Mahola and I hope to visit again. Aloha.
Aloha and welcome (e komo mai) to the Island of Oahu. Most people stay in Wakiki when they visit Oahu, known for its legendary beautiful beaches, high-rise buildings and endless shops. Waikiki is the playground of the Pacific. What I like about Wakiki is that you can explore it by foot or take THE BUS, a great public transportation system. If you are over 65, take your Medicare card and you can ride the bus for $1. Hawaiian people are friendly and will always help you find the right bus. Think of Waikiki as a giant shopping mall where you can go in every store and try on whatever you want. But if you don’t want to shop, there are gorgeous beaches where you can avoid the shopping frenzy and watch a classic sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Sometimes, within just a few steps, you are transported back in time 100 years. Two of those places on the strip of Wakiki are the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Moana Surfrider. Both have modern towers attached, but in both hotels there is an older, original part. The Royal Hawaiian is hidden between high-rise towers, but I find it to be an oasis of old-time charm. Walking through the lobby and outside grounds is a must for me every time I am in Wakiki. I have stayed in the old rooms several times and enjoyed it tremendously. Their bar on the beach is a favorite spot to have a mai tai and to watch the sunset. When you stay at the hotel, you are greeted with their famous banana bread (get the recipe here). You can buy it now at their coffee shop.
At the Moana Surfrider Hotel , you can sit in a rocking chair and watch the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. Go upstairs in the lobby and look at photos of the old Hawaii.
We have driven around the Island several times and stayed in different hotels on different sides of the island. During this last visit we decided to relax and stay put, go swimming every day, and eat good food.
I love to go for early morning walks, leaving Waikiki and going into residential areas. I admire the old houses with their interesting doors. I might take a yoga or tai chi class on the lawn of the park.
Oahu is home to a diverse population which put their stamp on the architecture, food and way of living. Whenever I visit the islands, I enjoy watching the hula dance which is being performed by old and young everywhere. This classic Hawaiian dance is being taught to young children, who perform it often and very beautifully. It always brings me joy and I like to dance it myself when I am alone. The hula is a Polynesian form of story telling, brought to Hawaii by a woman named La'ila'i in the 6th century. It takes a lot of love and commitment to master it.
Let's go back to the beach where I swim in the warm, clear blue Pacific Ocean every day. I don't go in far, because I am not a good swimmer. No one teaches you how to swim when you grow up on a farm in northern Germany. But I do like floating and having the waves caress me. I feel safe, and it is such a pleasurable experience.
For our first dinner we choose The Eating House, a restaurant by Roy Yamaguchi, who pioneered bringing local Hawaiian food to the local restaurants. I often eat at his other restaurant called Roy's in Honolulu. At the Eating House I had a Royal Hawaiian cocktail which was the best one on this trip.
Iron Chef Morimoto has two new restaurants in Waikiki. We ate at the casual Momosan Waikiki on the patio. It has wonderful small plates like tetsunabe pork gyoza with a ginger scallion sauce that is flambeed with sake at your table. My duck confit small bites were out of this world. My husband had the noodle dish that they are known for. They also have pig ears on their menu, but I decided to pass on that one in spite of good reviews. You can also order take-out and have it at the beach.
I used to have lunch at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room in the Ala Moana Shopping center, but it is now closed. Instead, I had a wonderful and reasonably priced dim sum at the Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant on the 3rd level of the shopping center. I enjoyed every bite and didn't need to eat again the entire day. The waiting lines are long since locals eat here.
Marukame Udon is a well-loved casual place where they make their own noodles. It is my friends, Susan and Jim's, favorite place. There are always very long lines and people absolutely rave about this place.
There is so much more to Honolulu, like downtown Chinatown, which is a treasure for foodies. For me, it is more interesting than San Francisco. I have taken some food tours on previous visits, but not this time. There is the Bishop Museum which is a museum of history and science. On previous visits we went to the Doris Duke Shangri La home and enjoyed the tour. The Queen's Iolani Palace is steeped in Hawaiian history and is worthy of a visit. I have not yet been to the Honolulu opera but have heard it is fantastic.
