Friday, September 20, 2013

Aloha!

We have just returned from a vacation that was on Linda's "bucket list", that is, to Hawaii! Had a great time in Hawaii but, for me, not so much the traveling. We did make that part of it a little less painful by flying out of and returning to Shenandoah Valley Airport just outside of Weyers Cave. It saved our driving to or being shuttled to (very early in the morning) a more distant airport and also the parking fees. Staff and TSA agents were friendly and got their respective jobs done.

Leaving home the morning of 10 September, our flight out took us from Shenandoah Valley Airport to Dulles to Denver and then Honolulu on the island of Oahu where we arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon of the day we left due to the 6 hour time difference despite our approximately 14-hour travel time. We stayed at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort right across the street from the world famous Waikiki Beach. Dinner was on our own which was all well and good. We went exploring and found a local seafood/Chinese restaurant, The Seafood Village, just a short walk up Kalakaua Avenue. I had Mapo Tofu and Nana had potstickers and General Tso's chicken. Very good. Then we walked back to the hotel and crawled into bed at about 7:30 local time or about 1:30 AM on the 11th at home. We were both very tired and and slept right through to about 6:30 local time. By the way, the beds at the Marriott were the best of the whole trip. Both of us slept well and had no aches or pains in the morning.

The next morning (Wednesday, 11 September) we got up and I went down to Seattle's Best (located in the hotel) for Nana's breakfast sandwich and coffee and my blueberry muffin. The food was excellent but the cost (and you should be prepared for this if you go to Hawaii, especially in tourist venues, was $15+. Our guide and bus driver for the day was "Cousin" Dave. The next item on the agenda was a trip to the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and a tour of Honolulu.Most of us thought it appropriate to visit this memorial on the 12th anniversary of 9-11. We did not have the opportunity to go to Ford Island and visit the USS Missouri nor did I have time to do more than walk over to and see the outside of the USS Bowfin. We did get to visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific aka the Punchbowl. Unfortunately we were on a bus and busses are not permitted to stop, literally, on the grounds although they can drive through really slowly. This meant that we could not get out and pay our respects even though I have a 7th cousin 3-times removed, Clayton Ellsworth Gee, interred there. Lunch was at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in the Aloha Tower Marketplace. My pre-ordered meal was the Mahi-mahi which turned out to be grilled mahi-mahi (dolphin, the fish, not the mammal) in a sandwich. I did not eat the sandwich entire but the grilled fish was delicious! Free refills on sodas as well (not so everywhere, so ask).

We had that night's dinner at the hotel and it was very good. I think that they have a standard schedule and our chosen night was the prime rib buffet. I had a couple of slices of prime rib and the teriyaki beef with rice. An excellent meal! Nana and I went for a stroll on the beach but since I had quite a bit of sand on my feet even after washing them off at the beach shower I chose to walk back to the hotel barefoot. Nobody gave me a second look. If you had seen the "fashions" in evidence you'd understand why. Then it was another early night, we were tired and jet lagged.

Thursday, 12 September, saw us up bright and early. Was this going to be the pattern for the whole vacation? Seemed so. We had breakfast in the hotel, a buffet, with a 3-egg ham and cheese omelet to start the festivities. We didn't have anything in the morning so I walked down Paoakolani Avenue to the canal that parallels Ala Wai Boulevard and watched some outrigger canoe paddlers practice. Then I walked back to the hotel for our excursion to the Polynesian Cultural Center. This interesting semi-commercial venture inlcudes various cultural exhibits and demonstrations for the various Polynesian communities as well as dinner, either a luau or an American style buffet. Our guide for this excursion was "Cousin Jay" from Samoa.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is located next door to the Brigham Young University - Hawaii and Church of Latter Day Saints Temple in Hawaii. A short ride over to the BYU- Hawaii visitors' center is available. We took advantage and went for a look see. As usual there is a bit of proselytizing which is to be expected but as always one is struck with the beauty and neatness of the grounds. The young people, be they from the Marshall Islands, South Korea or Kentucky were very pleasant and fun to talk to.

Dinner at the Polynesian Cultural Center, we had the American style buffet by way of a misunderstanding in the purchase of our tickets, was excellent and followed by a show which told the story of a Polynesian boy's life at the end of which was a fire-knife show. Everybody loves that part. Then it was back on the bus and to the hotel at about 10:30. One had multiple opportunities to purchase a bowl of ice-cream for $5.00. Nana had one and she said it was excellent.

