Welcome to Hawaii – Paradise Cove and the Lu’au

ImageSaturday, July 7, 2012 – Phil is working again until noon. I spent the morning at the pool at Hyatt Regency Waikiki, enjoying quiet time without anyone around. I suppose I enjoy being alone so much because I am a writer, and writers truly need the isolation to nourish the creative muse. The morning is gray and overcast; however, the pool attendant has assured me that the clouds will clear. Based on my few days here in Honolulu, I believe him. The weather is extraordinary in paradise. Humidity – almost none. You must realize, I am accustomed to humidity of 90% and higher in Charleston, SC. Summer time in the deep South leaves one to feel as if he or she has stepped into a sauna. There are times we do not have these welcoming, refreshing tropical breezes, even on the Atlantic Ocean. Mornings of gray overcast clouds in the South usually describes a gray, depressing day. In the summer, we are so hot that a simple excursion to the mail box, or to set out the trash leaves one dripping with perspiration. My friends tease me about this, telling me I do not perspire, with exception of glitter! Yes, I suppose it is true, I do enjoy glamour, make up and so much more!

Remembering the weather in Charleston, I am so encouraged to appreciate this amazing weather in Honolulu! Along the coast of Charleston, don’t even think about walking barefoot outside, by the pool or along the sand. Feet will blister – almost immediately! So far, I haven’t felt any humidity or stifling heat in Hawaii. Yes, the temperatures are in the 80’s, but the weather is so pleasant, especially when the tropical breezes kiss a forehead or an arm. Although I awaken early to overcast, dark clouds, they will disintegrate as the beautiful morning sun awakens the city to another splendid, tropical day. It is easy for me to breathe in Honolulu, and I have forgotten to use my inhaler, prescribed for asthma. Oh well. Not to worry. I breathe easily in Honolulu, without wheezing, nor do I need to stop, just to catch my breath. After all, I am in Paradise, the beautiful tropical setting of my dreams. Sometimes I must pinch myself, just to make certain I am not dreaming!

Our night is planned. We will leave the Hyatt Regency Waikiki onboard a bus headed to Paradise Cove. We must be at the green awning at 3:40pm today. I polish myself with tropical sunscreen while enjoying the morning. Relaxing by the pool, it is still overcast, but I do see the sun striving to break through. Not to worry. This too shall pass. I feel a slight dampness, touching my face, raindrops drip on my skin. Other guests at the pool rush away, grabbing all of their personal items. “Don’t leave,” I say. “The rain will stop in a few minutes.”

One lady looks at me. “When it rains in Seattle, it usually stays for a while.”

“Not here,” I say, introducing myself. “Every morning I’ve been here, morning rain occurs for only a few minutes, then it leaves. It might rain again later, but only for a bit.”

She places her things back on her chair. “Maybe I’ll stay.”

I smile at her. “See…it’s stopping. Today will be a beautiful day.”

“You’re pretty confident,” she says, rubbing her skin with sunscreen.

“It’s to be a beautiful day…it will not rain on my parade.”


I check the time on my BlackBerry, anticipating the evening festivities at Paradise Cove. The lu’au was a bit more expensive than we anticipated paying, especially since we are on a budget, but Phil and I decided to indulge with this event while budgeting on meals. So far, we’ve done well with not overspending a bunch of money and we haven’t used credit cards at all. I’m a bit proud of us and how careful we’ve been.

For the Paradise Cove Lu’au, we chose the Orchid Lu’au Buffet Package. Included are: Transportation from the hotel to Paradise Cove and back. We will receive a fresh flower lei and Mai Tai greeting upon arrival. We have two premium drink tickets, orchid lu’au seating, and an authentic Hawaiian lu’au buffet. When we bought the tickets at the concierge’s desk, the video of Paradise Cove looked so inviting we could not resist.

At 3:30, we arrive at the green awning, dressed appropriately in Hawaiian attire. Phil wears a red Hawaiian shirt and dark pants. I wear a black Hawaiian print dress, with a red flower in my hair and comfortable sandals. We join the crowd waiting for the bus. Introducing ourselves to a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary in Hawaii, I tell them they are the second couple I’ve met celebrating a 50th anniversary. It must be the romance of Hawaii, the climate, the beauty and the aromas of such a tropical setting. This will be a fun night! Aloha!

Finally, the bus arrives. A bit late, but nothing to worry about. We’re headed to Paradise Cove and a great night of festivities. Our bus guide is named Bev. She looks like she is a genuine native of Hawaii. Richly thick beautiful brunette hair, wide, dark eyes and a beautiful face. She is very pleasant to meet and perfect for this job. She shares the details about Paradise Cove, mentioning a bit about what there is to do, and there is plenty! The culture of Hawaiian games, the fishing, the making of lei’s, temporary tattoos, outrigger canoe rides, meeting the Royal Court, the Imu Ceremony (unearthing the pig from the traditional ovens) underground. I am ecstatic, so excited to learn more about Hawaiian culture and to experience it firsthand.

