Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Travel Visa Quest ~ A ‘Keystone Cops’ Adventure

Our tale I tell you today would make for a plotline in those early 20th century silent movie misadventures of the incompetent “Keystone Cops”. I'll let you decide who has the starring role.

Or perhaps it could be a remake of another movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”.

It is a behind-the-scenes reality story about travel . . . the quest for a travel visa.


Not the credit card kind of visa but the kind issued by a government which allows a traveler into their country. (For you armchair travelers, more than 270 countries require visas which are one step beyond a passport.)  Many countries don’t require them. Requirements for them often depend on the nationality of the visitor and the country. Some are a quick formality – a few questions, small fee, stamp in your passport at the time of arrival.

Others, like India, have a process from hell.

Visiting India!

Map picture

My desire to visit India has never been shared by The Scout.  I was delighted that our upcoming cruise has two stops there: a day in Cochin and an overnight stop in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Even for such brief visits, one must have a tourist visa, though. So the process began – in January. . .

Skipping India?

India sets a time frame within which you can apply for a visa – not too early and not too late before your trip.  Other cruisers had left messages on user boards forewarning of the challenges ahead, but we'd thought it couldn't be 'that' bad, right?

Within days of submitting our applications The Scout and I were so frustrated, that we agreed we’d skip the visa and skip India. We'd simply stay on the ship.

Oceania Cruise ship
That wasn't an option it turned out. As if reading our minds, a letter was sent by the cruise line to all passengers telling us that those who did not possess an India visa at the time of boarding in Bangkok, Thailand would be denied boarding.

No Indian visa.
No cruise.

Applying for the Visa

The application is a two-page on-line forms that seeks “Personal Particulars” (our education, religion, dates and places of birth); 'Passport details', 'Contact information' (where we live),'Family History' (parents names and birth places), details about countries we had previously visited, where we would visit in India and where we would stay there.

“Were your Grandfather/Grandmother (Paternal/Maternal) 
Pakistan Nationals or belong to Pakistan held area?”
               -- a question from the India visa application

A second form, a single page of questions still seemed more focused our grandparents -- who would likely be rivaling Moses at about 130 years old now -- than us. With my application, I had to submit a copy of our Marriage Certificate to show cause of my name change from birth name.

Then the antics began . . .


Because we were working with a firm in Washington DC which handles visa processing for Oceania cruises, we packaged up our application and passports and sent them FedEx (recommended for the ability to track the package whereabouts). First mailing: $35

Two days later. . .the man at the agency who was handling our application called and said they couldn’t be submitted to the Indian Embassy, because:
* We had not included the zip code for the person we’d listed as an emergency contact – we’d given her phone number and address but ‘a zip code must be included’.
* The address of the cruise ship contact in India we’d written on two lines and it had to fill all three lines of the form.
And then there was the ‘problem with my passport:

This is my old passport that was returned with the new one. . .hmmm, two pages. . .
“You need two blank pages” he said. “There are blank pages,” I answered, thinking back to my passport that was then in his possession. “India requires there be two blank pages facing each other like an open book – you don’t have them,” he replied. (The photo above shows my old passport that meets those requirements, but I digress. . .)

So a flurry of form-filling-out activity filled yet another morning - in February.  Forms, and more photos -- this time for a new passport, were sent to this Washington DC company that would handle getting my new passport.   Expedited passport renewal: $300 (part of that went to the company) and Fed Ex:  $35.

They don't want you smiling either - no problem by that point
March 2nd my new passport was delivered to our door. We were ready. The corrected application forms were printed and new passport/visa photos were attached. We’d had more photos taken the day before. Before sending this packet though we got another email from ‘our man in Washington’ who’d forgotten to mention earlier that, “Mr. Smith is wearing glasses in his photo and India requires photos without glasses.”
So back for more photos. Packet sent to Fed Ex:  $35.

Two days later . . .”our man in Washington” called. He’d found a typo in one of our passport numbers on the application – India doesn’t allow any ink marks on the pages so he couldn’t correct it, we would need to complete the form again and resubmit it.  Fed Ex: $35  

DSCF1752Finally, ‘our man in Washington’ sent our passports and applications to the Indian Embassy in San Francisco to be reviewed.  Our passports complete with India visas were returned two weeks ago.

Whew! We can now board the ship.

However, we haven’t yet decided if we will get off in India or not. 

