Saturday, February 23, 2013

Aulani Trip Day 3, Feb 2, 2013 (Saturday)

Shopping day!  Lisa and I had one or a few things in mind that we wanted to bring back from Hawaii.  Kudos to Tim and Seth for being the ones who didn't really have anything specific that they wanted to buy but they humored us for a marathon shopping day.

Since before we had arrived at Aulani, while I was doing my usual pre-trip research, I had stumbled upon the very long thread on the Dis Boards about the exclusive (and expensive) Aulani Dooney & Burke purses. There they were in the gift shop at Aulani and I had been admiring them since we had bought our refillable mugs on the day we arrived.  I was torn between the white crossbody purse vs the brown leather one.  The designs on the purses were adorable and it was great getting to choose that one "right" purse from all the ones in stock.  I finally decided on the brown leather crossbody bag and started the shopping day off with a bang taking advantage of our DVC discount which brought the bag down to just under $200.  This was by far the most that I have ever paid for a purse but this was special and will be reserved only for use while traveling - especially when we come back to Aulani in August with the kids and extended family.

We filled our mugs with coffee figuring we could just get something to eat at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. After just a couple of wrong turns (a theme throughout our Hawaii vacation - the street names are, well, hilarious and our google maps was oftentimes confused), we made our way to the parking lot outside of Aloha Stadium.  It wasn't actually as busy as I had imagined for a Saturday morning and we parked pretty close to the swap meet.  It wasn't really a swap meet, of course, but more like a flea market.

The swap meet was HUGE and actually was 2 layers deep.  We walked the entire outside loop and were too pooped out (and hungry and a little hot) to make a 2nd loop on the inside.  A lot of tents were very repetitive - t shirts, junky souvenirs, etc, but every once in a while we stumbled upon a really cool vendor and picked up some nifty things.  We chose some t-shirts from the very first tent we came upon - they were 5 for $20 and were pretty decent shirts so we got the kids some for our return trip in August.  Lisa bought and shared some of the cute teeny (and sweet) bananas we had seen before from one of the vendors. A guy was selling HUGE avocados for just $6 so I bought one to take back to the resort.

Lisa mailed a coconut home and Seth picked up some car stickers.  We also bought some Hawaii made peanut butter - one was mango and the other was coconut - both were DELICIOUS.  That vendor also sold flavored honey and we picked up a small jar of coconut honey.  I regretted not buying a huge loaf of Hawaiian bread but made a mental note to be sure and buy some in August when we are staying in a Grand Villa at Aulani.  I could just picture breakfast each morning in our Grand Villa.....macadamia nut pancakes with coconut peanut butter and coconut honey, hawaiian toast, all-you-can-drink-coffee.  Yum yum yum.

Our next destination after lunch was the Ala Moana shopping center so we navigated to a Japanese restaurant via Open Table literally right across the street from the mall.  Between Open Table and Yelp, we found some really great places to eat in Oahu.  Shokudo was an energetic, trendy little Japanese place.  Best way to make us happy?  Good drinks and good sushi!  This place had both.  I had the lychee vodka soda - very good and I'm not the biggest vodka fan.  Seth and I shared sushi:

Lobster Dynamite Roll
California roll w lobster dynamite sauce
Kusaikudasai roll
Spicy tuna roll w albacore tatami and garlic butter, garlic chips, balsamic vinaigrette

Red Eye Roll
 Spicy tuna and cucumber wrapped w tuna and green onion

James was the waiter for the table next to us and was hilarious - he convinced us to try the restaurant dessert specialty the honey toast.  It was really good but BIG.
When we got done with lunch, we walked across the street but it took us a little while to find an entrance into the shopping center.  We had to walk into the parking structure to find an entrance.  While Tim stopped at Starbucks, I wandered into the Shirokiya store and found Hawaiian Red Shrimp aka "Super Shrimp" in small self-enclosed aquariums.  These little guys were so fun to watch scuttling around in the water and were already packed up ready to take home, that I bought a set - a small bottle with sand, shells, and a "tree", the teeny red shrimp were vacuum sealed in a plastic bottle with brackish water, and a mix to make more "brackish water".  I'm happy to report that the little guys did make it home in our luggage and are now sitting on the windowsill in my house.