This was my happy place this time—the infinity pool at the Sheraton Wakiki.
Here is a photo of me five years ago and another one of me now. Still happy.
Mahola and I hope to visit again. Aloha.
My recent trip to New York was a very special trip. The Cabrillo Symphonic and Youth Choirs performed at Carnegie Hall. My girlfriend, Diane sings in the chorus. It's not every day that I get to watch a friend perform at Carnegie Hall, I had to go and I am so glad I did. The chorus performed the New York premiere of a beautiful piece written by the composer Erik Ešenvalds called “The Long Road,” part of his masterpiece, “Sunset in my Hand: Ancient Voices of the Wild Pacific Coast.” It was a touching and memorable experience for all involved.
My solo trip unfolded without any hiccups, other than the moment when I almost lost my wallet in a taxi. When you take a taxi in New York make sure you ask for a receipt as you enter the taxi. This way you can track down your driver in case you leave something behind.
I took the red-eye special from San Francisco and arrived in NYC early Saturday morning. Upon checking in my hotel stored my luggage and after a large cup of coffee I was ready to go. My girlfriend’s sister and her daughter took me along that day. This was good because I was super tired and not always able to function properly. We got half-price tickets at the TKTS on Time Square for a matinee and saw “A Doll’s House: Part 2” by Lucas Hnath. The play picks up after Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House" concludes. Even though I nodded off just a little bit in the beginning, eventually it got my full attention. What I liked about this play is that nobody was stereotyped as good or bad, although everybody was right and everybody was wrong.
I also saw “Little Foxes” by Lillian Hellman with Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon (from “Sex in the City”), and Richard Thomas, who was John John in “The Waltons” TV series from years ago. The acting in this play was superb. Another play I thoroughly enjoyed was "Present Laughter" starring Kevin Kline.
I saw “The Little Foxes“ by myself. After getting my program autographed by the actors I had a wonderful light Japanese meal at Natsumi around the corner from the theater. The edamame dumplings were outstanding.
The first night I had a charred octopus appetizer puttanesca-style with fingerling potatoes and a bell pepper vinaigrette at Bonoit Bistro near my hotel. Food was not the focus of this trip. We ate twice at the Brooklyn Diner because it stays open late and is near Carnegie Hall. I enjoyed their BLT crab burger and Kugel noodle
I enjoyed wandering around Central Park, eating a hot dog , and appreciating New York City. On my last day my friends and I spent the day at the Metropolitan Museum.
Even though I had planned to go the MoMa, I didn't make time for it, but I did have a refreshing drink and appetizer at Moderner, a great restaurant next to the MoMa. Altogether, it was a wonderful trip and I am glad I decided to go. Read more about New York on my other post from last year.
Several decades ago when I first immigrated to the United States, I spent my first night in New York City. I was afraid of and fascinated by this amazing metropolis. While living on the East Coast, I visited a couple of more times but never stayed overnight. My first real visit was in 2002, when my husband and I stayed for a week. The wounds of September 11 were wide open and the city was slowly recovering. After that, there were several more visits.
We arrived after a 5-hour flight from San Francisco. The flight was not pleasant, but I managed to get through it by reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Our book club chose this fascinating book for our next meeting. After checking into our hotel, we found a small French restaurant in our neighborhood and had a pleasant meal. It was nice to watch the locals and tourists alike.
I packed this day full of outdoor walking activities because there was a tropical storm warning for New York. We took the subway to have a cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho. Imagine a marriage between a croissant and a donut. If you like to learn more, click here. The lines were not long and we walked out with our boxes of goodies 10 minutes later. Of course, I had to add a salty caramel eclair to my bag. The cronuts only made it to the next bench in a little park, where my husband and I inhaled them. They were delicious.
