Thursday, October 20, 2011
I did go there -- it wasn't just a dream. Though, it continues to be one, as my desire to bring my family there is stronger than ever.
Sleep escaped me the night before my trip. I had been packing and finishing laundry, and by 2:am I knew that the right thing to do was shower. At 3, I woke Darin so he could drive me to the airport. Getting the least expensive flight meant flying SLC - LAX - SFO - HNL. Taking off from SFO over the ocean, I couldn't believe it was really happening. And I wondered if it was possible to see sharks or whales from the plane.
I arrived in Honolulu early Tuesday afternoon. (Here's something that surprised me: the flight from San Francisco to Honolulu was only about five hours; for some reason I thought it would be much longer than that.) After using the bathroom I realized that I didn't know how to get to Aulani. I phoned the resort to ask if they had a shuttle for guests and was told that no, they don't. This is my main complaint of the trip (glad to get it out of the way right now) -- I mean, isn't part of the appeal of staying at a resort the fact that you don't need to drive anywhere? That everything you could need is found on site? I do hope that Disney changes this and provides a shuttle for their guests to and from the airport (which is only a twenty-minute drive, without traffic).
After finding out that a cab ride to the resort would cost about $90 (what? Even if that is round-trip, $45? Come on.) I made the decision to rent a car. Once I got help with releasing the emergency brake (embarrassing), I headed out. Not used to the GPS, I ended up at Pearl Harbor, where a nice armed boy took my license and wouldn't give it back until I turned the car around to exit the area. Oh my.
I got on the correct road and arrived at Ko'Olina and was greeted by the Smiley Valet Boys, and while I did not utilize the Valet Service, they did watch my car so that I could check in and then self-park.
Checking in was a little funny because I was at Aulani for the Media Event (Grand Opening -- news crews from around the world were everywhere), but I wasn't Media, I was a guest with Media. So after I received my lei, I was taken to the Media Check-In Desk where I used Carina's name to get our room keys (mine had my name on it, but most of the information I received was for Carina, not me). After parking my car, I took my luggage to our room (very nice 1-bedroom suite; wish it would have been Ocean View), and immediately left to explore the resort. The lobby is open-air and breezy and wonderfully Hawaiian in its decor. Outside, the winding sidewalks make the pool/lounging/restaurant(s) area appear larger than it is, which is wonderful.
At the edge of the resort property I found myself entering the lagoon area; I removed my shoes & socks and carried them with me to the ocean's edge. Pulling my pants up to my knees, I found the water to be perfectly warm, and as my feet sank into the sand with each wave's retreat I inhaled deeply to smell the salt in the air and feel the breeze on my face. After a few minutes (or more? Who knows?) I walked back to the dry sand and sat down, looking out at the horizon. I thought of my family. And I did what only came naturally to me in that moment: I prayed. My heart was so filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be in this part of the world, I could not help myself from pouring out my heart to my Creator in appreciation for experiences and people in my life for which I am grateful. I prayed fervently for my family - my husband and each of our children. My eyes could not contain all they were attempting to take in, and as I scanned the sky and the sea, my prayers turned to expressing my desire and hope to one day bring my family to this place.
After, again, WhoKnowsHowLong, I decided it was time to eat. My feet were dry with a thin layer of sand adhered up to my ankles, so I brushed them off, put on my socks and shoes, and walked back into the resort area. I stopped to look at a posted map of the resort when I was tapped on the shoulder; I turned to find . . . Stitch. Makes sense, he lives in Hawai'i. I had high-fived him earlier when I passed him, but now it seemed he wanted to talk to me, which is crazy since the characters (like at the parks) don't talk. He motioned to the map to show me the 'You Are Here' icon, which was very thoughtful. "Thank you, Stitch," I said to the person in the fuzzy suit. His handler said, "Oh, yes, Stitch likes to help the guests. Very helpful." Stitch then began pointing at the map. The Beach. "The beach?" Stitch nodded vigorously. "I was just there. My feet are still sandy. Thank you, Stitch." After giving me a hug, he left.
I found a few on-site restaurants, one in particular a buffet, which charged $43 for dinner. Uh, no thanks. I wasn't in the mood to go to a bar, so I opted to go back to our suite for 'personal dining,' (room service) which, I'm not stupid, I know is expensive, but I thought I'd just order one thing and call it good. On the telephone, I ordered a cheeseburger and fries, making it clear that I would be paying cash and not charging it to the room. My mistake came in adding on two things without checking prices: sparkling water and creme brulee. The total? $54.something. #whuuuuuut Oh well, I was super hungry. Three details worth mentioning about this Personal Dining experience:
1. The delivery service of said Super Expensive Meal was superb. Two resort employees (a woman, and a man who was In Training) knocked on my door, and asked if it would be okay to enter; she set up the meal on the table as if I were at a restaurant, and I think she wanted me to sit so that she could place the napkin on my lap. In fact, I'm confident that if I had asked her to stand there and watch me eat, the response would have been, "Certainly. My pleasure." When I phoned after they left to note that I had not received fries, she was back at my door in an apologetic jiffy. She received one demotion, if only in my mind: she called me Mrs. Ecklund, which is actually funny depending on how long you've known me, but still got on my nerves.
2. That cheeseburger? Best Burger I've Ever Had In My Mouth In My Entire Life Ever. No contest.
3. That creme brulee? Included a hint of pineapple. Delicious, magical pineapple.
Carina and Lucy arrived that night, and after some catching up and talk of travel experiences, I pulled out the bed in the sofa, realizing that it's likely that I'm the first person to ever sleep on it, and got ready for a delightful night's sleep.
**Don't forget to donate non-perishables at your local Fresh Market this week (until 10/22) to help Libby's and Habitat for Humanity as they help families Get Back To The Table.