The Ala Moana shopping center is a really really nice shopping mall - mostly open air with a ton of very high end stores.  Lisa disappeared into the Versace store.  Seth and I wandered around for a while and went into a shoe store called Island Sole where Seth found and fell in love with a pair of shoes by Sanuk.  He swore they were the most comfortable shoes he had ever worn and wore them right out of the store.  I picked up a pair of nice sandals as well.  I also picked up a new charm for my bracelet at the Pandora store:  a sterling silver happy fish to remember our Hawaii trip and also because my maiden name in Chinese is a synonym for "fish".

Speaking of fish, the center had a courtyard with a couple of pools with the biggest koi I've ever seen.  We stopped for a bit to watch the children playing near the koi fish and noted how some of the fish were almost as big as some of the children.

We had dinner reservations at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room - again, made through Open Table.  I had read somewhere about Alan Wong - a very famous Hawaiian chef with several restaurants throughout Oahu.  We couldn't get reservations at this main restaurant but since we were at the Ala Moana center, I made a reservation at the Pineapple Room located right inside Macy's.  It was a little odd to be eating in a nice restaurant inside of a department store.  They had a tasting menu and it was nice that not everyone at the table had to have the tasting so we enjoyed the tasting menu w wine pairing.

Island Ahi TartareYuzu Caesar, Capers, Parmesan CrostiniSauvignon Blanc, Mohua, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2010

SECOND COURSEHo Farms Tomato & Watermelon SaladHawaii Island Dairy Goat Cheese
Hawaiian Vanilla Li Hing Mui Dressing

Chardonnay, Alpatagua, “Reserva”, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 2011

THIRD COURSEMiso Braised Short RibAn Assortment of Vegetables from the Farmer’s Market

DESSERT DUOMichelle’s Waialua Chocolate Bar & Kula Strawberry Tiramisu

We headed back to Aulani after dinner and called it an early night again.  We did a lot of walking - I wish I had remembered to bring my Garmin watch.  

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Aulani Trip Day 2, Feb 1, 2013 (Friday)

After a fitful night's sleep which I had at first attributed to jet lag, I woke up at 3 am (7 am at home), went back to sleep, tossed and turned for a while and finally just got up at 6 am.  I ended up getting out of bed each morning around this time and just sitting on the balcony with my laptop playing around on Facebook (admittedly, I am a Mafia Wars addict).

We decided to drive up to the North Shore this morning to find some local foodie establishments, have some lunch, and then be back for our scheduled appointment at Laniwai spa.  As we made our way up to North Shore - we stumbled upon the Dole Plantation and stopped by for a quick visit.  We didn't spend a lot of time at the plantation - figuring we would take time to see the plantation and explore the maze when we were back in Oahu in August for my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary.  We would have the kids with us then.

The plantation visitors' center was a giant store featuring everything pineapple and more.  Seth made a bee-line for the back of the store where they were selling the infamous Dole Whip.  Before I even had a chance to look around much, he came strolling back with one and had a big grin on his face.  The Dole Whip was sprinkled with fresh pineapple and was just amazing.  Tim and Lisa had never had a Dole Whip and simply loved it.  I picked up a few small things to take home:  lychee chewy candy and pineapple/macadamia nut mini cookies.  I thought seriously about having some fresh pineapple shipped home but it was about $50 to have 2 shipped.  You could get 6 pineapples shipped for about $80 and I considered splitting it with Lisa, but that was an awful lot of pineapple.  Each pineapple was around 4 1/2 pounds.  Maybe in August, we'll have some shipped home.

Dole Whip

This was also when we were first introduced to Li Hing powder.
"The red powder, called li hing powder consists of ground up plum skin that has previously been pickled in a combination of aspartame, food coloring, salt, and sugar. Li hing powder is sold separately and can be used as a flavoring usually sprinkled on candy and other fruits notably pineapples and apples. "

We considered buying some but the expiration date on the package was April so we decided against it.  I had grown up on Li Hing Mui - the dried salted plums - as a kid.  We had the opportunity to try the powder the next day at the swap meet.

