Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Adventures in Paradise - Part 5

Note: After the devastating world events recently, it seemed frivolous to continue telling you about our Hawaii vacation, but I promised I would, so the tale continues here:

Friday, October 9, after the breakfast buffet at the hotel, we took the shuttle to Hilo Hattie. Our friends from the tour joined us both for breakfast but also on the bus. We were shocked to see “STORE CLOSING” signs outside. We asked and discovered the flagship store and warehouse in Waikiki would close in a couple of weeks.

We have many fond memories of our visits there. When we first went, we took a factory tour to see the clothing being made. Then in the first showroom, we could purchase all the various styles in the latest print. At that time, only clothes made on the premises were sold. Later, other manufacturers’ items joined the iconic Hilo Hattie styles.

At the entrance, we received our traditional shell leis, and then entered the store. Stocks seemed depleted and some areas looked empty compared to earlier times. We found a few items, including a Duke Kahanamoku shirt for Larry. Then we ate lunch at the café in the store.

The antibiotic had upset my stomach, and—How do you say diarrhea politely? I spent Saturday, October 10, in bed. Larry ate with the Rughs and rented a surfboard. Not very exciting for me, but he was ready to try the waves at Waikiki.

On Sunday, October 11, Larry got up early and finally made it into the water. He enjoyed one of the longest rides he ever surfed. He started at Number Threes, out from the hotel, and ended up about twenty yards from the Pink Palace (The Royal Hawaiian Hotel). The long walk back, after the long wave ride, wore him out!

We had tickets for the Sunday Brunch at the hotel, so we went with the Rughs. Again, the couple, who we accused of following us, joined us for brunch.

We spent another quiet day resting. Dinner was the weekend Mongolian Barbeque at the hotel. A pretty tasty meal.

By Monday, October 12, we were ready to spend some time sightseeing, so we took the van to Hilo Hattie again. We purchased another shirt to match Larry’s for his best friend and surfing buddy, Bob.

Then we went on to the Aulani, the new Disney resort near Makaha. We walked around and explored. It seems like a perfect oasis for families since it is self-contained. However, it is a long distance from Waikiki and other areas on the island. For adults, it seems a bit lacking.

However, lunch at the ‘Ama’Ama café was delicious. The hostess showed us to a table with very low chairs. Since Len is paralyzed, we feared he wouldn’t be able to get up once he was seated. However, our waiter recognized the potential problem. He not only took us to another table with higher chairs, he added an extra cushion for Len. This young man took lots of time to explain all the menu items and didn’t rush our selection. We noticed he gave the same attention to other diners he served. We left a large tip and thanked him for his outstanding service.

Before we left, Larry bought a beach towel with the seagulls from Finding Nemo on it. It says, “Mine, Mine, Mine.” I hope he’ll keep it at home to use with the spa, but I fear it will eventually end up at the beach. I just hope it makes its way home.

Road trip day! On Tuesday, October 13, after breakfast at the hotel, we piled into the van for a trip to the North Shore. We passed Hale’iwa Town, where we pointed out some of the places we’d mentioned in our book Murder in Paradise. We drove by all the major surfing spots, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and then through the Turtle Bay Resort. We continued around the island. By the time we reached the east side, it had begun to drizzle, so we went back to Waikiki across the pali.

For dinner, we decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory since we had a gift card. We asked at the desk, and were told which bus to take. We were also told it stopped in front of Trump Tower, a few blocks away. However, the bus stop was actually halfway up Beachwalk—more than half a block farther than we’d been told. I still wasn’t feeling well, and Len’s brace had rubbed a raw spot on his leg. Neither of us were into a long walk. (Which is why we decided to take the bus in the first place!)

We asked the driver what the nearest stop to the Cheesecake Factory was. He said he’d tell us when to get off. He took a circuitous route up to Kuhio and then down Royal Hawaiian, stopping at the DFS Galleria at the corner of Kalakawa.

We knew where the restaurant was, and Larry thought we should get off there. But the driver indicated the next stop would be closer. WRONG! He stopped in the middle of the main beach, about half a block beyond the Duke statue. From there, it would have been at least four blocks back to the restaurant. If we’d taken Larry’s suggestion, we’d have had a bout a two-block walk.

The only good thing about the trip was the driver didn’t charge Len for the ride.

Since we passed the Outrigger, we decided to eat at Duke’s. This has been a favorite spot for a nice meal ever since 2005, when it took over the spot Perry’s Smorgy once occupied. Unfortunately, the restaurant has gone the way of so many (including the Chart House, here in Dana Point.) We had enjoyed the restaurant overlooking Dana Point Harbor for years until they raised the prices and stopped offering the salad bar with entrees.

