Sensational Baby Boomers

Friday, 5 August 2022

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE EXCITING OF TRAVELLING POST-PANDEMIC

 


Flying post pandemic

Thank you for reading our bucket list last four blogs - our epic holiday taking in Las Vegas, Honolulu, the Hawaiian Island cruise and Los Angeles.  We can honestly say that it was one of the best holidays we have ever taken.  And we would love to thank the lovely people at our travel agents, North America Travel Service, who swapped and changed our bookings four times over the period of two years as lockdowns and restrictions thwarted our travels.

We travelled in May/June when we still had to take COVID tests to travel to the US.  It was incredibly stressful in the run-up to our flights, since we were worried that if we caught COVID, we would not be allowed to travel and may have lost our entire holiday.  We switched our work days for some weeks before, allowing us to virtually isolate for the two weeks prior to going away, and fortunately for us, our PCR tests taken the day before travel were both negative.  First hurdle successful!

But we weren't home free, because we had a day's flight and five days in Vegas and three days in Honolulu before we had to take another test to board the ship.  This was much trickier since we weren't isolating and were mixing with other visitors from all over the world.  We wore masks whenever we could, but in desert temperatures, it wasn't easy! Indoors wasn't much better in terms of stress levels since the buildings were all air-conditioned and we worried about circulating air.  We were also using Ubers to get about, hopping in and out of cars every day.

We had to take our cruise-recommended test via Zoom within two days to be allowed on board, and fortunately we were able to let out a huge sigh of relief when we were both negative.  From then on it was plain sailing - literally!




Airports in the UK were also reporting huge queues and cancelled flights, which was a worry for us in case we were caught up in the mayhem.. Our trip involved six flights each - from our regional airport to Heathrow, Heathrow to Las Vegas, Las Vegas to Honolulu, Honolulu to Los 
Angeles, Los Angeles to Heathrow, and Heathrow back to our regional airport.  The international flights were all with British Airways, and the Hawaiian flights with Hawaiian Airlines.  All were supposed to be checked in online, but not a single one worked, which flew me into a panic from day one. Fortunately, with the exception of Hawaiian Airlines, the check in desks were very helpful and found our seat bookings - though not without some difficulty.  In Honolulu, however, a very rude customer service advisor refused to help us and told us to do it ourselves.  We still couldn't check in but fortunately another advisor - who had just joined the airline from Delta - was helpful and eventually found our booking.

British Airways food was pretty good, except my gluten intolerant daughter's breakfast was just an apple and banana, while mine included a yoghurt - which doesn't contain gluten! Hawaiian was a fairly basic snack which was not to my taste - and no gluten free at all.

Travelling home was relatively easy though there was a bit of a wait to get through security at Heathrow as we transited back home.

Food was obviously an issue for someone who is gluten intolerant.  While venues, hotels and restaurants offer vegan and vegetarian options, someone with IBS, for whom gluten is not a lifestyle choice meant sustenance was often limited.



Our cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America was very good, with only a couple of quibbles.  Firstly it was absolutely freezing inside - so much so that we didn't watch any of the evening  entertainment because we hadn't taken jackets or cardigans, so spent most evenings in our cabin with the heater on, or on our balcony if we were in dock.  

While I am not a seasoned cruiser - this was only my third cruise, there were clothes washing facilities on board PandO and SilverSea cruises.  Bearing in mind we had been on holiday for 10 days when we boarded the ship, we needed some clean clothes - especially undies.  Embarrassingly we had to send our knickers to the laundry at a cost of $2 a pair ( too many to rinse through in the bathroom sink).

Again embarrassingly, the toilets kept backing up - presumably because people kept putting things in them that they shouldn't.  This happened three times in seven days when the loo just wouldn't flush.

The excursions we booked from the UK - despite having fairly good reviews - were mixed, with personal recommendations from friends being the most successful.  Our sunset flight over the Grand Canyon with Maverick helicopters was superb, and the highlight for me of our Las Vegas visit. 

Absolute highlight was Hawaiian Islands which were stunning.  While I had expected them to be pretty, I was unprepared for the absolutely breath-taking scenery and the wild beauty of the islands. We found the locals friendly and very protective of such a wonderful natural environment.  Seeing the Napili coastline from the ship was so awe-inspiring, it catches in my throat. 



