Tag Archives: CatTravels

#CatTravels: 4 must-dos on a day trip to Kauai

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There’s a misconception that there’s nothing much to do on Kaua‘i.

But I have to disagree.

Sure, there are no major shopping malls or giant amusement parks. But there are plenty of other ways — hiking through native forests, kayaking around the Nāpali Coast, feasting at local haunts — to stay entertained.

Last weekend a group of gal pals planned a jaunt to the Garden Isle — mostly for a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Ni‘ihau, which I’ll blog about later — and we almost didn’t have enough time to do everything we had wanted.

We landed just before lunch and, of course, immediately needed food. And that’s how our weekend started.

We made the most of our 24 hours on Kaua‘i. Here are four things you can squeeze in if you’ve only got a day here:

1. Hamura Saimin Stand, 2956 Kress St. in Līhuʻe, 808-245-3271

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Open since 1951, this fourth-generation noodle shop is literally an icon in Līhuʻe. And around lunchtime any day of the week, this place is packed.

Saimin is the most popular dish on the menu here. For those of you who haven’t heard of saimin, it’s a noodle soup dish that came out of Hawai‘i’s plantation era, combining Japanese ramen, Chinese mein and Filipino pancit using curly egg noodles in a hot broth.

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Most of us ordered the small saimin, which comes with sliced ham, kamaboko (fish cake) and green onions. The noodles are made daily in the founder’s great-grandmother’s house.

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You can’t eat saimin without barbecue sticks; Hamura sells chicken and beef skewers that, for some reason, go perfectly with a hot bowl of noodles.

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Hamura also sells udon — these noodles are also housemade — in its signature broth.

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And you can’t leave Hamura without sampling its popular lilikoi chiffon pie — which can be packed to go, too.

2. Hanapepe Town, south shore, west of Kōloa

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It’s hard to believe this sleepy little town on the south shore west of Kōloa was once one of the island’s largest communities. Today, not much has changed over the last century. The old plantation buildings are still standing, now home to boutiques, art galleries and little restaurants.

The famous Swinging Bridge (above) is still there, built in the early 1900s as a way for residents to cross the river. It’s been restored and reinforced over the years, and people still enjoy crossing the narrow and shaky suspension bridge.

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Hanapepe is also home to one of my favorite spots to grab taro and sweet potato chips, fried right there by owner and sole employee Dale Nagamine.

Taro Ko Factory Chips (3940 Hanapepe Rd.) is located right at the entrance to the historic town, in a green plantation-style home that was once a popular saimin stand. (Remnants of the eatery — like the menu boards and wooden stools — are still there.)

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Every time I’m on Kaua‘i I try to stop by for a bag of chips and to visit Stanley Sakoda, who claims to work here but really doesn’t.

The chips are really worth the stop. The taro is still grown on the farm Nagamine’s family operated a generation ago. And the bags, which are $4.50 each, are utterly addictive.

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And if you’re lucky enough to be in Hanapepe on a Friday, stick around for Art Night. This weekly event, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m., is a street festival of sorts with food vendors and live entertainment lining the main roadway. Restaurants and art galleries stay open late, too. (Yes, 9 p.m. is late for Hanapepe!)

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We stopped at a very cool boutique called Machine Machine Apparel, owned and operated by Shannon Hiramoto. We loved the colors, the patterns, and how she mixes vintage and new fabrics. Such cool stuff here.

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There was a vendor serving only soup — and it was some of the best spoonfuls I’ve had. I didn’t expect to stop here and buy a bowl of Mexican chicken and rice soup when there were other vendors selling more street-friendly food. But I did. And I didn’t regret it.

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We stopped at Raphael’s Aloha Tacos booth, selling made-to-order tacos and burritos. The best part? The tortilla was made from taro.

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The longest line, though, was at this booth, The Right Slice, selling homemade sweet and savory pies. We didn’t make it in time to try the dozens of flavors owner and head baker Sandy Poehnelt whipped up. But we did try her mango lilikoi pie, which was actually the first flavor she ever shipped back in December 2009.

3. Drinks at The Feral Pig, 3501 Rice St. in Līhuʻe, 808-246-1100

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If the name, alone, doesn’t get you interested, the menu will.

Opened in August of 2011 by Scott Kessinger and Dave Power, this casual restaurant has perfected the combination of delicious and generous portions and well-crafted cocktails.

In fact, our server, Cisco, claimed he made the best Manhattans, period. So, of course, we had to sample one. (OK, two.)

