Above Waikiki

View 1 from Hilton 080721 sm In Hawaii we stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. It’s a historic older resort, Elvis used to go there, so did Michael Jackson, and so did about 15% of the population of the United States at the same time as we were there, I think. Since Hawaii reopened up, everyone wants to go, and they all told us it’s packed. Impossible to hire a car, reservations needed at all restaurants, and a surge waiting to happen. For the most part we did pretty well avoiding particularly crowded areas, although being on the 24th floor, the elevators were a bit of a stress. The ‘four person max’ rule was never enforced (at one point I saw fifteen people get out) and despite the signs that masks had to worn under state law, many people assumed that meant “everyone but me, brah”. On the whole though it was ok, and we loved spending time in our room with the views of the ocean, and the skyline of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. Above, I drew the view inland, from where many moist clouds would roll out, evaporating before reaching the ocean. I like drawing from high up, but these clouds were the main focus, and I used the white gouache paint on top of the regular watercolour. That’s not something I have done much before, but I saw someone doing it online in a painting video and thought, that looks good. Just poking the brush into the tube itself rather than squeezing the paint onto my already dirty watercolour-box-lid palette. You have to let it dry a bit, but it didn’t take too long. Drawing the windows was a bit tedious so I left that until a couple of days later, you get the general idea. The wind off these hills on this balcony was pretty strong (we had two balconies, as it was a corner room) so I didn’t sit on the balcony to draw, just looked through the big windows, while sat on a comfy chair inside. With a big cocktail, probably. I do like a Blue Hawaiian.  View from Hilton Hawaiian Village, Waikiki

We tended to sit out on the other balcony )called a ‘lanai’ here) which face the view of Honolulu, and the ocean. I would sometimes sit out on the lanai and play my ukulele gently, above the sounds of the city below, or listen to the luau that would take place on the big green next to the lagoon. On the second morning, I woke up and sat out there looking at the view, while what appeared to be a big fire in Honolulu harbor brought a dramatic pillar of black smoke into the sky. Before coming out to Hawaii we had rewatched the series ‘Lost’, which was filmed here, so of course we said it must be the smoke monster. I painted the scene , and eventually the smoke dissipated. I never found out what it was; I suppose I prefer the mystery. Speaking of Lost, wherever you go on Oahu there are places where the show filmed scenes, and the marina in the foreground, very close to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, is one that was used several times. It’s called the Ala Wai Harbor. It’s the backdrop of Desmond and Penny’s photo, and where Desmond got shot by Ben before then punching Ben’s lights out and throwing him into the water, also where the some of the Oceanic Six meet up at night to say “we have to go back tot he island” “no we don’t” “yes we do” etc, and also where Charlie and Desmond (him again) drive a car into the water in the flash-sideways. Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it, none of that makes any sense, even if you have. Immediately below, not appearing in this sketch, is the lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. I totally went paddle boarding there, twice. It was the first time I had tried stand-up paddle-boarding, and loved it. I haven’t done it in the ocean yet, next time maybe. I was pretty good at it, I didn’t be falling in or nothing. I should try surfing. When I was a kid I thought I might do lots of surfing when I got older at some point, go to Australia or somewhere far away (not exactly a lot of surfing culture in Burnt Oak), but when I get there the ocean always looks so big and scary, with those waves grabbing you like gigantic wet hands. Still, the paddle-boarding on a shallow lagoon with no current was thrilling enough for me dudes.

Hilton Hawaiian Village shops 081021 sm

Back down on the ground, this was in the ‘village’ of shops and restaurants at the resort. There was a very Japanese feel to the architecture, but that was far from unusual in Honolulu. I stood in the nice shade and drew while people wandered into expensive watch shops or places selling Hawaiian tea towels or something. I really liked the Asian style architecture. It seemed like there was a lot of Japanese and Korean shops and restaurants in Honolulu. We went to one supermarket called Don Quijote which really felt like being in a Japanese store, with lots of colourful Japanese signage and products everywhere. I had to text my friend Tel who lives in Japan to ask what some things were. I had seen a lot of signs for ‘Mochi’ and it looked like it was popular, my friend Tel said it was very very very gooey. So I decided to get some, and I think he undersold how gooey it was. It wasn’t for me. I ended up getting some delicious poke instead, I do like that, it’s more Hawaiian and is made of uncooked sliced tuna, I got a couple of different kinds. One other day, we went to a nearby donut shop called ‘K-Pop Donuts’, which as the name suggests is Korean. That was a really interesting place, covered in sharpie graffiti from people who’d been there, and it sold a few varieties of these small round balls of pastry, which I believe were Korean donuts. I texted my friend Tel in Japan about them (he spent several years living in Korea before Japan) but he didn’t seem very familiar with them, and just commented on the K-Pop bit, which is some sort of Korean pop music. My son knows what that is. Anyway they were ok, pretty expensive for what they were, but not really somewhere I wanted to go to again. The donut things I did like in Waikiki were of course the ‘malasadas’ you get at Leonard’s, a famous place we went to on our first trip there. This time we picked some up hot and fresh from the Leonard’s truck in Hawaii Kai, south of Honolulu, those were delicious. One other famed local food place we went to for dinner was the Rainbow Drive-In. My wife was very excited to come here, and we grabbed some food and sat outside, although I wasn’t really impressed with my chicken sandwich, the gravy that came with the fries was pretty good. I did see a bloke wearing the new Nigeria football kit though so that was cool. I did however really enjoy both lunchtime visits to the lovely Hula Grill, above Duke’s restaurant at the Outrigger hotel. That’s where we stayed the first time we came to Hawaii and that’s where I discovered the magic of Hula Pie, the best dessert item in the world. It’s like a massive wave made out of ice cream with thick chocolate covering and cookie base and nuts and hot chocolate sauce, and takes about three people to eat it. Here’s a sketch I did of one back in 2017 (with a huge Lava Flow drink to go with it): 

