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Posts Tagged ‘Marilyn McFarlane’

DSC07659  I’m flip-flopping along Honolulu’s Kealakaua  Avenue, among hordes of tourists in search of sunshine and tropical drinks stirred with pineapple spears. This is Vegas-by-the-Sea, packed with tawdry glitz, upscale glamor and crowds. Not my usual cup of tea, yet here I am, settling now onto the warm sand of Waikiki, mai-tai in hand, happily watching the surf roll in. I’m surrounded by acres of sunburnt flesh, much of it squeezed into bikinis so skimpy they could fit in my pocket.  People-watching can be a full-time hobby here, with all ages and sizes dressed—or barely dressed—in every possible outfit.

Waikiki has lost its long-ago quiet, lazy appeal, but the soft breezes, sunshine, waving palm trees, and rugged beauty of Diamond Head are still here. The long white beaches are perfect,DSC07701 and Hawaii tourism interests plan to keep them that way. To fight erosion, they built walls and used to barge sand  in from California. More recently it’s been carted from nearby shoals to restore the shoreline and widen the beach.

Here’s what draws me, besides the climate and setting:  local papaya and pineapple for breakfast, concerts and hula dances in Queen Kapiolani Park, swimming with colorful fish, the grace of practiced surfboarders, a relaxed and friendly (mostly) culture, shopping and chatting at farmers’ markets—tourist brochures list where to find them, and three are an easy walk from my condo rental.

Banyan tree, Queen K park honolulu I like walking through the 100-acre banyan-shaded park, with a stop for a lunch of grilled mahi-mahi at Barefoot Beach Cafe. Or I continue on to lunch at lovely Hau Tree Lanai, where Robert Louis Stevenson used to hang out. On the return walk I stop to read every historical plaque. Hawaii has a rich history, full of war and beauty and sorrow.

Back on Kealakaua I pass kids texting, guys lugging surfboards, hustlers selling tours, street people scrounging trash bins. Musicians play on the street corners. Nobody bats an eye at the strolling Santa  with his violin, the muscle-bound man covered in tattoos, the young women in minuscule shorts and stiletto heels. Stores advertise everything from high fashion to t-shirts with sslogans that prove bad taste knows no bounds: “Sluts rule.” “I just want to pee onDSC07695 everything.” And the ubiquitous “I’m with Stupid.”   Festivals keep popping up; here comes the Chinese New Year lion, with his clanging entourage, growling for money from local shops.

When it’s time to eat, choices are everywhere. I skip the fast-food chains, of course, and go for local sushi or pho or, for a pricier meal head for the Asian/Pacific fusion food at ever-popular Roy’s. Also good:  Il Lupino’s veal scallopini and arugula salad with almonds and spiced pears, evoking memories of Sicily. DSC07705My favorite lunch place is the classic Moana Surfrider, where I’ll sit on the veranda above the beach and feast on soy-glazed salmon. Lots of Japanese wedding parties are held here, so I get to admire the gorgeous brides in their fluffy white gowns. I find a lively, fun atmosphere at Duke’s, which has memorabilia of the famous athlete. And I always go for a last-evening watch-the-sunset drink at the Royal Hawaiian.

Waikiki can be off-putting, especially if you’re looking for tranquility, and Honolulu offers many other attractions—fabulous botanical gardens, Chinatown, museums, temples, historic sites—but those are for another time. Today I’m just  part of the passing scene, one more sun-loving vacationer in Waikiki.  Aloha.DSC07703

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Carmel-by-the-Sea may be dripping with quaintness but, happily, it’s not a theme park. It’s just a sweet, charming, expensive place on the edge of a wide California beach, 122 miles south of San Francisco. As I stroll by fairy-tale houses, sleek plate-glass contemporaries, and a few concrete monstrosities (to me, anyway), I notice there are no street addresses. My friend Barbara, our ever-gracious hostess and tour guide, tells me that residents use post office boxes for their mail. No need for numbers in this posh little town. Art galleries abound, bed-and-breakfasts offer a warm welcome, and several restaurants have terrific food.

Le St. Tropez is our lunch spot of choice this time. Chef Jean Humbert combines modern and classic French cookery in his “cuisine of the sun.” Sample appetizers: escargots in garlic butter, smoked salmon en brioche, and arugula with chevre and caramelized onions. A taste of French onion soup, crusty and almost spilling over the edges of its white bowl, takes me immediately to a cafe in Provence. The seared scallops are melt-in-the-mouth tender and served with white wine garlic sauce, diced tomatoes, and egg noodles. French wines, French scenes on the walls, blue and yellow Provence-style tablecloths–we’re almost in France, without the airfare.

Dinner at the Flying Fish Grill is different. This cozy restaurant with wooden booths has a mirrored wall that makes it seem bigger that it is. A friendly staff serves Tina and Kenny Fukumoto’s East-West fusion dishes, combining choices from the best of both worlds–sake or California wines; sushi or Monterey abalone; rice or fries. Crisp, light wonton chips are excellent with a light salsa. Sea bass has an almond crust and comes with whipped potatoes, Chinese cabbage and rock shrimp, while halibut is served with black beans, ginger and scallions steamed in paper pouches. I’m loving the shrimp-curry soup but curious about the famous claypot. That’s seafood, beef or vegetables, cooked at your table and combined with rice noodles, broth, lemon shoyu, and sesame sauce. It’s the signature dish of the Flying Fish Grill. The dessert menu has more East-West options, from creme brulee to green tea sundae. It’s one more treat to return for, when I come back to Carmel to walk the beach, shop, admire the cypress trees and seascape,, and eat very well indeed.

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