Monday, 30 November 2015

DOAG 2015 - My Thoughts


My last posting was what I was jealous of at DOAG, but what I really want to talk about is my experience at their conference.

I had two presentations, PaaS4SaaS and a new presentation 'What Does Digital Distruption Mean to the Oracle Ecosystem'.

The PaaS4SaaS presentation I have been doing for a while but it needed updating post Oracle Open World, lots of things to add. I have also updated my whitepaper on this.

I first wrote about Digital Disruption and what it means for us in Oracle as a blog post and then as an article for O Tech Magazine and then after I attended the Connected Enterprise event I decided to put this into a presentation and this was its first outing.

I didn't stay for the whole event at DOAG leaving at lunchtime on the second day as I needed to be back in London for a customer, but I had a great time and really enjoyed it. 

Before the event started there was a user group leader meeting and then an ACE dinner on the first evening. 

Thank you to DOAG for the invite and the ACE Program OTN for making it happen.




DOAG 2015 - My Frustration


My mind is split on the DOAG, I love the conference, I love so much about the event itself but I am so jealous of their facilities.

People attend the DOAG and then they say to me 'why doesn't UKOUG do this? do that? DOAG does'

The UK has lots of conference venues, but very, very few that match the requirements of UKOUG. We need a large plenary auditorium, many, many breakout rooms, space for vendor exhibition and space for all the off piste things going on. There are probably < a dozen buildings in the UK that meet that criteria but the bigger venues refuse or make it cost prohibitive to take a subset of their facilities which leaves us with even fewer to use.


This lack of venues also makes those that are available expensive, and although we drive a hard bargain they are not subsidised the way many in other parts of the work are, which again makes me very jealous.

The DOAG hold their event at the Nuernburg Convention Centre which is a little way out of the city, but very accessible and the train fare is free for convention delegates, and they even have a DOAG shuttle from the train station to the front door. The hotels are all in the centre of town with so much going on.

The building itself it a spiral around a main atrium and the exhibitors are spread out around the walls, so delegates are walking past them all the time.

But probably the thing that I am most jealous of is the catering, not only can people sit down (a big compromise we have to make), but they sit in restaurants that open over a period of time, so DOAG don't actually take lunch breaks, delegates chose when to eat.

Having said everything that makes me jealous about the DOAG, it is a great conference experience.

UKOUG is an amazing conference despite all the venue constraints, the content is amazing and the volunteers are so passionate. Hope to see you there.










Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Connected Enterprise 2015


I have known Ray Wang since Oracle started working on Fusion (now Cloud Applications), as an analyst,  Ray has always been interested not only in what software does for the enterprise but also what it means to the end user.

When Ray started Constellation Research I was very honoured to be asked to be a member of their board of advisors. And then a judge for their Supernova Awards which I have now been for every year.

The Constellation Connected Enterprise event is now in its fifth year and each year Ray gives me an invite but it is normally about 6 weeks after Oracle Open World and I can’t justify coming a second time to San Francisco so have always had to turn it down in the past, but this year OOW was late so there were only 6 days between the two. Thanks to an amazing pair of bosses at CertusTim Warner and Mark Sweeny, I was encouraged to stay on and attend, and in fact then had a short holiday in Hawaii in-between the two events.

Digital Disruption affects all vendors, Oracle deal with it well but I relished the opportunity of a holistic view.

As ever more than one post, the event and more importantly the content, or rather what I learnt.


I can’t thank Ray enough for the invitation and I got to meet his family including his parents who were so interesting to talk to. I defiantly want to attend again, perhaps next year I could speak about what all this digital disruption and cloud adoption means to the end user, the culture changes and the challenges.

Finally thanks to all the Constellation team, it was great to meet the people behind the names, your event and hospitality were amazing.




Connected Enterprise 2015 - What did I learn?



This was a very different conference for me, I was a delegate there to learn, and I certainly did.

Every session was thought provoking and full of rich content. I particularly liked the panel sessions where a group of thought leaders shared their ideas on topics, and I loved some of the questions. I think Holger Mueller has set the standard for the future with his question to a panel of Cloud Vendors ‘What would you steal from your competitors’ products?’

