Saturday, January 27, 2007




I like San Francisco!

It's a city with a human dimension and it looks a bit like Lisbon, the city where I live. Of course, San Francisco was not conquered from the Moors on October 25, 1147, after 428 years of Arabian occupation, and cannot claim over 20 centuries of History. And you cannot hear Fado music there.

But it has several hills, trams and the San Francisco Sound, with Jefferson Airplane, Santana and others!

To make it more alike, we even copied the Golden Gate to build the first Lisbon Bridge over the Tagus River, inaugurated on August 6, 1966. With a main span of 1,013 m (Golden Gate 1280m) and measuring 2,278 m from the south to the north anchorage (Golden Gate has 1,966 m of suspension span including main span and side spans), the Lisbon bridge was the longest in Europe and included the world's longest continuous truss. The caisson foundation at the south tower, embedded in rock 79 m below water, is the world's deepest bridge foundation.

It seems that San Francisco also likes me. The first time we were there in 1982, the temperature reached record highs, just to contradict the joke credited to Mark Twain, but not confirmed: «the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco». When we got back in 1993, the weather was also perfect. And finally - it’s incredible, more than ten years passed since the last time I was there – in 1996 I can’t complain, though the fog was present on the Bay, for the first time during my visits. The only annoyance was that sometimes we could not see the Golden Gate Bridge from our room at the upper floors of the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel, Number One, Nob (from the Hindustani word naváb, plural of nayab - viceroy - or nawwab that also generated the Portuguese word nababo) Hill...

"BAY, FOG, SEAGULLS in a sunny blue sky: San Francisco at its best..."

"GHIRARDELLI SQUARE - Come in! The site was home, over a century ago, to the Ghirardelli Family's chocolate factory. It seems that everything started with Domenico Ghirardelli, who was born in Rapallo, Italy, in 1817, and started learning about chocolate at the age of 20. By 1893 his sons purchased a property by the Bay and started to construct the buildings: Chocolate in 1899, Cocoa in 1900, Clock Tower in 1911 and Power House in 1915. Ghirardelli Square was born!"

"RESTAURANTS, SHOPS - Today you still can eat, drink and buy chocolate at Ghirarderlli Square, but there is much more to do..."

"VIEWS - When you're tired of shopping and eating, you can always enjoy the views"

"THE ROCK, a small island located in the middle of the Bay, saw a lighthouse to function there from the summer of 1853 until it was torn down in 1909. It also saw a military fortification since 1850. But it only became world famous when the United States Department of Justice acquired the barracks in 1933, and transformed it in a federal prison in August 1934 - ALCATRAZ! It was used until 1963 and hosted some notable criminals as Al Capone, the same of the «best American sound film», so it was named by Jean-Luc Godard in Cahiers du Cinéma: «Scarface» directed by Howard Hawks in 1932! «Don't call me Scarface; I'm Capone, C, A, P, O, N, E, Capone...» I don't remember whether this is a quote from Hawks' film, but I perfectly memorized the scene, seen probably some thirty years ago..."

"SHIP at the San Francisco Maritime National Park, I think. Today is a maybe day..."

"SKYLINE - San Francisco skyline is unmistakable: the Transamerica building on the left and the Nob Hill skyscrapers in the middle cannot be missed; but the Roy Lichtenstein swatch that goes pretty well with Guida's pull also deserves to be mentioned..."

"PARK - Maybe Fort Mason Gardens..."

"CABLE CAR - The best way to go uphill"

"THE CANNERY, the former site of a Del Monte's Plant, was once the world's largest place in the world where peach was canned; today, is another marketplace, modeled after old European piazzas, featuring shops and restaurants, and even a jazz club"

"FISHERMAN'S WHARF - Said to be San Francisco most popular destination. I remember a seafood meal at Alioto's: crab, shrimps, seafood risotto were perfectly acceptable, though the risotto was not so good as mine «shrimp and aspargus»!"

"WAX MUSEUM -Madame Tussaud in the West Coast..."

"BUS disguised as cable car"

"PIER 39 - More than 110 stores, 13 Bay view restaurants, sea lions, street performers, there is always something for everyone, so says the publicity..."

