Sanna's Bag

“I never seem to have what I need when I need it. I’m going to make a belt-bag that’s bigger on the inside than on the outside, and just carry everything with me.”

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Iolani Palace

LB and DM spent the night with us, so LB and I could take more time to talk. She is SUCH a darling girl! Ha - do I sound like an old auntie or what? She's in her fourties, and I keep thinking of her as a winsome teenager.

So we all got up and headed out to their favorite local spot for breakfast. Oh YUM! We were the only tourists in sight, and spam featured heavily on the menu. I didn't have any, but when I saw a platter of scrambled eggs and spam pass by, and caught the mouth-watering aroma, I almost changed my order. But my onion and mushroom omlet arrived shortly, and I was a happy girl!

Then we headed off for the only royal residence in the United States - the Iolani Palace. On the first Sunday of the month, local residents get in for free. DH and I had to pay $20 each. Ouch! But it was worth it. DM found free parking behind the courthouse, so we got to walk past the statue of King Kamehemeha the first - who, incidently, was Tahitian in descent, so the islands were taken over by a foriegn power even before the haoles - white guys - got here. But King Kamehameha was a genius of a tactician and ruler, and every year on his holiday, this statue is laden and clothes in leis. I like that he is shown as a big-boned, mature guy and not some slim muscular youth.

The palace is built in the Florentine revival style. The front pourch columns are cast iron. It's airy and gracious and beautiful!!

We went to the royal barracks to purchase our tickets for the tour.
DH found an object of interest right away.

Pictures inside are not allowed. But at least I could snap a shot of the plasterwork medallions on the back porch ceiling.

After the plantation owners usurped the monarchy and formed their own government, the Palace was turned into offices. Finally, a new capitol building was built and for the last 40 years, the Friends of the Palace have been working to restore and refurnish the magnificent residence. Oh, I wish I could have taken pictures! From the koa wood central staircase to the fluted zinc toilet bowls in the bathrooms, from the art noveau etched windows in the entrance, to the ornately decorated hinges on every door, the place was a work of art! There was a large central hall on each level, then smaller, more intimate rooms along the sides. and most fascinating to me, a series of small, windowless rooms between the smaller rooms along the sides of the building, and the big central hall. They turned out to be cloak rooms and butler's pantries and sundry other spaces to facilitate the servant's work. And during the era when the palace was used as offices, these windowless, airless rooms were no doubt relegated to secretaries, while the officials had the light and airy bedrooms, and the music room for their important official work. I imagine the ball room and the dining room were probably used for clerks behind counters dealing with the public come to pay taxes or get licnses or whatever. What a painful use of such beautiful space.

The Friends of the Palace are restoring the structure and furnishings of the house as finances allow. Carpets and curtains are replicated to match pictures taken during the monarchy. Furniture and art is being returned. Back in the day, heads of state exchanged portraits and elegant knick-knacks. The remnants of the royal china service have been retrieved. The Bohemian crystal has survived to a surprising extent. And, what truely astounded me, the crowns and scepter were not broken up for jewelry by the Doles and their kindred. Down in the basement are the royal regalia and pieces of jewelry. Princess Liliokulani, the last reigning monarch, in her youth represented Hawaiian Royalty at Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebration. Among other fascinating bits of ornament, she wore a clip of diamonds nestled in her luxuriant black locks. This clip was shaped like a butterfly, with wings that fluttered when she moved. She knocked those effete brits back on their haunches!

The palace was wired for electricity because King Kalakaua, who built it, was the first reigning monarch in the world to make a round the world tour, and while in Paris, he had a nice long chat with this visiting American inventor named Thomas Eddison. He also made sure that the palace had flush toilets and hot and cold running water. He even hooked up a telephone from his office on the second story, to the office of his chamberlin in the basement. He was a true nineteeth century man!

He had a formal coronation ceremony, and rather than hold it inside where only a limited number of people could witness it, he built a pavillion out on the grounds where everyone who wanted to watch could assemble.

I could have spent days and days in the palace. Queen Liliokolani was imprisioned in the palace for 8 months by the businessmen who usurped the monarchy. During that time, she composed music, and worked on a crazy quilt using bits of satins and velvets, every seam embroidered with a mind-boggling variety of stitches. I could have sat with that quilt and a notebook for a week, sketching various ways to embellish a seam. What a piece of art!

After giving up their whole weekend and driving us allllll over, DM and LB finally dropped us off and got back to all the things that working people have to do on their weekends, and we went back to the room to digest what we had seen.

And later that evening, across the street, a hula show set up on the fountain plaza in front of the Embassy Suites Hotel. It was a recital by a local hula school. Some of the kids were about 5 years old. They were precious! The older girls and boys got everyone positioned just so, with more experienced kids next to rank beginners, and the show was too adorable for words.

Here are the boy dancers. In the middle of the stage, you might notice one performer who is quite a bit smaller than the others. He knew about half the steps, he made up a bunch more, and he was just a scamp the whole time. I wish I had been close enough to see his face. I bet he grinned and grinned. Heaven knows the audience did!

This visit to Hawaii has had a different flavor and focus from previous trips. We are learning more, and spending less. No scuba tours, no luaus with polished professional entertainers, less touristy, resorty stuff, and more local history and appreciation. There's something to be said for both approaches.


  • At 12:15 PM , Blogger Lucia said...

    I too wish you could have taken pix. I guess I'll just have to plan a visit.

    Those Hawaiian rulers seem to have been forward-thinking types. Did you know that as a proof of concept Edison's first project was to provide electrical power to a local Indian reservation? It's a wonderful story.

  • At 1:00 PM , Blogger Rose Lefebvre said...

    I am surprised that they quit allowing photography inside altogether. It used to just be no FLASH photography. You could take pictures with the flash off.
    I know in the Louvre you cannot use flash, but can do without it. I found that in areas with low light I put the setting on night setting and took pics without flash.

  • At 4:32 PM , Blogger Heide said...

    It would have been wonderful to have pictures of the quilt, but of all the items in the palace that was probably the most fragile when exposed to camera flashes.

    It's been many a year since eating SPAM... although a similar product made it into my MREs a few times.

    The non-touristy approach to traveling sounds much more relaxed and harmonious with what a vacation is supposed to be like. You picked a great time to go. Today the high temperature was 30. Farenheit. As in below freezing. As in wear a padded bra or risk poking someone's eye out kind of cold.

  • At 10:41 PM , Blogger Amy Lane said...

    And whether it's touristy or historical, you always put such a great spin on it! (Can I be captured by businessmen so that I might languish away and craft? No? Damn.)

  • At 4:55 AM , Blogger Donna Lee said...

    Heide's right. You picked a good time to go-our first bit of cold this year.

    I loved biographies when I was a kid and Liliokalani was one of the ones I read over and over. I loved her name!

    I think you're taking the best kind of vacation of all-restful.


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