Selah Lou Who goes to Helen for Christmas

For Selah’s very first Christmas in the continental United States, we decided to leave the continent and fly to Bavaria, Germany… well no, not really, but she’s not even two-years-old so we took her to Georgia instead. She didn’t know the difference.

Bavaria, Germany or Alpine Helen, GA?

Alpine HelenGeorgia only has a population of around 430 residents, yet it is the state’s third most visited city. If you visit this charming little town, you will see why it so good at packing a crowd. Helen is a recreated Bavarian Alpine village with the Chattahoochee River flowing gently through its center. Helen first began as a home to the Cherokee Indians before European settlers eventually arrived for the gold and the timber. When Selah Lou Who came to town, she was simply there to see Christmas.

Selah Lou Who likes to carry her own bags!
Selah Lou Who is ready to see Christmas in Helen
I’m pretty sure she knew Santa wasn’t real!
Downtown in Helen, GA
Go to Muller’s Fried Cheese Café for authentic German Cuisine!
Selah Lou Who waiting patiently with Mommy for our food to be served.
Daddy ordered the Pork Loin Cordon Bleu Schnitzel, potato salad, red cabbage, and kraut. It was köstlich …yum!!!
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Alpine Helen is one of the best places to see Christmas lights in the Southeastern U.S.A.
Selah Lou Who just loved the Christmas tree!
Mommy makes all my blog posts look better!
Visitors to Helen can take home that special souvenir from one of their many German-themed shops.
Gingerbread men proudly on display
One of many finely dressed yuletide displays
Unforunately this candy kitchen was closed for the night, but we would be sure to visit the very next day.
The Gourmet Shoppe in Helen offered free samples of the local wines.
At the Heidelberg you will find the most authentic sausage plates in town. The grub is great, the service is fantastic, and the beers are large and frosty!
The window all dressed up at Windmill Dutch Imports
Even mommies like Santa Claus!
After the Grinch made Selah Lou Who go to sleep, he enjoyed an adult beverage… or two!
Alpine Helen offers a phenomenal selection of imported German beers and is known for their annual Oktoberfest in September and October.
The Paulaner Salvator Double-Bock is a German-beer lover’s dream!
Selah Lou Who greets the sunshine behind the Hampton Inn in Helen.
This beautiful mountain stream ran right behind our hotel.
Jolly’s Toys in Helen, GA
Come stay in an authentic windmill suite at the Heidi Motel!
Inside of Charlemagne’s Kingdom you will find a massive Germany-themed model railroad exhibit complete with miniature villages, Alpine scenery & traditional music.
While strolling past this charming row of cottages, Selah Lou Who found herself a friend.
She was very disappointed when we didn’t take him home!
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After Selah Lou Who said goodbye to her four-legged friend, our trail led us into the beautiful Unicoi Park.
Selah Lou Who is still looking for that dog.
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The Alana Falls didn’t so much fall as it did trickle.
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She was very fond of the tulip girl with the wooden klompen (clogs).
Located along the river and right in the heart of downtown Helen, the Castle Inn is a romantic English-style inn with lots of character.
These Padlocks on the bridge reminded Rebecca and I of a wonderful trip we took to the real Germany.
Enjoying a frosty mug with this busty, headless fräulein!
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Shortly after that last picture was snapped, Rebecca abandoned me for this headless dude in lederhosen… what a jealous act of revenge!
…and now she’s flirting with the soldier while I am standing right there!
The only snowmen we found in Helen were all indoors.
Poor Frosty was melting!
You know we weren’t leaving town without first setting foot inside Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen!
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She said she has four teeth, plenty enough for a bite out of one of those delicious caramel apples!
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There was so much to choose from I didn’t know what to get. I ended up leaving with chocolate covered pretzels.
The owner of Tim’s Wooden Toys really knew how to make Selah crack a smile. He’s the closest thing to a real-life Geppetto in all of Georgia!
This nutcracker was taller than me…. as were the third-graders on the other side of the room.
We found wall to wall Santas in Betty’s Country Store
Father Christmas standing guard just outside the door
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Before leaving, we stopped at the Cafe International for the best reuben in town!
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Now she’s eyeing my sandwich like she wants to make a trade. I tried to tell her!
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Selah Lou Who, being not yet two, stuck with her trusty peanut butter sandwich squares.
It was tempting but daddy was driving home.
The heaters and plastic afforded us warm outdoor seating with a view of the river below.