Friday the 13th, an auspicious day to travel, saw us up and at 'em for our flight to Kauai and our next hotel, the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort. Very nice, on the beach (although a very narrow beach adjoining the hotel property) with 3 fresh water pools and 1 salt water pool, a 60-foot slide (mostly used by the kids) and an excellent restaurant as well as a gift shop and bar/lounge. The place is large and some of the units are owned, sort of like a time-share. VERY nice. Our first day here we took a tour of the island including the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon and had lunch at Kilohana Plantation. Dinner was a pizza party at the hotel. Pretty good pizza, excellent service, and a fun way to end the day.

Kauai is interesting in that it seems much more laid back. The chickens here are everywhere. We had a rooster that crowed outside our window and then would move down the line of rooms to, apparently, act as the wake-up call for the hotel. They aren't afraid of people either. Just as the local doves would do, these chickens would wander around by your feet and under your chair at the oddest moments. You see, all the restaurants have open windows and doors and at the ground floor it was pretty common to have birds all around.

Saturday, the 14th and we had a whole day on our own here which we chose to use resting by, in, or near the pool(s). Not very eventful, but VERY enjoyable. Nana got in the water, too!

Sunday morning and we were on the "road" again headed for Maui. After we landed we picked up our guide, Karen, and off we went to the Maui Ocean Center. We had an excellent lunch, fish and chips, in their restaurant overlooking a marina and the ocean. Our next stop was Lahaina which, due to the presence of a cruise ship, had a craft fair underneath their famous banyan tree. Although whale watching boats operate out of Lahaina, this is not the season for whales which are currently feeding in Alaskan waters so we did not get to do any whale watching. We were finally able to check in at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Maui in the Ka'anapali area. There are a number of rather nice (an understatement, the Hyatt is gorgeous) hotels/resorts/time-shares operating here connected by a beach side sidewalk and a land side of the hotel road way.

Our first meal was at the Umalu. Several in our party had a bit of shock at the price, e.g. $17 for a cheeseburger, but the food was good and we were rather full from our rather large fish and chips lunch.

We started Monday the 16th off with breakfast buffet at Swans Court. That was excellent. From the ham and cheese omelet to the croissants, muffins and, as it was everywhere in Hawaii, the fantastic fresh pineapple and cantaloupe, this was a great breakfast. Then Nana and I hopped the inter-hotel trolley to Whalers Village. Aside from the usual clothing and jewelry stores, there's a whaling museum which is fairly nice and includes a forecastle of a whaling ship. Whaling was a big thing here for quite a while and re-supplying the ships was big business in the area hence the museum. There are a number of whale "models" throughout and a whale skeleton at the entrance.

We took the inter-hotel/resort trolley to Whalers' Village we caught the bus for Lahaina. Nana wanted to find a Hawaiian dress and look around at all the stuff we'd missed in our short visit the first time. Had a good time. I wandered around the wharf area and got a good look at a swordfish that had been brought in. Also walked down behind the school and watched locals surfing. (NOTE: Hawaii is year-round school) Then I walked back over to where Nana was and we walked down the block to Cheeseburger in Paradise for lunch. Good food and cheaper than the hotel. This is NOT the Jimmy Buffet owned chain of restaurants. We continued down Front Street to the Hardrock Cafe and caught the bus back to Whalers' Village.

A hint. The bus costs $2.50 (exact change) per ride. Day passes are $4.00. Want to ride out and back? Buy a day pass and save at least $1.00. Go someplace else or get on and off along the route and you can save much more. Good deal.

Tuesday was another day of fun and frolic on our own. After another sumptuous breakfast and a bit of time to let it settle we walked down the trail along the beach to Whalers' Village and Nana had another go at the shops. Then we took the trolley back to the Hyatt. Then we lolled around the hotel. Relaxed and enjoyed. That evening was our luau. It could have been better, it could have been worse, it was our first luau though so we can hardly be considered experts. The food was good, the dancing was entertaining and educational, and the fire knife show was awesome.

video

Our last day in Hawaii was Wednesday, 18 September. We got up, bags in the hall by 10 AM, on the bus/coach at 11:30 and down the road to Lahaina for more shopping. Nana had lunch at the Burger King (yeah, I know, Aunt Deanna laughed out loud at that). I went through the museum in the old town hall and we wandered around a bit. Then it was back on the bus and off for the Plantation Tour. That was interesting but it is set up for the tourists. Somehow I thought the pineapple plants were bigger, learned something there. Then it was a bit of a look about before dinner at _______. We had pre-ordered the steak. It was good. Dessert was macadamia nut pie which was like pecan pie, really a tart in size. As you know, I don't eat nuts but even Nana was not impressed.

Then it was off to the airport, through the agricultural inspection, checking bags, security, another agricultural inspection and onto the plane for our long, long flight home.

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