As we exited the Dole Plantation Visitors' Center, there was a small tent with the sign "Farmer's Market" on it that we went to check out.  It wasn't exactly a "market" - just the one tent - but there was a huge selection of pre-cut fresh fruit.  Lisa and I each bought a sampler container with fresh mango, papaya, coconut, sugar cane, and a small banana - I think it was $6 or $8.

We got back in the car and continued north but missed the turn off towards Haleiwa so we stopped at the beach just north to take a closer look at the ocean, waves, and the "surfing capital of the world".

At this point we got a little lost - google maps failed us but we did eventually find our way back to the main street of Haleiwa and the first thing that caught my eye was our very first Shrimp Truck sighting!!  I was so so excited to try the shrimp that I had read so much about.  This particular stop was Macky's shrimp truck which, come to find out later, was rated 4.5/5 stars on yelp.  We ordered the butter garlic shrimp which was AMAZING but I have to admit that I was a little taken aback at first by the prices.  $12 for half a dozen shrimp, some white rice, a small salad, and a pineapple wedge.  Pricey, but wow was it good!

Butter Garlic shrimp from Macky's Shrimp Truck

Check!  Another stop ticked off our list of "things to do in Oahu".  Our next stop kind of surprised me.  Just down the street from Macky's was a small ukelele store.  Seth turned immediately into the parking lot because he wanted to buy one!  This store was full of real ukeleles in all different sizes and some were beautifully carved and decorated.  Seth spoke briefly with the guy in the store and soon we were on our way out the door with a new ukelele.  

Next, about 1.5 miles down the street was Matsumoto's Shave Ice.  Parking was a bit of an issue - we had to park down a side street and walk over - the line was out the door.  Seth was skeptical about this place despite the fact that in 20 years of marriage I think I've only steered him wrong a very small handful of times (fodder for another blog post altogether).  Seth bought a Matsumoto tshirt while I ordered us each a shave ice.  Seth wanted the Matsumoto which was pineapple, coconut, and lemon.  I ordered the Hawaiian which was pineapple, coconut, and banana.  We figured that a small was just about the right size.

So here's Seth before the shaved ice:

...and here's Seth with the shaved ice:

Suffice it to say, Seth is a Hawaiian shave ice convert now.  It's hard to describe what makes shaved ice different than a "sno cone".  The ice is shaved very finely and the syrup they used isn't that icky overly sweet sugary syrup that goes on a sno cone.  The syrup is much less sweet and the flavors are distinct.
At this point, it's time for us to grab some lunch before the drive back to Aulani.  Lisa wanted to have sushi for lunch so she "yelped" it and found us a place called Shige's Saimin Stand.  We google navigated to the place in Wahiawa.  As soon as we walked in to this teeny hole in the wall, it was obvious that they did not serve sushi.  We pondered for a second on what to do but first asked what "saimin" was.  I had to google it. Saimin is home made noodles in a broth with meat and considered a traditional state dish of hawaii - the locals' favorite comfort food.  We had stumbled upon a traditional food of Hawaii that was not on my list - and quite off the beaten path too.  Like Li Hing, this food was very local and not mentioned in any of the reading that I did preparing for this trip.  Lisa and I each ordered the Wuntun Saimin - home made noodles in a shrimp broth (Lisa tasted it and although she didn't like shrimp - she thought the broth was delicious)  with BBQ pork, pork won tons, and Spam.  Yes, that's Spam which I had always heard that the Hawaiians were very serious about their Spam.  The saimin was delicious and I have to admit that I liked the Spam even better than the BBQ pork.  I'm glad the noodles were not Udon - I don't particularly care for "fat" noodles.

Following our delicious traditional lunch (for at least Lisa and I, the boys had cheeseburgers), we headed back to Aulani for our 3 pm appointment at Laniwai.  We got back to our room at around 1:30 and changed into our swim suits.  Seth and I both had a traditional Thai massage and reflexcology scheduled.  I had forgotten to pack "loose" clothing (oops #2) so I brought my pajamas instead (a t-shirt and short pajama bottoms).  We arrived to Laniwai at around 2 pm so we could enjoy the Kula Wai - their outdoor hydrotherapy garden.  We were checked in easily and were given some fruit water to drink and were asked to close our eyes and choose a meditation stone.  I chose "strength" and Seth chose a stone that said "happiness".  We were then led down the transformation corridor by the CM to the reflection pool where we dropped our stones into the small pool fed by a tear drop water feature that slowly dripped water into it.  Our CM was kind enough to offer taking our picture for us.