I think the most personal session was from Ben Casanocha On the Friday talking about the employer / employee relationship. He talked about it being an Alliance, a Tour of Duty. Where both sides invest in each other and the employee sees the ‘tour’ as a career accelerator, not a parking lot. A tour should be between 3-5 years, and an employee could have several tours in the same organisation doing different things, and at the end of a tour if it was right for the employee to go elsewhere, or the employer doesn’t have the right tour for them, that is not failure. An employer should have an alumni of employees, a network to talk to and as a source of future employment.

The event kicked off with Ray Wang talking about where technology is today. When the Fortune 500 started the average age of those in it was 50 years, today it is 15 and predicted to be just 12 by 2020. There is a need to connect technology with user experience and story tellers to humanise digital.

The general messages were about the fact we can’t stop digitisation, but not at all costs. The ECJ Safeharbor ruling about it being invalid this a hurdle we have to overcome. Organisations need to stop being caught out, and rulings like The Right to be Forgotten is counter intuitive to technology.

Holger talked about 20% of staff in the US will retire in the next 10 years, in 20 years there will only be 2 workers to each retiree. This is a big change and the impact is something we as business need to understand.

The first keynote was from Ram Charan, it was based on his book The Attacker's Advantage which we were all given a signed copy off. He talked about us being the distruptees, and we need to be standing up and telling our organisations what is needed. I tweeted in jest about this to my boss, but actually my own CEO, Mark Sweeny wrote about the people adopting Cloud with us having made that bold, brave stand in their organisation in his recent cloud blog, the Elephant in the Room.

Ram talked about how we as the value makers need to reach the value multipliers. He talked about this being a skill that can be taught, he urged against using jargon and just using plain common sense when talking to the CEO, getting the CFO on side by properly articulating both the cost and the benefits, especially in a spend to save scenario. He talked about big organisations with multiple layers being the hardest to penetrate but don’t be afraid to try.

Dr Natalie Petouhoff is a CX analyst and although that isn't normally my area we had a great discussion on the customer experience of being a cloud customer.

Day two started with Don Tapscott looking back at the Digital Economy over 20 years, another author who shared their work with us. I love looking back at how far we have come, those who were brave to go first and those who are still holding back. It also made me think of this video Oracle released at OOW on where we have come from.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPiOCK0JOlU

Really interesting for me was the panel session ,Visionaries: The Robots Are Here!, The Future of HR Tech, The panelists were from Ceridian, SuccessFactors and Oracle (Chris Leone). One of the things that attracted me to the event was to hear how all the different cloud vendors were approaching digital disruption. 

There was a sports panel and what digital means to them, Daniel Brusilovsky, the Digital Initiatives Lead of the Golden Gate Warriors talked about how it isn't always the answer. He would love totally digital tickets, but fans want physical ones, souvenirs of each game.

There was so much more discussed and these were just my highlights. I came away with so many new ideas, a wider perspective and even more sure that I am doing the right things, with the right company at the right time.


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Connected Enterprise 2015 - The Event



Ray Wang
Connected Enterprise is a C level extravaganza, set in the beautiful Ritz Carlton Hotel, Half Moon Bay. I didn’t stay there, but as a guest of a friend who lives nearby but I arrived for breakfast each morning and leaving as the die hards retired to the fire pits outside for their very late nightcaps each night.


I loved the format of the event, they limited the event to 250, which means they can have critical mass and yet retain the possibility for everyone to speak to each other. This also meant they could have a single stream in a ballroom setting, this to me is really important as it means people stay in the room all day, there are no delays between sessions and you attend sessions that you might not have selected for yourself and that means you broaden your horizons.

The format of the sessions were some fireside chats, panel sessions on various topics and some short presentations. The speakers were vendors who had sponsored and gave thought leadership not sales pitches, Supernova Award finalists, Constellation Analysts and other industry thought leaders.

The event started with a networking reception on the Tuesday evening, Sessions all day Wednesday with an early finish followed by a Half Moon Bay Brewery tour and meal in the La Costanera Peruvian Restaurant. Wednesday like each morning started with the choice of Yoga, Walk or Run in the amazing hotel grounds, followed by a networking breakfast. There were more sessions of Wednesday, followed by a Gala Dinner and the Supernova Awards.

The Supernova Award winners included Dan Wallis of Kaiser Permanente, whose Next Generation Customer Experience award was enabled by their Oracle Service Cloud implementation

At the Gala dinner Amy Cuddy was the motivational speaker, Amy is a social psychologist who talks about the importance of body posture in being successful and here talk was so inspiring, check out her TED video.

