Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hawaii - FINALE!

Hawaii - Trip of a Lifetime!

Aloha Bound - Finale

Planned for over a year,
we were really there in March, 2007!!

As my mind has wandered over the past few weeks, I am filled with contentment, and completely captivated with my own personal experiences in Hawaii, especially the thoughts I choose to warmly embrace, when I reflect back onto our “vacation of a lifetime” with all of our children present in one place, all present at the very same time, for a whole week span of time, a truly remarkable feat in and of itself!

Our immediate family Hawaiian photo.

Our very private three mile oceanfront beach.

Good Morning, who's at the beach already?

Back from a snorkeling swim.

Fun in the water

The tropical setting was perfect for our family, with sunny warmth bronzing our bodies, though some burnt to a red crisp. Our minds were continually consumed and completely captivated by the joy during a most emotional visit together, filling all of our senses with an undeniable and unmistakable blessing as the days passed by one at a time.

Good morning, coffee is still being sipped.

I'll beat you this time!

Early morning coffee shop talk clatching.

As I personally reflect back over our family nestling in amongst four walls together, my mind rolls through the many sweet moments I have captured deep within my heart and mind, little vignettes present before me bringing a smile to my lips. At best, all present except for my hubby, had not one clue I was gulping it all in “so very deeply”, for he too was doing the same.

Floral and fauna were beautiful all around the home.

I watched, listened, observed, prayed, relaxed, smiled, hugged, hoped, touched, caressed little cheeks, and took many Kodak moments into my memory. Often I just closed my eyes to "freeze" the moment, hoping it would never go away again. I dreamed many dreams for this trip, (as did my hubby for it was his great desire), the biggest at the top of the list was for the triumph of peace within the family, finding common bonds and realizing just how short life really is in the end to toss about personality conflicts and uncertain differences. We say; "Vive la difference!" and love one another through it all. Life is just too darned short!

Beach walks, moments of beauty

Trouble for me this particular week was, the camera I am so often accused of carrying about, and snapping photos often, was often laying unused much of the time, tender moments caught in my head and heart rather than on the digital, and for once, certainly I preferred to capture every moment in my heart, those unexplainable seconds where you can hardly breathe for the love you feel towards those surrounding your very presence. It became almost paralyzing some moments, a veil of statuesque beauty.

I cannot explain the state of being I experienced, both hubby and I comparing notes in the later hours before falling asleep, however it will remain with us forever I am sure as this was a definite “trip of our lifetime”.

The Blue Hawaiian Guys

I wanted to savor the flavor, feeling and absorbing every little detail for the entire duration of our time out west. Ahead of time, both hubby and I worked hard at planning the trip detail by detail, wanting nothing to get in the way, absolutely nothing negative for sure, and certainly nothing to assume or wonder about, when there was just no reason to do so, nor felt we wanted to give the energy for the time of day doing so either. We two tried so incredibly hard to gather the gang and could envision the memories possible, attempting to give it a magical feel with open arms, thus also providing the tropical scenery and the weather was a bonus for sure, for this definite trip of a lifetime we were about to share as a family.

Where we hung our hearts all week

This was a time to forget and leave all our cares behind for the sake of the bigger picture, as mentioned in the very first post on our Hawaiian trip, that gong was rung and cares were not allowed here. It was also a fresh new time to begin anew with the hope of a fabulous tomorrow for future family relationships and memories to discuss around the family dinner table in the future with the grandchildren.

Uncle, Auntie and Nieces and Nephew.

After watching how a coconut is opened,
he tried to show them all.

We were just not going to let anything negative into the atmosphere, and everyone agreed it could not and should not have a place there although admittedly a few tiffs were bound to occur with such a large brood under one roof, having all been on a road to a fast burnout before flying to the islands. As to be expected, there was a bit of apprehension from all not knowing what the home was going to afford for privacy, but that was aleviated quickly once we all entered the front doorway upon our arrival the very first day. It was very necessary to unwind, relax, and bond, as one week isn't that long in the end.

Our very private entry road to our vacation home.

Little did we all expect the week would fly by so quickly, moment to moment together, before sending all off again on their flight back to the mainland. It was almost surreal to see them part, one car load at a time, never really wanting to say the word "goodbye", for that was the last thing on our minds. It was "see you soon", "see you on the mainland when we come for the last few days".

