In preparation for touring this island, I converted some US cash to the Pacific Franc. For $200 American, I got 18,500 Pacific Francs – plus $2 and change US back! I suddenly felt very rich!
The port itself is not glamorous – it is a cargo port.
We were not allowed to wander around in this area, so we were loaded onto buses and shuttled to the downtown area, where there are many shops and excursions are available to purchase locally if you haven’t purchased one on board. I opted to pass on excursions for this stop and just wander – see what I can see.
I managed to find a couple places to spend some of my new-found riches. To bring the currency conversion into perspective, I bought myself a cute sun dress (4,900 Franc / approx $46 US) and a sarong (1,900 Franc / approx $18 US).
There is a nice park in the center of town – probably the nicest part of the city. There I found a street performer dancing with hoops. I have a lot of respect for street performers. It can’t be an easy life – it is something you do because you are passionate about it. I took a short video and left a tip before moving on.
Day two at sea on the Celebrity Solstice was soooo much better than day one. Day one was filled with nausea due to rough seas and me not having found my sea legs.
I awoke on day two feeling ready to relax and enjoy the ride! After breakfast I did some on-board shopping and then headed for our workshop, which was scheduled from 1:30 to 4:15. (I’m traveling with a group who are all here to – in addition to seeing beautiful islands – participate in some new age / motivational workshops.) I learned from the previous day’s workshop that if you are at all queasy, it is best to sit more near the center of the ship.
After the workshop I made a beeline for the Martini Bar and ordered a Cosmopolitan. I was behind on my alcohol consumption due to the previous day’s queasiness! After the martini, I made my way to one of the outside bars and had a glass of sparkling wine.
I then met up with a couple I’ve been dining with since the first night. They are a Ukrainian couple living in Melbourne, Australia. She is a violinist for the Melbourne Opera. They are both very sweet, and it’s nice to have a little consistency at the dinner hour. We share our stories of where we’ve been and what we’ve done throughout the day and then after dinner we go our separate ways…until the next night’s dinner!
I’ve met many very friendly people on the trip, so almost everywhere I go I run into someone I can say hello to and chat for a minute or two.
After dinner I was back at the Martini Bar for a chocolate martini – they have an ice-covered bar!
I then moved to a bar on the next deck below. I told the bartender there that I wanted a coffee drink but didn’t know which one. She said, “No problem! I make for you!” I watched as she proceeded to add healthy pours of at least three liqueurs, then some coffee, and whipped cream on top. You can never go wrong with a whipped cream- topped drink!
Just a little more about the Curly Surf Shack before I go…
It is such a serene space, I had to share some of the outdoor pictures as well. This is a view before I settled in:
It’s where I hung out most evenings for writing:
And one of my favorite things was this little guy. He would greet me every morning and every evening with cuddles and kisses!
There was also a tree just at the end of the deck where several different types of birds would gather, like the Rainbow Lorikeet and the Australian Magpie. The Magpies were very vocal but also elusive, so I wasn’t able to get a picture on my own.
On my last full day in Australia before the cruise, I ferried may way back to Circular Quay and then wandered the streets of Sydney by the bay. Highlights included:
Aboriginal Musicians were set up on the wharf, playing the didgeridoo, dancing and selling hand-painted boomerangs.
I wandered over to the Opera House and had a beer in the Opera Bar. The wait staff were very nice there! I didn’t do the tour. If I had been with someone who was interested I would have, and I’m sure would have enjoyed it, but by myself it wasn’t at the top of the list. Beautiful place though, and I took lots of pictures of it on land and by ferry.
I stopped at several art galleries, which carry mostly aboriginal art – very interesting and even mesmerizing to just stand and stare at some of these pieces. One style is lots of tiny dots that form a larger pattern; another is small petal-like swatches of paint that form patterns. (I wasn’t supposed to take pictures, but I wanted to remember and share the style of the work found here.)
I spotted Fortune of War, Sydney’s Oldest Pub and decided to stop in for some Fish & Chips and a beer. Apparently it’s Australia’s version of a “Good Ole Boys” club, because the only female in the pub was behind the bar, and – though she did make eye contact several times – she never acknowledged me or attempted to serve me. I got the message loud and clear and headed down the street to The Rocks Café where I had some lovely Fish & Chips and a Pure Blonde beer (very light, and only 1.7 carbs)!