On the drive, I admire all of the tall palm trees, mimosa, red coral, banyan trees, and beautiful landscapes along the highways. Some of the trees appear to be taller versions of palm trees along the East Coast, with exception of how gorgeous, tall and colorful they are. For a moment, I am curious as to the condition of my landscape and I’m hopeful Charleston is getting some much needed rain. Just maybe my ferns, mimosa trees, and flowers will survive a week without water. I make a mental note to ask my pet sitter if it has rained at all in Charleston. I’m hopeful she says yes.

Arriving at Paradise Cove, I realize we are on an extended field trip. Buses are everywhere.

“Wow. There must really be a crowd here tonight,” I say to our guide.

“We have over 1,000 people here tonight.”

Suddenly my excitement disappears. Just how will 1,000 people get to do everything mentioned in the brochure given to us when we purchased our tickets. I share this thought with Phil.

A beautiful Polynesian woman places an orchid lei on us, sharing a slight kiss. Aloha! We are directed to an area to get our photograph taken, then we follow along to find our seats. The lines are already long at every activity. The drink line is too long to get into at this time. I saunter over to another line – I wanted to do the outrigger, but the lines are long and not moving. Another line to join to make a lei, and so on. I’m really disappointed. My suggestion to Paradise Cove is not to overbook, and if 1,000 paid tickets are sold, be certain to have additional settings and lines for the events so all the paying guests can enjoy.


We decide to join the drink line. There we wait…and wait…and wait while listening to the sounds announcing additional events – where the lines are much too long to participate. I make another mental note to myself to mention these lines and the overcrowding on my blog…Enough said?

After we finally get our tropical drinks, I go back to the table to grab my camera bag. “Since the lines are so long and the events appear to only last a few minutes, I think I’ll capture some things with my camera.” Phil nods. He knows how disappointed I am.

“They really should not overbook,” he grumbles and I agree with him.

“I know…I wanted to get a plumeria tattoo, and to experience the outrigger, but I think they’ve already quit. This really is a disappointment to me. We paid too much money not to be able to join in the festivities, but the lines are so long we almost have to fight our way…”

I rush over to the beach area where the sun is beginning to set. For once, there isn’t a line, so I look for a good place to start taking photographs. Before I realize it, I’ve taken over 100 shots, beautiful images of the coast of Hawaii, the landscape of palm trees and sunsets. The photographer in me has kicked in and I click away…almost too excited to find Phil. In the distance I see dolphins, but my camera lens does not capture them.


One final note about Paradise Cove http://www.paradisecovehawaii.com/index.htm My suggestion to Paradise Cove is to add additional lines to all events. One line for each event, when there are over 1,000 people in attendance was not effective or considerate! When we booked our tickets, the one thing that sold us to book with Paradise Cove was the video playing advertising Paradise Cove on the monitor at the concierge’s desk. While watching it, I noticed tents for events, china on linen draped tables. Our spread consisted of a Southern barbecue, complete with plastic plates and utensils. Yes, I admit it – a travel writer is accustomed to receiving some of the finer things in life, such as china and linens. C’est la vie or should I say “Aloha!” The food presentation at Paradise Cove is a disappointment to say the least!


While the lines were long and overbooked, the entertainment exceeded my expectations. The Polynesian dancers were beautiful, dressed in colorful, authentic costumes. Although a bit overpriced and definitely overbooked, Paradise Cove introduced the magnificent culture, music, dance, and traditions of Hawaii, to the 1,000 people in attendance. Next time, we will probably go to the Polynesian Culture Center. http://www.polynesia.com/evening-show.html How I wish I had the time to discover the Polynesian Culture Center prior to my visit, but – truly my bad!

Now, if only I had seen a whale at Paradise Cove. Wouldn’t that be a great image to capture! Perhaps tomorrow along the coast headed to Blow Hole! Aloha until Day Four!


Photography credits: Barbie Perkins-Cooper

Failure to Post on Weight Watchers Once Again—

Here I go once again, getting back on the wagon to post on this blog. How I bet it will still give me that ridiculous error, but I will try…

Please don’t think I’m an idiot related to blogs. I am a writer, a travel food and hospitality writer, so I know how to blog and I know how to work a computer. Nevertheless, this blog on Weight Watchers does not appear to like me.

I am back on the band wagon again with Weight Watchers. During my whirlwind trip to Hawaii, I behaved, ate healthy, walked a lot and stayed on track, but when I got back, I missed two more weeks of WW, making me miss four weeks. I almost had withdrawal symptoms.

After four weeks, I did lose — ok, only .4 of a pound. One thing I’ve learned with Weight Watchers, any loss is a loss, so be happy. Don’t worry!

And so, my saga with Weight Watchers continues. I cannot wait until I hit goal, but the last few months have been a yo-yo for me. Losing, then gaining. Then — nothing! Trying my patience and my courage.

When I think about giving up I simply tell myself — hey woman, you are not a quitter. Dont give up. You’ve come too far.

Now, what do you want to bet this blog refuses to post???

