Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hawaii - Oahu! Final days...

With only a couple days left of our "Islands Vacation" it was time to hit the beach - Waikiki! Jack had never been to Oahu, so, of course had never seen the "famous beach", a must see, if your ever going to Honolulu!  I had only received one request for a souvenir, and that was from my son Aaron, who is a fan of Spam.  He asked for a Spam T shirt.  I had looked for one on the Big Island without success, but hadn't fret over it, thinking that Oahu would really be the island that would have it anyway.  I had shared with Susan that I was on the lookout for one, and that put her "on it!"  Everywhere we went, we asked sales folks for it.  Each one shook their heads, but would make suggestions as to where we might try finding one.  We had first tried the Flea Market (no luck) then many shops all along Waikiki.  While we didn't find the T shirt, we did enjoy the shopping and sightseeing, stopping for a drink at the famous Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  Jack even learned the difference between a $500 Panama hat and a $15,000 Panama hat...smooth as a piece of silk... The sights were fun too, everything from a lady walking her 8 dogs, to a Tiki carver, to a man playing a didgeridoo, to the variety of surfboard lockers, upscale hotels, restaurants, sand, surf and bikini clad babes!  Wonderful!





Our evenings were fun-filled as well.  Susan & Miles volunteer as ushers at the local theater and managed to snag us a couple of tickets in time before they were all sold out, so we got to see a wonderful performance of "Rent" while we were there.  They are also on the "inside track" of a local jam session that's been going on for about 20+ years in a woman's home.  Her husband used to play in a band, and she converted her attic into a wonderful lounge complete with a few tables and chairs, an area for the band, a small kitchenette for punch & coffee and hosts musicians and guests on Thursday and Sunday afternoon/evenings.  She's quite old now, and her husband has passed away, so her son has continued their tradition and wonderful local artists come and grace their home with their music.  We enjoyed listening to some terrific jazz and a great vocalist for several hours one sunny afternoon.  Afterwards they took us to an "old style" Tiki restaurant, La Mariana Sailing Club for some nostalgia and great food!


One of the things I had seen passing each day was the top of a Japanese Temple that intrigued me.  I asked Miles what it was and he told me it was at a cemetery below the freeway we were on.  I asked if he would mind if we stopped at it (I love unusual cemeteries).  They had never actually been to it and were up to the adventure!  What a great find!  It turned out to be several things - the Oahu Cemetery & Chapel that was founded 1844, a Buddhist Cemetery and the Kyoto Gardens that housed the Kinkaku-ji Temple (which is the top I kept seeing) and the Sanju Pagoda.  We ran into a very nice gentleman who was working on the two buildings and pond, who explained all about the place (even gave us a beautiful brochure) and how it's being renovated to bring it back up to it's former beauty. I really enjoyed the excursion and showing my hosts a spot that they had never seen in their own city!


All to soon our Hawaiian Vacation was coming to an end.  All that was left was the Spam T shirt!  And guess where we finally found it?  At a cook's store in a mall!  What a hoot!  Well, that done, and lots of hugs and even a tear (mine) and it was time to go...for now.  One thing for sure, it won't be another 25 years before we meet up again!

...back on the mainland, trying to catch up!  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hawaii - Oahu! History...Ours and the Island's

 Our short flight from the Big Island to Oahu wasn't even long enough to get a sip of water!  A quick up and down and we were there.  My heart was beating fast as I exited the plane, looking around for my friends.  Being greeting "island style" brought with it extras this time around.  You see, we hadn't seen each other in over 25+ years!  We briefly met on another "quick trip" when I was traveling with a girlfriend to a conference that was being held in Kauai.  We stopped first in Oahu to see Susan & Miles for a few days before heading over to Kauai.  Susan and I just kept in touch.  Christmas letters, e mails, then blogs.  We both had sons near the same age, liked each other and are both writers.  They retired a few years ago and both love to travel as well, but our paths just keep missing each other.  When I contacted her to see if they were going to be home while we were coming to the Island, they were thrilled that it finally worked out and insisted we come for a few days.  What a hoot after all these years to finally hook back up again!  And just like the first time...it was like the 25 years were yesterday, instant warmth and joy!  Don't 'cha just love it when that happens?  ;-)

We all 'hit the ground running'!  Threw the bags in the car, dashed off to a wonderful little favorite spot for lunch, then tootled off to start seeing some sights.  We first walked around the Ali'iolani Hale Museum, and got a little history of Honolulu and then around the State Capitol Building, took a quick peek of the outside of Queen ╩╗Iolani Palace (no time to do the whole inside tour), popped into a small but beautiful Hawaii State Art Museum and saw some incredible quilts as well as other art work. 