I don’t know what this place is. It was in the middle of a cluster of buildings containing businesses. Very interesting little space where i imagine people may go to have a quiet lunch.
There are so many interesting little vignettes throughout Sydney. Here is a courtyard where I enjoyed a glass of Shiraz.
After Shiraz I made a stop at a Gelato shop (Salted Caramel, please!) and then headed back around to the wharf, where I listened to music performed by Pete Raven. Such a beautiful voice! I was really surprised at the sound quality here.
Next I headed to the Overseas Passenger Terminal, where tomorrow I will board the Celebrity Solstice! I dropped in at the Cruise Bar and had a (very pricey) margarita.
I have come to the realization that the cost of living in Sydney is much higher than in Nashville, TN. I could have looked that up ahead of time, but…I am the consummate “seat of the pants” traveler!
Now back across the bay to Manly by ferry for my final night at the Curly Surf Shack! I will be sad about leaving – it is such a serene space!
Now that I’ve written it all down, I realize I’ve had quite a bit to drink today! No wonder I was so tired when I got back to the shack!
I sat at the beach a while, listening, watching, contemplating…then decided to explore a bit. I followed the walkway toward the point and discovered a swim club, which is apparently open to the public. The pool is filled with sea water and is refreshed each night when high tide comes in.
On the far end of the swim club is a rocky area with tide pools and cliffs beautifully decorated with succulent plants. A small heron was fishing in one of the pools and didn’t mind that I came right up to him to get a picture!
So I’ve really done it! I have traveled over 20 air hours from my home to another country where I know no one and am unfamiliar with customs and transportation systems and where to find what. Speaking of finding things, top on my list are: 1) Power converter, 2) nail file, 3) alcohol (not necessarily in that order).
I left my home 6 days ago (really 5, but I’ve crossed the International Date Line). I’m not gonna lie – there have been several times I’ve questioned my sanity for doing this. More than once I have momentarily wished myself back to the security of my home and community of friends – and my sweet puppies! But mostly I am amazed at the idea that I. did. this.
I am here right now, sitting on a park bench in Dee Why, Australia, listening to the sound of the surf, smelling the scents of the ocean, and people watching.
To get to the beach from where I’m staying, I walked up the street to the top of the hill, then followed it downhill about 8 – 10 city blocks. Across from the beach are coffee shops and restaurants, one after another. No touristy shops here, just lots of food! And all very busy on a Sunday morning!
I stopped for breakfast at Aubergine and had the best (to be honest, probably the first) Eggs Benedict ever! Meat options were ham, bacon or smoked salmon. Smoked salmon was the perfect choice! I thought it a little pricey at $17.90, but totally worth it!
My day started with getting up at 4:00 a.m. for an 8:15 a.m. flight from Hawaii to Sydney. Of course I awoke at 3:30, just because. I was up extra early because I was concerned about my ability to get out of the building.
The day before, I almost lost a cab as I waited for the elevator. I would push the button, the button would light up and then turn off. I would push the button again. Same thing. I would hold the button to keep the light on. I would listen as the elevator buzzed by my floor. I finally called the owner of the unit and they called the building management. Fortunately, the cabbie who was waiting for me had been to this building before and new the game. He waited. How nice!
Thankfully, the elevator problem from the day before had been fixed. So – off to the airport! The shuttle arrived at the airport at the promised 6:15 a.m. I flew JetStar, which is an Australian airline. I had not been able to check in online because I purchased my ticket from a third party, but that didn’t matter. I had two bags to be checked, so I had to stand in line anyway.
The line was outrageously long – but – it moved very quickly! According to the website, you had to be through security by 7:00 a.m. for this flight, which seemed impossible, but I made it! The other thing I hadn’t done online was pay for my checked luggage. When I got to the counter, the Jetstar representative told me she would give me the online price ($70) for checking my bags because the standard price would have been over $300! Yikes! So I got lucky!
I’m going to make the rest of the flight story a bit shorter by providing bulleted points:
Flight was just under 10 hours (looooooong).
Each seat had a monitor at the back of the headrest for watching videos. $10 gets you all access pass to movies, TV shows and music. I watched I’ll See You In My Dreams and the Amy Winehouse movie.