Friday there were sessions till lunchtime, a fantastic boxed lunch from the hotel with the choice of golf or spa in the afternoon. I chose the spa, and had reflexology followed by manicure & pedicure.


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Thursday, 5 November 2015

OOW 2015 Roundup



As ever I am slow to get the blog posts out, but in my defence you are more likely to read these with all the others already out. My excuse this time is pretty cool, the moment OOW finished I took a short break with Maria Colgan, an equally busy few days, but defiantly sun, sea and sangria margaritas!




Every year I tell you how busy I am going to be and if you have never done OOW you will find that really difficult to imagine. OOW has 50,000 people attend over 6 days, anyone who is anyone is in town and the agenda schedule is just a fraction of what is going on.

So I like to break down my posts into simple chunks, one for each hat I wear, either just read through them all or link from here, if I have set it up correctly you.

OOW15 - ACE Program and OTN



OTN is the home of the ACE Program and my sponsor for OOW. I can’t thank them enough for the 10 days we spend in San Francisco, what I achieve which each of my hats on is priceless and all down to their generosity.

The ACE Director briefings are the Thursday and Friday before the main Oracle Open World and I never tire or the sight of the Oracle Campus, and as it was almost Fall (or Autumn) it was even more beautiful.

The briefings are to tell the ACE Directors the messages for Oracle Open World and beyond at a more technical level. We are all under Non Disclosure Agreements so they can be very specific. The highlight for me is always when Thomas Kurian comes to speak. I was worried that when he was promoted to the board this year we would loose this opportunity, but he is the biggest sponsor of the ACE program and he didn't let us down.

Being an ACE Director is a transiant position, if you don't kept up the level of commitment you will be asked to step down, and this is only right, it allows for new people to be included and I loved seeing new blood in our ranks this year.

Oracle are also generous with gifts and many of my fellow ACEs are dressed exclusively by 'Oracle Apparel' but this they went beyond that and bought us all really appropriate gifts for self confessed nerds (although I had to get Mara's husband to help me with mine)  sphere app enabled, robotic balls.

Once the briefings are over we move into San Francisco and then there is an OTN area at the conference. This year I made a new 2 minute top tip video about PaaS4SaaS although my original one from July was still in the top 10 during OOW.

OTN also had a cloud hour at OOW and I spoke about the PaaS4SaaS proof of concept Certus had done with eProseed then Lonneke talked about how they had used those skills to extend into IoT.

Big thank you to everyone in OTN especially Vikki and Jennifer for all you do for us.

Back to main OOW2015 posting


OOW15 - UX Advocate


The ACE Director briefings are the Thursday and Friday before OOW, so the Oracle Applications UX day was the Wednesday and one of my favourite days, this is my area, where Oracle are baking the best user experience into their applications.

They talked about the UX enhancements in R10 of the SaaS and best way to understand this is in these 3 blogs HCM, Sales, ERP

In the run up to OOW Oracle had published a ForbesVoice article on PaaS4saaS with quotes from me, this is a quickly growing area and the need to keep on top of it is one of my top priorities and the new UX page on emerging technologies is a good place to do so. This is why the recent UKOUG partner award for emerging technology meant so much.


There was quite a bit during the day on the Rapid Development Toolkit and how this is developing and being upgraded for release 10 and Myself and eProseed used enhances in the Apps release 10 to better.

At the end of the day they did a pitch back session to check the ACE UX advocates had done their homework and I was really pleased they let those who were none english speakers do theirs twice if they wanted. once in their own language, the UX team didn't understand the content but they could see how confident and engaging these speakers were. 

The UX team had a Cloud Exchange at OOW and asked some of us the take turns to man the PaaS4SaaS Success Stories demo station which included showing off what we had done to some visiting analysts.


The UX team also had their scavenger hunt in a new guise at OOW which I liked so much at Kscope. Several UOUG volunteers took part so we can revise it for UKOUG and thank the UX team for their continued support of UKOUG and look forward to seeing them in December at our conferences.

Back to main OOW2015 posting



OOW15 - My Presentation Forming Your Future


I had one main session this year, although I did facilitate the EOUC More than 12 more on 12c session, and present a mini session on PaaS4SaaS in the OTN Cloud stage.

The session was called Forming Your Future Upgrade/Migration to Oracle Fusion
Applications/Oracle Applications Cloud - UGF3179 and is available for downloading.

