Monday, 24 December 2012

Greetings of the Season

Wishing you a truly fabulous Christmas and
an absolutely magical New Year

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Exploring Honolulu

Taking the Red Line Waikiki Trolley, we took the interesting, and free, 1 hour tour from the Capitol Building to the grounds of the Iolani Palace before continuing to explore Honolulu on our own.

Unlike most State Capitol Buildings we’ve visited, the Hawaiian State Capitol Building is square,

surrounded on three sides by water the building has an opening to the sky

and is meant to represent the islands, volcanoes and surrounding seas.   The Hawaiian State Flag is interesting as it combines the Union Jack and the Stripes of the Stars and Stripes.

Opposite the Capitol Building is an Eternal Flame dedicated to the men and women of Hawaii who have served in the Armed Forces, in the mountains behind is The Punchbowl Military Cemetery.
Hanaiakamalama, in the once secluded uplands of the Nuuanu Valley, was the country estate of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma.   In 1848 a beautiful New England style house was constructed and is known as Queen Emma’s summer palace.  Today it’s on a 6 lane highway in the middle of Honolulu and definitely not secluded!    
The Iolani Palace is the only Royal Palace in the United States, I decided to take the tour, but sadly didn’t realise I’d paid for the self-guided tour, which although interesting, I’d’ve much preferred the proper guided tour with a real person.

Built by King David Kalakaua and completed in 1882 the Iolani Palace was the first electrified building in Honolulu.   In fact it had electricity before Buckingham Palace and The White House.
The Throne Room

The Hawaiian Royal Coat of Arms

Iolani Palace was the home of the Hawaiian Royals for only 11 years before Queen Lili’Uokalani was deposed in January 1893 during a coup led by US Marines at the behest of sugar planters and descendants of the missionaries.

This statue of Queen Lili’Uokalani is between the Capitol Building and the Iolani Palace.
An impressive statue of King Kamehameha I stands in front of the Supreme Court Building,
mind you the building is probably better known as the offices for Hawaii 50!
This tree was planted by a member of Hawaiian Royalty sadly I didn’t make a note of who, now it’s right in the middle of the tower blocks of downtown Honolulu.
Built in 1927 at a cost of $750,000.00, this gorgeous ceiling is in the porch of the Hawaiian Electric Company Building on Richards Street, one of the few companies that can trace its beginnings back to the era of the Hawaiian Monarchy.   I wonder how many people actually notice it when they go in to pay their bill?
Our next stop was Kawaiaha`o Church, when the first missionaries arrived in 1820 King Kamehameha III granted them land to establish the Kingdom’s first Christian Church.   The church is listed on both the Hawaiian and National Historic Registers.
We had a great day looking around Honolulu, there was so much more to see than we realised and still a lot that we didn’t get to see.   I just hope I’ve spelt all the Hawaiian names correctly!  
Have fun, we are!

Friday, 9 November 2012


We rode the Waikiki Trolley to the Aloha Tower stop where we took the free walking tour ‘Honolulu in 1941’.   The tour starts in the port and goes through Chinatown.

Our first stop was the 10th floor of the Aloha Tower, which was built in 1925 at a cost of $190,000.00 a lot of money back then.

There were great views of the port of Honolulu, Sand Island and the airport.

In some places on the pavement in the port area you can still just about see faint white lines that were used to mark the area where lei sellers stood when ships arrived.   There was only one cruise ship in the day we were there, but you could imagine how busy it must’ve been back when all visitors arrived by ship.

In the 1850’s Chinese labourers came from Guangdong Province to work in the pineapple and sugar plantations.   They quickly figured out that this wasn’t going to make them rich, so once their contracts were up they started restaurants and small businesses.

The area has been devastated by fire, once in the 1880’s and once in 1900.  Apparently the second fire is intriguing as in 1899 bubonic plague broke out and the area was immediately quarantined.   However, in 1900 a fire started to burn down plague infested homes quickly got out of control and destroyed the entire area.  Some historians believe that the ‘out of control’ fire may have been deliberately left to burn as the Chinese merchants occupied prime real estate and were economically powerful.   If that was the case it didn’t work as merchants simply rebuilt in the same spot.

As we walked along Gary, our guide explained that some of the older buildings were made of brick
and some of volcanic blue stone, some buildings have also been clad with a façade, so I hope I’ve got these the right way round!
I seem to think this building is police station and if I remember correctly the outside is one that appears in Hawaii 50.
Quite a few of the buildings were used as dance halls and/or brothels girls came from many different places, LA, San Francisco, to work in Honolulu especially during WWII, on arrival they were all examined for public health reasons.

