Tag Fünf

Hilary’s apartment is on Beethoven Park and is some fancy, award winning architectural/community darling. It really was a substantial development with massive underground parking and storage, lovely courtyards with ponds, carp (er, Koi), and turtles. Her apartment itself is quite roomy with a fantastic deck/patio that looks out towards the park. It was so nice and the weather was warm enough that the girls spent the night outside. In the morning, we scrambled some eggs, bacon, and sautéed some kale from Hilary’s balcony. Breakfast included excitement about what the first day would hold, but also required some calculation about how we’d work a trip in the the mechanic. During the drive from Amsterdam to Köln, the front right wheel wobbled during acceleration. Just a few days prior, Hilary had the vehicle in to get the tires changed and the mechanic had noticed some leakage from the from CV joint. Rather than repairing it, they just put the wheel on. So she had them look at the boot but apparently they didn’t find any issues.

Am Beethoven Park

Well, we were going to drive across Germany in 2 days, so we were a little less comfortable with the shape of the front wheel. So Hilary took the car back to the mechanic (who didn’t speak English, but the daughter who worked in the accounting dept did, so they texted back and forth). It was and continued to be a frustrating experience. We learned but didn’t use the phrase “am der Name eherumführen), which roughly translates to being jerked around (by the nose). So with no confidence in the mechanic, we decided to rent a car for our trip.

During all this, Michelle, the girls and I went to Beethoven Park and played at a playground. The girls had a good time but had some difficulty communicating with the children, some of whom were naked. The girls had a blast though as they tend to do when there’s a playground around. Afterwards, we headed to the neighborhood Rewe to get some picnic items (and beer) and we took the train to Media Park, a large city playground with nearly abandoned equipment. The kids had a blast on the gigantic slide and unique and complex swing set. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and watched a group of adult (men) who seemed to be walking back from lunch stop to watch one of their coworkers take the giant slide. We assumed there was beer at their lunch.

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Hilary sliding
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Dom through a bridge head

We wandered a little further along the parkway to a massive swing set that had two pivots and two swings, but both were connected by cable. So to swing, you had to cooperate with the other swinger. It was challenging and somewhat frustrating, and if you jumped from the swing, the whole motion collapsed on the other swinger. But by this time, we were all hot, and the girls needed to use a bathroom. Which there are so very few of in Europe. So we meandered in to a nearby Saturn electronics superstore. We took turns pretending to shop while the kids used the bathroom. The store was fun in that “it’s familiar but different” way, and Maddie really enjoyed pretending like we were shopping. She even went so far as to make up statements like “I was looking for one of these!” Ham.

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Futurama mural in Köln

Next we wandered through town towards der Dom. We went through the old part of the town with castle walls and gates, stopped in a comic book store, looked at fanciful dress shops (for Carnival), and found an Asian market that Hilary was thrilled about because they had tons of ingredients she hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. We continued our walk, and Hilary had gone through considerable effort to try and get us there without seeing der Dom until we were right there. And it was worth it. We turned around the corner and were caught off guard by the presence of the gothic cathedral. It is massive. We wandered around it, trying to take in the scale of the building. There was scaffolding on the north tower which made everyone sick thinking about how scary it would be to work on the suspended platform that high off the ground.

Der Dom with the Freeds
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Girls and aunt Hilary
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Der Dom

Around the cathedral was bustling with tourists. Everyone trying to find a break in the crowds for the perfect picture. We went inside and MG lit a candle for Barley. We were too late to climb the tower so we wandered over to the bridge to see the locks and a view of the Rhine river. This city is quite gorgeous and I already regret having dedicated so little time there. But the kids were starting to crash from being tired and hungry so we made double time over to Peter’s, a beerhall that served their own Kölsch. By the time our drinks arrived, the girls were spiraling and finally crashed. We had to force them to eat some food, and after some gnashing of teeth, they both perked up. I got the pork knuckle, which was massive. And it was delicious. We shared a variety of pork dishes, including schnitzel, pork medallions, wieners, and we were able to find some vegetables (doused in cream) as well. The food was great, the server prompt, and the Kölsch was delicious. This was also the girls’ first experience in Germany of having a bathroom attendant. They were confused but eventually managed to use the bathroom and leave a tip.