From there we visited the The Honolulu Memorial, a beautiful tribute to the war in the Pacific.  Mosaic maps of each Operation individually done by one woman.  Quite impressive.  The attached National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was done beautifully as well.  My father, mother, sister & brother were in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed, so this history has a special meaning to me.  They've shared their stories about that day, and the days following it, a number of times over the years, so it's very real to me.  Jack, being a WWII buff, has always been very interested in it, so he was also interested in seeing all this.  Afterward we walked up on top of this hill that looked over the city and gave an incredible panorama of the whole city - wow!  A lot of building going on, with already tons of tall buildings all snugged up against each other.  You can sure see where the 1.5 million population is!




Of course, this led us onto the Pacific Aviation Museum that includes the USS Arizona.  That filled the rest of the day.  It was quite moving.  They did a nice job without "over-doing" it, I thought.  Telling the stories, giving the background, the history, the strategies and honoring the fallen & the heroes.


The following morning, we did something I rarely do...got up to see the sunrise!  After doing this, now twice so far this year, I'm getting convinced that they are actually prettier than sunsets...well CAN BE, anyway!  This one certainly was!  They took us to a small beach that was deserted (at this time of the day!) and what a display we got for our trouble too!  Well worth the 4am wake up!  After a nice breakfast, some scenic drives...one along Waokanaka St to see some "Canope Trees", another to Nu'uanu Pali Lookout where it was absolutely beautiful, but oh so windy you almost had to hold onto something or get blown away!  We were able to catch the sunset as well, at a small park near the beach and watch a young couple's wedding, and then enjoy the last of the sun's rays while sail boats drifted by.  Gorgeous.

 That covers half our stay...I'll leave you with that for now, and fill in the rest next time! 
...back on the mainland, trying to catch up!  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hawaii - The Big Island! Black Sand Beach, Akaka Falls, Place of Refuge, Lava Trees, and Seahorses!

Before we even arrived, Pat had an itinerary all planned out, but like all good plans, it got changed several times!  As sunburns happened (Pat's), backs got sore (Taylor's or mine) or ideas exchanged, we adjusted, added and subtracted.  There were so many choices!

One of the top things I wanted to see tho was Punalu’u, Black Sand Beach, where the Green Sea Turtles come to nest, so off we went!  What a treat it was too!  There were about 5 turtles laying about that day,  so sweet, you wished you could just reach out and touch them (they have the area around them roped off so as not to disturb them).  The beach really is black too.  So beautiful up against the blue of the ocean and the green of the foliage and trees.  It wasn't very busy, and if we hadn't had many other places to visit, I could have spent the rest of the day there.  Very lovely.

Another lovely spot is Akaka Falls State Park.  It was a fun walk (well, if you are up for a lot of stairs up and down - Jack and Pat weren't) through some lush canyons with smaller falls and streams, lots of ferns, and tropical plants, then you come to the falls - all 442' of them!  Spectacular drop! Mist spraying off them (Taylor said that was unusual, as he had never seen it like that before) creating a wonderful picture.  This park was small, but one of those little hidden treasures, just tucked away for an hour or so's worth of enjoyment.

Puuhonau O Honaunau National Historical Park or "Place of Refuge" is a wonderful  park that gives you a real since of Hawaiian history.  Simple, self-guided but cultural, I thought.  I really liked it.  It wasn't "over the top" like some parks can do. It shows you how  King Keawe'ikekahiali'iokamoku, great-grandfather of Kamehameha l lived (around 1550).  Seemed he had some pretty strict "rules" (kapu), like women could not eat food reserved as offerings to the gods, or could not prepare meals for men or eat with them.  Seasons for fishing, killing animals, and gathering timber were strictly controlled.  If a kapu was broken the penalty could mean death!  Otherwise the gods might react with violence: volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, famine, or earthquakes.  To protect themselves from catastrophes the people chased kapu breakers until they were caught - or until they made it to a pu'uhonua.  If they reached the pu'uhonua, the kahuna pule (priest) performed a ceremony of absolution, and the offenders could return home safely.  ;-)  Yea for them!

An unusual looking park was the Lava Tree State Park. Situated in the Nanawale Forest Reserve, this park is a graphic depiction of the long-term effects of lava. Hundreds of years ago, a fast moving flow of hot lava hit this patch of wet 'O'hia trees. The lava forever encased the structures leaving behind vertical, hollow, lava tubes where each tree once stood.   These ghostly structures are now covered with moss surrounded by lush, tropical foliage and huge monkeypod trees.  This beautiful foliage now covers most of the devastation from earlier volcanic flows. Interior view of the hollow, lava tree shows impressions of the tree bark. Numerous holes in the ground are actually the base of an old, lava-encased tree. An opening in the side of a lava tree shows how the bark of the tree made it's lasting impression in the molten lava.  Mother nature...gotta love her...

