With Blackjack and Hookers "I'm going to write my own blog. With blackjack. And hookers."

7Sep/120

Homeward Bound

And now, after everything, it's time to go home.

I am so tired I can't seem to think about anything but sleeping in my own bed - and that's still a long way away.

We arrived in Los Angeles earlier than scheduled, and thus managed to get to the hotel by a little before ten. Unfortunately, they'd lost our reservation, and despite their apologies and the 'upgrade' they were supposedly giving us for being patient, I'm pretty sure we didn't even get the room I booked let alone a better one. Worse, I'm pretty sure I paid in advance, but they charged us when we checked out; I'll have to check my credit card to be sure, and that'll have to wait until we get home, so we'll see. It'll be a pain if I have to chase them up over it, so I hope I'm wrong.

In any case, the hotel was otherwise fine, and only a block from Sunset Boulevard, in West Hollywood, which was certainly relatively convenient. We rushed the shower, and then a real bed, and that was really as much as we needed right then.

Wednesday was cool and damp but not outright wet for the most part. We witnessed a car accident within five minutes of leaving our hotel, and saw several more examples of road rage and near miss accidents in the time that followed. I am never driving in Los Angeles. Never, ever, ever.

We quite liked West Hollywood, though I am still not really a fan of Los Angeles in general. We spent quite a lot of time wandering, before eventually heading to find a bus to take us to Santa Monica, where we were eventually due to meet up with a friend of Rohan's. Unfortunately, it turns out that only some of the 704 buses go all the way to Santa Monica - the rest stop short. Guess which kind ours was? Oh yes.

So we ended up walking the 4.5 miles to Santa Monica, which just about killed me. My joints ache. No matter.

The smog, once we finally got to Santa Monica, was intense. It made the whole thing seem almost post-apocalyptic. I am well and truly spoiled by Australian beaches, I think. We had restorative cocktails in the pier, and then walked down to the end and enjoyed the kitschy tourism of it all. When we walked back, long tables had been set up in the park: right next to all the decadence, there was a mobile soup kitchen handing out dinner to homeless person after homeless person. There are so many of them - it's just awful.

Later, we were picked up by Rohan's friend Ashley and her boyfriend, and we all had a pleasant dinner of vegetarian Indian food; they also saved us from the public transport system by driving us home. Where I promptly collapsed, swearing never to walk again.

Clearly, not a statement I intended to actually live up to, especially since we'd decided somewhere along the line that since we had to check out of the hotel by midday, and our flight was not until 11:50pm, we might as well go out with a bang and do Universal Studios.

More walking was definitely called for.

But first we had breakfast at a 50s style diner (which was surprisingly tasty), and rustled up some internet access to check messages - and then there was a cab ride through Laurel Canyon, past Mulholland Drive, and out towards Studio City.

I'd been to Universal Studies before-- I want to say it was in 1998, when I was last in LA, but it's possible it was before then. In either case, it was a long time ago, so I was pretty confident things would have changed since then. Actually, not everything had. I'm pretty convinced that the Waterworld show was on when I was there-- despite still not having seen the film, I probably enjoyed it more this time. Although the script is terrible. That, and the Studio Tour, were obvious highlights, and definitely made the day worthwhile. The whole thing was kitsch and over-commercialised, but still fun.

Our cab on the way home took us through Hollywood itself, so I guess we ticked that box this trip, too, even if we didn't walk down the hall of fame, or see anything in detail. Not really important to us, in the end.

We filled our last few hours with (more) cocktails and a shared pizza, and now we're killing time at the airport.

I can't say it feels as though this holiday has disappeared in a flash, because it's honestly hard to remember when we left home. I will be glad to get home, though that definitely doesn't mean I'm looking forward to the hundreds and hundreds of emails waiting for me at work... or being at work at all.

When do we get to go away next?

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
5Sep/120

Train, Train, Train~

I am writing this entry right after writing the previous one, so this is sort of a continuation, but it's really separate, so too bad, who cares.

Amy dropped Rohan and I off at the train station early on Monday morning, right after Rohan finally got an espresso shot he really liked. There were loads of PAX people at the station, which, in retrospect, shouldn't have surprised me: the train is a long, but economical way to get back down the coast, and it has the added benefit of having more room - which means it's easier to socialise and play games. It turns out it's actually an annual thing, organised over the internet, for a lot of these people - a chance to continue the PAX experience.