We were then assigned 2 separate CMs that took us on a tour of the facility.  We walked through the locker room where I was assigned a locker with a very nice robe and slippers - the locks were digital and easy to program.  The CM gave me an overview of the locker room area  - showers, toilets, women's relaxation room, a sauna, and steam room.  She then led me outside and showed me the hydrotherapy garden and co-ed relaxation room.  Before going back into the locker room, she stopped to ask me about my favorite scents - giving me several to choose from:  jasmine, tuberose, ginger, lavender, coconut, etc.  I chose the coconut scent and while I returned to the locker room to change, she "mixed up" a coconut scented scrub for me and gave me a small container full.

Seth and I met up in the hydrotherapy garden and soaked for a bit in one of 2 hot tubs.  I had read earlier that the hot tubs were infused with herbs but this was not the case.  Both of the these hot tubs were just clear water.  We then walked along the reflexology path (which didn't feel great for me because my feet were sore and tender from the amount of walking we had been doing and a flare up of my plantar fasciitis prior to leaving on this trip).  We tried out the rain showers which were pretty cool.  6 different rain showers - some shot warm water at you from above, some from below, and one from the sides.  They were fun and when we couldn't get 3 of them to operate correctly, we asked a passing CM and she had someone come out immediately to show us how to activate the showers.  We weren't standing close enough to the sensors and he showed us how to get them to turn on.  We went back to the locker room to change and then relaxed for a bit in the co-ed relaxation room on very nice lounge chairs that had pillows and a soft blanket.  There was someone totally asleep on one of the loungers curled up in a ball under the soft warm blanket.  There was a table with fruit water, some mini muffins w macaroons on top, and chocolate covered fruit.   We didn't wait here long before we were called back for our massages.

I had never had a traditional Thai massage but Seth had one in Vegas and just loved it so I booked us each one.  I thought they had said something about putting us in the same room but we didn't end up in the same room for the rest of the afternoon.  I had my Thai massage first while he had his reflexology session first and then we switched.  I liked the Thai massage - it was a LOT of stretching but since I was just wearing my pajamas, I got pretty cool and at one point and developed a cramp in my toes when the therapist was doing a stretch move.  I had also injured my right wrist during a Tough Mudder in Austin last October so a couple of the right arm stretches didn't work out very well.  There was also a great deal of acupressure during this massage which reminded me a lot of the deep tissue sport massages that I had had in the past - it's definitely not for the sensitive or squeamish.  Overall, I liked the traditional Thai massage but I think I like the deep tissue massage better.  The reflexology was awesome - feet, hands, and scalp were all massaged and it felt great after the Thai massage.  In between the 2 massage sessions, I was offered water and a small square of guava jelly.

I didn't realize how long these massages had taken - it was after 5:30 and we had dinner reservations at Roy's for 6:30.  I went ahead and showered and changed in the spa.  The showers were very nice, super clean, and I really didn't want to ever get out of those comfy robes.  I checked out at the front desk and they were nice enough to leave a message for Seth telling him that I was leaving to go up and get dressed for dinner.  I used the balance on our Disney Visa rewards card and ended up paying just $94 for all 4 massages.

We met Tim and Lisa in the lobby and, on wobbly legs, made our way to Roy's for dinner which was just down the street at the country club.  We were seated immediately and ran into our one and only real meal snafu of the trip.  With Lisa's life threatening tree nut allergy, both Lisa and Tim always very carefully assured that everything that Lisa eats is tree nut free and has had no chance of cross contamination with anything containing tree nuts.  When Tim explained to our waiter about Lisa's tree nut allergy - he repeated back that she had a peanut allergy and, quite honestly even to me, seemed a bit cavalier about his mistake.  If you work in the food industry, saying "Don't worry, we deal with peanut allergies every day" doesn't inspire confidence for someone with a severe tree nut allergy.

