January 23, 2015

Pearl Harbor.

So much has already been said about Pearl Harbor.  So many movies have been made and books written, that it almost feels superfluous to add my small blog post to this corner of the universe.  Or maybe that is all the more reason to scribble out a few thoughts?

Pearl Harbor and its story are well known, but that doesn't make visiting the site any less meaningful or powerful.  It is both those things.  Juxtaposed with a tropical background, it is difficult to imagine the site in chaos and to remember that the waters are a grave site for far too many. 

I held that heavy truth in my heart as I walked around the museums, and especially when I stepped onto the USS Arizona Memorial.

I felt grateful to get back on the boat after spending time on the memorial, and leave safely for the rest of my vacation, a blessing I do not take for granted knowing the waters below are the final resting place of the brave who allowed me such a privilege.

I want to take a second to let you know a few important details if you are visiting....

*No bags are allowed in at all (not even purses)
*Go early so you can get a ticket to visit the USS Arizona Memorial

After getting our tickets for the boat to the memorial, we had plenty of time to go through the museums on an audio tour.  They are definitely worth the time, and some great first hand accounts are shared.  I always enjoy stories read by people who were there; you can hear so much more behind their voices.


There are also memorials, plaques, and plenty of memorabilia and tributes around the grounds outside.

I was honored to be visiting with my father, who served in the United States Navy.  This was his second visit, and he was glad to share his insights with us.  I was proud to be with him.

He told me that his Uncle Pat served on the USS Arizona, although not at the time of Pearl Harbor.  He sent me this photo of Pat and my Dad's Grandma with the text, "they look pretty proud, don't they?"

They really do.  It makes me proud!  And proud of all who served.


We boarded a shuttle boat when our time arrived (it is run by the Navy), and headed out the USS Arizona Memorial.  The ship still releases oil daily, and you can see the oil spots on the top of the water.


The USS Arizona Memorial itself is not terribly large, but is beautifully designed, and easily accommodated everyone on our shuttle boat.  The memorial straddles the boat.  I found a great photo on Wikipedia to give you an idea of how it looks...

Here are some photos from my vantage point on the memorial...

The list of the honored dead is overwhelming, to say the very least.  Some visitors left beautiful Hawaiian leis for the fallen.  It felt peaceful to stand in front of them and reflect.


I've never regretted a visit to a memorial, be it Dachau, Normandy, or any other.  They aren't always the easy, fun moments of travel, but they really enrich your experience and remind you of the complicated history we humans share.

January 20, 2015

Ringing in 2015 in Las Vegas.

I've celebrated New Years Eve in Vegas about four times now, and it never fails to be the BEST party around.  While I know (and love) staying on the strip, downtown Fremont street (in my opinion) hosts the best New Years Eve party.  It is WAY less crazy than the strip, without sacrificing the fun and allure of Vegas.  The entire street is closed off and there are usually three stages with live bands playing until 3 am.  Mostly cover bands from the classic rock genre, so basically all the fun songs you love to sing as loud as you can!  Tickets were $30 prepaid, and $40 on NYE this year.

There are plenty of private clubs in Vegas to celebrate the new year, but I love how laid black (read: not fussy!) and just plain fun downtown is.  The crowd is always ridiculously happy, us included...

My family all went together this year (as we do many years), so we all had a nice dinner to start the night off right.  Of course we gambled a little, and walked in and out of the party on the street as the night went on.

If you're not familiar with Fremont street, the entire stretch of the street is covered by a canopy video screen that plays light shows and videos.  It definitely adds to the fun of the New Years experience!

I drove up the night before NYE, but Charles had to work and flew in that night.  Unfortunately weather caused his flight to be delayed, but he made it with a few hours to spare in time to join the celebration!

I was so happy to see him.

You might have noticed that my family has a silly hat tradition.  It is a lot of fun!


Unsurprisingly, one of us was interviewed for the news... (my mom)...

We rung in 2015 in style, if I do say so myself.


January 17, 2015

Temecula, Falkner Winery.

On Christmas Eve (before the dinner that resulted in the fateful food poisoning), I actually had an amazing day.  We went to one of my favorite wineries in the area (where I am a member of the wine club), and brought cheese, crackers, grapes, and more to enjoy on a lovely California Christmas Eve day with my family.  Falkner Winery is dog friendly and has lots of outdoor space perfect for picnicking and enjoying views of the vineyard!  I almost felt like I was in Europe for the afternoon.  We may have to make this a new Christmas Eve tradition!