Tips on Travel visas:
* If you are considering a cruise or land tour check to see how many countries you’ll be visiting require visas. How involved is the application process?
*How much will they cost? Does the cruise line or tour company pay the cost or do you?
* Does the cruise line or tour company provide a company to handle the application process or are you on your own in dealing with – or finding – embassies that issue visas?
*If you are about to grab a great last-minute deal, do you have time to obtain the visa?
*Check your passport expiration date and number of pages you have left. Ask about ‘blank page’ requirements.
*For those renewing or obtaining U.S. passports, you now have an option to get a super-sized one with 54 pages at no extra cost (if you are traveling a lot to foreign countries, you’ll want to get it).

Thanks for your time! We will lighten up the subject matter next week when we show you the gem we found in Central Washington State!  Until then safe travels where ever you go.

Do you have any visa experiences - good or bad to share here? Please leave a comment below or shoot us an email and we'll share them for you.

We are linking up this week with an amazing group of bloggers at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Business of Flying Business Class

“You should start flying Business Class” a friend’s accountant told her not too long ago, she said during one of our regular coffee chat sessions.

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Business class - champagne served in real stemware
Nice to think that after all those years of working and saving that we’ve reached an age and retirement income that allows such recommendations, we both agreed.

Then we laughed at the thought. We know the price of that kind of  comfort at 35,000-feet.  And we aren’t about to pay it. . .full price anyway!

Emirates A380 - double-decker - we'll be upstairs
It wasn’t long after that conversation, though, that The Scout booked us in Business Class on Emirates Airlines for what will be a 35-hour trip from San Francisco to  Bangkok, Thailand, (via Dubai).  We’ll be upstairs at the front of the plane in an A380 like that one pictured above.

No, we are not paying the $13,810 (price tag on two one-way tickets).  Thanks to frequent flier miles (75,000 miles, each) we are paying only the taxes and fees of less than $100.

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KLM Business Class meals

It’s not the first time we’ve burned air miles to fly Business Class. In the last decade or so we’ve experienced that luxury end of the plane on British Air, Air France and KLM.  Each flight was above and beyond ‘pampered’ experiences: food (real food) served on china plates, champagne, wine and cocktails flowed freely (literally and figuratively) and space, lots and lots of space.

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The Scout unkownly demonstrating Business Class seat comfort
Frequent flier seats can be as elusive in Business Class as they are in Coach class but if you’ve got a long-haul trip coming up (eight or more hours in a plane is our definition) it might just be worth it to use them to get a lot more space and comfort.

Flexibility is  Key to Budget Business Class 

You may need to be as flexible as the seats in Business Class in order to nab a ticket though.

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Business Class Seat Position control panel
Flexible in Routes/Departure Cities?

If Business Class FF (frequent flier mile) seats aren’t available to your destination from your nearest  departure city, try thinking outside the box. Three years ago we flew a KLM flight from Vancouver, British Columbia (our Canadian neighbor) to Amsterdam. We took a 30-minute flight from Seattle to make the connection – as no Business Class seats were available flying directly out of Seattle.

The Emirates flight to Dubai is from San Francisco as there were no FF Business Class seats available on the direct flight to Dubai from Seattle.

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Champagne and leg-room - Business class treats
Change your destination?

Using our trips to Greece as an example, we’ve found that for some unexplained reason,  flights from Seattle to Istanbul, Turkey have been cheaper than those to Athens, Greece.  We’ve been flying there and catching a short flight to Athens to save several hundred dollars in ticket costs.  Could you change your destination to one where seats are available and then use a train or commuter flight to get to where you want to be?

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Istanbul as a hub vs. Athens

Can you Reverse your Route?

Because we’ll be – in a manner of speaking – commuting between Seattle and Greece the next few years, we can book flights round-trip from Seattle or round-trip to Seattle.  If you routinely fly a certain route, check out prices for tickets starting at the other city – you might be surprised at the price difference.

An example:  We will be returning to Seattle this spring from Istanbul. While checking prices The Scout happened upon a Business Class airfare, Istanbul – Seattle – Istanbul that was only $300 a ticket more than what we paid for coach class (Seattle- Seattle round-trip) last summer. We booked it, directly with the airline. (The round trip  flight between Istanbul and Athens is about $150).

That same Business Class seat starting in London is several thousand dollars more than starting in Istanbul.

Option to Pay for an Upgrade?