Hula Pie at Duke's sm Pretty tasty. I bought one of those Hula Pie plates as a souvenir, as well as a t-shirt which only fits when I don’t eat hula pie. We did have lots of other food in Hawaii this time as well, and I’ll mention the extremely spicy shrimp on a future post, as well as some delicious cocktails, but I’m getting hungry for dinner now so I’ll leave the rest of the Hawaii sketches until next time.

Spring Break in Surf City

Huntington Beach view from hotel
“Yes, yes I think that will do.” Those were my first thoughts on seeing this very nice view from our hotel balcony in Huntington Beach, aka ‘Surf City’, on our trip there during Spring Break. Palm trees, orange rooftops, a deep blue ocean, blue sky with a bit of fog, very sandy sand, big waves and even the view of Highway 1, which (along with Highway 101) runs along the whole Pacific coast of America (as the ‘Pacific Coast Highway’). Yeah, I can’t really go wrong with a view like that. My wife certainly knows how to pick the hotels with the good views. We had expected rain – in northern California, huge whopping storms were beating down while I splashed about in the pool, getting out to read my travel stories book and sip a refreshing mango beer. Yes, mango beer, that’s right, it was from a local brewer, the poolside barstaff told me. I like mango flavoured things. Oh is it raining in Davis? Well never mind. We had glorious sunshine, and we used it wisely, at the beach and at the pool. It’s at times like this when I think, yeah, actually it was a good idea to leave London and live in California.
Huntington Beach Naugles
I did a little bit of sketching. The building above is Naugles, some sort of eatery by the beach. It wasn’t open, though the building next door was renting those surreys and bikes to people. I think I imagined Spring Break to be a bit more Spring Break-like, if you know what I mean, Florida style, but warm as it was, it’s still too cold in California for that sort of thing. For which I was very grateful, I do love places without big crowds. I even went into the ocean myself (which was fairly freezing), my son and his friend out there splashing about in the waves. I can’t surf, but we had one of those boogy-boards and so I floated about on that, on my belly, riding the waves like a dead whale. I’m not sure if dead whales ride the waves, but ‘dead whale’ was the only thing that came to my mind when the tides flopped me back onto the shore. I was a dead whale enjoying myself though. We even built sandcastles and dug tunnels. These sketches though were done while they were back at the hotel pool, which was heated and had water slides. Below is one of the many lifeguard lookouts that stand along the beach like the watchers on the wall. At this point it’s obligatory to mention ‘Baywatch’, but I never watched that show, so I wont. The beach was clean, and well trimmed like a suburban lawn. There are firepits for people to use when barbecuing in the warm summer evenings (like in pretty much every teen LA-based movie or TV show), but there’s a curfew on this beach, nobody is allowed after 10pm. In the distance, Huntington Beach pier, and further behind still are off-shore oil rigs, which maybe adjust the perfection of the view a bit (but offer something a bit different to look at). The waves get pretty big; you can see a surfer making their way in. Huntington Beach is nicknamed Surf City: there is a statue of Duke Kahanamoku, legendary Hawaiian surfer and olympic sportsman, standing outside one of the big surf shops downtown. I popped in, and discovered that surfboards cost a lot more than I though they did. There goes that dream!
Huntington Beach Lifeguard Hut
Speaking of ‘The Duke’, we had a very filling and quite delicious dinner at Duke’s restaurant, on the beach next to the pier. We went to the Duke’s restaurant in Waikiki a couple of years ago, and had our very first Lava Flow drinks. They were delicious. The ones we had here were just as nice, but served in those great tiki glasses. I only had the one – they are pretty filling! So are the enormous Hula Pies. We got one to share between the four of us, and I’m glad – we barely finished it. I bought a Hula Pie plate as a souvenir. I did get to tell a great pun when the waiter was giving us the list of specials. My wife wondered if she should have the fish special, and I said, “why not, just for the halibut!” The waiter didn’t get it though. I thought it was good. One of the fish specials was halibut. Now I have to engineer some other situation where I can use the “just for the halibut” line.
Lava Flow at Duke's
It was a long walk back to the hotel, but since I had eaten so much I was rolled along the seafront like one of those massive snowballs. I was still basking in the glory of my “just for the halibut” line. It was not yet ten o’clock, so the beach was dotted with the glow of numerous firepits. In the parking lots, travelers were sat outside immense RVs enjoying the spring evening’s cool ocean breeze.
Ruby's Choc Mint Shake

