USA – and the Mile High City

USA – and the Mile High City

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Dating back to the Old West era, Denver is definitely oh, so 21st century.

Denver, the capital of Colorado, features landmark 19th-century buildings, museums that include the Denver Art Museum, an ultramodern complex known for its collection of indigenous works, and the mansion of famed Titanic survivor Molly Brown.

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Denver is also a jumping-off point for ski resorts in the nearby Rocky Mountains. It’s a university town and there’s a lot of sporty stuff going on here. And in Denver you will find the highest concentration of recreational marijuana stores in Colorado, with a large number of select stores selling recreational and medical marijuana. Marijuana stores in Denver are required to close by 10pm. See https://www.coloradopotguide.com/where-to-buy-marijuana/colorado/denver/ just sayin’ (it is legal).

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It’s called the Mile High City because it is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (1.6km).

I believe that as the cowboys galloped into town all those years ago and helped grow this city, it was today’s hipsters who moseyed into town in their electric cars, swishing their pony tails that have put the edge on Denver.

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It’s always been known as a friendly, easygoing place but the hospitality bar has been raised up and up.

The local Beer Trail boasts an extraordinary craft beer culture – home to Colorado’s oldest and largest beer pubs, and if the beery brew isn’t to your taste there’s a slew of cafes serving coffee that even Aussie coffee snobs approve of.

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If you are a Super Bowl fan this is the home of the Denver Broncos and their home is the Mile High Stadium which is open for a walking tour through the hallowed halls.

The main drag is the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian and transit mall is 1.25 miles long, runs along 16th Street in downtown Denver. Stroll it and shop, stop and eat or drink or catch the free tram from one end to the other.

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And at the end, cross the road to visit the Union Station, a splendid example of 19th century architecture. Once a bustling transit institution and as roads and flight took goods across the nation, the station’s use declined. But it’s now back in business as a bus and rail terminal and a lovely hotel is inside the original building as Crawford Hotel. The main hall is now a café, bar, lounge area full of gentle buzzing conversation and good vibes. Everyone welcome as long as you ‘be nice’. Union Station is located in LoDo (Lower Downtown), Denver’s vibrant oldest neighbourhood – check out the city’s best known restaurants, galleries, shops, and boutiques.

 

Just outside of town is the amazing natural amphitheatre Red Rocks where everyone from Bruce Springsteen to U2 have performed. To see a concert here is an out of body experience. The sun goes down, the rocks surrounding you are in sharp contrast to the blackening sky, the lights go up and the music begins!

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Culture rules in Denver from high to low – rock to symphony, traditional art to an outdoor gallery of topical wall art, fast food to high table cuisine.

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Denver has been the subject of many songs by famous artists especially native son the late John Denver, but my fave is by Jimmy Buffet:

I’m about a mile high in Denver
Where the rock meets timberline 
I’ve walked this ground from town to town 
Just to finally call it mine

Writer, Bev Malzard squealed when she found out she was going to a concert at Red Rocks to see local boys made good – One Republic (Shooting Stars) . . . oh what a night.  And would recommend anyone who enjoys music of any sort to do some research before you travel anywhere and book seats for a concert so you can immerse yourself totally in the music, the scene and with the locals.

AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME LAX-DEN 2hrs 20 mins

BEST TIME TO VISIT April through May and September through October. The city’s shoulder seasons are characterized by comfortable temperatures,

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Plenty of street art around town, this bold pour of milk splash is coming from the Dairy Market building.

https://www.denver.org/

 

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USA: Honolulu is the buzz!

USA: Honolulu is the buzz!

No time to visit all the islands of Hawai’i? Check out the buzzy city, Waikiki and surrounds of Oahu’s Honolulu for the ‘Hawai’i five oh’ fab experiences.

More than a stopover on your way to the mainland USA, this city has wonderful welcoming ambience; a little bit of retro surf culture, luxury accommodation with views, nature to surprise and excite, history to dig into and a way of life that Australian travellers embrace. And did I mention shopping . . .

  • Stay at Moana Surfrider Hotel. This glorious pile (pictured below) was the first luxury hotel built in Hawaii. Honoured with the title ‘First Lady of Waikiki’ this place has been hosting happy customers since 1901. Try for a room that looks along the coast with Waikiki Beach to look down on and lift your eyes to the magnificent sight of Diamond Head, towering over the sweeping coastline below.
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Tips: Eat dinner in the Beachhouse here for local seafood and gourmet island dishes.