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Counting Kölsch at Peters
Dinner at Peters

After dinner, we (I) waddled out on to the old town square to enjoy the active energy of the evening. The girls had rebounded and were doing piggy-back rides through the square. The grounds were being prepared for the Cologne Gay Pride festival that was happening in 2 days. The girls got some gelato and we continued to wander through the charming square until we could catch a train back to Hilary’s apartment. Once we arrived at home, the girls were nearly ready for bed and insisted that they sleep outside again. We gladly allowed them to, and Hilary introduced us to Brooklyn 99, which streamed in English with German titles on Netflix there.

Tag Vier

On the fourth day, we woke with a hunger for some delicious breakfast. Fortunately, there was a renouned waffle place nearby. We walked north towards it and were interrupted by a route closure due to construction. As we tried to bypass it, a construction worker started yelling at us in Dutch. We apologized and when he realized we were Americans, he turned totally nice and in nearly perfect English, gave us an alternate route to get to where we were heading. The route took us through this massive housing project called Funenpark that was a mix of park/open space. It looked like project housing done well.
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We had breakfast at Brunchroom, which had an amazing “build your own waffle” option which the kids loved only slightly more than Hilary. Some of the combos selected.

  • Bacon, Bananas and maple syrup
  • Honey, fig, pumpkin seed and goat cheese
  • Strawberry, blueberry, and whipped cream
  • Nutella, Banana and coconut smoothie (not a waffle)

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After breakfast, we headed to an electric boat rental shop (boaty) do do a self-guided canal tour. We all wanted to do a canal tour of some sort, but the idea of being packed in with chumps didn’t thrill anyone. So we hopped tram and got off at the connector to buy groceries for a picnic lunch. The lunch options were pretty stellar, but I was suddenly sad when I found the plastic packaged hot dogs (in buns) had American flags on the labels. Forgone conclusions.

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Anyway, the electric boat rental was awesome. We motored down a canal to the Amstel River, then back through some canals to get a feel for the city. The views were amazing, and the pace was perfect. It’s hard not to get some relaxation out of a float. But the amazing cruise got even better as we pulled over to one of the very view empty spots along the canal to eat lunch. Cheese, bread, cured meats, fruit, and awesome beer. It was the height of existence.

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We motored back to the mooring spot after watching a young swan tear around. We then took transit back to Hilary’s parked car on the outskirts of town and somehow managed to cram all our luggage in. It took some time to get out of Amsterdam proper because of traffic, but by the time we did, I’m pretty sure 3/5 of the car were asleep. And that was despite my encouragement for everyone to take in what they saw and notice the subtle differences between here and home.
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We drove on and my sister and I debated how bad the rattling of her front CV joint was as we traversed two countries to finally reach Germany. After some long chats and long naps, we arrived in Köln (Cologne) and immediately stopped for food at Planet Hürth. It was a very traditional German spot with excellent curry wurst and frits. Oh, and they had Kölsch. Hilary explained the May pole tradition whereby young suitors attach small trees to the homes of their secret loves. If the source of the love accepts, he (though mostly she) takes the tree down. Otherwise, the tree stays up, decaying as an embarrassing sign of misplaced love.

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We polished off our meals then stopped at a grocery store to grab some food for the coming days and finally arrived at Hilary’s apartment on Beethoven Park. It is an awesome complex. Obviously built to last 70 to 140 years, unlike the crap we built here. We got a quick tour then utterly crashed for the night. Windows and doors open to let the fresh air caress us to sleep.