Having to walk off some extra calories, we continued walking to Washington Square and then took a taxi to Eataly where we had lunch. Eataly is a foodie's paradise. If you want Italian crafted eats, you will find it all: fresh house made pasta, cookbooks, homemade gelato, great prosciutto and a strong cup of Lavazza expresso. There are several restaurants to choose from. We had lunch at the fish counter. I had a tasty octopus salad and my hubby had the best little flatbread ever (they called it a pizza). It was divine, filled with mozzarella and then topped with clams. The couple next to us ordered delicious looking grilled razor clams and oysters.
In the afternoon, we walked the High Line, a linear urban park built atop a mile-and-half-long stretch of abandoned railroad track. This is a great walk where you can catch a glimpse into the private lives of the New Yorkers from above. We had dinner at Rue 57, a restaurant with memories for us, as we have eaten here on every visit. This time we enjoyed an outside table, where we ate a small meal.
I went to Brooklyn to visit my blogger friend, Suzanne. She has a wonderful blog called a ”apuginthekitchen.com". We had a nice lunch in one of Brooklyn's neighborhood cafes and then went to the local flea market. It was fun to feel like a local. Thank you, Suzanne, for the lovely tour. For dinner that night, I made a reservation at Daniel's Boulud Bistro BD Moderne:www.dbbistro.com/nyc/” It was the best meal we had in New York. The service, the attention to detail, and the food was all outstanding. I didn't take any photos. because I wanted to enjoy this wonderful meal. For a starter, I had beets whipped with goat cheese, gooseberries and pickled shallots. For the main courses, my husband had duck confit with creamy polenta and I had braised Spanish octopus. It was the most tender octopus I have ever had. It was a perfect 10 as far as I am concerned. Our dessert was a molten chocolate fondant and the restaurant surprised us with a complimentary raspberry tarte. The whole meal was a real treat. I hope to go to more of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in the future.
It was Sunday, and with no rain or tropical storm in the forecast, we walked through Central Park and up Madison Avenue with all its fancy store fronts to the Guggenheim Museum. I love the layout of this museum and the collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. I am sorry I didn’t make it to the new Whitney. We walked back to our hotel through a street fair and I had a German hot dog. It was good, but I have had better. In the evening, we went to the Broadway show The Book of Mormon. We both enjoyed it.
It was Labor Day and we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on the pedestrian walkway. It is a wonderful stroll with awesome views of lower Manhattan and the New York Harbor. While walking to Brooklyn, I was thinking of lunch at the River Cafe. But because it was a holiday, they had finished the brunch menu and we couldn't get in. We took the ferry back to Manhattan and walked along Wall Street. We decided not to go to the 911 Memorial because they were too many people. Instead, we took the subway to the Chelsea Market. Being a holiday, it was so crowded that my husband and I could not enjoy it. We had a late lunch (or early dinner) at the Spotted Pig. We ate at the bar sharing a hamburger and french fries, which were delicious. For dessert, we walked to the BIG Gay Ice Cream shop to have a sundae. This is a very trendy place and the line was long. In the evening, we went to another Broadway show. We saw Aladdin, which is a fabulous Disney production. Disney remodeled the New Amsterdam Theater back to the days of the Ziegfeld Girls with its unique architecture and art nouveau style. I truly enjoyed my evening.
We decided to take it easy on our last day. We did a little shopping and my husband got to pick a restaurant for lunch. We had a huge lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant. This historic seafood place is located in the lower level of the Grand Central Terminal and has arched tile ceilings in a vintage setting. The restaurant serves two million bivalves a year. I love to watch the oyster stew being cooked. I am sharing a recipe for the oyster stew from Ruth Reichl’s blog on my home page.
My girlfriend's son Max prepared a list of his favorite restaurants in New York. Thank you Max, this list got a lot of approval from locals.