As I said before OOW, this was not originally my session, but when Kashif Manzoor went to work for Oracle I got the opportunity to present my content against his title. I had the extract amended a little and reached out to see if there was a brave organisation who wanted to be my case study, but although I got a number of questions in advance no one actually stepped forward for what would have been free consultancy.


The session was at 8 am on the Sunday Morning, so I was literally kicking off Oracle Open World 2015. It worried me a little that the numbers would be low but i had 170 registrations before OOW. I know not everyone turns up but I think I had about 100 at the end. 



Now it may be because I offered english chocolate and a cute english accent or because so many people had jet lag and were up anyway, but for whatever reason they came and seemed to enjoy it. 


Just a few weeks before OOW I went to see an organisation who have made the commitment to go Cloud, from EBS but their existing support team wanted to understand more about what that meant, changes, approach and the project itself. My put together a number of slides rather as an aide memoire than a presentation and then talked with them about what we know this means. So I used a subset of those slides for my session.

When Oracle are selling cloud they talk about the solution and never about the technology, but if you are coming from an existing Oracle on-premise application, EBS, Peoplesoft, JDE etc you probably do want to know what is going on and I love to explain, how the new technologies are backed in and where they give you so much more functionality, and of course I get to talk about the user experience which is my specific expertise. 

This was also my first OOW since I moved to Certus and have actually been working with customers everyday, not just from a strategic point of view but the reality and I loved it.

And I love the comment left by a delegate 'A great way to kick off my 1st Oracle World experience'

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OOW15 - Representing Certus Solutions



Certus Team
Certus were really busy at Oracle Open World, as well as myself there was our CEO Mark Sweeny, our COO Tim Warner and our EVP of Cloud Applications Richard Atkins. We also hosted Richard Summerfield the Group HR Director at JT Global, a Certus customer who spoke at OOW. That is a big commitment from a small company but one we think important for both us and our customer base.

I spent my first day out at Oracle HQ meeting with development and discussing approaches for new use cases within Cloud Applications. We work closely with development, beta testing releases, training on their behalf and working with customers who want to make the journey to the cloud. We share our challenges and achievements to ensure the product develops the way real customers want it to.

I also spent time talking to product development around PaaS4SaaS and how that is rapidly developing for our world.

I attended many meetings during OOW on behalf of Certus and as a team it was defiantly worth the investment, we have move forward on may fronts with lots of alliances in the many different areas of Oracle.


Richard Summerfield JT
I spoke as Certus in my session on 'Forming Your Future', Tim spoke on '10 Ways to Enhance Your Oracle HCM Cloud Implementation' (download link CON8983) which also had a great attendance, and Mark facilitated the presentation from the two Richards which talked about JT's journey into the cloud.

Richard Summerfield is a great advocate for HCM Cloud and Certus, he put his reputation on the line when he recommended this as the solution for JT and it has paid off, giving their rapidly growing and transforming organisation a great HR backbone to enable further expansion and success. He has previously been quoted in Oracle Scene, spoke at the Modern Business Day in UK, and Oracle released a Forbes Article and video during OOW.
You can download the presentation (CON9059) here.

The two Richard's managed to score tickets for the basketball at Oracle Arena and I joined them and Mark at the Elton John Concert, so we managed to have fun as well as get a lot of work done.


Richard, Richard & Mark at Elton John
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OOW15 - More than 12 more on 12c


I talked about this a lot on the run up to OOW, and my 2 minute Top Tech Tip video was one of the top 10 in the weeks leading unto OOW 12 on 12c, and OTN commissioned an Oracle Profit article on some ACE speakers of which this was first, so I did feel we had a lot to live up to, especially as last year’s was so successful.

This year we persuaded Oracle to give us a double slot which meant 105 minutes. We gave each speaker 7 minutes and that meant we managed to cram 16 speakers into the session. The format is really simple, I explain why we are there, Ralf whose original idea it was, runs a 2nd projector (thank you Graham Wood for yet again helping out with the loan) with a count down clock and off we go.

There is a running order, but it isn’t printed or shown in the agenda, so we will try and fix that for next year. I did have it in my blog but these are highly technical people and not everyone reads mine! We started as last year with Jonathan Lewis knowing he would be time perfect and set the scene. Some of the speakers have said I could have been better with the order as to bring the subjects in a more logical order but they will have to help me as I don’t know a primary key from an analytic function let alone columnar storage from a pluggable database !!!!!!!!!