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Tag Drei

Day three was our first full day in Amsterdam. We started the morning by hopping a train in to town to get near the Van Gogh Museum for breakfast. The morning was cool, and we almost got on the wrong train because we assumed that the direction of the tracks represented the direction the train was going. The train was nice though, like our street cars in Portland, but with more riders and more service.

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We stopped at a bakery near the museum and our eyes nearly fell out of our heads. So many options. Pastries, sandwiches, mini-pizzas. We all picked up something (I got a ham & cheese croissant) and coffee and walked over to the park next to the museum to eat. It was delicious, but messy as all flakes fell off the wonderful sandwiches. Since we still had time until our museum ticket reservation, we wandered around the park and then wound up at the iamsterdam sign by the Ruks museum. The kids climbed, we took pictures, and made our way through some sort of festival. On the way back to the Van Gogh, we saw some installations of Banksy & Dali work. Cool bonus.

Ruks Museum garden
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The Van Gogh Museum was packed. The format was designed to handle the population, but the kids didn’t exactly get hooked right away. Maddie learned that Van Gogh died at 35, which she was very curious about and kept asking questions about. There were a few notable missing works, but the collection was fascinating. I admit I really liked some of his contemporaries work, which was also on exhibit to show examples of what others were doing. None of us had seen the almond blossoms work yet and were all enamored with the colors. I really liked the haymaker/landscape work as well.
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After the museum, we walked to Vondelpark. We’d heard so much about the playground, and it took a while for us to find because the park is so big. Fortunately, there was an info booth with some old Dutch women who spoke really great English. In fact, there was no shortage of friendly, English-speaking residents. Hilary told us to enjoy it while we were in Amsterdam because it would be absent when we arrived in Germany. We played at the park at the west end for a while. I was impressed with the quality and imaginative design, but Ella was tired and couldn’t keep up with Maddie. After a while, we walked north to Foodhallen, a giant indoor “food cart” pod. The selection of food was excellent and we each got something that caught our attention. I had an amazing Iberian ham sandwich after the vendor lured me in with a small sample. Hilary got dim sum (and ended up sharing), and Michelle got a salad roll (which was the most boring). The girls, despite all the options, chose fruit & yogurt cups. Then they stole bites from us.
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After eating, we wandered towards the center city to explore. The kids got hungry again, so we grabbed some snacks right on the square and watched the crowds and picked apart the performers and their techniques. Then we wandered around making a big loop towards the Ann Frank house, which we couldn’t get in to. We had hoped to pick up some of the late day releases, but the lines were amazingly huge. So sadly, we couldn’t see the house. We did pick up some stickers, and Michelle checked out the palace after being moved by curiosity. After more souvenir shopping, we walked through the red light district to Brewery De Prael for dinner. Upon seeing nearly naked women standing in windows on the street, Maddie asked what they were doing. Hilary told her to ask her parents. We explained at dinner what prostitution was and the girls were a little surprised and confused, but didn’t really follow up with many more questions.

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The girls and I had dessert (I had a Nes IPA, which was delicious) while Hilary and Michelle wandered the Red Light District. I managed to have a conversation with a couple from Germany whose English was a good as my German (at least that’s how I perceived it after 3 beers) then Hilary took the kids back to the hostel so Michelle and I could explore. We toured the district, taking in the whole scene along with thousands of elderly tourists. The district is charming in it’s own way, and it is certainly helped by the canals, but the crowds of tourists makes the whole thing seem kind of commonplace. But comments from some of the tour guides (that we eavesdropped on) suggested that there was a concerted effort from the city to try and gentrify the district.

Michelle and I grabbed some beers while waiting for the sun to set and Michelle locked herself in a bathroom. She did manage to escape. Eventually, we grew bored and took a bus back to the hostel. While we were out, Hilary and the girls played hide & seek at the hostel.

