Day 8 – Waikiki

Íde writing this as the others are off scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef…

 

 

The next stop was The Waikiki Resort Hotel on Oahu Island, Hawaii.  We had 2 superior hotel rooms here just around the corner from the beach and main Waikiki strip.   It was booked through www.hotels.com.  To be honest I can’t remember now why I booked superior rooms instead of standard (difference of $10 US per room per night).  I know I was put off the mini-economy rooms by reports on tripadvisor, but don’t know what the differences between the standard and superior rooms are.  The rooms were fine, nothing special and the décor could do with an upgrade.  The swimming pool is small but wasn’t busy any time we used it, so it didn’t matter.  The hotels.com site states that the rooms have wireless access for a fee – Our rooms didn’t.  That said, they did have free internet access at 3 computers in the lobby. 

 

The weather was a relief after the heat of LA.  While the temperature was only a little lower than LA the sea breezes make it seem cooler and make high temperatures bearable.   The beach is lovely and I had great fun watching all the surfers.  The waves are high, but not as impressive as I remember from Hawaii 5-0.  Yes, I know, I’m showing my age now.

 

We didn’t really do much in Hawaii, so can’t really say much about the place itself.  I can say that it was a lovely short break between the USA and Australian legs of the trip.  However, if we go there again we will give it more time and go to a few different islands.    

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Day 7 – Let’s go 5-0 – Saturday, 21 June 2008

Off to Hawai’i today so it was up early to finish packing, get breakfast and so on. We allowed loads of time to get to LAX & check in even though it is a domestic flight. This would be by far the longest flight we’ve ever taken – six hours or so and we will still be within the USA.

 

So the taxi was ordered & came on time and who was it only the same guy who had taken s to the Hollywood Bowl less than a week ago. We loaded the luggage & then the driver noticed he had a flat tyre. Out with all of us & it took nearly half-an-hour before the replacement taxi arrived (both of these drivers, and many of the others, were Russian – there seems to e a lot of these in LA). Off we set – straight into the heaviest traffic we had come across in LA – and this was a Saturday. Anyway, we got to LAX a little frazzled but in time for our flight.

 

Bláithín wanted to post a postcard home only to discover that all stamp machines & post-boxes had been removed from LAX after 9/11. So we amused ourselves with the usual airport sandwich & coffee rip-off. On the plane there was loads of leg-room for 3 of us as we were in the escape hatch aisle, but Aisling was sitting behind us on her own. No problem to her.

 

I had the laptop & the movies were nowhere near as good as the BA flight over the Atlantic, so I finally got to write some of this blog. Yayy!!

 

Bláithin & Aisling on Waikiki beachWe landed in Honolulu – somehow I expected to be garlanded with flowers & leis by hula dancing honeys when I landed – sadly this was not to be. Our taxi driver to the Waikiki Resort Hotel was very interesting: he was a Major in the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnamese war and was imprisoned by the North Vietnamese for 17 years after they took over. He immigrated to Hawai’i as soon as he got out and this Major is now a Hawai’i taxi driver. He showed us a lot of the attractions in Waikiki on the way.

 

The hotel itself is mostly aimed at Koreans and quite a lot of Honolulu & Waikiki is dominated by Asian influences. We went out for a wander and a (Chinese) meal and loved our first impressions. It reminded me of the liveliness of many European beach resorts – except everything is in English (along with Korean, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and of course just a little Hawaiian). Swimming etc. tomorrow.

 

 

(Title – Hawai’i is the 50th of the USA’s 50 states and of course references the 70s TV cop show. Next year is Hawai’i’s 50th anniversary as a state of the USA.)

Day 6 – Universal Studios

It was $64 a head into Universal Studios but we had a $8 each discount as someone picked up a voucher somewhere along the line. The day was hot yet again & that meant I particularly enjoyed the Jurassic Park ride which finished with a run down a waterfall and a big splash. Another ride of note was Terminator 2 in 3D – great sci-fi fun. The “Blues Bothers” had seen better days, though & could have phoned in their performance.