The big surprise and treat was the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm!  Wow, what a great experience - and education!  They call it the "Magical Seahorse Tour" and it is!  It starts with collecting krill, which they eat, then taking you into the breeding area (tubs) and showing you various seahorses from teeny tiny ones (babies) on up to the full grown ones.  They can get up to 10" big.  In the wild, seahorses mate for life, thus, if separated, they die.  Therefore, when caught, most times they are separated, so, guess what?  They don't live long.  They are on the endangered species list and not doing well.  The founders wanted to do something about this.  So they have been working on getting the seahorses to breed with more than one mate and have been successful.  They also have been successful in coming up with a food source that is more plentiful.  They have been so successful, they have been able to put some seahorses back into the ocean! They have just recently added a couple rare New Zealand Seahorses that they will try and breed as well.  After the tour, you get to have a seahorse wrap itself around your finger!  How cool is that?  (You feel like a mommy!)  What an unusual tour and experience.  Very special indeed.  They are doing wonderful work, and gee, for a mere $200 you too can have a pair shipped to your home! (you just need the expensive tank set up to house them in as well!)  ;-)

Lots of wonderful stops for tasty treats at Punalu'u Bake Shop, Dinner at Sam Choy's, and Kilauea Lodge, and Pat's Pies, soaking in the thermal waters of 'Ahanalui Pool, sitting and relaxing at Whittington Beach, watching the birds fight over the bird feeder in the mornings, and so much more...all of it, wonderful, beautiful, special memories we will cherish forever, ended all to soon.

With over-stuffed bags, many hugs, we were off to Oahu to our next adventure!
Green sea turtles at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Hawaii
'Akaka Falls, Hilo Hawaii
'Akaka Falls trail, Hilo Hawaii
Royal Grounds - Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, National Historical Park, Hawaii
Marie with the ki'i guardians of the place of refuge
Jack at the Lava Tree State Park, Nanawale Forest
 Lava Tree State Park, Nanawale Forest
 Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, Kona Hawaii
 Jack holding a seahorse at the  Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, Kona Hawaii

...back on the mainland, trying to catch up!  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hawaii - The Big Island! Aloha, flowers, volcanos, coffee and vanilla!

Aloha!  After years of an "open invitation" from our dear friends, Pat & Taylor, to come visit them at their vacation home on the Big Island of Hawaii, we (finally) took them up on it and the booked a much excited visit!  Eight days in paradise!  Not nearly enough, but Pat had each day planned out so that we would get to see as much of the island as possible, but still have time to sit and watch the birds in the morning, relax and read a book by the sea in the afternoon, and have a glass of wine in the evening.  Ah, the life...

We were greeted "Aloha style" with a lei and a "modern banner" a la her iPhone blinking MARIE & JACK.  We had to laugh, leave it to Pat and Taylor to think that one up!  After a long flight (from San Diego CA) and a long drive to their place, they live in the most southern tip of the island, Na'alehu, we just made a quick stop for pizza before calling it a night.

Greeted with wonderful tropical fruit, birds singing and the sun shining (each morning!) I knew the week was going to be great!  First stop was the local weekly Farmer's Market!  (It was on my list!)  Just walking through it was a treat to see all the beautiful fruit and local veggies!  Then it was off to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens.  Let's see...how many pictures did I take there?  Well...I kept it less than 100!  ;-)  That's good for me!  Waterfalls, streams, orchids, ginger and ferns is what I would say is their "specialty".  Beautiful all.

I won't go exactly from event to event, but I do want to share the highlights with you, as they were fantastic, and if you should ever go - you really would want to check out these places, they are GREAT!

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is actually several sites in one area.  Of course, everywhere you drive you see miles of black lava, then there are the steam vents to watch; then of course the big attraction, Halema'uma'u Crater, which right now is just puffing smoke (thank goodness!) but at night (which we came back for) it glows a bright red, which is really cool to see!  Then you've got Mauna Ulu, which is kind of spooky because that's where all the damage was and you can see where it went all the way to the sea...kind of eery.  The other really cool thing is the Lava Tube!  That's fun to walk through, and a whole lot bigger than you would imagine!  Lastly, they have a cool museum (and gift shop, of course!).  Nice way to spend some time, and a great National Park.  One more to add to my list! Ha!

You can't visit the Big Island without visiting a coffee plantation!  Kona is know for it!  The one our friends picked was Kona Coffee at Mountain Thunder.  It was a small one, but on the up-side there were just a few of us, so we got an intimate tour as well.  For me, the one "take away" was that the beans, before roasted, are called "cherries".  I'd seen signs at various coffee farms saying "taking cherries" and wondered what they meant...now I know!

