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Saturday, December 22, 2012


New York at the Botanical Gardens Train Show
The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens is one of the creative delights of the season.
To see and read more about this extraordinary experience, use the search box at the top of Third Age
Traveler or follow this link.

Friday, December 07, 2012


Pearl Harbor, HawaiiThere are few places that command the solemnity felt by all who visit the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii.  Officially it is part of The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.  People whisper and stare, knowing but not quite believing that beneath them lies the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona.  Not only was the Arizona a casualty of Japan's attack but also it is the  tomb for 1177 sailors aboard on the morning of December 7, 1941. 

The Memorial is an awesome sight; its pure white building curved over the Arizona.  We are ferried across the harbor from the mainland, silent in expectation.  We see the Battleship Missouri in the distance and the graceful sweep of the Memorial’s lines grows as we approach. 
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

A ramp leads to the Memorial building. We are a hushed group as we walk through the building, most barely stopping to look out as we head, instead, to the beckoning far wall where the names of the lost sailors are etched.  Just before entering that room, we pass an opening in the floor and gaze down through the murky waters at the Battleship Arizona.  We are standing above her, safe and dry. 

Pearl Harbor, HawaiiPearl Harbor, Hawaii

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

The United States flag proudly flies against the blue sky above the memorial, and we see it through arched openings as we pass beneath. Here’s an interesting fact: the USS Arizona was stricken from the official register of naval vessels after she was attacked and sunk, but she was re-commissioned when the flagpole was erected on the ship.
Pearl Harbor, HawaiiThe room that lists the names of the sailors lost is almost shocking.  The entire wall is covered with names, and it takes a moment for us to see each of those names representing one lost young sailor.  There were 37 sets of brothers assigned to the USS Arizona.  In front the memorial wall stands a flower wreath brought by visitors in memory of the fallen.  Leis also hang on some of the posts. The side walls of this room let in the sunlight. The patterns of the openings are Trees of Life, the dominant theme here and at the Museum on the mainland. 

Midway through the building is a chart showing our position above the Arizona and pointing out which parts of the ship are visible to us.  People pause, point, study, and look out to locate their discoveries.  There is virtually no discussion.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii 

A National Parks Service Ranger moves through the building and explains to the visitors what we are seeing.  At one viewing point, fish swim amid the broken wreck.  Looking out from another point, we can see the names of the ships that were moored alongside; the Arizona’s still stands.

Striking and forever memorable to me is the eerie way in which the Arizona constantly reminds us of her existence.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
The oil droplets that escape and rise

Each day of the past 71 years, a small amount of oil escapes the Arizona and rises to the surface.   On December 6, 1941, the Arizona took on a full load of fuel—nearly 1.5 million gallons.  Since Dec. 7, 1941, oil droplets bubble up from the ship’s interior and float above the wreck, fanning out over the water.  The estimate is approximately 9 quarts daily. I can see the oil drops spread and color the waters of the harbor before they float off into the sunlight.  But before the oil has moved very far from the ship, the sun’s warm rays hit it and vaporize it.  The oil disappears.  Constantly for 71 years. 

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
I wonder what he is thinking

While the Arizona’s veterans still live there are other reminders of the day’s tragedy.  Funerals occur aboard The Arizona. The bond between the shipmates was so strong and enduring that some survivors have requested to be interred with their shipmates.  These are funerals with full military honors.  Since returning I’ve met someone who witnessed one of these.  As part of the ceremony, a diver takes the urn and brings it to its final resting place among the man’s mates.

When we are ready, we line up to board the boat to take us back toPearl Harbor, Hawaii shore.  A new crop of visitors enter just as we did, solemnly and quietly.  Perhaps they scan our faces to gather hints of our reactions.  Some pause slightly to look at a plaque or out to see the moorings of the ships that went down.  Or they look out at the Battleship Missouri.

We return to shore and continue our audio tour of the Museum buildings, and I highly recommend you make the time to do so too. 

The tour out to the Arizona takes about 75 minutes beginning with a 23 minute film on shore.  Then we are ferried out to the Memorial, have sufficient time to view everything, and then are ferried back. 

We also took an audio tour narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis whose father, actor Tony Curtis, was a Pacific War veteran.  The audio tour takes us through the interpretive museums and the waterfront exhibits.  We have an opportunity to hear survivors’ narratives on what they experienced that day.  It probably will take at least an hour to go through the different exhibits. Plan to spend the time.  It’s worth it.