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And we gotta say, the Pig’s Manhattan was pretty damn good. But so were the bites.

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We had the pupu-style steak, cut into bite-sized portions, with fries. The steak was perfectly cooked, tender and tasty. And then we tried an updated version of its Kaua‘i-grown shrimp topped with a tangy barbecue sauce with bacon. No complaints from us.

4. Waimea Canyon and Koke‘e State Park, west side

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I almost feel like writing something is completely unnecessary when you see these photos.

Of course you should check out Waimea Canyon. You should decide to pull up a beach chair and gaze upon this view for a few hours. It’s that amazing.

Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon is a popular attraction for the obvious reasons. It stretches 14 miles long, one mile wide and more than 3,600 feet deep. The panoramic views are completely breathtaking, with crested buttes, rugged crags and deep valley gorges that no photograph can do justice. And check out the Waipo‘o Falls in the distance.

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Follow the main road, Waimea Canyon Drive, into the mountains and you’ll end up at Koke‘e State Park, littered with hiking trails and offers a commanding view of the amphitheater-headed Kalalau Valley (above) along the Nāpali Coast. You’re up about 4,000 feet, looking into this lush valley. It’s pretty unforgettable.

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So booking your trip yet?

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#CatTravels: If you find yourself in #Issaquah…

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I thought we were flying to Seattle.

Instead, I found out that morning, we were heading to a small town east of Washington’s largest city city, to a place called Issaquah.

Issa-what?

At least that’s what I was saying in my head.

I’ve been to Seattle a bunch of times, even drove as far as Marysville once. But I had never been — or even heard of — Issaquah.

Turns out, it’s quite a city.

I was shocked at how many people knew about it when I posted my travel itinerary on social media. My girlfriend grew up there, her mom works for the school district, and others have lived or worked or traveled through for years.

Where has this place been all my life?

Here’s some background on Issaquah: The population here is close to 30,500. The name, “Issaquah,” is some kind of misspelling of a local Native American word that could mean “sound of the birds,” “snake” or “little stream.” It was a mining town that turned into a lumber town that turned into a highly desirable residential suburb, ranked the second fastest-growing ‘burn in the state by Forbes.com.

And it’s gorgeous, surrounded on three sides by the Issaquah Alps: Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains. To the north is Lake Sammamish.

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Oh, just something you’d see walking around Issaquah. So gorgeous.

We were here visiting a relative — and just for about 48 hours.

I thought, at first, that would be more than enough time to see this charming little town.

Boy, was I wrong.

That wasn’t enough time to just EAT in this city, packed with old-fashioned diners and cozy restaurants.

So if you ever find yourself heading to Issaquah and you’re wondering what to do, look no further. Here’s your travel plans:

1. Get breakfast at Issaquah Cafe

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Issaquah Cafe (1580 NW Gilman Blvd., 425-391-9690) is one of those hometown restaurants in a strip mall — and it’s so worth the visit. It was just a comfortable place to get a hearty breakfast. I can see why it’s so popular.

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One of the specials that morning was this omelet with bell peppers, onions, cheese and smothered in the restaurant’s country sausage gravy.

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Here’s the chicken fried steak — a tenderized piece of steak (often round steak) doused in fried chicken batter — with that same gravy. You can’t get this back in Hawaii, so we ate as much of it as humanly possible.

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White sausage gravy like this has bits of sausage on it — but it’s also cooked with that same pork fat. That’s what makes it so good — and so bad.

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In addition to gravy — I realize that’s all I talked about! — the cafe serves up other breakfast items including pancakes, cinnamon rolls and these pumpkin waffles.

2. Tour the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery

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There’s a government-run salmon hatchery right in downtown Issaquah (125 W. Sunset Way, 425-392-1118). You can tour it during daylight hours on your own. Most times there are docents available to show you around. But we went at possibly the worst time ever — a Sunday morning in the summer, when not much is happening. Still, it was interesting to learn what happens here.

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Fall is the most active time at the hatchery, when adult chinook and coho salmon return here. The staff begins trapping adult salmon for brood stock in September through November, collecting eggs and milt, fertilizing eggs, and getting them settled into incubation trays. The hatchery also raises rainbow trout.

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In early October, the hatchery — and really the entire town — celebrates the salmon return with Issaquah Salmon Days Festival (www.salmondays.com), a two-day block party of sorts in downtown Issaquah with workshops, live music, food and more. (It’s on my bucket list.)

