Tuesday, August 27, 2013

sun, sand, & sea: one lovely helicopter ride in maui

Having Jacob actually arrive in Maui was a surreal experience. He flew across the country to a tiny island and managed his way to the Grand Wailea's hotel lobby. It was such an odd feeling walking up to him and being reunited in a new, slightly unfamiliar space. I loved it.

We had some time planned out with activities and other times left wide open for Hawaiian fate to make choices for us.

One thing we did plan in advance was a helicopter ride. My parents graciously gifted a bit of money to me telling me to make the most out of our trip. They said it could be used on anything, like a luau or tropical libations (my favorite word my dad says). I have always wanted to ride in a helicopter - especially in Hawaii. My dad would reminisce and share his stories and I wanted to have those stories too.

After much research with Trip Advisor, Fodor's, and Yelp, I chose to fly with Blue Hawaiian. They offered a variety of packages at various price points and got outstanding reviews. We booked the West Maui Mountains and Molokai 50-minute tour. All tours leave from the heliport, which is right next to the Kahului Airport.

Our scheduled flight was in the morning on our last day of our trip (what a way to end!). The drive from the Grand Wailea to the heliport was about a half hour and cost us about a $40 cab ride one way, without tip. *Side note: the hotel's concierge gladly helped me arrange the transportation pick-up to and from since we were not renting a car while on the island. We wore darker colored clothing, as it was recommended due to potential glare on the glass. This was a good choice, as it did help, although glare was slightly inevitable in some spots.

After a 5 minute safety video and clipping on our safety gear, we were ready!

There were three other passengers in our helicopter, making six total with the pilot. The company asks when you sign up to provide your weight, as they sit you accordingly to balance everything out. Jacob and I ended up being in the back next to each other anyways, so it worked out. 

We all wore headsets and learned how to talk to each other if we wanted. The music started to play (they always seem to get the music right!) and the helicopter lifted off. It was a feeling I can't even begin to describe---so much different than a plane. It was exhilarating, butterflies-in-the-stomach inducing, and magical all at once. 

Really, the pictures kind of speak for themselves. We lifted off and could see the nearby town at the base of the mountain. The details were vivid even though we floated high above. We immediately flew over the 8 miles that separate Maui from the small island of Molokai. We glided between mountains, saw waterfalls that only sometimes exist (due to whether enough rainfall has happened), and felt the Hawaiian sun. 

I was pretty much rendered speechless the entire time.

These waterfalls. Oh goodness. The beauty of a helicopter is that it can maneuver. And boy did it. We circled close and the pilot turned so everyone could get the optimal view. I was so in love.

This valley is the view as we turned around from the waterfalls. Again the music was timed perfectly. We came to the edge of the island where all you could see was water. With a sharp but gentle turn, we were cliffside. My stomach dropped as we were suspended in that second of time. The continued views were amazing.

Maui is a special and unique kind of place. Some areas of our helicopter adventure brought us into semi-darkened valleys with fog. Other times we saw crystal clear blue waters and lush foliage.

I was blown away. They say that 90% of the island is inaccessible by car. We got to see a nice portion that you can't just walk to. We are pretty lucky people. Our pilots commentary was spot on but not overbearing. It was nice to not have to listen to words and to just let my eyes take it all in.

Fifty-minutes comes and goes rather quickly. I can see why someone would spend a bit more money to take a longer and more elaborate ride. Blue Hawaiian were professional, polite, and provided a comfortable ride and experience. They were nice enough to snap this shot of us exiting the helicopter. They offer a video of your flight for a price, which is a nice service. We ultimately decided not even video could fully capture what we experienced and it just wouldn't be worth it to us.

If you ever get the chance to take one lovely helicopter ride -- do it. Your wallet will forgive you and it will be an experience beyond words. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

a quarter of a century

This past Saturday I turned 25. A quarter of a century. It's special and important and significant to me, even if 25 is just a number. To me it means I have experience under my belt. That I have a new year and a fresh start. That I'm starting to reach the best of times.

This whole past extended weekend was a celebration. Of summer, of life, of sunshine, of city, of happiness, of me.

Thursday night we trekked to Wrightwood Park with friends for a movie in the park -- The Amazing Spiderman in fact. City-dwellers flocked to the park before dusk, setting up blankets and spreads of snacks and wine. All of us seeking a little retreat and a little peace. It was the perfect bit of comfort. Especially with a little bit of popcorn.

Friday I took off of work, which I rarely do. I have quite a bit of PTO saved up and I keep holding onto it just in case. I ran, grabbed groceries, and took a long walk through the park to Lincoln Park Zoo. It was the perfect day -- sunny, warm, and a slight breeze. The flowers were bursting with color and bloom and the bees were zooming

The zoo was filled with families and kids, probably trying to enjoy their last few weeks off of school. I watched as a girl blew kisses to a bird who probably wasn't going to blow kisses back. I heard children exclaim in excitement when the baby monkey would make an appearance.

It was like magic really. Getting away without having to get away. Sometimes it is the simplest of things that fulfill our hearts so. Including sitting on the ground to get this photo underneath this gorgeous dome-shaped structure.

Friday night was filled with dinner, drinks of the patio (a summertime must), and a little lot of spoiling. Little champagne bottles, an H & M giftcard, Lush products, a 2 page birthday letter...could a girl ask for anything more?

I couldn't sleep. Excitement or birthday nerves, I'm not sure. But I had the whole day to enjoy. Up and early we headed to the Air and Water Show on North Avenue Beach. I love arriving at least an hour early. That guarantees a good spot close to the water. The sun was miraculous and warm and the sand between the toes didn't hurt either.

A little birthday love.

After enough sun and planes, the rest of the day called for adventuring. Goose Island, Sprinkles for a birthday treat, the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock building for a drink but mostly the view (especially from the ladies bathroom), and dinner at Girl and the Goat. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday or a better birthday celebrating partner.

Chocolate marshmallow and s'mores. I went for the s'mores. It was the right and decadent choice.

View from the ladies bathroom in the Signature Lounge. Shockingly better than the rest.

Girl & the Goat. This deserves praise and words all on its own. I made the reservation two months prior because that's how badly I wanted to go. It was better than I imagined. The inside was beautiful and hip with an open kitchen Jacob couldn't take his eyes away from.  

With rosé and wine in hand on top of rustic, thick wooden tables, we knew the evening was starting off right.

Adventurous foods are a part of our foodie lifestyle. I adore things that are different, unique, and inventive. G&theG did not disappoint. We ordered duck tongues, sauteed green beans in a fish sauce vinaigrette, goat empanadas, and roasted pig face. All were divine, and four dishes were plenty between the two of us. I have an entire list of things I want to try off the menu next time we get to waltz into G&theG. 

So what does this next year hold? At least 25 things. Let's get started.