Rohan and I paid extra to get a sleeper rather than reclining chairs. The basic sleeper isn't huge (during the day, there are two chairs facing each other with a pull-out table in between them; at night, one bed is placed across those two chairs, while another folds down from the ceiling), but it's cosy enough for two. Including in the price of the sleeper is all meals (but no booze), which is fun: there's no guilt about 'do I want dessert' or 'do I want a side of sausage with my breakfast', because it's all included anyway. You do still need to tip, which is where it's helpful to drink alcohol - otherwise, you run out of change pretty fast.

The food is tasty, but nothing special; there's been enough choice that Rohan hasn't had to eat the same vegetarian option for lunch and dinner. Sleeper car passengers can enjoy free wine and cheese tasting for an hour each afternoon, too. Plus, there's champagne when you first get on.

And the scenery is spectacular. I think that's my favourite thing about train travel: there is stuff to see out the window, and it changes constantly. We started off seeing the outskirts of Seattle, including Boeing Field, and later moved onwards, following the Sound down through Tacoma and onwards for hours and hours. Eventually, it all turns into pine forests as you climb upwards through the mountains - and then when we woke up this morning, we were in California, and it was scrubby and barren, rather more like the scenery we're used to.

There's wireless in the lounge car that the sleeper cars have access to, but it's come and go, with rather more emphasis on the 'go'. I've more or less given up trying to use it - and it's ok. I've been curling up and reading for hours, taking naps, and just watching the scenery pass on by. I'd much, much, much rather travel this way than fly. I'd actually argue that this trip - even in a sleeper car - is cheaper than flying and paying for a hotel and food. The same can't be said for some of the other trips we'd like to do (like the Indian Pacific or the Ghan in Australia), but I think it'd still be worth it.

And sleeping on a train is much easier than sleeping on a plane, in my experience.

We've also had some interesting conversations with people we've met - some PAXers, some individual travellers. Rohan has found someone to talk game development with, which has been making him very happy, which is fine by me. I do kind of like the communal aspect of dining in this kind of situation, where you do end up talking to people you might not have otherwise met. Not all of the conversations are going to be good ones, necessarily, but there's the potential for interesting things, certainly.

We've just passed San Luis Obispo, so we still have a few hours of travel left, but not so many. It's all farmland at the moment (it looks like grapes, I think, but we're travelling too fast for me to get a proper look), but we'll hit the coast in a while, and then follow that for a while, and I'm looking forward to that.

As enjoyable as the trip is, it will be nice to sleep in a proper bed tonight. And nice to sleep next to Rohan, instead of above him (on a different bunk, obviously).

And nice to have internet access again.

I guess.

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
5Sep/120

10 Days Later

And then I stopped blogging for nearly two weeks.

Seattle was… a completely different kind of trip, I guess. Visiting people, as opposed to visiting a place - although we did that, too. I was pretty apprehensive beforehand about how it would work; before this trip, I'd only ever met two online friends before, and in neither case was I staying in their home. Or seeing them for this long. My apprehension was all for nothing, though: online friends really do translate into offline friends perfectly well. I've known all of them for years, and they were largely what I expected they would be, and that made it a really easy transition.

For me, anyway. I know it was a little different for Rohan, who had spoken to a couple of these people on skype before, but didn't really know them the way I do. It's something of a reversal from early in our relationship, when I was being introduced to all of his friends for the first time. Still, it worked out.

The Space Needle

The Space Needle

And instead of coming back to my computer in the evening after dinner, I tended to be talking to people instead. (Which does not mean that Amy and I did not hold conversations on our laptops while in different parts of the house.) It's unusual for me, that I was so able to cope with that much social interaction without just shutting down; normally, I'm not so resilient.

And no, we did not spend all of our time talking about the online games we all play.

We also did do a fair amount of sightseeing. Seattle is probably not a city I would have visited were it not for having friends, and that would be a shame: I really like Seattle a lot. It's a very food-focused city, which suits me perfectly. They have farmers markets where you can buy all kinds of amazing fresh produce, for example, and an amazing chocolate factory that is doing some pretty cool stuff with fair trade (and have salted caramels to die for). And then there's Puget Sound, which is huge, and all the lakes: it's a very water-focused city, which suits me fine. In other words, it's the kind of city I could actually see myself living in. It probably helped, however, that we had ten sunny, warm days there - I know full well the weather is not always that nice.

Cinnamon Rolls

We made these!

