The time has come to return to Honolulu on the final leg of our most recent epic travel adventure.
For the past three weeks, James and I have had the most incredible series of adventures with some of the best travel companions and friends we could wish for. Our trip kicked off with a one day adventure in NYC with one of my earliest and best childhood friends, Matthew. We explored the #highline and reveled in the gorgeous summer weather. Next stop was London, where we were welcomed to stay at the lovely flat of our favorite British blogger and proverbial “hostess with the mostest” Carla (check out her cool blog Zoubisou). After a truly amazing five day stay in the UK (which will be recapped in an upcoming post), we were off again to Bergen, Norway to rendezvous with our intrepid traveling companions Emily and Pat and received the warmest of welcomes by our favorite Norwegian, Mari. Not only did she open her home to the four of us, but she took on the roles of tour guide, translator, navigator and entertainer! (In traditional Norweigan national attire no less- but that’s a story for another day.) Bergen is a beautiful city and I look forward to sharing our adventures there after I have a chance to process some photos at home to illustrate the stories.
After Bergen, our party of four headed north, flying first to Bødo and then boarding the Hurtigruten MS Løfoten to the magical islands of Løfoten, north of the arctic circle. The awesomeness of our experiences here under the midnight sun are hard to put into words, so I will wait to share more details when the photos can lend some visual punch to my experiences of awe and joy.
After what seemed like the blink of an eye, we were all back in Oslo for our final night before parting ways. James, Pat, Emily and I stayed together sharing laughter, wine and the History Channel’s #vikings until the last possible minute (James and I grabbed the last train of the night from Oslo back to our airport hotel).
A flight from Oslo to Newark and a long overnight layover allowed for one more night with Matthew and his wonderful husband Bobby. We managed a nap and got to sit in on a Mathieu Blue rehearsal for an upcoming performance of his on Monday! It was surreal and wonderful to be a part of the behind-the-scenes with an awesome band and creative team as they launch my best friend’s lifelong dream of performing his original songs (and some rocking covers too) live in New York City. The night wasn’t complete until we grabbed our NYC slices to go and hopped in a cab back to Harlem.
Fast forward to the current moment, and James and I are side by side aboard our #united flight back to Honolulu. I reflect on the past few weeks with a heart full of friends and adventures and can’t wipe the grin off my face. What a trip it’s been. The sharing has just begun my friends, there are stories and memories galore to explore. But first, two more episodes of Vikings, a blanket and a nap are necessary to top it all off.
Sounds like a made up place, right? Some odd mishmash of science and Greek, with a dash of fantasy. Then you find out it exists (and it’s a tiny town in Wyoming) and it sounds even more strange and unbelievable.
My husband James was born and raised in Wyoming, but I met him in Hawai’i and most people would lose a bet to guess his origins. That’s likely because there are a lot of people (and places!) in Wyoming that regularly defy the stereotypical Wyomingite. Thermopolis is one of these places.
Everytime I visit I am surprised and delighted by the uniqueness of Wyoming; a place where the west is still pretty wild, just not always in the way you think it is.
James and his family have been telling me stories of their childhood trips to “Thermop” since I first met him/them nearly ten years ago. I didn’t realize at the time they were actually telling me about a town called Thermopolis (I thought for a long time it was a theme park, like Wyoming’s version of Six Flags). So on a recent visit to the Equality State, we take a short drive to make the introduction. Just a mere 2.5 hours from Casper (a “short” drive for Wyoming natives- the state is HUGE), the trip to Thermopolis is through a whole lot of… open space. There are small little townships scattered through the plains (some with populations of less than 50 people), and antelope. And cows. And fences. And tons and tons of sky. As a New Hampshire native, I think all of it’s brilliant. James yawns.
Then we drive into the Wind River Canyon (the yawning stops immediately) and we are surrounded by towering canyon walls, some as high as 2,500 feet high, containing rock formations dating all the way to the precambrian era. That’s almost 3 million years ago. Yeah, for real. The Burlington railway snakes along the river and we scan every ledge for a sighting of the many Bighorn sheep that make these ancient cliffs their home.