After lunch, Selah Lou Who got buckled in all nice and cozy and napped most of the ride home. While she probably won’t remember much of our two-day bavarian getaway, her daddy and mommy sure will. Memories like these are what makes life precious, especially when they’re still full of so much innocence and wonder. Thank you for visiting my site and I hope your holidays are spent joyfully with family and friends.

Merry Christmas from Big John, Rebecca, and Selah Lou Who!

Happy travels,

Big John


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Fantastic Food Trucks and More Scenes from the North Shore

Anybody who has spent more than a few days on Oahu will tell you that some of the best food on the island is found at food trucks on the North Shore. These colorful restaurants on wheels first began springing up around Honolulu in the 1970s. Back then it was mainly burgers, hotdogs, and the traditional Asian cuisine. Now-a-days, a person can satisfy any cravings from zesty street tacos to wasabi-flavored poke bowls.

Some of the best food trucks on Oahu are found on the North Shore, directly across the street from Shark’s Cove.

If Rebecca and I had to pick a favorite mobile eatery it would definitely be Aji Limo Truck!

All of Aji’s dishes are made with the freshest local fish and organic produce bought from the nearby Pupukea Garden Farms.

Don’t worry, the beers were all mine! This little mommy always plays it safe and refrains from consuming raw fish or adult beverages.

This California inspired dish consisted of Sashimi, rice, avacados, and salad…. Yes, it was every bit as good as it looks!

Rebecca had the Thai poke (only she had them throw the fish on the grill to make her meal pregnancy-friendly). This tasty dish consisted of fresh salmon, mango, cilantro, crispy coconut and coconut sauce over rice and organic greens.

Our friend, Foghorn Leghorn, decided to show up for dinner unannounced. He’s lucky I had a little extra corn to spare!

This truly is my happy place!

If tacos are your thing than don’t go far. You’re not going to find anywhere better than North Shore Tacos.

North Shore Tacos offers shrimp, fish, chicken, beef, steak, pork, and even a vegetarian option as well… Yum!

For a little slice of heaven right on the North Shore, come visit Jerry’s Pizza! He also has some pretty amazing subs, salads and desserts.

 

Get your surf lessons and rentals at North Shores Surf Shop

Your momma warned you never to enter the water right after eating… but then again, your momma has probably never been to Hawaii’s North Shore!

Rebecca thought it would be fun to hide her baby-bump behind this purple Hawai sarong.

I would probably be the scariest mermaid you could ever meet at sea!

Cars line the strip in front of shark’s cove.

Shark’s Cove is a popular tourist site for snorkeling and it is fairly shallow. The water does get up to 20 feet at the cove’s mouth and many scuba divers explore the areas just outside the cove. A few caves can be found around the cove’s northwest point, and to a lesser extent to the south. The area to the left of the cove offers excellent night diving. The origin of the cove’s name is uncertain, but sharks are not any more common here than other places on Oahu.

Laniakea Beach in North Shore

Probably one of the best places to sea a Hawaiian green sea turtle basking in the sun is at Laniakea Beach.

The Hawaiian green sea turtles arrives onto Laniakea Beach most regularly around lunch time. The sea turtles and I share that in common, since lunch time is also my favorite time to visit the area. But regardless of whether you’re coming to surf, snorkel, chow down, or simply bask under a Hawaiian sun, there is never a really bad to to visit Oahu’s fabulous North Shore!

Mahalo and happy travels,

Big John


Posted in Adventurous Places, Great Dining, North America and tagged , , , by with 4 comments.

The Spirit of Aloha at Germaine’s Luau

Just recently, Rebecca and I had the pleasure of attending our first luau on the island of Oahu. Finding my knowledge of Hawaiian culture a bit lacking, I first read up a little on the history of these fascinating, food-centered events. It may be of interest to some to know that in ancient Hawaii, men and woman ate their meals completely apart. Furthermore, commoners and women of every social class were forbidden by the ancient Hawaiian religion to eat certain delicacies. When I first read this, I thought it made a whole lot of sense. The last time I had breakfast with Rebecca, she ate all of the blueberry waffles. I went to work that day with a cold hard-boiled egg and one of those crummy end-pieces of toast. If I had eaten first, or if she had been forbidden to eat such delicacies, I would have enjoyed a really tasty breakfast. I shared the idea with Rebecca just this morning, and for some reason I didn’t eat any breakfast, nor did I get any lunch.