 You know how Jack and I LOVE factory tours, well, we got to do a couple more unusual ones here too!  One really unexpected one was Vanilla Beans!  Yep, they have the ONLY Vanilla Bean Farm in the US!  What a wonderful experience it was too!  We signed up for the luncheon & tour, yum!  The Hawaiian Vanilla Company is a family owned and run business since 1998, and what a nice family they are too!  We met several that day....Dad, Mom & one of the sons.  The 2 hour lunch and tour was incredible...even in the rain!  Now I know why vanilla is so expensive (and worth every penny!).  What a labor intensive job, ugh.  But it sure does make food taste good!  ;-)

So much more to share...I'll give you a break for now and fill you in with more later!  

Farmer's Market, Na'alehu Hawaii
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, Onomea Bay, Hilo Hawaii
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, Onomea Bay, Hilo Hawaii
Steam vent,  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Halema'uma'u Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Halema'uma'u Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (at night)
 Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Little blue bus in the middle of  Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Jack, Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

 Tour, Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation, Kona Hawaii
 Coffee cherry (bean), Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee Plantation, Kona Hawaii
 Vanilla Bean Plant, Hawaiian Vanilla Company, Paauilo HI
Vanilla Bean Nursery, Hawaiian Vanilla Company, Paauilo HI
Lunch demo, Hawaiian Vanilla Company, Paauilo HI

...on the road on the mainland, trying to catch up!  Marie

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sedona Arizona R&R

There is more than one kind of "R&R" in Sedona...Rest & Relaxation, of course...Red Rocks, lots of beautiful ones to see, and to add to all that, we found out that they also have a great RailRoad!

Long before we ever thought of the RV lifestyle, we purchased a timeshare, so from time to time, we take a break from the rig and book a week into one of the condos and just kick back.  I look forward to the big luxurious kitchens and comfy couches that face fireplaces so that I can curl up and read, while Jack looks forward to the big bathrooms with great big tubs!  2013 got away from us, and I had to book a week fast or loose it, so I grabbed a spot in Sedona in early February of 2014 (still using the 2013 week).  This is where we found ourselves this last week.

In my hurry to book, I guess I didn't read the "fine print", or maybe they just didn't share the details much about their rooms!  Imagine my surprise when we came to our room, and found NOT the big comfy couch, nor the nice kitchen, but instead a bedroom smaller than the one in our rig!  When I dashed back down to the front desk to explain how "this just wasn't going to work!"  They explained right back to me that they were sorry, but that they were full, and there was nothing they could do!  Ugh.  Jack did have his big bathroom tho, so we made do.  We ate out a lot....and sat by the pool and read.  Thank goodness the weather was beautiful most of the time!  OK, that's the first R & R...

Sedona Arizona is known for it's Red Rocks, but I have to say, they are even more beautiful at sunset and sunrise!  Now, anyone knowing me at all, knows that I'm great at the sunset stuff, but getting me up early, well, that's just not my thing...but after we did the sunset, and Jack said "if you think this is pretty, you should see it at sunrise honey, the sun comes up over here, and hits those hills and just lights them up!"  Well, he convinced me to do it.  Valentines Day started with the alarm going off at O'dark hundred, up and at 'um we got, made a pot of coffee & dashed off to the airport (highest hill around and best view of the valley).  Joined by a few other brave souls, we stood in the cold and slowly watched the sun do it's rise.  It was worth it, every minute.  Jack was right, beautiful.  Afterward we found a great cafe and had a light breakfast.  I didn't want to eat to much because I knew we would have much to eat aboard our great train ride later that day!

The highlight of our third R&R, was the RailRoad trip!  We love trains and this one turned out to be one of the best so far! Verde Canyon Railroad Wilderness Train, out of Clarkdale AZ is a 4 hour train ride from Clarkdale to Perkinsville & back.  We enjoyed the "Valentines Chocolate" special first-class coach that included more chocolate goodies, sandwiches, salad, munchies, champagne, etc than one could eat, along with wonderfully comfortable couches & small tables with an adjoining open-air coach to take pictures from.  Narrated, of course, plus staff to point out additional sites and tend to your every need.  Add to that a 73 degree sun-filled day and one couldn't ask for a more delightful adventure!  We have been to the Sedona area many times, but had never taken this trip, what a delight it added to our week!

We managed to sprinkle in a day here & there of shopping at Tlaquepaque, a visit to  Chapel of the Holy Cross, two movies supplied by the management and a visit with a girlfriend who lives in nearby Prescott.  All in all, a lovely respite...

Sedona Sunset
Early Sedona sunrise
Sun hitting the Sedona valley
Our Chocolate Valentine set-up aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad Wilderness Train
Verde Canyon Railroad Wilderness Train
Verde Canyon
Alter,  Chapel of the Holy Cross

Me with the "Basket Lady Elder" statue

...kicking back in Arizona,   Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/