Monday, July 26, 2010

Home Again

Flying into Kodiak for a refuel stop--wish we'd been able to get off the plane and explore!

Approaching Unalaska

Home, sweet home! Look how green it is!

At least one little ground squirrel lives in our new yard. The cats are very interested. We are hoping a showdown does not occur. Can't we all just peacefully coexist?!

The moon over Bunker Hill

So we are getting back into our routine, which in the summer time includes the Friday Night Deck BBQ at the hotel. We were graced with a sunny evening last week and joined some friends for great food, warmish weather and good conversation. While we were eating, this floatplane took off right behind us.

Judi and Jeanette in deep thought or actively listening!

Just hanging out watching the silly humans

Rich checks in with Skyler and makes sure everything is going okay.

Anne enjoying the sunshine

Work is good; I've been pretty busy getting ready for the annual Tundra Golf Classic, one of our fundraisers and always a crazy event. Rich has not really had a day off, even though he's tried unsuccessfully to take one. It's been fun to get back into the rhythm of the community and get back out to mingle. We attended a tasty tasting at the sushi bar and a very interesting event at the museum highlighting historical audio and video archives of local elders telling stories, singing and dancing. I would really love to hear and see more! While at the museum, we also browsed the current exhibit of gorgeous photos taken under water in this area. It's a whole other world under the sea and we have some talented local diver/photographers sharing the view with the rest of us.

The house is shaping up--most boxes are unpacked, most items are put away but we still have things to hang on walls and things to be sorted for storage. We love our new place, though! The cats are still acting weird and don't want to go outside very much. I thought they would adjust right away and get back into their familiar habits but they seem to have forgotten that they used to like to spend hours outdoors. In the past, they'd begrudgingly return only when forced, like little kids hearing their mom hollering for them to come in for supper. They've taken up residence in our bedroom and we find them lazing around on the bed or the windowsills as if that's the life they've always wanted.

Speaking of cats, you might remember the stray we called "Chuckie" at our other place. We felt bad leaving him behind, but he seemed healthy and quite the forager so we hoped he'd be okay in the old neighborhood. Late one night, we heard a cat meowing at the bedroom window. I couldn't believe he found us! We didn't move all that far away, but it's not right next door, either. He's stopped by a few times and stayed just long enough to get our cats all riled up. Their memories aren't too swift...along with forgetting their former joy in being outside, they also seem to have forgotten that they used to be buddies with Chuckie. Now they want to hiss and smack at the window and make weird growling noises when he comes around. Hopefully our upstairs neighbors have not been annoyed by the late night commotion.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Last Few Hawai'i Photos

These were on my laptop but I wanted to post them before I moved on. Can you tell I am having trouble letting go of our vacation?! On our drive-around day, we stopped at the Farmer's Market in Waialua. Along with fresh fruits and veggies, they had a little soap factory and lots of other fun stuff.

Rich liked the local sodas

and the knick-knacks or tikis.

We also snapped photos out the car's the One Love Surf Shop

a store with shave ice

and some killer tacos that we did not taste so really cannot vouch for them. But we will take their word for it.

Watch for surfers!

And, finally, the beach where we went snorkeling. What a lovely vacation! When do we go back??!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Farewell, Hawai'i--You were Awesome

Here are a few random photos of the beautiful place that is Hawai'i. Rich has more on his camera but he came back to a 15 hour day at work today so he's asleep. We'll put them up soon!

Our last few days were spent a lot like the previous few days....we walked, spent time on the beach, shopped, ate, napped, read, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our stay. I had a wonderful aromatherapy massage one morning; the massage therapist was from Hawai'i but had spent a summer in Anchorage. I didn't relax as much as I could have because we talked the whole time.

Friday night we had dinner at a bar overlooking the surf and then joined the crowd at the annual Korean Festival to watch a subtitled movie called "Sophie's Revenge" right there on the beach. We were also further entertained by the Friday night fireworks display. On Saturday, we rented a car and drove the whole island of Oahu. We browsed at a Farmer's Market, stopped at a couple of beaches and a state park on the North Shore, and went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. The water was a little rough and I was kinda nervous at first, but got over it and had a good time swimming with the fishes. No turtles this time, though.

Sunday we had to check out of the hotel in the morning but our flight was not till 9 PM so we had the whole day to run around. We drove off in search of the Aloha Towers and/or ChinaTown. Someone, who shall remain nameless, apparently took the map up to the room the day before and now it was missing. Rich was fairly confident that he knew how to get around (he IS from Hawai'i, after all!) He found his way to the Aloha Towers to shop and we had Sunday Brunch at Don Ho's restaurant. Well, I had the brunch and Rich had loco moco, which he'd been craving. Seriously, the Sunday Brunch at the Grand Aleutian is a million times better. I am not just saying that! This one was pitiful. We just sorta randomly ended up there--it's not like we were especially excited about the place anyway, but I was sorely disappointed in the selection and the quality of the food. It is really a shame that I am so spoiled that I would rather eat at home than just about any restaurant.