After everyone left there was an eerie feeling in my heart and head, hubby's too, as we caught a glimpse of one another, misty eyed and hoping all would have a safe return flight home. We missed them before they were up the road, we missed them a whole lot!

Beautiful fauna all around,
this at the Polynesian center.

It actually felt funny to remain behind, closing and locking up the home we’d shared and enjoyed so dearly all week long, taking one last peak at the amazing ocean off the back deck when only moments before I snapped photos of a few of us for one last photo for the scrapbook album.

Our incredible vacation home.

It is noteworthy to mention the fact our family has spent many vacations away, and the bulk of them were without my hubby. You see there were not too many vacation times he could leave his work career for too great a period of time without serious ramifications, especially in the months holding better weather patterns. In our entire thirty years of marriage in fact, this was the very first time he would be away, on purpose, for three weeks! For myself, this was a family record, and for the children seeing him so very relaxed after several days of unwinding, it was an incredible bonus beyond belief! Moreover, imagine each day turning to say hello and welcome to my hubby, with whom I too was not used to having him along. Very nice!

Good Morning again and again for three weeks!

Browsing the outer doorways, I smiled at the warm memory of all the shoes and sandals usually there before, and one glimpse of the shower at the bottom of the stairwell swept over me remembering this as the meeting water hole with everyone dallying in the warm water luxury after an ocean swim.

Games and togetherness were counted on.

The grassed area was missing the badminton net now, neatly folded away until someone else was able to use it next time. The tennis court had no trace of our family's players to linger the afternoon away. Without the luggage, the maps, cameras, suntan lotion and basic individual treasures all around the interior of the home, it was truly barren and devoid of our family’s presence at the end, time to move on, and capture all the memories for the future now.

There is always something to celebrate!

How we love our children, and our grandchildren! How proud we are of all of them, for who they are and the fine adults they have grown into. How they give us great honor! How we admire then all, each of them with their various personalities, and the loved ones they chose to bring into the family fold. How we love all our additions to the family, for they have only enhanced the family unit, those marrieds and grandchildren whom we also are thrilled to call ours. Oh yeah, there will always be "issues" in the minor scope of life, but the greatest of these Christ said, is love. Like a blip on a radar screen, one moment here and the next gone, we were ecstatic to be with them all over the week's timing, under one roof. And for the record, yes, we all survived the time in a house together, and if i do say so myself, very well and thank you.


We Are Family!
I got all my brothers and sisters with me!

From the wonderful home on the north shores of Oahu, we packed our belongings, loaded all into our rental vehicle and with the four younger children, we headed slowly along the scenic route, along the east side of the island towards Waikiki, our next stop for five more days.

Away we go somewhere else...

The year before, my hubby and I had spent three days here on this island by ourselves, before embarking towards the Big Island of Hawaii to Kona for a few more days. Such vast differences were represented and noted between the two locations and in the geographical details between the two islands themselves. Certainly the lush rainforest area of the east side of Oahu did not resemble anything of Kona, mostly a volcanic laden land with black rock blanketing the roadsides. Ocean views are incredible at both locations, sunsets worth taking a front row seat for every night, which we did. Thus began a gentle and ongoing love for us, the end of a new day so quiet and serene, both of us reflecting over the day together while enjoying the sun falling and dipping into the wild blue yonder.

Arriving in Waikiki, to our hotel, a branch of Resort Quest hotel chains, our specific one was fairly easy to find, one where we had a tremendous reservations deal on a two-bedroom suite, or so it seemed…

Our two-bedroom suite was supposed to have an ocean view, it did not. It was a two-bedroom suite certainly, with merely two single beds in one room and four children! We were supposed to have two queen sized beds, obviously not. The other bedroom had a double bed and if one reached out while laying on the bed, for sure their fingers would be able to reach every surrounding wall easily! The windows were small, the deck had a wall half way up darkening the rooms to a lovely dusk feeling where automatically everyone reached for the light switches, but it was bright and sunny outside, so that was not going to do. Nevertheless, it sounded larger than it was, a mistake from the front end we found out later, with the combined area not much larger than our own bedroom back home, including its wee kitchen and sitting area! The bathroom reminded me of something from a camper or motor home, super skinny, and creating the effect where one would need to “fold up” to get inside the doorway, and curl into a small ball to fit inside the bucket shaped tub to have a bath. (smile) As well, it smelled like stale smoke, though it was a no smoking suite. Overall, it wasn’t suitable no matter how we attempted to see the positive, so a telephone call to the reception area was swift and immediate.