We ate some amazing meals at places like Mistral Kitchen, RN74 and Purple. We went wine-tasting (and Rohan even went whisky-tasting). We took a ferry across to Bainbridge Island, and went to the Pacific Science Centre. I finally got to go to a Fluevog store and try all the shoes on in person. Rohan went to PAX Dev, and we all went to PAX itself. We did the Seattle Underground tour, which was fantastic. Some of us went kayaking, toured the chocolate factory, and-- well, the list goes on. There were cinnamon rolls. And sadly, I'm already having trouble remembering what we did on all the different days.

In short, I was so busy doing stuff and talking to people that blogging did not happen. Or e-mailing. Or... much of anything online, really. Whoops.

I think Rohan and I were both sad to leave. We had amazing hosts (people we would definitely hang out with on a regular basis if we lived close enough to do so; alas), and between them and the others in our group, there was no shortage of good company. It's a little strange, really, going back to the kind of trip where Rohan and I see huge amounts of each other, but not necessarily anyone else.

The group of girls

Together at last!

Someone needs to invent teleportation now, please, so that we can do this more often.

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22Aug/120

Tragedy!

It's now been pretty much a week since we arrived in Hawaii; how the hell did that happen? Seriously? I know time always goes extra quickly when you're enjoying yourself, but it doesn't seem possible for it to have disappeared that quickly. On the other hand, I guess I can look back and count up an awful lot of awesome, so it's not like the time has been wasted.

I am nonetheless sad to be leaving. It's a tragedy. It really, really is.

Tonight, we pack everything up and get ready to head in to stage two of the holiday: Seattle. I am both enormously excited and quietly apprehensive about this - we're going to be staying with, and spending time with, people I have known for a long time, but never met before. The potential for awful is there, but the potential for awesome is definitely greater. It should be good.

And Kona? What have we done since I wrote last? Well!

We shopped on our first night, which meant we had enough supplies on hand to cook breakfast at home again. Thus, we were ready to go out and explore Kona pretty early - certainly long before we needed to be there for our pre-planned submarine tour. The Atlantis Submarine company does underwater tours in a specially designed submarine; there's a lot to see beneath the water in Kona, and we saw an impressive amount of it from 100ft below the water. Taking photos was pretty difficult, and even the ones we did get were pretty bleached of colour given the depth-- but the video is representative.

It was pretty epic.

But since we were so early, we had to stop and fill in some time, which we did via coffee and ice cream, never mind that it was about 10am. Kona coffee is a definite improvement over previous attempts at coffee; they actually do a decent espresso, at least in some places. The ice cream was also impressively tasty.

After the submarine, we headed up to the Kona Brewing Company so that Rohan could try what beers he had not yet had of theirs-- plus lunch. It was pleasant in the shade, and the food was good, even if they did not serve cocktails. (Sadface: who doesn't serve cocktails?) The walk back to our condo was less nice-- it's a bit over a mile each way, and when the sun is high and the humidity is likewise... well. After that, even Rohan wanted to get into the pool.

That was yesterday. The pool was followed by dinner (and cocktails), and eventually bed. Today? Well - we ate out, this morning, and had eggs and coffee (and an apple and cinnamon bagel for me; yay!) at a little place right on the water. Our plan had been to hit the pool again afterwards, but it was full of kids, and we demurred. Instead, there was a coffee plantation to visit. Kona coffee has a great reputation, and after seeing the process they go through to pick the beans (which are, of course, not beans at all), I can see why. Plus, it tastes really good. It was amazingly cool up in the hills: 69 degrees, according to the thermometer in my car, compared to 84 down by the coast. We had intended to try and find a beach afterwards, but you really need to know where you're going to find beaches around here; there just aren't that many of them. Fail.

We swam in the pool, instead.

And now, here we are. Fed, with a load of laundry on in preparation for packing, and the last of our groceries being worked through despite the extreme feeding.

Hawaii has been awesome. We've already talked about whether we'd like to come back, and where to - and the answer is definitely yes. Kona has been a nice middle point between touristy and not really touristy; there's loads of great food, and plenty of stuff to do (including a lot we didn't have time for), but it's still relaxed and now glitzy and plasticy the way Waikiki was. The weather has been perfect.

And the cocktails have been cheap.

What more can I ask?

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20Aug/120

Helicopter Hijinks

Dedicated to Amy, who was impatient for it.