And seeing dolphins swimming and dancing next to our catamaran off Maui was another highlight. Watching the sunset at Haleakala was amazing, and The Kalua Ranch on O'ahu where Jurassic Park, King Kong and Lost plus many others were filmed was also a visit to remember.  




I have mixed feelings about Pearl Harbour.  The SS Arizona memorial was very moving, but I found the main site too commercial, though I do realise they have to make money for upkeep of the site.  The ladies rest room, however, was disgusting, with no attendant for the huge number of visitors. The Lua dinner was recommended by a tour guide at our hotel, but it wasn't really what I had expected - maybe a plantation .... not a run-down holiday camp.  Note to self to do research first before committing the best part of $500 for two!



The hotels - The Venetian in Las Vegas, and the Hyatt Centric in Honolulu, were excellent, with comfortable beds and helpful staff. I won't mention again my disappointment with the hotel in Los Angeles.

But these are relatively minor complaints compared with the overall trip which is one I will remember forever.  I have been lucky enough to travel extensively during the past 10 years, and have seen some of the most amazing sights across Europe, Asia. Australia and the United States.  This was certainly one of the best.

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Friday, 29 July 2022

THE CITY OF ANGELS



Our final destination on our mega holiday was Los Angeles - the City of Angels. But leaving Hawaii was more of a wrench than we expected, since it had been a wonderful ten days of activities. And I know we will never be able to go again.

The contrast couldn't have been greater - from beautiful islands with a relatively laid-back way of life to the frantic pace of suburban Los Angeles - home to most of the movies and TV programmes with which we were familiar.

History


Los Angeles originally made its money, surprisingly, through oil - and there are currently 68 named oil fields in the greater LA area - 10 of which are deemed to be "giants" containing more than a billion gallons of oil. Residential areas sprang up around the oil fields to support the workers, but there is little tolerance now in the current climate for accidents, oil spills, and climate damage, so legal steps are being taken to ban re-working old mines.  Having said that, 542 new permits have recently been issued to open new oil fields and 1500 permits to rework old sites.

The movie age brought new investment to LA. Inventor of the movie camera, Thomas Edison, had tried to create a monopoly for the production of movies back east, so many producers in the 1920s and 30s had moved west to escape the confines of the Trust he set up to control the industry. Film makers demanded good weather all year round, and California was the perfect playground for film sets with year-round sunshine and away from the confines of the trust.

The Movies


We arrived late at night, so had booked a relatively easy time for our first full day in LA.  We discovered Lyft - which we don't have in the UK , and which operates just like Uber.  We wanted a gluten free restaurant for brunch, and our friendly driver took us to iHop (for gluten-free pancakes!) close to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which would give us our first fix of the movie industry.

Academy Museum


We are huge movie fans in our house, so we immersed ourselves in some of our favourite films - right from the original Wizard of Oz - a childhood favourite of both of us - up to the modern day classics of Star Wars and Jaws.Every genre is catered for, and costumes were on display from such films as Edward Scissorhands and ET to the fabulous gowns worn by Oscar winners from a by-gone age.

Top of my list to see were Judy Garland's ruby slippers (I have a very cheap version of my own!) which were on display in a glass case. Artifacts and props from some of the earliest films to the latest blockbusters kept us entertained for the morning, before we headed off to explore LA.

Incidentally, there is a glass skywalk from the top floor to a viewing platform, but since we are terrified on heights, we gave that a wide berth!



The Grove and Farmers Market


Our walk took us directly to The Grove and the Farmers Market, where we discovered the fabulous Whole Foods store - which became our favourite go-to place to buy wonderfully fresh food, pre-packed snacks, fruits and salads. I wish we had something like this back home.

The Grove boasts restaurants, a tourist tram and designer shops, and has featured in many a celebrity movie, though Neiman Marcus was way out of our price range. We did, however, discover Ross -Dress for Less (a bit like our TK Maxx) which became our favourite store while we were there, and had much more affordable prices.