Bingo! I was correct! The blog gave me this error — “Your blog cannot be saved at this time. Please try again later!” Weight Watchers — just what is the problem???

LowCountry Karaoke Idols Competition

To those of you who read my blog and live near the Charleston, SC community, I would like to let you know that the Lowcountry Karaoke Idol Finals are coming up in August 2012.

Much to my surprise, I was selected as a ‘qualifier’ at Manhattan’s Bar and Grill, Mt. Pleasant, SC in June 2012. According to the Facebook site, Lowcountry Karaoke Qualifiers win a $10 bar tab from the location in which they qualify.  For me, that didn’t happen. Since Phil and I have been out of town for a while, then we had major jet lag, we decided to drop by Manhattan’s on Friday night to ask about the $10 bar tab I did not receive. They were dumbfounded. “We don’t do that here. That’s the first I’ve heard of it and none of our qualifiers have received a $10 bar tab.” So much for policies and procedures. Besides, the drink of choice for me is a chocolate martini. OK…so I’m not a cheap date…just ask my husband.

I would like to go on record to invite all of my friends to Manhattan’s on Friday, August 17 — the night of the finals at Manhattan’s. It would be great to have a packed house. No, I do not anticipate winning, but as a performer, I do love to perform!

I hope to see all of you at Manhattan’s on Friday, August 17. What I shall sing — well, that’s my little secret!

Welcome to Hawaii –Day Three – Escape to Paradise

Saturday, July 7, 2012 – Aloha! Today is my third day in Honolulu. It is still early morning, or should I say it is dawn. I glance out at the balcony, giving up on sleep since Phil is snoring and I am almost convinced there is a freight train running around in this room and the king size bed. Honestly, just how can someone snore so annoyingly and still manage to sleep? I’ve tapped him, encouraging him to roll over. I’ve pinched him. I’ve covered his nose. He ignores me. I’ve wanted to hit him, but I’m not a violent person, so I throw the covers back, toss my pillow in his direction and grumble to myself. After all, my trip to Hawaii was totally unplanned, so I must suffer the consequences of hearing a freight train coming from my husband’s snoring! Sometimes, the less said, the better!

I open the balcony doorway and watch the shifting colors of dawn. At first a midnight blue, then fading to clouds of darkness. Suppose this is another day of early morning rain, then bright sunshine.

Looking to the right of the balcony, I see Diamond Head. http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu/index.cfm?park_id=15 Most of the view of Diamond Head is blocked by towers of hotels, and businesses. Nevertheless, the early morning view, with the sun breaking brightly through the clouds of the hotel room is stunning, with exception of the continuous cloud of darkness that is always over one of the mountains where residents of Hawaii live.

Last night, the butterfly wings of sleeping pills failed to let me sleep. Add to the fact Phil snores like a freight train, and no sleep for this chick. I suppose I’ll attempt sleep at the pool today. Not such a bad idea, after all. He is working today. Later, we are scheduled to go to the luau at Paradise Cove. I’m so excited, not to mention sleep deprived! Besides, who wants to sleep in beautiful, tropical Hawaii! There’s too much to do. Too much to see, and way too much to fall in love with! Paradise I think I love you! I glance at the lei I made, resting on the night stand. So many jokes are made about ‘getting lei’d’ in Hawaii. Yes, I got “lei’d” but not the type my friends are suggesting. Every time I phone a friend, that is the first thing asked, “So Barbie – did you get lei’d?” Yes, I got lei’d, because I made a lei, but – I didn’t get L-A-I-D!” Oh well. A woman can dream – about Hawaii!

Off to another conversation now! Tomorrow is Phil’s birthday. Since we were scheduled to be apart on his birthday, we celebrated it at the Elks Lodge the Wednesday before he left. I had a nice birthday cake for him with “Bon Voyage and Happy Birthday,” written on it. The cake was a beach setting with tropical colors. No, I do not intend to order him another birthday cake. I mailed a birthday card to him on Monday, but apparently, it takes a while to get mail on the islands. Looks like I arrived before his birthday card. We are on a tight budget and I have to pinch my pennies so I can still enjoy Hawaii while he works. Besides, I haven’t seen any grocery stores or bakeries nearby. I imagine they are around – concealed within a tower! Tonight at Paradise Cove we will celebrate his birthday, quietly while he fantasizes about the Hawaiian women and the way they dance! So graceful, artistic and beautiful. I’m so envious. Each time I attempt the Hula, I give up. I know, you are supposed to bend your knees, move gracefully and tell a story with your arm and hand movements. Easier said, than done! Normally I am a great dancer with lots of moves, but these hips and leg movements simply don’t agree.

How I wish this trip could’ve been an editorial research trip, or a press trip. There are so many beautiful sites to see, so many tours, but I really do have to budget, so during the day, I relax at the pool, take walks along Kalakaua Avenue and occasionally I stroll into the International Market Place. If only I had the time to plan this trip, but 24-hours’ notice simply wasn’t enough time. Next time, I’ll make certain I have a two week timeframe to gather information, make contacts and plan an itinerary. I managed to research and print a few venues while rushing to get packed, get the house cleaned, make certain the dogs would have the proper foods, finish an assignment and sending it to my editor…and after all that, I simply forgot to pack the 30 pages of research about “Things to Do in Hawaii.” Oh well…My Bad!

