I've never seen the Lord of the Rings movies... I know I know they are amazing and wonderful. I just haven't gotten around to sitting down and watching the movies in their entirety.
It may surprise you to hear that on a trip to New Zealand I stopped by the actual Hobbiton movie set. Even though I hadn't seen the films I was familiar with the cast, storyline and tidbits about the movies. It was a great journey to Matamata to see and experience.
Before making our way to the tour facility and then jumping on a short bus ride to the set, we stopped at a local pub for drinks and a bite. Then we made our way to the guided tour and got to experience the background, behind the scenes, and hear the stories behind the film and the remaining set.
Discovered in 1998 the 1,250 acre sheep farm was scouted by movie location officials and deemed the perfect location for Hobbiton. Because of a towering pine tree and beautiful lake nestled within the rolling green hills producers believed this was exactly what they' were looking for and matched the J.R.R. Tolkien shire described in the book.
In March 1999 crews began construction on the temporary movie set and with the help of the New Zealand Army the 39 temporary hobbit hole community was built, then torn down after filming wrapped.
Ten years later the trilogy continued and it was decided to rebuild the set again but with permanent materials and thereby perpetuating the splendor and wonder that is now Hobbiton forever. 44 hobbit holes and the Green Dragon Inn bar and lounge remain as a focal point for visitors and guests from around the globe.
Once you arrive on-property you are escorted in with your friendly tour guide. This is a photographer's dream as the set is extremely photogenic and each hobbit hole boasts something unique and visually appealing. The traditional Hobbiton movie set tour includes background information on the location (Alexander Family sheep farm). The guide will highlight specialty areas on property and engage with guests to answer any and all questions.
What amazed me was the landscaping and upkeep of this site. The fresh produce and vibrant gardens are all real. The apples, pumpkins, gerber daisies and an abundance of flora and fauna, are all well kept and meticulously maintained. They have about half a dozen on-site gardeners to maintain the property along with worker volunteers who spend their spare time maintaining the gardens as well.
Each hobbit hole is unique and comes in a variety of colors and decor. You can wander, find your favorites and take photos of the exterior. It may sadden you to find out that there is nothing inside and the interior is just a dug out hole in a hill with wood in it. But for the most part you are not allowed inside the holes and can mainly take photos and videos from the outer gate, at the door or at times when there is something to pose with.
It's highly suggested you book your tours in advance as these sell out.
Tours are held daily and offer a variety of pick-up spots.
Price starts at $84 adult and $42 children 9-16 years-old.
The duration of the tour/time spent on-site is about 2.5-3 hours.
Here's a brief video of the site, experience, tour and etc. Please like and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more adventures!
I must have been about 7 years-old the one time I visited New Zealand, there is a small chance that I was younger than that, but I will just stick with 7. All I recall are green rolling hills and white sheep everywhere. This time around I had the chance to visit New Zealand during the sunny fall season and it was a glorious experience that literally left me wanting more.
Upon arrival our flight got in after 10pm, by the time we got our rental car, checked into the hotel and settled it it was past 1:30am. We went to bed and woke up the next morning ready to explore. We knew we wanted to check out Waiheke Island and drove from the airport hotel to central city terminal in Auckland and hopped on a ferry. The warm sun, soft wind and clean water was inviting. After just 35 minutes on the boat we arrived at Matiatia Bay. What a splendid bay it is with small sail boats and kayaks. The air was crisp and the docks clean. There we purchased $10 all-day city bus passes and ventured to the wineries. You can also book a tour, rent a car/bike or even catch a taxi.
Waiheke Island is a haven for artists, ocean-lovers, nature enthusiasts and wine drinkers. One 20 minute bus ride and you'll arrive at a stop that features 3 vineyards all right next to each other and poised with differing activities and wines to sample and delight. Our first stop was at Wild on Waiheke, a brewery, winery and multi activity experience, we enjoyed a wine tasting and light lunch. The cool thing about this place is the outdoor activities and games you can enjoy on-site. There's clay shooting, archery, massive chess, a large trampoline and laser tag. Nestled in the midst of the vineyards is a beautiful garden and large flat green grass area to frolic. The food was great, nicely done and the wine tasting pours are smaller than what we are used to in America but enough to give you just a taste. The sampling included 6 wines for $13 - Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Rose, Wildling and Syrah. It's a beautiful and fun setting with many options.
