Thursday, December 31, 2009
BARCELONA CITY TOUR
We hopped aboard a double decker tour bus and enjoyed a two hour drive through the city of Barcelona. This is a great way to see the sights without taking a cab. I enjoyed seeing the Olympic Stadium and other venues that are at the top of a hill overlooking the city. There are hundreds of sidewalk cafe's all around the city. You can enjoy a coffee, soft drink, beer, wine and snacks or full meal while sitting outside watching the people go by. This is a great way to spend time.
BARCELONA TRAM RIDE
After being stranded by our cab driver, we found the only way off the mountain was by tram. The ride was quick, smooth and comfortable. We arrived at the base and caught a city bus to a location where we could catch a cab back to our hotel.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
TOP OF BARCELONA
We jumped in a Taxi and asked the driver to take us to the top of the city where a great cathedral sits. The driver who spoke almost no english sped us up the hill. When we arrived the area was almost empty of tourists. We asked the driver to stay and wait for us. He said he would be back in half hour in very broken english. We thought we agreed on a time and place. We entered a restaurant to enjoy some hot chocolate and a cold beer for Drew. We walked through the church and grounds and waited for our driver. And waited.....and waited.....
Finally we asked the bartender to call our driver as he had left his card. She would not make the call and instructed a waiter not to call for us. A bus came by and we could not communicate with the driver. We waited some more. Finally I asked another girl at a ticket window how we could get off the mountain and down into the city of Barcelona. She said in very broken english that there was a tram right behind us. None of us had even noticed the tram. We bought tickets and made it down in minutes. Never did see that driver again. My advice when visiting Barcelona is to take a Spanish book or some language classes and speak their language instead of trying to get them to speak english.
Keli was so excited to visit this park in Barcelona. She had seen it many times in a movie by the Cheeta Girls or some other girl group. Keli described the entire area to us before we got here. Here main goal was to touch the sculpture of the large lizard that is near the entrance. The park was created by famed architect Gaudi and was the place of his home for many years. We toured his home and walked the grounds overlooking the city.
We were told that many homes in Europe do not have refrigerators. Most families visit the market, butcher and deli each day to purchase food for the daily meals. We were amazed with the number of fish shops, meat shops, vegetable stands and deli's that are all over the city. Some of the best and freshest ingredients in the world. I walked into this deli and was in pure heaven. Wanted to sample everything!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
We found a little neighborhood restaurant, coffee house/bar right around the corner from our Barcelona apartment. There are hundreds of these type of restaurants all over the city. While Keli dined on traditional eggs and bacon, we decided to try the Paella. This is a rice dish served with seafood. The dish was a bit bland and was very light on the seafood. Most people in Spain do not eat this for breakfast, but we just had to try it while we were in Barcelona. It was nice to sit and watch the locals enjoy their coffee before work. There is a lot of smoking in Barcelona. We found it difficult to stay in this place because everyone around us was smoking. We would have eaten outside but it was a little too cold. Most restaurants in the city have tons of outdoor seating. The entire city is filled with outdoor cafe's. Would love to visit here during the warmer months. The people of Barcelona are not early risers. Most shops do not open until 9:00/10:00 am. The streets are completely empty from 7:00 to 8:30 am. This is a really nice time to walk around. The language here is Spanish. We found that most people working in the restaurants, cab drivers and vendors do not speak too much english. You definitely want to bring a Spanish book or study the language before coming to Barcelona. The people are friendly but can only do so much if they do not understand you. The currency of Barcelona is the Euro. We found the best way to obtain Euro's was from standard ATM machines.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
While taking a stroll in the rain trough the charming Gothic section of Barcelona we stubbled upon a Tapa Bar that featured seafood. The place looked clean and fresh so we entered and sat at one of the large communal type tables in the middle of the space. Along the bar there were dozens of small size plates of food to sample. The waiter explained that it was ($1.95 Euro's) each for a plate. Kind of like going out for Genki Sushi in Honolulu but instead of counting the plates these folks count the toothpicks. We tried a variety of seafood toppings placed on a nice piece of french bread. I liked the tuna with pimento best. The Chorizo Sausage was good and so was the tuna with fried leeks. One with hot peppers, anchovie and olive was good too. Keli liked the simple salami with cheese best. We ate until we were full but were not totally impressed with the flavors. Everything is served with bread so you get full quite quickly. The waiter was friendly and gladly served a Spanish Champagne that was great. One of the reasons we ended up eating here is that it was one of the only restaurants open around 12:00 pm. Most restaurants don't open for lunch until 1:30. We had picked the oldest restaurant in Barcelona to dine at this day, but it turned out they did not open until 1:30. My girls wanted to eat NOW as they did not have dinner the night before. We also found that restaurants open around 8:30 for dinner. Typical dinner time is 9:00 to 11:00 pm which is our family sleep time. We ended up missing dinner today because the girls fell asleep. This was good because we all need a good rest after our adventure to get here.
Barcelona's most famous architect named Gaudi designed but not complete this great structure. He was hit by a trolly car and died during it's construction. Barcelona is filled with beautiful buildings that are both modern and old. The streets are clean and are filled with sidewalk cafe's. A great place to sit, drink, eat and people watch.