Two hot meals were served – I had remembered to purchase those online. Food was not bad.
A can of coke costs $3.50.
My ankles have not been that swollen since the late stages of my pregnancy, 33 years ago!
Once off the plane, I stopped at the Foreign Exchange desk, and then needed to make my way to my Airbnb location. The property owners had given me some instructions:
Take the Train to the wharf at Circular Quay (pronounced “Key”)
Take the Ferry to Manly
Take the 136 bus to North Curl Curl. Tell the driver to let you off at the top of our road.
Sounded easy enough. First to find the train ticketing station. I got directions from three different people before I found it. The ticket agent then informed me the train no longer goes to Circular Quay. You must get off at Central Station and take a bus to Circular Quay. Okay. Navigate luggage through turnstile…then to elevator to get to platform.
I get off the train at Central Station. There are billions of people, and no signs to tell me where to get a bus, so again, I start asking around. I ask directions several times, and after going in the wrong direction, down hill for quite a way, I learn I will need to go back up the hill. Have I mentioned I’m dragging some very heavy bags behind me? (I really did try to pack light, but…I’ll be on a cruise for 13 days! I need me some fun clothes!)
Finally at the bus stand per instructions from the man at the information office, and I watch two buses drive by that say Circular Quay. I get up and move to the next bus stand, where the Circular Quay buses are actually stopping. Good news – it’s a free bus since the trains have been shut down beyond Central Station (I don’t know why and was too tired to care.)
Getting on the bus was challenging with luggage, but a nice transport agent helped me get settled, which was really nice. A couple stops later, the bus driver called out a passenger, accusing him of boarding from the back of the bus. He then continued to vent and swear for the remainder of the drive to CQ (he was not happy about the free bus situation). Once at CQ, the driver pulled off at the top of the hill, mumbling something about how it would take 20 minutes to drive down to the Quay because of all the other buses.
Off the bus, and it was all downhill to the Quay (thank goodness), and then I crossed the street and headed to the closest ticketing location, Wharf 3. Ticketing office was closed. Sign says you must purchase ticket at Wharf 4. Drag bags to Wharf 4. Where do I board? Wharf 3. Of course. Back at Wharf 3 and hear the announcement that the gates will close in one minute. Now fast-walking/dragging bags through turnstile and then to ferry. Made it!
Once on the ferry I was able to breath a bit. I bought a cold bottle of water from the ferry café. The man behind the counter said, “$3.00.” I held a handful of coins out to the man behind the counter and said, “I don’t know. Just take what you need.” The man was very kind. He gave me a lesson in Australian coins and then a warning.
“Don’t ever do that at the markets! They’ll take all your money!”
“I know. I’m just tired and I knew you would do the right thing.”
“Okay, but just don’t do that again!”
“I won’t. Thank you.”
I had wedged my bags between some seats inside the ferry and I wasn’t interested in moving them again, so I popped outside for just a minute to grab a couple photos and then back to my seat inside. I’ll get more photos on another trip.
Once off the ferry, I just had to locate the correct stand for bus 136, which wasn’t difficult, but when I gave the driver instructions on where I needed to be dropped off, he looked at me like I was crazy. I obviously hadn’t relayed the information using the correct words. I hadn’t yet boarded the bus, so I stepped back from the door, saying “I’ll catch you on your next run.” Then I found a cab.
This cabbie was a very nice Australian man. He said I was lucky to have caught him because most cabbies are from India and they don’t know the area as well. As I was explaining where I needed to go, he asked all the right questions, then gave me a little guided tour as we traveled from one area of the city to the next. Once at my destination, he unloaded my bags from the cab and, as the street and sidewalk were very steep, made sure to place them on “the flat” in front of the garage. He then asked me if I was all set before heading off.
So at 7:30 p.m. I finally arrived at my destination, the Curly Surf Shack! (By the way, doing the math on the departure and arrival times doesn’t work because I crossed the international date line, so I actually left on Friday and arrived on Saturday!)
I got to meet the property owners and one of their sons (the other was in bed) and their dog Snoopy. And, OMG – the shack is super cute! Totally worth the extra trip to not be in the city with thousands of people milling around at all hours!