Edie and the Wolf
Big Gay Ice Cream
Uncle Boons Thai
Dominique Amsel Bakery
Xian Famous Foods
The Spotted Pig
Rouge et Blanc
Mission Chinese Vince Giordano at the Iguana Club every Monday and Tuesday night
I'm one of those strange people who likes most airports, the San Francisco airport being my favorite. It always has some interesting exhibits and is new and modern. My husband hates airports. I think the reason I like airports is because I am a wanderer at heart. And when I want to see my German family and friends, I have to fly for many hours. When my mother needed help in her last years, I became a frequent flyer, enjoying the perks that come with it. However, now I'm back to normal, with no more free upgrades or airport lounges. I am still able to fly and that is great. Who is complaining, certainly not me, no way, I still get to go. I am sitting in the back of an airplane, my tush is hurting and the person next to me is too large for the cramped seats. But when I land, I will be in one of my favorite spots on this planet—Hawaii. I have been visiting the different islands for the past 30 years whenever time and money allow us to do so. My husband is a genius at finding reasonably priced flights and accommodations. It must be his Dutch and Scottish genes. Lucky me, I get to enjoy the benefits.
The Hawaiian Islands are a great getaway and have some of the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen. The beaches are pristine, the water is warm and clean. One can swim with huge turtles and see tropical fish and whales, The warm climate with its cooling trade winds is almost perfect. Each island has its own identity. I love Kauai, the garden island, because it is the least populated and has the most spectacular sites of all, but I enjoy all the other islands as well. The culture of the Hawaiian Islands today is a colorful mix of culture and ethnicity.
This trip brought us to Maui for a week, Maui being one of the world’s most popular islands. When I first went to Maui many years ago, it had not yet exploded with condos and luxury hotels. Every time I come, there is ever more building. One of my favorite hotels is not going to be there much longer for me, because it is being converted into luxury condos that I cannot afford. Makena Beach, not far from the end of the road along the southwestern coastline, will still be there. For me, this beach is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Maui has other beautiful beaches as well, and all beaches in Hawaii have public access, which usually means there is a parking lot with restrooms and showers.
The islands have something for everyone and many choices .Spending time on the beach and swimming in warm water is something I love to do, as long as I have some shade. However, I’m fair skinned and even in the shade, I have to limit my time in the sun. I learned that the hard way. I love to explore the countryside and spectacular valleys. There are are small towns in the Up Country that are fun and have different things to offer.
In Maui, there is the road to Hana, a slow 42-mile drive with breathtaking scenery, across 56 one-lane bridges and more than 600 hairpin curves. Enjoy! But don’t be in a hurry. The last time we drove this, I remember a beautiful beach where we stopped to have lunch and a fruit stand that sold banana bread.
Then there is the volcanic crater of Haleakala (House of the Sun in Hawaiian) which is home to Haleakala National Park. The summit peaks at more than 10,000 feet above sea level, a breathtaking spot from which to watch the sunrise, when a starry sky fills with color and the crater floor glows a deep red. To do so, you have to leave at 3 am, which takes true devotion. On the way down, you will pass through as many as ten distinct micro-climates. On this trip, we choose not to go all the way up but instead went to Makawao, a charming little cowboy town with a Japanese bakery that hasn't changed in fifty years. The sidewalk outside is dated 1943. My sweetie gets his donuts there to take along. I like the library there and always peek in. You might run into Willie Nelson because he lives up there. The reason I go to Makawao is to have lunch at the Hali’imaile General Store, a must for me when I am in Maui.
Another great restaurant on the other side of Maui, near Lahaina, the old whaling town, is Star Noodles a great restaurant where you can experience the new Hawaiian fusion cuisine. They are always full, so I go for a late lunch or order take out to eat when I watch the sunset over the ocean. After all, Hawaii is known for its spectacular sunsets. One of my favorite spots to watch the sunset is at the Sheraton at Kaanapali, north of Lahaina. There is a bar near the beach and when sunset comes, you will hear about the old Hawaii. At sunset, a young man carries a torch up to Black Rock from where he jumps into the ocean
Another nice spot to watch the sunset is in Wailea, where you can have great food and drinks (check for half-price happy hour) in a restaurant called Migrant, in the Marriott Hotel.
My favorite drink this time was named “57 Chevy with Hawaiian license plates.” Warning, one will be plenty! It is a good one to share. Of course there always is the Mai Tai. Remember Elvis in Blue Hawaii? “Aloha” is the Hawaiian greeting that expresses mutual love and the spirit of these beautiful islands and their people.