The Road to Hana
I’m heading back to Paris today after a quick 10-day trip from Nice to Los Angeles, then to Maui for five nights, and back to L.A. for a couple of nights before landing in Paris, as I will tomorrow morning. It was my daughter’s idea to meet her in Maui at the end of her two-month stay on the island rather than abort it early to meet me in L.A. What a great idea, I agreed, especially with airfares from L.A. as low as $200.
Weather in Los Angeles, upon my landing there was the coldest/wettest weather I’ve ever experienced in the City of Angels. We were lucky to have missed the worst of the storms, but the streets of Venice Beach were still a bit flooded and the boardwalk was a sea of sand that had washed up. This was not the L.A. I lived in 30 years ago. Things have changed.
Global warming is clearly doing a number on the weather patterns all over the world, so we need to be prepared and if we aren’t already, we need to be doing whatever we can to support the effort to reverse it. I could go off on a tangent to explain how the U.S. is not doing its part (according to ucusa.com, of the top 10 polluters the U.S. is in first place, followed by China, with France not that far behind, ranking 8th), but I won’t. We’re all terribly guilty, including me for taking all those flights, just like the rest of us revenge travelers making up for our Covid-19 lost time.
Before I left Nice, and after 10 years of searching for a good venue in which we could hold an Après-Midi coffee gathering, we finally found the perfect spot in one of the large dining rooms at La Brasserie Le Félix Faure. 12 avenue Félix Faure, 06000 Nice, on the corner of rue Alberti. Starting on March 23rd, and then on the fourth Thursday of every other month, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. just like we do in Paris (therefore May 25, July 26, September 27, and November 23 before beginning again in January of 2024), we’ll be sponsoring the free networking gathering and offering up special speakers. This is a great way to get to know others in our community and learn something from your compatriots.
We’ll announce each one along the way, so stay tuned to our Nouvellettres® to learn more. This first one, now just a few weeks away, will be inaugurated by…yes, me! I am the first speaker in a long line to come and this time I’ll be sharing my story: “From Paris to Nice!—Learn how I fell in love with Paris, then fell in love with Nice, and how my team and I have brought the North American community together in both special French cities!”
It’s free, but we ask that anyone attending Après-Midi be willing to have their photos taken, and order at least one drink to support our host café. Your presence indicates your willingness to participate in this way. We do hope you will join us to inaugurate our first Après-Midi in Nice…with many to come! If you know of anyone you’d recommend be a speaker, please feel free to send us your ideas and suggestions.
Note: this very convenient location can be reached by Tram Lines 1 and 2, and Buses 5, 8, 12, 38, and 57. See you there!
LOST IN LA LA LAND
One full day in L.A. was enough as there wasn’t much to do there considering the inclement weather. This is when I am reminded how we in the U.S. live in our “bubbles,” thanks to our car society, and how there is nowhere to just “be.” What I mean by “bubble” is how we go from our home to our car to wherever we’re going to back to our car to back to our home, without much interaction with the public and the world. This is not true when you live in an urban environment (in France or elsewhere) where the center of the city is the center of life, where it’s mostly pedestrian, and where public transportation is excellent. I haven’t owned a car since moving to France, and very happily so. Living in L.A. without one would be near to impossible.
We Ubered around (easier and cheaper than renting a car) and braved the cold temperature to wait in line for about 30 minutes for a table at the Great White All Day Cafe for brunch. The food there is worth the wait and the ambiance somehow exemplifies the typical L.A. lifestyle. It’s young, casual, and very hip.
To work off the big brunch, we walked along the boardwalk of Venice Beach virtually solo—it was the most deserted I’d ever seen it—but because of the cool temp and heavy winds, we couldn’t wait to get back inside and drink another hot beverage to warm our bones. Thanks go to my dear friend, Marcia M., who voluntarily took us on a long drive through some of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Los Angeles, such as Santa Monica, Brentwood, Bel Air, and Beverly Hills. We wanted to spot the big luxurious homes and take in the prettiest parts of the city while the traffic was light, thanks to the weather. L.A. exudes opulence, which can be either something you love about it, or hate about it, depending on your point of view. I was always amazed and intrigued by it if nothing else.