After exiting the canyon we emerge shortly into the town of Thermopolis, the home of the world’s largest mineral hot springs and Wyoming’s first state park.
We were able to make a reservation at a renovated historical building (now operated by Best Western) located right within the park. Perfect. We check in and make our way over to the Star Plunge, one of three recreational establishments that utilize the hot spring mineral water to fill their pools, water slides and vapor room. I don’t know if a water slide will ever appeal to me more than one with 90-100 degree water flowing inside it. There’s a faint smell of sulfur in the air (mineral hot springs, remember?) but I was prepared for it, and to be honest, it smells a heck of a lot better than Yellowstone. I’ve got a sensitive nose and was pretty worried that I wouldn’t handle the smell well, but it never took away from my good time splashing around all the pools, hot tubs and steam room and before we leave I no longer even notice it.
The late afternoon is spent driving around the plains within the park, where herds of buffalo and deer roam about. We eat an early dinner at Las Fuentes Mexican Food and order the local favorite, a breaded chicken breast with aioli corn and raspberry chipotle sauce, topped off with a massive (real fruit) blackberry margarita. I was thrilled.. After dinner, the calories need some walking off, so we drive back to the park, bringing our cameras down past the Smoking Waters.
We wander across the “swinging bridge” for some awesome views of the mineral springs waterfall melting down into the Big Horn River as the sun sets. After the stars came out, we go night shooting and have fun (except for the little incident that involves me attempting to sneak up on a deer and instead stepping into a hole in the dark and tumbling awkwardly down a hill onto the pavement, the fall punctuated by curses. Oops.)
The morning of our departure we successfully find the bison in the park (check!) and then make for the rock shop as we headed out of town. Ava’s Silver and Rock Shop is not to be missed. Even if you are just driving through on your way to/from Yellowstone, make a pit stop here to view some amazing gems and learn more about geology in 40 minutes than you might in half a college semester. Discover petrified wood from the ashes of the last Yellowstone explosion, geodes that glow under blacklight and even find fossils of dinosaur bone marrow. Ava designs beautiful jewelry and Eddy has been a geologist for over 30 years. He was even part of the team in the early 90s that discovered over 35 dinosaur skeletons in the region, many of whom are found in the Wyoming Dinosaur Center right in Thermopolis. You won’t want to leave!
When I go back to “Thermop”, I will be sure to return to the mineral baths, sign up for a whitewater raft through the Wind River Canyon and maybe even do a day of digging for Dinosaurs. It’s a small, unusual and wonderful place that totally validates its strange name: Thermopolis, Wyoming. Go visit! -Meagz
November 10, 2012. James and I planned for nearly two years to make our nuptials something truly special to us. During those 2 years we attended a combined total of 9 weddings. Needless to say, we were feeling pretty seasoned in the weeks leading up to our own. Pretty much feeling like Wedding Warriors actually. So between the 2 years of planning, the assistance of our incomparable on-island wedding planner and our warrior mindset, we were feeling ready for our big night.
The truth is, nothing you can do ahead of time can truly prepare you for the axis-bending experience of your own wedding. It feels like a surreal vortex. It’s impossible to describe the multitude of unique emotions: the lightness of pure joy counterbalancing the weight of your awe and the depth of the humility you feel. The emotions combine with a warping of time and space, where everything happens at lightning speed but you are somehow able to zero-in on moments that went on and on into the night.
It was awe-some.