On the second evening in Huntington Beach, after an incredibly fresh tasting dinner at a place called Lemonade (which as you might expect made delicious multi-flavoured hand-made lemonades – I had ‘Cucumber Mint’. So refreshing. Everyone was tired, and so the rest of the family went back to the hotel, but I still wanted to walk to the end of that long pier, so I talked my sore feet into making the trek up over the boardwalk into the Pacific Ocean. There are lots of people fishing from that pier. It’s not full of amusements like Santa Monica or Walton-on-the-Naze, but right at the very end in the red-roofed building is one of my favourite places in California, Ruby’s Diner. I have a lot of favourite places in California, I can’t really choose; ok this is in the top 100. It’s a classic American diner at the end of a pier, there’s a great classic American atmosphere, and when I say classic American I mean ‘like in the movies’, probably. It doesn’t feel themed or kitschy though. There is a tiki bar upstairs, which I passed through to use the bathrooms, that was a distinctive change of look. All I wanted was a milkshake. A bit of history here, the very first time I came to the United States was in 2002, to visit my still-new Californian girlfriend whom I had met while living in France, and she took me on a road trip down California and to the Grand Canyon. Oh by the way my then-new Californian girlfriend is now my Californian wife of course! Back then though America was completely new to me, I was a fresh-faced twenty-something, and on this road trip we visited our friend Erin (whom we had met in France; actually it was Erin who introduced us to each other) and she lived in Huntington Beach. She took us to Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier, and I had what up to that point in my life was perhaps the best milkshake I had ever tasted. It was a butterfinger milkshake, it was huge, it made every milkshake I grew up with seem like Nesquik. By the way every milkshake I ever grew up with was Nesquik. I’ll never forget the taste of Nesquik gone BAD. Never leave banana Nesquik in a flask out of the fridge for a couple of days in summer and then try to drink it. I was six. Anyway, all I had on my mind was coming back to Ruby’s and having a milkshake, and I was not disappointed. They had the same menu of shakes, but they were also doing a special Mint Chocolate shake made with Girl Scout Cookies. It was delicious. The long walk down the pier and the long walk back to the hotel were good exercise, and I’m now still dieting to get over all the big foods I had on that trip, but it was worth it. Huntington Beach is cool. And below, for those who really need a gumball, they have them in a gas pump. Classic American.
Ruby's Candy Pump

Ok after Huntington Beach we went to Great Wolf Lodge for one night, which had some fun water slides but overall was a bit of a disappointment after Huntington Beach, and so we ended up going to see Captain Marvel instead (loved it!). We got back to Davis to hear that there had been even more heavy rain (this is the rainiest I’ve ever known Davis, except maybe that first winter here).

duke’s

Duke's Waikiki sm

Staying at the Outrigger in Waikiki, we just had to go to Duke’s. Duke’s is a restaurant on the beach, named after the fabled local hero, Duke Kahanamoku. Duke, or to give him his full name Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, was a native Hawaiian Olympic swimmer from the early 20th century, and is famous for helping popularize surfing. He grew up in Waikiki, and his presence is everywhere. There is a big statue of him right by the beach. He won several Olympic gold medals for swimming, competing in the games in Stockholm, Antwerp and Paris. He also carved out a career as an actor, and even worked as a military policeman during World War II. Duke’s is named for him, originally called “Duke’s Canoe Club & Barefoot Bar” but now one of a chain that includes other restaurants in California, Florida and Hawaii, and is itself a popular local hangout. One evening, with the music from Duke’s wafting up to my room, I decided to wander downstairs and sketch the bar while enjoying one of their famous Hula Pies and a delicious Lava Flow (my new favourite drink). Of course I had not actually seen a Hula Pie before ordering one. Those things are enormous! I could barely finish it. It was delicious, for sure, but if I had rolled down the beach afterwards I would be floating halfway to Bora Bora by now. I did sketch it, with my Lava Flow next to it. The evening atmosphere was nice, with the beachy music complementing the rolling sound of the ocean. Nicest was that when I was done, it was just a short elevator ride to my bed. Glad, because I was stuffed.

Hula Pie at Duke's sm