 

 

 

 

 

The tour around the studio sets was interesting as well. Wisteria Lane is so small in real life. The different movie cars were great & we saw the remainder of the New York set which burnt down a few months ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Note Krustyland Hotel, the Springfield sign (a la HOLLYWOOD), the giant donut, the condemned coaster, Duff beer, the Death Drop plus various Springfield & Krustyland landmarks.But the new Simpsons Ride – now that was special. It was just like being inside a cartoon – the visuals, motion, sound & even smell all combined for the best simulator ride I’ve been on in my life. If the wait was shorter I would have done it again and again, just as we did a few years ago in Universal Studios Paris on the “Rock n Roller Coaster”.

 

We had dinner in Karl Strauss on the Universal Street – good beer (Íde & I tried the sampler) & big helpings and, this was new, boneless chicken wings with a tannngggyyy sauce.

 

When we got back to Webster8, I discovered I’d lost my mobile phone. There was no response when rang the phone & I knew I’d had it in Karl Strauss so it was either there or in the taxi. I phoned the restaurant – no luck. As we’re leaving LA tomorrow morning, it looks like I’m incommunicado for the foreseeable future. I let some people at home know via e-mail. I’d booked laptop time with the girls to catch up with this blog but I was in no humour so it didn’t happen … again 

Day 5 – Lazy 2

Rodeo Drive - where the fools shop

We had intended to go to Universal Studios today but we had gotten so much sun yesterday we put that off ‘til tomorrow & had a second lazy day. Aisling & I went on a tour of the stars pads in Beverley Hills etc. (cheesy but enjoyable) & paid a visit to Rodeo Drive, the super expensive “designer” street Richard Gere used to seduce Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” (what people see in this artificial alter to consumerism is beyond me). The world being as small as it currently is, the couple in front of us on the tour was from Cork.

 

When we’d finished, we decided to try out “Pink’s” on La Brea & Melrose for lunch. We’d seen really long queues outside this hot dog stall & were curious as we’d never heard of it & it looked so … I’m trying not to say grotty here … small. We woke up a cabbie (I mean literally) and the taxi was only around the first corner when our Pink\'s hot dog stand - yum!Hollywood experience was supplemented again – the taxi was stopped by an LAPD motorbike cop (CHIPs anyone?) for running a stop sign. Of course the Russian taxi driver was rude to the cop & got a ticket for his trouble. Pink’s on the other hand was an LA revelation – good plain food (chilli dog … mmmm!) at a great price in what looks like a sitting room with hundreds of celebrity snaps on the wall attached to a kitchen. We were lucky & the queue was short but it would be well worth a wait.

 

Íde & Bláithín enjoyed themselves in the apartment making a Greek Salad for themselves & then headed out to the nearby clothes exchange for yet more shopping.

Day 4 – de Burca 4 on the Sunset Strip

Bláithn & Aisling in Santa Monica's dragonThis morning we picked up a Toyota Corolla from Hertz on La Brea. We’re always a little nervous when first driving a car on the other side of the road but the American tendency for automatics made it easier in this case. We picked up the kids & as we were leaving, we met Francie. When we told her our plans she immediately offered sun hats for the girls – how generous.

We drove along Sunset Boulevard to the Pacific. We passed through loads of famous places such as Beverley Hills, Bel Air, Palisades & also past clubs such as “Whiskey a Go Go” and the “Viper Room”. There were great views and it was a fun drive. After a while we reached the Pacific – this was the first time for any of us to see it.

The plan was that we would visit the Getty Villa, with its ancient artworks. However it was closed (as our guidebook said it would be if we’d bothered to consult it) so it was time for Plan B – swimming and in some cases mere paddling. Great fun for all except me as I was clever enough to forget to bring togs. The added bonus was that a sea lion popped up just 20m out – fascinating.

Bláith�n, Pádraig & Aisling on Santa Monica pierWe then drove south on the coast to Santa Monica, with its lovely wooden pier with amusements including a big wheel. We had great food in a bar next to Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach workout area and agreed that it was way too hot for cycling or anything strenuous like that.