Airlines don’t want those premium seats to go empty any more than cruise lines want ships sailing with empty cabins.  Depending on the airline you may find some last minute upgrade-from-coach-class deals are available.  Sometimes airlines will alert you to their availability at the time of your on-line check-in or make an announcement at the gate.  The upgrade cost won’t necessarily be inexpensive, but will be far less than paying full fare.

Frequent Flyer Miles to Upgrade from Coach?

Some airlines will allow you to upgrade your coach class seats by spending your FF miles to do so.  If you are seriously considering doing so, check with the airline to make sure the coach class fare you book allows you to make such an upgrade.

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In Business Class you can wait in private lounges - instead of sitting at the gate

Shop Early and Shop for Sales

Start your ‘window shopping’ early.  Sometimes airlines will put premium seats on sale and you might just happen upon one of them.  The Scout was doing just that when he happened upon the fare I told you about above -  a fare so good that a premium seat ticket discounter told us he couldn’t match it.

Discount Ticket Agencies

We’ve never yet used one of these places as The Scout is doing a good job for us, but we’ve seen them mentioned as sources of good discounts.  Check out their track record before using one – and if earning FF miles is important to you, make sure the cheap ticket will allow you to earn miles. (Often times discounted tickets are in a class that doesn’t qualify – or qualifies for fewer earned miles).  A Google search turned up any number of agencies advertising cut rates.

Monitor Mileage Award changes to Frequent Flier programs

We are members of Alaska Airlines mileage program and therefore fly their partner airlines to earn miles towards our Alaska account.  We then use them to book Business Class on the partner airlines.
The flight we took in coach class on Delta in December to Greece earned us some 4,000 miles on Alaska. While in Greece, Delta changed its awards program so the return flight earned us less than 2,000 miles. 

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Above Athens, Greece
Happy Travels to you all and thanks for ‘flying’ with us today!  We appreciate the time you spend and love reading your comments and emails! Have you some tips you'd like to share with others about ways to find inexpensive airline tickets. . .coach or premium seats? If so, please do in the comments below or shoot us an email and we will add the tip for you!

This week we are linking up with the fine bloggers at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cruising in Comfort ~ Out of the Comfort Zone

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore,”
Dorothy said to her little dog as she looked around at their emerald green surroundings in the 1939 movie,“The Wizard of Oz”

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As we’ve been preparing for our upcoming spring adventure – a 35-day cruise - by reading travel guides, travel narratives, blogs, and other writings – we are preparing ourselves to make the same observation as Dorothy did to Toto . . . and likely more than once.


Our  “Far East Odyssey” as this itinerary is called will take us to places in the world that we’ve always wanted to see – places that are located in the Middle East.  By whatever name the cruise line wants to call it,  (it does start in Bangkok) the fact is, we will be traveling through a most unstable area of the world.

PicMonkey Collage

On the flip side, what better way to travel to such exotic places than a comfortable cruise ship?
We will be among some 23 million travelers around the world who will be cruising in 2015, according to Cruise Lines International Association. Of course, it reports that most of those cruisers will be sailing from North American ports and that the Caribbean will remain the top cruising ground.
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Our itinerary provides for stops – some overnight and one of at least two nights – in:

Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma).
Mumbai and Cochin, India.
Salalah, Oman.
Aqaba, Jordan – gateway to Petra and Wadi Rum.
(We’ll transit The Suez Canal)
Safaga, Egypt – gateway to Luxor.
Haifa, Israel – gateway to Jerusalem.

SilhouettePt22012 286

In between our exotic ports of call we’ll have nearly two weeks – portioned out with a day here and there – of ‘sea days’; those long leisurely days spent  kicking back and watching the world go by from the comfort of the ship as we sail the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Andaman Sea and Arabian Sea before entering the Mediterranean.

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Middle East Realities

“Have you read the headlines lately,” a friend shrieked and visibly recoiled as I listed off our ports of call.

“This makes me very nervous,” said another as I was describing our plan for one port we intend to explore on our own. In three places we’ve booked organized tours.

“Hope your cruise doesn’t stop in any African ports; if so, stay on board,” wrote another friend after news of the terrorist attack in Tunisia was reported around the world.

mani hawaii 603I had gotten to this point in writing this post when it was confirmed that some of the tourists killed and others injured in Tunis, Tunisia yesterday were cruise ship passengers – on organized cruise ship tours.

They were from ships operated by Costa and MSC cruise lines. Both cruise lines have cancelled indefinitely all future cruise stops in Tunis, including a stop by Costa’s Fortuna ship.

It was the Fortuna that took us to Tunis, Tunisia on a cruise a few years ago.