6 HOURS ON THE RUNWAY
HEATHROW AIRPORT, LONDON
Delayed overnight in Los Angeles was heaven compared to what we endured in London. We arrived after a 10 1/2 hour flight to snowfall and and an airport that perhaps is not prepared too well for snow. After being huddled up in a small lounge we were told that our flight was delayed because of the snow. We waited over an hour and then were placed on buses to drive to the plane which was not near the terminal. When we departed the bus, it was snowing. We had to walk up stairs to the plane in the snow. Keli liked this but it was cold. We stuck our tongues out to catch the snow and had some fun. We got settled in to our seats and found that we were surrounded by a certain ethnic group that loved to talk loud amongst each other. They had a dozen children and just had to scream across the isles to talk. After a while the pilot came on the intercom and announced that we would be delayed one hour so they plane could be de-iced. I tried to sleep but a two year old in front of me was hanging off the back of his seat screaming. The lady behind seemed happy to continually grab my seat back and bounce me around a bit. Our one hour delay soon turned to two. Then three, then four, then five hours. Thankfully the crew busted out free wine and beer. The loud got louder and the quiet got drunk. We learned the life stories of the people in back of us and a little bit about the drug cartel in Mexico that forced our friends on the other side of the isle to move to Arizona. Everyone was yapping in a dozen different languages. The bathrooms ran out of water, the wine ran out and there was no food. After six hours of this crap the plane finally departed for Barcelona. SIX HOURS ON THE RUNWAY GOING NOWHERE. Got to hand it to the British Airlines crew. They were really relaxed and treated everyone well. They kept the booze flowing until they were completely out of stock. The flight to Barcelona was two hours. We arrived after midnight and got to our hotel around 2:00 am.
HEATHROW AIRPORT, LONDON
Heathrow Airport in London is a very busy place. Travelers from all over the world make their way through this international hub. Unlike most airports, Heathrow really controls when you go to your gate. They do not post the gate numbers for flights until the flight is actually boarding. This keeps everyone in the main lounge area. Everyone is eating, drinking or just looking at the boards waiting for their flight number and gate to show up. When it is time for your plane to board, the gate number appears. The lounge area is large with a mall of stores and restaurants. We opted for one of the only sit down restaurants in the lounge. It is called the Bridge Bar in Terminal 3. The place was crowded with travelers enjoying a pint of beer or a quick meal. We sat near the bar area and quickly learned that there is no waiter to take your order. You need to go up to the bar and order. Then someone brings the food to your table. I had the house specialty which is fish and chips ($10.45 Euro's). This was a big chunk of beer battered fish served with fries and smashed peas. The fish was actually good and so were the peas. Shirley and a BLT ($5.95 Euro's) which was not too good she said. Keli had a ham and cheese sandwich and seemed to like it. I tried a pint of Carling beer ($3.10 Euro's). It was cold and refreshing. Tasted pretty good too.
Monday, December 21, 2009
LOS ANGELES DELAY
THE TWO DAY FLIGHT TO BARCELONA
Five hour flight to Los Angeles was smooth and uneventful. Upon arrival in L.A., we were told that our connection to New York was cancelled. The gate agent attempted to book us on a flight out the next morning and then in the middle of doing this decided he had to go somewhere else. He handed us off to the gal next to him who quickly explained that there was a flight out tomorrow she could put us on standby. It was around 1o:00 pm. We were tired and decided to pull our thoughts together in the American Airlines lounge. We sat down very relaxed and asked ourselves what we were going to do. Sleep in the airport and go for the standby flight to New York (which may be cancelled again) or attempt something else. Shirley approached the agent in the lounge and explained that we needed to get to Barcelona. I sat back with Keli and enjoyed a glass of wine and some complimentary sandwiches, cheese and crackers. After about two hours were were first booked on an Air France flight the next morning. Then that flight was not available so they switched us to British Airways flying into London. No guarantees we were told, just be at the terminal first thing in the morning. We left the airport and grabbed a shuttle to the Crown Plaza Hotel. Arrived after midnight to a clean room and slept. We were the very first in line (waited 5 hours) at British Airlines. We were ticketed and got our seats for London. I grabbed a couple of Carne Asada Taco's from the El Paseo Cafe stand above the ticketing counter. Two tacos ($7.80) were quite good. I ate them while standing over our bags at the ticket counter. After a few more hours waiting we were finally in the air for over 10 hours. When we arrived in London, snow was falling and the airport was going into cancellation mode. We had over six hours layover and decided to enjoy lunch in a British Pub.
Heathrow Airport is filled with people from all over the world. People watching at its best here.