Walking along the streets of Waikiki Beach and Honolulu, the sidewalks are full, but there is still room for more pedestrians. Never did I see anyone shove or push. Hospitality is truly nice here in Hawaii. South Carolina could take a few notes from their “Aloha” hospitality. Even when driving, I notice people allowing others to cut into a lane without body language, or rude remarks. The sidewalks along the downtown are wide and easy for pedestrians to walk along. So different from the dangerous sidewalks in downtown, historical Charleston, SC. Surprisingly, I haven’t noticed an abundance of cell phones being used while people stroll along the streets. I’m a bit amazed at this because everywhere I go in Charleston; people have cell phones glued to their ears. Yes, this Hawaiian style of life could easily be the type of life I’d like to live!

Stay tuned for the scoop about Paradise Cove and the Luau!

As the sun sets on Paradise Cove, the fun begins!

Escape to Hawaii – Part Two of Day Two

Part Two – Day Two

I arrived at the pool at 8:30am – 2:30pm, Eastern Time. Smiling at the attendant, I asked if it was too early to come to the pool. He smiled, asked my room number, and suggested a nice beach chair where the morning and afternoon sun works very well. He covered the beach chair with a towel, wishing me a great day. I was the only guest at the pool. Even in Honolulu, I am an early bird! I settled down, bathed myself with Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen, and relaxed while listening to the traffic nearby at Waikiki Beach.

At 11am, Swim opened. Swim is the lounge servicing the pool and the hotel. I met one of the servers, an attractive young girl named Desi. She wore a brace on her knee so we discussed how painful a knee ache could be. I suggested she try glucosamine. She wrote it down. By now, the pool had a few more guests enjoying the overcast morning. I met a woman who was here with her husband. Much to my surprise, she mentioned that he was working while she relaxed. We had much in common. Moments later, we were showered with a light morning rain. Rushing for cover, several people gathered their things to leave. I refused. I had faith the morning rain would be like most showers in Hawaii – only a few minutes of rain, breaking into morning sunshine.

I ordered a grilled chicken salad for lunch, deciding to treat myself to an early drink – a Hawaiian mudslide. The food and drink were delicious. I stretched out on my chair. The sun was out now, shining brighter than before. I found it refreshing that in Honolulu, the rain occurs in the early morning, kissing your skin with a delightfully delicious moistness, and then the sun breaks out, shining brightly. Only in Hawaii, I thought. I am being kissed by rain so the sunshine can break through the clouds.

At two o’clock, I returned to the room to refresh, style my hair and get ready for the afternoon events. Scheduled were drummers and dancers to perform by the waterfalls. I arrived at 3:30, sat at a table awaiting the performance. It did not happen. The drumming, dancing, and other entertainment were canceled due to a wedding. In place were beautiful young Hawaiian girls, dressed in Hawaiian clothing – a colorful bright yellow, with yellow leis around their neck, flowers in their hair. According to many Hawaiians, the tradition of wearing a flower in your hair reveals something about the person wearing the flower. For example, wearing a flower on the left side by the ear means you are either married, or not available. Wearing a flower on the right side means you are eligible, single, – definitely available.

A gorgeous brunette, dressed in the bright yellow Hawaiian costume wore a flower in the back of her hair, holding her gorgeous thick lock of hair. She dropped a bag of aromatic flowers on my table. A tanned woman sat down by me, introduced herself as Jane, and suggested that I might want to make a lei with her. “You know how. Don’t you?” She asked.

“I haven’t a clue,” I said.

“Good, I’ll teach you.”

Jane was not a native of the island, living in California for a few years; she traveled to Honolulu, deciding to make it her home. “You should move here,” she said.

If only she knew how much I wanted to make that a reality.

The flowers perfect for a lei are plumerias. Hot pink with a wonderful sweet aroma, I smelled them, excited to learn how to make a lei. Plumerias come in many colors, but the hot pink aroma was the most tempting for me. Finally, I would be like others in Hawaii – wearing an authentic lei. To make a lei, you use a string with a long needle attached. Gently placing the center of the plumeria on the needle, you continue adding the flowers until the lei will rest comfortably on your neck. http://www.plumeria101.com/lei.html

According to Jane, leis were created so the children of Hawaii would grow up with the skills necessary to make a living. The more I learned about Hawaiian culture, the more intrigued I was. http://www.to-hawaii.com/hawaiian-culture.php

Reportedly, when given a lei, a kiss must be shared. When I came to Hawaii as a young newlywed, I remember receiving a lei when I stepped off the plane. This tradition is no longer shared when arriving in Honolulu now. So sad.