South again to Venice Beach – the one with the “real” Muscle Beach, with all the guys showing off their bulging biceps. There’s a real bohemian air to the place – we all loved it. I managed to buy togs & joined the girls for a fantastic Pacific swim, fighting the strong surf and loving it.

With a little effort we found & walked along some of Venice, California’s “famous” canals. While they were nice, they by no means approach the grandeur of the canals of Venice, Italy. We eventually found Venice Boulevard & made our way home.

Day 3 – Lazy 1

The last few days had really taken it out of us so we decided to take advantage of the beautiful apartment and have a pretty lazy day. Not much to report, so. I went for a wander around the area including Melrose Avenue, west of La Brea. Íde did some research on hiring a car & on getting to Universal Studios.

Later we just got a Chinese take away and relaxed in the cabana. We watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, one of Jim Carrey’s best movies.

Ahh!! The batteries are recharged. Tomorrow, we drive…

Day 2 – Fashion & the City

Off we went to “Downtown LA” today. The “plan”, such as it was, meant that the girls would all go to the Fashion District & I would hit a gallery. Well, it worked for them but not for me. I had a good wander around a lot of lower downtown & have to admit to not being too impressed. The girls got lots of clothes but were not all that keen on the fashion District itself.

Before going home, we decided to go to “Little Tokyo”, LA’s Japanese district. For a rest on the way, we popped into Little Tokyo’s public library, which was vey impressive & relaxing. Little Tokyo itself was a lot littler than I expected from LA, which styles itself “Asia’s westernmost city”. We had a great Japanese meal and headed home quite exhausted.

Day 1 – Almost perfect

Ide, Blaithin & Aisling at Grauman\'s Chinese Theatre, HollywoodWhat a day!

It’s Fathers’ Day & I was awoken by my kids jumping on me in bed & “gently informing” me that breakfast was ready. Íde & the girls had prepared a great brekkie. Rashers, sossies, mushrooms, the works! Yum!

It was off for a walk to Hollywood Boulevard then, but it was so very hot? We got there after a couple of stops for iced cream etc. There it was the “Walk of Fame” with all the stars in the pavement and a taste of hope in the air. We made our way to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with all the hand & footprints outside as well as the wannabes who earn a crust by posing as Spiderman, Barney, etc. for tips from the photographing masses. We were approached a couple of times for various trips & tours including one persistent guy flogging a bus tour of the stars’ homes in Beverley Hills. Usual price $40 each he wanted “to go home after selling the last four seats” and could let us in for $20 each. After haggling didn’t work I refused to purchase … and then the tone changed. Mr. Friendly now said I was stupid. The Hollywood experience was becoming more complete: I had been insulted on the street by a tout.

Aisling’s main ambition was just to see the “Hollywood” sign – we found it but unfoThe Kids meeting their favourite Hollywood starsrtunately, in reality, it is much, much smaller looking (i.e. further away) from Hollywood Boulevard than we had guessed. In addition I’m having problems with my camera so we have to rely on Bláithín for photos for the moment.

After more souvenir shops and sight-seeing, we were getting a bit tired. In we went to the “Pig n Whistle” for a drink. There was some music from the local college in the back room so we joined in the session. It was a mixture of a sing song, karaoke, live performance & a “come all ya”. We all joined in but Bláithín even gave a couple of solo songs to rapturous applause (of course). Fine food, good beer & a fun atmosphere, how good.

A bit more sight-seeing (Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood & Vine etc.) & back to the apartment for a break. Our apartment neighbours were out back &, talking to them, I discovered that the Playboy Jazz festival was on in the Hollywood bowl tonight. I pushed someone off the laptop and went online to check the details. Aarrgghh!! I was too late – it had been on since 2pm. But the neighbours said it would be on late & there were always seats in the bleachers.

We took a chance & hopped a taxi to the Bowl. We got there just in time to see Herbie Hancock and Bill Cosby introduced some other acts before exhaustion & hunger won. After some Thai food on Sunset Boulevard, it was home for us.

