My wife and I share a love for travel. We look forward to many more adventures in the future!

Here are some travel journal entries we had on our Shutterfly site which was taken down.

 

Italy, 2018

September 27 to October 5 to celebrate Christy's birthday. We fly to Milan Malpensa and rented a Peugeot 308 SW. We visited Meina and Lago Maggiore, Ceresole Reale and Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, Coassolo Torinese, Mezzenile, Bogliasco, Cinque Terre, and Oleggio.

 

Hawaii 2012

By Christy Thomas September 16, 2012

We enjoyed nine beautiful days in Hawaii (and one extra forced upon us by United Airlines - which was also beautiful but a bit more difficult to enjoy in our sleep-deprived state). This was my first time to the big island; Scott's second. My first experience of Hawaii was our trip to Maui a few years ago - which we both loved.

Once again, we found a very nice studio with a full kitchen through one of our favorite travel websites (vrbo.com). Our hosts, Ann and Nanette were extraordinary.  They provided expert advice on where to go, park, eat, shop, snorkel, and spend time with sea turtles. Their place was very clean and comfortable. We enjoyed spending time on the lanai with a view of the lovely garden in which they have invested a lot of time and energy and from which we enjoyed fresh papaya and figs during our stay. The kitchen was amazingly well appointed and we had fun cooking with fresh fish, vegetables and fruits from the many farmer's markets.

One wonderful thing about Hawaii, is that all beaches are public. What this means is that people like us can have access to the beautiful beaches where amazing (and amazingly expensive) resorts are built.  Scott loved the beach at Mauna Kea Resort - soft sand, crystal clear water bookended with black lava rock and palm trees.  My favorite beach was near the Four Seasons Resort where numerous sea turtles came to rest on the beach and play in the calm waters of the quiet cove. (I apologize for the ridiculous number of sea turtle pictures - I just love those guys...and, believe it or not, spared you from several dozen additional pictures of sea turtles that look unsurprisingly similar to the ones that are in our photos album).

There was a beach South of Kona called Two Steps. Apparently, at times, dolphins use the cove as their bedroom and you can see them in the morning playing in the water close to shore.  They sadly were not there the day we went, but what was there was some amazing snorkeling. The lava has formed two steps down into the deep water where fairly new coral is growing. The reef had been damaged by a tsunami a few decades ago, but now colorful coral of lots of shapes provide a home for bright, beautiful fish - who seem so accustomed to being viewed by snorkelers at times they seemed to be posing for photos.

On our trip back, we stopped at a Japanese restaurant that has been family run for over a hundred years. Scott learned of the place when he happened upon a man with a Hawaii shirt on his run the morning we left San Antonio. It was a great recommendation and we enjoyed a fantastic lunch there.

One of the great things about the big island (the tallest mountain in the world) is the different types of terrain all on one island.  Beds of lava, rolling green hills, seaside cliffs, rain forest, and, of course, an active volcano.  We went to the crater on the day of the release of the USA quarter on which the amazing Kilauea volcano is featured (which meant free entry to the park!). Scott collects these quarters and was able to get a roll of them at the volcano on the release day - a geekily exciting coincidence. Unfortunately it was cloudy and raining while we were there, so the pictures are not very good.  You could see plumes of steam escaping from the crater and, we were treated to a rainbow in the crater just before we left.

Earlier that day, we enjoyed a wet but wonderful visit to the Botanical Garden. SO. MANY. ORCHIDS!  : )   It was a beautiful place which is, regrettably, home to about seven billion mosquitoes! Scott indulged my need to see EVERYTHING there while we both served as succulent mosquito food.  Given the number of visits I endured to the local breweries, I figured I'd earned it.

Later that same day, we went to Mauna Kea - where the summit hosts one of the best observatories in the world. Our rental car was not four-wheel drive, so we could not go up to the summit - however, we stopped at the visitor's center and watched a film about the observatory that also provided education on what this mountain means to the locals.  It is a sacred place for them and there has been some controversy about the use of the summit for scientific pursuits.  For now, it seems both sides have found a compromise that works.  It cleared up a bit after sunset and telescopes were set up at the visitor's center. We got to see the moon in extreme detail and were treated to a clear and beautiful view of Saturn and its rings. 

We really enjoyed the lovely town of Waimea. Big Island Brewhaus produces some delicious beer here and has fairly decent Mexican cuisine.  The people were friendly (as they were nearly everywhere on the island) and Scott was quite a fan of their IPA. There are also lots of art galleries in this quaint town nestled in beautiful green, rolling hills dotted with "happy cows"...or, at least, I believed those cows had to be enjoying life far more than those who "grazed" in the nearly barren lava fields.

