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Josceline's · Bower

Back in the land of cheese and snow

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We returned home last night from a two-week vacation to Las Vegas and Hawaii.  We squeezed a lot of experiences in but also scheduled sufficient lazy days that we didn't overdo it.  I'm still sorting through my pictures.

On the way out, we spent two nights in Las Vegas. On Saturday night (our first in town), we watched part of the Big Ten Championship game from a bar in the Mirage casino, then we saw comedian Ron White in concert. It was a very funny show. We were too exhausted to take advantage of the after party at the BB King Blues Club in the hotel (our bodies were still on Central time, so it felt like 2:00 a.m. by the time we got out of there).

On Sunday, we placed a bet on the Packers (who were favored by 6.5 points) but watched the game in our room instead of the crowded and smoky sports book.  Alas, the winning margin was only 3 points, making us 0 for 2 in sports bets (each time, our team won the game but failed to make the spread). We've decided to skip the sports betting in the future. 

On Monday, we flew to Kona and checked into our oceanview condo.  This was the view from our private lanai (porch) at sunset.  The beach was rocky rather than sandy, but that didn't stop some hardy souls from surfing.

On Tuesday, we visited the Captain Cook monument, the Uchida living history coffee farm, and the City of Refuge national historic site.

We tried to visit the Okolemaluna Tiki Lounge, a retro-tiki establishment with classic drinks and pupus (appetizers) that made Imbibe magazine's list of the 10 Best Tiki Bars. When we found the place (in the back of a nondescript strip mall), a sign on the door said they were closed for a staff holiday party (which was not happening there, as the place was dark and empty).  So we went to Don the Beachcombers at the Royal Kona Resort instead. However, when we tried to visit the restaurant, a sign said they were closed for a private event (I suspect it was the Okolemaluna staff holiday party). Don's oceanfront lounge was still open, however, so we had some drinks and pupus there. They were OK but not great. My expectations were low, so I wasn't disappointed.

On Wednesday, we drove north into the mountains through the cattle country of Waimea and took a horseback tour of the beautiful Waipio Valley.

On Thursday, we visited downtown Kaiulua-Kona, took a submarine tour of the bay, toured Hulihe Palace (originally the home of a governor, and later the summer home of Hawaiian royalty). Then we finally made it to the Okolemaluna Tiki Lounge. It was fantastic. Their decorating budget was obviously much lower than Frankie's Tiki Room in Las Vegas, but their drinks were fantastic, and the retro-classic pupus were also very good.  We tried the mixed rumaki (a combination of bacon-wrapped pineapple chunks and bacon-wrapped teriyaki-soaked water chestnuts) and the kalua pork sliders.

On Friday, we took a helicopter tour of the island.  We had fabulous views of the smoking Kilauea crater, and we also got a peek at some flowing lava through a "skylight" where the roof of the lava tube broke away.  We had a different view of the lovely Waipi'o Valley, then explored another valley where several waterfalls had worn a "keyhole" in the cliffs.  I just barely held onto my lunch during the ride, and I don't think I will go on any more helicopter rides. 

On Saturday, we drove to the Hilton Waikoloa Resort to see the Steve Miller Band in concert.  We arrived early and had a late lunch at a hotel bar & grill that overlooks their dolphin lagoon.  We ate overpriced burgers while bored dolphins breached nearby. I am not a fan of holding dolphins captive and training them to entertain us. It's much like forcing children to go into show business. Getting into a pool with captive dolphins is like going to a VIP lounge with Danny Bonaduce, Todd Bridges and Lindsey Lohan. Sure, it's an experience you will never forget, but it could very well end badly.

On Sunday, we packed and watched the Packer game on the TV in our condo.  Afterward, we took a walk on the rocky beach and saw the interesting life in the tidal pools (several kinds of mollusks and at least two varieties of crab).

On Monday we flew to Oahu for a couple days. We stayed at Disney's new Aulani resort on the leeward shore, a bit north of Honolulu.  We had some Disney reward dollars to use up, and we were curious to see the place.  It is beautiful, and we had some good food, quality beach time and waterpark fun.  However, by the time we left, I was getting a definite Stepford vibe about the place, and I was ready to go.

On Wednesday, we flew back to Las Vegas.  We stayed at the Rio and planned on seeing Penn & Teller.  However, when we arrived, we learned the show was dark for the first three weeks of December.  That was not the case when we made travel plans a couple months ago, although they had cancelled a bunch of November dates.  Rumor has it Penn Jillette is appearing in the new season of Celebrity Apprentice.  He must not have been "fired" yet. 

We didn't do too much for the last few days.  We saw a Rat Pack tribute show.  We went to the cinema at the Orleans hotel and saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie on Friday.  We walked around, shopped a little, ate at some bargain buffets and spent a little money in the casinos.  My husband was much enamored of a bank of linked Star-Trek themed machines with a bonus that was basically a video game with some television footage spliced in.

Today I had one last day off work.  I've been doing laundry but still have several loads to go.
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