The Lai Fong Department Store has been owned by the same family for over 75 years, when you think of the size of stores these days it seems very small.
Wu Fat’s another regular in Hawaii 50.
We passed the tattoo parlour that originally belonged to ‘Sailor Jerry’ we’d never heard of him, but he was apparently world famous, no photograph as there was a huge van parked in front of it. 
The market was really interesting although I have to admit I wasn’t at all sure about some of the things on offer.  One of which was ‘chicken fingers’ which is actually chicken’s feet, while we were assured that they were actually very tasty I’m not at all sure we could be persuaded to try them.
Some of the other things for sale in the market.
One of the entrances to the market, wouldn’t you know it just as I pressed the shutter someone appeared in the entrance!
We stopped in the Ruby café were DB discovered manapua, pork baked inside a bap, he thoroughly enjoyed that and said it was very tasty.  I have to admit the coconut cream buns were nice as well!
The restored Hawaii Theatre.
Gary, our guide was very informative, there's a lot to see and it was really interesting, we had a great time.
Have fun, we are!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

More Waikiki

After a catching up on our sleep and enjoying some lovely fresh pineapple with our breakfast we set off to explore Waikiki.

We decided to walk along the Ala Wai canal for a while and then continue on towards the beach, it’s a lovely walk
every so often there are plumeria trees and the smell is absolutely gorgeous.
At one time Waikiki was only a very small strip of land at the foot of the mountains surrounded by marshes and was the preserve of Hawaiian Royalty.   About 300 inches of rain fall on the mountains each year, canals were built to catch the rain water, no canals no Waikiki.
There are only so many pedestrian crossings along Ala Wai, naturally the road we wanted had no crossing so we had to backtrack a block.
Needless to say after all this exertion we needed a coffee stop before continuing to the Damien and Marianne of Moloka’i Heritage Centre.
It took us a while to find it as it had moved, the entrance is no longer behind St Augustine's Cathedral but is now beside an ABC store and Burger King on Kalakaua Avene.   Father Damien was born in Belgium and arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1864.   In 1873 he volunteered to minister to the Hawaiians who were exiled to Kalaupapa on Moloka’i because they had leprosy.   Father Damien saw to the needs of the exiled people for 16 years before contracting leprosy himself and dying in 1889.   He was canonized in 2009 and is one of two Hawaiian saints.
Originally from Germany, Mother Marianne, superior general of the Sisters of Saint Francis in Syracuse, NY came to Hawaii after the Kingdom of Hawaii asked for assistance from religious communities to open a hospital for leprosy patients on Oahua.   In 1888 Mother Marianne arrived in Kalaupapa a few months before Father Damien died. Mother Marianne died of natural causes in 1918 and became the second Hawaiian saint in October 2012.
Photographs are not allowed inside this really interesting free museum.    It is possible visit Kalaupapa on Moloka’i although if I remember correctly visitor numbers are restricted.
After our visit to the museum, we carried on exploring, which mostly meant enjoying the sunshine, sitting on benches and watching the surfers, it was a tough day!
Along the beach there are statues and information boards in the shape of surfboards.
This statue is of Makua and Kila, and is based on a children’s story by Fred Van Dyke honouring Hawaiian values.
The historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel, known as the ‘Pink Palace’, built in 1927 by the Matson Steamship Company was near where Queen Kaahumanu had her summer palace on one of the best stretches of Waikiki beach.   Imagine how gorgeous it must've been without all the huge hotels that overshadow it now.
Diamond Head rising above Waikiki, movies are sometimes shown on the big screen on the beach, sadly we just missed the last one which was a premier of the new Hawaii 5 0.
Waves crash on breakwaters, dissipating some of their force even so you can still feel their power in the swimming area.
Surfers on Waikiki, needless to say it’s not us!

Have fun, we are!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Waikiki – Our hotel

Waikiki is much more built up than we expected, although to be honest I don’t know what we expected, it is after all the tourist capital of Hawaii with over 6 million visitors a year.

We stayed at the Best Western Plus Coconut Waikiki on Lewers Street,
the trip advisor reviews were right, it’s a lovely hotel, very clean, offers a nice breakfast each morning, has really friendly staff and is within easy walking distance of everything Waikiki has to offer.
Although we’d booked a city view room, from our balcony on one side we had a view of the Ala Wai Canal and the mountains,
on the other side we could see the ocean, albeit in the distance.
If we ever go to Waikiki again, we’d definitely stay here.
The only thing that did drive me mad was a Waikiki wide problem with pigeons, if you so much as sat outside with a coffee or anything vaguely resembling food you were surrounded by the pesky things.
Have fun, we are!