Next door is the impeccable Stonyridge Winery, this vineyard is about a 10 minute walk from the main road and up the mountain. Once you arrive you are greeted by hundreds of olive trees. Stonyridge is positioned as a more luxurious wine with notable awards, cafe, VIP club and more. They also offer tastings, an indoor and outdoor patio and really cool mountain sloped seating overlooking the vineyard. This location had pristine views with a more lively setting. This vineyard is divinely elegant with veranda cafe, yoga, helipad and full range menu items from cheeses, to mains, desserts and more. A tasting of 3 wines is $10, served outside and poured one-at-a-time, in a group setting where people can ask questions and engage with their host and each other.
The tasting is nestled under one of their many olive trees and it is there that you can sample 3 of their wines grown and created on-site from the 25 acre sustainable facility. We were still full from the 2 starters we had at the other winery that we only relaxed under the trees and enjoyed the tasting and didn't eat.
Here's their story: "Stonyridge Vineyard is the ongoing dream of owner Stephen White. In 1981 Stephen returned to New Zealand after sailing a Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, skippering yachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, and working at wineries in France, California and Italy. It was during this 3-year adventure that Stephen came to love the culture and lifestyle of the Mediterranean and the great red wines of France, Tuscany and California."
Surprisingly, another person from Hawaii spotted us and invited us to join their group. There we met with some of the locals including one of the owners of Stonyridge. We sat enjoyed more wine and talked for a while, until we had to catch our bus for an early dinner, then hop back on the ferry just as the sun was setting and make our way out of Auckland and toward Cambridge, which is just under 2 hours away.
Stay tuned for more on our amazing journey to New Zealand. Also watch this short video detailing our experience on Waiheke Island.
For close to half a century Elena's Home of Finest Filipino Foods has been feeding the Hawaii community delicious, homestyle filipino cuisine. Lucky for everyone the Waipahu restaurant expanded their location in September (now doubled in size) and launched a new buffet. The all you can eat buffet is served everyday from 8:30am-8pm and is only $11.50 for adults, $7.99 for keiki 7-3 years-old, $2.99 for keiki 2-under.
You'll find favorites including the trademarked Pork Adobo Fried Rice Omelette, Chicken Papaya, Corned Beef Cabbage, Sari Sari, Pancit, Dinuguan, Adobo and more. It's not a huge spread of glutenous food, but it definitely makes sense. If you were going to come in and order the fried rice omelette, might as well pay just over $2 more and get the entire buffet.
Here's a look below.
Elena's Home of Finest Filipino Foods
94-866 Moloalo Street
Waipahu, HI 96797
Spring is about to get sprung... and one of my favorite people of all time is at the helm in the kitchen at the Top of Waikiki. Literally positioned above the region and towering over the bustling streets filled with shoppers, visitors and diners, Chef Lance Kosaka has unveiled 11 farm-fresh new menu items from the kitchen at the revolving restaurant with panoramic views.
From Happy Hour bites to vegetarian options and tasty spins on local classics these new dishes are delicious and bursting with flavor.
Must-try dishes include:
Pan-Seared Ahi Steak
Vegetarian Cous Cous
The Top of Waikiki
2270 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Open nightly 5-9:30pm
Happy Hour at the bar all night 5-9:30pm
While on my first trip to South Korea I stumbled upon a street vendor selling these crisp, brown, steamy, hot treats to children. I had no idea what was in it but had to order some. To my surprise it was a delightfully delicious chewy subtly sweet pancake of amazingness. Filled with cinnamon, peanuts and brown sugar -- I had to go back for more.
Nothing compares to the very first taste back in Fall of 2016, but thankfully I found another vendor in Seoul to appease my craving of the hotteok pancake yummy goodness! This my friends is ono eats!
Love colors, photos, videos and fun? You've probably seen it on social media, Color Factory in San Francisco is an amazing pop-up interactive gallery.
