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Published: August 22nd 2019
Fiji was my dream location; the paradise I used to imagine being in when I needed extra motivation to get me through a rough day at the office.. And so I was quite excited as we boarded the Fiji Airways flight at Brisbane.. Senan was also very excited, as we were going 'in a BROWN plane Mammy' (just goes to show that somewhere along the line adulthood increases our threshold for what gets us excited!)
The flight from Brisbane to Fiji was uneventful. Three and a half hours feels a bit like a hop, skip and a jump in comparison to some other routes we've done. Senan is so enamoured with flying now that he is the model passenger. He has the routine down pat: 'passports and suitcase to the man, passports to the lady, other bags checked for smelly socks, tickets to the lady, sit down, seat belts on, wait for the captain to say we're going backwards, and then slowly forwards waiting our turn. And then fast,fast, fast, up in the sky'.
We arrived in Fiji and grabbed a taxi to the Outrigger resort on the other side of the island. Keen to secure the
order for the return fare, our taxi driver gave us a bit of a guided tour of the sites on the way. It was around 6pm and night was falling, but we saw enough to give us a bit of a feel for the less developed areas and the regular way of life on the island. He explained that farming is becoming less popular, in favour of tourism, and it is effecting the usual way of life.
An hour and a half later we pulled into the resort and were greeted by a big open-armed Fijian security guard yelling full-tilt a big 'BULAAAAAA' to welcome us. It was a big resort. Reception was a bit of a factory, but we were soon shown to the oceanview room that would be home for the next 5 days.
The downside of planning a holiday within a holiday is that the bar just gets set that bit higher, because, quite frankly, everything else has already been awesome, so the holiday-within-the-holiday needs to be that bit more wow...
The resort was green and lush and luxurious - all the things you'd expect from a plush resort, however the
weather was working against us. We'd known this for a few days, but I'd reasoned that it would be a good way to encourage me to catch up on the blog, seen as I'd fallen behind after the trip with the Grandparents.
It wasn't just the weather that was against us. After day one we quickly realised that Senan wasn't feeling 100 percent. On Day 2, Philippe joined him and by Day 3, we had all succumbed to some sort of stomach flu. I won't claim that it was enjoyable, but there are worse places to be ill in than a plush hotel with room service! We waited it out - thankful at least that our lowest points were staggered, so that we could tag looking after Senan.
We got to do some swimming. Senan got a daily playground hit. We had some nice walks on the beach and, despite the circumstances, I got to indulge in a few spa treatments. As I said, there are worse places to be ill in, however truth be told the Fijian experience wasn't all that we'd hoped it would be. That was down to our own lot, and I
wouldn't hold that against Fiji. It is clearly an island with lots of natural beauty, and the locals are naturally very warm and friendly people.
On our last day in Fiji we took it very easy around the resort. We headed off back to the airport, armed with clean clothes and a more relaxed attitude. We've been mentally shifting back a few gears for weeks now, and I think Fiji's gift to us was reaching that final gear.
The flight to Hawaii was Fiji Airways again, however once we boarded the plane we realised what they meant last time when the air steward had said we were in 'the big plane'. I now realised the emphasis on the 'the', as this plane, although perfectly clean, was a step back in comfort. TV screens dropped from the middle of the ceiling every few rows and we were all treated to a showing of Superman - the original version!
It's moments like that when we realised we had become quite spoiled in terms of air travel thus far. We'd started wondering if Peppa Pig will be on the inflight entertainment, rather than wondering IF there would
actually be in flight entertainment! It wasn't a problem though, as the tablet was loaded up with childrens shows and Philippe and I relied on some old fashioned books. The flight was one of our longest since Hong Kong, at 6.5 hours, but it went by smoothly, with Senan waking up just prior to our landing in Hawaii.
The funniest moment was when the steward announced that it was 55 minutes past midnight, 'but as we've crossed the international date line, it is August 11th.. again'. It really messes with your head. We had a pleasant day by the pool in Fiji on August 11th and we had a pleasant day by the pool in Hawaii on August 11th. It takes a bit of time to square that in your head 😊 !
Having sorted our ESTAs months ago, Hawaii immigration clearance was painless. It was actually impressively automated. Finger prints for adults and photos for all taken at a whole row of machines. We were only redirected because there was some issue with taking Philippe's finger prints. But thankfully the queue to the immigration officers was minimal. We grabbed our bags and proceeded through
a customs bag check for any agricultural produce that might compromise their ecosystem.