3. Get a root beer float from XXX Root Beer Drive-In

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According to the company, XXX Root Beer Drive-In (98 NE Gilman Blvd., 425-392-1266) was the first drive-in in the Pacific Northwest, established in 1930. The combination of the XXX brand of root beer and food worked and the concept spread across the country. There’s only two XXX drive-ins left — here and in Lafayette, Ind. It’s been in this location since 1968. And car shows here are a regular thing.

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This sign outside the drive-in really sets the tone.

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The drive-in’s got an extensive menu, with its burgers as the highlight. The Incredible XXX Burger is touted as the juiciest and messiest around, with three different cheeses, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles with the drive-in’s homemade dressing and freshly baked buns. If I hadn’t just eaten breakfast, I would have devoured this — and suffered later!

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The decor really looks like this: a mess of ’50s and ’60s memorabilia literally strewn everywhere.

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We just wanted to try the root beer, for which is what this place is known. The recipe dates back to 1930 and still made the same way. The float uses premium Darigold ice cream, and you can order them in frosted mugs. Perfection!

4. Lunch at JaK’s Grill

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We stumbled upon JaK’s Grill (28 Front St., 425-837-8834) while walking around the historic downtown area. And from the line that waiting outside, we figured it was worth checking out.

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JaK’s has three locations — the other two are in Laurelhurst and West Seattle — and it prides itself on being that great little neighborhood bar and grill. Which is certainly is.

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We happened to be there just in time for Sunday brunch, so we tried the JaK Bene, its take on the classic eggs Benedict but with its signature potato pancakes, grilled filet mignon and poached eggs topped with a Béarnaise sauce and served with freshly baked brioche bread.

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They were still cooking the barbecue pork, so we settled with the steak sandwich, made with marinated Nebraska aged New York steak, grilled to order and served on a steak butter toasted roll with the house au jus.

5. Stop at Boehm’s Candies & Chocolates

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My girlfriend’s mom teaches in Issaquah and sends her candies from Boehm’s Candies & Chocolates (255 NE Gilman Blvd., 425-392-6652). She told me it’s a must-stop, so naturally I went.

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The company was founded by the Swiss-Austrian Julius Boehm, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1940. He and partner George Tedlock opened the first candy kitchen in the north end of Seattle, then moved the company to Issaquah in 1956. He built the Edelweiss Chalet (photo above this one) and an alpine chapel. He lived here until he passed away in 1981. Today, Bernard Garbusjuk runs the company, having worked with Boehm for 10 years. The focus is still on handcrafted chocolates and candies.

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And look what we found: a little bit of Hawaii here.

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In fact, this is one of the chocolatier’s best-selling candy!

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Boehm’s featured a nice range of products, too, from these molded chocolate medallions to decadent, European-style truffles to classic chewy caramels and nut clusters. And the staff gives out free samples!

6. Eat (again) at 12th Avenue Grill

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Another recommendation: 12th Avenue Grill (775-G NW Gilman Blvd., 425-392-5975) in the Issaquah Commons shopping complex.

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This place was packed on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe it’s because you can order breakfast all day long. (That’s always a draw.) Or maybe it’s because this neighborhood diner serves up classic comfort food like warm Belgian waffles, homemade buttermilk biscuits topped with white sausage gravy, blueberry pancakes, loaded baked potatoes and hearty chili topped with cheese, onions and garlic bread.

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We went for the French dip, with sliced roast beef served on toasted French bread with au jus.

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And here’s the fish and chips — four pieces of ale-battered halibut, deep fried and served with either tartar sauce or malt vinegar, with a load of fries on the side.

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And to finish the meal, get the homemade cinnamon roll slathered in icing with golden raisins and a syrupy cinnamon glaze that was to die for.

Not bad, Issaquah, not bad!

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#CatTravels: Helping out at Hakalau

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There are a few places in Hawaiʻi where I am deeply moved by what’s happening there.

And just this weekend, I was able to add yet another one of these magical places on my list.

Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge on the windward slope of Mauna Kea, Hawai‘i, was that special place. This 32,733-acre forest was established in 1985 to protect and manage endangered Hawaiian forest birds and their rainforest habitat.

There are only a couple of places in the state that rival this forest in terms of diversity of native birds.