(I spent a lot of today remembering my own Dad. Paddy Burke was a fantastic father to my 3 brothers, my sister & I. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis!)

 

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Íde here again, writing while the others are diving…

First stop was the Webster8 apartments in LA.  This was booked directly with the owner Francie Crowley – www.webster8.com However, I first read about it on http://www.holiday-velvet.com/who_are_we . Very good website except that you can’t just put in your travel dates to see what is available.  You usually have to write to the owners of the property you are interested in booking and they email back regarding availability. 

 

This property was a real find. It was perfect for what we were looking for. It had all the comforts of home and was top class standard.  It is difficult to describe this apartment because it is completely different from the typical 2 bed apartment that holiday makers would be used too.  The guests in the other apartment were there on a long term let and the accommodation is much more suited to that.  The fully equipped kitchen included about five complete sets of fine china (serving dishes and all).  The only very minor complaint I could find with the place was that none of this fine china could be used in the microwave.  I found 2 glass serving plates that would be microwave proof.  Everything else was too delicate.  Unlike most holiday apartments, any non-perishable goods left by previous guests are not thrown out, but are left for the use of the next guests.  This meant that the day Blaithín and I stayed in and made a Greek Salad we had a choice of about 3 different types of Balsamic Vinegars and numerous dried herbs and spices to add to the mix.  We used it to make a beautiful dressing for the salad.

 

Overall, fantastic accommodation in a nice location and excellent value for money.

 

The weather in LA was so hot even the locals were complaining.  There were power cuts in some areas because of over usage of the air conditioning system. 

Day 0 – 14 June 2008 – Queuing for a touring

First of all, I have to admit that I’m actually writing this on Day 7, on the plane from LA to Honolulu. My access to my laptop has been severely curtailed of late … more about that later.

Anyway Saturday started in Dublin with us all getting up early. We drove to Santry & got a taxi to the airport from there. Not expecting any hassle on the first leg its only a hop to London after all. Wrong!! this was about 5.30 a.m. flights were all crowding out a single area. Now Ive studied queuing theory (Management Science, DCU) so I know that in theory a single queue for many desks (like most banks) is more efficient than many queues for the same number of desks (like most supermarkets), but this was bonkers made worse again because of the unearthly (for me at least) hour. Another queue for Security, of course. Anyway we struggled through & got onto Aer Lingus EI154 which got us to Heathrow in an hour and a half or so. 

This was the bit we were dreading the infamous Heathrow Terminal 5. We had 3 hours 15 minutes to get to our flight to LA. We were in Terminal 1 & it was in Terminal 5. Íde had read that you should allow3 hours to transfer, so this actually looked a bit tight. But we just followed the signs, got on a shuttle train, re-checked in, went through Heathrow Security and still had almost two hours to kill. It was so efficient and then the waiting area near the gates was well serviced, quiet, airy & more like a modern shopping entre than the third circle of Hell we had been expecting.… excellent.

It just got better on the plane with each seat having its own entertainment centre. So everyone could look at whatever they wanted… excellent.A $50 taxi fare later & we were at our apartment for the next week: the Webster8 www.webster8.com in South Hollywood. Only one problem – there was nobody there to let us in and no answer on the intercom. Luckily BA was so good – did I mention that – that I still had a full charge in the laptop. A “quick” boot-up later & we had the security code we were in. About five minutes later of course, the owner, Francie arrived.

Francie showed us around her beautiful 2 bedroom apartment and the shared cabana at the back with its large screen, surround sound TV system. Everything looked great.

This brings me back to the “problem” I mentioned earlier – why can’t I access my laptop? Well it turns out that Wi-Fi Internet access was also included: this meant that despite the 8 hour time difference Bláithín & Aisling just “had to” keep in contact with all their friends back in Ireland (and further afield – Aisling even found one of her friends from our time in Brussels via the Internet in Shanghai) using MSN Messenger, Bebo, e-mail etc. Íde also needed it to research something or book something … well you get the picture.’s and hit the comfie beds. Jet-lag claimed us all.