Choosing not to pay 6 dollars for the priviledge of using a luggage trolley, we piled the buggy high with bags once more and let Senan hoof it as we queued up for a late night taxi outside. Before long we were whizzing our way through the all-but-empty streets of Honolulu making our way to our temporary hotel in Waikiki for one night (booked last minute once we realised the implication of groundhog day plus our flight landing early was that we would be hotel-less for 12 hours, most of which we should be sleeping for!)
At check-in I was reminded that many Americans like Irish people. A lovely trait in itself, however at 2 in the morning with a cranky toddler I have limited interest in discussing Irish golfers and their success in US tournaments... After some polite conversation we were finally handed the keys to our room. Having hauled everything to room , we dove at the bed and even Senan didn't quibble that it was 'bedtime'.
The next morning, after traipsing five minutes around the block looking like
homeless people with all our belonging strapped to the buggy, we arrived at the gorgeous apartment that we would call home for the coming 5 days. It had the added benefit of having access to the swimming pool and beach of the resort down the road, so it was an ideal adult/toddler compromise.
Hawaii was lovely. Maybe it would have been anyway, but I think the fact that we were feeling better after Fiji, and were surrounded by multiple restaurants, so weren't dependent on resort food, and as I said, had come down to a coasting speed, all combined to make our time in Honolulu very enjoyable. We took it easy. Did a pool day. Did some easy days of shopping etc. while still managing to take in some typical Hawaiien touristy things.
We rented a car mid-week and explored the whole Island. We drove over, and in, to Diamond Crater. Then we kept going up the east coast, hugely in awe of the blue water at the fabulous beaches. We stopped for lunch at a little independent joint near a playground (an equally rare find!) somewhere up the coast. Then drove around by North Shore
to be tempted by a huge array of Food Trucks. Then we booted it down the highway to be back just in time for our timeslot at Pearl Harbour.
I'm sure one could spend hours and hours wandering around the Pearl Harbour base. We were there for just over an hour (which was loads for Senan), but it was also sufficient time to take in the video explaining the history. It was super respectful, but they were also open about the errors in judgement that left the American fleet so exposed to Japanese bombers on Dec 7, 1941. We then took a boat trip with the Navy out around the harbour to see a battleship up close and see the elegant floating national monument to the USS Arizona, which although closed for visitors due to renovations, was impressive to sail by as part of the Pearl Harbour boat tour.
It was strange to think that we've now visited the start of America's involvement in the war, and also the end - when we visited Hiroshima a few weeks ago. It is shocking to think of how relatively recent it all was. It is also interesting
to see how the emphasis in America was on honoring those that served, whereas in Hiroshima, it was about learning from it so that it never reoccurs. Both are noble causes, but it's an interesting observation on the cultural differences in the two countries.
After visiting Pearl Harbour, we decided to get value out of our rental car and go up the West coast, hoping to find a nice little beach for a dip before the sun disappeared. Based on that decision we headed into prime Hawaiien rush hour traffic. It quickly became clear that the nice beaches are on the east coast. We kept going up the coast, but our patience was being seriously tested as Senan was vocal about (kind of understandably) being sick and tired of being in the car all day. We were all therefore more than ready to bale out of the car when we eventually found a bit of a beach for a dip.
The trip up the coast was interesting too though as we got to see the non-touristy part of Hawaii, i.e. the bit with a huge homelessness problem, with run down towns filled with chain restaurants and
little else. This also meant that out of necessity we ticked off our first - and last- Jack in the Box visit - and witnessed our first real-life red 'Make America Great' baseball cap being worn at a table near us! Spotting it had the same effect on us as seeing the Koala in the wild in Australia 😊.
On our last evening in Hawaii we dialled up the tourist-tackometer and signed up to attend the 'Chief's Luau'. We were bused out of town (in the same woeful traffic) to a wet'n'wild park with a stage area at the back of it. We were welcomed by scantily clad ladies and gents, handing out lei's upon arrival. We had a buffet of tasty Hawaiien food and were treated to a musical extravaganza, showcasing the cultural dances of all the polynesian islands. It was all good fun and good to have done once, but I'd struggle to say it was great value for money.
Back at the apartment we were squishing clothes into bags once more, reflecting on just how nice we had found Hawaii, despite (or perhaps because of) having no real expections. It had nicely made
up for our dip in Fiji and if it wasn't half way around the world, is somewhere I'd love to visit again.
The clock is ticking onwards on the trip, but we still have a lot of nice adventures to go. Bring on San Francisco & Oregan!!
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