Of critical concern was the ‘alalā (Corvus hawaiiensis), whose wild population, known only from the west side of the Big Island, gradually declined to only a single pair in 2002. As of 2008, however, about 50 ‘alalā are in captivity at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers on Hawai‘i and Maui islands, respectively. This area is also home to other endangered species, including the Hawai‘i ‘ākepa, (Loxops coccineus), Hawai‘i creeper (Oreomystis mana), ‘akiapōlā‘au (Hemignathus munroi), ‘io (Hawaiian hawk), and ‘ōpe‘ape‘a (Hawaiian hoary bat).

Every weekend volunteers come here to help with restoration and conservation, doing whatever needs to be done, from re-planting koa tree seedlings to adding native plants to the forest. Since 1989, more than 500,000 koa, ‘ōhi‘a, and other native plants have been planted in this area as part of the refuge’s reforestation program.

I was lucky enough to get invited by the folks from the Hawai‘i Audubon Society to participate in a service project — and then go birding the next day.

It’s not often people get to visit this unique refuge. (You have to make reservations a year in advance to come.) So I nabbed the opportunity, packed a sleeping bag and work gloves, and hopped on a plane to Hilo.

Here’s what my weekend in Hakalau looked like: (All photos taken with my iPhone 5. Long story.)

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There were nine of us total, all staying in one of the volunteer cabins in the refuge. It took us about two hours to drive here from Hilo. There are several rooms in this cabin, all equipped with bunk beds — and no WiFi or cable. There isn’t even a phone here!

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Our sleeping arrangements. We brought sleeping bags because these beds aren’t the cleanest.

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This was the view from our cabin, looking out over the forest preserve that’s littered with red-blossomed ʻōhiʻa and majestic koa trees.

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We got up the next morning — here’s the outside area with picnic tables — to a gorgeous sunrise. It was time to start our service project: fixing a sub-irrigation system and re-planting seedlings.

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I’m not sure how cold it was — temperatures here will be vastly lower than in Hilo; we were at about 6,800 feet elevation — but there was frost on the ground.

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First, we met with Baron Horiuchi, the only horticulturalist in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who has been working in Hakalau for 18 years. He has propagated plant species never before propagated and actively experiments on new ways to germinate, propagate and out-plant endangered and common native plant species. He also oversees these volunteer-manned projects on the weekends. Busy guy!

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He took us on a tour of the facility, which included these rare native mint plant with flowers that smell like pikake (jasmine).

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Here’s a young ʻōhiʻa tree.

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And here are yellow ʻākala berries — like raspberries.

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He quickly put us to work. (We were working alongside some Native American students visiting from the University of Idaho.) We disassembled this sub-irrigation system used for seedlings and smaller plants. The system conserved water, which is a vital resource here in Hakalau.

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It was a total team effort, as birders and students worked side-by-side to get this job done.

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We took a break so the students, many of them who had never been to Hawai‘i before, could sample some of our island fruits, including lychee, mangosteen and robotan.

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After our break, some of us re-potted koa tree seedlings, transferring plants to larger dee pots.

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The rest of the group rebuilt the sub-irrigation system.

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After that work was done, we planted native trees in the forest under the larger koa trees. The lush understory of the forest is fertile and perfect for these plants.

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Each of us got to select a plant, whichever one we wanted, and plant it along the main road. (We also planted more native plants in another area of the refuge.

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Here’s what I planted: a young ʻōhiʻa tree that looked like it needed to get out of its pot and into the sunshine. (I know the feeling!)

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After a long day in the sun — it was actually pretty warm, considering the frost I saw in the morning — we headed back to the cabin and cooked dinner. We made vegetarian quesadillas, sat around and talked until 9 p.m., when we all went to bed. Birding the next day! Needed to get our rest!

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Hakalau Forest NWR is a special place in Hawai‘i, and one that I was privileged to experience. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I’m just honored to have had the chance to visit, walk through, and add to this native habitat.

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#CatTravels: My Top 10 Moments in Greece

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My recent jaunt to Greece was easily one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.

Partly because it wasn’t, in any way, work-related. And mostly because I went with great girlfriends who really know how to relax and eat well.

There were so many great memories of Greece, from looking around the cute shops in Old Town to cramming all four of us on a queen-sized bed in our apartment in Athens. There were restaurants that served food I’ll always crave and beaches that rivaled any I’ve seen before.

Greece, you exceeded my expectations.

And it was just what I needed, too, a relaxing vacation halfway around the world with friends who loved to eat as much as I do.