And enjoy a selfguided historical tour of the Moana Surfrider, steeped in charm and elegance with vintage memorabilia on show.

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  • Take a tour to get the lay of the land. There are a few tour operators touting for business close to the beach. I opted for the Oahu Nature Tours. They offer several tours: Diamond Head Crater Adventure; Ultimate Circle Island Adventure & Waimea Waterfall; Natural Highlights of Oahu Adventure and North Shore and Circle Island Tour (which was my choice.) Highlight was the amazing Byodo Temple in the Valley of the temples (below).

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Tips: Take your own water bottle and fill before you leave to save buying water along the way and maybe save a little space on the planet from anther bit of plastic. Lunch is included so bring your appetite for a plate of fried shrimp.

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Beware the Jurassic creatures of Oahu.

  • Eat your way around town. OK, there are burgers and there are burgers – it is America! But because of the city’s cultural cuisine history, there’s so much more. From classy joints to hole-in-the-wall places and food trucks to fast food chains – go for it.

My picks: Orchids of Halekulani Hotel on Waikiki Beach – go for the crudo appetiser; Morimoto Waikiki by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s excellent take on local food, poke and the rest is culinary (and tasty) food theatre; Ono Seafood for the basic business of food! This is the best poke I tasted and (Po-Kay) is synonymous with the invasion of the hipsters. Have spicy mayonnaise on everything – it will rock your world. Rock-A-Hula dinner and a show. Retro entertainment and a lot of fun, Tribute performances to Elvis and Michael Jackson and; Hawaiian Journey’ through time from the 1920. Food, music and a magic show – don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!

There’s so much more – but a little cutie for me is diagonally across the road from the Moana Surfrider, King’s Village, rather underwhelming as it sits quietly below the highrise all around. On the corner of the village is Rock Island Cafe, full of rock’n’roll memorabilia. Fab burger and fries plus a decent coffee. Kinda daggy but kinda comfy too.

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Tips: eat, buy and also bring some back – the famous Honolulu Cookie. Darling little premium shortbreads are baked in the shape of a pineapple of all flavours from chocolate to guava, passionfruit to pineapple, macadamia to coconut and coffee. They are seriously yummy and taste of aloha!

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  • Shop yourself stupid. Ask any Aussie woman as to why she travels with her family for a Honolulu holiday (or just with girlfriends) and she’ll rattle off the itinerary. Good accommodation; good value food options; great weather and beaches; fun activities for the kids; happy hour happenings for cocktails (sunset mai tais) with the grown-ups and . . . shopping. Shopping here is a dedicated holiday experience. And the prices are sensational at the big malls such as Ala Moana Centre (even has its own trolley that runs from one end of the city the centre); Waikiki Premium Outlets; Ross Dress for Less; Waikiki Outlet Shop; Barrio Vintage in Chinatown for vintage Hawaiian shirts (don’t leave town without one).

There are high end international and American designer labels on show as well as the dollar desirable shops where every member of the family from baby to nanna will find something at a good price to bring home.

Tips: If you fly to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines they know the lure of shopping and offer passengers the thrill of being able to carry 64kg per person. So two bags at 32kg is supremely manageable? Oh, yes.

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Good souvenirs include the cookies, pineapple condiments, Hawaiian shirts and surf gear, vintage surf posters and ukuleles.

  • It’s hard trying to cover off on five highlights of Honolulu, so number five is a cheat sheet. Don’t miss out on: The Polynesian Cultural Centre; Waimea Valley for archaeological sites, gardens and waterfall; the trail to Diamond Head State Monument and the Dole Plantation. And further to the food suggestions – around town and on the outskirts fond a Food Truck – they are institutions here – in the Land of Aloha.

Writer Bev Malzard, flew to Honolulu courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines (and took an extra suitcase for shopping). She stayed at the elegant Moana Surfrider Hotel and managed to devour an entire box of the famous pineapple shortbread cookies. She swears there’s an addictive illegal additive in the mixture – cos nobody would willingly eat a box of biscuits . . . .would they?IMG_1369

 

 

 

HAWAII FIVE – UH OH! DO I HAVE ENOUGH SPACE IN MY LUGGAGE?

HAWAII FIVE – UH OH! DO I HAVE ENOUGH SPACE IN MY LUGGAGE?

Flying. I always wonder when people complain about their flights. We might sometimes experience late flights, cancelled flights, service not up to par, inedible food, terrible co-passengers . . .but.