"Color Factory is a 12,000 sq.ft. pop-up exploring color as an experience. Visitors move through 2-stories of color in over 15 exhibits; lose yourself in 10,000 colored ribbons, sink into a giant yellow ball pit, catch some rainbows, smell colorful memories and taste a spectrum of treats. Put on your favorite hue and come to us for color."
The above paragraph summarizes the site perfectly, but if I may add -- the often sold out and reservation only event is a location aimed at focusing on colors, themes, visuals, childhood memories and current social media trends.
If you have a moment in SF check it out and enjoy all the color in its many forms.
575 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA
On a recent annual trip to wine country, I had my fair share of amazing food. Obviously, with some of the best chefs in the country residing in the region the cuisine is extremely gourmet, innovative and full of fresh flavor. One of the things I love about California cuisine is the fact that the dishes are packed full of garden freshness and elements like texture and preparation are executed perfectly. The highlight of my culinary journey was an outstanding brunch at The Girl and the Fig. Known as a staple in the Sonoma community, this hot spot serves up delightful California cuisine with touches of elegant French technique.
Lucky for us we managed to squeeze our way in for Sunday Brunch! The decor is rustic and charming, You'll find seating inside and outside under a clear canopy tent.
We ordered the:
Grilled Smoked Trout Benedict: it was wonderful and perfectly prepared. The trout added great texture, density and full flavor to a classic brunch staple. Plus the hollandaise was elegant and the combination was sensational.
Brussels Sprout Salad: had great crunch and freshness from the accompanying kale, bacon lardons, pear and cider vinaigrette. This was a fabulous starter to get our palate ready.
Croque Madame: served on a delightfully fresh and fluffy baked brioche bread with brilliant yellow egg yolk, this was actually the first item that I ate when I arrived in Paris 2 years ago. This version was elegant and not as heavy as you'd think. Really nice.
Fig & Arugula Salad: this was the only disappointing item, as there were only tiny bits of dried fig in the salad which wasn't enough to make it the first element noted on the menu and their namesake as well. It was ok, overall disappointing. The arugula was tenderly picked and delicately tossed, not too spicy and had moderate flavor, but the actual figs in the fig salad was missing.
Bacon Sandwich: with a name like that you know it's going to be good. Surprisingly this wasn't as heavy as you'd imagine and was loaded with meats, cheese and topped with frazzled onions. A well-rounded sandwich served with pommel frites (french fries) was a fabulous hangover meal or something to just pick at.
Wild Mushroom Risotto: One of the dishes we all agreed we would return for was this risotto, made with Carnaroli rice, foraged mushrooms, roasted cauliflower and touched with parmesan reggiano the silky, creamy, meaty, earthy, yumminess was decadent yet mildly addicting. Really delicious and perfectly prepared, this was wonderful.
Lavender Creme Brûlée: Expertly crafted creme brûlée with the aromatic essence of lavender delighted my sweet tooth. This lovely end was simply divine.
Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake: Danced on my palate, the blood orange caramel was sinfully delicious and a touch of chantilly really made this dessert dance. Great combination of citrus, creaminess and comfort.
Overall, this was a delightful and dreamy little cafe. The service was excellent, well-informed, friendly yet easy going. Don't forget to order a cocktail, glass of bubbly or 2 Balsamic Bloody Mary's like me!
the girl and the fig
110 West Spain Street
Sonoma, CA 95476
Just coming home from two back-to-back lengthy trips (out of country and out of state) my body was in need of a good therapeutic massage. I was invited to try a brand new treatment at the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa in Waikiki.
Na Ho'ola Spa often features new promotions and specialty treatments aimed at channeling complete relaxation and body balance. These rejuvenating wraps, scrubs, facials and more often utilize exclusive products and one-of-a-kind innovative techniques.
The Sea Holistic Relaxation Massage starts with a delicate body scrub using sugar-like mineral crystals... and begins with the arms, legs and then back. The body scrub is a no-rinse powder that serves as a smooth yet creamy exfoliant. A towel is used to gently wipe the Phytomer crystals from your skin and the Creamy Body Scrub with Oligomer Crystals powder is then removed in preparation for the massage.