I wanted to know about the traditions and cultures of Hawaii, so I purchased a book. Two of the words I do know are “Aloha,” which means an abundance of things, including hello, goodbye, love, fondness, sympathy and so much more. “Mahalo” means thank you. When shopping, you will hear these two amazing words repeatedly. Reportedly, the language of Hawaii consists of five vowels and seven consonants. http://www.to-hawaii.com/hawaiian-language.php The basic rules of the language are:

  • “All words end in a vowel.
  • Every consonant is followed by at least one vowel.
  • Every syllable ends in a vowel.
  • Two consonants never appear next to each other.”

 Growing up in the South, I was falling in love with all the language, cultures, and traditions of Hawaii. Such a beautiful place to visit. I could only imagine what it would be like to live here. I was almost willing to return to South Carolina, sell everything, and move! Just how would I get my four babies (my schnauzers) to Hawaii was the question!

During the events at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, I learned about poi. Poi is a root, made from the taro plant. Purple in color, the root is pounded into a sticky purple paste. It taste a bit like sweet potatoes, but for me, it is an acquired taste. http://www.poico.com/artman/publish/article_16.php

While enjoying the cultural events, my stomach hurt so I went to the room, got sick and panicked. I did not want to be ill in Hawaii. Phil and I had plans to walk to International Market Place, but those plans were postponed until I felt better. We had dinner at Blazin Steaks, just a stone’s throw from our hotel. We stopped at the concierge desk, booking reservations for a Hawaiian luau. We decided on the Paradise Cove luau. http://www.paradisecovehawaii.com/ Since my stomach continued to ache, we rushed back to our room. I was furious with myself for getting sick and I was hopeful I would feel better in the morning. Aloha!

Welcome to Hawaii – Day Two – ‘Morning Has Broken’

Morning Breaks along the MountainsFriday, July 6, 2012 – day two of my escape to paradise. Much to my surprise, I have no jet lag, managing to sleep very well. Awakening before the first morning sun, I slipped on to the balcony, to capture the changing colors of the clouds of Hawaii, or should I say, Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, or wherever I am? I’m just a bit confused about all of these islands. We are staying on Waikiki Beach, that I know, but I still feel like I am locked inside of a dream, with the colors of the rainbow all within my dream. I rush back to the side of the bed, glance at the clock, grab my camera, and close the balcony door so I don’t awaken Phil. It is just a few minutes after 5am. Over to the left of the balcony is a mountain filled with residences, at least, I am assuming the buildings are residences. Clouds linger on top of the mountains as the morning horizon begins to lighten. It is such a beautiful sight, with different hues and shapes of the clouds, and the mountains. The morning clouds are hues of gray and midnight black. It looks like rain is in the forecast. I lean across the balcony, realizing if I’m not careful I could fall, but I click my camera, excited to capture photographs of the Pacific Ocean, Waikiki Beach and the morning sun breaking. Still, I feel as if I’m dreaming. “Morning has broken, like the first morning…” My mind plays the lyrics of the Cat Stevens tune, and I realize I am not dreaming. Finally, I am back in Hawaii, where dreams come true.

I brew coffee, sit on the balcony, watching the morning break into another amazing day in paradise. I’ve been told by shop owners and employees at the hotel that it rains almost every early morning in Hawaii. Mornings are overcast, just like today, but the sun teases, breaking through the clouds, as if to say, “Here I am. Awakening you to another beautiful day in Hawaii.”

The mountains are still overcast. I see the thickness of rain on the mountain to the left of where I am sitting. The mountain across now is kissed with sunshine. High rise towers are everywhere along the beachfront and the City of Honolulu. Some of the mountains appear to be a bit too cluttered, at least from a distance, with too much residential development. As a writer, I am intrigued, but not certain we will have the time to explore the mountains. Phil is working every day while I play. Playing is something I’m not familiar with. As a writer, I have deadlines to meet, research to do, four dogs to care for, along with a house, friends, family and the list could continue. But for today, I’m not working with lists. I am simply doing something I haven’t done in such a long time.

I am reminiscing about a young wife who has a husband here with her in paradise. In just a few days, he will leave her, headed back to a war zone. Yes, we splurged on items we shouldn’t have during our honeymoon, but we were young – never knowing if we would have a future. We failed to tour the city like we should’ve but you’ll just have to use your imagination about what we were doing! Young. Innocent. Newlyweds! Apart for over eight months, not because we wanted to be apart but the US Army had other plans for a soldier. You probably get the picture!

As I reminisce about this young girl that I was, I will do my best to find those sweet memories inside of me again. PTSD, flashbacks of a warzone and a long-term marriage have a way of making us forget what we had back then. I am hopeful that while we are together again in Honolulu, we can reflect, reminisce, and recollect what once we had. Today, I am taking care of myself, without any deadlines to meet. This seems so strange!

Yesterday, while we traveled along the roads from Wally World back to the hotel, I recognized that Honolulu must have a strict board of architectural review for buildings because there are so many towers and garages.

At four pm today, there is an event downstairs. For now, after Phil leaves for work, I will go downstairs to the coffee shop and I will explore a bit more. I found the pool yesterday, and Waikiki Beach is across the street. The sand reminds me of kosher salt, mixed with small pieces of lava and shells, hurting my feet when I removed my sandals. I am such a tender foot!