MAUI WOWEE (AKA MAUI WAUI OR MOWIE WOWIE*): DAY ONE
Maui was my next stop, hopping over the Pacific Ocean early on Sunday morning by taking a six-hour flight, to meet Erica there. She had every minute of our five days booked with adventures. Just on the first day, we had explored more than most might do in a week.
First, we stopped at one of the island’s most luxurious homes, owned by an acquaintance of my daughter’s and rented to some of her friends for a few days, whom she wanted me to meet. Every inch of this home is a work of art, including two very special staircases that float in the center of the salon; one a carved wooden “colimaçon” (spiral staircase); the other an arc resembling a dinosaur’s spine. The home sits on a gorgeous well landscaped and manicured plot of land directly on the water with its own private beach, clearly worth many, many millions. Her friends are the kind that can afford such self-spoiling—one is a major player in the tech industry who I’m sure you would recognize. He had rented it for a few days just to get away and hopped his own private jet that afternoon to go home to San Francisco. (It must be nice!)
Situated on the slopes of Haleakalā, the east Maui volcano, Erica and I visited the Kula Botanical Garden for a walk through its eight acres of colorful and unique plants, amazing rock formations, covered bridge, waterfalls, koi pond, aviary and a few new attractions including a carved tiki exhibit. Established in 1968 by Warren and Helen McCord as a display garden for Warren’s landscape architecture business, and even now as a family-owned and operated business, the garden has evolved into a tourist destination that draws thousands of visitors every year. It was obvious why—the variety of plant life there is overwhelming and filled with varieties you don’t see elsewhere.
On route and throughout the day—my first day in Maui since 1992—as we drove along the lush green roads, with what I called “schizophrenic” weather patterns—sun and rain all happening at the same time—the rainbows and double rainbows were endless. The end of the rainbow, where the colors are brightest, looked close enough to touch, not like the optical illusion that it is. Erica calls such Maui aspects “magical”—a word I heard often during my time there to describe Maui. And not just coming from her lips, but just about everyone who begins to describe the island uses this word, “magical.” It starts to sound stupid, but then after a while, it became too true to discount its meaning.
One of our little detours was to drive for a while and then to walk a bit along Thompson Beach Road, one of the island’s most spectacular walks that you can take. The road is located in the foothills of Haleakala in Keokea and is famous for its breathtaking bi-coastal views of Maui, Lanai, Kaho’olawe, and Molokini. But, it’s tough to compare beautiful views in Maui…because everywhere you look is absolute eye candy.
As it turns out, Oprah Winfrey bought Thompson Ranch, so this is the road to Oprah’s house. About a quarter mile down on the left, white and gleaming, it’s perched on the hill. She paid $7 million for the 1,139-square-foot building on the property from the sellers who purchased the property in 1974 for $50,000, making it a 14,000% profit for the sellers. This is a good reason to consider owning property on Maui!
The weather that first afternoon wasn’t looking too good, but we took our chances driving up to Haleakalā, the east Maui volcano that forms more than 75 percent of the island. (The western 25 percent is formed by another volcano, the Mauna Kahalawai.) From the tallest peak one can look down on a massive depression, seven miles across, two miles wide, and nearly 2,600 feet deep.
We got all the way to the top, paid our $30 to enter the park, and then saw nothing but fog…and I mean NOTHING. This happened to me once in 1979 when taking a small train to the top of the Jungfrau in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland, only to have the same experience…a view of nothing but fog! How disappointing! At the time I had to buy postcards to get a glimpse of the view we couldn’t see in person. We did the same this time, with Erica showing me photos she had taken on another occasion of what we couldn’t see beyond the fog.
For dinner, we scored the corner table at the Kula Lodge with a beautiful view of the landscape below and had a wonderful dinner. The owners there recognized me from House Hunters International, so we were treated like royalty. Our digs for the week were in a friend’s Paia cottage, and we were ready to crash. That was all during just the first day, having landed in Maui about 1 p.m. after an uneventful six-hour flight from Los Angeles.