Same with Duke’s. The prices were much higher, and the salad bar (including bread) was an additional fee. Our waiter clearly didn’t understand the menu items. I ordered the opah lightly grilled with the mango chutney. This is how I’ve had it many times before, but apparently they have also eliminated that preparation. The fish was overcooked and served with a glob of mashed potatoes. Larry added the salad bar to his entrée, but he said the selection was greatly diminished.

We decided to pay for a taxi ride back to the hotel rather than take the bus.

The adventure will continue next week with our final days in Waikiki.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Adventures in Paradise - Part 4

We woke early on Thursday, October 8 to meet the van in the hotel lobby for the Home of the Brave Tour at 5:30 a.m. Even in the summer, it’s still very dark at that time of the morning. Besides Len & Luanna, another couple from the Hale Koa hotel joined us on the tour. For the next week, it felt as though we were following each other around since we seemed to be at the same places at the same time.
We made a couple of other stops to pick up additional passengers before the actual tour began.
Our first stop was Fort Shafter, the headquarters of the US Army of the Pacific. During WWII, this was the center of Pacific Operations.
We arrived just before dawn and exited the bus just in time to see the raising of the flag, escorted by an honor guard. In addition, the cannon was shot in salute. What a fitting beginning to a day dedicated to the events of December 7, 1941.
Our tour guide, Olav, was a true student of the story of the Pearl Harbor attack. As the day progressed, he walked us through the events of that morning. He concentrated on the stories of individual participants in the activities, making the story personal and meaningful.
Next, we went to Pearl Harbor for the Navy tour of the USS Arizona Memorial. We had intended to visit the memorial on this trip. Len and Lu had taken the Home of the Brave Tour about twenty years earlier and wanted to do it again, so we opted to go with them. It was one of the highlights of the trip.
The USS Missouri is now a museum, and we saw it from the Navy transport on the way out to the Arizona, but we did not have time to visit this time.
We were able to take additional notes while on the memorial for our next Agapé Jones mystery—the major reason for taking the tour. Visiting the memorial is always a moving experience.
On we went to Wheeler Army Airfield, where many aircraft were lined up for storage on the morning of the attack. The Japanese strafed the field and destroyed most of the aircraft. However, several pilots were able to get to planes into the air and engage in aerial battle.
Next, we went to Schofield Barracks, home of the 25th Infantry division, where we ate lunch. We arrived on the day when the division celebrated its birthday, so the troops marched in formation through the base as we watched, forming a lasting memory.
After lunch, we visited the museum and learned even more about the location and its history.
We drove to “The Punchbowl,” the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Unfortunately, due to vandalism, tour groups are no longer allowed to leave their vehicles to walk around the memorial. Fortunately, we have visited the place on several previous tours
Our final stop was at the Home of the Brave Brewseum. Downstairs is an amazing collection of WWII memorabilia—including the old motorcycle shown here. Many of the items have been donated by the families of WWII veterans.
Upstairs, the owners have a microbrewery.
Altogether, the day was educational, emotional, and moving. I was once again reminded of the sacrifices of those, including our fathers, who gave several years of their lives in order to assure the safety of those at home.
I highly recommend this tour if you are ever in Honolulu.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Adventures in Paradise - Part 3

We arrived at the Hale Koa Hotel on Tuesday afternoon, October 6, after picking up the van and the Rughs. We settled into our room, and then got something to eat at the snack place at the hotel. Unfortunately, the food was less than satisfying.

Fortunately, the hotel itself is beautiful. We were so grateful that the Rughs invited us to join them. You have to be military (active or retired with a military ID) in order to stay there. Non-military people have to be sponsored by a military person.

Then we went back to our rooms to rest and settle in. Each of our rooms had a small balcony with a view of the ocean.

We got dinner and made it an early night. The Rughs had just arrived after a cruise, and we had spent the previous week on Maui, so we all needed the rest. Unfortunately, I coughed all night.

By the next morning, I was truly ill and felt as though I was running a fever. Larry dragged me to the walk-in clinic in the building where the old Planet Hollywood used to be. We called first to make sure the doctor was in.

He confirmed I had bronchitis (not flu), so he prescribed yet another round of antibiotics—this time a double dose for six days. Unfortunately, there isn’t a pharmacy in Waikiki. (Long’s is opening a store in the two-story space where Planet Hollywood used to be, but it won’t open for another year.)

I dragged myself back to the hotel, trying to keep up with Larry. By the time we returned, I was exhausted.

We checked in with Len and Lu, and told them we had to go to Long’s at Ala Moana to fill the prescription. They needed a few things, so we piled into the van and headed for the shopping center.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it. (Ala Moana is a MESS. It was torn up the last time we were there, and it’s worse now.) We asked a construction worker where Long’s was. She said it had been moved upstairs, but it would reopen on the first floor soon. She wasn’t even sure either location was open. But she told us WalMart had a pharmacy and gave us directions for how to get there.

Off we went again, and this time, we found the WalMart easily. I turned in the prescription and waited for it to be filled. Len and Lu and Larry wandered off to find other things they needed. We finally collected all our items.

