Heading towards the USA, we chose to stopover in Honolulu, Hawaii. As we needed a break from being on the road and after all who doesn’t deserve a holiday break once in a while. That being said, our beach holiday turned into a sightseeing and cultural trip in no time.
Aloha is the Hawaiian word for peace and affection, however during the 19th century it also became an “English” greeting to say goodbye and hello.
After a 30 minutes uphill hike with our backpacks, we were greeted by our new Airbnb hosts, super friendly people indeed. Their home, which reminded me of a southern French cottage, would be our home for the next week. We also got a new pet for the next few days!
No time to be wasted we started exploring Honolulu and in general the island of O’ahu. Hawaii consists out of 8 main islands and lots of smaller ones. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia and the only U.S. state not located in the Americas (fun fact).
To my big surprise, Hawaiian shirts are an actual thing, colorful, bold and with lots of floral patterns. It is considered business attire and casual wear at the same time, rather refreshing to see indeed. Maybe a trend to keep up back home?
I adapted quickly.
As always, I write about the things closest to my heart, architecture is definitely one of them. On day one we visited the Hawaiian State Capitol, not a common touristic spot at all but worth mentioning in my opinion. Opened in 1969, it replaced the Iolani Palace (used to be the royal residence) statehouse. It’s a prime example of Hawaiian international architecture, quite modernistic and a timeless piece at that.
Some interesting features:
- The building is surrounded by a reflecting pool, symbolizing the Pacific Ocean.
- The two legislative chambers are cone-shaped, symbolizing volcanoes that formed the Hawaiian Islands.
- The columns around the perimeter of the building have shapes resembling royal palm trees. There are eight columns on every side, representing the eight main islands of Hawaii.
Within the pool surrounding the building there is a persistent algae growth problem, some people say the algae growth has come to represent the pollution of the Pacific Ocean, an ironic twist indeed.
Right in front the State Capitol there is a statue dedicated to Father Damien. Whereas I’m not a very religious person and normally wouldn’t mention this. Father Damien, born in Belgium, is the patron saint of the Diocese of Honolulu.
He won recognition during the late 19th century as a missionary for his aid to people with leprosy, who were required to live under a government-sanctioned medical quarantine on the island of Molokai. After sixteen years’ caring for the needs of those in the colony, Father Damien died of leprosy himself.
In 2005, Damien was honored with the title of “The Greatest Belgian”, in polling conducted by our public broadcasting service.
Moving on to our next stop; the Honolulu Museum of Arts. Although on the outside it might look like your standard (quite boring) museum, it really is a hidden gem. It features a collection that includes Hokusai, van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso and Warhol, as well as traditional Asian and Hawaiian art.
Compared with the sleeker, newer high-rise condos next door, the IBM Building, designed by famed architect Vladimir Ossipoff in 1962, is compact and rectangular.
Over the decades, some have called the building, with its distinct honeycomb grille, a work of beauty, while others see it as an outdated period piece.
Saved from demolition a few years ago, and completely renovated just recently.
Due to a lack of time, we didn’t manage to visit the Liljestrand House, also designed by Ossipoff and the best example of Hawaiian modernism. Maybe another time?
The Hawai’i Convention Center has won the Prime Site Award for twelve consecutive years, it’s the most important convention and exhibition center in Hawaii and hosts all kinds of major events. It’s also featured in popular culture; Hawaii Five-O, Jurassic World and last but not least it was used to portray Sydney Airport during the Lost series.
Anniina will write about completely different aspects of our stay on Oahu, Hawaii. Stay tuned!