The Farmers Market boasts the largest number of dining options in LA, and it's easy to see why.  There's every kind of food stalls available, from American hot dogs to gourmet dishes from around the world.  They also hold foodie tours and events.  It was a perfect pit-stop for my gluten-free daughter to pick up some tasty treats, which seemed to be lacking elsewhere.

Hollywood Boulevard


However, we had booked a table for dinner at Hard Rock Cafe (don't we always?) on Hollywood Boulevard - the latter of which was a complete shock to the system.  Full of tourist shops selling all manner of tat to the street hawkers trying to push unwanted tickets, the sidewalk (pavements to us Brits) were dirty and those cherished stars were cracked and broken in some cases.  It was not what I had expected to see - I thought these would be regularly cleaned and easy to find our favourite celebrities.

Of course the area is a must-see but was such a disappointment, with beggars, drunks and crazies vying for attention with the street performers. Gauman's (now TCL) Chinese Theatre , scene of many Hollywood blockbusters, was busy with tourists looking for those famous foot and hand prints, though there are various stories as to who stepped first into wet concrete and set off the custom.



I did find the star of my early teenage crush, musician Peter Frampton, who deserted our home shores for mega-stardom in the US.  I have happy memories of seeing him perform live with his band "The Herd" in the late 60s.




All our tours for the three holiday destinations - with one exception - were booked before we left the UK, with Tripadvisor recommendations. On our second day we were picked up from our hotel for a full day's tour of LA.  Despite good ratings, the tour seemed to lack some organisation.  We were taken by minibus to Santa Monica where we were taken to a cafe (but the driver had not said a word to us until he told us to get off the bus!) and told to get a coffee while we were sorted into groups, then before the coffee arrived - we were put one another minibus.  The tour took in most of the main sights but felt rushed as for the most part we had only 30 or 40 minutes to look around some of the most iconic scenery in the world.




Santa Monica Pier


First stop was Santa Monica Pier and beach, taking in the end of Route 66, the 2,448 mile road which starts in Chicago and was the main migration route to the West Coast during the "Dust Bowl Years"  in the 1930s when dust storms and drought in the prairies devastated farming, and prospectors decided to try their luck out west.


Santa Monica Pier



Venice Beach


It was then onto Venice Beach, which had originally been built in a stylised version of Venice, with waterways and amusements, and marshland transformed into beaches and amusements. Unfortunately the original owner went bust and gradually the waterways disappeared until there is just one canal left.  Venice is now a playground for surfers and muscle men who strut their stuff on Muscle Beach - made famous by the most famous muscle man, Arnie Schwartzenegger.  The original Muscle Beach, however, had been based in Santa Monica.

However, on doing research when we returned, it turns out it that with a history of gangland activity, Venice has been recorded as the most dangerous beach in America for crime, shark attacks and surfing fatalities.  But during the day, it looked like a fairly bohemian community, and we didn't feel at all unsafe.

Griffith Park


In the afternoon we were taken to The Observatory at Griffith Park, with a very distant view of the iconic Hollywood sign.  What they had failed to mention when we booked the trip was that the building is open only Thursday to Sunday.  My daughter had previously visited LA and this was absolutely the one place she wanted to go.  The views of course are magnificent of the city, but The Observatory is a one-off so we were very disappointed not to be able to visit inside.  We were also disappointed to see the Hollywood sign was so far away, we could only see it through a zoom lens.




Bizarrely, there is a bronze head of film star James Dean, which had been commissioned by the man himself.  The 1955 film "Rebel without a cause" featured the Observatory heavily in both internal and external scenes from the movie, and helped put it on the international map.





Famous Sites 

We had a short stop on Rodeo Drive - but only just enough time to find a toilet and then get back on the bus, so no designer shopping for us!

The rest of the tour was just riding on the bus which was not what we wanted to do.  We drove down Melrose Avenue ( which looked a little down-at-heel), saw the hotel where Julia Roberts climbed down the fire escape in Pretty Woman, went by Angelina Jolie's home, and went past the Los Angeles sign until dropping off once again on Hollywood Boulevard - by which time we had had enough, and returned to the hotel. My daughter completed a less-than flattering TripAdvisor review, and we did get a partial refund for this tour. In reality, we should have taken two leisurely  tours instead of trying to pack everything into one day.



