Our Hawaiian vacation started in Honolulu, where we had a four-night stay at a hotel just two blocks from the beach at Waikiki. The trip was born last summer when Karen bid on the four nights in a silent auction to benefit Epworth United Methodist Church. Honolulu wouldn't have been our first choice, but we knew we needed something like that to force us to plan the rest of the trip.
We arrived in the afternoon, and managed to fill enough time looking at the beach and finding dinner to get us into the evening and to bed at a reasonably late hour to start working on adjusting our internal clocks to Hawaiian time. We hit the beach the next day and promptly got various levels of sunburn.
We attended a Luau and visited Pearl Harbor and the girls took a surfing lesson. Each of these events will have their own blog posts before too long. This one is meant to convey a general impression.
Honolulu is a big city and our hotel room, 14 floors up, echoed with the sounds of trucks and buses and police and fire vehicles. We awoke one morning to find that a water main had blown-out in the street below. We watched the day-long effort to fix it and patch the street.
One evening we watched from our balcony as the police subdued and arrested a man on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. I was reading while waiting for the girls to shower for dinner when I heard shouting. I looked down to see police cars pulled up and officers pointing handguns at a man. He eventually dropped whatever weapon he threatened with and was taken into custody, but not before an officer tried pepper spray (which went astray and was blown into a fellow officer's eyes).
And it seems like everyone in Waikiki who is not a tourist is trying to sell to tourists. They take your picture (no obligation to buy?), they hand out discount coupons, they panhandle, and they hawk their wares. We were surprised to see prostitutes on the sidewalks near the hotel when we returned from restuarants in the evening.
Yet, Waikiki is a beautiful spot. The beach is lovely and the men selling surfing lessons, canoe rides, catamaran sailings, food, umbrellas, chairs and other things are only a minor irritant. Early morning and late evenings find Honolulu locals on the beach for a surf or a swim. Many sit comfortably among the homeless enjoying the evening breezes.
There are many high-end stores and restaurants. We are not immune to shopping and the girls are developing a taste for haut cuisine. We ate one evening at Roy's (he had appeared on Top Chef Masters and the girls are fans). I amused myself by recording our meal via cellphone photos.
Another evening we ate at Tanaka of Tokyo, a Hibachi-style Japanese steak and seafood restaurant recommended to us by a local. We are fans of Hibachi restaurants and were very pleased with Tanaka. We shared our table with two Japanese ladies on vacation from somewhere near Sasebo. They had little to no English and we spoke no Japanese. Our Hawaiian chef, Jared, helped with some translation but he admitted that, despite his Japanese heritage, he spoke only enough to sustain his chef-ly patter. Still, they were lovely ladies and we had a pleasant, friendly meal.
So. We enjoyed Honolulu and Waikiki, but we were glad to move on to the Big Island to continue our Hawaiian visit in a somewhat quieter environment.