Aloha – Catching up

We had so much fun in Hawaii that when it came to updating the blog we simply ran out of day, now we’re home where it’s alternating between grey, rain, sunshine and cold, or all three and cold at the same time, the plan is to catch up.

Originally we had a lovely mid-morning flight out of Tucson, but in its wisdom the airline computer changed everything and suddenly we were scheduled to arrive in LAX after our flight to Honolulu departed.    Much discussion with an airline representative who wanted to charge us a fee to put right their changes, (go figure!) eventually got things sorted out, of course that ended up with us having an early morning silly o’clock flight and what seemed like a never ending layover at LAX.

When we arrived in Honolulu much to our disappointment it was overcast and drizzly, but by the time we’d taken the shuttle to our hotel, checked in and sorted ourselves out it had cleared up and was a lovely evening.

After sighing over some gorgeous Hawaiian pearls (for some reason DB wasn’t as enthusiastic) along the way, we made it to a Starbucks.   After almost nodding off over coffee and a frappuccino we realised we were absolutely shattered and perhaps ought to get some sleep so we headed back to our hotel, good job it wasn’t very far.

Have fun, we are!

Monday, 15 October 2012


Surf, sun, blue skies, beaches and shopping, having soooo much fun in Hawaii, will catch up eventually!
Have fun, we are!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Socorro, New Mexico

As usual I’m trying to catch up as I’m way behind with the blog.   Socorro (Spanish for ‘help’, I think) is an old Spanish town and has an interesting history.

Our first stop was at the old San Miguel Mission which was established in 1598.  The mission is closed at the moment as during one of the many renovations the wrong sort of stucco was applied, water got into the adobe walls and they crumbled from the inside out.   Once the stucco was removed, the fix was to allow the adobe to dry out, this took over 12 months and then a new formulation of stucco was applied by hand.
Our next stop was the Visitor Centre where we picked up details of the Socorro Walking Tour, very handily we were able to leave the truck in the parking area at the rear of the building.

The Plaza
I think this is the oldest bar in town, no we didn’t go in, way too early in the day for us, besides which that would have meant me driving DB’s beloved truck up I25, yeh right, not gonna happen!  
This was once the Valverde Hotel.
I’m not sure if this neon sign still works.
Across from the plaza is a fragment of Jumbo, a huge steel vessel designed to contain the first nuclear explosion at the Trinity Site on 16 July 1945.   The Trinity site about 35 miles east of Socorro.
Jumbo was 25ft long, 12ft in diameter, weighed 214 tons and had steel walls 14 inches thick.   Although Jumbo wasn’t used in the first tests and was 800ft from ground zero, the only damage was to the steel superstructure around it that crumpled in the blast.   In later experiments the ends were blown out.
WWII Bataan Memorial.

We didn’t finish the walking tour because as usual we got chatting and ran out of time, but there is much more to see in Socorro and the surrounding areas, so we’ll be back. 
Have fun, we are!

Friday, 5 October 2012

El Rancho De Las Golondrinas

The Ranch of the Swallows dates back to the early 1700’s and is fascinating.   It was the last stop before Santa Fe on the Camino Real and as such must have been a welcome sight for travellers who had just traversed the dreaded Camino Del Muerto. 

Torreon (defensive tower) at the entrance.
The ranch is part original, part restored and part period buildings brought in from other locations.
This is one of the oldest sections.   We learnt that the doorways were low, partly because people were smaller but also for defensive reasons, as if the thick outer walls were breached, the attackers had to look down as they tried to access the inner area, making it easier for those defending to fight back.
Another view of the inside.
Chapel of the Penitentes, unfortunately it was locked so we couldn’t go inside.

The Rio Grande runs through the property, luckily there is a bridge so we didn’t have to wade through the ford.

Fields are still planted with corn there is also a blacksmiths, wheelwrights, tanners, all the things you would need to keep a ranch running.

School house for the children.
This Molina (watermill) is the largest of the 4 at Las Golondrinas, the working parts were made in Buffalo, New York.   In the 1870’s it was brought over the Santa Fe trail to the town of Sapelló just north of Las Vegas, New Mexico were it was used for generations by the same family.   In the 1960’s it was purchased by Las Golondrinas, the adobe building is a replica of the original in Sapelló, the 20 ft water wheel has recently been restored and is powered by water carried by an aqueduct from the ‘cienega’ (upper spring).
We spent several fascinating hours visiting this historical place and although it’s on the edge of Santa Fe, it seemed a million miles away from all the hustle and bustle.
Have fun, we are!