*We heard about it in the 70s—Maui Waui, or Mowie Wowie—a classic sativa marijuana strain made from a cross of Hawaiian and another strain that remains unknown.
MAUI ZOWEE (OR MAUI ZAUI*): DAY TWO
Erica had our itinerary planned out to fit in as much as possible in one day. After a copious breakfast at Baked on Maui, we visited with friends to see their “hidden-in-the-rainforest” homes, one of which was situated on Awalau Gulch, a valley that has an elevation of 1,037 feet near the suburb of Ulumalu. The views from the house were overwhelmingly beautiful and vast. “Awe” never stopped striking a cord, yet Maui is filled with such gulches.
Next on the agenda was Twin Falls, the first easily accessible string of waterfalls and pools on the Road to Hana. It also has one of the better snack stands along the journey. It is noted that Twin falls can be typically underrated by the guidebooks, but for us, it was a worthy stop.
Erica had another friend to whom she wanted to pay a visit. He lives in a cottage that only has a tiny inner core that serves as a bathroom and kitchen, with a large screened-in wrap-around porch which is actually the living room, dining room, and two bedrooms. In effect, he lives with a roof over his head, but without walls, surrounded by lush forest. It’s like living outdoors but completely protected. The path to the house is lined with very tall palm trees all on their lonesome selves. The house stands on part of what is known as the “Secret Garden,” on which is a 10,000 square-foot nursery full of ornamental, tropical plants, water gardens, dish gardens, palms, succulents, and orchids as well as meditative labyrinth walks, surrounded by beautiful lush greenery in the midst of the historic Maliko Gulch. (More gulches everywhere!)
We took time out on Monday afternoon to visit two properties for sale with a friend of Erica’s who is a real estate agent. She has this idea to invest in a revenue-generating property in which she can live for at least part of the year, and I admit this is a valid investment idea worth pursuing…if affordable. Maui is very seductive, as are the properties with their spacious rooms, beautiful views and relaxing “lanais” (porches). Rents in Maui are more expensive than in Paris and therefore potentially profitable. (Be sure to read more about this in Thursday’s French Property Insider)
Dinner was particularly early that day. Nuka 50-seat Izakaya restaurant and sushi bar is a favorite among locals. So much so that if you don’t get there by 4:30 p.m. to be one of the first to get a table, you will wait forever or never get one. We scored a good table, totally pigged out on formidable Japanese fare, and felt more than fulfilled. Our days ended up this way—early dinners, early to bed, early to rise.
*Maui Zowie, or Maui Zaui is a specialty pizza recipe on the island made with pineapple.
THE ROAD TO HANA: DAY THREE
The weather amazingly turned in our favor as we headed out of Paia to take the southern road to Hana, without rain and beautifully clear skies. The landscape is like a moonscape of black lava rock, dramatic sea views, and some grazing land dotted by black cows among the black boulders, making it tough to tell them apart. The quality of the road goes from pristinely perfect to treacherously bad and rocky. Fortunately, we saw nary a car for miles on end. It takes more than 2.5 hours to get to Hana from this direction.
The northern route, or “The Hāna Highway (HI-360)” has 620 curves and 59 bridges through flourishing rainforests, flowing waterfalls, plunging pools, and dramatic seascapes. We saved the best for last, making that our route home.
Hana is one of the most isolated communities in Hawaii with a population of about 1,500 on the very eastern end of the island. Although it is possible to fly to Hana from the U.S., the only logical way to get there from Paia is by car, and well worth the trip for the incredible scenery along the way. I recalled having done the route in 1992, but remembered very little about it.
On route to Hana we stopped at the Laulima Farm fruit stand that serves up a platter of fresh exotic fruit, most of which I’d never seen, nor eaten before. The Laulima Farm is a 13-acre family farm in the Kipahulu Valley using organic and biodynamic practices. On the platter was an assortment of jackfruit, egg fruit, soursop, tangelo, papaya, apple banana, and cacao. I’d only ever heard of or tasted papaya, so each was a new experience.