To be honest, I don't think there really were any hijinks, today, but there definitely were helicopters. Or, at least, one helicopter. With us in it.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

For the second morning in a row, Rohan cooked breakfast for us (yay!), so that we could get out the door quickly-- our first stop was Rainbow Falls. Sadly, we saw no rainbows in the falls, but apparently it only happens in very precise conditions, and clearly we just weren't that lucky. The falls were still pretty though!

Hello, Turtle

Hello, Turtle

Our helicopter tour wasn't booked in until much later, though, so even after visiting the falls we had plenty of time. We packed up our room (having a car makes things much easier in that sense: dump it all in and don't worry about it) and then went for a drive. We'd intended to visit the Tsunami Museum in Hilo, but that (along with almost everything else) was closed, it being Sunday, so we ventured further afield, and ended up at a local beach. Aside from being a really love spot, it had one definite distinction: we saw turtles. In the wild. Swimming. I hadn't expected to be that lucky, but it was honestly amazing. There were three or four of them, and they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Even after that, however, we had time to kill. We needed money, though, and I was interested in coffee of some kind, so we returned to Hilo to park and find such things. Sadly, the local supermarket did not have ATM facilities, and what they did have was a parking lot arranged the Australian way (as in, the in and out lanes were reversed from the American standard)... only really badly. It was, in short, an absolutely nightmare to get in and out of. On the plus side, we found a lovely little hole-in-the-wall joint a few blocks away that served Hilo Homemade Ice Cream. And coffee. End result? We both had a milkshake made with two shots of espresso, salted caramel ice cream, coffee ice cubs, and cream. It was genuinely amazing; one of the best things I've had this trip. Definitely the best coffee.

Volcano!

Finallystill rebuilding in some of these areas, and land is still on sale ($1500 an acre; any takers?).

More volcano!

More volcano!

There is something so eerie about looking at all that land. It stretches for mile after mile, as far as the eye can see - and all of it is completely useless, now. It'll take 200 years for the land to be useful again, unless people bring in their own topsoil and start from scratch. There are now flows all the time, depending on what gets backed up, and where it all comes out from. These volcanoes are not like the traditional explodey ones: everything just seeps out, bit by bit, until it reaches the sea. The last time I was in Hawaii, the current flow was dropping out into the sea; these ones haven't reached that far yet, though I suspect it won't take too much longer. If one headed in the right direction, it could cover Hilo entirely within a matter of days.

Lava flow

Lava Flow

On the flight from Honolulu to Hilo, I read an article about one of the last people who lived on the slopes that have now been completely decimated-- a guy called Jack. It turns out that our pilot was the one who finally evacuated him, and he spoke extensively about Jack and his doggedness, the way he stayed in his home (which survived initial flows) until it was absolutely not going to survive. I can't imagine losing my home like that, even with time to evacuate. On the plus side, losing your home to a volcano is generally not instant: you usually get some warning, and that means that although millions and millions of dollars of property have been destroyed in the past 20 years, no one has died. That's certainly an improvement over, for example, Australian bushfires.

Driving to Kona after that amazing trip was, understandably, a little less exciting. We hit rain part way through and had to battle that on and off the rest of the way. Kona is amazingly different to Hilo - startlingly so, maybe. It's commercial and touristy, though not in the same way that Honolulu is. It's not glitz and glitter and plastic: it's more real than that. But that doesn't mean it's not gaudy in its own way.

We're now safely ensconced in the condo that will be our home for the next three nights. The view is spectacular, and having a full kitchen (and laundry!) is definitely nice. I approve.

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
19Aug/120

Crazy American Cars (and other things)

You'll all be glad to know, I'm sure, that I have successfully managed not to kill, maim, or otherwise cause injury to myself, Rohan or anyone else (or their property) since taking possession of a car. An American car. You know, the kind that drive on the opposite side of the road to the kind I'm used to. We did fail our first test, though: working out how to move the seat forward and back. It turns out there's a button, and it does it all automagically; I'm not used to that. I'm not used to a lot of things that this car has: headlights that go on automatically, remote locking that requires two pushes to unlock the passenger doors, and the list goes on. This car is full of fancy, and I'm not really sure I like it that much. But on the plus side, I am getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road, and gauging speed in miles. That's good, right?

A Fern!

We're currently in Hilo, which is one of the wettest places I've ever been, although it's mostly drizzled rather than actually rained. The humidity is astounding. So is the sound of the frogs, outside the window. Hilo is not really a tourist centre the way, for example, Waikiki is; the accommodation choices are limited. We're in a tidy little motel which has one definite advantage: cooking facilities. Specifically, it has a gas stove, and I am in love. After a number of disappointing breakfasts, Rohan made us eggs this morning, and they were wonderful.