My only priorities for day 2 in Hawaii were to get to two recommended places; one for sushi and one for a Mai Tai. I elected to cab it around town today to give my knee a break. Charley’s Taxi had gotten me to the Urgent care with no trouble, so immediately after my x-ray, I called them again and had then take me over to Lewers Street.
At Teppan & Sushi KAIWA I ordered The Artists Palette (of course) and it was YUMMY! The photo in the menu was pretty accurate. The only challenge with this item is how to eat the end pieces gracefully!
After lunch I checked my GPS to locate Rum Fire, the location recommended for a Mai Tai. The tricky thing about Rum Fire is that you can’t just drive there. When I tried to map it on my phone there wasn’t a road directly to it, but I knew it was on the beach, so I decided to walk the beach to find it. Turns out it’s actually at the back of the Sheraton Waikiki complex – so you must be staying at the Sheraton to know about it – or walk the beach.
I did a walk-through to scope the place out, and explored the many shops in the open breezeway that runs through the center of the space. There’s also a Koi pond on the left side of the property, with a row of rocking chairs along the edge for people to take a calming break. (I hung there for a bit while waiting for Charley’s to pick me at the end of my visit.)
The Sheraton was so open that I walked in from the back at Rum Fire, through the shopping area and out to the front loading/unloading area, stopped at the coffee bar to get a latte, and then sat at a table in the front of the complex watching people coming and going…for about an hour…and nobody seemed to care! I was fascinated by the number of wedding parties coming through the lobby. Later, I noticed they have a marriage license registration office inside the Sheraton!
Back at Rum Fire, I found a seat on the patio that had a tiny bit of shade. The inside (open air) seating was filled and I wanted a view of the ocean so I was willing to get a little warm. So I settled in…and ordered my Mai Tai! There are several versions to choose from – I went with the Signature version. It was very good!
From my seat on the patio I had a great view of the water where there was no beach, so the water came right up to the walkway in front of the restaurant. As I enjoyed the view, I noticed two turtles swimming in the area right in front of where I was seated! I tried to get a good photo, but they were quick! They’d come up for just a second and then – right back under!
The decor at Rum Fire is really pretty cool. There are lots of areas that are just a little different, like this sitting area near the front entrance:
And then there’s the patio…
I managed to kill enough time to be hungry again, and I really wanted a burger. I also decided to move to a shadier place while eating – I can’t enjoy a meal when I’m blazing hot! Based on my waitress Teresa’s recommendation, I ordered the Truffle Burger – excellent choice! Teresa was a sweetheart. She was covering too many tables, but she remained pleasant and even let me take her picture before I left!
I have arrived! Longest flight I’ve ever not enjoyed, I must say that! For the next leg of my trip I will be using a motion sickness patch! Nothing devastating (or embarrassing) happened. It was just an uncomfortable flight with lots of deep breathing and carbonated drinks. And the “good drugs” I got just before the trip so I could sleep on the flight…didn’t work. I was awake. The. Entire. Flight.
But. Other than that, everything went very well and everyone I encountered was very pleasant!For example, at DFW, I was standing in the sink area of the ladies room trying to place an icy hot patch on my back, carefully adjusting my clothing in a way to hopefully not stick the pad to itself or my clothing, but also to not bare my backside to all passers by. A nice Asian woman saw me struggling and asked if she could help. She put it on for me perfectly and went on her way! So nice!
I decided to shuttle it to my Airbnb location, which is in Marina Tower in Waikiki. I’ve got some great views of the Yacht Marina and the beach from my room on the 32nd floor! The room isn’t ritzy – could use some upgrading – but I’m only here to sleep. And blog.
So…back to the shuttle. I sat next to an alcohol-breathing man in his 60’s. He was really quite pleasant. His wife was seated in the row in front of us. 60’s Guy said he and his wife travel here from Richmond, VA every year and stay about two months. They stay over in Oahu for one night and then catch a flight to the big island for the rest of their stay.
He told me the story of their first visit. He said it was back in the 80’s, and he and his wife stayed on Oahu for the whole trip. Shortly after they arrived they noticed everyone rushing to the shopping centers buying up all the food. Turns out there was a hurricane coming. 60’s and his wife had no idea – had not paid attention to any weather reports. But he said they were stayed on the other side of the island from Waikiki, so it didn’t affect them, except that the entire island was out of power for several days. He said the Navy eventually sent over a nuclear submarine and they powered the entire island from this submarine! That’s quite a story! (We’ll come back to this one again further down the page.)