Big John at Germaine’s Luau

Separate meals between the sexes continued all the way up until 1819, when King Kamehameha II finally abolished the practice by throwing a feast where both men and women could attend. The king’s symbolic act forever ended the religious food taboos on the islands and the Hawaiian luau was born. Had Rebecca been around back then, and the king had been forced to share waffles with her, it’s highly doubtful that he would have been in such a festive mood. For that reason alone, I hope the Hawaiian people are truly thankful that Rebecca did not come to share a meal with them until some 200 years after the food ban was lifted…. and also thankful they weren’t serving any blueberry waffles.

Rebecca is all smiles at Germaine’s!

Rebecca smiles for the camera, oblivious to the fact that if history had been any different, she could have easily destroyed the luau that so many have come to know and love!

Germaine’s Luau is located next to Barber’s Point lighthouse on the west side of Oahu.

Far removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Waikiki, Germaine’s location is both beautiful and serene. Visitors to Germaine’s Luau can experience all the tradition of a luau and capture much of the essence of that old Hawaiian culture.

A fisherman casts his net near the beachfront property of Germaine’s Luau.

 

Germaine’s Luaua is a family run event.

To ensure that the family would be forever united and always remain Keiki o Ka ‘Aina (children of the land), an individual coconut tree was planted for each member of the Stephenson family throughout the property.

Rebecca stands in line to use the ladies room…. Joking! It’s just a hut that people probably don’t use the restroom in.

Many may not know my former title as “Outrigger King of the Pacific”. I try not to talk about it much because I don’t want all of that publicity and fanfare.

This kid had some real skills working the luau fire dance…. I taught him everything he knows.

 

A pretty hula dancer at Germaine’s Luau

Here is a helpful piece of information for all you ladies coming over from the mainland. A flower worn on the right side of your head means you’re available. A flower worn on your left side, or closest to your heart, means that you are spoken for.  When Rebecca heard about this she said that it was always nice to have options… joking!

The strength and beauty of Polynesian culture on full display at Germaine’s Luau.

 

Two strong men pull the roasted pig from the imu, or underground oven.

The word kālua, which literally means “to cook in an underground oven”, is used to describe the way in which the pig is prepared at luaus. The word Luau, in Hawaiian is actually the name of the taro leaf, which when steamed for a few hours, resembles cooked spinach. The traditional luau was eaten on a floor of mats woven together by the leaves of the hala tree.

Traditionally, a hardwood fire is built inside a pit large enough to contain the food being cooked. Large stones and vegetation are than used to cover the food. Stones are placed on top of the fire in the pit, taking around 2-3 hours to reach their maximum temperature. Special care is made in the selection of stones to ensure they contain very little moisture. It could become vey dangerous if stones exploded from the steam during the intense heating process.

Once the stones become extremely hot, they are spread out over the coals and the pit is lined with vegetation such as banana trees that have been pounded out to make them pliable. Sometimes these hot stones are also be placed inside the body cavity of the pig to ensure the meat is fully cooked. The end result will be some of the best pork you ever tasted! Don’t take my word for it though, you need to experience a luau for yourself.

Do you even lift, bruh?

 

A luau is more than just a feast, it is a culturally-themed party with magnificent pageantry. 

 

The food at Germaine’s is fantastic!

All though Germaine’s advertises themselves as being an all-you-can-eat buffet, I could only manage one really big plate of food. Of course I had a healthy portion of the kalua pork, then I tried a little poi, some Hawaiian sweet rolls, rice, Lomilomi salmon, Haupia (coconut pudding), island fish, fresh pineapple, teriyaki beef, pineapple slaw, green salad (I’m dieting), Hawaiian Pulehu chicken, potato-mac salad, chocolate cake… and beer.

Once the sky goes dark the show really begins to heat up!

 

The Tahitian and Samoan dancers really bring out that warrior spirit! 

 

From the allure of the hukilau hula to the thrill of the blazing fireknife dance, the entertainment of Germaine’s was something we will never forget!

 

The one thing I loved most about Germaine’s Luau was their abundance of “Aloha” spirit.  The Hawaiian word Aloha means many things to include love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy. To participate in a luau, and share that experience with ohana (family), is what the word aloha is all about. Thank you for visiting Big John’s Adventures in Travel and please feel free to explore more of my site.

Mahalo and happy travels,

Big John


Posted in Great Dining, North America and tagged , , by with 1 comment.
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