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The way we were on Waikiki

I feel old.

Going back to a place you lived 23 years ago will do that to you.

Especially if it has changed a lot.

It makes you appreciate the things that haven’t changed that much more. Even if some of them are strange.

At the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the lobby of the apartment building where we lived still has the same furniture. This is weird, considering that it’s been updated to a Hilton Vacations resort and was filled with families, dragging their boogie boards and beach gear with them. This made me happy. It reminded me of when we were almost the only kids living there with a bunch of old people.. and Charo. They didn’t have any of the nice huge flower arrangements in there anymore, either.

Lobby of the former Lagoon Apartments, now the Lagoon Tower, Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Lobby of the former Lagoon Apartments, now the Lagoon Tower, Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Lagoon lawn, where we played baseball with the limited other kids in the apartment building.

Lagoon lawn, where we played baseball with the limited other kids in the apartment building.

Lagoon island, now with less foliage and a waterfall. They stlll don't let you get off the paddleboat.

Lagoon island, now with less foliage and a waterfall. They stlll don’t let you get off the paddleboat.

Exterior, Lagoon Tower.

Exterior, Lagoon Tower.

The ABC stores, still ubiquitous, were around every corner. The Lagoon Pantry wasn’t nearly as dusty and intriguing as it used to be – maybe tourists actually buy things there? Benihana looked dated and had bad Yelp reviews. No more restaurant in the bottom of Tapa Tower.. and the Golden Dragon in the Rainbow Tower was gone too. Tapa Tower karaoke? Nope. The penguins were still there, but I couldn’t find the flamingos. They’ve moved the luau away from the Super Pool, probably to accommodate more people. And they lock up the conference center, so bored kids can’t do cartwheels across the ballrooms. But there are still fireworks every Friday night, and a man who eats fire. Kaisers was breaking, people were surfing, the beach was packed.

I thought about all the great memories we had there and how lucky we were to have truly unique Hawaii experience. And I got to run for the first time from the HHV all the way down past Diamond Head, stopping to take pictures of the lighthouse. Everything seemed smaller and a little less amazing than I remembered it, and the Kalakaua strip was more like Vegas than Hawaii, with all the high end stores.

Fort DeRussy looked the same. A jogging path now circles the lagoon. The pizza parlor, Lappert’s Ice Cream, and Hilton Hawaiian Village barber Leon of Copenhagen – check, check, check. My 11-year-old self still wanted to argue about pineapples. Dole whips continue to be delicious, the perfect treat on a hot day. We went to Local Motion, but there were no bikinis nearly half as awesome as the hot pink one my mother once bought. Ala Moana is now ginormous, four levels, hard as heck to navigate. I recognized the koi pond where we used to take the escalator, and not much else.

Hanauma Bay was still full of gorgeous fish. Sunset, Banzai, Waimea, as beauteous and packed as ever. And my favorite beach – Makap’u – still wild, with crashing waves and hot hot sand. A random tidal wave siren sounded as we walked around, daring me to notice how much things had changed – but how many others remained the same.

Italy: the outtakes

Last night in Venice. Will just rallied Dad and I for a walk down to the Piazza San Marco. He hadn’t gotten to see Harry’s Bar, and wanted to check it out. The sidewalks and the piazza are still packed with people at 9:30 p.m., and it’s pleasantly warm out. Plenty of couples strolling around with arms entwined. I see why people say this city is so romantic. Especially at night, it’s got a sensual ambiance to it. In a week or two summer season will be full swing and you won’t be able to take a step without running into a street vendor or a visitor from anywhere in the world. I’ve been to London, Paris, Copenhagen, New York City. There’s a crazy fusion of culture here in Venice, too. But what I enjoyed most here was getting lost this afternoon on my way back from shopping and watching the real Venezians head home after a day at work. Normal people, living in this crazy historic city unlike any other in the world. It must be strange to live here.

Tomorrow we head home. I’ve been all over the world with my family and this trip brought back a lot of memories of adventures at home and abroad. It’s interesting to go somewhere together as adults, all with our own separate lives, and see what our particular interests have grown to be. My brother, father and I are all rather obsessed with photography. We also all like to get up early and see things before the rest of the world is out and about. This morning and in San Gigmignano I bumped into my dad while out for an early morning run. We both had independently headed for the castle above Lake Bled to check out the daybreak view.

Having Abigail along on this trip made it really fun for all of us, especially Will of course.  And Will is to be commended for driving the Vito van more than 1200 miles through Tuscany, to the winding narrow road that took us to the Cinque Terre, all the way up to Lake Como, and then through the Alps and into Slovenia. As my mom said earlier tonight: “This wasn’t as much a vacation as it was an Italian road trip.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Ciao for now.