If you are travelling up the back of the plane you have to suck it up. Just remember, you are contained in a metal tube, that is flying you, often, across the other side of the planet. It’s amazing. And it’s cheap.

I judge my flight fares to a flight I did from Sydney to Athens in 1980. There were three stops along the way, it took what felt like a week to get there and it cost me $680 (one-way ticket).

So these days flying economy is pretty damn good for the price and the comfort has been amped up since my first flight o/s.

I fly a lot. And I fly lots of different airlines.

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HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

My latest excursion into the wide blue yonder was a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles with a stopover in Honolulu for 48 hours, flying with Hawaiian Airlines. My first time with Hawaiian Airlines and first time visit to Hawaii. ’Aloha’.

I had a smooth and courteous check in at Sydney airport and the plane departed on time.

Now, for an extra $165 (and also check seasonal special deals) I am sitting in the premium product Extra Comfort. Now, 165 bucks is not much in the scheme of things in the travelling life, and for the almost 10-hour flight – I choose comfort.

And I’m not talking a ‘Princess’ moment, I’m talking extra comfort.

‘Extra Comfort’ is a section of seats in the smooth Airbus A330s and A321s that offers more legroom and those few extra centimetres makes the difference between cramped and comfy.

I lucked out and scored a window seat and nobody sat in the seat next to me. So I could spread out with my arms and knees not colliding with a fellow passenger. (I had a passenger sitting next to me on the Honolulu to LAX leg and still felt at one with space!)

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In Extra Comfort we were given a comfort kit, with toothbrush and paste; lip balm; eyeshade; earplugs and earphones for the inflight entertainment which was pretty good. A decent selection of new, recent and classic films and a few good tv shows.

Within an hour of take-off, we were served dinner – pretty average but because I didn’t have any special dietary requests, my little salad, chicken, rice and vegetables did the job.

It was a long time between meals and towards the end of the trip we were served a sandwich and cookie. I visited the galley a few times to grab a coffee or a tea and the crew brought water around regularly.

The crew was proficient, friendly and great with the kids onboard.

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I recharged my devices on the usb port, and despite trying to catch a few movies I caught a few zzzzzs.

My only discomfort was that I found the air-con too cold and had to use two blankets for the entire trip.

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And the best news on this flight is the luggage allowance. YAY! It’s 64kg (2 x 32kg).

Travellers love shopping in Honolulu. There is a wonderful variety of goods to gather and the amazing Ala Moana Shopping Center (below) and outlet malls have quality goods, clothes, accessories, sports shoes, kids clothes and so much more.

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So, to take only a few things with you and fill up those lonely luggage spaces on holidays without the worry of paying excess at the airport is inspiring for the expert shopper.

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Hawaiian Airlines is a total destination carrier that exudes the culture of the islands and a fine way to get to mainland USA. But for me it will be a one stop holiday next time. Honolulu and the other islands, here I come.

All announcements on the flight ended with the word ‘mahalo’ which is an expression of thanks or respect and an acknowledgment that we were flying Hawaiian airlines. (Hawaiians are conservative and polite so they’d never dream of not saying Mahalo when it is appropriate. If you want to be extremely formal and show that are feeling extremely grateful you would say: “Mahalo Nui Loa.”)

So I’ll say “Mahalo Nui Loa”.

LATEST NEWS, 27/12/2018

Hawaiian Airlines is enhancing the check-in experience for guests departing from its hub at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) by assigning dedicated lobbies for international, North America and Neighbor Island flights. Hawaiian’s international check-in operations at HNL are moving from Lobby 3 in Terminal 1 to the nearby Lobby 4 in Terminal 2.

The relocation, which will happen in two phases, began December. 19, when all guests travelling to Japan on Hawaiian’s non-stop flights to Narita and Haneda (Tokyo), Kansai (Osaka) and New Chitose (Sapporo) international airports were directed to check-in at Lobby 4.

On Jan. 9, all guests flying to any of Hawaiian’s international destinations, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and Tahiti (as well as American Samoa) will check-in at Lobby 4.

Always check the local Hawaiian Airlines home page because there are almost always short term specials and deals posted on it – see now under “Limited-Time Flight Deals” and “What’s New at Hawaiian Airlines” at https://www.hawaiianairlines.com.au/ 
AND access the .com.au site to get the Aussie content in Aussie dollars… https://www.hawaiianairlines.com.au/

DSC02374.JPGView from on high – no, not from your Hawaiian Airline aircraft silly – from a fab hotel. Read all about it in a future blog.