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I Survived the Road to Hana

The Road to Hana, Hawaii

My time in New Orleans wound itself up with a Sunday morning brunch with family in “Old Metairie” and an afternoon in the French Quarter with friends who live there, but who I know from Paris. We met at the house of one of the friends—a classic French Quarter house built likely in the late 18th-century with the servants’ quarters and kitchen occupying the back two levels, separated by an interior courtyard to the main residence consisting of a large living room/dining room and two bedrooms, full bath and “summer kitchen” on an enclosed porch.

French Quarter home courtyard

French Quarter home courtyard

The house itself, the courtyard and the decor is a brilliant work of historic design that reproduces life as they knew it in the 18th-century…every single piece of furnishing or “tchotchke” is authentic, is arranged to create one beautiful scene after another and sends you back into time. It’s like living in a fantasy land, but no doubt, this takes a lot of work on the part of its owner!

French Quarter home interior

The trip to New Orleans was also made useful by a meeting with my US attorney, an old friend whose firm has been a staple resource of our family. This was specific to getting my will in order, and in conjunction with my French will. It all made sense.

Dealing with the will didn’t bother me at all—death doesn’t frighten me…maybe because I’m convinced of beating the 100 mark. Don’t ask me why, but it has to do with my mother’s longevity (almost 98 when she passed, having no major illnesses or dementia) and how she and I had identical lines in our palms. Our life lines were the same—very long, very clear, unbroken and defined. I took it as a sign and intend on honoring it.

My attorney’s offices are located downtown on the 25th floor with beautiful views of the business district and beyond. Across the street is a New Orleans restaurant dating back to 1938, one that my father frequented when we were kids, specializing in Po-Boys and Creole cooking named Mother’s. Tourists know it. The locals know it. It’s an institution.

View of New Orleans from the 25th floor

View of New Orleans from the 25th floor

I got there early and perched on a stool waiting for my family to arrive. It’s always a treat to watch the goings-on. There was a long line to the order station, where you turn in your order and pay, then your food is brought to your table. The restaurant is huge with three or four dining rooms and simple tables and chairs. Nothing fancy about it. Oyster po-boys were flying by, headed to their various destinations, while I was drooling over them. Downing such a high cal goodie was my last hurrah before heading to Maui where I knew our diets would be clean and healthy. If you’ve ever visited New Orleans, then you know that healthy is not what its cuisine is all about, but I contend that it’s the tastiest in the world! (Don’t tell the French I said this!)

Mother's, New Orleans

Mother's Menu

The flight to Maui via Dallas was SRO—not a free seat was to be had on American Airlines. AA is not Air France. No extras (no blankets, etc.), seats don’t recline (in economy), one meal vs two during an 8-hour flight, and it was inedible. I pulled out a salmon salad with almonds, spinach and blueberries with a mango dressing I had purchased at Whole Foods to eat instead. The flight attendant eyed it, remarking, “That looks delicious.” It was.

Maui was warm and I was dressed for winter. The baggage claim is wide open to the street, so there is no security to enter or leave the airport. They don’t need it. Nothing dangerous seems to happen there.

The first 24 hours in Maui was total peace and serenity. We ate healthy meals in wonderful eateries, and took a stroll through the Iao Valley. I spent 1.5 hours on the table of the founder of Bhaktiatsu—The Art of Devotional Bodywork, TJ Frank—which included acupuncture therapy. My daughter booked it for me thinking I might like it.

TJ Frank with a patient

TJ Frank with a patient

TJ wanted to know why I was there; what were my physical problems or needs.

“I don’t have anything specific,” I told him. “My daughter booked this, but I’ll let you find my problems yourself.”

And he did. With his capable hands, he found meridians that needed unblocking. I found the session similar to what my osteopath in Paris does for me at my monthly appointments…what I call “tune ups.”

Considering I’d been on an 8-hour flight in a seat that didn’t recline, I wasn’t in too bad a shape…likely thanks to the Qi Gong I had done that morning and do every morning. He’s a master at that, too, he told me. I practice by following videos online by Kseny on Youtube, who produces her videos from Port Grimaud in the south of France. Try it—I promise it will change your life!

Erica wanted to treat me to things we didn’t do last year—the ʻIao Valley. It’s breathtaking. We followed a paved walk spanning 0.6 miles that takes you through a picturesque vantage point of Kuka‘emoku, also known as the ʻIao Needle, an erosional formation that towers 1,200 feet above the valley floor.

The Ioa Valley

The Ioa Valley says that “To call this West Maui Mountains park ‘lush’ is a hall-of-fame understatement.” No joke. “Its dense rainforest canopy makes this popular park one of America’s more unique, dominated by the ʻIao Needle—a vegetation-covered lava remnant that rises from the valley floor to a higher height than the Eiffel Tower.” Put this on your list of to-dos in Maui.

My daughter, Erica, rents a room in a friend’s house in the town of Paia. Not far away is the town of Makawao. Both towns are simple little enclaves lined with independently-owned boutiques filled with clothing and crafts. At “Ame Maui Paris” in Makawao, there are leather pouches that are made and sold on rue de Bretagne in front of the Les Enfants Rouges market just a block from my Paris apartment…for double the price, of course!! Imagine my surprise! So far away, yet so close! It turns out that the owner has a pied-à-terre on rue Charlot, sharing her time with France.