The museums are very interesting.  They present background, biographies of some of the key players, and try to enhance our understanding of why, how, and what exactly happened.  In our electronic age, it is interesting to see how communications were in 1941. 

On Dec. 7, 1941, approximately 40% of the Oahu population was of Japanese descent with 124,000 American citizens and 45,000 immigrants.  The museum also deals with the hardships these people suffered as a result of the War in the Pacific.  

As always, I have the highest praise and gratitude to our National Park System.  Please support them.  There is no charge for the Arizona Memorial. 

Travel Tips for the Arizona Memorial

We did not budget enough time to see everything.  We spent over three hours in this one area.  We did not get over to tour the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin submarine, or the Pacific Aviation Museum.  My suggestion is that, depending on your interest, you might need an entire day to really absorb everything offered.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
The Battleship Missouri, commissioned June 11, 1944

A relatively new option is to buy tickets online.  (If you google Pearl Harbor, you will get a number of sites selling tours.  Go to the gov't site.) If your Hawaii tour book is not brand new, you might not see an online option, and buying tickets at the Memorial might lead to a several hour wait or, because of crowds, an inability to get a ticket at all.  Tours have 150 people and there is a 15 minute lag between tours. We bought online where we picked our tour time.  Online instructions prohibit backpacks and other items, so read those instructions.  We did see people with small packs.  Tickets must be picked up an hour before the scheduled tour or they are sold to walk-ins.  Honolulu has traffic, so be diligent in planning your time. 

Visit early in the morning to avoid crowds and the heat.  Or go to the beach in the morning and come here when the clouds gather in the afternoon.  The last tour is at 3:00. 

Another important point is to bring water.  Hawaii is hot—all year long—so bring water with you—here and everywhere you go in Hawaii.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Honolulu, Hawaii
That's Diamond Head!
 My plane approaches Honolulu airport hours after I saw the California coast fade far behind me.  It descends toward the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Spread before me on an incredible palate are the white buildings of Honolulu.  I see the curved crescent of white along an edge that I know will prove to be Waikiki, and beyond that the looming presence of Diamond Head. 

For many of us first time visitors, Hawaii is a place fueled by the imagination of writers, artists, musicians, chefs, actors, story tellers, folklorists, and historians.  We each come with pictures we have created in our own minds and smiles of anticipation. 

Where did my imagination take me?  I grew up in the wake of Gidget Goes Hawaiian, the original Hawaii 5-0 TV series, surfing movies like The Endless Summer, and novels like James Michener’s Hawaii (+ the movie).  Talk about Great Expectations.

The Hawaii to which I was introduced had grown up--just as I had--but it offered wonderful adventures, incredible sights as diverse as one can imagine, beautiful Pacific water where I swam with the fishes (not in the mob sense!) and turtles, a myriad of water sports including snorkeling from beaches, and sunsets that caused Rob and me to take photos each night from a different site.  The first incredible moment occurred, however, when I asked to be awakened to take pictures of a sunrise!!!! Miracles do happen, friends. 

As always with us, travel is a learning experience too, and history, culture, geology, geography, and weather are just a few of the subjects we studied.  We met wonderful people and had fantastic mai tais—my new summer drink of choice.  See how travel broadens?

Please comment below the posts I will write about this trip by hitting the “comment” link, and I will comment back. I’d love to know your reactions to this very unusual place.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


My Island Inn Volcano Hawaii
The Yellow room
with a lanai leading to a vast tropical garden
 The spirit of Aloha is alive and well at My Island Inn B&B in Volcano, Hawaii.  There we feel as if we are visiting family.  We are in one of the Garden Rooms, the yellow room, a modest but comfortable haven with a patio leading to a breathtaking tropical rainforest garden, part of the seven acre garden and walk on the property.  The walls of the room are a stunning museum of photographs and paintings—photographs by the owner, Gordon Morse, a retired photo journalist, and paintings by his wife and gifts from previous visitors.  We have a small refrigerator, chilled water, a stocked bookshelf, and a table and chairs. 