We stayed at Mr C in Beverley Hills, which was also a disappointment. Although the public rooms were stylish and comfortable, our room was above a 12 lane crossroad and extremely noisy with sirens up and down all night.  What was once an elegant room was starting to look tired with dirty, ill-fitting curtains, frayed leather furniture and only one chair on the balcony, so not a place I would recommend. They also debited my credit card a week after I arrived home - but this had already been paid by my travel agent, and my receipt on leaving confirmed there had been nothing to pay. 

The city is a sprawling metropolis so difficult and expensive to get about easily if you don't have a car.  

Being completely honest, LA was a disappointment from what I had expected - glitz, glamour and impeccable customer service were decidedly lacking.  But maybe I had too high expectations after such an amazing time in Hawaii. After three weeks away from home, I think we were also a little jaded.

I'm glad I went and saw it for myself, but I won't be going back.


Wall art on Melrose

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Sunday, 3 July 2022

CRUISING THE SPECTACULAR HAWAIIAN ISLANDS



Pride of America

This is part three of my mega holiday with my daughter Louise and I thought I would do a separate blog about our fabulous cruise around the Hawaiian Islands.  Having spent five days in Vegas and three days in Honolulu (see previous blogs), we set sail on board Norwegian Cruise Line's the Pride of America for the beautiful islands.

While I am not a particularly seasoned cruiser - this is only my third cruise - it was a first for my daughter, and we both absolutely loved it! The huge ship is a 80,439 ton, 15 deck vessel which normally carries some 2,186 passengers with around 920 crew but post-pandemic, the passenger list was less than capacity due to staff shortages, and some of the restaurants were closed.  However, we found the cafeteria style Aloha Cafe restaurant was far better than some of my previous cruises, offering a wide choice of international food.  In fact, our only two visits to other eateries on board (the beautifully decorated Skyline and the funky Cadillac diner) were decidedly ordinary, though all the staff on the ship were always wonderfully helpful, cheerful and polite. 

Maui

Day one was cruising and allowed us to find our sea legs, and for day two we had booked an excursion to the crater at Mount Haleakalā , on the beautiful island of Maui to see the sun set. Our trip instructions had told us to take a sweater as it could be chilly, but in all honesty, it would have been more appropriate to take an overcoat, boots, scarves, gloves and a woolly hat - it was freezing!  Those obviously in the know had also taken blankets with them!

But of course, 10,000 above sea level was bound to be cold but the view was well worth shivering for - it was spectacular!  Our bus took us way above the clouds into the Haleakalā National Park.The park is a rich, 34,000-acre tapestry of biodiversity that begins at the summit of Haleakalā at 10,023ft., and cascades down to the Kīpahulu District’s black volcanic sands. More than 24,000 acres of wilderness area provides exploration opportunities, ranging from high altitude cinder lands to lush coastal rainforest. Such a fabulous start to our Island adventure!

Day two saw us on a catamaran as we sailed the Pacific, stopping first off the coast of Lanai Island for snorkelling. The trip was a the cruise ship excursion with the conservation company The Pacific Whale Foundation and PacWhale eco-adventures, and they made sure that we understood not to touch the fish - and especially not the turtles if we saw any beneath us as we swam above. The colours of the fish were exquisite - so bright and very "Finding Nemo"! Unfortunately after 10 or 15 minutes, I began to feel quite queasy, so came back on board to enjoy the sunshine.  We sailed onto a second beach area where I stayed on the catamaran, but apparently everyone managed to see those elusive turtles swimming beneath the waves.


After lunch - which I declined - we had an afternoon sail along the Maui coastline, with its modern hotels lining the beach.  We were delighted to be joined by a pod of dolphins, swimming and diving right next to the catamaran.  What an absolute treat! Our coach picked us up at the harbour but I would have liked to have stopped at he Fleetwood Mac bar and restaurant on Front Street, though sadly we had to return to the ship all together, though we did pass by it (Hubby is a huge fan).

On deck



Day three saw us chilling on the ship, while our fellow travellers went off to explore Hilo, on the Big Island, famous for rainforests and waterfalls, but since we had booked a  rainforest hike and swim for later in the week, we took the opportunity to relax on board and check out the shops and activities - settling on the pool deck with a delicious mocktail.