Actually, we've had impressively good food here all 'round. After two nights, we've had two excellent dinners (one Italian-esque, the other Mexican), both of which were definitely superior to what we had in Waikiki. I'm pleased and relieved by that, because I simply wasn't sure what to expect. Hilo is small, and rather more focused on locals than tourists, it seems, though there's still plenty to do and see.

Lava Tube

Lava Tube

After shopping and cooking this morning, we headed up towards Volcano National Park to see (guess what!) the volcano. Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983, and since that's longer than I've been alive, I find it pretty impressive. I have actually visited the park before, back in 2001, but I admit I found it significantly more interesting this time around. It's a little depressing in retrospect, remembering all the things I saw and did as a child or teenager, and realising how little I appreciated them. On the plus side, coming back here with Rohan was well worth it, and I clearly had enough positive recollections to make that happen - go me. These days, the actual lava flaws are mostly on private land which means it's not possible to get too close, but we're going on a helicopter trip tomorrow that should satisfy our desires to see it molten and hot. In the meantime, we saw an impressive amount of igneous rock, and that remained pretty awesome. Particular highlights were definitely the lava tube and desolation trail-- two completely different examples of what volcanic activity can do.

Desolation Trail

On our way back to Hilo (it's about a thirty minute trip), we stopped in at an Orchid showroom, which I mention mostly so that I can show off one of my photos. I have a thing about photographing flowers, ferns and other plants, especially with the aperture set so that I can make the flower itself in focus while the background is out of focus. It's a cheap trick to making something look interesting, but I can't help it: I just think it looks cool.

Orchids

Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Hilo and head towards Kona, where we have three nights in a condo right on the ocean. First, though, we have plans for waterfall viewing, and, oh yes, a trip in a helicopter. Life is so hard.

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18Aug/120

Honolulu in review

We've been in Honolulu for just of 48 hours, now, and we're off to the airport shortly to move on to our next stop. I'm glad we ended up having this particular leg: Honolulu has been fascinating.

We had originally intended to be up early on our first morning, working on the basis that we went to bed super early the night before. That... did not end up happening. Instead, we slept for nearly thirteen hours and didn't wake up until 9:30. That, plus our attempt to find somewhere decent for breakfast, meant we didn't get on our way to Pearl Harbor until about midday. Moreover, we caught a city bus rather than a shuttle, and that took well over an hour. End result: we had a lot less time than we'd intended. No matter. I have to say the city bus was actually worthwhile in that we saw quite a bit more of Honolulu than we would have otherwise.

The Bowfin

The USS Bowfin

Once we got there, for Rohan, the biggest thing was the Bowfin - a submarine. An look, even I found that reasonably cool. We debated after that over whether to do the memorial, or to look at some of the other museum type stuff. As it turned out, we were just in time to hop in to the 20 minute Pearl Harbor film and from that into the boat road to the memorial, despite not having picked up tickets before they ran out. I was last there 11 years ago, and remembered it as being worthwhile; my recollections were pretty much spot on. It's a really classy, well done memorial - striking, and not overdone. Even the film they show is (mostly) understated.

USS Arizona Memorial

It's eerie, though, watching the oil rise from to the surface and glisten in the sun. Seventy years on and it is still leaking out at a rate of 1-2 gallons a day. There are thousands and thousands of gallons left, but there's no way to now whether all of it will leak out - it could stop tomorrow. Or in years and years. I also really like that survivors are having their ashes placed inside the wreck, allowing them to rejoin their former shipmates all these years later. There are 13 still left; the youngest is 86.

I went for a swim when we got back to the hotel (it was lovely), before we headed out for dinner. On the first night, we went to The Cheesecake Factory, which was a weird experience for me. We don't really have family chain restaurants like that in Australia, so I haven't really been to any in 15 odd years. They haven't changed much, which made it feel even more familiar, even if I don't think we ever went to that particular chain. As expected, the food was ok but nothing special, and the portions were enormous. Big enough, in the end, that we could not fit in any cheesecake. After Pearl Harbor, we found a little Italian place, which was lovely.