When our waiter returned to take our order, he, again, mentioned Lisa's peanut allergy and had to be corrected.  This made Lisa feel very very uncomfortable.  After our orders were placed, we had a discussion amongst ourselves about how the waiter made a mistake, not once but twice, regarding Lisa's tree nut allergy.  Lisa can eat peanuts without problems but any nut from a tree results in immediate life-threatening anaphylaxis so this was very very serious and we just didn't get the impression that the waiter understood that.  When the waiter returned again, I spoke up and asked to speak to the chef of the restaurant.  We weren't angry or upset, we were just all feeling very uncomfortable with his assurances that he understood the nature of this allergy.  Seth and I have dined with Lisa and Tim enough to now also get that "comfy" vibe vs the "not-so-reassuring" vibe from wait staff.  This was definitely not a confidence booster.

The waiter immediately told us not to worry, that there was no need to speak with the chef, that he had taken care of it and that his wife had a shellfish allergy so he understood.  Sigh.  Another tip for those that work in a restaurant, when someone asks to speak to the manager or chef, it's best to just go and get them.  We finally got what we thought was a manager and could hear quite easily that the waiter was letting the rest of the kitchen staff know about Lisa's nut allergy.  We all felt much better about our meal.

I had the Uncle Roy's Pulehu combo which was salmon (overcooked but I'm very picky about my salmon), BBQ shrimp (not anything like the ones from the shrimp truck but good nonetheless), and BBQ short ribs which were my favorite.  I enjoyed my meal but have to point out that Lisa's butterfish was outstanding and on our next trip to Roy's - which we are planning on in August - I'll probably order the butterfish.

Lisa's Butterfish
When I had made the reservation, I was asked outright if we were celebrating any special occasions.  As luck would have it - we were.  It was Tim's actual birthday and this Hawaii trip was a celebration, of sorts, of our 20th wedding anniversary in December - we weren't able to celebrate back then.  The restaurant brought out some nice celebration desserts for us - cheesecake on a decorated plate.  I had the macadamia nut cake which was excellent.  Even though we had a bumpy start to our evening, we all agreed that we thoroughly enjoyed Roy's.

Happy Birthday to Tim!

Celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Aulani Trip Day 0-1, Jan 30-31, 2013 (Wednesday - Thursday)

Oahu, Hawaii is about 4 hours behind Oklahoma time so we, essentially, were going to experience a 28 hour day.  We decided to head out to Oklahoma City around 2 pm for our 6:50 pm flight to Las Vegas so we could stop and have dinner #1 at Smashburger.  I had worked on Wednesday morning and had a lunch meeting with a student so by the time I ran by the bank and got home after lunch, it was already past 1:30 pm and I wasn't even packed yet.  I had laid out a lot of clothes the night before - it was spread all over the living room as I couldn't quite decide on what I wanted to bring.  When I got home, our friends, Lisa and Tim, had already arrived so I hastily threw a bunch of stuff into our packing crates and stuffed them all in a suitcase.  Did I forget something?  Of course I did - more on that later.

I threw my heavy coat in the car at the last minute because it was soooo cold - only in the 30's and I knew there was going to be a bit of a walk to get to Smashburger at the outlet mall.  I was prepared for the warmer weather and a nice dinner wearing a dress with a thin sweater but I spent most of the night freezing cold.  I had purposely left the heavy coat in the car when we got to the airport and had forgotten to pack a jacket (oops #1).  Our flight to Las Vegas was pretty unremarkable except that we actually ran into a large group from our hometown who were on their way to Vegas for the weekend.  That was the largest group of Enidites I've ever been on a plane with.

We arrived into Las Vegas right on time and had a very brief wait for our luggage to arrive.  We collected our bags and took a taxi to the Palazzo where we had dinner reservations at 9 pm.  We checked our bags in with the bell desk and headed to Cut to see if they could seat us early.  It was just after 8 pm.  There was a 15-20 minute wait for a table so we poked around a little in the shops until the restaurant called.  We had last eaten about 7 hours ago so even though it was dinner #2 for the day, we were all hungry.