In an effort to recharge the skin and rejuvenate the body, Phytomer Bi-Phase Massage Concentrate with Oligomer is applied for the full-body massage. This truly was one of the best massages I've ever had. Although the main purpose of this massage is relaxation I like extra firm pressure and have some problem areas that need a bit more attention. Typically my hips and lower back are a bit tight and I like my massages to get deep into the tissue and muscles.
Using a technique similar to lomi lomi but also the various movements of the ocean and rolling tides, the massage was outstanding and really got into those problem areas. The product used is meant to replenish minerals while strengthening the skin. This was wonderful as my legs and arms were very dry and I needed to replenish the minerals in my body. The oil in the lotion is aimed at improving circulation and the storage of water, meanwhile the epidermis is smoothed and recharged. The 80 minute holistic treatment was absolutely relaxing, yet recharging and extremely therapeutic. My skin felt silky soft, hydrated and all muscles relaxed. Once complete take a moment to sip fruit infused water and enjoy the turquoise blue Pacific Ocean views for as long as you like. A great respite that will leave you ready to take on the world.
Na Ho'ola Spa
New Promotion - Sea Holistic Relaxation Massage 80 minutes $195 valid through April 30, 2018.
Includes all products used during treatment, spa access (showers, locker room, amenities) to enjoy during the day, beverages and relaxation lounge.
2424 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96825
(808) 237-6330 email@example.com
As a child I have fond memories of watching the Winter Olympics on TV. I was a young girl on the island of Kauai with dreams of being a figure skater one day. I remember my mom buying me rollerblades and I used to skate in the driveway and imagine that I was on a rink. You can only imagine my excitement when I realized my upcoming trip to Seoul was taking place during the opening of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. I had my sights set on getting there, seeing it and hopefully meeting an athlete or two.
The road to the Olympics was a bit of a bumpy one. We didn't have tickets and didn't know how we were going to get there. In total I was traveling with 5 friends and nailing down when we would go, what to see and how we would get there was a bit tedious. When we finally agreed on what we wanted to see the tickets to the events were selling out so quick that we were left with no other option but to try and grab whatever we could.
I registered with the official olympics site and purchased 5 tickets for the women's snowboarding half-pipe final the same day as our return flight to Hawaii. After buying the tickets I realized booking the train tickets was no easy task as much of the routes were sold out too. But in the end I had faith that it was all going to work out and we would get there.
We decided it would be best to go Sunday (the day before our departure). We managed to score additional tickets on the train from Seoul to the nearest train station. After arriving in PyeongChang we managed to snatch up 6 tickets to the Cross Country Skiing event that afternoon. Watch the video below for a look at the journey. Sadly, I don't have more images or videos as the weather was so cold my iPhone kept shutting off every time I took it out.
Gladly though, it was really such a dream come true. I love every moment. Being there, the excitement, all the people in attendance from across the globe, the camaraderie, live music, emcee, sound blaring from the speakers and even the risers and ice were all a part of the experience. It was truly incredible to be there amongst these world class athletes and to see their friends and family making the voyage to cheer them on. This truly was a day I will never forget!
Known for their Asian-inspired cuisine P.F. Chang's Waikiki always delivers fresh food, bold flavors and generous portions. I was invited to attend a tasting of the latest menu inspirations and entrees created for Chinese New Year and the Valentine's Day prix fixe menu.
One of my fondest memories visiting LA was always stopping at P.F. Chang's -- now with their Waikiki restaurant sometimes I have to be reminded that we have one here on Oahu. While they offer the classic items you can find at any restaurant around the world they also offer some specialty dishes that are unique to Hawaii.
The Mongolian Beef is probably one of my all time favorite dishes, I could eat an entire serving with a bowl of white rice. Adding shrimp to it makes it a phenomenal combo.
Here's a look at some of the new menu items and also some of the classic favorites:
Asian Caesar Salad
Surf & Turf Mongolian Beef and Shrimp
Salt & Pepper Shrimp with Spicy Garlic Noodles (special for Chinese New Year celebration)
Uncle's Ice Cream Sandwich (Valentine's Day).
P.F. Chang's Waikiki Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center 2201 Kalakaua Ave. Honolulu, HI 96815. 808-628-6760