To our delight, we were offered the possibility of another suite, substituting for the poor end result this day, and invited to preview it firstly to ensure it was more appropriate to our liking. Isn’t it just a tourist’s worst nightmare to be in a position like this? It seems we’ve encountered this several times, feeling left to the mercy and judgment of the staff on duty of the hotel while they “get it together”, errors on their own part for the paying client standing before them.

We were escorted to preview the
penthouse suite on the 38th floor.

Arriving shortly was the head of security who would escort us up to the new suggested suite. There was a need to be very nonchalant for the duration of the previewing, as we were surprised to be escorted all the way up to the penthouse, leaving our mouths gaping open at the thought of having this deluxe suite we were able to tour in advance carefully (pinch me!) and the wonderful, most fantastic view from the very large windows straight ahead. Did I say large? Enormous is more like it!

Still we had no ocean view as promised; rather we had the north city area view, able to see parts of the zoo and some of Diamond Head to the right. The suite included a full kitchen, an actual dining room with a glass table and six bamboo chairs, and two large bedrooms with larger beds. The children’s bedroom had two queen sized beds, ours had a king size bed and both were extra large in size for comfort and no smoke smell either. Two bathrooms were lovely with walk in closets to hang up our clothes and our fresh floral leis carted from the other home and our trip to the Polynesian center. Imagine how wonderful it was to find a washer and dryer in one of the washrooms, bar stools over a wonderful kitchen area, and the ability to cook our own food with a well-appointed stock of items to use in there. Well, well, well, this was great! For sure being way up high on the 38th floor had it's advantages, the view certainly one of them.

Views during daylight or evening were stunning!

There were a few jitters however knowing this was earthquake county and decidedly in the back on my own mind, I wondered how fast we could get the children (and hubby) down all the stairs should an emergency arose. It wasn't long before we found out what could happen when the fire alarm sounded one afternoon and the looming possibility of having to jog down the stairs became a reality. Heading out the door of our room, we were stopped by the window washers who admitted to tripping the alarm when heading out the fire exit door, so all was well. Twice later the next day, the same thing happened, the window washers at fault again, but by this time we had a plan formulated in the event it wasn't a joke and I shuddered to think HOW it would/could work out. With eight penthouse suites, most were occupied by families with children, all weren't pleased with the false alarms.

Once we settled in, hubby and daughter decided to return the rental vehicle to the airport and return on the shuttle. Whoever thinks they require a vehicle in the Waikiki area has no clue, as there are many other modes of transportation; walking is huge, buses and shuttles the most popular.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel used to be the King's palace.

After our week relaxing on the north shore, becoming tourists only a fraction of the time period, we were ready for the hustle and bustle of the city as we weren’t finding life to be in the usual hectic mode already completely unwound and coasting along easily with whatever the flow of the day ended up being.

Walking the sands of Waikiki,
the Diamond Head volcano is in the background

“Carpe Diem” was the motto, rolling wherever the day took us, however it took us, resting when necessary, swimming, walking, strolling, and eating whenever we pleased.

The closest I was able to get to an actual
surfing lesson, watching this boy get his. Drats!

In hindsight, it seems to be quite amusing to think we wanted to provide a cultural experience for the younger four by the end of our time on the Hawaiian islands, and after the tranquility of the unspoiled and scenic preview of the island first hand, all four children sat our first night at a rooftop restaurant, rolling their eyes at the live band playing groovy Hawaiian tunes with the slide guitar and ukulele filling the air.

Groovy Hawaiian band playing in the
background were fantastic and not appreciated at first...

We ate at restaurants more on this end of the vacation.

Hubby and I were in our glory, loving it all, sitting on this open-air rooftop, the sun setting over the ocean in the distance, the evening sky was sprinkled with stars winking over all before us, and the torches lit to create a wonderful ambiance for all of us.

The children began to notice how many islanders actually wore those floral shirts we spoke of, and wore ourselves, those dresses and skirts, as well as how many women wore flowers in their hair. Exclaiming before leaving the east to tour the area they would never wear such clothing themselves, and big deal to all that Hawaiian music mother (me) was making them all listen to for an entire month before even boarding the plane, they were hooked!

