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Several months ago a friend, D.,  asked if I would be interested in accompanying her to Hawaii to celebrate her birthday (which was actually in July and one worth celebrating) and her achieving a significant designation in our industry.  Of course I said yes, and my other half agreed to let me travel without him for 2 weeks. We’ve done months of text messaging, FB messaging and phone calls to decide what were “must do” items, when we wanted to do them, what needed reservations…all the little details that go into planning what we hope will be an unforgettable visit to the land of Aloha.I snuck into Arizona on Friday night, got to visit my favorite pizza joint where we’d had dinner a few times before, then crawled into bed after we got my friend packed.  Thank goodness for the small travel scales you hook on the suitcase. They aren’t perfectly accurate, but we both were just under the 50 pound limit.  Whew! 

An easy check-in at the airport, and we departed on time. A quick 6 hour 20 minute flight and we were in Hawaii. (I am probably one of a small number of people who think nothing of a 6 hour flight…trips to Sri Lanka will do that to you, I guess.)  We got to baggage claim and I spotted a familiar face.  My cousin had come to meet us and gave us the traditional Hawaiian lei greeting. He also had a bag of goodies for us – bottled water, macadamia nuts, and chocolate covered macadamias.  It was fun to see him after 4 years, and a nice surprise for D. He walked us to the rental car center, helped get our bags in the car, then left us to our own devices for the day.

Our first stop was downtown Honolulu as we’d placed a special order that would be ready for pick-up at 3PM. As our plane had arrived 30 minutes early, we had plenty of time to kill.  First order of business, find a spot for lunch!  So after driving around the block twice (I missed the parking lot entrance the first time), we parked the car and checked Yelp for nearby restaurants.  We were in Chinatown, so we had lots to chose from!  We settled on Lucky Belly, a ramen fusion restuarant. One of the things they’re known for are homemade sodas. Our waitress recommended the lilikoi fizz – a passion fruit soda.  It was wonderful!  Fruity but not overly sweet, and just the thing after walking in the heat and humidity. 

We had a wonderful lunch, then wandered around Chinatown a bit as we were told our order wouldn’t be ready until 3. We passed several flower shops where women were stringing leis, and found the Chinese Cultural Center where the Moon Festival was taking place. A walk across the river brought us to a Japanese Shinto shrine.

We still had time to kill before our order was ready, so we headed in the opposite direction and stumbled onto the Catholic cathedral where Fr. Damian was ordained and celebrated his first mass. It is a relatively non-descript building from the outside, dwarfed by the large highrise buildings surrounding it.  Inside, a beautiful respite from the world outside its walls. 

We had to tear ourselves away as it was just before 3PM, and our order was ready for pick-up.  Just a few doors down was our destination – Let Them Eat Cupcakes Bakery. We had preordered their grandona pastries. (Thanks to the article in Hawaii Magazine espousing their buttery, flaky goodness, we had to try them!) These are described as malasada meets croissant. They were hot, delicious smelling, and it took a fair amount of will power (ok, and the fact we put them on the back seat out of reach) not to indulge as soon as we left the bakery!

An easy drive further south, and we were checking into our hotel at 4PM. We settled in, decided we really had an obligation to try the grandonas and make sure they were good (we plan to take them to my cousins’ house tomorrow when we visit).  We sat on the balcony and savored several bites. They were sinfully rich, and I don’t know that I could even attempt to eat a whole one in one sitting. Well, enough sitting around eating pastries – the beach called, and we didn’t want to miss the 6PM torch lighting and hula show.

We set off down the beach thinking it would be an easy walk. I had completely forgotten how “soft” Hawaiian sand is.  Even going closer to the water was a good workout for the calves! So we wound our way to the sidewalk, and walked and walked and walked…all the way to the Honolulu Zoo entrance, and a little bit beyond.  We thought we were in the right area, but it turns out we’d walked about 1/2 mile beyond where we needed to be. Oops. Nothing like an extra mile of walking for the day, right? We figured it helped burn off one of the bites of grandona!

We eventually found Kuhio Park and a place to sit on the sea wall to watch the show. So many memories flooding back for me of all my hula lessons many, many years ago.  

It turned out we had stopped on the other side of this banyan tree to take a picture of it while walking to the park…we just missed the signs that said the show was there.  That seems to be today’s theme – hidden/hard to find or follow signs. The show was wonderful, and thanks to D.’s tap on my shoulder, I was able to turn around and grab a last photo before my camera died for the day.

(Along with the many others trying to capture the beauty of the moment!)

A light dinner back at the hotel with a Hawaiian musical duet and hula dancer, then it was back to the room where we are turning in and resting up for more adventure tomorrow!