One of the highlights for me (in addition to the plethora of sea turtles I got to see) was the hike we took on the North end of the island to a breathtaking beach at Pololu Valley. The water is rough here (so no swimming), but SO beautiful.  We packed a lunch and ate it in the peaceful valley, then enjoyed the view. I could have sat on the beach there all day - listening to the waves crashing and feeling the ocean breeze.

In addition, we went to a coffee co-op, Akaka Falls, a macadamia nut farm/factory (where they had Spam flavored nuts...you will have to ask Scott how they tasted, I was not interested), Volcano Winery, and we toured the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation and learned a great deal about coffee. I was enamored with the mongooses (mongeese?) we caught glimpses of here and there and the various lizards we saw. The contrast of the impossibly blue water with the black lava, the wild orchids, the friendly locals, the great sushi, Manny the friendly bartender at Quinn's Almost by the Sea...so many great experiences, so much beauty that I've nearly forgotten our return flight was cancelled and we got back 20 hours later than we planned. The risk of travel...I'd say well worth the hassles and delays. We both returned to "reality" well-rested and relaxed.  Aloha.

 

Hawaii 2010

By Christy Thomas October 6, 2010

We had a wonderfully relaxing time in Hawaii!  Beautiful beaches, clear water, good snorkeling, sea turtles, great sushi - what's not to love?  Sorry for the ridiculous number of pictures - we seem unable to restrain ourselves and incapable of editing.

We rented a condo that we found through www.vrbo.com.  It cost quite a bit less than a hotel room and having a full kitchen meant saving on meals thanks to multiple visits to Safeway (where, fortunately, they sold Maui Brewing Co beer!).  The condo was on the water (no beach, but beautiful view, ocean breeze and the sound of the surf).

We didn't always cook our meals, we had two really great meals out - one at Mama's Fish House - with the most gorgeous view of beautiful blue water and lava rocks - the other at Sansai where we had the best sushi ever.  And we stopped in a few times to sample Maui Brewing Co beer that was not available at Safeway.

Scott completed his SIXTH full marathon and I wogged (walked/jogged) my second half marathon.  The course was beautiful (obviously, we didn't see any spots on Maui that were not beautiful) and in spite of the heat and wind we both crossed the finish line!

We went to many, many beaches - all beautiful in their own way. We also took the narrow, winding road all the way around West Maui - gorgeous scenery everywhere and the famous Road to Hana (also narrow, winding and gorgeous).

In addition we visited the Haleakala Volcano for sunset. It is famous for amazing sunrise experiences, but I am not a morning person and we read it would be less crowded for sunset.  Besides, Scott had already seen the sun rise there when he visited Maui years ago.  We were very happy with the decision.  It was an amazing experience and it was not crowded at all.  You can see from the pictures that the multiple craters look somewhat like Mars, you are above the clouds as the sun goes down.   

The highlight of the trip for me was swimming with sea turtles - they are SO cute!  There are some photos of me doing my sea turtle impersonation - for some reason I found this hilarious.  Snorkeling was good there (except for the nasty fall I took on some slippery rocks one morning - which happened to be the day before the half marathon). 

Hope you enjoy our pictures - we look forward to sharing our next adventure...

 

Europe - It's the little things

By Scott Pleyte March 13, 2010

I was fortunate to be able to travel to Europe twice during the past year. I highly recommend every American do it at least once and to see as many countries as possible when you are there. It's an extremely educational and interesting experience. Of course Europe is known as "the Old World" to us Americans, and yes buildings, bridges, art, etc. are all much older than in the US so there is a lot of history to encounter. But what I really love about Europe are the little things. Cobblestone sidewalks and roads that are probably hundreds of years old, the scarcity of valuable ice cubes, excellent food and lots of open air cafes, friendly people, tons of cultures within close proximity of each other, everyone speaks several different languages, beer taps are kept chilled so you always get the perfect pour, the proud display of flower boxes on window sills and meticulous landscaping, people are more relaxed and happy probably because they work less and have more vacation time or maybe because wine is an integral part of life, smaller cars, smaller roads, smaller houses, smaller portions, people walk around and enjoy the outdoors more, everyone travels and the country-side and scenery are beautiful as you drive from big cities to quaint villages. Those are just a few of the little things that are great about Europe. I hope to visit Europe again sometime soon and I hope you do too!

 

Wedding Story

By Christy Thomas January 10, 2010

We arrived in the Seychelles the morning of December 28, 2009 (following a nearly 10 hour flight from Paris).  We were greeted at the airport on Praslin (the island on which we stayed) by Cindy, an employee of the Seychelles Tourism Board.  She escorted us to her office at the airport and said she was going to help us finalize our wedding plans. 