Tag Zwei

We landed in Amsterdam at 1pm (er, 13:00) local time. We all immediately needed to use the bathrooms, which was a fun intro to subtle differences between European and American design (and language). Getting through customs was cake, and after we walked through the doors, we were greeted by Aunt Hilary. The girls were thrilled and we got our hugs in before buying commuter train tickets to our hostel. Hilary had picked up a SIM card for me to use and I tried to get it to work on the train but it wouldn’t work. Oh well. Better pay attention to what is going on outside anyway.
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We walked about half a mile to the Stay OK hostel and checked in to our “family” room. 6 bunks and a private bathroom and some funky decoration. The place was very nice and the staff were super friendly. We were famished, so we walked to a nearby Vietnamese place, but it apparently only serves Vietnamese food after 5pm. So we had more continental food (and beer!) and caught up with Hilary. Michelle ordered a Hilary ordered the Croque Madame, Michelle and sandwich that included brie, apples, and walnuts, and I had a spicy sausage baguette sandwich, and the girls had waffles and cakes.
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Next we wandered over to the De Gooyer Windmill (and Brouwerij t IJ) to check out this vestige of history along the canals. We wandered along the canals, marveling over the mixture of nice and partially sunken and rotting boats to Oosterpark to enjoy the fountains and ponds. The kids fed the ravenous ducks and pigeons. The birds were pretty gross, but the girls made a game out of petting the flying rodents. We headed back to the hostel to plan out the following day and figure out dinner. We enjoyed beers in the sun while the kids played on the playground across the street.
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For dinner, we wandered over to Boi Boi, a wonderful Thai place that everyone enjoyed. On the walk back, we encountered a German Shorthair Pointer with a full-length tail. It could also bark loudly. We wandered back towards the hostel and picked up some ice cream for desert. It was a fun stroll as the sun set, and we arrived home around 10pm. We successfully made it a full day after the long flight.
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More photos are available in the Amsterdam 2017 Flickr album.

Tag Eins

Introduction

This is a rather disjointed summary of our trip to Amsterdam, Cologne, Bavaria, and Paris this summer. We traveled from July 1st to July 15th and spent most of the trip (except flying) with my sister. She lives in Cologne. The post is mostly about capturing things that will hopefully trigger our imagination later in conjunction with the images we captured. There are oh so many images. I may never sort through them. Heck, I don’t think I even finished the posts about Yellowstone or South Africa yet. Thus, these will be fairly succinct.

back to day one

Day one was travel. To save money on airfare, we flew out of Seattle and landed in Amsterdam (and left from Paris). Even though we’ve known we were going for months, there was still a last minute rush to organize and thin our carry-on bags. Then, we loaded up the cars and made great time getting to Tacoma, where we stashed the cars with a friend. We dropped off the luggage and grabbed some horrible food from a dumpy teriyaki place. To wear out the kids before the long flight, we went to Kadel Park, where there’s a wave pool. Even though the skys were cloudy and the weather rather cool, we spent nearly 2 hours in the water playing and swimming. Everyone agreed that it was a blast. We took an Uber to SeaTac (there were no Lyft drivers) and our driver was a lifetime welder from Vietnam. Really cool guy who got us there in no time. We also raced through security and had to find ways to occupy ourselves while waiting for the flight. That included multiple trips to the bathroom, random wandering, and trying to watch a Timbers game on my phone. Eventually we boarded and hunkered down for the long red-eye flight.

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Thanks to the modern entertainment systems, it was easy for the kids (and adults) to entertain themselves. Michelle and the girls all managed to get some sleep, but I wasn’t able to get more than maybe 30 minutes (thanks, Melatonin). But we’ll pretend that day one ended with everyone asleep in the air flying over Hudson Bay and Greenland.
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Kauai 2011

In November, Michelle, the girls, and Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Dave all met up in Kauai for a week in paradise. It was a lovely time despite the record rainfall. We spent some excellent time in the water (sometimes while be rained on), visited Wimea Canyon, and went back to Tunnels Beach where I proposed to Michelle 11 years ago. In case (in the likely hood that) I don’t post a full report, here are the photos:

Whidbey Island in July

The family packed up and headed north to spend the 4th of July weekend with the Dunlaps. It had taken nearly 3 months to figure out a time to meet over the summer, but we managed to pick the perfect weekend. We stayed on Whidbey Island atop a bluff looking south over Puget Sound. It was fantastic, and we had a blast doing some proper relaxing with friends. We ate well, drank well, relaxed well, and roasted marshmallows well. I hesitate to say we slept well, but I hear you can do that when you’re dead.

