Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Trip to Hawaii, Week One

Most of my regular readers probably know that we were lucky enough to spend our holidays in Hawaii with my parents and Keegan's parents.  We rented a house near Pahoa, on the Hilo side of the Big Island. The house was right on the water, and the views were stunning.  Each family had a bedroom, there was a huge living area and kitchen on the third floor, and the roof was a wonderful deck for star-gazing and ocean watching.  We spent hours up there reading in the sun and looking for sea turtles.

Grandma and Nana enjoy Christmas afternoon on the roof of the vacation house.
The view from the roof - see the rainbow in the spray from the waves?
Sophie enjoyed looking in the windows on the roof deck and waving to family members in the kitchen below.

The first week in Hawaii was pretty rainy.  Even the locals we chatted with said that our first week was the end of a particularly rainy period, even for Hilo, which is one of the rainiest places on earth.  We spent a lot of time driving around looking for places to explore again when the weather got better.  Our visit to the Volcanoes National Park was pretty miserable.  We saw steam rising from the caldera, but the weather was miserably windy and wet, so we spent most of the visit skulking around museums and gift shops.  All of the hiking trails in the caldera were closed due to hazardous gas levels.  We rallied later in the week, though, and we found some great places.  Keegan and his family got to go horseback riding in the Waipio Valley, and Mom, Dad, Sophie and I explored Hilo, which is a beautiful city with gorgeous parks and a quaint downtown.  We enjoyed the Japanese-style garden and then found a tiny beach on Coconut Island where Sophie could wade in the water.

Wading at Coconut Island
We ate a picnic lunch at the Richardson Beach Park, where we got a good view of a mongoose and later found a huge sea turtle trapped in a tidal pool just off the shore.

Up close and personal with a green sea turtle
We had a chance to go swimming in a geothermally-heated hot pond, and I tried snorkeling for the first time.

We also spent a lot of time closer to home.  We (or I should say Keegan and his mom and my mom) cooked some great meals.  We were able to get some great fresh fish - mahi mahi, tuna steaks, and a whole huge red snapper that we baked for Christmas dinner.  I enjoyed letting the others work in the kitchen while I entertained Sophie.  We got some great ingredients at the extensive Hilo Farmer's Market.  Mom particularly enjoyed the tea booth, while I was happy to buy enormous fresh avocadoes and delicious homemade pineapple salsa and pico de gallo.  The crafts available were interesting as well.  Suffice it to say that there are a lot of aging hippies and their ilk in Hilo.  We even saw a man and woman doing "street yoga" for donations on the sidewalk in downtown.  The man was on his back with his feet in the air, while the woman balanced on her belly on top of his feet.

We were lucky to find a small playground in a well-maintained, grassy park only about 1.5 miles from the house.  Sophie had a blast playing there with her parents and her grandparents.  She particularly liked to swing from a bar and to make Mommy ride down the other side of the double slide with her.

Our Christmas celebration started early, with Mom and I going for our traditional Christmas Eve Eve run.  From the time I was a youngster just starting to jog up until now, with only a few years off during our time in Korea, Mom and I have gone running on the evening of December 23 so that we can look at Christmas lights together.  We were happy to get a chance to continue the tradition this year.  Although a lot of the streets were pretty dark, we did see palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights as well as a few really pretty houses, so we were satisfied.

Christmas Eve Eve Runners!
On Christmas Eve, we got to visit the Hilo zoo.  I had been particularly excited about seeing Sophie's reaction to all the animals.  The zoo is very pretty, with a huge playground and plenty of places to enjoy a picnic, which we did.  I believe that Sophie enjoyed the big blue parrot that we saw first the most, although she also really seemed to like petting the goats at the petting zoo.

Must keep one hand on Mama at all times!
Christmas itself was quite a blowout.  The adults drew names for a Secret Santa exchange, and everyone did a great job picking out gifts for each other.  Sophie was the recipient of a stocking packed full of goodies as well as a few presents from Mommy and Daddy and two enormous bags of presents from the grandparents.
Investigating the stocking requires a lot of concentration!
Sophie amidst piles of presents with her Papa and Babak
She got present fatigue after the first huge bag in the morning, so we had a second glut of presents in the evening.
Opening presents late into the evening.  It's hard work being the adored only grandchild of four grandparents.
Good grief!  And yes, we did have to haul all of those gifts on the plane back to Korea.  But we are grateful for all of Sophie's new big girl toys.

More to come on our second week of fun.

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