It was hard to narrow down just 10 moments — and I was only there for a week! — but here goes:

1. The Acropolis

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You can’t visit Athens without making the trek to the Acropolis. This area holds a group of important — and Instagram-worthy — monuments situated on a 200-foot-high rock that overlooks all of Athens. There’s the famous Parthenon and Temple of Athena – and thousands of visitors who make the trek every month to see these historic sites. While these ruins are being restores — I find that to be a bit oxymoronic, but whatever — and there are usually throngs of people crowding the sites, cameras and iPhones in hand, it’s still a marvel to see. A must, for sure.

2. Old Town, Crete

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Old Town was, hands down, my favorite part of the trip. This charismatic and utterly charming village, complete with colorful Venetian-style buildings and cascading bougainvillea everywhere, was the perfect place for us to unwind. There are beaches within walking distance, the historic harbor to explore, and tons of shops and restaurants to frequent.

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Yeah, it’s a bit touristy — after all, this is one of the most beautiful urban districts in all of Crete, but it’s so picturesque and quaint, you almost forget you’re surrounded by visitors.

3. Balos Lagoon

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On our second day in Crete, we hopped on a bus, then a ferry, to check out this well-photographed lagoon in Cape Gramvousa. It’s spacious and gorgeous, with a shallow sandbar (with warmer water) for frolicking and a larger bay with turquoise water that’s impossible to describe. The pink sand, made from crushed seashells, was just the sweet topping on an already perfect beach.

4. The food

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Honestly, I could have devoted all 10 moments to the food in Greece. (And I seriously thought about it.) But I decided to cheat and say everything we ate in Greece made this list.

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We had spicy meatballs, savory spanakopita, cheap gyros filled with fries. We had freshly squeezed juices and Greek yogurt topped with fruits. We even had great sugar donuts from a street cart in Athens.

The food here is tasty, flavorful and unique to its location in the Mediterranean. We had fresh fish prepared simply with olive oil, garlic and butter. We had local cheeses made from goats and sheep. We had olives grown right in the area. If you love food, put Greece on your must-visit list.

5. The standout panna cotta

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I know, I know. I said food was its own category on this list. But I had to set aside the one dish that surpassed all others — and that was this panna cotta from Βυρίνης in Athens.

Yes, this is an Italian dish. Why not choose something Greek? Well, because this was easily the best panna cotta — and perhaps the best dish on the trip — I’ve ever eaten. That good.

Silky, smooth, light — it was the perfect dessert. We searched other places panna cotta and we never found one as good as this. (Maybe I’ll have to do more research — in Italy!)

6. Fish pedicure

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I had done this in Beppu City, Japan last year, but it was still a thrill to do it here in Crete. And it was even better doing it with my girlfriend, Grace, who had never experienced it before. (Her reaction to getting her food cleaned by fish was priceless. Video to come!) Not to mention, my feet never looked or felt better!

7. WiFi everywhere

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I didn’t know what to expect in terms of WiFi in Greece. I’ve had trouble finding free WiFi spots in Japan and other parts of Europe. Turns out, Greece is all about the free WiFi. We got access codes from every shop and restaurant we visited — and all of our hotel rooms came equipped with WiFi. Which was great for us. We were able to post our selfies in no time!

8. The hike up Gramvousa

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We didn’t expect to hike on our trip, but it happened. And though we were totally unprepared for a trek up this rocky mountain — we all were wearing some form of slippers — we all appreciated the bit of exercise and the views from the top.

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We landed at Gramvousa en route to Balos Lagoon, disembarked the ferry and climbed to the top of this hill, which had stunning views of the cape and the ocean. And it didn’t take long at all, about 10 or 15 minutes, to get to the top. Well worth the sweat.

9. Staka

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See that on the potatoes? That’s called staka (remember it), a type of roux used in Creta cuisine. It’s made from goat’s milk cream and, when it’s used as butter, tastes a lot like cheese. It is simply amazing. I will dream about this for the rest of my life.

10. Experiencing all this with my friends

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I didn’t know what to expect, not having traveled with this group before. But it was, by far, one of the best travel experiences I’ve have ever had. And it was because of this group.

They were easy to be around, game to do anything, and viewed eating as part of the tourist experience. (In fact, it was like it was our duty to eat as much as possible, like we were single-handedly trying to revive the country’s economy.) We all were on the same wavelength when it came to traveling: try everything but relax, too. Great philosophy — for travel and for life.

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Special thanks to Lan Chung, who planned the entire trip and even had handouts for us to read on the plane; Rona Bennett, for turning 40 and giving us a great excuse to travel all the way to Greece; and Grace Lo, who provided the right amount of support and enthusiasm that made every moment of this trip special. You guys rock!

