Visiting Hawaii

Our Pacific holiday started in Hawaii, visiting for the second time after some six years absence.

Waikiki and Diamond Head

There is an almost infinite number of ways to spent one’s time on the archipelago that is the Hawaiian Islands. Having briefly visited most of the major islands on our last trip, on this occasion we opted for a relaxing stay in Honolulu at Waikiki.

Arizona Memorial

Waikiki is all about tourism with its beaches, hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions. The most popular tourist attraction is Pearl Harbor with the Arizona memorial and “Mighty Mo” (the battleship Missouri).

“Mighty Mo” Missouri

The sunken Arizona is a war grave to hundreds of servicemen and naturally a hallowed site to Americans, as Gallipoli and the Western Front memorials are to Australians. Any visitor would be touched by the tragedy of the event commemorated. I had visited the Arizona previously and was equally moved on this second visit. The tour of the Missouri was the first time for me.

The battleship Missouri is the impressive vessel in itself, but also its decks witnessed the ceremony of the signing of the Japanese surrender in 1945. Our tour guide explained how despite the Japanese fears that this event would herald harsh recriminations by the United States and the Allies, General Macarthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, essentially just proclaimed an end to hostilities and a future peace.

Japanese Surrender 1945

Among those present on board in Tokyo Bay that day representing Australia was General Sir Thomas Blamey. One of the officers representing the United Kingdom had only days before been released from a Japanese prisoner of war camp and was present despite his weak and emaciated condition. The symbolism of his survival through the horrors of that captivity was particularly poignant for me because my own father had spent three and a half years in Changi and on the Burma Railway.

Back to relaxing in Waikiki. In addition to morning swims at the beach we enjoyed the hotel pool with its café and the nearby Maui Brewing Co. restaurant and bar. We sampled a number of restaurants and a delightful sunset dinner cruise complete with Mai Tais and Hawaiian entertainment. There was also the obligatory shopping, seeking shoes, beach and golfing wear.

There always seems to be something happening in Honolulu. We were told the Waikiki has many street parades and during our visit the colourful rainbow “Honolulu Pride” parade attracted large numbers of participants and spectators.

Honolulu Pride parade

After several relaxing days in Honolulu we boarded the MS Noordam for our 19 day island-hopping cruise back home to Sydney.

Day 1 – Lahaina, Maui

We opted for a submarine excursion to view the coral reef and old ship deliberately sunk off the coast. The distinctive native yellow tang and larger parrot fish were among the multitude of sea life living off the coral reef and the artificial one provided by the ship. It was an exciting experience diving to 130 feet in the purpose-built craft.

This was followed by a snack of delicious calamari and French fries washed down with some local beer and a Singapore Sling.

Then there was more swimming in one of the ship’s two pools, followed by happy hour, dinner and finally a pleasant session with a string quartet plus piano playing classic ballet numbers.

Day 2 – Kona

Like yesterday there was a shuttle service of the ship’s tenders to and from the island. Today we joined a glass-bottomed boat trip over the in-shore reef and got an even closer look at the sea life through crystal clear waters.

A short dip at the man-made beach near the pier was followed by another visit to the local lunch spot overlooking the shore where again we chose calamari with a different local beer and Pina Colada.

Another swim was enjoyed on board on our return. We set sail during “happy hour” saying goodbye to Hawaii as the clouds rolled across and the mountains behind the town and a bright rainbow rose from the shoreline appearing to wish us well on our voyage home.

Goodbye to Kona and Hawaii

After another delicious dinner we finished another enjoyable day by again listened to the string quartet this time playing their “American Songbook” highlighted by Rhapsody in Blue.

Sydney Metro Northwest OR Public Transport Pub Lunch

Does a group of retired civil engineers who have known each other for some 55 years need an excuse to meet for a pub lunch? Of course not, but having other elements of common interest for the get-together can certainly add to the enjoyment of the day.
Previous lunches have tended to be city-based and focussed on heritage aspects of our beautiful Sydney (see my blog of 18 June 2018). However, for our latest outing it was proposed that we give it more of an engineering theme with an on-site inspection of the newly completed Sydney Metro Northwest.
Coming from all over the metropolitan area as we do, a convenient rendezvous and starting point for our excursion was the Occidental Hotel in York Street near Wynyard. We have visited this establishment previously and enjoyed the atmosphere in this 1850s building. When all assembled, refreshed and our gold Opal cards in-hand we set off by train to Chatswood where we were able to merely cross the platform to board the waiting Metro train.
The train itself was like one continuous carriage with no internal doors. It sped along at 80 kph through the tunnel section of the trip and we were able to easily walk to the front of the train to check on the driver, but he/she must have been on a coffee break. There was a staff member aboard and she performed an excellent public relations role, answering all our questions and assuring us that she could take control of the train if ever required.

A Metro Station

The Elegant Skytrain

Once out of the tunnel the train could travel at up to 100kph along the elevated “skytrain” section while we enjoyed the vista of north-western Sydney all the way to the end of the line at Tallawong station.
After giving the rolling stock our tick of approval we detrained at Rouse Hill to get a closer look at the appointment of that modern station and the construction of the elevated structure as it swept away to the west above Windsor Road.

Windsor Road at Rouse Hill

A short stroll along that road brought us to the old heritage listed stone building that was the “Mean Fiddler Inn”. Dating from the 1820s and variously known as the Royal Oak Inn, the Queens Arms Inn and the White Hart Inn, it served as a popular watering hole between Parramatta and Windsor/Richmond.

The Mean Fiddler

Now known simply as The Fiddler after “cleaning up its act” (Daily Telegraph 25/10/2014) for being known as New South Wales’ most violent pub. Today it caters for the local community and is much more family friendly. We lunched and enjoyed the Irish pub atmosphere complete with Guinness pie, amidst the historic eclectic decore.
Our luncheon outing was completed by retracing our steps to the City.
We were all greatly impressed by the both engineering and operational aspects of this new public transport facility, and looking at the planned future expansion of the network it promises to be a big step towards meeting Sydney’s transport needs.

Our Joycie Violet

You may not have met our Joycie Violet.

She started life in 2010 at Valley Heights with Chinese ancestry but the ability to adjust well to our Australian way of life, and now residing happily at Picnic Point.

She loves our summer months but arguably looks her best at this time of year. Today is an especially fine sunny winter’s day at 22 degrees and with a gentle breeze. So, as I sit on the deck I can enjoy the golden shower of leaves that make a golden carpet where there was green lawn. Joycie Violet’s close neighbour (Crepe) Myrtle has lost her beautiful pink flowers and then her bronzed leaves some time ago and stands naked. Now it is Joycie’s turn as her vibrant green coat turn golden and then falls. Joycie always seems to cling onto her coat as long as possible and the warmer-than-usual autumn appears to have further prolonged her desire for modesty.

This magnificent, much-loved centre-piece of our small yard, grown from a stick in the Blue Mountains now surpasses her progenitor as a fine example of her species.

Within a short time she will also stand completely unadorned and allow the winter sun to intrude into her domain. Her carpet of leaves will be cleared away, maybe before grandchildren can rake them into piles for jumping into. This fun has provided some connection for these children to the great grandmother they never knew.

Our Joycie Violet is a gracious lady and a fitting reminder of her namesake Violet Joyce Bruce who left us nineteen years ago.