Our ceremony was magical. We picked a location that was earth-shatteringly stunning. Our wedding planner Nadia added the perfect touches to make it incredibly romantic. Our most favorite people in the world filled it up. We then threw in some unconventionality: we began the ceremony with each member of the wedding party ‘walking’ down the aisle of the ruins to the tune of their own chosen ‘theme song.’ We thought it’d make everyone relax a little and bring smiles all around. Instead, it was like a powder keg explosion of awesomeness. Our friends came unleashed at each solo entrance, dancing their faces off with their own unique styles. I thought my heart was going to burst with a mixture of delight, pride, and good old-fashioned, soul-deep laughter. From Macklemore to Queen to Steve Wonder, each new song brought new antics and a new level of delight. We were like little kids, reveling in the magic of music and friends, everyone downright giddy with the fun of it all. And yes, my little sister, ever the clever one, finished off her Matron of Honor entrance with a Rickroll just as she hit the altar. It’s a good thing I had a long walk ahead of me, so I had time to compose my hysterical laughter and take the walk with composure, as it was the one moment I wanted to savor seriously: the chance to walk with my Dad, my first hero, toward the man I’m going to spend a lifetime trying to deserve. We shared words that meant the world, our sisters shared messages of love and my beloved Godfather read our favorite message from A.A. Milne about being two balloons with our direction going up. We shared our commitments to each other, our dear friend Trevor bound us to each other by the power invested in him by, as he likes to say, “the internet,” and then James kissed me with a sincerity women (and men!) the world over spend lifetimes longing for, complete with a shower of flower petals and thunderous applause.
Magic. Brought to us that day by the letters B and C, our families, friends, music, St. Lucia, and yes, even a little Rick Astley.
How a Small Misstep Led to Our Biggest Adventure in Wachau
When visiting Vienna, Austria, there is so much to do within the city it is perfectly reasonable to never leave the city limits during your entire stay. Such was the case for the first week of my 10 day trip to Wien, but an itch to see some of the countryside began to tug at the corners of my trip itinerary. My sister Laura is spending a year as an au pair for the lovely Luna in Wien’s 9th district, which brought my parents and I across the Atlantic (and the Pacific for me) to the Imperial city. After experiencing much of Wien’s delights, Laura arranged a day for us outside the city to float the Danube and witness the famed Wachau Valley. An hour’s train ride out of the city brought us to the delightful town of Krems (Krems an der Donau), thought to be one of Austria’s oldest towns. We spent about an hour wandering the streets before our boat’s departure, happily exploring narrow roads and historic houses dating back to the 1500s and before.
Just as we were about to turn back to the Pier, Laura decided to push on just a little further and we stumbled upon an amazing church rising out of the surrounding homes. A steep stairway behind the church led us to an unparalleled lookout across the down and down to the Danube.
Atop the stairs we found a sanctuary, (I’m currently attempting to research its history) a beautiful Christian shrine that just felt hallowed. While circling for the best photo angles, I discovered a small window into the basement that was easily accessible and unbarred. Peering into the dank darkness below, straining my eyes for glimpses of old doors and hidden rooms, I physically recoiled in shock as I discovered the entire space below the church was filled with human remains. Yes, I said human remains, and no, I’m not kidding. Maybe it’s because I’m an American and our history and ancestors pale in comparison to the rest of the world, but I sat in a haze of shock and disbelief at the base of that temple trying to make sense of the bodies laying below. I paid my respects and began to come to terms with the staggering history of the region I knew so little about and continued the trip down the Danube with a renewed sense of respect and regard.
All aboard the MS Prinz Eugen, one of the DDSG Blue Danube sightseeing cruise boats departing from Krems, cruising to Melk and back again. We boarded the ship, certainly a bit dated but in no way uncomfortable, and settled in on the top deck for photos and wonderment gazing. I was shocked to hear loudspeaker announcements in no less than six languages, describing the town of Krems, the monastery across the river and the upcoming town of Dürnstein.
A little back story: when Laura found us the cruise, we were under the impression that the boat docked at each port listed in the itinerary and we had a certain amount of time to explore the town before re-boarding and continuing on. With that foreshadowing, and the understanding that some things get lost in translation, you can come back to the story.
