New Version of the old International Market Place – Waikiki

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Since my last trip to Hawaii there has been a big transformation in Waikiki. The International Market place which is located on Kalakaua Avenue in the heart of Waikiki is now new, upscale and very modern.

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Kalakaua Entrance to International Market Place

I have very mixed feelings about the International Market place now. If you are a first time visitor to Waikiki you may think that the new market place is wonderful with its beautiful open space. And it is. However it has lost its old traditional charm. Thank goodness they have kept the original banyan tree which still dominates and is the main feature. But the old Hawaiian feel and street vendors are gone. I missed the Auntie’s stringing leis and the Hawaiians carving Hawaiian tiki statues. I missed the true international flair it had back in the day.

 

When I lived in Hawaii, the international market place was often our meeting place, particularly in the evenings and quite often it was where we spent the entire evening. There was always something happening and it was fun and remained like this for years.

 

However, It is now a beautiful open air environment with high end shops and many restaurants on several levels.

The ground floor has benches and chairs scattered about, so it’s easy to relax and enjoy just being there. Water features are everywhere, which make it feel fresh and calming. There is also a variety of trees, palms, potted plants and other vegetation. At the front near the Kalakaua entrance, you will find a new Don Ho statue where you can take photos with the local legend.

 

I have fond memories of the old international market place and while I miss the old one, there are certain aspects of the new market place that are simply delightful. It is still a great place to sit and take a break from walking or Waikiki traffic. You will find comfortable seats, lounges and benches on all levels of the market place. Stop and visit Don’s Tree house in the historic banyan tree which was planted in the mid 1800’s.

 

 

 

It seems that no matter how hot the day is, it is always cool and refreshing in the market place under the magnificent banyan tree.

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Best Mai Tai – Under Pink Umbrellas

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Sitting proudly on Waikiki beach is the Iconic luxury hotel the Royal Hawaiian Hotel which is affectionately known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific. This bright pink 90 year old regal hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Waikiki and only 2 miles from Ala Moana shopping mall and 9 miles from Honolulu Airport.

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View from Surf Lanai

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We chose the Surf Lanai restaurant which is in the Royal Hawaiian hotel for our belated birthday lunch celebration.  The Surf Lanai is an upscale outdoor beach-side restaurant serving up casual elegance and specializing in classic dishes and tropical local foods.

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The Surf Lanai offered beautiful views of the crystalline ocean and Diamond Head and a wonderful lunch selection with great service. Our meals were first class.

When I lived in Hawaii, I worked on the catamaran, the Keipoikai which would have been the mother of this Keipoikai.  I enjoyed fantastic memories of some very memorable days on Waikiki beach.

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Keipoikai Catamaran

 As we walked through the hotel to the restaurant on the beach we went through beautiful rooms with traditional Hawaiian decor. There were very few changes from when I lived in Hawaii. It felt like a step back in time.

 

 

You don’t need to be a guest at the hotel to dine here at the Surf Lanai. We drove down from Kailua and took advantage of the complimentary parking. There is also valet parking available for diners at the hotel restaurants.

A walk on the beach after our meal was a perfect finish to a relaxed and delightfully lazy lunch.

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A walk on Waikiki beach

It was such a very special day out for both of us. 

Beautiful and Unique – Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

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Although I had lived in Hawai’i for 11 years I had never actually been to a black sand beach, until I recently visited the Big Island, Hawai’i.

 

 


It is hard to express the wonder that you feel when you walk out onto this beach. The sand is jet black; it is like walking on crushed black diamonds. The black sand is made of basalt and is created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools. The black sand does not stick to you at all and feels so clean.

Close up of Black sand

Punalu’u Beach is one of the more famous black sand beaches of Hawai’i and is a favourite spot for turtles.  Punalu’u Black Sand Beach’s jet black shores are an unforgettable sight with coconut palms bordering the upper edge of the sand. Punalu’u beach is easy to access off Highway 11, and is about 55 miles from Hilo. We drove down to Punalu’u beach from the Volcano National Park.

Almost immediately after arriving we spotted a couple of sea turtles, called Honu, resting on the black sand.

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Rolling waves meet the shore bringing in sea turtles who like to bask on the warm sand.
The water at this point is called sweet water which is fresh mountain water meeting the ocean in springs. This is another reason the turtles love it here.

The green turtle is a large, weighty sea turtle with a wide, smooth carapace, or shell. It inhabits tropical and subtropical coastal waters around the world and has been observed clambering onto land to sunbathe. “Basking” (resting) behavior is becoming more common all around Hawai‘i and is an exciting way to watch green sea turtles

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While this is not a great place to swim, the unusual encounter with the natural world is almost surreal. You’ll come out with incredible pictures and wonderful memories.

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 To see a black sand beach is unlike anything you’ve seen before. I was captivated by the actual beauty of it, and how soft the sand can be after the lava breaks down so much!

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Christmas 2017 in Australia.