Morning has broken, and my day begins. I will spend the day at the pool to get busy on a Hawaiian tan! Still, I cannot believe I am in beautiful paradise. I must be dreaming! Just where is my sunscreen and sunglasses!


Welcome to Hawaii – Day One – Escape from Reality

On Thursday, July 5, 2012, I did something totally out of character for me, driving myself to the Charleston International Airport at 4:15am. The neighborhood was totally dark, not a light on anywhere. Throwing my bags into the back of my car, I rushed to get inside and off I went. My flight to Dallas was scheduled to leave on American Airlines at 6:30am. Excitement and butterflies were inside my tummy, so I awoke at 2am, without an alarm – simply due to the excitement of a very spontaneous vacation to Honolulu, Hawaii. My husband, Phil left for the islands on June 30. A bit lonely, he phoned me on Tuesday, July 3 suggesting purchasing an airline ticket. I thought he was teasing me – sort of rubbing it in that he was in paradise working. He knew I was envious. When we were newlyweds, we had a much delayed honeymoon during his R&R from Vietnam in Honolulu. We promised to come back to the islands at our 25th anniversary. Little did we know that on our 25th, he would be unemployed.

Resting at the gate, I wrestled emotionally with myself. Just what was I doing hopping on a plane to Hawaii without an itinerary planned? I am a travel writer, accustomed to planning events, and interviews, but this trip was totally off the cuff. An escape from reality after depression had captured me again after losing my precious giant schnauzer Prince Marmaduke Shamus ten weeks ago. I simply did not have the time to plan destinations or contact the CVB’s or other attractions. Like a free-spirited bird, I was off to Honolulu, Hawaii. My bags were packed and I was ready to go! Just what I would do to entertain myself was the question, but I meet people well, so I knew I would have a good time, regardless.

Leaving Charleston promptly, I introduced myself to a young and slightly good-looking blond college student. His name was Richard. We chatted the entire flight, making a two-hour flight appear to be a simple errand to the grocery store. Richard is a senior at the College of Charleston, majoring in Leadership with a Business Administration minor. He was headed to a leadership conference in Santa Anna, California. A bit apprehensive about flying, he admitted this was his first flight. “You’ll be fine,” I said.

We discussed issues of the day, including the rights of gays, gay marriage, and how people who are gay are equal and deserve to be treated with respect. Before we departed, he told me he was gay and wanted to serve his country by becoming a leader for gay rights. How I admired his courage and tenacity. Richard was educated and proud to be gay in the Southern city of Charleston where gays strive to be treated with dignity and respect. After arriving in Dallas, I regretted not exchanging e-mail addresses.

During my journey to Honolulu, I met several interesting people and a few not so interesting, or perhaps they simply wanted to be alone and undisturbed. Arriving at the gate in Dallas, I checked in, to make certain I was at the correct gate. As a travel writer, I have discovered that monitors and gates do not always agree. When the agent told me I was at the correct gate, but the flight to Hawaii was delayed due to a ‘major and rare snow storm on the islands,’ I laughed. “Do I look like I’m an idiot or so gullible I’ll believe you. It’s the tropics. There aren’t snow storms there.” Under my breath, I thought could this be true? The agent laughed. “You were about to believe me, weren’t you!”

I found a seat on the corner of the terminal gate, opened my bag and started jotting notes on a napkin. I noticed a sweet, affectionate couple sitting across. An attractive woman with salt and pepper hair, she smiled at me. Her husband buried his nose in a small booklet jotting notes. I introduced myself, apologizing for scribbling notes on a napkin. “I’m a writer and I forgot to pack a notebook. Silly me. I didn’t have time to plan this trip.” She laughed, tapping her husband on his leg. “A writer. So am I.” He said. He tore a few pages from his small notebook, passing them to me. “For inspiration,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “It’s easy to forget something.”

We shared words of wisdom, exchanging a bit of our credentials. Living in Phoenix, Arizona, he writes nature articles for the local newspaper, specializing in birds. He showed me a list of twenty birds he wanted to see in Honolulu. They were celebrating their 50th anniversary, staying in Honolulu for a few days, then escaping to some of the other islands. My memory cannot recall the itinerary they had planned, but their 50th anniversary celebration would be a two-week vacation, seeing friends and reminiscing about their love for one another. “What better place than Hawaii to celebrate your successful marriage,” I said.

The flight from Dallas was delayed a bit due to our plane needing brakes and tires. When we departed, several people struggled to get comfortable. I crossed my right leg, recognizing that air planes simply did not have enough elbow or leg room. My right knee suffers from osteoarthritis. When still, my knee aches with significant pain. I continued to move it in a circular motion, crossing it and doing all I could so the knee would not lock up on me. I sat at a window seat, glancing out the window, I waited in anticipation of seeing the Pacific Ocean from a plane, remembering how beautiful the view was when I traveled to Hawaii for R&R. Just a few years ago, too many years to mention, I recalled the young, excited, and innocent wife I was back in those days. Dressed in a red floral dress with spike high heels, after landing in Los Angeles, I recognized I should’ve dressed for comfort, but this was the second trip I had taken by air, so my experience as a jet setter did not exist. Today, I wore khaki shorts, a long sleeve shirt so I would not freeze on the plane and my feet were comfortable in my Shape-Ups. Suddenly proud of all of my accomplishments since the days of newlywed bliss, I still wanted to be the wife my husband would rush to in the Honolulu Airport.

