Melinda and I flew in Sunday late morning and rented a car from the airport. Mother's day would be a week later and, because we wouldn't see Mom for it, we went looking for a treat for her for an early Mother's day. We found it at Down to Earth in the form of some gluten-free cookies. We headed on to the hotel (Ilima), checked in, and met up with Casey and family. We ate lunch at a nearby grill, walked along an alley of shops, then headed back to the hotel. We caught up with mom and dad by phone, worked out some details about transportation, which lead to Melinda and I exchanging our rental car for an SUV, a Chevy Traverse, in the afternoon. What with the time change and such Melinda and I were pretty tired by mid-evening so we retired early.
Much of Honolulu reminded me of Hong Kong or Tokyo: the heat, the humidity, and the juxtaposition of 21st century hotels with meager residential shacks. I asked Grandma her impression of Honolulu the next day and she agreed; when she and Grandpa first visited the islands in 1982 (1985?) it reminded them of Japan.
The Ilima is an okay hotel, good but not great. It has that "formerly a great hotel but hasn't been kept up" feel to it. Parts of the floors and walls were dirty, the paint on the walls isn't neat, the door handle on the lanai is only loosely attached to the door. The web touts it as a family-friendly hotel but I don't see what facts support that recommendation. It seemed okay for Casey and family, and it was especially nice to have a suite for their family. But the hotel pool is small -- sized for one family at a time, for example -- and there's nothing at or around the hotel location that's engaging for kids. The hotel did have the best rates I could easily find, though.
Monday, May 2nd, 2011.
Dad's birthday, and the first day everyone met up. Melinda and I picked up Mom, Dad, Linda, and Grandma from the cruise terminal, which provide easier to find than I worried it would be. We headed back to the hotel but took a brief walking diversion when we arrived to visit a Starbucks. Need to start the day off right. 8) We met up with Casey and family and everyone visited in our hotel room (we were upgraded to a deluxe room: a room with two beds, a table, and a kitchenette -- and plenty of open space for 10 people). We celebrated Dad's birthday in the morning, including him unwrapping gifts (Melinda and I brought gifts with us on the plane). Mom and Dad got something for Colby and Brynna, and we also celebrated Mother's Day from Melinda and me to Mom. The cookies were a big hit; we went back to Down to Earth the next day to buy more. Lunch was all 10 of us, at Denny's, and then on to the Atlantis sub tour we'd planned as the highlight of the day. Their shuttle picked us up from across the street from the Denny's and drove us to the waterfront. A 5 minute ferry ride took us out to the sub itself, where it hangs out just a little off the beach. Everyone took lots of pictures, all of which have a blue tint due to the water absorbing the longer wavelengths of light. My photos are okay -- the water isn't that clear -- but the videos turned out somewhat better. I'll post them hopefully within a few days.
After the sub ride was another meal, this one at Roy's. An upscale restaurant but they tried really hard to work around gluten intolerance and nut alergies. I really enjoyed scallops -- very soft and melty -- and the dessert Melinda and I chose, the bread pudding, was a new flavor we had not before encountered. We walked to the restaurant, maybe a half mile, and although the skies were clear as we went to dinner they poured down rain while we ate. Our timing was perfect, though, because on the way back we encountered only light sprinkles. We still bought umbrellas; I rationalized mine as me needing another umbrella at home, anyway. Melinda and I drove Mom and Dad and company back to the cruise ship, their bed for the night, and we want right to bed when we returned.
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011.
Grandma and Linda signed up for a bus tour of the island and Mom, Dad, Melinda, and I chose to take our own driving excursion around the island today. We picked up Mom and Dad mid-morning, stopped at the hotel for a Starbucks break and to meet up with Casey briefly, then headed out for our brief tour. We drove along the water past Diamond Head and stopped to see the Diamond Head light. We continued east, then north a short ways, and then back west along H-3 and H-1. Oahu has the same crinkled geography as the other islands but it's not as dramatic here. Maybe in part because there's more built up city around where we were, or maybe it's just not as spectacular. In any event it was fun to drive the route, we stopped for food at an "authentic" L&L barbecue, and were back to Waikiki by mid afternoon. We found Casey, his family was planning to head to the pool soon, so we donned our swim gear and meet up with them. The pool at the hotel is pretty tiny -- the right size for three adults and two children to bob around and have fun, but not for more people. Fortunately we had the place to ourselves. The water was warmer than I was expecting -- enough so that being in the pool for an hour wasn't a big deal, and the temperature outside was warm enough that being all wet when I got out wasn't the end of the world. Colby and Brynna enjoyed playing in the water with Casey, me, and Melinda, and we used Mom and Dad's waterproof camera to take some underwater pictures. It still feels weird to just dunk a digital camera in the pool but that's what it's designed to do. On the way back to the hotel, after our drive, we stopped in at Costco and Hilo Hattie's for souvenirs. We bought cookies and chocolate, typical Hawaiian treats, and at Hilo Hattie's we ran in to Grandma and Linda. They, Mom, and Melinda spent about half an hour at the "pearl diver" counter in the shop, shucking several oysters and buying quite a few necklaces, rings, and earrings. They enjoyed the process, it looked like, and the pearls look nice. Melinda and I also bought another matching shirt and dress outfit, in black with a print. We both rather like it.
Mom and Dad had to be on the ship in time for it to leave with them, so we dropped them off at the ship after the pool time with the kids. Melinda and I then found a nice place to eat -- we wanted to make good use of our new matching outfits. We ate at the Ocean House which had good ratings but proved to miss our expectations. Or, maybe, Roy's set our expectations pretty high, and Ocean House couldn't match Roy's. No matter; we had a good time going there and walking around the little shops in the hotel near the restaurant (including a Christmas in Hawaii shop -- always Christmas there). And, we drove, this time, just to be sure it wouldn't rain on us again.
Wednesday, May 4th, 2011.
The star tourist attraction in Honolulu, besides Waikiki beach, is the Pearl Harbor complex. Included is the USS Arizona memorial, the USS Bowfin submersible vessel, and a few other exhibits we didn't get on to. We arrived at 8a, having woken up at 6:30 and puttered through morning rush hour traffic on the H-1. Not many people there at 8a which meant, for example, we were the only people walking through the USS Bowfin when we did so. The ship is pretty small already, I'm glad we didn't try to see it with a dozen other visitors or more inside. When you arrive at the park you can get a ticket for a timed movie and trip by ferry out to the USS Arizona Memorial. Our trip was for 8:45, which left 25 minutes to tour the USS Bowfin -- just enough time if you're in a rush. Glad we got there early -- when we left, at a bit past 10a, we were swimming among the tour groups. Visiting the memorial was pleasant but not super moving, at least not for me. The lead-up movie is pretty fair and gives a pretty compelling account of what it must have been like in the days around the day that shall live in infamy. I'm learning about the history of Taiwan now, and its 20th century history has a big influence by the Empire of Japan.
We drove back to the airport, returned the rental, and were at the gate with about 90 minutes to spare. At our gate, Gate 34, there's not many services, but the Gordon Biersch provided reasonable lunch, and I got a very nice mocha coconut frappuccino from the Starbucks in the terminal. The return flight was as uneventful as the outbound flight, and about as long (about five hours). Hawaiian Airlines, our carrier this trip, provides free meal service (or upgraded meals, for a price) and between those and a bag of cookies we ordered on the flight we were content enough. We were back in the San Francisco apartment soon enough to make our usual bed time.