A Little Geography Lesson

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I don’t know about you, but when I think of the location of the Hawaiian Islands I tend to think of it as smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean due west of California.

However, it is actually a little bit further south than “due west of California.”  Okay, quite a bit south of “due west of California.”

The Hawaiian Islands lie just below of the Tropic of Cancer–so if you want a “due west of” think Southern Mexico. To put it in USA geography terms, Key West (the Southernmost point in the continental United States) lies north of the Tropic of Cancer.  In fact, Hawaii is so remote that it is not even considered part of the North American continent (see the map from World Atlas below)!

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The reason I’m mentioning this is because we decided to split our trip to the Big Island by spending a couple of nights in Kona and then a night in Hilo.  April & I were in charge of selecting the route and finding fun things to do along the way to Hilo.  We opted for the Southern Route, which afforded us options to drive through the mountainous terrain of Kona, the overlook of Kealakekua Bay (where the fate of Captain Cook was decided), the volcano lava fields, the Mauna Loa macadamia nut company, a green sand beach, and the actual southernmost point in the United States.

After we left Greenwell Farms, we headed south down the main “highway.”  Actually, highway was a bit of a stretch–much like our “yacht” in Greece.  Winding, narrow two lane road is a bit more accurate, but it was scenic, so we didn’t care!  Or perhaps Tracy did, since he was the one driving….but we girls didn’t mind one bit!  😉

Our first stop came only a few minutes down the road when we drove by the South Kona Fruit Stand.  We decided that smoothies were the perfect thing for our trip south, along with some very interesting fruit we had never heard of…or heard of but never tried, like lilikoi, star fruit, and dragon fruit!

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With smoothies in hand and fruit in the trunk, we continued south along the Mamalahoa Highway taking in the picturesque coastline views on one side and the lush mountain on the other side.  Our next destination was Nā‘ālehu, home to both a green sand beach (more about that later) and Ka Lae, the southernmost point on the Big Island, which is the southernmost island, thus is the southernmost point in the United States.

Why, yes, I do like saying southernmost–thankyouverymuch!

So we turned off the “highway” onto an even smaller road and wound our way here and there whilst following signs to the green sand beach and Ka Lae.  We actually went to the beach first but it is deserving of its own post.  After our trek to the beach, we stopped at Ka Lae for a glimpse of what seemed to be the edge of the world.

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For those of you who would love the chance to jump off the edge of the world, there was even a platform–and a group of people willing.

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And just in case you didn’t feel like scaling the steep wall back up or drifting out to sea (although I don’t see why not, after all the Kiribati Atolls are only 1200 miles away!), there was even a ladder to help you.

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I peeked over and decided I was perfectly happy not jumping and drifting off to sea and/or climbing the ladder of death back up.

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A few more quick shots and then we were on our way–having crossed off another item on our Hawaiian to-do list!

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Thirsty Thursday #12

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In trying to find pictures for Throwback Thursday, I realized I have a lot of pictures of adult beverages (that is said with pride, by the way). As such, I’ve decided that rather than share pictures of me with bad 80s hair and glasses that legitimately covered half my face, I could easily share glasses of a much tastier kind. So without further ado, I present to you Thirsty Thursday!

This week’s Thirsty Thursday is brought to you by BeckyJack’s Food Shack.  And they’re not lying.  It’s a shack, but the beer is cold AND they are always changing what’s on tap–so it’s a great excuse to go back again and again and again.  Oh yeah, and the food is amazing!

I really wanted to take a "menu" but I think they only had 3 available!

I really wanted to take a “menu” but I think they only had a handful available!

It’s definitely one place you don’t wanna miss when in the area…or the State of Florida.  I’m so glad that I ended my wonderful Fabulous Not Forty Birthday Trip #1 on such a tasty note…literally.  After we left Orlando, we came back to Spring Hill for a few days to lounge around and just hang-out.  On my last day, we went to BeckyJack’s for an unforgettable lunch of crab cakes and fish sandwiches.  We then drove back to the house, put the suitcases in the car, made one final sweep of the house to make sure I hadn’t left anything (but of course, I had…because I always do!) and off to the airport we went!