“Late” Night Snack
By the time I was settled in, my phone said it was 4:30 pm, but my body said it was 9:30(bedtime). Still, my stomach said, I want something good to eat and my heart said, it’s my first night in Hawaii, so let’s make it something cool! The restaurant choices directly across the street are Red Lobster and Outback. No.
The front desk was closed, so I went down to the valet and asked for recommendations for a place within walking distance that would be something a little more Hawaiian than my immediate choices. The valet pointed me away from the beach, which was disappointing,but I was tired, so willing to listen. He said there was a food court just over the bridge. Food court? Like a mall food court? Yes, but there are some Hawaiian and Japanese places there. He said if I went in the other direction the prices go way up. If I had been rested (and clean) I may have opted for the pricier options, but I was tired and travel-dirty, so I headed toward the mall.
First of all, OMG! I have never seen such a large, sprawling, open air mall in my life! The Ala Moana Shopping Center bills itself as the world’s largest open air shopping center, and I believe them. They have over 290 shops, a food court, and restaurants. I easily found a directory kiosk, and after trekking down to Hawaiian Blue Lifestyle (listed under cafes) and learning it was really a smoothie bar, I moved on. I wanted a sit down meal – and a beer. Back at the directory, I realized the restaurants were listed in their own, separate category. I also noticed that they were all on Level 4, which was accessed via the escalator to my right. Bingo!
There was a Japanese Steakhouse, which was fully enclosed and looked very expensive. As I browsed the menu posted at the door, I noticed the music, coming from just over -there. Right in the middle of Level 4 is an open air bar called Mai Tai Bar. There is a stage at one end, where a cute urban hippie couple was singing covers of…wish I could tell you, but it was good stuff. I had found my destination! I bellied up to the bar and was greeted by a very nice prematurely grey 30-something named Zach. As it was late for dinner (in my mind) I settled on the Firecracker Shrimp appetizer with a side of Edamame. And of course, a Blue Moon. So good!
Funny story: I was able to see Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. from my seat at the bar, and I thought, I’m glad I picked this place over Bubba’s, even though they do have an open airspace and I would still be able to hear the music. I like the atmosphere of this place better, and I’ll bet the food is better, too. Soon after my food arrived, I noticed a waiter coming out of Bubba’s carrying some plated food and bringing it into Mai Tai. I thought, that’s weird. I guess you can order from Bubba’s and they’ll let you eat it here.Then I looked around. Mai Tai has no kitchen. My bartender, Zach, confirmed that they use the same kitchen! Anyway, good shrimp and two beers later, I found my way out of the shopping center (I had my concerns about that after jet lag and two beers) and back to my room. The edamame came home with me and was my breakfast this morning – bonus!
Oh, and while at the bar, I met and chatted with a very pleasant black Hawaiian man named Mike. When Mike was young, his father had been in the military and they traveled a lot, and when his father retired, he chose Oahu as the place to raise his family.Mike said he was six when they moved here and he’s never left. As I chatted with Mike I remembered 60’s Guy’s story about the submarine and decided to bounce it off of someone who had been living here at the time. When I got to the part about the submarine Mike raised his eyebrows.
“A submarine powered the entire island?”
“That’s what he said.”
“No, that didn’t happen. The power was out for a few days, but that was it.”
After returning to my room I decided to see what the internet had to say. According to Wikipedia, Hurricane Iwa hit the islands on November 23, 1982:
“The hurricane devastated the islands of Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, and Oʻahu with wind gusts exceeding 100 mph (160 km/h) and rough seas exceeding 30 feet (9 m) in height.”
Regarding the aftermath, Wikipedia says:
“The thousands of Hawaiians without power celebrated Thanksgiving by cooking turkeys on outdoor grills or smokers. Army and Air Force planes delivered 20,000 Thanksgiving rations to the thousands left in temporary shelters. The United States military also airlifted generators to Kauai due to several days of power outages.”
So. No magical submarine. Darn. I liked that story better!