I think one of the highlights for me was the excellent tide-pooling we did on Sunday morning on what was looking like a cloudy and rainy day. The tide was out quite far and with Stephanie as a guide, we got to see a lot of cool stuff lurking in basins and under rocks. She showed the girls (and me) that if you poke a geoduck, it will squirt water at you. The girls loved it (as did I).

We made a trip over to Langley, which is a quaint and fancy town on the east side of the island. We picked up lunch from the grocery in town and ate it while sampling beers at Olde World Ales & Lagers, then picked up ice cream. Finally, we headed home and swam for a bit with the girls. Ella discovered the joy of goggles and spent half her time underwater. MG isn’t yet appropriately respectful of the water and did her best to thrash out of everyone’s arms.

Meals were great, and not just because the view was so stellar. The first night we had smoked bratwurst from one of Scott’s coworkers and grilled corn. The second night we had Thai beef salad. The third night we had pork loin. Desert should have been the view, but we also did s’mores, which we discovered can be altered by switching out milk chocolate for peanut butter cups. I recommend trying sometime. All of it.

Eventually, the trip ended with a ferry ride back to the mainland and an all to brief stop at Lake Rosiger to catch up with other college friends and a tired car trip back to Portland. Three cheers for summer.

Kona, part 2

Family in the surfOne of the subsequent days, we went to Hapuna Beach, which is a state park and has easy car access, showers, and even some vendors. The day wasn’t clear, but 78F is still 78F, and the water was still delightful. There was wind, which created some copy surf, but we still enjoyed the expansive beach. Later that night, we decided to take in a Luau; the preliminary activities were fun enough, but the actual show was kind of a turd. Michelle and my parents had all been to a Luau before and thought the food and show was lacking by comparison. I thought the food was just fine, but the “Freedom cost a buck ‘o five” God/Country Music/USA song was both so bad and out of place that my meal was in peril. I guess they know their audience though, because everyone else thought the jingoistic number fit right in with the “tour of Micronesia” theme. We then left shortly after Ella got scared by a Tongan warrior dancer who nearly collided with her and he weaved through the audience making menacing gestures. I can see how she might have been a little scared, but I thought it was amusing.

We continued our tour of beaches with Kahalu’u Beach Park, where we rented a boogie board with a viewing glass so Ella could see fish. Despite swimming lessons from a young age and constant bath-taking, she’s surprisingly timid around water. Still, she enjoyed the view, and Michelle and I were delighted to be in the warm ocean with our little girl. We almost collided with a turtle too, but my spastic response scared both the turtle and Ella, who was done being in the water. We moved north up the highway to the next beach which was very sandy and the surf was high. We did some body surfing, saw some dolphins, and played in the sand.

On a couple of the evenings, we wandered in to town to check out the shops and restaurants, occasionally taking in a meal. Downtown Kailua is quaint, friendly, and somewhat rundown. I’m not sure if this was purely a reflection of some local economic change, the larger economics of the world, of if vacationers had just simply reached the critical mass for T-shirts and “local art.”

I think my favorite beach (except Makalawena) was Mauna Kea Beach. It’s adjacent to a resort/golf club, but that doesn’t ruin the excellent view of the northern knob of the island, the delicious water, and trees overhanging the sand. We set up our blankets underneath a sort of locust tree and were shaded the entire time, which is good, because I think they take your infant away if you get it sunburned. We played in the surf, both girls thoroughly enjoying the warm water and gentle waves. The snorkeling was actually quite good around the rock/reef on the south end of the beach. Plenty of sea life, reef, and no one got hit by an errant golf ball.