Don’t panic–don’t panic! I wouldn’t leave without giving you a beer pic on Thirsty Thursday (unless it was wine or whiskey!) 😉

Kona Brewery ale....of some sort (I can't remember--and of course, the beers on tap are constantly rotating!)

Kona Brewery Big Wave Golden Ale

Margarita Monday, Part Siete

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Yes, that is a jalapeño floating in that there margarita.  It is, in fact, a jalapeño margarita.  I will confess that it wasn’t MY jalapeño margarita, rather it belonged to TK.  I had, if you will remember the original Margarita Monday, the blood orange margarita.  While the jalapeño margarita was definitely a novelty and very tasty, personally I preferred the blood orange.

We were at Antojito’s.  It’s the restaurant where we decided to eat after departing Universal Studios.

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Naturally, we had the table side guacamole because why wouldn’t you?  It’s amazing and goes well with margaritas.  The best part of getting table side guacamole with friends from home is that we can order it spicy, unlike here where I have to settle for medium and watch my NYC friends whimpily whine about how “hot” it is.  My reply to them is always:  oh shush & have another margarita!

mmmmm….a another margarita sounds like a great plan!  Salud!

Universal Studios

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Believe or not, there are other things to do in Universal Studios other than Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade/Hogwarts.  So after taking the Hogwarts Express back to London, we wandered around other parts of the park.

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As timing would have it, we found ourselves a spot on the curb just in time for the afternoon parade.

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After the parade, we realized how famished we were from all the walking around and decided (since we’d made the full loop) to head out of the park to the row of restaurants on the outskirts of the park.

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And so ended our magical day at Universal, proving that Disney doesn’t have a monopoly on magic in Orlando.

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Hogsmeade

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After we left Hogwarts we wound our way back down to the village of Hogsmeade.  A quaint little village, where there is snow on the buildings all year round.

Our first stop was to wet our whistles with some delicious butter beer.

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And it was delicious (as it tastes like butterscotch, which I adore!), but oh-so-very-sweet.  In fact, we all shared one and that was more than enough for me.  Alas, it is non-alcoholic.  Cut the sweetness and create it in alcoholic form and I would probably drink it by the bucketload.  #justsaying

My favorite store in the village–actually, probably in the park–was Honeyduke’s.  Being a sugar fiend aside, it was a bright and colorful store, very quaint.  I had to restrain myself from literally purchasing everything, except for vomit & boogie flavored beans, Bertie Botts can keep those!

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We spent a bit more time wandering around Hogsmeade and peaking into various places, like the Three Broomsticks (but too full from butter beer to eat anything!).  All too soon, it was time to make our way back to the platform to take the train back to London…

Hogwarts

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You gotta hand it to Universal, they know how to sucker you in create a whole experience.  Of course, in order to do that you need a pass to both of their parks–but it is TOTALLY worth it (if you’re a Harry Potter fan–and by fan I mean borderline obsessed…and by borderline, I just mean obsessed) to get on the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9¾ and ride to Hogsmeade & Hogwarts.

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Like Gringott’s, Hogswarts is a ride that first winds you through the castle offering you a better look inside the most famous wizarding school in the world–just watch out for the staircases, they like to move!

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It was tempting to go through again, but we were burning daylight and still had to get to Hogsmeade!

Platform 9 & 3/4

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Taint No Place More Magical!

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For awhile, I just walked around and took in all the shops (btw, if you’re just now joining me–welcome!  I’m discussing my visit to Diagon Alley in London Universal Studios in Orlando, FL as part my first Fabulous Not Forty Birthday Trip).