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We took the City Catamaran Ferry from Southbank Parklands down the river towards the mouth of the river. It is always a great way to see our city.  Being out on this river feels like being in Fairyland, it is so enchanting.  As day turned in to evening, it was magic riding down the Brisbane River watching the city lights and bridge lights come on and the changes in the vistas.

There are many interesting stops along the way where you can get off.  We finally chose Bulimba to disembark where we stayed for dinner at a great Italian restaurant which is situated right at the pier on the river. Yes, we all enjoyed a glass of Italiano Vino with our dinner.

Riding back up the river towards the city centre was just so good as it was now dark and the Christmas lights were twinkling from both sides of the river.

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Brisbane’s iconic landmark the Story Bridge was illuminated with beautiful Christmas coloured lights which changed slowly.  Brisbane’s Story Bridge is lovely at any time of the year but especially so at Christmas.

 

Riding on a catamaran down the Brisbane River has now become one of my favourite fun things to do at Christmas time.  It was a very warm night so standing out on the front deck of the river cat in the cool breeze was such a pleasure. I am sure that no matter what your age is, you would enjoy it.

We arrived back in to the city centre and disembarked at North Quay. We walked the short distance through Queen Street Mall passing the beautiful Christmas-scene shop windows  to City Hall in King George Square.

The Christmas lights and show at City Hall were spectacular and would suit all ages. The show runs every 15 minutes from 7.30pm till Midnight. Such an amazing night out as it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement and happiness.

 

 

                I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Christmas and a safe and healthy 2018.      May your year be full of surprises and  all your wishes come true. 

Thank you all for your support this past year. 

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From Summit to the Sea – Chain of Craters Road, Kilauea.

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We drove from the summit of Kilauea to the sea.

 

Chain of Craters Road which is a 19 mile/30km winding paved road is located within Volcanoes National Park. Driving along this long well paved road just shows you the devastation that a lava flow leaves behind. It’s amazing to see the scenery and be able to stop at many places along the road to take photos that is if you don’t get blown away with the strong wind. There were times that it was almost impossible to hold my camera still enough to take a photo.

 

The road starts up at a high elevation and you drive all the way down to the ocean. It is an amazing experience to see Mother Nature (and Pele) at her best. When we departed from our cabin in Kilauea Military Camp it was about 9 degrees C and when we arrived at the end of the road it was about 25 degrees C. The change in altitude made such a difference to the temperature and the changing landscape was incredible. The following week after we were in Volcanoes National Park, it snowed.

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This road has had parts covered by lava several times due to eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano.

 

You can’t get lost; it’s a single, two-lane road from the “top” of the park to the “bottom.” The highlights are all well-signed. You decide whether you want to merely take a photo from the car, or walk to explore. There are many trails leading into many different areas. This entire area is hauntingly beautiful and different from almost anywhere else on earth.  It felt like we were driving on the moon. But then when we stopped at many lookouts along the way I started to feel that I was on top of a very large dark chocolate brownie.

 

Before heading off, we stopped at the visitors centre. There is as much information available as you could possibly need and the rangers are so helpful and passionate about the entire area. There are maps and all the information that you would need for exploring the entire national park and of course this drive.

 

At the end of the road, is where the lava flows in to the ocean. This flow of molten lava has created the Holei Sea Arch. The lava flow from the Volcano has added approximately 500 acres to the Island of Hawaii over the past 20 years. Near the arch, begins a rather long walk-able trail which takes you all the way to the place where fresh lava goes into the sea. This part I can only read about as the trail was far too long for me to try to take on. Just before we reached the Pacific Ocean the road just ends where lava covered it some years ago. It is very surreal to just see a road disappear under rock.

 

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No words and no photos can do this justice!  You have to see it to believe it.

 It is exciting, and mesmerizing and just plain fabulous.

Dukes for Coffee in Waikiki 

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We drove down to Waikiki this morning to go to Dukes for coffee and then for swims.

We parked in the car park at the Waikiki shell and then wandered along Kalakaua Avenue towards the Outrigger hotel where Dukes Restaurant is. Dukes is named after Duke Kahanamoku who was a well known Hawaiian surfing legend.

Walking along Kalakaua Avenue

At the restaurant, we were seated at a table on the lanai which is right on the beach, and we enjoyed the wonderful view. 

The coffee is so good, the location perfect and the music is the best. So good in fact that we decided to stay for lunch. A trip to Hawaii for me is not complete without at least a coffee at Dukes. 

View from Dukes. Looking towards Diamond Head

Lunch. Simple and just right

After lunch we walked back down Kalakaua Avenue towards Diamond Head where we stopped at Queens Beach for our swim. The water was crystal clear and perfect.

After our swims we relaxed on the sand, people watching and taking in the gorgeous Hawaiian sunshine. I had almost forgotten just how good this feels.

Another fabulous day in paradise.

Unforgettable Lava Glow by Night

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We came to the Volcanoes National Park  in Hilo which is on the Big Island to see the volcano erupting. We knew there was no guarantee that it would be erupting while we are here but we were hoping. It was not erupting however we were not disappointed. Seeing the lava glow at night was so exciting. 