So we wandered the shops and bought a set of candle holders to take home. We usually try to buy something "local" to remember our trips. They will look nice in our new house!

No vacation is complete without a visit to Whole Foods so Rich can stock up on various supplies that he can't get in Unalaska. Since we had no map, we asked the waitress for directions and thought we knew what we were doing....but ended up driving aimlessly for a little while. I called Information and got the number for Whole Foods, where a very helpful clerk gave me directions to the store, which he stated was right near the we could do more shopping! Rich still wanted a map so he made me jump out of the car to grab some of those free tourist brochures off a bin on the street (my punishment for losing the map) He took a photo of me running to the bin but it's terrible so I am not posting it. :)

We drove through China Town but did not stop to do anything--it looked pretty deserted on Sunday. Then to Whole Foods, aka Chef Bye's Heaven, where we lamented the fact that we had endured the food at Don Ho's when we could have eaten much better at the store! After stocking up on various oils, spices, cheeses and gadgets, we made the rounds of the stores in the mall and discovered a movie theater. Since we still had so much time to kill, we decided to go to a matinee. The pickings were somewhat slim but we chose "Cyrus," which was actually a lot better than I expected. Funny, but also had a pretty good story to it.

Then off to the airport after gassing up the rental car and returning it with a minimum of complications (as opposed to some of our previous adventures). Alas, no first class upgrades were available this time. We had aisle seats across from each other, which I was grateful for, otherwise I would have been in the middle seat. Rich was lucky enough to be sitting next to a couple who were arguing with each other for much of the trip. Talk about awkward! I was next to a couple who were rather loud and demanding but at least they were not fighting.

We thought maybe we could sleep since it was an overnight flight but neither of us was able to get any rest. I could not get comfortable to save my life. It was a very long five and a half hours to Anchorage. We arrived at 4:30 AM local time and had to wait around till 9 AM for our flight to Unalaska. No sense going to a hotel so we laid down on the seats at Alaska Air and got a couple of hours of sleep. Went to Pen Air about 7 AM and it was PACKED. Apparently flights had been cancelled the day before, and there were several morning flights going to various towns. Around 7:30 they started announcing that two flights to King Salmon, one to Dillingham, and the 8 AM to Unalaska were all on weather hold. That's not what you want to hear when you have not had a good night's sleep. Then our flight was added to the list on hold. I wanted them to just cancel altogether so we could go to a hotel and take a nap! Finally around 10:30 we were loaded up and told we would be stopping for fuel in Kodiak. Kodiak?? Everyone was asking each other if we'd heard correctly. We don't ever go to Kodiak. We thought the Pen Air staffer had made a mistake and meant to say Cold Bay, which is a typical stopping point. But no, it was Kodiak. Oh yeah, Rich has photos of that, too. :)

I've never been to Kodiak so it would have been fun to have a layover there but we didn't get off the plane, just got some fuel and headed for Unalaska. Had a few bumps coming down but nothing major. Home! It's always good to get back, despite the fun of traveling and seeing family and friends. On the other hand, it was cold and rainy when we stepped off the plane. Luckily, I'd changed into jeans and a hoodie before boarding! Somehow those 80 degree days are already a distant memory.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Palm Trees, Blue Skies, and Jane Takes a Tumble

We enjoyed some beach time today. Warm sun, blue skies, beautiful scenery, lovely water.....need I say more?
The beach near our hotel

I spotted an Unalaska sea otter floating in Waikiki. :)

We happened upon some folks taking ukelele lessons. What fun!

View from our hotel balcony

Hula lessons
Today was a lot like every other day we've had here, except that I checked out the hotel's laundry room and washed a bunch of clothes. We then walked down to Cheeseburger in Paradise for lunch, where we were impressed by a waiter who could carry serving trays on his head. We even saw him carry a full glass that way--great balance, huh? Rich was going to take a photo but the battery was dead, dang it. As we finished lunch, I was sitting very nicely in my seat when my chapstick fell out of my pocket and rolled under the table. Leaning over to pick it up, I somehow managed to set my chair off balance and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled on the floor! How embarrassing is that?! Rich looked shocked as he and one of the waiters made sure I was okay. We got a big laugh out of it and Rich was sad that he missed TWO great photo ops.
I'm having an aromatherapy massage first thing in the morning--I feel I deserve it for falling out of my chair. :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sun, Surf, Snoozing and Shopping

We are enjoying a slow pace and a quiet time in Hawai'i. We are still waking up early every day and getting out to walk around in the sunshine.