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I really wanted to get a wand, but at some point practicality took over and by that I mean, whose wand would I buy?  Of course, I’d want Dumbledore’s and Snape’s and Hermoine’s and maybe McGonagall’s…all I knew that I shouldn’t spend over $100 on wands that in NYC would probably be considered a weapon–so I left Ollivander’s empty handed.  Although just FYI, the wands are interactive with various things throughout Diagon Alley so if you could actually pick just one–it would make a great addition to your collection and a great enhancement to your time at Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

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Aside from Ollivander’s, the next coolest place was Borgin & Bourke’s (don’t look at me, my parents are muggles and wouldn’t have known to tell me to ask to be in Griffindor, so I’m quite sure I would have been sorted into Slytherin!) in Knockturn Alley.  Lots of fun and cool interesting stuff to buy.

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Of course, NO trip to Diagon Alley would have been complete without stopping at Weasleys Wizard Weezes, complete with a tightrope riding Professor Umbridge screaming about having order!  Skiving snack boxes, extendable ears, darkening powders, and a lot more of George & Fred’s wonderful creations right at your finger tips!

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There was one ride in Diagon Alley, which was inside Gringott’s bank.  Basically, you walk through the bank and then ride down into the vault area–just don’t mess with the goblins…or the dragon!

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There are tons to do, see, eat, and drink in Diagon Alley–but if you get bored, then you can go find the Dursleys and hang out with them 😉

The Leaky Cauldron

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One cannot go to Diagon Alley and NOT eat at The Leaky Cauldron. It would be like visiting New York City and NOT eating cheesecake.  I mean, really–who does that?  No one.

So thus…when you’re in Diagon Alley at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, you have to eat at The Leaky Cauldron.

My biggest complaint:  TOOO MANY CHOICES.  Actually, there weren’t that many choices but they all looked delicious.  I decided on the cottage (aka shepherd’s) pie.  Thankfully Sissy & TK each ordered something different (bangers & mash and fish & chips respectively), so I got to try a few things.  It was good.  I mean, it is park food–so it’s not the best shepherd’s pie or bangers I’ve ever had, but it was quite decent and felt a little less like I was being gouged at the registers.  Plus my pie came with a salad, so I could feign being healthier (despite the pumpkin juice and fishy green ale and butter beer and…well, you get the point).

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Calling Wizards & Muggles Alike

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Remember a few weeks back when I mentioned getting sidetracked by my Harry Potter pictures, which was making it hard to focus on Key West (and by weeks, I mean months)?  Yeah, well, when planning my posts for this week, I momentarily forgot about them.  Now before you yell at me, let me e’splain:  since I left you in the midst of my Fabulous Not Forty birthday trips at the southern most tip of the continental United States, I thought it would be fun to jump up to the most northern part of the United States in my Birthday Trip #2 to Minnesota.  But of course, my OCD kicked in and I realized I could not, would not, should not leave the state of Florida for Birthday Trip #1 without talking about my time in Orlando.  For the record, I have full faith in your ability to follow me from Florida to Minnesota back to Florida and then back to Minnesota.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I promise.

Since Orlando is on the way back to Sissy & TK’s house (okay, a slightly round-about-way home), we decided to stop at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Orlando Studios.  And by decided, I’m sure a lot of begging, pleading, and pouting were involved.

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I have to tell you the last time I was at Orlando Studios it was a long, long, long, long, long, long time ago.  The summer it opened to be exact.  Needless to say, it had changed a lot.  Okay, I can’t even really remember what was actually there, so it might as well have been a new park.

We made a beeline ambled through the park in the direction of London (hopefully you know I actually meant made a beeline), where we could enter Diagon Alley and then take the Underground Entrance to board The Hogwarts Express where the world of Harry Potter awaited.

Although we did pause briefly to pay homage to that iconic fish that has haunted me for years.  Since we were on dry land, he didn’t seem so scary as I remember…

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And then I saw it: London. I was like a kid at Christmas!  I tried my best not to knock down any small children (adults and teenagers were fair game!), as the wonderful world of Harry Potter was laid out before me.

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