On our first evening, we drove from our lodging at the KMC to the Jaggar museum to see the volcano. It was very windy, very cold and very wet however we managed to see the lava glow and we were thrilled. In fact regardless of the weather we were mesmerised by the spectacular light. We were so caught up in the wonder of this incredible natural phenomenon 

The lava glow is coming from the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater which is a pit crater located within the much larger summit caldera of Kīlauea.

We took many photos although none of them were great. We returned the next night a little earlier and were delighted to see a beautiful double rainbow but the weather was still a challenge. 

On the 3rd night the weather was great. No wind, no rain and very mild. We could see the crater and the glow so much clearer.  To take great photos of this spectacular sight requires a good camera and preferably a tripod to steady the camera but we made the most of what we had. 

The sky above the lava glow taken from the car park 

The lava glow in the crater 

We were reluctant to leave.  It was magic

Aloha from Hawaii

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After a short 8 and a half hour flight from Brisbane I arrived in Honolulu. I had almost forgotten how very friendly these people are but was reminded very quickly as I cleared customs and immigration at the airport

My friends picked me up from the airport and we drove to their home in Kailua.

Late in the afternoon Linda and I went for a walk along beautiful Kailua Beach. The perfect way to clear my head and recharge my batteries after the night flight and the time difference.

Kailua is very close to the Ko’olau mountains making the beach and the skies gorgeous.

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I was fascinated by the kite boarders. We counted at least 12 of them having the best time as the wind was quite strong. It is amazing how high they jump above the water. Kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wake boarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing into one extreme sport.

This house is right on the beach. Imagine a Mai Tai sitting here overlooking the beach and ocean at sunset.

Kailua is a town on the east coast of the main island Oahu. This part of the island is known as the windward side of the island. Although it is only about 20 miles from Waikiki it will take about 45 minutes to an hour to drive due to the traffic. Kailua beach is the water sports hub of the area.

I left the beach feeling refreshed and recharged.

Purple Season in Brisbane

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It is purple season in SE Qld. In mid spring each year the jacaranda trees around Brisbane start to bloom. I usually think of Jacaranda trees showing off their full fabulous purple colour in November however some years they start blooming in October which was the case this year. It really depends on how cold winter was. This mass of colour in our parks and lining our streets usually lasts about 6 weeks.

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Although these trees look very much at home here in the sub tropics they were actually introduced to Australia from Brazil in the 1850’s.

Just a couple of kilometres from Brisbane city centre, situated on the Brisbane River is the leafy suburb of Yeronga. This is where we chose to go for our walk this morning and this is the spectacular sights we experienced.

Here are some of my snap shots taken this morning.  Enjoy.

 

 

Also in Yeronga, not far from the river,  is the local park called Jacaranda Park, yes that’s right, Jacaranda Park –  with its purple sun shade.

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Jacaranda Park with purple sun shade

 

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Jacaranda Trees

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Jacaranda Trees

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Jacaranda Trees

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Jacaranda Trees

There are many spots around Brisbane with Jacaranda trees. If you live here and you have the time, I recommend take a drive around the suburbs and feast your eyes on some magnificent displays. You will find the trees on the north and south sides, in the parks, lining suburban streets, and even along our bus ways.

Peaceful Location for a Long Lunch – O’Reilly’s Vineyards 

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My friends suggested going to lunch somewhere special however decided it was a surprise for me so would not say where we were going. We drove about an hour and a half south from my house in Brisbane. We drove through beautiful countryside and due to the recent rain everywhere was green, lush and healthy. As we were nearing our destination they told me we were going to O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards and winery which is located in the Gold Coast Hinterland. This area is one of Queensland’s emerging wine growing regions.

We arrived at the winery about mid morning. Our first stop was the Alpaca enclosure. There is special food available at the winery that you can purchase for $3 to feed the alpacas.

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Alpacas

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Alpacas

We then walked over to the stream, which runs through the property, to see if we could spot a platypus or one of the local turtles. This whole area is stunning. Sit by the creek and enjoy a picnic hamper which are available from the Vintage restaurant. Although we went on a weekday, we did see a few small groups of people enjoying their picnic lunch on the lawns.

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The stream on this rainy day

After looking for turtles and platypus from the viewing platform on the stream we walked over to the cellar door area to try some of the locally produced wines. Starting with a Verdelho for me, then a couple of reds including a shiraz and merlot. All really good however I decided on a glass of their bubbles to enjoy with my lunch in the Vintage Restaurant.

The restaurant is in the original old Queenslander farmhouse which is a wonderful  structure, both inside and outside retaining much of its old world charm and beauty.  The 100-year old history of the O’Reilly family in the area is fascinating.

We sat on the screened veranda with amazing views overlooking the property, vines and jacarandas. The menu for lunch offered a great selection so we were all very pleased with our individual choices. The service was excellent.

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View from the restaurant

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The grape vines

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The grape vines

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The vines with a little sun trying to peep through

What a wonderful way to spend a few hours. It is a perfect location, within a short drive of Brisbane and also the Gold Coast however well and truly away from the hustle and bustle of “life”