Its been a very long 5 months since our posting was announced for our upcoming move to East Timor (Timor Leste), so to say we were counting down the minutes until our end of year holiday to Hawaii was an understatement. But finally we made it, having packed up all our Sydney belongings which (I hope) are now on a slow ship heading to Dili - we feel like gypsies with no home address until we arrive in Timor Leste in mid-January 2014.
Hawaii has become an extremely popular destination for Australians over the past few years, no doubt largely due to the increased availability of cheap flights, great shopping, and the ten hour flight is easier to grasp than many journeys to the Northern Hemisphere especially with young children. Joining the US as a state in 1959, Hawaii is the playground of the mainland Americans and its easy to see why with its delightful climate, gorgeous beaches and spectacular mountainous backdrop which is awe inspiring especially if viewed by laying back in the blue pacific ocean looking upwards.
An overnight flight with three small children was always going to be difficult, especially as Henry didn't have his own seat. But survive we did, and bleary eyed we made our way to our accommodation at The Hilton Hawaiian Village and were relieved to find the room was spacious and more importantly the two bottles of Bombay Sapphire had arrived in one piece, sitting pride of place in the hotel suite lounge room.
We arrived with very little clothing in our suitcases with the intention to buy up big so the first afternoon and next morning our slightly jet lagged persons enjoyed a serious shopping session at both the Ala Moana Mall and Waikelie Outlets (I didn't even have a pair of thongs or a swimsuit when we arrived!).
The kids were rewarded with an afternoon by the pool.
Oscar very sternly announces to everyone he meets - reception, guests in the lifts, waitresses at breakfast, that he can: 'only swim three meters' as a statement in case they had any random thoughts of throwing him in the pool. Isabel thinks she is a mermaid but alas she is a mermaid who can't swim (despite attempts at jumping in the deep end akin to a gangly giraffe falling into a river), and Henry is more interested in where his next piece of pineapple or chicken wings are coming from. Based on that the pool with the extensive wading area was our first port of call.
Now as I mentioned we had a rough flight over and hurried shopping escapades, so the nerves were a little edgy. The only solution to that for me was to leave the older two kids playing with Marco in the pool while Henry and I went in search for a few Hawaiian beers. Finally lounging on a deck chair, Henry nestled into me with his head stuck into a large bowl of pineapple, for a minute I dare relax and soak up the concept that I was actually on holidays in Hawaii as I sipped the familiar amber nectar Hawaii's finest lager and beautifully named - "Big Wave".
Oscar and Isabel may have inherited their Portuguese dad's curly locks but they inherited my very loud voice and the 'Tapa Pool' soon discovered this also as they launched into a game of 'Whats the time Mr Wolf!' After 5 rounds of 'Dinner Time!' the entire East Wing of the complex was also aware of the kids vocal stylings and I sunk my head into a cool beer pretending I didn't know them. Next thing I knew I heard a loud 'excuse me!' and there was a waitress asking for my attention.
Oh good god. Are we going to be thrown out of the Hawaii Hilton hotel pool on the first day...?
(Hawaiian Waitress) 'Ma'aame. The lady two rows back would like to buy you and your husband a round of drinks...'
Me: 'Seriously?' (calmly looking over my shoulder to an enthusiastic American lady in a hot pink bikini, Jacqui O sunnies and enormous straw sunhat).
Now at this point the left side of my brain was recalling every bad US Reality TV show I have ever watched and the words 'Swinger alert!' were jumping out at me. The right side of my brain (and by far the most fun), would never say no to a free drink so I nodded to the lady paying the bill and ordered a couple more 'Hawaiian Big Wave Lagers'.
I quickly discovered the kind lady thought our kids were cute and 'we obviously needed a drink' and all was well and beer filled.
I think I like Hawaii.
Its been almost twenty years since I visited the United States (albeit, mainland), and what I remember most from that particular visit was the food. Never one to do things by half the 18yo me decided that American Hamburgers should be consumed in multiples in one sitting, and that combined with copious amounts of Budweiser thanks to my compadres on our exchange group meant that I returned to Australia almost 10kg heavier. After just a six week trip.
So it could be said with some caution I approached this visit to the 'Fast Food Nation'. But before you could say 'Maui BBQ Chicken Wings' I was confronted by foods to entice even the most reformed burger eaters, and my penchant for Budweiser has been replaced by enormous Mai Tai's served in goblets with pineapple and tiny umbrella straws. As I quickly discovered the Mai Tai is a delicious Polynesian-style cocktail of rum, Curacao liqueur and lime juice and in fact its name is the Tahitian word for 'good'. The Elvis Presley movie Blue Hawaii features this drink prominently so who are we to argue with 'The King'? Good indeed.
Every holiday I have ever been on with Marco he has an obsession with food of his own. Examples: New Zealand: Seafood Chowder, Tasmania: Scallop Pies, Spain: Garlic Prawns, Italy: Gelato, Portugal: Caprihinia's. And on this adventure he has discovered the humble Coconut Shrimp (prawn) and a happier camper I never did see. Like Oscar announcing he can only swim three meters, we are also informed at every restaurant that he is not sharing his shrimp. Nice.
Armed with the above knowledge you may wonder why on our first big night out we caught a taxi into the main drag of Waikiki and decided to try 'Cheeseburger in Paradise'. But the restaurant was family friendly and the kids were provided colouring in books on arrival so it was an easy sell.
I could feel my arteries hardening as soon as I stepped through the doors but was drawn to the cheesy Hawaiian decor and large selection of Mai Tai's. Resisting the temptation to order mine in a souvenir Tiki cup (because obviously I didn't want to look like an idiot...), it was a choice between burgers and sandwiches galore as the kids happily played with their colouring in kits, Oscar picking at his 'Mac and Cheese' and Isabel her 'chicken strips and fries'. A plate of coconut shrimp and chicken wings later I was regretting ordering my giant Kalua Pig Sandwich with Pineapple Slaw.
I soon remembered the pitfalls of eating like this. The first few bites of salt, cheese and meat are addictive, the second handful of fries dunked in ranch dressing justifiable, and just like that the experience goes from being intoxicated on food to being repulsed by it. Or perhaps thats just the quantities I aimed for that evening.
I can't say I wont be eating a burger again, and the Maui Rum chicken wings are now part of my evening routine along with my Mai Tai (plus Henry 's grumblings can be stopped in an instant with a plate of wings), but I think we will at least attempt to break up the burger eating by indulging in more of the most amazing pineapple I have ever tasted. And keep up my morning runs along the beach!
The Hilton has four swimming pools including one with kids water slides, and even better its own private beach a short walk from our room which is shallow and clear, perfect for little people to wade and paddle in. I am hoping in the coming days that Marco will learn that if he builds an enormous sandcastle complete with fort with a moat around it then turns his back Oscar and Isabel WILL destroy it (as is their god given right) and that perhaps he should let them use the bucket and spade too.
This evening we enjoyed a sensational Teppanyaki Japanese dinner which was a pure stroke of genius on our part as not only was the food fantastic but the kids were mesmerized by the concept of a Japanese chef - guy not only cooking at the table but throwing, juggling and as Oscar would say ""doing magic" with food.
Following this the hotel put on its weekly fireworks display, and the kids ran around in the sand under the stars screaming in delight at the noise and light show. Oh, and the band played 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' on the Ukulele.
Looking forward to another week in Waikiki and exploring more of the attractions including Pearl Harbour and the Honolulu Zoo.
And just maybe I will buy that Mai Tai in a Tiki cup...Hawaii you had me at 'Aloha'.