There was good news and bad news at Cut this evening.  The good news was the much anticipated return of True Japanese wagyu kobe beef - the last time we had dined at Cut, there was a ban on importing kobe beef from Japan so we had to settle for either Australian kobe or local "kobe".  The rib eye wagyu kobe was $165 for 8 oz and the ny strip kobe was $135 for 6 oz.  I opted for the smaller cut while Seth got the larger one.  Having tasted both cuts together, I couldn't tell you I thought there was a big difference between the two types of Kobe on the menu - both were simply delicious.

The bad news was that Lisa's long-awaited truffle mac n cheese had to go truffle-less.  For whatever reason, the area was "out" of truffles per our waiter.    The mac n cheese still quite good.  Seth and I shared the pork belly appetizer and we (Seth, Tim, and I) polished off 2 bottles of wine during dinner.  What a fabulous start to our vacation - the first of many many memorable meals on this trip.

We went down to the taxi stand of the Palazzo and the bell desk brought our luggage to the taxi and we were off again to the airport.  We had plenty of time when we returned to the airport after dinner.  We by-passed a long line to check in because we had opted to fly first class with Hawaiian Airlines.  I'm glad that we opted for this upgrade because it saved us time standing in line at check in and once our bags were checked, we headed to the Hawaiian Airlines club lounge which offered free internet, drinks, and snacks.  We relaxed in the lounge for about 1 1/2 hours and then made our way to the gate.  We waited for a good amount of time before being allowed to board.  I thought this was our first taste of the "islands" as they seemed to be very relaxed and in no hurry whatsoever to get the plane boarded.  About 15 minutes before the flight was to take off, we were finally allowed to board.  We took our seats and I barely remember the flight after that.  It was about 4 in the morning for us so we were very tired.  I was asleep for the majority of the flight and only woke to hear the announcement that we were landing.

So I have to say that flying First Class on Hawaiian Airlines felt worth it to me - the expedited check in process and use of the club lounge was nice.  We definitely had a lot more leg room in first class but the seats were old and it took several tries to get the seat to do what I wanted it to do.  Having flown first class on Air France - with their electric fully-reclining seats - there was definitely a lot of room for improvement but I think we still got a good deal for the amount that we paid.  I did try the "late snack" that the airline offered - it was a traditional shrimp rice porridge that I did not care for.  The vegetable chips were good though.

We arrived into Honolulu right on time and were so excited.  Now, no vacation is complete without a hiccup or two or three - here was two of our hiccups.  Our first boo-boo was minor - we followed the signs to baggage claim and didn't realize that there was a shuttle to baggage claim.  It was a fair walk to baggage claim but we were so happy to be in Hawaii and the majority of the airport had that recurring "open air" theme - we rather enjoyed the walk and warmer weather.

Again, I felt that the upgrade to first class was worthwhile but as a first class, our luggage was tagged "priority" and should have been the first to be off loaded. This was definitely not the case and we had to wait and wait and wait for our luggage. There was some technical difficulty with the carousel we were at and we were directed to the next one over to wait for our luggage.  The carousel started up but no bags showed up.  When the original carousel started to spit bags out again, we all migrated back to that carousel to wait.  Eventually, we got our bags, but Seth's suitcase was missing - odd since we had no lay over - it was a direct flight from Las Vegas.  We went to the lost luggage counter and made a report but when we made our way back to our travel buddies, Tim had found Seth's suitcase.  Apparently while we were redirected to the 2nd carousel, someone had started taking suitcases off the belt before they had made their way around to us.  How annoying, but we were on vacation and were about to get to our fabulous and lush resort.

We boarded the shuttle to Thrifty car rental and had a smooth process to get a black dodge charger.  Putting all our luggage in the car was a bit of a challenge but with a little pushing and shoving, all bags but one fit in the trunk so Tim and I sat with a suitcase on the seat between us.  We had forgotten to bring our GPS but my google map GPS worked pretty well to get us to Aulani.  The traffic was a little slow on the freeway but that didn't last very long.  It was just before 8 am and with only one u-turn (we missed the entrance to the resort on Ali'inui Drive) made, we arrived at the resort just around 8:30 am and pulled into valet.  As DVC members, parking was free for us and we were instructed to check in and then return to move the car to the self-parking lot.

