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Until the Europeans came, HONOLULU was insignificant; soon so many foreign ships were frequenting its waters that it had become Kamehameha's capital, and it remains the economic center of the island. The city covers a long (if narrow) strip of southern Oahu, but downtown is a manageable size, and a lot quieter than its glamorous image might suggest.

The tourist hotels, and most of Honolulu's hustle, are concentrated among the skyscrapers of very distinct WAIKIKI , a couple of miles east.

The setting is beautiful, right on the Pacific and backed by dramatic cliffs and the extinct volcanoes of Punchbowl (a military cemetery) and Diamond Head ; but then beauty is not so rare a commodity on Hawaii, and you can see this sort of scenery in plenty of other places without a city in the middle of it.

What attracts most visitors to stay in Honolulu, and especially Waikiki, is the sheer hedonism of shopping, eating and generally hanging out in the sun. It's also the center of an exemplary public transportation system, facilitating exploration of the whole island.



Still cherishing the memory that it was from 1836 to 1845 an independent nation in its own right, TEXAS stands apart from the rest of the United States. While its sheer size - eight hundred miles from east to west and nearly a thousand from top to bottom - gives it a great geographical diversity, is firmly bound together by a shared history, culture and ideology.

Independence is key to the Texan mentality, from the overriding distrust of government - any government - to the absence of unionized labor. As the old anti-litter campaign put it, "Don't mess with Texas."

Preconceived ideas about what exactly is "Texan" are soon shattered. It's actually one of the most eclectic and cosmopolitan states in the Union and each of the major tourist destinations has its own distinct character. Hispanic San Antonio , for example, with its Mexican population and historic importance, has a laid-back feel absent from the big-city neurosis of Houston or Dallas , while trendy Austin revels in a lively music scene and intellectualism found nowhere else in the state.

Regional differences are vast. The swampy, forested east is more like Louisiana than the pretty Hill Country or the agricultural plains of the Panhandle , and the tropical Gulf Coast has little in common with the mountainous deserts of the west. Changes in climate are equally dramatic: snow is common on the Panhandle, whereas the humidity of Houston, in particular, is only made bearable by nonstop high-power air conditioning.

One thing shared by the whole of Texas is the constant boasting - everything has to be bigger and better than anywhere else. Such chauvinism is tempered both by a delight in self-parody and by the state's melting pot of cultures. The much-cited Texan friendliness is not imaginary; to be unwelcoming would simply be unpatriotic. Texas is, after all, named for a Native American word meaning friend, tejas , and a visit here, especially to the Panhandle or the Hill Country, is not for those who want to be alone.



Contrary to popular belief, there's no oil in glitzy, status-conscious DALLAS . Since its foundation as a prairie trading post, by Tennessee lawyer John Neely Bryan and his Arkansan friend Joe Dallas in 1841, successive generations of entrepreneurs have amassed wealth here through trade and finance, using first cattle and later oil reserves as collateral.

One early group of European settlers of the 1850s a group of French intellectuals and artists known as the La Reunion co-operative had to pack up and move on after a series of summer droughts and a harsh winter; the few who stayed would include a future mayor of Dallas. The city still prides itself on their legacy of arts and high culture.

The power of money in Dallas was demonstrated in the late 1950s, when its financiers threw their weight behind integration. Potentially racist restaurant owners and bus drivers were pressured not to resist the new policies, and Dallas was spared major upheavals. The city's image was, however, catastrophically tarnished by the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, and it took the building of the giant Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in the 1960s, and the twin successes of the Dallas TV show and the Cowboys football team in the 1970s to restore confidence.

After a slump in the late 1980s, the Cowboys are back in the big time, though their off-field antics have provided the nation's papers with some anti-Dallas copy once again.

Competitive with Houston, and smug about its cowtown neighbor Fort Worth, Dallas boasts of its ''sophistication'' and its ''old'' wealth. For all that, the stuffiness is tempered by a typically Texan delight in self-parody, and there's still fun to be had if you know where to look especially in the alternative Deep Ellum district, with its superb restaurants and nightlife.

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