All were hooked and though they weren’t all going to admit it straight away, they did after returning home. It was funny to find our older son hadn’t packed his new Hawaiian shirt, the one we purchased for him before leaving. He had a huge distaste for it at the time, and then he was shocked when he witnessed all his brothers and others purchase their very own while on the same trip. Gee, not so bad huh? Say no more!

Naturally sought after and previously planned location stops in the heart of Waikiki included some we’d been to previously on our own as a couple, looking for souvenirs to bring back home for family and friends. The best place for shopping seemed to be hitting the Hawaiian International Marketplace, or one of the 57 ABC stores on almost every corner in Waikiki. The children loved this chain of stores, making many purchases at a few.

Of course, we had to purchase a few boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, shell necklaces, little items for the children they were interested in, and then the girls wasted no time requesting floral dresses for themselves, ones they could wear to the beach over their bathing suits, or at the pool at the hotel.

It was cute catching them, casually waltzing along browsing the racks for the loveliest floral patterns, and although they were given wraps last year from us, this time their hearts desire was a full dress. Ever Cute!

Wearing their floral dresses just purchased.

We browsed through several hotels to check out the fantastic lobbies, so tropical and cultural in the care taken to present waterfalls and fauna to the tourist.

We also browsed a few restaurant menus in various hotel locations, sitting for a time to watch the local musical talent playing their tunes, noted the surfers and beach recreational offerings, though it became unanimous eventually that we all actually preferred the solitude and peaceful serenity of our former rental house, rather than the busyness of this city. Note to self; Quiet places to be tourists in the future….smile.

Lovely hotel interiors to browse throughout.

We decided upon a few splurges, laughing at the fact we were “on vacation”. As an example; Who needs lunch when no one was really hungry and sitting amongst the “Cheesecake factory” employees at a famous restaurant? So, I know it’s crazy, but true, cheesecake was for lunch? Yes we did this!

The Cheesecake Factory was irresistible!

The time allotted for this vacation was simply perfect when we were in town one morning, and noticed a stage set out in front of the Sheraton beachfront hotel. Of course this was the exact week of the “Honululu Festival Days”, and soon a parade would be heading down the street in front of us.

A short distance away we saw police using barricades to close the roads in preparation for the looming parade, and people were passing along both sides of the sidewalk handing out flyers with the parade agenda detailed on it. Imagine a parade needing an agenda?

The 2 1/2 hour parade guide

Yes, this parade was going to be very grand, advertised as being 2 ½ hours long! Wow, we found a curb with hundred dollar seats for a full view of the festivities everyone was becoming excited about viewing. Within a short period of time, the sun moved just enough to hide behind a hotel across from us, leaving us with a reprieve from the blaring heat it offered this day.

Once the parade began, it didn’t take long for all of us to announce this was indeed a super fantastic parade! “They really know how to do a parade around here” said our nine year old. There were many cultures represented from the islands and the color feast before our eyes was riveting. How we enjoyed it all! In addition, I happened to get back into my usual mode of picture taking with over 150 photos of the many floats, marching bands, kimonos, moo moos, and beautiful people walking the streets. Amazing how that can occur…

Waikiki waterfront area towards the zoo.

Weather forecasts predicted sunshine the few days, sparking an interest in having a swim in the hotel pool each day, though the sun didn’t come around after the early morning again until later in the day, so one morning we headed to the beach designated swim area with our bamboo mats, towels, sun lotion already applied, water bottles in tow, water shoes on our feet and hats with sunglasses in place.

The beach wasn’t crowded early in the morning, the water was very warm, and the sand already hot to walk upon. All the children headed for the water and enjoyed their time swimming immensely. After the snorkeling and mask lessons on the north shore, one son purchased his own, and became completely immersed, exploring the depths of the swimming area. He was thrilled to see plenty of small tropical fish swimming around his feet and spent much of his time under water.

Watching the children get soaked...

The older two headed for the concrete divider separating the ocean expanse from the swim area. Sitting atop of the concrete divider, hubby and I could see a large wave headed their way but they were too busy climbing up onto the wall to sit as others were. Whoosh! Happily I caught one of them on camera.

Whoosh! They caught the wave!
Note the snorkeling son on the
left front in the white tshirt.

We took the “Hilo Hattie” tour this year with the children to view their warehouse store this company offers tourists with their free shuttle. All agreed it was well worth the fun trip across town through downtown Honolulu and a neat experience.

Posing in front of the real 400XL Hawaiian shirt.