I needed makeup, so we went to Ward Warehouse, where Merle Norman was supposed to be located, but when we arrived, we found a sign on the door saying they had moved. Fortunately, the daughter of the owner caught us and told us exactly where to go. As we were talking to her, the mother saw us and drew us a map.

We followed directions and wandered around until we found the new store. They had what I needed, thank goodness!
On the way in, we saw Kua Aina Burgers in the same center. We always ate at the original in Haleiwa, so we decided to have lunch there.

I took the first pill and hoped I’d feel better soon.

We returned to the hotel where we took a nap. We had a special trip planned for the next day and I needed to be in better shape to go.

I had a container of yogurt and a banana for dinner. Larry joined Len and Lu at the hotel restaurant.

The next day, I was determined to go on the tour we had planned. It was the highlight of the trip, and I’ll tell you about it next week (with photos, I promise).

Monday, October 26, 2015

Adventures in Paradise - Part 2

Rain started on Sunday afternoon, October 4. After lunch, we went back to Suzi’s and took a nap. Loved hearing the rain on the roof and dropping from the eaves.

In the evening, we watched one of our favorite movies, The Princess Bride, while the rain continued. Very cozy.

On Monday, after breakfast, we drove to Kehei to visit the Kalama Heights retirement home. We had mentioned it in our latest Agapé Jones mystery, and Suzi arranged for a meeting with one of the people who works there. It reminded me of Del Obispo Terrace where we do Care and Share with the residents. It is the perfect place for our character to have chosen.

Following our visit, we went to the Five Palms Restaurant to meet the guy who is the inspiration for Agapé Jones. We met him in 2005 at the Maui Writers Conference and immediately decided we had to write a character based on him. Because he is a retired detective, we can’t use his real name, so I’ll call him ‘Agapé.’ We decided early on that we are ‘ohana’ (Hawaiian for ‘family—blood relations or not). Every time we get to Maui, we try to see him. Suzi has read our mysteries and indicated she wanted to meet the ‘real’ Agapé Jones.

We were seated when he arrived. As soon as he spotted Suzi, he said, “Well, hello!” Turns out, they already knew each other. Suzi just hadn’t recognized his name. (I told you, she knows EVERYONE on the island!)

We had a lovely lunch, and enjoyed spending time with our friends, as always.

We returned to Suzi’s early in the afternoon to prepare for the big Celebrity Password party in the evening. She had invited friends (a couple of whom we had met at First Friday or at the show) for the potluck supper and to play the game. What fun!

She told us ahead of time to think up the names of eight famous people ( living or dead, real or fictional, from any sector) whom everyone would recognize. We had noted our choices ahead of time in order to be ready.

Before the party, Suzi heated her main dishes and Larry prepared his famous pineapple boats.

When the others arrived (with their dishes), we all wrote down each of our names on a separate 3x5 card (printed horizontally) and folded them so about ¼ inch of card remained on one side for ease of opening. Then we put them in a big bowl for the game.

We started with the main course and salads, and we got to know our fellow players.

Then we divided into two teams of six each. Larry and I had to be on separate teams so there were ‘newbies’ on each team.

A representative from each team drew a token to see who went first, and one of the players from the starting team grabbed a handful of cards from the bowl. When the timer (from the opposite team) gave them the start, they had one minute to get their team to identify as many names as possible. In the first round, we could use as many words as we wanted to describe the person as long as we didn’t use any part of their name.

As each name was correctly identified, the player threw the cards onto the floor. If they didn’t know the person, they could use charade-style clues to try to get the others to get to the name. When time was called, any remaining cards (including a last one not yet guessed) were returned to the bowl.

The cards on the floor were collected by the team.

The same process was repeated on the other side. Player by player, the cards were opened, clues given, and names identified until the bowl was emptied. Then each team tallied the names they had identified. (My team won the first round.)

Then the second round began, only this time, we were allowed only two words to identify the person. The advantage was we had already heard all the names at least once. (Some were duplicated, so they were even easier.) Gestures became more important in this round, which my team won again.

Then we took a break for dessert. I got the makings for Chiquita Valdez sundaes--a favorite dessert from CF Braun & Co in the '70s and '80s (coffee ice cream with crushed pineapple and chopped bananas, topped with whipped cream). In addition to Larry’s pineapple boats, we had homemade cookies and pie and other goodies.

Thus fortified, we started the last and final round, where we were allowed no words, only gestures. Larry found this round much easier, for some reason, and his team took the round.

It wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about all the laughing and fun.

By the end of the evening, my cough had returned with a vengeance (no doubt, spurred on by all the laughter).

The next morning, I started feeling badly again. We caught a morning flight to Honolulu to meet our friends, Len and Luanna Rugh. By the time the plane landed, I knew I was ill again. Rats!

More about the Honolulu portion of the trip next week.