Ahhhh, Dürnstein. Our loudspeaker described to us the historical importance of the incredible remnants of Dürnstein castle overlooking the town and we were giddy with anticipation. Way back in 1192, King Richard the Lionheart (England, in case you aren’t hip with the Kings) was returning to his home country after the conclusion of his crusades and captured by Austrian Duke Leopold the first! He was held captive there until turned over to Emperor Henry VI at Trifels Castle and held for three weeks for an enormous ransom. Needless to say, the Corlin family was rearing at the bit when the boat docked at Dürnstein, and we attempted to communicate with the boat crew about how much time we had to explore. A combination of one of the deck hands telling us in broken English that we could get off but just for a minute and then they were leaving again, the confusion of what exactly this boat tour was about, and the determined focus to get up to that castle was to prove our big downfall. After the four of us rushed across the gangway, looking for a good vantage point to take a picture of the castle, everything went wrong. The boat left. As in, bye, bye, we’re going on to the next stop and oops, you probably shouldn’t have gotten off, you silly Americans. There were a few “wait! what? oh no! this isn’t happening! He said… You’ve got to be kidding! Noooo! I thought you said…” which didn’t take long to peter out as the gravity of the situation settled heavily upon us. Where are we, exactly? And what the heck are we supposed to do now? Then, as if by magic, I see Laura speaking to a kind woman in uniform who’d been at the dock all along. She works for Blue Danube! She’s telling us the next boat is in three hours! She’s… speaking English?! Who is this saintly woman, the only person visible in the vicinity around us, calmly telling us we’re up a creek but there’s another boat due in three hours. Mom starts her fast walk, stop, throw up the hands, walk, stop, exasperated sigh. Laura’s stuck in repeat, we’ll miss our train back to Vienna, we’ll miss our train, we’ll miss our train. Dad’s thinking, hard. I’m frozen, fighting off the little voice inside that’s saying ‘now you’ll have time to go see that castle!’ with the wooden stick of logic and the need to find a solution to help the family. The uniformed saint must have eyed our motley crew and taken pity on us, for at that moment, she decided to save us. “Excuse me, but I actually have two stations and I’m bound for Spitz now. If you come in my car I can take you to the next station, we can beat the boat, and you’ll be back on schedule.” The clouds parted, a shaft of sunshine burst through, right on to our heroine’s face, a choir of angels on high belted a hallelujah and… saved. And just like that, we were packed into a VW golf and racing through the streets of Dürnstein with Elizabeth behind the wheel, narrating as if we were on a tour and all part of the plan.
Flight of the Bumblebee playing faintly in my ears, we roll into the lovely town of Spitz, 40 minutes in front of the boat. Elizabeth’s parting words: “get back on the boat, and stay on it.”
The next 40 minutes we filled at a restaurant directly across from the pier, with a view far up the river to spot our boat long before it arrived. We ordered a bottle of wine (when in Spitz…) and an apricot dessert, since Elizabeth said it’s what Spitz is famous for. The wine was incredible and the dessert… more hallelujahs from on high.
A strudel with apricots, syrup and meringue, I can not put the taste into words. Paid our check, bought a bottle of wine from the gift shop and an apricot jam, ran to the docks, gave Elizabeth the jam and re-boarded the boat, slightly tipsy from the strong wine and adrenaline; laughing into the shocked faces of the Blue Danube crew who were no doubt asking each other “who are these people and how did they get here before us?”
The rest of the tour was full of tears of laughter, a gazillion photos and another bottle of wine imbibed in the on-board restaurant when it started to pour outside. We saw more castles, gorgeous vineyards, clock towers, even a bandits’ lookout on a mountain top rumored to have been a site of torture: unfortunate souls were said to be marched off the edge of the small fort, plunging down the cliffs to their demise. We docked at Melk, the end of our boat trip and the site of the world-famous Melk Abbey.
Our adventure didn’t end here however. We ate the most delicious pizza before climbing up to the Abbey, it was closing and our train was leaving soon so we just had time for a peek. Knowing this, we went in a side door and suddenly it was like time stopped. The inside of the abbey is breathtaking. Time passes. Shoot, what time is it?! Laura: “We have 11 minutes to get back down to the train station.” Here we go again! Cue up the bumblebee music: there go the Corlins! We came sprinting in to the station just in time to take a deep breath and boarded the train back to Wien.
