Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hawaii (Oahu, Maui)

Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui were a part of our second leg of honeymoon in Feb 2009. Heavenly and the surreal. Oahu and Maui are the more touristy ones compared to the others. Now that I have been to all four, I would rate my preference as follows for the natural beauty. Kauai > Maui > Big Island > Oahu

We spent 3 and 4 days in Oahu and Maui respectively. Here is my brief itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive in Honolulu
Day 2: Drive around. Dole Pineapple plantation. North beaches.
Day 3: Hanauma Bay. Waikiki beach.Other beaches. 
Day 4: Pearl harbor. Fly to Maui
Day 5: Drive along Hana Hwy up to the black sand beach.
Day 6: Tour around the Kanapalli area beaches. Whale watching.
Day 7: Halekela crater(which we bunked). Hang around Lahaina town.
Day 8: Fly back to Honolulu. Fly out to San Jose.



It is the most tourist island of the lot. It has a lot of resort options to choose from and a very lively nightlife as well. Things to do in Oahu would be:

Waikiki beach: 

It is one of the most popular beaches around and a lot of resorts are around the Waikiki area. It is really pretty and beautiful. The streets around this beach are very lively during the evening and are perfect place to take a stroll. 

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay: 

It is the best place for snorkeling especially for non swimmers. Since it is a bay, there are no waves and water is pretty much chest deep at the most. You need to spare an entire day here. Should go early in the morning as the crowds starts pouring in. Also early morning will have clear waters and visibility will be high to see the fish. I would like to go back to Honolulu just for this.

Dole Pineapple plantation: 

We paid a short visit to the pineapple plantation. As far as I remember, they have guided tours and some train rides through the plantation. Pretty cute place and will take around a couple of hours to visit.

North beaches: 

Hanauma Bay 
You can drive up to the north shore and see some very very high waves and surfers having the time of their life. I was very scared to get in to the water here, but it worth a watch.

Other beaches: 

There are many other beaches in the area which are less crowded and a good option if you are looking for some time away from the crowds. Most of the hotels have a map of the island and you can ask them for better beach options.

Other beaches

Pearl Harbor: 

There is a museum here in case you are interested. I was more than happy to skip it, and it was closed the day we had planned on seeing it. 

Water sports: 

Oahu is the island for water sports. During winters, whales are migrating, Oahu is one of the islands which still has options for water sports. I think it was around the Waikiki area that you could do jet skiing, para gliding , scuba diving and stuff.


Its a much smaller island and the roads are beautiful. Its much more calmer than Oahu. It is much more relaxing as there is not much to see/do. Hana hwy and Halekela crater take a day each. Its a laid back place to enjoy and have fun. I would suggest stay near Lahaina/Kanapalli area. They have lots of resort options and  veggie eating options too. Things to do:

Hana Hwy drive: 

Hana Hwy
Its the most overrated thing for Maui. Its basically a  long curvy drive through the green hills with pacific coast one side. We drove up to the end( Hana beach) to see the beach with black lava sand. But, after a while it gets boring. There are lot of waterfalls and treks when you driving down. So, if you go to the beach and back it takes the entire day. I would suggest, search for hikes and stop by for small hikes to waterfalls or something on your way to make your day more adventurous.

Hana beach

Halekela crater: 

You have to see sunrise here. Its at a very high elevation and you need to trek/bike to reach the crater. Hence, you need to get up at 5 am or something to reach there on time to see the sunrise. Plus parking here is an issue, The closest parking lot has only 20 spaces or so and hence if you are late, you will have to hike uphill to get to the viewing area We did not  got to Halekela as we are big lazy bums. Seen pictures of it and its beautiful!! It is very chilly in the morning so you must carry jackets with you. I cannot tell you more about this as I don't have first hand experience. 

Lahaina Town: 

Our cottage
Its a small town with lots of shops and its a lovely place to hang around. Lots of sea side restaurants and you can shop here as well. There is apparently a huge Banyan tree ( biggest one in north america i suppose) near the end of this market. If I remember correctly, it was right opposite burger king.


Kanapalli beaches
Mostly the hotels have their private beaches. There are some good beaches in the Kanapalli area. I don't exactly remember which beaches we went to, but there were a few nice ones near the resorts in the north. 

Whale watching: 

There is a place where the Hwy 30 takes curve and runs along the coast, where you can do whale watching. We actually did see some whales here and its awesome. It is around Feb-March when you get to see a lot of whales here. There are some whale watching tours too. Maui has one of the best whale watching spots.