Cindy called someone at the resort and spoke to them, taking notes while they spoke - the resort was now willing to host our wedding (we had been told they did not do weddings during the holiday season as it is a busy time for them).  However, to have our wedding there we would need to purchase a wedding package which included many "extras" we were not interested in having and was quite expensive.  We declined their offer, and told Cindy that we had already sent our documents to the Civil Status Office (i.e., Seychelles courthouse) and planned to marry there.  Cindy, a very expressive and, apparently, very romantic woman said incredulously, "but it is just a plain room - an ugly building, four white walls...you do not want to get married there!"  We assured her that the trip itself was the exotic/romantic part of our wedding and that we were fine with a courthouse ceremony.  I expressed my desire to have flowers on my wedding day, but, other than that, we both felt that a simple ceremony at the Civil Status Office would be just fine.

Cindy called a florist and spoke to her in their native Creole.  She asked if I wanted pink or yellow flowers...and continued talking with the florist for some time.  She hung up the phone and told us that the florist agreed to provide flowers for us at no charge.  She went on to say that she would be taking care of everything and that we would have our ceremony on the beach.  "But we can't," I said, "we read that we can't have a ceremony on a public beach."  She said, "That's true, you can't, but there are many beaches here - my house is on a beach and I have many family members, all of whom live on beaches."  Cindy explained that she had been married a little over a year ago and that she wanted us to have a wedding day in "her Seychelles" that we would always remember.  She told us to be ready at 4:30 pm on our chosen date, December 30th - she would pick us up and take us to the location which she would have prepared for us.  Although we continued to protest, I fought back tears at the open, enthusiastic, giving nature of this stranger - who was clearly a hopeless romantic.

There was a lot of rain Monday and Tuesday of that week.  When we got up Wednesday morning, I looked outside to check the status of the skies - it wasn't raining - there were some clouds - and a beautiful rainbow.  The morning was fairly clear...but around noon, the clouds rolled in....and it rained....it didn't just rain, it POURED (see pictures taken from the veranda of our chalet).  Cindy called around 3:00 pm and said she wanted to let me know that she set things up beneath a shelter behind her husband's great aunt's home with a view of the beach. She said that everything was set and she would see us at 4:30.

We shared an umbrella and waded through the "lake" outside our chalet to reach the reception area of our resort where Cindy was waiting for us.  She had a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me and a matching boutonni√®re for Scott. She was excited and she explained that she would be stopping to pick up the Registrar, Mr. Moses, on the way.  She made a few phone calls as we rode through the rain which was, surprisingly, letting up a bit.  Cindy and Mr. Moses told us that rain on your wedding day is a sign of good luck - a blessing on your marriage.

We arrived and were greeted by Cindy's husband and several other family members, including Cindy's two children, her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law (who was a very enthusiastic invitee - see picture).  Beneath what looked like a carport were flowers and palm fronds (in the shape of a heart), a table with champagne and glasses, two covered chairs, connected by silver tinsel where we were to sit during the ceremony, and a view behind us of the beautiful Indian Ocean. 

Cindy approached me with a tiara in her hands - "I wore this in my wedding," she said, "and would love it if you would wear it in yours."  Well, those of you who know me are well aware that tiaras aren't really my thing - but who could say "No" to this wonderfully generous woman who seemed to be playing the role of my own fairy godmother. I, of course, said yes and smiled broadly and genuinely as she placed it on my head.

She and her sister-in-law hummed the wedding march for me as I walked to the table to join Scott and the registrar for the ceremony.  The ceremony was simple and beautiful and I surprised myself by getting pretty choked up.  Cindy and her husband served as our witnesses and the other invitees stood respectfully back while we exchanged vows and rings and were pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Pleyte.

The rain had stopped and the sun was making a bit of an appearance before setting - so we popped the cork on our champagne and walked onto the beach for some pictures.  Mr. Moses, the officiant of the ceremony, collected the wire and champagne cork and placed a Seychelles Rupee in the cork (held on by the wires), on it he wrote the date of our wedding and presented it to us for good luck.  Cindy pointed to the two propeller airplane coming in for a landing over our heads - your cake is on that plane, she said - it had missed the earlier flight and her husband left to pick it up while we took more photos.  We shared cake and champagne with our host family and thanked Cindy's great aunt-in-law for allowing us the use of her home for our special day.

Though this was not the wedding we had anticipated or planned - it was better than we could have imagined!  To have our marriage begin with such generosity and kindness from strangers - feels like a wonderful omen to me.  Cindy was our volunteer wedding planner, decorator, music, photographer, chauffeur, and witness.  We are very grateful to her for her generosity and romantic spirit.  She is a great (albeit extreme) example of the kindness and welcoming spirit of Seychelles people.  We hope to return for a second honeymoon at some point in the future.  It is a long, LONG way away - but SO beautiful!

 

TRAVEL