Part of our Hana experience included a few short hikes in the Haleakalā National Park along the coastal area of Kīpahulu where there are the Pools of Ohe’o—freshwater pools and waterfalls set amid a bamboo forest. Another part of the adventure included a hike down to the Pa’iloa black sand beach as part of the Wai’anapanapa State Park.
On the road to Hana, we had lunch at Hāna Farms Roadside Stand Pizza Oven and Bakery. It is a must-stop as the place to grab local produce, homemade baked goods, Hāna-made souvenirs, and locally made food products. The salad and pizza were exceptional, especially for just a roadside stand.
Before heading home along the northern route, we stopped to hike within a lava tube, a “pyroduct” that is a natural conduit formed by flowing lava from a volcanic vent that moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. If lava in the tube empties, it will leave a cave, and so it did near Hana where we took this .5-mile hike inside the cavernous tube with just a flashlight. You go so deep into the cave, that one might think they’re never coming out…as I did…but then, of course, we did manage to come out!
LIFE’S A BEACH: DAY FOUR
The schizophrenic weather patterns could make someone (like me) nuts. The moment we went south to the primary beach communities, the rain clouds that had just dumped tons of water on our Paia cottage scattered and the sun came out, making it a perfect beach day. I was hoping to get in some good snorkeling.
Erica first took me to “Secret Cove”—a beautiful, hidden little pocket of sand near Makena Cove that’s likely not so secret anymore. However, it was not overrun with sunbathers and the cove was total eye candy. The sand was fine—the kind that sticks so you can’t ever seem to shake it off, reminding me how much I love the pebbles in Nice for not behaving like this kind of sand!
After an hour or so of relaxing on the sand and taking in the scenery, we then headed toward the Wailea Resort—a 1,500-acre (6.1 km2), master-planned resort located on the sunny, southern leeward coast of the island. It’s like Palm Dessert without being completely manufactured…it’s the real thing, but manicured perfectly with indigenous plants, and drop-dead stunning. Wailea was named one of the country’s 99 Best Recreational and Residential Private Communities in America. I am not surprised. For this type of community, it’s a paradise within a paradise.
Here we laid out our towels on Ulua Beach, one of the beaches in the resort complex development. The sandy beach there is located between two rocky points and is a bit more popular than the neighboring Mokapu Beach. The beach is bordered by luxurious hotels and condominiums, swimming pools at the edge of the beach, and lots of tourists taking in the sun. The snorkeling there wasn’t as good as we expected, so I never did put on my fins to try it out.
A WHALE OF A STORY: DAY FIVE
Thursday was whale watching day. Sail Trilogy has several tours on offer, one of which is whale watching from Lahaina. We drove along the northern perimeter of the west part of the island toward Lahaina from which we were to catch the boat.
On route, Erica wanted to show me one of the most beautiful paths on the island—the Honolua Bay Access Trail, a path to Honolua Bay. It was muddy and a bit treacherous, but a path through the kind of rainforest one doesn’t see often. Our goal was Lahaina, where we were planning on lunching first, then embarking on the catamaran to spot humpback whales.
Winter is the season to spot them off the leeward waters of the island, which boasts of the world’s densest humpback whale population. Every year, over 10,000 humpbacks annually migrate to the warm, shallow waters of Maui, much to our delight. Aboard the catamaran, we spotted a mother and her calf, as well as other whales not far from the boat which provided quite a show for all of us.
At one point, we stopped to drop a hydrophone into the water so that we could listen to the whales sing underwater. This was new to me, but whales are famous for their melodies, used as a form of communication with other whales…many miles away!
OUR LAST HOORAH: DAY SIX
On our last day, we took one last small hike to a beach known for its turtle population, so in spite of the cool rainy weather, we spent a bit of time trekking on the sand, battling the wind, to see if we could spot a few…and scored just one, but a sweet one. On the path to the beach was a sign to call a number if you spotted a turtle in trouble! How cute is that?
