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

 

 

 

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Greece: Back to Basics

Greece: Back to Basics

SLOW TRAVEL #2

The first Greek island I visited more than 35 years ago was Poros. I had spent some time in Athens and jumped on a ferry that was a kind of hop on hop off boat for the times. We passed Aegina and then Poros came into view. It had only taken about an hour to reach it from Piraeus and it nudged close to the mainland.

A busy little sun-soaked port with cafes and their lined up seats facing outwards crowded the immediate arrival location. The buildings and the ‘ring-road’ spread out left and right and petered off to quieter sides of the island. Beautiful, young people of the hippie persuasion strolled the waterfront and in the cafes, the waiters bustled while serving cold beers and ‘coka’.

Disembarking, us newbies were welcomed by a gaggle of locals with an offer of ‘zimmer’ which is German for room. I was often mistaken for a German in those days.

Travelled light in the 80s, two woven bags and a tiny purse – things have changed; door leading to my ‘zimmer’.

We chose to go with a little bloke with a great smile that lacked teeth but had a certain rackish charm.

The ‘zimmer’ was a tiny annex up a few stairs. The whitewashed room fitted a double bed up against a wall with just enough room to slide two backpacks under the bed. Outside were two chairs and a tiny table, and beside it a toilet with a cold shower in the same room. And at the equivalent drachma (pre euros) of $2 a day, perfect. I loved that little room and we stayed on Poros for two weeks during September. Blazingly beautiful days, riding bikes around the island to secluded beaches, drinking far too much beer and wine, partying into the early mornings and adopting the sensible habit of a daily siesta. We would come across basic little stalls boldly calling themselves ‘tavernas’ where, for a few drachma we ate grilled sardines, salad plumped with fat slices of fetta dripping in oil from Kalamata and thick chunks of crusty bread straight out of the village oven.

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My ‘donkey speak’ was not so good. But this one understood Greek ‘yassou’.

This was my first taste of slow travel – even though I didn’t know that then. Before Poros it was the Acropolis, the Parthenon, city ruins, museums and concerts – moving to the fast pace of Athens. After it was buses down the Mani peninsula to Kalamata and Githio, exploring Sparta, in and out of tiny Peloponnese villages – always moving to the monumentum and frantic music of the young, curious traveller.

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Mama ran the bar!

What I learned on Poros was to enjoy the daily rhythm of sitting on the zimmer steps for an hour or so in the morning, eating yoghurt and honey and sipping grainy, strong Greek coffee and waiting to see the donkey begin its morning walk up the hills to deliver bread to the houses stepped up high and glinting their existence to us mere mortals below.

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Hand washing always up to speed while travelling. 

Slow and steady as that donkey, I did a lot of sitting and taking life in. Just being there was enough to satisfy my soul.

I have never forgotten my early days on Poros and in Greece before I worked and lived there, and discovered other magical and mythical places of Ellas.

At Poros port and right, a later visit to Sparta – check out the crowds!

I returned to Poros in September this year to spend a couple of days on my own – bit of a nostalgia trip and a longing to be slow again in Greece. I knew I couldn’t recapture my youth or even replicate my time or experiences before, and I felt a little nervous and was prepared to be disappointed.

The fast ferry took only 40 minutes and I alighted at the same spot I did all that time ago. There wasn’t anybody touting to sell me a ‘zimmer’ but all ok as I had booked like the grownup I am these days.

I decided to sit and have a coffee and drink in my surrounds. I looked across the bay to the mainland to the town of Galatea, Once a few houses and great swathes of orange groves  creeping up the steep sides of the hills. Now – all built up with white, cream and blue houses and the groves had been diminished by development.

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In front of me I smiled while watching the local taxi drivers with their feather dusters brushing the dust from their vehicles. I took the slow road to my hotel.

Ensconced in a large room with air con (something I didn’t have in the hot ‘ol days) I proceeded to try to extract a pigeon that was stuck behind the glass doors of the fire-place. It didn’t seem too distressed and once I extracted him he hopped over to sit in my suitcase.

During the next two days I walked and talked, I talked and talked, dragging out my rusty Greek. I ate fish, salads and delicious Greek cakes. Dinner alone was not uncomfortable as the older I get the more I like my own company.

I searched for my old digs but couldn’t find the ‘zimmer’. I caught a taxi around the other side of the island to visit the monastery and then walk down to Monasteraki beach, where I had it to myself except for two cheeky dogs who set up shop under my day bed. I swam and then dozed and the day, and indeed my world had slowed down to a gentle pace. The music of the day was just a light strum on a bouzouki.

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As the hovercraft pulled way from Poros and I was leaving I felt sad, only because i wanted more time here. I was and am happy for the visit, and grateful that the more things (and me) change, the more we stay the same.