  • Since it is around this time when whales are migrating, you may have less options for water sports in Maui. So, Oahu might be a better choice in that case.
  • You may want to watch a Luau (Polynesian show). We took a dinner cruise and they had a small show. But, I would suggest that you go for a Luau show which takes entire evening. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

France (Paris)

We traveled to Paris in 2009 and I write this blog in 2014, more than 5 years after my visit. I will try and recall our trip to the best of my abilities.

Here is my brief itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Paris. Eiffel tower at Night.
Day 2: Louvre visit, Walk around Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe. Lido show at night.
Day 3: Notre Dame Cathedral, Pantheon, Eiffel tower during the day. Seine river boat cruise at night.
Day 4: Day trip to Versailles. Meet +Animesh Pathak  in the evening and grab some good desi food.
Day 5: Fly out.

When to go?

We visited Paris in the first week of February. I was a little apprehensive that it may be very cold and chilly. It was, but it wasn't unbearable. It wasn't snowing, just a bit of drizzle now and then.

Where to fly?

We flew in to Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG). Our flight was from New Delhi -> Paris -> San Francisco. This airport is a little on the outskirts. We had to take a cab to get to our hotel. We didn't explore public transport options, but I am sure there were some.

Where to stay?

Paris is very well connected with metro/subway. So our main criteria was to find a hotel close to a subway station. Also, I wanted to a get a room with a view of Eiffel Tower. We chose Hotel Concorde Montparnasse and it was a good choice. I would recommend it.

What to see/do?

Getting around Paris is super convenient. The metros are very well connected and I think we got a 3 day, which made our life a lot simpler.

Eiffel tower from our boat cruise

Eiffel Tower

I had always wondered if in real life, the Eiffel tower really looks as magnanimous as it does in the pictures. And it didn't disappoint me. It is just breathtakingly wow! And engineering marvell. We went once during the day, to both the floors and got a bird's eye view of the city. And we went once during the night. The views of the city all lit up were all worth the trip and the chilly winds. 

Seine cruise

Close to Eiffel tower, at the banks of river Seine were small stalls advertising ferry rides/boat cruises. We took a two-three hour cruise and it was well worth it. We saw many important landmarks and I would say it is a must must do just for the experience.


I have been a great fan of the museums, but this one was a treat. I was very keen on seeing Mona Lisa and the mummies. Since Louvre is so huge, the best way to optimize your time is to get the map at the entrance and mark the place of interest. I also enjoyed the Napolean Hall. To plan your visit in advance, look at the floor plans online here. The sculptures by Michelangelo and the Egyptian artefacts were the best. Do not miss the courtyard with sculptures, where a lot of artists just sit down and sketch the sculptures.
Outside Louvre


Napolean's dining hall

Arc de Triomphe

Champs Elysees / Arc de Triomphe

Took a stroll at the famous Champs Elysees. Lot of showrooms to visit and while away some time. At one end of the street is Louvre and at the other end is the Arc de Triomphe, or more appropriately, India Gate of France. 


Inside Pantheon
Getting here was a lot of fun as we had to walk through some narrow alleys to get here as the metro station was a little far away. It was really pretty inside like most of the monuments in Paris. It is a burial site for some of the great French people. I remember seeing the graves of Louis Braille, Marie Curie, Lagrange and Victor Hugo. 

Notre Dame Cathedral

I think the most fun part of touring Paris was travelling by metros. I loved navigating the metro maps and the streets. The cathedral is gorgeous and the stained glass windows on the inside are beautiful. The official website is here. There was a crepes place right outside the cathedral and here is where I ate my first crepes. Absolutely delicious they were.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Palace of Versailles

Palace of Versailles
The palace is located on the outskirts of the city. It takes about an hour or two to get here. It is huge and one can spend as much time as he wants visiting the palace. Unfortunately the day we went, the palace was closed and we hadn't looked up online, so it was a bit of goof up for us. But the courtyard is still accessible so it wasn't all that bad.


We really wanted to watch one of the cabaret shows in Paris. We boiled down to two choices, Lido and Moulin Rouge. After a bit of research, I settled for Lido and since I had never seen any other shows before, I was totally in awe of these people. The sets, costumes, dances were just so perfect. It may be a good idea to buy your tickets early on as the tickets get sold very quickly.

Where to eat?

I just need to get my desi food fix every two days or so. We discovered this area close to Gare du Nord, which had a lot of Indian restaurants. We ate at this south indian place and it was quite good. Another good place for indian food was this restaurant Santoor close to Champs Elysees.