The Royal Hawaiian through the trees

Duke Kahanamoku, the father of international surfing

View of the beach with Diamond Head in the background. The water and the sky are so blue!

Bee and flower
Strolling around downtown

Old Hawaii

Lots of food to choose from

Vibrant flowers everywhere!
Not really a lot to report. We have walked, walked, and walked some more, soaked up lots of sun, napped, read, eaten some good meals, and shopped. Rich found a Williams and Sonoma today and we've been to the bookstores, of course. Our time here has been very relaxing and we've enjoyed every minute of it. We looked into renting a car today but there was nothing available close by and we didn't want to have to go out to the airport and get one; we reserved a vehicle for the weekend so we can return it to the airport when we leave. Will probably wait to go snorkeling till then. We may take another hike or two....or may not! We have dinner reservations in a bit and then we'll see what we feel like doing afterwards. I love this kind of vacation....not too many obligations and no real schedule.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ahhhhhh, Hawai'i

For some reason, I could not check in online for my flight from Dallas to Anchorage. Probably a bad sign, huh? I know I said out loud, "I will probably be stuck in the middle seat for six hours." I also could not find out what terminal I was in. My flight was Alaska Air but "administered by" American Airlines. American has three terminals at DFW so Sarah and I took a guess and stopped at Terminal A. I asked the curbside check-in guy if I was in the right place, and of course, I wasn't. Luckily, Sarah waited for me and the dude at the curb said he could go ahead and check my bag. I told him it might be overweight so needed to see if I should take anything out. He said, "No problem, I will let you slide." He weighed it but I didn't see what the scale registered. I asked him what it was and he said, "Don't worry about it." I said, "I am traveling again tomorrow; do I need to take anything out?" He said, "Nahhhh, it's okay." I didn't really know if that meant it was 50 pounds or less (doubtful) or if he was just letting it go. Sarah drove me the good little distance over to Terminal D and we said our goodbyes--as always, sorry to leave but happy for a nice visit!

So I check in at a kiosk and, sure enough, I am assigned to a middle seat. I try to change it and there are supposedly no more seats available. An agent comes over and tells me I can try at the gate. I scurry off to Security, where it looks like a very short line, but it still takes forever because there are many families in front of me who are travelling internationally. Eventually, I get to my gate and ask if I can get out of the middle seat. The agent says, "No, there is nothing else." I whine and she says, "It's Alaska in the summer time, what do you expect?" Okay.....

She does move me to the middle seat in an exit row, for which I am excessively grateful. We board and there is a teenaged boy in my seat. I say, "Oh, I think I am supposed to be sitting there." He is with his sister and it looks like his dad is in front of him. The kid kinda looks at me, like he's trying to decide what he should do, and I ask, "Where is your seat?" He points to the AISLE seat across. I am giddy. I love the aisle seat. I ask, "Would you rather stay where you are?" He replies in the affirmative. He wants to sit with his family. I tell him he just made my day and I would be HAPPY to take his seat! We are both all smiles. Then some people in my row and the row in front of me all want to rearrange so we play musical chairs and I end up in the aisle seat one row up. Still an exit row, and more leg room. Sweet!

The flight from DFW to Anchorage is not six hours as I thought, but six hours and 45 minutes. Oh. my. goodness. I purposely chose a nonstop flight because that layover in Seattle gets to be a pain but I am beginning to wonder if I wouldn't have liked a little break. I settle in with my seatmates, who are not very friendly or chatty, and hunker down for the long flight. Could not sleep at all but read a lot and listened to some music. Soon, but not soon enough, we land in Anchorage and Rich is there to meet me. So glad to see my hubby after several weeks out! He has a room at the Millennium (priceline, of course), we have dinner at the hotel and get some rest. I am still on Texas time and exhausted!

Before we left Alaska, I'd called about getting First Class upgrades to our tickets to Honolulu, which is another long flight (a true 6 hours). I was told that we had to wait till the day of our flight and go to the airport in person because of the kind of tickets we had. Rich checked when he picked me up and was told he could do it online. So we tried to upgrade on the computer and got nowhere. I called Alaska Air and was told again that we need to do it in person. I called back to ask if Rich can go in by himself or if we both have to be present to make the change. The woman states that he can do it, but that our tickets are "not upgradeable" because they were bargain fares. I told her that we have already talked with at least three other people who have indicated that it would be no problem if we wanted to pay for the upgrade and do it the day of the flight. She gave me the lecture about how the rules are confusing and not everyone understands. She finally offered me a morsel of hope that "the agent at the airport has the authority to waive the restriction if he or she wants to." So we decide we will get up early and go to the airport, working on our spiel if it's needed. We hit Customer Service and have NO problem whatsoever getting our First Class upgrades for $150 each. Now that might sound like a lot, but our tickets were free so we were willing to pony up the cash for a comfortable ride. Hurrah!