My Island Inn Volcano Hawaii
Imagine the peaceful atmosphere
where this paradise is the view from your room

Managed by his daughter Kii and son-in-law Bryon, My Island is a refuge for those visiting Volcanoes National Park or doing any of the myriad outdoor activities this southern section of The Big Island, Hawaii, offers.  The main building of the B&B is the Lyman Missionary House built in 1886, and it is almost a museum in itself.
My Island Inn Volcano Hawaii
The main house--1886--in a beautiful tropical setting

We “met” Kii by phone when we made the reservations, and she told us to make sure we check in before heading to Volcanoes National Park (the B&B is a mile away) so she could give us some helpful tips on getting the most from our visit to the Park, on where to dine in the area, and what other sights we shouldn’t miss.  Her enthusiasm assured us that she wanted to make our visit as complete and as pleasant as possible. 

BUT we arrive at the Park later than we expect and call about a “late check-in.” Kii suggests we come by anyway as they close the office early since they rise very early to prepare breakfast.  We take her advice and drive over.  We are glad we do.

Entering a Hawaiian home, it is customary to remove one’s shoes, and we do.  At My Island there are booties to borrow if we so desire, but what is so wonderful is the feeling that we are not entering a hotel; we are entering a home.

Kii sits down with us and suggests the best viewing spots to see the active Kilauea Volcano—and the best times.  She warns us that restaurants close around 8 PM, and that there aren’t many, so she helps us pick one and then makes reservations for us so that we will be able to go back to see the volcano at night after most of the visitors leave. 

To facilitate our visit even further, there are umbrellas (after all, we are in a tropical rain forest where 200 inches of rain fall annually) and walking sticks to borrow.

We also have the opportunity to meet Gordon Morse, Kii’s father, a wonderfully warm gentleman and a raconteur who tells us some stories about his past.  He has written several books on Hawaii, copies of which were in our room. Yes, before we leave, I buy one of them! 

We also meet Kii’s husband with whom we spend some time the following morning.

Taking Kii’s advice is the best thing we can do.  She is an expert, and her advice is invaluable.  While still daylight, we have stupendous views of Kilauea with the steam clouds rising against a steel grey sky.  We are able to read the information charts along the self-guided drive, to see the sulfur fields, to visit an observatory, and to listen to a native Hawaiian National Park Ranger describe and explain Kilauea to us. 

After an incredibly delicious dinner at Kilauea Lodge (more on this at a later post), we return to the Park (open 24 hours), and stand in the cold, uncrowded overlook to watch the colorful reds, yellows and oranges of Kilauea’s nighttime persona.  Jaw-dropping awesomeness.    

The new day dawns, and Rob and I are off to walk the damp, earthy scented Tropical Rainforest Walk cut through the dense verdant foliage and magnificent flowers.  Hibiscus and anthurium seem to pose and beckon us to stop and admire. 
Big Island Hawaii flowers
This is a floral wonderland

Later at breakfast Bryon tells us that most of what they’ve planted in the gardens thrives wherever the soil is deep enough.  Hawaii is a volcanic island, and whatever soil exists is born of erosion.  Sometimes ash is added to give depth.  This fact boggles the mind because we are surrounded by deep, dark, green foliage, huge ferns—Nature at her untamed best.  Yet the fact is that the soil is not very deep as it sits on its lava foundation.

I want to share some of our photographs.  None is retouched.  No special lighting is used.  This is EXACTLY what we saw.
Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Big Island Hawaii flowers

Pretty Incredible!!!!!

Breakfast is another delight.  The B&B advertises a continental breakfast, but that is an incredible understatement.  In addition to the usual cereals, coffee, and juice, Bryon has baked a variety of breads, and there is even a chocolate zucchini bread baked by their college student daughter.  The jams are delicious—passion fruit, for example.  There is fresh fruit.  We comment to Bryon that the bananas in Hawaii taste different from the ones at home—firmer and sweeter.  He explains that we are eating apple bananas.  (My riddle:  When is a banana not a banana?  When it’s an apple banana.)  Delicious.  Fresh pineapple.  We learn one fruit combination we have since prepared at home.  Halve and seed a papaya.  Squeeze some fresh lime on it.  Put some yogurt in it.  Top with some pineapple bits and chopped macadamia nuts.  Enjoy.

Bryon is an interesting man to talk to, and there is also a German tourist, a young woman who had stayed for five days and hiked and explored Volcanoes National Park.  It is wonderful breakfast company, and a great way to start the day. 

If you are fortunate enough to be in that part of the world, My Island B&B is the place to stay.  If you are coming to Volcanoes National Park, don’t take a daytime only tour.  Stay overnight.  As Gordon Morse might say, Kilauea dances best at night in her finery, and you don’t want to miss it.