The Big Island (Hawaii)

Day four was one of my favourite days as we dropped anchor in Kona on the Big Island - where the coffee grows. This was a history tour - but with the obligatory tourist shop stop to sample the different flavoured coffees! Then it was onto St Benedict Painted Church.  I've said I love stories and this one goes like this.... Father John Velghe left his native Europe to travel to a new parish in South America, but stopped along the way in Hawaii.  He was persuaded in 1899 that he was needed there instead of South America, and that there was a church with an active congregation needing a priest.  When he eventually saw the church it was completely derelict, and there were no worshippers.



Undaunted, he took the church apart bit by bit and with the help of a donkey, he carried the church up the hill to where he felt he was needed.  It took him - and the donkey - three years until the church was built.  At that time most Hawaiians did not read -  Hawaiian was not a language that was written down at that time anyway - so the priest told his stories from the bible in pictures.  An untrained artist, he used house paint that was given to him - in the only colours available - yellows, browns, greens and blues, creating beautifully painted frescoes on the walls and ceiling of the church.



Those original frescoes still adorn the church today - in perfect condition with one exception.  Despite the face that there are three frescoes on the same wall, the only one which is faded is the one depicting the devil and hell.  There is no direct sunlight on the frescoes, and the paintings are just inches apart. Some divine retribution perhaps????



The graveyard is interesting here too - since the landscape is built on hundreds of volcano eruptions over the centuries, digging graves is a difficult process so some are lined with lava rocks, but many original bones are still to be found scattered beneath sacred sites around the islands.



Our day trip also took in the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, known as the "place of Refuge" where locals fled to when they had broken the law.  Now a small fishing village, the bay is noted for snorkelling, reef diving and dolphin and whale spotting. It is such a pretty spot, with palm trees fringing the beach and rocks, and wild goats foraging for food among the lush vegetation. Last year the National Parks Service and partners removed more than 450 goats to protect the cultural and natural resources.  They were given to locals who had applied for permits and could provide transport to take them safely away.



The guardians pictured above and below and which mark the beach are the ki'i - images or statutes in the image of the many gods who protected the inhabitants.  They are usually carved from wood, stone, or even sea urchin spines.  Those standing at the bay were created in the 1960s when the site was renovated, with much of the work done by the descendants of the original carvers.  For more detail about the site and the statues, see here.



We finished the day with a wander around the port where the ship had docked.  There were some gorgeous little shops and even a farmers market, which had goods identical to those being sold on the ship, but much cheaper.  I could have spent lots of money, but as I have previously said, our baggage on the way out was already overweight!

We discovered Dole Whips - a frozen dairy-free dessert made of pineapple juice, frozen pineapple chunks, vanilla ice cream, lemon juice, salt and sugar which was amazing.  It was a recipe from the Dole company, formerly the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, which is actually now headquartered in Ireland, and which is the world's largest producer of fruit and vegetables.


The beautiful house pictured above is Hulihee Palace, standing on the beach in Kailua.The Palace was originally built out of lava rock during the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, on land known as Kalāke‘e, a former residence of Kamehameha the Great. The Palace itself was first home to High Chief John Adams Kuakini, brother of Ka‘ahumanu the favorite wife of Kamehameha, and later home to more members of Hawaiian royalty than any other residence in Hawai‘i. Hulihe‘e Palace consists of six large graciously appointed rooms, two large inviting oceanfront lanai and lovely grounds. After falling into disrepair, it was eventually restored by the Daughters of Hawaii in 1927, for use as a museum. (if you look carefully at the left of the picture, you can just see the Pride of America ship anchored at sea).

KAUA'I (THE GARDEN ISLAND)

Day Five was probably not my favourite day, but I'm glad I went!  To explain, since the accident when I fractured my spine, I struggle to walk uphill.  But my daughter wanted to trek through the rain forest to see a couple of waterfalls and swim beneath the cascading water, so we booked the ship's excursion - there were probably only about eight of us - which took us downhill through the forest, while our knowledgeable guide pointed out the flora and fauna - what was edible and what was poisonous.  We had had to sign a waiver before we started, which hadn't filled me with confidence from the start.