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#CatTravels: Last day in Crete

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I woke up in the early morning on Wednesday and realized something tragic: my trip to Greece was ending.

This wasn’t just a regular jaunt to a foreign country. This was a trip with girlfriends that meant something more than just snapping great photos for Instagram.

I had the privilege of experiencing Greece and Crete with fellow travel (and life) lovers who appreciated every breathtaking view, every bite, every sunset. It made me stop, too, put the iPhone down and look around.

Let me tell you, not catching the shot — sometimes — is worth it.

We tend to get caught up in capturing the moment only to share it with our followers and friends. It’s all about the perfect Instagram shot, the retweet, the likes on Facebook. It’s easy to care about that.

But whenever I’m in areas with very poor WiFi — I never buy an international data plan — I’m forced to just witness the beauty around me, use the point-and-shoot that’s my mind’s camera and visit these images whenever I want. The trip then becomes intimate and personal. It’s my moment, not one I need to share with the world.

So I decided to relish the last remaining hours I had on this wondrous island — but I brought my camera along, too.

Here’s what we did on our last full day in Crete:

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On our last day in Crete, we decided to actually enjoy the area where we were staying in Chania, the second largest city in Crete. Old Town, arguably the most beautiful urban city on the island, is such a charming place, we hated to leave without walking around, at least for a bit.

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We decided to walk around the history Venetian harbor and to the lighthouse. We encountered an older couple selling natural sponges from their boat. Sponge diving is one of the oldest — if not the oldest — form of the original art of underwater diving, and you can find these sponges everywhere in Greece.

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The Greeks have been harvesting sponges for centuries. The Greek islands of Simi, Chalki and Kalymnos are best known for these. So of course we had to buy one!

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We walked out to the lighthouse and got this amazing view of the city. It’s hard to believe Chania was invaded and occupied by German forces during World War II, with part of the city destroyed during bombings. Now, this is a thriving tourist area, with shops and restaurants lining the akti, or seafront, catering to visitors.

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It was a hot morning, so we headed back to town and grabbed freshly squeezed watermelon juice.

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We wandered the little alleys in Old Town, always seeing something new with every turn. I hear this is what Venice looks like.

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This shop not only sold pottery, but the workshop was located upstairs and you could watch artisans in action.

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This shop sold fresh fruits and veggies.

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There’s bougainvillea everywhere here. Look how gorgeous this outdoor restaurant is.

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Restaurants here don’t really open for lunch until about 11:30 a.m. (Dinner gets busy around 9.) We were hungry so we stopped at a small eatery that specializes in Mediterranean and Cretan dishes.

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The restaurant was called Kalderimi and it was located on a quaint street in the old Topanas neighborhood. All we cared about at the time was that it was open (though we loved the outdoor terrace). And it boasted that it uses local ingredients. Sold!

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The salads in Greece was nothing short of amazing — and so simple. Most times these bowls are just filled with mixed greens (lots of arugula), fresh tomatoes and cheese, topped with a light olive oil dressing. Still, the freshness and crispness and simplicity are what make these salads so delicious.

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Easily one of the best dishes I’ve had on this entire trip: these pumpkin-filled ravioli with red bell peppers were ridiculously good. Fresh pumpkin puree with cinnamon and other spices in a soft, doughy shell. Perfection.

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Here were the mushroom ravioli with a creamy sauce. Equally delicious.

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Another standout was this fish dish: sea bream caught locally, so moist, flavored with just olive oil, butter and lemon, that’s it.

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Our meal ended — as it always does — with dessert. This was the house panna cotta with a cranberry sauce. Nice, but it couldn’t rival the ravioli and fish.

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It was hot, sun overhead, and that watermelon juice had already evaporated from our bodies. It was time to hit the beach. So we walked west of Old Town, maybe about 15 minutes, before arriving at Nea Chora and a few other beaches that line the bay.

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The beaches here are beautiful, too, but not as stunning as the ones in Gramvousa and Balos Lagoon. Still, it was nice to sit on the sand, dive into the chilly waters, and relax.

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There are a lot of shops and restaurants in this area, which is often frequented by visitors to Crete. And for good reason!

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Crete is known for its seafood, and octopus is a favorite here. This is how they’re dried. We walked right past this on our way back to Old Town from the beach.

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And how do we end a perfect day in Crete: a cheap gyro topped with tzatziki sauce and stuffed with fries, of course!

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