My favorite snorkeling was actually at “Place of Refuge,” a rocky bay that is teeming with life, and where the sea floor dives to about 80 feet just off the shore. There’s a cool set of steps in the rocks (accidental, mind you) at the north end of the bay where you can drop in to the water. You’re immediately greeted by schools of yellow tangs, and if you follow the shore along the north end of the bay, there’s just too much to see. The coral is fascinating and hides so many little creatures which you don’t notice until you get close. Swim out towards the middle of the bay and you watch the coral drop quickly in to the beautiful blue abyss. I hurt my ears several times trying to really get down deep because the scale of the place misleads you about how big the place is. Plus, I wanted to try and reach the dive mustering spot with the word “ALOHA” spelled out in cinderblocks. My dad and I visited twice, the second time everyone else joined us. We also visited the National Park facility there at the place of refuge.

But like all good things, the end came, and we boarded our respective flights home. Grandma and Grandpa took off on the Blue and White plane, and we boarded ours. The trip home still went really well, though it’s possible that the effort of keeping two children happy on a 6 hour flight erases at least some of the relaxation we’d escaped for. Madeline was awake for most of the flight home, and really didn’t care to be seated much. When we finally arrived in Seattle, everyone was hungry, and all the restaurants were closing or closed. After a sleepy flight back to Portland, we were home, and only had to stomach two days of work before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Kona, part 1

Andy and Ella throwing rocks in the warm ocean
This is sorely overdue, but I wanted to mention a few things about our trip to Kona-Kailua in November. It’s a trip we’d been planning for nearly 9 months with the sincere desire to get out of town. We were very curious how this whole traveling with kids would work, and we wanted to start making an effort to vacation with family.

The flight to Kona was spectacular. There was a short leg up to Seattle which was uneventful, then the 6 hour flight to Kona went splendidly. Ella was entertained most of the time through a combination of coloring, toys, window screen movements, bathroom trips, and cartoons on the iPhone. Madeline for her part slept most of the trip, which really helped.

We met my parents at the airport in Kona, picked up a Grand Crapavan from the rental company, and headed to our rented condo just south of the main strip in Kailua. The condo was fantastic (you never really know until you arrive), and we grabbed some fast food while setting up base camp. (There were mongooses wandering around the parking lot, something I’d not seen on my previous trip a decade ago.) After that we split up, shopped for groceries, swam in the pool, and hung out on the lanai looking for where to go the coming days.

The second day we drove the van north with a picnic lunch to Makalawena Beach, in Kekaha Kai State Park. It was a bumpy, slow ride from the highway down to the trailhead, and likely not some place that the rental should have gone. From there, a 30 minute trek past one gorgeous beach, some wild goats, and a barren lava field to a white sand beach that was heaven. As it turns out, you can get there by 4×4 if you have one, as there were several trucks on the beach. From the moment we arrived, it was quickly clear that everyone was happy here. Both girls loved the gentle waves, and Ella loved playing in the sand in the “warm ocean.” We’d been promising her that she’d enjoy the warm ocean since a disaster during a storm in May where she was knocked off balance by a quick rush of water past her feet and fell in the cold Pacific near Manzanita, OR.

Now I’m trying to remember the order in which we visited beaches, but by in large, the order of the day was something like this: Get up, have coffee and breakfast, watch Curios George, make sandwiches, spend 30 minutes trying to get sunscreen on everyone, then load up the van and go to a beach. We didn’t stray from this formula much, largely because it was so perfect. We didn’t attempt to see the volcano or Hilo simply because a long day of car travel with the girls wouldn’t be any fun. And it’s really hard to improve on a working formula.

We ended up visiting several more beaches, but I’ll pick up again in another post. It’s time to wake the girls up, take them to Grandma’s and go to work in the dark.

Here are some pictures of the trip to Kona though.