(Title – tribute to RTE Radio 1’s excellent show with Paddy O’Gorman)

Go raibh maith agat!

Oh! A special “Thank you very much” has to go out to Glen & Máire who will be looking after our house, handling alarm emergencies etc. while we are away. With neighbours like these , who needs friends?

Both Glen & Máire used to be in our ciorcal comhrá in Gaffney’s in Fairview. I remember one night where Máire made us all green with envy describing her first class trip to Oz. Maybe it’s time to start that up again – September perhaps?

First post

The de Burca girls in SloveniaDia daoibh go léir! With this blog I’m going to try to keep an occasional journal of our travels beginning with our around-the-world trip in 2008.

Well! This is it. We’re off on our travels tomorrow. Early morning flight to London Heathrow, where we transfer to the infamous Terminal 5. The odd thing is that it will take us longer to get from one end of Heathrow to the other than it will to fly from Dublin to London.

From there we fly to LA. Long flight so I expect us all to be tiiiirrred – especially Aisling, who just finished her Junior Cert today.

I’ll try to write a bit more there.

Slán!

 

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Íde here, writing on July 8 – Well, Padraig and the girls are off scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and I offered to try and update some of the blog while they were out.

I’m going to concentrate more on the background planning.  Back in January, I started researching ideas for a family holiday.  We were both aware that this would probably be the last year that Blaithín would be coming on holiday with us.  We realised that our mortgage would be finished in February, we would be 20 years married in August and that we had taken full advantage of the SSIA scheme so we had a few bob to play around with.  It started out as a holiday to Australia.  But when I started doing the research, I realised that for an extra couple of hundred Euros we could get a “round the world” ticket.  Once I had figured out the cost of the flights, I went to a few travel agents to see if there was a better deal available.  There wasn’t, but because I was in the middle of my Diploma studies and because I had never been to Australia, I decided to go to a travel agent to get them to do up a package for flights accommodation and tours.  BIG MISTAKE!   I soon realised that almost everything I was being offered within the package was easily bookable online at much better rates.  Some of the differences were really shocking.  Some only differed by €40 and considering the overall price it could be seen as penny pinching, but as I explained to the Travel Agent €40 per person is actual €160 for a family of four.  The Agent was willing to match the price on some of the things, but in some cases, couldn’t match it.  Most of the problems were with the hotel prices.  The Travel Agent is charging per person, where most websites will charge per room.  In almost all cases, we are being charged full adult rate for both Aisling and Blaithín. I wanted to have 2 bed apartments in most cases, but found that the Travel Agent veered more towards getting us 2 hotel rooms. I also found that in a number of cases the star rating being given in the brochure were higher than the same hotel would be given online. Between this and a major situation that arose regarding plans to fly to Darwin it ended up that the only arrangement I made with the Travel Agent was for the flights (for which I had already done all the research) and our accommodation in Sydney (more on that later!)

As soon as I finished my Diploma I worked in earnest at getting the best hotel and tours deals for the trip.  www.tripadvisor.com is the best place to start looking for hotels.  Once you find a hotel you might want to book, you can check the reviews for that hotel and do a price check through tripadvisor of a number of different sites – hotels.com, bookings.com, expedia etc.   

The tours are a bit more difficult to organise mainly because you have to book specific dates and when you are doing this amount of travelling you really can’t say months in advance whether you will be fit to climb Sydney Bridge on a specific date and at a specific time.  To get around this problem we bought 4 diamond passes with Grayline tours.  APT tours offer the same tours, but are dearer (at least for the tours we were interested in doing).  The tours work out slightly cheaper by pre purchasing the passes (they must be purchased before arrival in Australia).  You just need to tell them where and when you will use your first tour (you don’t have to say which tour you are doing until you are reserving a place on a tour (24 hours notice).  I booked the first one for our 3rd day in Sydney and on arrival in Sydney we decided to book the City Tour (see details for Sydney day 3).

So following all the planning and weighed down with paper work we set off on the big adventure on 14th June.