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Costa Fortuna
We’d visited on a quiet morning when few others were around except for us and our taxi driver, who’d appointed himself our personal tour guide.  We’d opted not to take the ship’s organized tours and set off to see a part of the city on our own.

PicMonkey Collage

Our ‘tour guide’ had led us through the labyrinth of a souk, its narrow walkways a maze at best.  We concluded our half-day tour with a visit to the plaza pictured above. While it was definitely ‘no longer Kansas’ we never felt unsafe nor threatened as our little trio walked around.

PicMonkey Collage

Safety First

We won’t be surprised if we get word from our cruise line – Oceania – of changes to the ship’s itinerary as world events continue to develop. Alternate ports of call could be visited or additional days at sea added. Or we could stay on course with no changes to the routing.

It will be interesting where ever we go. I am certain it ‘won’t be Kansas’ – or Kirkland! 

We’ve got a few weeks before setting sail. For now, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those tourists who became victims by simply taking a cruise tour. And for those cruisers and staff on board who are dealing with the tragic loss.

As always, thanks to all of you who spent time with us today. Hope to see you back here soon – until then happy and safe travels!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

‘Twas the Season in Kalamata ~ The Olive Oil Season

Trees and buildings were decked out for Christmas, but it was the mountains of olives that gave a real seasonal feel to the place. Our mid-December arrival in The Mani put us smack dab in the middle of olive harvest and The Olive Oil Season. 

Decorated tree surrounded by olives - Village of Nomitsis
The home we were there to purchase in Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula is an hour’s drive south of the city of Kalamata.

“Kalamata, isn’t that an olive?” we are asked.
“You bet – the olive!” we answer.
Lots of olives. . . tons of olives . . .and their oil.

PicMonkey Collage
Kalamata olives
Seems everyone is familiar with the table variety called the “Kalamata olive”.
In this area of Greece the olive varietals are far more specific: a Myrtoya (hearty in areas of drought), Mavroya (early maturing), Kalamon (the classic table variety) and Mastoides (local oil variety of medium-sized with a pointy shape). That middle photo is one of our olives which I suspect is the Mastoides type.*

In everyday conversation around here olives are simply referred to as ‘oil’ or ‘salade’ varietals.

PicMonkey Collage
Oil containers on sale at Katerina's Supermarket
Olive oil is serious business in the Messinia region, with some 15 million trees producing 60,000 tons of oil annually.*  Oil storage containers are for sale far and wide. The photos above are of those for sale at our local supermarket.

Bags of olives awaiting pressing at one of the village presses
By day, the olive groves that carpet this part of The Mani were alive with harvest activities. Many of the workers come from neighboring Albania; the country providing agricultural labor much as Mexican laborers do in the United States.  Messinia has some 300 olive presses and more than 40,000 are employed in the olive oil industry.*

Saturday Night at Takis

While we love the idea of growing olives and producing olive oil we had no clue how it was done, we told our friend Giannis’ while dining at his taverna, just below our house on the hill. Turned out the olive press nearest us is owned and operated by his uncle, Takis.

So, Giannis encouraged us to stop by and visit the operation any time. . .

PicMonkey Collage
Saturday night at the olive oil press
Unlike in America, where security would likely have stopped us at some distant gate, we walked into the production facility one Saturday night to find the place a beehive of activity: as one pickup load of olives was emptied another would pull up to unload.  The brain-rattling loud machinery didn’t make for conversation, but it did make for photo-taking.

It wasn’t until we were leaving that we met Takis.  I started to explain who we were and why we were there but he stopped me,

“But. . .of course, Giannis told me. You are the Americans. Come. Come with me where we can talk.”

(“But. . .of course. . .” is how so many sentences begin in Greece.)

A feast for the soul

He led us into a side room that served as a kitchen and break room with a small enclosed office in one corner. There he told us to sit and proceeded to pour us glasses of rose wine and cut thick slices of bread which he served smothered in olive oil . 

“This is old oil,” he said as he handed us the plate.“It is three days old.” He then zipped back to the press room, leaving us alone to savor the taste and moment. That thick emerald green liquid was simply an elixir for the soul. Absolutely unmatched by any oil we’ve ever tasted in Tuscany or Spain or France . . .

Bread smothered in extra virgin olive oil
We’d cleaned the plate and emptied our glasses by the time he returned. So the glasses were refilled and this time a large chunk of Feta cheese was put on the plate with two more slices of bread.  He took the plate into the press room, and returned with oil that was minutes old.