I kept glancing out the window to see the Pacific Ocean, noting a sea of clouds, reminding me of peaks of fluffy whipped cream, or cream cheese frosting. No land or ocean could I see. My eyes stared at a collection of clouds, in the image of my precious Prince Marmaduke Shamus, my sweet, precious giant schnauzer now at Rainbow Bridge. Staring at the clouds, I saw his eyes, his cascading tale, and tears filled my eyes. Perhaps this was the sign I had prayed so hard for. Now my sweet Shamey-Pooh was OK in Rainbow Bridge. I wiped tears from my eyes.

I attempted to introduce myself to the guy sitting next to me. He ignored me. Obviously, he wanted to be alone. I was hopeful he would not snore in my ears. Yes, you meet all types of characters on an airplane excursion.

Two movies and many hours later, we arrived in Honolulu. I admired the beauty of the scenery, the breathtaking peaks of mountains, and the clear, dazzling, beautiful turquoise blue oceans. “Finally,” I whispered. “My dreams and journey to see whales in Blue Hawaii are about to begin.”

I turned the cell phone on. Dialing my husband I said, “Aloha! The eagle has landed.” I glanced at my watch – 9:00pm, Eastern time, 3:00pm, Honolulu time. No wonder I was tired, but the sun was shining on a beautiful day in the tropics. My body got a sudden burst of energy. The sweet refreshing scent of plumerias, hibiscus, and other tropical aromas tease my nose. Moments later, I rushed into my husband’s arms, with my luggage and excitement raring to go. I noticed several people wearing leis. I made a promise to myself to get a lei, since my husband did not have one when I arrived. I excused his forgetfulness. He’s working and tired. It’s ok. He’s never been the romantic or thoughtful type.

We left the airport, headed to the location where Phil parked his rental car. From there, he suggested going to Wal-Mart where I could get a notebook and a few essential items. I was under the impression he knew his way to Wal-Mart. Little did I know he would be using his I-phone GPS, holding it in his right hand while driving. I unpacked my GPS, conveniently packed within my camera bag. Searching frantically, Tom Tom refused to locate Wal-Mart. So, off we go, with Phil holding his GPS in hand while driving. I wanted to choke him! One of the major common-sense rules of the road in paradise is, “Hands off gadgets. Use of cell phones and all handheld digital devices is prohibited.” When I mentioned this to Phil, he snapped for me to just ‘sit quietly.’ He does not know me very well after all of these years! How dare him to suggest my sitting quietly like a sweet little Southern belle should. I’ve never been described as a sweet Southern belle. Steel magnolia, perhaps, but nothing sweet and passive. Less than 15 minutes together and he is the grumpy old man again, dictating to me like I am a child, telling me to sit quietly. Foolish guy. He still doesn’t know the woman I am! Deciding to pick my battles, I stare out the window, noting the rows of tower buildings, the palm trees, and tropical plants. The people walking along the wide sidewalks, in a hurry, busy to get to a destination, but not carrying cell phones in their hands. This must be the Hawaiian way of life, I thought to myself while Phil grumbles about traffic and the fact that he missed another turn.

If you’ve never been to Honolulu, you must realize, the city is built with towers everywhere. Stores you are accustomed to seeing, such as Wal-Mart are camouflaged within a tower. Honolulu Wal-Mart is not your typical Wally World. Denny’s Restaurant, McDonald’s, and Kentucky Fried Chicken are easy to miss since they are not the typical structures I am accustomed to in South Carolina. I anticipated a typical shopping area, unaware that the discount store is hidden within a tower. Parking is in a garage. The Honolulu I remembered as a young bride does not exist anymore. Change is everywhere, along with an abundance of people and traffic.

After leaving Wally World, I was quiet, simply too tired to fight or ask anything. Phil suggested walking to a small restaurant across from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa http://waikiki.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels-waikiki/index.jsp?src=agn_smg_hr_ppc_google_ss_propertyspecific_hnlrw_hyattregencywaikikiresortspa&k_clickid=kw102915&mckv=s39ZEWChH|pcrid|11994296727|&hyattprop=yes  I accepted. I was simply too tired to make a suggestion since I didn’t have the time to research Honolulu before leaving Charleston.