There was a good mix of speakers from throughout the EMEA region and I will be encouraging more next year, I think this is now a tradition.

photo thanks to Martin Widlake
I did get feedback that I looked bored when Tim was speaking but I wasn’t honestly, it’s just having been on tour with him in Latin America I have heard his current content several times, and he got his own back on me, telling the audience he knew my PaaS4SaaS content backwards at the OTN stage.

The audience was amazing we started with about 200 and then people drifted in and out at the half way mark as they had other commitments and the stats tell me we had 236 scanned attendees total. I call that a success, and everyone had fun, although some struggled with the smallness of my display (these tech folks have big laptops) and I panicked when I couldn’t see Maria and it was almost time for her slot, but she was there, sneaked into the back. 

You can still download this presentation from the schedule UGF3190





The official feedback included 'defiantly so again in 2016'  but my favourite feedback was 'I don't have room for 12 compliments so this will have to do' 

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OOW15 - As an Oracle Partner


There is a partner reception on the Saturday evening before OOW kicks off, and it was a great chance to meet up with the Certus people before we all got busy for the week.

Oracle has a special program for partners at Oracle Open World on the Sunday afternoon but I missed that as I was hosting the EOUC session.

But Certus have announced expansion into Australia and so we had several meetings with Alliance and Channels for that area and I am excited but where this is going.

At the OPN lounge you could have a social networking makeover which included a new profile photo. I haven't made the changes to my accounts yet but I will when I find the time, but I love the photo, thank you OPN.

Alliances all held a reception for their enablement program, for partners who are specialised which includes Certus but we are also delivering training for them.

It is great to be recognised for having worked hard, and in the last year we have also achieved Platinum status which was really hard work for a small company. 

I also need to apologise to Jurgen Kress who runs the partner community for Fusion Middleware. I did meet up with my peers in this group one lunchtime to help him plan next year but I didn't make it to his reception, just not enough hours in the day.

Both the UK and Ireland hold dinners for partners and customers and I chose to attend the Ireland event. I know many from OUG Ireland events but I don't often have time to relax with them.

There is a new country lead in Ireland John Donnelly and he hosted a wonderful dinner in the Mona Lisa Restaurant. Now obviously the restaurant is Italian and the starter could of been a nod to their flag but we liked to think it was in honour of the Irish Flag.

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OOW15 - User Group Leader



I wasn’t attending on behalf of UKOUG but you are always on duty as an ambassador. Our President Linda Barker was over representing UKOUG and Fiona Martin was also over with her employer, and many of our volunteers were also over in various capacities so UKOUG was well covered.

I was very disappointed with the user group pavilion this year, it is great that Oracle gives the user groups stands were delegates can come and find out more about what is on offer, but the location this year meant that even those manning the stands found them difficult to find, and you certainly didn’t ‘just come across them’.

Each Gloabal user group gets a number of sessions for User Group Sunday, and UKOUG are part of the EOUC covering user groups in EMEA. I had the opportunity to present ‘Forming your Future’ when Kashif Manzoor became an Oracle employee and had to step down. EOUC decided that as it was late in the process they would rather keep the title, so I as an Applications Cloud person was given the slot. I also had the privilege to again facilitate the EOUC session given over to the database experts.

I didn’t attend the user group receptions, I seriously didn’t have the time, but I did on behalf of UKOUG take part in a customer feedback session on all things Cloud. Oracle had asked many different feedback channels to take part in a number of 2 hour sessions, and completely co-incidentally the session I attended had 3 UK and one Irish partner in it and a couple of US customers. My feedback specially from users was that it is very important to know where Oracle are going but that customers who have no immediate plans are feeling like it is being forced down their throats. I know this is at odds with my day job, Certus is a Cloud only company, but as a UKOUG elected board member I am representing members.

I also had a number of meetings with people who will be speaking at UKOUG, and of course with the UX team who are bringing their scavenger hunt to UKOUG and thank to those volunteers who took part at OOW so we have feedback for our own event.

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OOW15 - Having Fun



In all my posts I talk about how busy OOW is but I believe if you don't have fun it is just work. The two are possible together and #ilovemyjob


Chi Gung at the Sofitel
Whilst at HQ I love catching up with old friends and the Sofitel actually rates as my favourite hotel bed ever. Another tradition is morning Chi Gung with Kent Graziano and the weather this year was tremendous despite it being late October.