Minutes old olive oil
He then poured himeself a glass of wine, raised it toward us and said, “Welcome to my country! I hope you will be very happy here!”

“But. . .of course!” we thought, “We will be happy here. . .we already are!”
Note: Facts referenced with an asterik * in this post come from a report issued by the University of California’s Cooperative Extension Service in Sonoma County.  The map below shows the areas in Greece where olives are grown.  As always the time you’ve spent with us is appreciated.  Hope you’ll come back soon and until then Happy Travels.

(Crete – that large island at the bottom of the map – in the 1990’s was producing 30% of Greece’s olive oil, followed by the Peloponnese, the land mass that looks like an open hand, at 26%.*)

This week we are linking up with the fine bloggers at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Say “Poppy” ~ Think “Peloponnese Springtime”

Regulars here know I lust for the lemons.
I’ve burbled about the orange groves that in full bloom make the air heady with their seductive scent.  But each spring my greatest delight is seeing the wild poppies that along with other wildflowers carpet Greece’s Peloponnese.

It has been a long, chilly, wet winter but signs of spring on this peninsula to the south of Athens are appearing in olive and orange groves, along highways and empty lots. Mother Nature has again sprinkled her fairy dust to create floral scenes fit for Monet’s brush.

Peloponnese wildflowers
The wildflowers are blooming in The Mani -- in great profusion -- according to our neighbors and friends there. The wildflower season usually begins in March and continues through mid-May, depending on weather conditions. It is well underway and wouldn’t you know it? This year we won’t be there until late May, so will likely miss these sprawling bouquets!

I’ll have to resign myself to looking at photos that I have taken on previous visits (and time next year’s return a bit better).  But I’ve also devised a way to keep those poppies blooming year round – I’ll show you later in this post! But first, here’s a look at some of those flowers. . .

Fokianos Beach - Peloponnese Greece
On our first visit, two years ago, to the Peloponnese we were tipped off to the beach pictured above by our hotel keeper. ( Finding Fokianos ) He’d said it would be memorable and well worth our trip to find this place and as with most of his recommendations, he was absolutely correct.  What he hadn’t prepared us for were the poppy carpets that framed the views at every turn on the winding road to the beach.


This delicate flower commonly known as “The Red Poppy,”  is an annual that grows about 12- to 14-inches high and has blooms from 2- to 3-inches wide. It is sometimes called "Shirley Poppy" (after an English vicar named Shirley who studied the species), "Flanders Poppy," "American Legion Poppy", and in England, "Corn Poppy." It is native to most all of Eurasia and North Africa.

DSCF1730 (2)The name “American Legion Poppy” brings to mind those of small paper fundraising remembrance poppies that are patterned after these flowers.

And the “Flanders Field” refers to the place in western Belgium, where during World War I battles raged for four years. Flanders Field, before the war, was covered with the red poppies each spring and summer. Following the war the blooms returned and grow among the soldiers graves there.

Despite their rather somber associations, I simply think of sunshine and springtime in Greece when I see them.


So how do I plan to keep the poppies blooming all year long? Well. . .

PicMonkey Collage
. . .those of you who follow our stories on Facebook know that while we were in Hawaii I found dishware that would be perfect for our Greek house and I ordered sets of six plates and salad plates, a serving platter and two small bowls. Shipping costs are staggering, so we'll take them over as space in our suitcases allows.

We got a good laugh last week when the items were delivered to our Pacific Northwest home in two boxes so large the delivery man had to make two trips to the door . . .so it may be awhile before we get them over there. But they are the key to how my poppies will keep blooming:

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Dinner plate on the left; salad plate on the right
That’s it for this week. Thanks for being with us and as always we appreciate your sharing our blog with those you know by word-of-mouth or by 'sharing' on Facebook. Hope to see you again soon and safe travels until we do!

Of note:

Map picture
Wildflower tours: A number of tours can be found by Googling ‘wild flower tours in the Peloponnese’ – we aren’t recommending any particular tour.  In fact, it might be more fun to rent a car and do it on-your-own. (If you need tips on a route, just let us know.)

The dishes:  Are found at Pier 1, a popular import store in the United States.  They can be ordered on-line if you don’t have a store near you.  (For those who like lemon or olive motifs, they are also available -- and tempting!)

Linking Up this week with. . .
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Honolulu: Memories and Present-day Madness

Back – ahem – decades ago, Honolulu, Hawaii was our tropical dream destination.