In both cases, the service was far above what we'd get in an Australian restaurant. We don't have the tipping culture, which means there is no particular reason for servers to go above and beyond; As a result, water glasses don't get refilled and no one tends to check up on you. I still find it horrifying that people don't just get paid a proper wage to begin with, but I can see benefits with the system too. At the Italian restaurant, a woman at the table across from us basically threw a tantrum after her meal was accidentally missed in a group order. The staff did their very best to get it out as soon as possible, but even once she had it she bitched about it and refused to eat. I do understand being annoyed, but that just felt excessive, particularly when the staff promised it would be free. Meanwhile, when my cheesecake took a long time to come out, Rohan's scotch was also removed from our bill; we were pretty pleased with that. In short: we're getting used to tipping. I think.

Diamond Head Beach

Diamond Head Beach

This morning, we made sure to wake up earlier - in time for me to have a swim again. Our big plan was to try and climb Diamond Head, but that proved a little over ambitious. We satisfied ourselves with walking around the head towards the beach, which proved to be more than enough. It was stunningly beautiful, though, and a lovely change from how built up and commercial Waikiki itself is. By the time we made it back, though, we were exhausted... and more drinks were required. I haven't actually had a glass of wine yet - just cocktails. Lots of cocktails. I approve.

We're now sitting in the bar at Honolulu airport, about to head across to the Big Island. TSA proved to be much more helpful than the actual airline staff; so far so good.

Next up: Louise tries not to kill us both by driving on the wrong side of the road. And tomorrow? Volcano!

(PS: Louise did not drive on the wrong side of the road. Only the wrong side given what she's used to. No one died. More later.)

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
16Aug/121

Zzzzzzzzzzzz

I am le sleepy.

In fact, I am completely and utterly exhausted, and I have no idea how I am going to manage to stay awake for another five hours in order to try and get my body clock synced up with my present location.

On the plus side, my present location is totally on the ocean side of the thirty-third floor in the Hilton Waikiki Beach, which means I have a spectacular view out over the ocean from my position on the bed. So in the end? I may be tired, but I am going to do my best not to complain too much. Things could certainly be a lot worse.

Our flight left at 7:40pm yesterday. Sadly, it was pretty full, and even more sadly it seemed as though a good number of people on the flight were on their way to a wedding, or some other group holiday. In short, there were some very loud and enthusiastic people who didn't exactly make me feel all that relaxed. We were on an older aircraft, the kind that doesn't even have individual screens in business class let alone in economy; I hadn't really intended to watch movies the whole way, but it would have been nice to watch something while I tried to drift off. In the end, I think I did get a few hours of sleep, but not all that many. Not enough, certainly.

We arrived in Honolulu soon after 9am local time, though it took us a good long while to actually get through customs and immigration, unsurprisingly. It was fascinating, really: we were asked all kinds of in-depth questions (where are you visting, how long in each place, are you meeting up with any friends, have you ever been to the US before, when was your last visit, etc, etc), but it didn't seem as though anyone's bags were getting checked for quarantine items. This means I have successfully brought Milo into the country (I didn't think this would be a problem, but since I had to declare I had chocolate...).

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Needless to say, we arrived many hours before we could actually check in to our hotel. I booked our first two nights using Hotwire (and, ok, Hotwire Revealed), and scored a pretty good deal - not that that particularly helped us at the time! We dumped our bags and went for a walk, working on the basis that moving around would help us stay awake. Honolulu is fascinating, in a way. You go from these polished, super clean resort hotels to really grungy ones, just around the corner. There's an ABC store (and not the kind we're used to in Australia) on almost every corner. The water is blue and green and stunningly beautiful, but Waikiki Beach doesn't seem especially amazing to my eye.

Jellies

'Jellies', at the Honolulu Aquarium

Still, it was lovely and warm (for me; Rohan was a little less impressed), and after all those hours on a plane, it'd be hard not to enjoy the ability to just walk. We wandered down the beach for a ways, and then went to the aquarium. Probably the most interesting part of that was listening to a pair of British tourists bitching about the over-enthusiastic loudness of two children there with their parents. The kids certainly were noisy ("Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, come look, come look, come look!"), but there's rolling your eyes at it and then there's... well, this. On the whole, it seemed as though most of the marine life they had at the aquarium was stuff we have in the Sydney Aquarium (which is, admittedly, both enormous and excellent)... actually, there are an enormous amount of similarities between plants and animals, it seems. I guess that's not all that surprising, but it was a pity not to see all that much that was truly unusual.