We have never been a boring family. I wouldn’t change a thing about us, or the string of events that made up one of the greatest travel experiences of my life. Sometimes, waylaying your plans (even by accident) can be the surest way to have a real adventure and make the best memories. -Meagz
One of the most surprising and breathtaking towns to stumble upon, Krems an der Donau is a hidden gem in Lower Austria, bordering the Danube and comprising the eastern part of the Wachau Valley.
A departure point for riverboat cruises of the Wachau region; Krems harbors many wonders that emerge with a mix of adventurous wandering and a healthy dose of curiosity. The following fifteen photos toss you into the magic and mystery of Krems and will spur a desire to personally explore one of Austria’s oldest treasures.
1. See a Cirque du Soleil showAll of them will blow your mind and the real trouble is choosing which suits your fancy. The combination of a great recommendation and being a lifelong Beatles fan led me to see ‘Love.’ Located at the Mirage (coincidentally my favorite hotel in Vegas, or is it coincidence? Hmmm jury’s still out), the whole night of seeing ‘Love’ is an experience. Go eat at one of the incredible restaurants: Stack, BLT Burger, California Pizza Kitchen, Fin…(good luck choosing)…and then head over to Revolution, an all sensory stimulating bar rocking the Beatles pre and-post show to get you all kinds of in the mood for the Fab Four.2. Tour the City CenterThe largest privately funded construction project in the United States ($9.2 billion, according to Wikipedia); my jaw hurt from hanging open while exploring this massive complex made up of Aria, Vdara, the Mandarin Oriental LV and Crystals. Vdara and Aria are both LEED certified hotels (bonus!) and look and smell amazing. Yeah, I said smell. The Aria and I are linked for eternity by the olfactory sense. Walk into the lobby and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Also, Cafe Vettro has the best boneless buffalo wings in Vegas. (Sorry Hooters, you and I are quite incompatible) Aria’s restaurants and shops are breathtaking and I cannot wait to go back and spend more time exploring.
Make sure you also pass through (and spend time at) The Cosmopolitan hotel and casino (adjacent to the City Center). My mind is still reeling from the contemporary luxury the place is literally “dripping” with.
3. Le Village Buffet at Paris for breakfast
My favorite meal of the day is breakfast and my favorite place to get breakfast is in Paris for Cabernet soaked pear halves, custom-made crepes and mouth-watering croissants. Sometimes I wake up at home and think about buying a ticket to Vegas… just for breakfast at Le Village Buffet.
4. Stay at Bally’sThe hotel with the most bang for the buck in Vegas: Bally’s. It’s the diamond in the rough of the dated hotels. The central location on the strip is excellent. The rooms are very basic and nothing special, but the beds are comfortable and clean. Who’s hanging out in their room anyway? It’s Vegas, baby!
The amenities are sweet: the blu pool @ Bally’s is bumpin’ on the weekends with loud jams poolside (although the drink prices are outrageous). If you’re on a tight budget, the buffet has an express buffet breakfast for $11.99. Ask for Alice at the reservations desk. She’s friendly, genuine and jovial; she’s been working in Vegas for nearly 30 years and kicks butt at her job.
5. Fremont Street ExperienceThere’s something so-very-nostalgic about taking a trip down to the Old Strip. Getting to see pieces of the The Golden Nugget opened in 1946 and it’s a staple of Vegas lore. I wandered the Golden Nugget a few years ago for historical value, and didn’t think it needed to be revisited. Boy, was I wrong! It has been completely renovated and it is the most unexpected surprise in Vegas. What a thrill to see the new life in the old place. Gorgeous updates inside and out, the entire place has a fresh, hip vibe. Our dinner at the Chart House with the gorgeous aquarium in the center was fantastic. I recommend the Edamame hummus and the Hot Chocolate Lava Cake haunts my dreams.6. Bellagio dancing waters
One of the most famous shows in Vegas doesn’t feature the scantily clad or a rhinestone King impersonator or even a price tag. This free show flows with an unrivaled magnificence: the famous dancing waters at the Bellagio. You saw it in Ocean’s 11, and the movie magic isn’t even as cool as seeing it live. If you can only see it once, check it out at night.
Enjoy the time portal transport you’ll ride on the way back to your seven-year-old-self, agape in wonder at the power of the water.