We dined at Blazin Steaks http://www.blazinwaikiki.com/ Phil expressed how delicious the food was and since I was so tired, he made the suggestion. At first, I was a bit apprehensive since the décor and ambiance is so rustic, something I am not accustomed to as a travel and food writer. Entering the restaurant, I glanced over the menu. The special was steak and Mahi Mahi. “Yummy,” I said. Our food was cooked over a hibachi grill, served in to go boxes and plastic forks. My Angus steak was cooked to perfection, along with the Mahi Mahi. Teriyaki sauce was on the side, a delightful accompaniment to add a unique taste. Arugula salad and brown rice accompanied the entrée. Dinner for two cost us only $20.00. Although Blazin Steaks is rustic in charm, the food was absolutely delicious and fresh. I ate every bite. We sat outside on the patio, so I could admire the atmosphere. Honolulu has a lot of fabulous, athletic men walking on the streets, carrying surfboards, their bodies taut, and golden brown. If you go to Honolulu, be certain to look up Blazin Steaks, located at 2446 Koa Avenue and if you see a guy named Eddie nearby, ask him for a coupon for free drinks! I confess, we ate at Blazin Steaks several times. The food was always freshly cooked and delicious, and it was not expensive.

After dinner, we walked around a bit, discovering the ABC Stores. http://www.abcstores.com/ ABC Stores are everywhere in Honolulu and they have many interesting items for all of your needs in Honolulu. I shopped there many times purchasing beautiful tropical colored Hawaiian bracelets, earrings, Hawaiian shirts, bags, food, water and other items. More than a convenience store with much to offer, ABC Stores prices are affordable and their employees will greet with you a pleasant, “Aloha” and “Mahalo.” Escaping back to the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, I plotted myself on the bed, glancing at my watch, still stuck on Eastern Time. It was 2am, Charleston time, 8pm, Honolulu time. Tomorrow is a new day and I will explore the fun on Waikiki Beach while Phil works. Excited and exhausted, I could not wait to sleep.

Aloha! My journey in beautiful Blue Hawaii will continue as I share more details while searching for whales. For now, I have major jet lag, but I would go again tomorrow if the demands of life, and my pocketbook would permit. Aloha!

Aloha — Honolulu Hawaii is the Greatest!

Freewriting briefly today while reminiscing about my sudden, unexpected trip to Honolulu, Hawaii. I am in awe about the trip…it was so like a pleasant, colorful dream…only, I do not dream.

I will publish several stories about Hawaii later, after I rest and edit the 500+ photographs I took. Some of the stories I will discuss are:

  • Flying — getting to know the person sitting next to you
  • Budgeting while enjoying the beauty of Honolulu, Hawaii
  • So, you’re traveling to Hawaii – just how much will it cost?

I will have additional story materials to add, but for now, I am still, so exhausted, I must enjoy my morning cup of coffee…even when it is 11am on the East Coast. No doubt, I still have jet lag. Never do I sleep past 7am at home, until now. Last night, I could not sleep. I kept reminiscing about our trip to Hawaii and how much I love the islands. So beautiful. So peaceful. So friendly. So amazing! How I hated to board the plan to return to reality, but like all things in life, this amazing trip had to end, taking me back to the reality of deadlines, caring for my animals, budgeting, paying bills, housework, cooking, cleaning, the mountain of laundry waiting patiently to be washed, and all the demands of our daily lives. No wonder I wanted to escape!

For now, I will simply say, stay tuned for additional stories. Today, I will tackle the laundry, while remembering my escape to Honolulu…to do the hula…to learn how to make a lei…to dream…to watch the surfers…to be catered to, and to hear the sweet words of “Aloha,” and “Mahalo,” everywhere I go. Now, back in the South, I want to remember this vacation, while I’m curious about the differences in our cultures, and there are many differences! Hospitality is terrific in Honolulu. Only once did I hear the colorful words I hear almost every day here in Charleston. Of course, I did hear a variety of languages, and perhaps the colorful language was something I could not understand. Regardless, I say, “Aloha,” and stay tuned! “Mahalo!”

On the Fourth of July — Independence Day

Today, America celebrates Independence Day, or as everyone calls it, “The Fourth of July.” Today is a day to give thanks and appreciation to our independence, expressing our appreciation to our Armed Forces.

For you, the Armed Forces of the United States of America, I say thank you. Thank you for your willingness and passion to serve America during this horrific time of Twenty-first Century war. You stand in the hot zones, ready and willing to fight for your country so we, the citizens of these United States can pop fireworks, drink a bit too much, eat much too much and consider ourselves blessed because we are a free nation.

How I wish the fireworks would end. My husband is a Vietnam Veteran. Every time he hears fireworks, he jumps — sometimes to the ground. Yes, he apologizes for his actions. He doesn’t need to apologize. He is having a flashback of war — of the sounds of mortars, weapons, and the enemy approaching. Never have I been in a war so I can not relate to his fears, but on the Fourth of July, I do my best to make him comfortable. We stay away from the fireworks displays. Occasionally, I’ll step in to the back yard to see them bursting in the skies, and I say a prayer of thanksgiving. Thankful that we in America have the freedom we have — all at the emotional price of our soldiers in harm’s way.

To our soldiers, I say thank you and may God bless you. To America, I say — let us all give our thanks while enjoying the bounty that we have, along with the freedom. Happy Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day. Be safe and thankful for the United States of America.