Strolling Down Memory Lane in Honolulu

When I moved to DC the first time I was in my early 20s, had a degree in History and no real idea what I wanted to do with my life. I eventually decided that a graduate degree in Historic Preservation was what I wanted. Historic Preservation is an academic field that rarely stands alone–at least that was the case in 1994–some programs are in planning departments, some in architecture, some in history, econmics, geography, and American Studies. For reasons which are no longer clear to me, I decided I wanted an HP program within an American Studies department. Even more confusing to me now is why I chose to apply to the programs I did. I can, however, honestly say that I applied to the University of Hawai’i at Manoa based on what the HP program offered. I was not one of those people who fantasized about living in Hawai’i or other sunny clime so it wasn’t the allure of the islands that prompted me to move, sight unseen, to the remotest populated islands in the world.

Being someone who has a healthy appreciation for a cloudy day, cool weather, and seasons, it isn’t surprising that I found myself frustrated from time to time with life in Hawai’i. Being so far from all my friends and family and missing my East Coast lifestyle I never considered staying longer than the two years it took to get my degree. I also realized halfway through my American Studies degree that I really should have been getting a degree in planning (which I did about six years later at Cornell).

Depsite my many frustrations with living in Hawai’i (and all the twentysomething angst I experienced while I lived there) there is something wonderful about it that has stuck with me over the past 15 years. The thing I remember most fondly are the trade winds that are almost always blowing across the islands. They make for the most amazing evening breezes that give me such a groove I can’t really explain it.

Much of the built environment in Honolulu is actually quite ugly, lots of cinder block buildings and a hodge podge of ramshackle old cottages and not very attractive high rises all mixed together. Yet I look at that urban landscape now and I find myself really loving it. I think it has to do with the layers of history that haven’t been wiped away like they have in most other U.S. cities.

The food is interesting and diverse, and although it can feel isolated and provincial (sometimes very provincial) there really can be a wonderful sense of Aloha.  I hoped on this trip that John would see Honolulu through my slightly rose-colored glasses. In the past he has liked other, more picture-postcard parts of Hawai’i, but I wanted him to like Honolulu and the rest of O’ahu. Thankfully he did.

Day Two
We started the day early by heading off to Leonard’s to get the best damn malasadas in the world. A malasada is a Portuguese raised sugar donut with no hole and they are so, so, so delicious. They are slightly eggier and chewier than a typical raised sugar donut. They are pretty much made to order and most people like them when they are still warm, but I must say I like them on the cool side. John disagrees with me on this but that was okay because it meant that I got to finish them off later in the day without having to share. It also meant that we went back on Day Three for more.

I wish I had one (or six) of these right now.

From Leonard’s we drove through the University then deeper into the Manoa Valley to see Lyon Arboretum. I had a roommate when I lived in Honolulu who was always going there but I never went once in two years, my only interest then was the beach. But since John is a gardener I figured we should give it a go. We were really lucky because the Monoa Valley gets lots of rain (hence the lush plants) but it was perfectly sunny while were there.

After the arboretum we went downtown to have lunch with two of my former colleagues. Downtown Honolulu is not Waikiki, they are actually a mile or two apart. The former is workaday Honolulu and the latter is where a whole lot of tourists spend all of their time. Honolulu has the oldest Chinatown in the U.S. and has lots of great hole-in-the-wall Asian restaurants.

That is me with the bad posture.

Vietnamese Pho. Or what’s left of it.

Live abalone.

And finally, after our trip downtown we stopped off at Ala Moana Beach Park which is kind of halfway between downtown and Waikiki–and across the street from a huge shopping mall.

Would you believe there is a Neiman Marcus about 200 yards from this?

While all the tourists hang out on the crowded beaches of Waikiki there is all of this beach at Ala Moana.
Granted, Ala Moana has a reef that keeps the beach from getting any waves and keeps the water shallow,
but it is still a great place to plop on the sand and splash around in the water.
The buildings in the midground are in Waikiki with Diamond Head in the background.

6 thoughts on “Strolling Down Memory Lane in Honolulu

  1. Karen K. January 24, 2012 / 11:35 pm

    Wow, great photos! Looks like you had an amazing vacation. I went to Waikiki for five days in October of 2010 and it was great — but too short! I think my favorite thing was driving around the island to the North Shore. I can't remember the name, but we took a shortcut through a tunnel that went under a mountain and we came up by a bay with a military base and the view was amazing. Right near it was a botanical garden and we stopped there too. I don't swim or sunbathe much but I had a great time just looking at the scenery. I'd go back in a heartbeat. Great food too.


  2. Ruthiella January 25, 2012 / 3:19 pm

    Never been to Hawaii, but your photos are fantastic. I especially like Day 2 because it gives me a sense of the everyday life. And those malasadas look really, really, really delicious.


  3. ArchitectDesign™ January 25, 2012 / 3:59 pm

    We could use some of that weather here today. I agree on the malasadas, I prefer them cool because they taste greasey to me when they're warm.


  4. Thomas at My Porch January 27, 2012 / 6:24 pm

    Karen: Rather than satisfy my appetite for Hawai'i our trip made me hungry for more.

    Ruthiella: We didn't take the camera out much for the “everyday” bits. I wish that we had, but at the time I was more interested in blending in.

    Stefan: Have you had them in Hawai'i or somewhere else? I think you can get them in Provincetown.


  5. agoodstoppingpoint January 28, 2012 / 5:01 pm

    Those malasadas look wonderful. I love the photo of the abalones (one seems to be occupying only 2/3 of its shell) and of the girl at the restaurant counter.

    – Christy


  6. Thomas at My Porch February 2, 2012 / 2:28 pm

    I think that that abolone may have been in the middle of doing a crunch.


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