We hadn’t spent any time all week shopping, so we did a bit of that in the Paia shops, which offer perfect lightweight clothing for enjoying the (usual) island weather. None of it would have cut it on the streets of Paris or Nice, so I left it all behind and only purchased a few small gifts.
It was Erica’s last day in Maui for many months, so her friends gathered at Ocean Vodka to say farewell. Situated on 80-acres of land, with breathtaking views from the slopes of Haleakala, the Ocean Organic Vodka farm is a perfect spot for a group of any size to enjoy its vodka and pizzas while lazing on the lawns or relaxing in a big armchair to watch the sunset. She has made a vast assortment of friends, who have come from all over the U.S. and beyond, who all revel in the pleasures of the island. One guy, a sculptor using metals and woods, admitted that Maui isn’t a perfect place for him to be creative because it’s impossible to make something more beautiful than the nature of the island. He prefers to be in a city as gritty as Paris in order to create beauty that transcends his environment. I got it.
We’d done just about all of Maui, in less than six days. We had traveled along the coastal road entirely around the island, both east and west. Erica took me to some of the most beautiful spots on the island, wanting to seduce me into spending more time there and possibly investing in a property where values are sure to rise. Yes, I am interested, but I doubt I’ll spend that much time on the island…that is unless something about my general make-up makes a drastic change. When we were living in Tennessee on three acres of wooded property, I was unhappy and very bored. All those trees simply weren’t enough. It was beautiful, but I joked that if I never saw another tree again I’d be happy! And that’s when we moved to Los Angeles.
You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl. Rural life, living in nature, and spending so much time in a car traveling from one point to the next is not my cup of tea. In all honesty, the Riviera is quite a strong rival for my attention!
Notes and impressions…
* I spotted tubes of Biafine from France in a pharmacy for $35.99, what normally sells in France for about €5! For this reason, I bring them to my friends and family as gifts! And if you don’t know about the fantastic results of using Biafine daily…just Google it! I swear by it!
* The Hawaiian language uses a few major consonants, but is almost more vowel-laden than French! The alphabet only has 13 letters: the five vowels: a, e, i, o, u (each with a long pronunciation and a short one) and eight consonants: he, ke, la, mu, nu, pi, we, ʻokina (a glottal stop). I found it very tough to pronounce, but as long as you can say “aloha” (literally meaning “the presence of breath” or “breath of life, but really “hello”) and “mahalo” (“thank you”), it’s about all you need. The rest is just a challenge to pronounce correctly.
* There is the wealthy Maui and the “alternative” Maui. It’s obvious that a lot of people came to the island to escape whatever life they had before that they didn’t like, and just stayed. They are either doing some kind of business now or doing a lot of nothing. They are very casually dressed, haven’t cut their hair in a long time and are tan. These are the folks I call the “alternative” Maui. Then, there are the rich (and often the famous) who want to escape the life they have, but for only a short amount of time, just enough to get a reset and then they go back to their so-called “normal” lives. They own expensive real estate on the island, or can afford to rent whatever suits them. They are dressed very casually, but their labels tell the true story.
* Maui really is paradise. It’s a perfect example of how wealth can be used in a good way, to enhance nature, rather than destroy it. I am sure there are many who might disagree with me, but what I saw and experienced was a U.S. that fits my idea of what the U.S. should be, but isn’t really. Commercialism is minimal. For example, we had breakfast at Kihei Caffe, an outdoor kiosk that served up what they called a “Breakfast Skillet.” The guy at the counter looked at me like I was nuts when I asked for a coffee or juice or any kind of beverage. He didn’t sell any drinks, only the breakfast fare, and I had to go to a nearby coffee shack to get them. Go figure!?
* Everything is expensive…meals, real estate, clothing…nothing comes cheap. Be prepared to fork it over no matter what you do.
No matter, Maui is literally paradise on earth, as an escape or a way of life.
A la prochaine…
P.S. Don’t miss my insights on Hawaii real estate in the next edition of French Property Insider. If you’re not already, become a subscriber today!