We rested at the first small waterfall, carrying further down the hill until the small waterfall cascaded into a pool.  Obviously not one of those waterfalls several feet high, but still enough pressure to knock you off your feet.  We were invited to climb the rocks and walk behind it, but that was a stretch too far for me, so we contented ourselves with a cooling dip in the pool beneath the water. No pictures of us bathing - they're not very flattering!!! Oh and the water was cleaner than it looked! 


The trek back up the hill - even with a stick - was excruciating, but with frequent rest stops, I made it in one piece.  The afternoon was spent resting  on the Kalapaki Beach, a short walk from Nawiliwili Harbour, which is the main port on Kaua'I.  Unfortunately it was the only beach we managed to rest  on during our action-packed cruise - Hawaii has the most beautiful soft, sandy beaches, but this was not a particularly restful holiday. Nawiliwili itself has an average of 50" of rainfall a year, but fortunately, it was a beautiful sunny day during our visit, though the nearby Mount Wailaeale is one of the wettest places on earth, hence the lush green forests and spectacular waterfalls.

Our final day on board ship, however, was relaxing as we set sail back to Honolulu, but I've saved the best until last.  I hate the term "awesome" for something which is helpful or useful, but our final cruise took us along the 17 mile NaPili coastline, which was just unbelievably awesome!  Nature has created such stunning scenery from those devastating prehistoric volcanoes.  The coastline features towering peaks fringed by pale sand beaches which are all but inaccessible except by sea. My first sight of these majestic cliffs did actually leave me speechless.  Such a beautiful end to our magical voyage - and for once, our photos really don't do it justice.



Sadly, this brought our cruise to an end. And I do mean, sadly, because I can honestly say it truly is paradise.  We barely scratched the surface or immersed ourselves in the rich historic culture, but it is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  I would love to go back some day but I know that's not going to happen since it is so far away from the UK and incredibly expensive to both get there and also once you're there. But I'm grateful I have managed to experience even a little of it.

Next time, we will finish our bucket list holiday in Los Angeles, so please join us again!





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Sunday, 26 June 2022

HAWAII - A TASTE OF PARADISE





Where to start with Hawaii?  It was the most amazingly stunning place I have ever visited! But it got off to a very inauspicious start. 

Honolulu


Hawaii is certainly an area of contrasting weathers!  Excited to finally be in Hawaii, we dumped our bags in the beautiful Hyatt Centric Hotel  (complete with heated toilet seat) in central Honolulu and rushed out to see the world famous Waikiki Beach ... in the rain!

Fortunately the shower was short-lived and our 10 days in Hawaii more than exceeded our expectations. Honolulu itself is certainly a city of high rise hotels and designer shops, but once you get away from the main area to discover the rest of O'ahu, it is amazing.



Kualoa Ranch 


The first day we booked a trip to the Kualoa Ranch on a movie set tour.  But the ranch is so much more, and had we known, we could probably have spent a couple of days there.  There's horse riding, bike trails, quad bike experiences, Jurassic Park tours, as well as agriculture experiences - including the pineapple farm, and so much more. It also happens to be in a beautiful spot next to Kaneohe Bay.





Our open bus took us through our first sight of the stunning landscapes which are so awe-inspiring.     

Kualoa is a 4,000 acre private nature reserve as well as a working cattle ranch with more than 600 head of cattle, 120 horses and 200 sheep, stretching from the steep mountain cliffs to the sparkling waters of nearby Kaneohe Bay.

More than 70 major Hollywood productions have been filmed at the ranch, seen by more than a billion people worldwide since the 1950s.  These include the Jurassic Park movies, Lost, Godzilla, Jumanji and of course Pearl Harbour.  Many others have featured snippets filmed at the ranch, which has been in private hands since 1850, and is now owned by the eighth generation.  There are no private homes on the site - not even the owners' - who have also turned down more than a billion dollars to build a hotel complex.  Certainly well worth a visit, so check out the website for more information about all they have to offer.