Saturday is the only day I have free, and actually now saturday evening is the partner reception it is not even a whole day. Traditionally Saturday is get out day, and I have several times hired a bicycle and done the bridge and this year the OTN t shorts recognised the unofficial OOW triathlon that I even completed last year.



Family Nuijten
This year I had a different way to enjoy saturday I went to Alcatraz with Alex Nuijten and his family. I love these guys, i have been to their home this year, they had my home for a trip to Ireland, and Alex's wife came to Kscope. So it was wonderful to visit Alcatraz with them this year.






After the Swim - photo Kris Rice
Sunday morning it is the bridge run (or in my case walk) but this year I was giving my own presentation so I had to miss it, but I was there for the Monday morning bay swim. People were worried that with it being a month later it would be much colder but actually the water was slightly warmer.  And another now favourite tradition is coming home on the cable car.




Perhaps this should have gone on my ACE and OTN posting but it defiantly comes under the title of fun. The was a 'see yourself in the cloud' ball pond and it was such fun, or at least until it was time to get out.



And finally the appreciation party and the Elton John concert.


So all ready for next year and the fun that is OOW.

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OOW15 - The Travel



Actually pretty good, the flight out was uneventful and I managed to empty my inbox on email. Friends always tell me they know when I get off a long haul flight, there are suddenly many emails.

I went out to Oracle HQ a day early to have a few meetings for Certus so stayed the first night out at the airport, shuttles are frequent and I was there and settled within an hour. I am a person of rituals and one for San Fran is French Onion soup, which I had that evening so first thing ticked already.

As I’ve already said I took a quick break after OOW, but still had the OTN travel arranged to the airport. This always makes me feel special, it may not be a big thing in the US but it certainly is in UK. I just love having someone with my name waiting to deliver me somewhere.

 After the quick vacation, I stayed in San Francisco for the sold out ConstellationR Connected Enterprise event. Something I want to do every year but can never justify the return to San Fran 6 weeks after OOW. As OOW was so late this year it made sense, hence the 5 days free between events and the opportunity for a break.

The event was great and I had a taxi to and from the hotel each day from a local taxi company driven by a complete 'fruitcake', she was harmless, courteous, pretty reliable but talked rubbish non-stop. Still made for interesting rides.

Then a weekend with friends before flying back to the UK and reality. Unfortunately British Airways thought I would like a few hours delay, which then meant missing my connection in Heathrow and finally getting home about 4 hours late. Just enough time to do the unpack, do the laundry and pack again.

Next up DOAG............

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OOW2015 Post Event Vacation



I knew I was staying on after OOW and originally asked my  friend Maria Colgan if I could stay with her, then I thought perhaps I should try and arrange some diving. I was with Maria at Kscope and we were talking about it and I said I was considering trying to find somewhere to dive. She asked where and I said perhaps Hawaii, San Fran is the closest you will get to there. Now Maria doesn’t dive, but her immediate reaction was to come with me, and within 24 hours we had it booked.

We left tea time on the last day of OOW, arriving early evening in our hotel in Waikiki, Honolulu, (at this point I must say the vacation was sponsored by United, Hilton and Marriott Frequent Traveller programs).  We sat in the bar, had a snack and the first of our cocktails and listened to the local music.

USS Missouri
Friday we visited Pearl Harbor, which was an incredible privilege to see where so many people died for their country and how it is tastefully remembered. As we celebrate both Veterans Day and Remembrance Day on both sides of the Atlantic, this along with the Manilla Military Cemetery I visited a few years back will be what I think about. Pearl Harbor marks the beginning of the War for the US, and the surrender of Japan on board the USS Missouri, which is also now at Pearl Harbor, marks the end. 

Looking down on the USS Arizona

We spent the whole day there and really felt both moved and educated by history. On the way back to the hotel we had a mini tour of the city included the courts of justice famous from Hawaii Five-0 and I was amazed by the Indian Banyan trees that grow all over Hawaii.

Saturday we took a short flight to Kona, the Big Island, checked in early to our hotel and then boarded a boat for our Manta Ray Experience. This was my ‘have to do’ event for Hawaii, I love to dive and rays are my favourite. Maria doesn’t dive but the experience is just as good for snorkelers. When you sign up you know a sighting isn’t guaranteed, but when we got on the boat the dive guide told us they hadn’t seen anything for 4 days and as it was a full moon, the sea was quite choppy (the moon affects tides). 