Our flight was not till 2 PM so we went back to the hotel, had breakfast, and took our time packing up and checking out. Back to the airport and enjoyed a couple of hours in the Alaska Air Board Room, compliments of a free pass Rich had obtained. Comfy chairs, free lunch and drinks, internet, and quiet. Nice! Then off to our gate to line up in the First Class queue, feeling all smug and snooty. LOL Just kidding.

First Class is so nice, I have to admit. No middle seat! A complimentary hot meal on real plates with real silverware. A hot towel to wipe off our hands. Spoiled! Although I enjoyed it, I also felt like an imposter. :) How come some people are entitled to special treatment? Oh yeah, because they have money or can manipulate the system. :)

We arrived in Honolulu about 7 at night. More time change and I think I am still on Texas time, so I am really tired. We pricelined a room and got the Marriott Waikiki Resort and Spa. It's toward the end of Waikiki Beach so we decide to take a shuttle, not realizing that we were going to be riding for almost an hour and a half. We sat up front and heard the driver report in, "I have 14 stops." Yeah, and we were #13. At each place, he had to get out and get the passengers' luggage from under the bus. So it took for-freakin'-ever. We arrived at the Marriott just in time to see the tail end of the 4th of July fireworks over the water.

We have always had good luck with priceline. We swear by it! Never a crappy room. Some better than others, obviously, but nothing we've ever hated. At the fabulous Marriott Resort, we are assigned to Room 506. For the first time, we are UNHAPPY with priceline. It's a small room and our only view is this parking garage. Seriously. The cars are parked up against our window. Our curtains are sheer. I am sure people getting in their cars can watch us sleeping or getting dressed. :) Rich calls the front desk and asks if we can be reassigned to a higher floor. He's told that they are all full tonight but they will move us to the 19th floor tomorrow. Thankfully!

First morning in Honolulu, we are both on weird time schedules and wake up before 6 AM. We decide to take an early morning walk along the beach and grab some breakfast. It is so beautiful and sunny and warm. I just love Hawai'i! I could live here, no lie! We were told to check out by 11 to be reassigned so gather up our things and go downstairs. Our very patient front desk clerk wheels and deals with us and we finally agree to pay a little bit more to get a much nicer room on the 30th floor, bigger, and with a balcony. It's well worth it, still way under "rack rate" and here's our view (above).

After lunch, we hiked up Diamond Head. It was more strenuous than we expected, and very HOT outside. I love the heat, but even I was wishing for a cooler day. We did have some nice breezes in spots, which really saved me! We climbed 560 feet from the floor of the crater; most of the trail was not terribly steep but still got my heart rate up! Then we hit 74 steps, a 225 foot long semi-dark tunnel and 99 more steps before arriving at the spiral staircase (52 more steps) to the top. Whew!

Spiral staircase

View from the top

Rich taking photos

The city below
Lighthouse below

More shots from the top

Hot and sweaty!
After the hike, we returned to the hotel by way of the local market where we stocked up on fruit and drinks for the room. Although we enjoy eating out, everything is pretty pricey and I am not in favor of spending $40 for a small breakfast every day! We were going to upload photos when we realized that the new card reader I bought in Texas did not accommodate Rich's memory card. So off we go to the Ala Moana shopping center to buy a card reader and to have dinner at the Pineapple Room, one of famous chef Alan Wong's restaurants. This one is in Macy's and is his casual dining spot...we also made a reservation at his fancier place for Tuesday night. The Pineapple Room was nothing special. I had a side by side tasting of fish--talipia and mahi-mahi. It was okay, but nothing amazing. Rich could have made it much better and I am not just biased. :) He had a tasting of three types of tuna and couldn't even tell them apart. We were a little disappointed, especially for the price. We rode the trolley back to the hotel and cancelled our reservation for tonight. Think we will try something different!
The view from our room as dusk sets in.

Night time. Still busy and lots of hustle-bustle going on.
We were both awake before 5 AM today. I was kind of annoyed but then decided, it's vacation and I can take a nap any time I want, right? So I am blogging.....
Not sure what we are going to do today. It might be a lazy, hang around the beach kind of day. It's a little overcast but it's still early!