I had a great visit with my team in Honolulu, but we were happy to be able to make our way up to the much more relaxing and laid-back North Shore, where we are now.
We stayed at the ResortQuest Waikiki Beach Hotel on the quieter, Diamond Head end of Waikiki. The location was prime--right next to the zoo and across the street from the beach--but the hotel itself, which I chose primarily because of a bargain rate for a "junior suite" and breakfast included, was disappointing overall. The tropical decor was nice, but I expected more of a suite than the room turned out to be--it was essentially a sitting area with a pull-out sofa and a king-size bed. We did have two small lanais overlooking the pool and ocean, but our proximity to the pool turned out to be highly disadvantageous because it also overlooked the bar/restaurant next to the pool. We discovered that evening that the bar had live music until 11 p.m. each night, and in Hawaii music is played LOUDLY--especially in Waikiki, where the hotels like to attract people from the sidewalks, I guess! It was disappointing because I had read about the loud music on the hotel reviews beforehand and specifically asked at check-in for a quiet room. So much for customer service! It's a good thing that we had the Olympics to keep us occupied through the evening, and also that it didn't seem to keep the younger kids from falling asleep. The noise was particularly bothersome on the first couple of nights, when we were battling the 3-hour time difference and jet lag.
The free breakfast was a nice perk, however, especially because I had two 7:00 a.m. conference calls, so Mike and the boys went down to breakfast while I stayed in the room to talk on the phone.
On Tuesday, they went to their favorite Hawaii Children's Discovery Center:
Tuesday night we had dinner at Singha Thai in Waikiki--a pricey yet delicious Thai restaurant. Last year we went there for the first time, 2 for 1 coupon in hand, only to discover that we had neglected to read the fine print that said "valid before 6 p.m." This year we wised up! Very yummy Thai food!!
On Wednesday the boys went to the zoo (which has a reciprocal relationship with the Oregon Zoo--we love to be able to use our membership cards elsewhere in the country!):
Wednesday night we got takeout food at one of our favorite local places, the I Love Country Cafe, and took it to the beach for the free hula show. We've been going to I Love Country for YEARS, and we've had consistently reliable, good Hawaiian food. However, last week's venture was a failure. The orange chicken we got for the kids was practically inedible, and our other order was wrong--we were looking forward to the garlic mahi mahi, garlic chicken, and cajun shrimp we had ordered, with Hawaiian macaroni salad. Instead we had roast beef, veggie chop suey, and some kind of cutlet. Very disappointing!!!
Fortunately the hula show was great. When Chris was little, he and Mike used to go to the free Kodak Hula Show in the morning at the Waikiki Shell, but that was discontinued years ago. We were delighted to discover that they've restarted the free hula show tradition, especially because it was located a brief walk away from our hotel and it occurs in the evening, making it possible for me to attend too!
Mike and I were amused and horrified to observe two young children who walked right up onto the hula stage during one of the more ceremonial and spiritual dances. One of the singers looked absolutely aghast when she saw them. We were chagrined to see the mother on the sidelines, chuckling to herself. She finally retrieved her children, but it was clear to see that she thought they were totally adorable and she WANTED them in the spotlight. They hovered about the stage for the first 15 minutes of the show and attempted one more show interruption before the mom reluctantly hauled them away. We know that our children are FAR from well behaved, quiet, and "seen but not heard" children, but we would never allow that kind of behavior!! (Rant over.)
Thursday Mike and the boys stayed in Waikiki, hanging out at the Ala Moana Beach Park and the mall. No Obama sightings though!!
For those of you who have been reading the news, Hawaii has been in serious "Obama Watch." Last week the local Honolulu Advertiser recounted his daily activities. But alas, no sightings by our family! I was very disappointed to read about Cokie Roberts' slam of Obama's vacation--he was coming to visit his grandmother, for God's sake! And doesn't he deserve to have a vacation after weeks of relentless campaigning? Only a white, elitist east coaster would call Hawaii more exotic and imply it was a privileged vacation spot rather than Mytle Beach, South Carolina, full of white bread golfers? I find it especially fascinating to contemplate Hawaii as "privileged," given that its tourists are often either Japanese or Americans who rarely stray from highly touristy Waikiki, unless they take bus excursions like sheep. And it's virtually impossible for most of its residents to buy property here because of the high cost of living (its home ownership rate is the 49th lowest in the nation). Hawaii is a state, after all, and its citizens deserve some respect. Apparently his visit was a much-needed boon for the slumping tourist industry.
Thursday evening we went to the Big City Diner, which was family friendly and reasonably priced, a relief after our disappointing dinner the night before. Nicholas and I spent about 15 minutes going up and down the escalator (over and over again!) in the Ward Center while Mike, Chris, and Kieran finished their dinner.
I for one was very excited to check out of the hotel and start my VACATION on Friday morning! But first Chris and Kieran took one final dip in the pool, while Mike packed up our stuff:
After checking out, we went to the Bishop Museum, where the kids enjoyed the science center complete with exploding volcano and a lava demonstration (the volunteers poured out actual firey lava onto a slab). I was a bit disappointed in the museum, because the Hawaii Hall was closed--and I think that's where many of the interesting exhibits are located. Also, I took the kids off to the science area so Mike could look around, so I probably missed out on a lot of the interesting stuff. However, our OMSI membership got us in free...I was very glad we hadn't spent $58 for admission!!
I took only a couple of photos there, of Nicholas on a snail!
The museum did have a really great whale exhibit, with life-size whales that actually moved and made noise! I learned that whales evolved from a doglike land mammal--that was interesting!
We headed into Chinatown after our museum visit, where we sought out a vegetarian restaurant we first went to when Chris was 2 (10 years ago!!). It's a safer place to have dim sum because we know we're not eating any pigs' ears or innards...however, we had another very disappointing meal there. The servers were not too interested in serving us, and when we asked for more food, they said they were "all out." We realized, upon reflection, that the service wasn't very good last year either, so we've decided that we will not go there again. It's probably for the best, because although our kids love Asian food, they don't seem to be that enthusiastic about vegetarian dim sum. It doesn't help that Kieran is convinced he's allergic to mushrooms! ;)
After our disappointing food ventures in Honolulu, we were happy to head off to the North Shore! Because vacationing IS all about food, isn't it? ;)