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Poros highlights:

  • Stroll through the traditional town’s labyrinth with pretty shops and neo classical architecture.
  • Explore the alleys and walk up to the clock tower for a wonderful view of the island and the mainland opposite.
  • If you have a car or can catch a cab, visit the Lemon Groves. It’s not actually on Poros but across on the land of Trizinia. If you are there and the mere hint of a breeze wafts past you, that’s probably a mythical zephyr reminding you that once the Gods looked over these orchards – and perhaps they still do.
  • The monastery in eastern Kalavria, Poros was founded in 1720 and its precious carved wooded screen was constructed in Cappadocia in the 17th century. After the visit, settle into the old-school cafe and sip on locally made lemonade in the shade of the plane trees. Fill your water bottle with cool water from the monastery’s spring.
  • Don’t miss out on a slice or two of the famous galaktoboureko (semolina custard wrapped in crispy pastry).IMG_3203

Writer Bev Malzard will visit Greece again and will slow down to almost ‘stop’. She’s working up to writing more memoirs than meanderings – but it could take a while – most people involved are still alive and might sue her . . .

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The State I’m in!

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Or how I love old cinemas, eccentric architecture and overwrought decor.

Shame on you 1960s through to 1980s in Sydney. Just tore down old buildings willynilly to ‘modernise’ the city. And as the bricks tumbled, down came more than 20 old-style, elegant cinemas in Sydney including the Roma, Lido, Lyceum, Regent, Palace and sadly on and on the list goes.

The remaining cinemas are the State Theatre and the Capital Theatre.

And the State Theatre is here because its history spanned so many economic changes in the city that plans made to demolish, reinvigorate, turn into an office block and more, never got past the drawing board – and lucky it had history on its side.

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It opened to grand fanfare in the social heyday of Sydney in 1929. It was the “Palace of Dreams’. Amazing architecture for the time and innovative structure behind the gothic, Italianate French and Jacobean crazy decor and foyer, theatre seating and private rooms design, made this extraordinary addition to the prominence of development in Sydney.

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I recently took a two-hour tour of my fave theatre and discovered so much about it. I went as a child to the State when it was a movie theatre. And as television stole the movie-going public away from the theatres it became a live venue – as it had originally started out – with vaudeville acts and showy musicals.

I’ve seen artists from Bette Midler, through to Bob Dylan perform here and am off to see Catherine Tate soon.

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There are many facts that are fascinating about the theatre which include:

  • Standing in the 2000 seat auditorium beautifully framed by 13 hand-cut crystal chandeliers
  • Observing the eclectic elements of the Theatre’s Gothic, Italian and Art deco design
  • Discovering the State’s famous Character Lounges including the exotic Butterfly Room (the ladies loo), the Pioneer Room, College Room and more
  • Be mesmerised by the world’s second largest hand-cut crystal chandelier, the
    Koh-i-Nor. This is the second largest hand-cut chandelier in the world – the first is the divine chandelier that hangs in the Hapsburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.

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  • Admire prize-winning artworks by famous Australian artists including William Dobell, Mary Edwards, Charles Wheeler and Raymond Lindsay. Stories of people trying to steal these paintings are shocking. In fact the theatre has so many stories of vandalism and what has been stolen over the decades makes you realise that Sydney is a den of thieves.
  • Delve into the depths of the Theatre to discover engineering marvels and mechanical masterpieces.

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The ladies toilets (powder rooms) were designed to be hidden away discreetly because way back in the 1920s it was unseemly that a ‘lady’ would go to the toilet. Women would not eat or drink during the show until they arrived at home – and they ‘went’ before going out for the night.

Also there were private smoking rooms throughout the theatre (smoking wasn’t permitted in the foyer or inside the theatre) and these were for men only – ladies didn’t smoke!

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The beautiful brass filigree doors to the seating were going to be melted down in the 1950s and the metal would have been worth around $130 but now and still standing (or opening and shutting) and are worth $17000.

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When the American servicemen were in Sydney on R&R during WWII, smoking was allowed in all public areas. And 40 years later when the entire interior of the foyer and staircase areas was cleaned there was so much nicotine clinging to the walls that the decoration had disappeared.

The Theatre is still available for special films and recently held the premier of Ladies in Black. The annual Sydney Film Festival is held here and always begins with a silent film.

The State’s famous Wurlitzer organ that entertained the masses for many years is almost finished being restored. It will be back in action with its glorious makeover in 2019 when the State Theatre celebrates its 90th birthday. (The organ has to be played once a week to keep it in good working order.)

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If you enjoy ‘old Sydney’ and the charm of the eccentric, try for a tour, it’s interesting, nostalgic as you learn the character and traits of this magnificent and special building of majestic elegance.