We were greeted by the cast members and turned over to a female cast member who offered us fruit water (see the "hidden mickey" in the picture) and bestowed upon each of us either a tuberose lei or kukui nut necklace.  Lisa had mentioned at the airport that she had "wanted a lei" (amongst some chuckling from us) so she was happy to receive a wonderfully fragrant lei at the resort.  We were walked into the grand open-air lobby where pictures were taken and the CM explained the 2 sides of the entrance...the "male" side with the "jagged", "rougher", and "sharper" angles to the right and the "female" side with the "smoother", "relaxed", "rounder' angles to the left.  Straight ahead was the gorgeous view of the property including the volcano and ocean beyond that.

Our rooms were not yet ready so our first order of business was to acquaint Lisa and Tim to the DVC mugs.  It was a long night and we were looking forward to some coffee.  I purchased 4 mugs for $19 each (forgot my DVC discount!) and we helped ourselves to something to drink which we sipped on as we made our way downstairs and strolled past the pools.  We found ourselves at Ama Ama restaurant and decided to have breakfast.  While we waited for our breakfast, we remembered our rental car still sitting outside so Seth went and moved the car to guest parking.  Breakfast was ok - Seth and I shared the bagel and lox.  Lisa really loved her crepes and ended up having this same breakfast for the next few days.  The CMs were very accommodating to Lisa's severe tree nut allergy - our waiter, Ian, even went to get one of the chefs to come out and discuss Lisa's breakfast options.  There was a small snafu when Lisa's crepes came out with granola but before Lisa could eat it, another CM came and took the bowl back and replaced it with a crepe that didn't have granola on it.

I had gotten a call during breakfast that our room was ready.  Lisa had insisted that we take the ocean view studio so we went back to the front desk to exchange our room keys.  Their studio wasn't ready yet so we went to ours and got our luggage and relaxed for a bit.  I did run down to the DVC preview center to get another copy of my DVC card that I couldn't find at home.  With just my driver's license, I got a new DVC card but couldn't get Seth one since he wasn't with me and I didn't have his driver's license.

I searched local restaurants on Open Table and saw that there were openings at the Monkeypod Kitchen just across the street for lunch so we walked from Aulani to the restaurant - a very easy walk.  The decision maker was the garlic truffle fries on the menu.  We were very very happy with our lunch at what was to become affectionately knows as "Monkeypox".  I had the South Shore Sangria, an order of the garlic truffle fries, and then shared the Bourgeois pizza (lobster, wild mushroom, white sauce, truffle oil, and parmesan) with Seth.

Our lunch was delicious and eating out on the patio was wonderful.  We finished up lunch with a slice of their specialty:  pie.  I had the banana cream pie and it was excellent.

 We later had to Google what a "monkeypod" was - it's a very common tree in Hawaii and one that we came to recognize easily for the rest of our stay.

We returned to Aulani and finished sorting out our rooms as Lisa and Tim's studio was now ready.  We rested for the remainder of the afternoon and met up just after sundown for a leisurely stroll next door to the JW Marriott for dinner at Azul.  The menu was Italian and I had the gnocchi with their homemade bolognese sauce.  We shared another bottle of wine with dinner.  I'm not a big fan of al dente pasta and at the recommendation of the waitress - opted for the gnocchi which was quite good.  We were pretty wiped out by this time and retired to our studios calling it an early night.

A couple of notes about our studio.  The view was wonderful.  We had a queen sized bed which is smaller than we are used to.  The weather was so nice outside that, like most people, we left our balcony door open all the time - even through the night.  Seth and I both prefer a cooler room (65 degrees or less) to sleep in and this posed a problem at Aulani.  We tried each night to set the thermostat to 65 but the room temperature never budged from 73.  I think that's what bothered me each night - the comforter on the bed is way too heavy for a 73 degree room - I found myself cooling off, pulling the covers over me, then awakening a little later to kick the covers off because I was too warm.  The wireless internet was great - very fast.  We were given a pin at check-in that I didn't pay attention to and later realized that it was to apologize for the ongoing construction at the resort.  I was fast asleep by 9:30.