But it was still too early to go and get our room; what to do now? We ended up getting frozen yoghurt and eating it out on the beach, which was lovely. I really like the idea of selling yoghurt by weight: we filled the cup with what we wanted, to share, and didn't have to worry about it being less than a full cup. And yoghurt is awesome. Just, you know, FYI.

Yoghurt

Yoghurt (yum)

So we've wandered the streets, we've scoped out places we want to eat out, and now, finally, we're safely in our room. Showers are amazing things. So are clean clothes.

And so are stunning views out over the ocean - unexpected stunning views (honestly, I thought we'd get a city view room, the cheapest kind possible). We do have two double beds instead of a king sized one, but since I generally find that king sized beds are two doubles pushed together ANYWAY most of the time, I'm not fussed. Oh no, we'll have to get snuggly. How will we possibly cope?

Besides, after ten hours on a plane, it'll feel luxurious.

In five hours. When we can finally, reasonably, sleep.

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 1 Comment
15Aug/120

And we’re off

I am vastly amused: I am stealing wireless from the Qantas lounge, while at the airport, and they won't let me sync with my blog. I'm pretty sure that means they've blocked anything to do with 'hookers', and I suppose that is, in the end, fair enough. Nonetheless? It makes me laugh. Poor unloved blog.

In other news we are, of course, now at the airport and not so very far off boarding our flight to Honolulu. I'm FINALLY making use of the iPad I inherited from Rohan... the one that has been sitting unused and unloved on my desk for the past few months. I am currently playing the ultimate tech lover: I have, in my carry on luggage, an iPad, iPhone, MacBook Air, and a kindle. And that, aside from the usual money and passport type paraphernalia, is it. What more could I possibly need?

From the looks of it, we're more or less intending to drink our way to sleep on this flight. We needed to escape our upstairs neighbors' renovations earlier this afternoon, so we went to the pub (I would post the photo of the drink I had if only I had it on me - it was pretty epic). Then we both had a drink with our dinners (I had no idea there was a Crust Pizza at the airport, but I approve wholeheartedly; it was a vast improvement over what I'd anticipated we'd be eating), and now we're having another while we wait. No doubt there'll be another with whatever slop they offer us for 'dinner' after we board, too. That's when I intend to take half a sleeping pill and hopefully sleep most of the way to Honolulu.

Ten hours from now, we'll be very nearly in the USA. That's pretty awesome.

In the meantime, I suppose I should tether my phone or something so I can actually post this.

See you in in Hawaii!

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 No Comments
14Aug/122

Priorities and Panic Stations

I'm at that point in holiday preparedness where I feel completely and utterly disorganised, and hopelessly in over my head. Logically, I know everything is going to be fine: as long as I have money and my passport, I'll be fine, even if I forget everything else. Unfortunately, sometimes I'm not quite that good at being logical, and then I start to panic. Panic, for the record, does no one any good, whatsoever.

I've just now gone through and printed off all the confirmation emails from various accommodation and transit bookings. I checked us in for the flight tomorrow, too, and discovered that somehow we'd been allocated seats in completely different rows - and that enough people have been allocated seats now that the only way I could get us sitting next to each other was to put us in the middle. It's a two-three-two seat configuration, and getting one of the twos would have been ideal, but no. If we're really lucky, it won't be a full flight, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that.

I hate sitting in the middle of the plane.

On the plus side, at least I've started some packing now. As soon as the dryer finishes I have another load to do, and then tomorrow I'll do sheets and towels. I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the second load that actually needs to be packed, so hopefully I can finish up with clothes before bed tonight, and simply put everything else away before we leave tomorrow. Luckily, we have an evening flight, so I do have time to get things finished during the day.

I also need to go to the supermarket: visiting friends in the US requires purchasing of Tim Tams and other Australian goodies.

Things I have managed to do: load Kindle up with dozens (well, ok, more like a single dozen) of books, paint fingernails and toenails, print of reams of confirmations, find US sim card, pick which nail polish colours to take with me.

Priorities, man.

I also had a several hour long lunch with my mother today - something we don't often get to do! I'm really, really glad I took the whole of this week off, and not just from Wednesday on. If I hadn't had some time to decompress from work and try and get my head into the right space, I'd be completely lost at this point.

Or maybe I'd be running on adrenaline and actually doing better. Who can say?

(PS: I have also totally remembered to pack the cable for my camera for the first time ever. I may actually be able to post photos while I'm away! Gasp!)

Filed under: Travel, USA: 2012 2 Comments