When entering the doors, all are welcomed with a cup of fresh squeezed pineapple juice, given a shell necklace presented over the neck like a lei, and when the shopping had been complete waiting in line at the cashiers, employees roamed around offering free hot Kona coffee drinks, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, goodies and lots of fun munchies the children found a reward in itself. Hilo Hattie is the largest exporter of Hawaiian items including; clothing, wooden items, leis, jewelry, foods, soaps, candles, music, books and other items from their island culture. Next year they will be in the heart of Waikiki, making a huge move to centralize their store, so we were pleased to take in this fun experience during our stay.

ABC stores bag in hand, happy with her shopping.

We are known to travel very lightly, preferring to take less than more. As well, we have been known to take only carry on luggage, and another knapsack or large bag onto the plane, leaving as soon as we disembark for our journey at hand. This time we decided to check in the luggage, something new to us, but if you do the math, it becomes many items to gather and organize once leaving the plane with our very numbers on the flight.

Luggage on wheels, how very handy!

To make our trip easier with luggage in general, we learned from our previous trip west when hubby had to have medical tests back in September. We prepared in advance by purchasing a suitcase on wheels for each child when prices were slashed after Christmas sales pushed to the New Year.

Now they all have their very own to travel with, able to roll their own along easily, saving the hassles of someone else attempting to balance a few of them at a time, or having to rent several carts to move forward towards a vehicle when departing the airport’s luggage area. After our sporadic shopping visits while playing Hawaiian tourists, our luggage was overflowing, necessitating and resorting to the purchase of another handbag, packing the remaining items into for the trip home to the mainland. These new suitcases had a special feature of a secondary zipper, when unzipped; it allowed another three inches of headspace into the suitcase center area itself. Needless to say, we were filled to the brim later in the week! As we also left the two larger suitcases there before proceeding to Hawaii after a brief stop in Vancouver, certainly we thought we could pack these extra items into those before traveling home, as they would be emptier once the goods carted from east to west, were distributed to others we brought them for.

The day came to say “Mahalo” to Hawaii, our home for the past while. Without a rental car, we soon realized just as we had the year before, with a gang our size, a taxi was out of the question, a shuttle too much of a hassle, leaving us the option of a stretch limousine for our airport transportation. As we recalled, one particular business offered a discounted fair to travelers, and the result was a fee very much reduced from the taxi or shuttle fair, even with a good tip to the driver. We took advantage of the stretch factor, and were all very comfortable within the vehicle, the drive easy and hassle free for a great mode of transfer to the airport.

Cheaper than a taxi!

There were many glitches before, during, and after our trip requiring my immediate attention. Not only was our flight in the east changed, cancelled, and changed again to leave ahead of an impending serious storm, so too were our flights changed when heading to the mainland from Hawaii. Our nonstop flight ended up with a stop to Maui, the circle route they called it, so we knew we would fly for only 45 minutes, have a short layover in Maui, then continue on another plane back. In time we would find out the real reason behind this, our preferred airline; “Harmony Airways” was shutting their doors to business shortly after, not to take passengers anymore. Since they treated everyone as though they were in the first class section, we’re very upset about this news. It’s just too bad, they were such a great airline, offering great service and exceptional quality for the price, a fraction of the typical other popular airlines who offer no service, no value and treat passengers very poorly with great attitude thrown in much of the time, as has been our experience in all the flying we’ve had to do this past few years.

It was a little sad to leave so soon (so soon?), and yet, in the back of my own mind I worried for our daughter, the one who had been treated for a possible strep throat before leaving the east to fly for the vacation, prescribed the wrong medication all for nothing, necessitating a visit to the doctor in Hawaii (gulp!) when the day before leaving she had a fever again, and sore throat again! His diagnosis was simple. He noted the prescription she was given would not touch the diagnosis for it was merely a virus she had to be patient with. Since we thought all was well, we decided to allow the new information to stand, so prepared for our trip, though she looked unwell and was loaded with painkillers, throat helps and other such things like special therapeutic essential oils. If we had a nonstop flight, perhaps the trouble she endured when landing on the second flight may never have occurred, but it did. Slowly over the next few days, the fever increased as did the pain, and another doctor diagnosed her with an eardrum infection and a middle ear infection to boot! Oh no! Would we end up flying home again to the east after our next few days on the lower mainland? Uh-boy!

Stay tuned for our final few days filled with emotion, loved ones and tears….