DSCF3131Both young and single back then, (didn’t even know each other). . . carefree. . .and ready for Waikiki. 

Swaying palm trees. . .golden sand. . .picture-perfect blue skies and sea. . .

. . .yep, that’s the way it was back then.

And that is still the way it is now, sort of.

Waikiki's legendary 'Pink Palace' ~ The Royal Hawaiian Hotel
So drawn were we to Waikiki that after we met and married, we made it a mandatory add-on to any trip to any island in Hawaii. In recent years the vog (big city smog mixed with blowing ash from the neighbor island volcano) and vagrancy (homeless camping in parks and on sidewalks) became more and more noticeable even during those brief stays.

One evening three years ago we happened upon a street fight between two homeless men not far from our hotel; a block later the sidewalk was blocked by a group of chanting, tambourine-thumping 1960’s hippie-type throwbacks who competed with the emergency vehicle sirens for noise-making.

Royal Hawaiian pink umbrellas and striped beach towels frame Diamond Head
It was during that visit that we decided then that even the warmest memories can cool when confronted with present-day reality.

We skipped Honolulu and its tourist-magnet Waikiki last year even though our interval home at KoOlina is about 30 minutes (on a ‘good traffic’ day) away. This year, though, for old times sake we trekked into town for a Sunday afternoon visit.

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Royal Hawaiian beach Waikiki on the left, KoOlina on the right

We concluded that an afternoon was long enough in Waikiki these days, but still it was nice to visit some of our favorite spots, like. . .

Duke Kahanamoku, surfing legend
The statue erected in the heart of Waikiki to honor hometown boy, surfing legend, Duke Kahanamoku, who was born here in the late 1800’s. This Olympic medalist is considered ‘the father of modern surfing’ and you’ll never see this tribute without his arms laden with flower leis that have been left in his honor.

Window to Kalakaua Avenue's street 'show'
One of the best people-watching places in Waikiki is the Honolulu Coffee Company at the historic Moana Hotel on Kalakaua Avenue. A constant parade of tour buses disgorge passengers while a steady stream of limousines pull under the Porte-cochere to drop off brides and grooms. For the price of a cup of coffee we can enjoy the ‘show’ through the shop’s large open windows.

Moana Hotel's Banyon Tree Beach Bar
Then we must stroll through the lobby of this historic Moana hotel (with a quick trip up the wooden stairway to look at historic memorabilia displayed on its second floor) and then head to the Banyon Tree Beach bar; a beach-front gathering place since the 1950’s. (It’s another great people-watching spot, but difficult to find a seat come sunset time).

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Honolulu scenes from Nimitz Highway
We drove into Honolulu taking the older Nimitz Highway after leaving the H-1 freeway for reasons I will show you in the next mosaic.  But that loopy old route gave us a chance to admire some of the newest high rise buildings in town, to see the Holland American cruise ship that was in town and of course, take a photo of the iconic Aloha Clock Tower at the cruise terminal.

Part of Honolulu’s madness these days is its traffic. Like metropolitan areas everywhere with nearly a million people (Honolulu metro area is about 950,000 people)  the place is jammed with too many automobiles. The photos below were not taken during rush hour when the roads really come to a standstill, these were taken at 1:30 on a weekday afternoon and a Sunday morning on H-1, the main freeway on the island.
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Sunday morning on the left; Tuesday afternoon on the right
Train track construction - Honolulu

The island’s governing bodies are trying to address the problem with an elevated link train – still billions of dollars underfunded and not yet constructed – but at least they have made a start at laying the foundation for the line that will run west to Kapolei, the island’s second largest city.

Halewai on the island's North Shore is served by bus 52 from Honolulu

Traveler’s Tip: One way to get around in the traffic is to use the island’s incredible transit, The Bus.  Its user-friendly web site caters to tourists with a link “Visitors” that explains how to get to tourist destinations and how to buy passes. We parked at the city’s sprawling Ala Moana Shopping Center (with a visit there, of coure) then hopped the bus to and from Waikiki.

How about your travels? Ever found that you prefer the memories of past visits to a present-day ‘reality’ visit? Are you a country-person or prefer the more ‘happening’ city beat?

Thanks for joining us in Honolulu and for all the time you spend with us. Hope you’ll tell your friends to drop by and join in on the travel tales and tips!

This coming week, you’ll find us joining in the fun at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Travel Photo Monday - Travel Photo Discovery


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