The first dive was late afternoon and the 4 divers, went down to a cleaning station and we were rewarded by seeing first one, and then a pair of mantas, over head and a few metres away, but very clearly mantas, and I was so happy, the dive had been successful.  

Back on board the snorkelers of which there were 7 had had less luck and the boat was very choppy. The provided food but many were unable to eat, and then it was time to return to the water as it quickly got dark. We knew there were Mantas in the water, there were only 2 other boats out which is unusual but it was Halloween and most people were out partying and many visitors are Saturday to Saturday. This was brilliant for us and everyone got to see the show put on by the Mantas, snorkelers and divers. The 4 of us sat on the sea floor, well as much as we could, there was a strong current and the mantas are so big and come so close they create their own currents. I can’t describe how amazing it was. Taking photos was too difficult they are so big and so close but I have some great video once I have edited it.

All too soon it was over and we returned back to the Marina, where Maria and I learnt that not taking a smart phone is not a good idea when your taxi is late and there is no light or anyway to contact them. Luckily for us a random guy drove past, we flagged him down and he lent us his phone. Apparently town was heaving for halloween and our taxi driver who arrived dressed as santa (the ghost of christmas present) was delayed. After a long shower we headed over to the most non irish bar ever to have the name, and a very late dinner and cocktails.


The only sad thing about Kona was I wanted to visit the volcano but after diving you have to wait 24 hours to go that high and we didn’t have time. Apparently there is no flowing lava currently so little to actually see but still I would have enjoyed it, I love geology. Sunday we had a leisurely breakfast and then wandered around the little area we were staying at Kailua Pier, Kona, we saw a pretty church and I would love to have stayed but we had to check out, although they had a history lesson after the service we said we would return for. We did a little sift shopping and not in the ABC Store, which Hawaii has so many off! Then we looked at a photography gallery which was amazing and so tempting. After checking out we returned to the church and the service was overrunning so I had the chance to take communion which was lovely, and then we got the church and missionary history lesson which was fascinating, well worth the visit I promise you.

Quick flight back to Waikiki where as the most decadent travellers I know we still had our room at the Hilton! Only because Hilton give you 5 nights for the price of 4 on points so it didn’t cost anything. Then off to another bar for food and cocktails. 



Monday I was up early for another dive trip, this time to a corsair wreck in the clearest water I have ever dived in. 



The dive crew were excellent (Eric &Tim) and very safety conscious which is my priority, and then afterwards we did a second shallow dive on a reef, full of turtles which is probably why it was called turtle canyon, an octopus and many fish. The views of the lush green volcanic mountains from sea was amazing and you could see why ‘Lost' was filmed here. On the way back to the dive centre I also got to see where ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ lives, it seems TV shows filmed in Hawaii are a big thing. Whilst I was away doing the dives, Maria had collected a hire car and we spent the afternoon driving up to the North Shore, where the beaches are less populated and the feeling more Hawaii than Waikiki Beach. 

In fact Maria and I must be the only tourists to Waikiki who never actually went on the beach. We could see it from our hotel balcony and watched many people learning to surf. We walked along the strip each evening looking for restaurants and bars, watching people shop late into the night at the cheap ABC Stores or the very expenses designer stores, but we never went onto the beach itself. 



On the way to the North Shore we stopped at the Dole Plantation and had a pineapple whip whilst sitting in the gardens before browsing in the shop. You can buy anything with pineapple on or in it, amazing. 

Then we learned all about pineapple whilst travelling the Pineapple Express steam train (not worth it), and were treated to a military display of a helicopter practicing collecting water for fire duty, really spectacular. Then we drove to Waimea Beach, spent an hour clambering over the beach and rocks before driving on to Maluka beach were we sat and watched the sunset, hoping to see more turtles. We had been told it had been too hot for them, and we didn’t see any, but it was a lovely way to spend a few hours.

On return to Waikiki we ticked another of my must do things of the list, we had dinner in Jimmy Buffets, and a cocktail or two, before going back to the hotel. I especially was exhausted. The next morning we had an enormous last breakfast before checking out and flying back to San Francisco. Hawaii is not a short flight but it was no problem at all.



Having watched the odd episode of Hawaii Five-0 when in american hotels I knew Honolulu was a metropolis, but once out of the city the landscape is spectacular and the North Shore just what I wanted to see. Kona was the palm trees and the beaches and the quiet way of life, and Hawaii is going hgh up the list of places to return to. I am one blessed person.