Architectural purists may scoff, but remember this is a Palace of Dreams, am amusement park.

Visit: http://www.statetheatre.com.au to book tickets for a tour $25 – mad if you don’t.

Writer Bev Malzard was pashed in this cinema when she was 17. And on another note, she grew up in the Sydney suburb of Earlwood that supported two cinemas – the Chelsea (now a bottle shop) and the Mayfair (now three small shops). She likes to visit the last of the grand old girls in Sydney – The Randwick Ritz and the  Cremorne Orpheum.

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Snce its opening in 1929, The State Theatre Sydney has captivated the hearts and minds of patrons with its majestic elegance. Join in a guided tour of this magnificent and unique building and discover why it’s known as the Palace of Dreams.
During a fascinating 2 hour tour, you will:

Nevada USA – vintage all the way

Nevada USA – vintage all the way
It couldn’t be further from Las Vegas than from here to the moon. But hey! this hotel is looking very Nevada-ish old-school neon with extra curricular enticement. Before walking through the doors of the historic Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall I’m stepping on the stars in the footpath. Wayne Newton, Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper and other Hollywood and Las Vegas notables. This was surprising as Ely is a bit off the beaten track and certainly not in the grand five-star food chain.

The hotel was built in 1926 (six storeys too) and was the first building in the state to be fire-proofing.
Rooms were rented for $1.50 and up – touted as all with private toilet, ’85 per cent private baths’.
Prohibition was still in effect and the hotel entertained with bootlegged refreshments and you could have a punt all day.

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Ah, the heady days of ‘Bathtub Gin’ made from raw alcohol, water and flavourings and the gentle tipple of  ‘White Lightning’ supplied by the locals made for an interesting aperitif or two!
The hotel is as she was all that time ago. OK modern appliances and all that comes with the 21st century but is hasn’t been tricked up at all – in fact it’s a classic, historic, atmospheric mess.
Walk in the door and the pokies (slot machines) are winking and blinking, paraphernalia of the past Wild West and Wild Rocker days adorn the walls and lots of wonderful nostalgic black and white images crowd the walls.

I enter a small lift and am deposited on the third floor for my room – damn, I don’t get the Jimmy Stewart room.
Small room (as they were built almost 90 years ago); get my WiFi mojo happening and cosy up on my bed with a few chains hanging over it – more rustic décor than S&M.

A great sleep and down to a full-on Nevada breakfast – I’ll have the lot’. Gotta love American breakfasts – this meal would take me out rustling cattle, fighting a range war, starting a gold rush and back home again for a barn dance – yeeha!
Many of the rooms have nameplates including John Wayne – this hotel was a stopping overnight place as the starts from the 30s onwards would be motoring to Sun Valley and other holiday resorts.
If you are ever in this neck of the woods – check out Ely, as it’s got a wide-street, quiet nights kind of appeal – it’s High Desert country and most of the downtown buildings have quaint painted murals  depicting the city’s colourful history of pioneers, miners and the Pont Express AND . . .

the rich railroad history is classic here. You can even have a holiday and pay about $800-900 for the privilege of working on a classic loco – for train buffs this is holiday Nirvana.

The Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark is the last of its kind – the sole survivor of the grand era of railroading in the Silver State. But there’s no death throes here – it’s a living, breathing, operating railroad. No pretty glass cases here holding polished remnants of machinery – this is get down and dirty, gritty equipment in the vast complex of buildings.
There are four original steam locomotives, six original diesel locos, and more than 60 pieces of original rolling stock – the oldest piece dates to 1872 when President Ulysses S. Grant sat in the White House (and not on a $50 bill).
Climb aboard and travel back in time – the train’s waiting for you.

You can have Railway Reality Week – to work on the Railroad, for a hands-on experience for around $US999; a Winter Photo Shoots special – witness railroading as it was last century and photograph century-old original steam locos pulling vintage freight and passenger cars, around $US500.
Ely is in White Pine County, in the heart of Nevada’s scenic heartland – founded in 1970 as a trading post called Murry Station, and eventually grew to be one of the country’s major copper mining regions.

It’s located at the crossroads of US Highways 50, 93 and 6.

www.nnry.com and the facebook page for the railway is www.facebook.com/nnry1 and on check out www.youtube.com/nnry1Happy trails and Rails . . .

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Track for the Nevada Northern Railway was laid over a century ago, connecting one of the largest copper mines in North America to the Transcontinental routes to the North. Today, several of the original coal-fired standard-gauge steam locomotives that were ordered and delivered new to the railroad over a century ago are still in operation!   The Nevada Northern Railway is the best-preserved example of a standard-gauge short-line left in North America.

Come to Ely, NV and immerse yourself in historic railroad experiences:

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