place.

Smoking Salmon

 We had a delicious leisurely lunch.  The food was awesome and everyone was really happy with their choices.  Afterwards, SMS and I went to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market.  I wanted to see if the handbag maker was still there, but I didn’t see him.  There were also amazing food stands (poke bowls, uni, Thai food, BBQ, smoked salmon) but we weren’t hungry at all.

Torrey Pines

We went to Torrey Pines and walked the beach and then into the cliffs along the path.  It was a really beautiful day and we had a lot of fun.

We went back to the house, had chili with a tamale and after our last Mexican food meal of the trip, headed to the airport to head back to San Jose.  I had such a great time and I feel very lucky to be able to head down to San Diego for a weekend!