You can imagine my surprise when we stumbled upon a Tequileria (Taco Stand) at the Honolulu airport. The placed looked nice and clean so we went in searching for a good Mexican meal before our takeoff to Barcelona. The restaurant overlooks the terminal and many airplanes can be seen from the window. The menu is very limited. Only about 10 or so items total. I asked for chips and salsa and was politely told that it would cost $10. No chips for me. I ordered the Chicken Enchilada Verde which is the house specialty. Two pretty bland chicken tacos served with a green salsa, rice and beans ($12.99). The dish had no cheese which I thought was different. The rice was like Uncle Bens and the Beans were canned. Keli tried the Chicken Quesadillas. These were large chicken and cheese filled tortillas served with some sour creme and frozen quacamole ($11.49). Way too much cheese in these things. Should have just ordered a cold beer here. They looked good and refreshing.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
D.K STEAK HOUSE
Morton's, Ruth Chris, Wolfgangs......who serves the best steak in Hawaii? After trying them all several times, the verdict is in. The winner is D.K STEAK HOUSE. I have been here many times and twice in the last two weeks. I mixed it up with a visit to Ruth Chris in between my last two visits. While Ruth Chris is good, it does not compare with D.K. The dry aged Paniolo Rib Eye is the most flavorful piece of meat on the Island. Hands down winner. The bomb.
When you enter D.K you are always greeted by smiling employees who quickly seat you. The wait staff is professional. I was seated at the bar waiting for my guests. I ordered a glass of chardonnay. When I took a few drinks of the wine, I made a face because the wine did not taste good. Without hesitation one of the waiters standing in the well asked me how the wine was. I said terrible. He quickly instructed the bartender to give me another drink on the house. I had a cold beer. Back to the steak. There are some very good appetizers on the D.K menu. I love the Black and Blue Ahi ($12.95). Rare seared ahi tuna dusted with cajun spices and served with and hot and spicy mustard sauce. The Steakhouse Crab Cakes are also very good. My problem is that the steak is so big I never have room for appetizers or sides here. I did enjoy the "Ultimate" Caesar Salad as it is called on the menu ($5.95 half order). This is a good Caesar served cold and crisp with shaved parmesan-reggiano cheese on top. We had a plate of anchovies on the side. The Entree menu is quite extensive and features dry aged steaks that are aged 30 days at the restaurant. You can go surf and turf at D.K. They have shrimp, lobster and crab combination plates. The Surf and Turf dinners include soup or salad, vegetable and choice of potato. Prices range from $45 to $65 for the complete meal. Our entire table of four opted for the 22 oz. Paniolo Rib Eye ($39.95). The steak is prepared with a dry rub and served on the bone. The steak comes with two large pieces of grilled Maui onions and creme corn. The flavor is off the hook. The steak cuts like butter and then the flavors explode in your mouth. The combination of the steak, dry rub and Maui onion is heavenly. Every time I eat this steak I don't want to stop. The taste is that good. I have never finished an entire rib eye here. Always take half home. Our entire table was impressed with the rib eye. All four said it was the best steak they have ever eaten. As we completed our meal, the Manager (Ivy) greeted our table and sent over some complimentary home made brownies. Nice finish to a fantastic meal.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
DECEMBER 8, 2009
AT HOME WITH KELI
We celebrated our 11th Wedding Anniversary with a quiet dinner at home. This is exactly what we wanted. A relaxing night with family and good food. Shirley did a great job with the lobster tail. It was cooked perfectly and delicious. Our sides included glazed carrots with thyme and sage, lima beans with bacon and shallots and a taboule salad with cucumber, tomato and parsley. I am so blessed to have a wife for 11 years and a beautiful daughter that is the center of our lives.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
U.H. TAILGATE PARTY
DEC 5, 2009
HAWAII VS WISCONSIN
We lost the game 51 to 10 but had a great time in the parking lot. How can you go wrong with lobster tails, beef skewers and champagne. The food was delicious.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
ASSAGGIO RISTORANTE ITALIANO
Assaggio is probably one of the best and most consistent Italian restaurants in Hawaii.
I have eaten here dozen of times and really never had a bad meal. The service is always good and the portions are huge. Most entree's run around $16 to $19 bucks for a large portion. I usually opt for the Boneless Julienne Chicken with vegetables served over linguine ($19). I ask for the spicy garlic marinara sauce. It is delicious. We also enjoy the cold Antipasti salad ($9) on every visit. This is a nice salad topped with prosciutto, salami, cheese, picked vegetables, peppers, olives and anchovies. The salad is big and can serve two to three people. The Home Made Vinaigrette dressing is delicious and a perfect compliment to the salad. Shirley always gets the Seafood Combination ($23 Large). Clams, mussels, shrimp and calamari served over a bed of linguine. I have also had some of the best steamed clams here. Fresh Clams Scampi Style goes for $13. Our friend tried the Sicilian Chicken ($17 small). Boneless chicken thighs, pan fried in olive oil and garlic, with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and a light white wine sauce. Served with roasted potatoes. This looked great and our friend said it was delicious.
Our friend Arlene who was enjoying her 71st Birthday enjoyed the Chicken Alla Saltimbocca Romano ($18 small). Boneless chicken breast lightly breaded pan fried in olive oil and then topped with spinach, melted mozzarella cheese, prosciutto ham in a mushroom white wine butter sauce. The Assaggio menu is large and includes everything Italian including steak and veal dishes. There is no pizza. The wine list is very affordable with most bottles around $30. Assaggio is a sure bet for a good meal at affordable prices. TASTE OF HAWAII FAVORITE.