Pearl Harbour


On our second day we had booked a trip taking in Pearl Harbour - the actual museum which also takes in the USS Bowfin, USS Missouri, SS Arizona and the air museum.  Being perfectly honest, I was disappointed with the main site.  It was very commercial - with gift shops selling merchandise from T-shirts to Christmas decorations - really???? While I totally accept that they have to raise money to keep the site in pristine condition, I felt some of the gifts were totally inappropriate for what is essentially a huge graveyard. Also insisting you have a smiling photo which was then printed onto a tacky faux newspaper was completely unacceptable.

And by the way, the ladies' bathroom was disgusting, even at 10.00am in the morning, with a huge queue of around 20 women waiting outside by 10.30.  





Rant over!  The accommodation in the submarine was a real eye-opener, and hard to believe that 70-80 men lived in such a tiny space., but all the "rooms" were compact and I would guess the servicemen had only the minimum of possessions.  What struck me was the lack of privacy - particularly in the bathroom areas.


USS Missouri


We stood on the deck of the huge USS Missouri, where the Japanese surrendered their involvement in WW2.  I love the stories of individuals which come to light following such dreadful circumstances.  We heard of the young 19-year old Japanese kamikaze pilot who crashed into the Missouri on 11 April 1945, causing minimal damage, but who was killed during the attack.  The commander of the ship, Captain William M Callaghan, declared that he was only doing what any one of them would have done - obeying orders, and directed that he was to have a full military funeral and burial at sea.  His remains were placed between a hastily sewn Japanese flag and he was committed to the deep, followed by a three-volley salute from the firing party.





USS Arizona



For me the most poignant part of the whole visit was to the USS Arizona.  We boarded a small shuttle boat out to the memorial, which is built over the sunken ruin of the ship.  Beneath the memorial is the broken hull bearing the remains of 900+ servicemen who perished during the seven minutes it took for the ship to sink.  Only part of the funnel remains above the water line and oil still leaks from the depths.  Inside the memorial, the names of those who died are featured on a large stone wall. For me, this was the epitome of what the site is all about - paying homage to those brave men who never stood a chance to escape.

I say this as the daughter of a British airman who also devoted his life to the service of his country.



Again, with my love of stories, the guard told us of one hapless young man who had gone ashore the previous night for an evening of fun, and either returned late or in a drunken state.  He was promptly sacked and told to collect his belongings and leave, which he did.  But then after the attack he watched from land and bravely saw a way to save one of his colleagues who had been on the ship, and subsequently went onto complete his naval career.





Lua Show

One of the things I wanted to do while in Hawaii was to go a real hula show. We took the advice of an on-site tour guide, but honestly, I don't think we got the best experience.  The show was excellent, and the food was just ok, but the site was a real disappointment, so please be careful and do more research if you want to attend a more traditional lua! We were told it was out in the country, so expected something rural, but it seemed to be an abandoned holiday camp.  Nevertheless, you make the most of it, and we have a fun evening, though nowhere in Hawaii that we came across seemed to cater for gluten-free food options needed by my daughter.



Our lua included the show, a beautiful lei, supper and several drinks vouchers - unless you wanted your drink in a pineapple, which we did, and which was extra! There was also a free towel each but we left those behind since our baggage was already overweight.

Talking of food - we always eat at a Hard Rock Cafe (daughter's favourite), but paid our first visit to the Cheesecake Factory which had been recommended.  Unfortunately we didn't have time or transport to visit the many more local eateries which we had read about, which probably would have given us better value for money and more natural choices.  We did however, find a small place called Banan, selling delicious concoctions of shaved coconut, ices, fruit and nuts, which we ate sitting on Waikiki Beach - one of those "pinch yourself" places that you can hardly believe you're there.  These delicious ices prompted us to try and find macadamia honey nut butter all over Hawaii - until we paid another quick visit as we were leaving and bought three jars of the stuff!



On one of our trips, our part-time young guide and driver was a marketing student, but a fountain of knowledge, who told us his favourite places to eat, interspersed with some of the fascinating history of the islands.  He finished off by taking us to the local tax office building - the exterior of which is actually used as Police headquarters in Hawaii Five O!




This blog post is rather longer than I had originally planned, so I have divided up our Hawaii adventure into this one featuring the mainland O'ahu, which I hope you have enjoyed, with and the next part of our mega-holiday which was on board the Pride of America Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ship.  More next week.


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