Last stop: Lake Bled, Slovenia

I’ve been really excited about visiting Slovenia from the very beginning of this trip, and it’s hard to believe that we’re already here. This our last stop before returning to Venice tomorrow and heading home the following day. Slovenia is known for its beautiful scenery, kind people, affordable prices and smart politics, and though we’ve only been here for an afternoon I’d have to say that this seems like a country that lives up to all of those things. Lake Bled is a beautiful place to take a walk, a run, a bike ride or row across the lake to a beautiful little island with a cathedral on it, and we did all those things this afternoon (except the bike ride). We’re not going to make it to Ljubljana, which sounds like a great city, to which I have to say “300 hairy bears’ (that’s a Slovenian curse, they are very mild mannered). Guess I’ll just have to come back. Anybody up for it?

Thanks for reading and viewing my photos. This will be my last blog post from this trip!

Darn good day for the Dolomites

Up high in the Italian Alps, we’ve landed in beautiful Castelrotto.  The air is clear and it’s intermittent hail, sunshine, or rain. On a Sunday afternoon in the shoulder season, everything in town is very much closed. But I ran around checking out some of the trails and country roads. There are dozens of chalets and spas, perfect for a relaxing vacation in summer or winter. We’re on the very early edge of summer (our hotel only opened back up again last week) so it is next to deserted. In other words – it’s fabulous and we love it. This is by far my favorite spot of the tour so far. Most of the photos were taken out on a 75 minute run around town and beyond.

Rainy day on Lake Como

We woke up to rain in Monterosso al Mare and it followed us all the way north, past Genoa and Milan. to Lake Como. (Italy has the most tunnels of any country I’ve ever visited, even more than Norway!) Took a nail-biting drive along the Bellagio side of the lake to reach this picturesque village with cobbled streets. Must give great credit to my brother Will for his capable chauffeuring abilities, with his wife Abigail in the co-pilot’s seat.

Rain has continued all day. Nevertheless, we’ve escaped the crowds. There are people here but nowhere near the multitudes we congregated with in the Cinque Terre. Walked around the city streets, enjoyed a lakeside afternoon repast, and now relaxing a bit. Mark Twain stayed at our hotel, the Hotel Metropole, while traveling here in 1867.

He wrote in Innocents Abroad: “Our hotel was at the water’s edge, or at least the front garden was at the water’s edge. We used idly spend the time walking among the specks of brushes and smoking in the twilight. Our look wandered far away up to Switzerland and the Alps seemed so immense that, looking at them, we felt an indolent desire not to look so closely. We were satisfied with the contact with water: we used to go down the small steps, we immersed ourselves and swam in the lake, sometimes we used to board a sweet little boat and sailed around among the reflection of the stars. Our evenings used to end up with a lively billiard game on one of the usual old and dirty tables. At midnight we used to eat our second lunch in the spacious bedroom; a smoke on the porch which overlooked the lake, the garden, the mountains; this was the last activity of the day. Then everybody went to sleep between the scented sheets, drowsy but excited by the agitated alternation of different sceneries which used to crowd in our mind..”

We can’t see Switzerland, due to the persistent clouds that aren’t likely to clear before we depart. But it’s lovely to be here nonetheless. Tomorrow we are on to Castelrotto in the Dolomites (Italian Alps).

Cinque Terre

Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore. Corniglia was my favorite, but I have very few pictures from there. The Cats of Cinque Terre could be a fun photo essay. Many of the trails are closed and not accessible. It would have been nice if someone had warned us of this beforehand. Great trains. We won’t come back, but that’s because we have a people problem – and there are an awful lot of people here. I guess that’s what you’d expect from a UNESCO World Heritage site. Go early in the day, and hang out in Vernazza before the hordes get there. As Dad said in the afternoon, quoting Poe: “Descent into the maelstorm.” And he (as usual) was right.

Lucca, Pisa, Monterosso al Mare

The leaning tower of Pisa is a lot more impressive in person. I didn’t even realize I wanted to see it until we turned a corner, and there it was.  Riding bikes around the city wall the Romans built around Lucca was pretty fun, too. We were dodging Italians left and right. Everyone’s off work because today’s the anniversary of Italy’s liberation from the Nazis in 1945. So it’s a great day to say, yay Allies! Monterosso al Mare was swarming with people when we arrived, but has quieted down now that it is getting toward evening. Tomorrow we will hike along the coastline to the other four towns in the Cinque Terre.