"SEA LIONS - There are hundreds of sea lions basking in the sun. They rest at the marina near Pier 39 and are a big tourist attraction"

Saturday, January 20, 2007



The CONDE NAST TRAVELER magazine organizes an annual Readers’ Choice Awards Poll. 2006 was the nineteenth year of the contest and Maui, for the sixteenth straight year, was voted «Best Pacific Island». With a score of 90.2, Maui captured the «Top Pacific Rim Island» category scoring higher than runner-up Kauai (88.4) and third place Moorea (84.7), two other fantastic spots. The title of «Best Island in the World» went to the Maldives this year (have to go there to check why), and it was the first time that Maui has not captured that title since the awards began.
Anyhow, there were many good reasons to love Maui when we went there, and it seems that many of them still remain...



"HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK - One possibility is to wake up in the middle of the night and drive uphill to see the sun rising. However, that would require a bit too much stamina, so we decided to get there a bit later..."

"THE PEAK of Haleakala volcano, at 3055 m above sea level, is the highest point on Maui, the third-highest point in the state of Hawaii"

"VOLCANO - The easily-accessible summit of the Haleakala volcano is a terrific experience. The landscape is deeply sculpted and richly coloured, and there are lots of alternative programmes to enjoy: from a few minutes looking for native birds in the bush land to hours hiking in the ashes desert, always surrounded by native Hawaiian plants and animals""

"NATIONAL PARK HEADQUARTER stop, on the way down..."

"TEDESCHI VINEYARDS at Ulupalakua Ranch: Fine wines grown in the tropics, so they say..."



"WAILEA BEACH, located on Maui’s sunny South Shore, is a large and wide golden sand beach. The relatively flat beach is great for sunbathing and, being protected on both ends, the calm waters are ideal for swimming. It's the finest beach and has the driest and sunniest weather in Maui. It seems to provide an exceptional whale watching vantage point from December through April, though I've never been there during the season! Anyhow, it does not match the best Algarve's beaches..."

"THE FOUR SEASONS - Wailea is full of resorts, maybe a bit too much crowded. The Four Seasons, however, is a superb spot. They say they have «the Island’s most spacious guest rooms» and the most «gracious service» and it's probably true. As far as the «luxuriant gardens», that can be easily confirmed. And Wailea’s crescent of Pacific blue is just nearby: «fresh water? cool towel? Evian spritz? Miss»"

"PASHA STYLE at the poolside cabanas"


Saturday, January 06, 2007



The Road to Hana is a classic of Maui's visit. It is said to be a trip back in time to the old style Hawaii and the way to see the most spectacular scenery found anywhere in the Hawaiian islands, as well as some of the most beautiful tropical rainforests available on Earth. However, it is not a piece of cake to get there, as one has to face a long and winding 53 miles road from Kahului Airport, with over 600 bumpy twisting turns and 50 one-lane bridges... So, be prepared to take your time, as it usually takes about three hours to make the drive, depending on how often you stop. There are also some tips for drivers: leave as early as you can, with a full tank of gas; bring some food and plenty of film; plan a whole day trip, and there you are; unless the reconstruction, which seems to have started in 1999, just ended with the thrill...

"PUOHOKAMOA FALLS - One compulsory stop is for the Puohokamoa (what a name) Falls. The visit to the botanical Garden of Eden is a matter of choice..."

"BEACH - I love this photo!"

"HANA HIGHWAY - Further to the blue sea and the lovely girls, one can see the curves of the Hana Highway on the other side of the sea..."

"FIELS - Farming is still important for many people on Maui, so we'll find on our way the pineapple fields of Haiku, and the taro (or kalo as it is called in Hawaiian) fields of Keanae. Taro is a starchy root vegetable, and is used to make poi which one usually gets at a luau"

"NEAR WAILUA - Lush tropical rain forests with an astounding variety of exotic flora meets you on the way"

"POOL - We have seen many beautiful waterfalls, and fresh water pools, so we took a swim in, and it was delicious..."

"SEVEN SACRED POOLS - Some 45 minutes from Hana down the road one reaches Oheo Gulch, better known as the "Seven Sacred Pools". It's definitely worth going there. The pools are located in Haleakala National Park, which means that we are almost on the other side, close to Makena and Wailea. The point is that the connection, if any, was not an easy one, so the return had to be made the same way. Anyhow, it was a great swim..."

"OHEO BRIDGE - Upstream, over the ravine"

"WAIANAPANAPA - Just after Hana town, on the way back, is the Wainapanapa State Park with its wonderful black sand beach and some small caves. Swimming here, however, is not recommended for the average swimmers, as the currents are very strong"

"RETURN at sunset"