Leather pouches from Paris

Leather pouches from Paris

Sherri Reeve and her daughter, Hailey, run a shop in Makawao that explores their colorful world of watercolors, Sherri Reeve Gallery and Gifts. Sherri’s collection spans about 30 years of art and inspiration on the island. Hailey came along and added fuel to her already glowing fire with her own original works. It’s the most popular shop in Makawao, for good reason…filled with art prints, clothing, housewares, stationery and more, of an exceptional quality. Don’t miss it.

Sherri Reeve and her daughter, Hailey

Sherri Reeve and her daughter, Hailey

Erica and her friends hired a yacht to take us whale watching off Maalaea Harbor Thursday. We packed a picnic, wore bathing suits under our clothing and headed out early in the morning. Captain Bruce knew just where and how to find the whales, mostly humpbacks. There were very few boats out and only one woman in a kayak near us. Meanwhile, dozens of whales circled close to us for five hours—as we hung out on the water—showing off by blowing and breaching. It was a gorgeous day and the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. The whales were a sight to be seen.

Humpback whale, Maui

Humpback whale, Maui

Humpback whale off Maalaea Harbor

Humpback whale off Maalaea Harbor

One of the friends on the boat, Lauren Strelau, is an underwater photographer who set up a drone to take photos and videos of the whales and our boat from above. She was able to capture some amazing photos—a view that we couldn’t see ourselves. It was not as obvious to us that they were really so close to the boat the entire time.

Photo by Lauren Strelau

Drone photo by Lauren Strelau

The lushness of the landscape is overwhelming. That’s why so many people fall in love with the island, for the connection with nature. At least, that’s what my daughter says draws her to Maui. It’s clearly the land of spiritualism and healing—these are the main topics of conversation among her friends. Her friends seem to all be on the same page about how they want to live life and how much they love the island.

Still, I got stopped by several House Hunters International fans and people who spend a lot of time in France—even some of you readers surprised me. It kind of makes sense that people would enjoy spending time in both places which are so diametrically opposed in every respect—Maui vs Paris: a natural jungle vs an urban jungle. It creates a balance in one’s life.

The signs you see along the roads in Maui seem to advertise massage therapy and chiropractors (not sure why there is an abundance here, but there is). The markets are filled with organic, healthy products. It’s exactly as one might expect of the island.

Last year when I was in Maui at the same time of year, the double rainbows were endless. Not this time…I saw only one or two, and not sure why. It rained plenty which normally causes them to appear.

Maui rainbow

Maui rainbow

Saturday morning we decided to take the southern road to Hana so that we could stop at the farmer’s market along the way. The array of products was very different from what one might find at an open air market in Provence. There was some fresh produce, of course, but no roast chickens. There were tons of purveyors of health-related products, such as mushroom tincture, teas and other products for their immune boosting properties at a stand by Fungi Family Farm. I know the benefits of mushrooms and stocked up.

Maui Farmer's Market

Maui Farmer’s Market

Fungi Family Farm stand at the market

Fungi Family Farm stand at the market

There are none, or at least very few, directional signs on the island. In France you don’t need a map or GPS, as long as you follow the directional signs you can’t get too lost. The lack of signage was one of the many enigmas that kept me puzzled all week long. Lots of things simply didn’t make sense.

Almost halfway to Hana taking the longer southern route on purpose, we came upon a sign indicating that the road to Hana was closed. Why didn’t they warn us sooner? Once we confirmed it by calling friends and checking on websites, we had to turn around and go back from whence we came, basically losing 1.5 hours of travel time. The rain was drizzly, but constant making everything on our planned schedule nearly impossible to do. Once in Hana, the fog and rain lifted clearing the sky, but it never got blue.

The Beach at Hana on a windy afternoon

The Beach at Hana on a windy afternoon

The road to Hana is such an adventure that there are souvenirs you can buy that say, “I survived the road to Hana.” We survived it four times: once along the southern route after the market, a return along the southern route once we learned the road was closed, once along the northern route and a return along the northern route.

Why is it a road to “survive?” Sometimes called “Heaven’s Highway,” the road to Hana is a legendary stretch of highway celebrated as one of the most picturesque routes in the world. Spanning 45 miles, it winds over 600 curves, traverses 59 historic bridges, and treats us brave souls to breathtaking vistas of the ocean, cascading waterfalls, dense tropical rainforests, deep gorges, trails, and freshwater pools. The majestic journey of the “Road to Hana” can be the highlight of any Hawaiian vacation and that’s why we had to do it again this year.

This renowned route holds a place on the National Register of Historic Places due to a rich history having begun as a footpath known as the King’s Road, established by Chief Pi’ilani in the 1400s. What a footpath! It’s the only route between central Maui and the tiny town of Hana. One way is about two to three hours if you don’t stop, although ours was quite a bit longer thanks to our mishap on the wrong side of the island. There are no gas stations between Paia and Hana, so a fill-up before embarking on the adventure is advised.

By the time you read this, we will have returned home to Paia, having made a stop at the Waiʻānapanapa State Park, a remote, wild, volcanic coastline famous for its glistening waters and black sand beach. Tonight I fly east on the red-eye to Los Angeles, leaving the lush greenery of Maui and my daughter behind me.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds and daughter, Erica Simone, in MauiAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Adrian and Erica on Maui

The Travel Oyster logoP.S. For those of you who tried to subscribe to Geraldine Kaylor’s blog, the Travel Oyster, and failed, the technical problem has been resolved. Try again now.



P.P.S. And for those of you who missed the webinar “Demystifying the French: A Bicultural Conversation” sponsored by the Federation of Alliances Françaises USA, but would like to view it, click here.


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