7. Take Time for TequilaGo find the Tequila Bar tucked in the back of Bally’s. It’s like a hole in the wall with a great happy hour, decent prices for food, excellent fare, a margarita in a fish bowl and it features the biggest plate of Nachos I have ever seen. (Note the size of the salt shaker for reference). Yes, please!8. Diversify your dining and do different dishes at different digs(How’s that for alliteration? Snap!) There’s no way to choose the best restaurant in Vegas. It’s an impossible feat. Instead, try a self designed “Tour of Vegas Cuisine.” Do a different course at a different restaurant in one night! It’s the perfect way to see and taste as much of Vegas as possible, while going on a grand adventure. My “Tour” looked like this: before dinner drinks at Le Centre bar in Paris-featuring 2 for 1 martinis (raspberry lemon drop is the bomb! Thanks Mr. Joshua!). Then we cruised for appetizers at Aria-flashback to the heavenly buffalo wings; then entrees at Cafe Bellagio where I loved the yellow curry salmon. Most important: dessert. Serendipity 3 at Caesar’s Palace. The Frozen Hot Chocolate seems like an oxymoron, but I’m saying you just have to overcome the double negative and just it. If I had room I would have loved to try the fried oreo sunday, but that just means I am destined to return.
It’s where Hawaiians go to retreat from Waikiki; great for honeymooners who aren’t looking for social ‘over-action’; movie buffs go here to tremble at the thought of a raptor lurking on the opposite side of the palm fronds. Kaua’i was my first island explored in the Hawaiian chain, and as such holds a special place in my heart. Kaua’i=the Hawai’i your imagination conjures.
The best of both worlds; where the mountains meet the beach in a magical way.
3. Kalalau Trail (if you can’t do the whole shebang, at least make it to Hanakāpīʻai Beach)
11 miles each way. Treacherous terrain. Hawaiian history. Hippies, body aches and a beach at the end worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears. Bring it on! Be sure to get a permit to camp if you’re going the distance (Hawaii Camping Permits). For those that can’t do the complete holy grail of Hawaiian hikes, be sure to do the first two miles, do-able for most skill levels. There you’ll uncover Hanakāpīʻai beach, complete with sea caves, boulder hopping and a freshwater stream. Here you’ll feel a connection to the ancients as you stand agape at the majesty of the landscape.
4. Kipu Falls
Cowabunga! If you’ve ever dreamed of waterfall cliff jumping, this is the spot. Plenty of depth and cheering supporters to witness your ultimate leap. There’s even a ladder to make your way back to the top. There’s a rope swing, but be aware and make sure your halter top string isn’t tangled up with the rope… it will come off at the same time you do. Trust me, it may have happened to someone I know. Or me. I won’t confirm nor deny it. Just go jump off the falls, will ya?
5. Queen’s Bath
Volcanic cliffs form a fantastic landscape for climbing around the coastline in Princeville. A tough spot to find (the hike down originates in a residential neighborhood), Queen’s Bath is a swimming hole fit for royalty. A must see!
6. Waimea Canyon
Mark Twain called it the Pacific Grand Canyon. The landscape is so unique you might have to check yourself that you didn’t travel to some other planet. Don’t forget to keep going past the Canyon however… you’ve got to make it all the way to the end of the road to get the view atop the northwest mountains of the Napali Coast. Breathtaking.
7. Wailua Falls
A quick view from the top is stunning enough, but if you’ve got the gall, climb the slippery slope trail down to the base of this powerful waterfall for the real experience. The water’s cold and the trail is muddy but it’s an experience that will leave you feeling like a true explorer. For an added thrill, climb ’round the backside to feel the ultimate rush. You won’t be able to get all the way behind the falls (too dangerous), but close enough to feel the sting of the spray and remind you how water always wins.
8. Polihale Beach.
The beach at the edge of the world. It takes work to get here, but the scarcity of others and the uniqueness of this beach makes it a must-do for a true adventurer. Don’t forget your slippers though; we didn’t nickname it ‘hot foot beach’ for nothing.