Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Nine Hotels

07 December 2011

I’ve previously expressed my love for Ladera, set among the incredible beauty of St. Lucia’s pitons.
Eight other hotels around the world I’d love to stay at.
Kona Village, on Hawaii’s big island, is temporarily closed due to tsunami damage, but I’m hopeful it’ll return. It consists of little bungalows. If you don’t want to be disturbed, you put a coconut out on your lanai.
Almost any of the over-water beach bungalows in Bora Bora at the nicer hotels, e.g., the Hilton. I love the idea of swimming out from my room.
Continuing the water theme, there’s the Conrad Maldives Resort, which not only has over-water bungalows, it also has an underwater restaurant, the only restaurant actually in the ocean. Given that the high point on the Maldives is under three meters, it’s probably just as well they built down.
Palazzo Sasso, a 12th-century palazzo hotel on the Italian coast.
The Grand Continental Hotel in Siena.
Probably the least frou-frou of the hotels on my list, the Hotel du Louvre in Paris has location going for it. It’s not that it’s not luxurious, it’s just not so obviously so compared to some of the places on this list.
Since I’ve neglected most of Asia, the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort looks like an awesome place to stay once you get past the logistics of getting there.
I’m going to end with the most out there of the hotels, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Sure, it’s over the top. It’s a feature, not a bug. Check out the gallery.

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Signs You Travel Too Much

06 December 2011

Funny items from this long thread on flyertalk:
When you are brought in by immigration because you have more entries and exits into that country than anyone else, native or foreigner, for seven of the last 8 years and you are not from that country.
You schedule an extra 2 hour layover to sign and have your final divorce and QDRO (qualified domestic relations order, relating to a divorce) notarized at the airport.
I had a (hopeful) FA once ask me if I was stalking him since I’d been on every single flight he’d been working for 2 weeks. But that’s a while ago now.
When you write your FF number on your bank deposit instead of your account number.
I was in Kyrgyzstan last week and called a colleague in the states for an upcoming trip. His wife says he is not at home. I walk into a cafe, and the person I called is having breakfast in the cafe.
When you run out of room on the arrival form for countries visited in the past month.
When you go to the wrong airport and the airline seems unconcerned and puts you on a flight home anyway.
When you have tickets for future travel on 183 flights for 276,000 flown miles.
“We don’t see ladies with the fat passport often.”
your wallet includes public transport tickets from cities on three different continents which get used up before they expire.
you stop changing foreign currencies back because you’ll need that money in two weeks anyway.
When you return to your office after a bathroom break and the first thing you do when you sit in your chair is reach for the seatbelt.
Your dog still barks at you when you come home. (we’ve had him for 3 months)
When you have to call home to find out what city you’re in, and what hotel you’re staying at (happened to my cousin on a 5-country trip to Europe – he went out to buy aspirin, and didn’t remember what hotel he was staying at. His daughter the other side of the world had his itinerary!)
When the crew on the flight home from Hong Kong recognize you from last week’s flight home from India (happened to me a couple of years ago …)
when the check in agent is surprised you only have 4 boarding passes this time
When you go to your closet looking for your blue blazer only to realize “Oh yeah, I left that in Germany with a colleague for next time”.
No biggie, you reach for your OTHER blue blazer only to find that it’s in Japan on a similar mission.
My daughter keeps a homeless shelter well-stocked with shampoo and soap and other stuff by donating the toiletries courtesy of my hotel stays/overnight flights.
I went 15 months from September 2006 to November 2007 where the longest consecutive period I spent in any single country was 6 days. I’ve sworn never to do that ever again – it truly wears you down in both body and spirit.
when the immigration clerk asks you where you were last week because you were on vacation and didn’t fly your regular route
when the pilot calls you to tell you that your plane will be delayed
My husband travels so much that our 4 year old son thinks that daddy actually lives somewhere else, and just comes to visit at random.
Talking to loved ones while on a layover and not able to answer the question, so where are you?
Two minutes later you pass by the Elvis store, and can finally answer, MEM.
1) Your wallet contains more foreign currency than domestic.
2) Your FF cards (mile collecting credit cards, status cards) outnumber every other type of card you carry.
3) You have various different sized suitcases in your living room, all half packed.
4) Your fridge contents consist of condiments and expired milk.
5) Your liquor cabinet is fully stocked with duty free liquor.
6) You have two complete sets of toiletries, one of which is all under 100ml and already packed into a kippie bag.
7) You have to ask the flight attendant where you are when you land.
8) You plan your vacations based around which countries you haven’t been to yet.
9) The first one to notice your new haircut is the security agent at your home airport.
I’ve gone to Caracas for lunch because I hadn’t flown Aeropostal before.
you answer the home phone in another language
I was asked the other day by a lounge agent how my recent overseas trip went. Me – “Which one, you’ll need to be more specific.” Agent – “it was last week”. Me – “Again, you’ll need to be more specific.” I’d had 4 overseas round trips the week in question.
When immigration staff at several airports say “Oh it’s you – I heard about you”
When you have a home in one country, an apartment in another, a suitcase left with a hotel in a third, staying in a fourth, and visiting a fifth for the day.
When you are going through immigration in a country that you passed through on the same day one year before, and the immigration officer asks you why you are here as you have already been through immigration… then notices the year on your old stamp.
When you have (just checked) prepaid SIM cards for 8 countries, currencies for 11, driver’s licenses for 2 and a number of prepaid phone cards and transport passes.
Actually happened tonight:
Partner: How ’bout a drink before turning in?
Voop (distracted by some nagging email): Uhmm, the mini-bar is overpriced, I think I have a bottle of something I picked up from duty-free….
Partner: “Mini-bar”? Honey, you’re at home, and I don’t charge….not for the mini-bar either….
In my defense, I wasn’t all wrong, the home-bar is stocked exclusively with duty-free…..
I was running on a treadmill with a built-in TV this morning, and briefly wondered how to get the AirMap to show.
You get an email survey from your airline asking questions about your recent flight from XXX to XXX. You think which week?
When the pilots called to ask if I wanted to join them for dinner on a layover but I had another trip lined up….
On a recent trip, at an airport that doesn’t support transits, transit passengers are supposed to be met by an airline agent at the gate. The agent for my airline didn’t turn up and had to be called when I arrived at immigration. His reason? He thought there must have been an error in the passenger info sheet – no one could possibly be travelling Vienna to Zurich via Riyadh.
“You have to take a passport to give blood.”
It took me over an hour to do the screening part of giving blood last time I tried and they had to call their head office to see if the time I spent in the Middle East was a disqualifying event even though I had told them it wasn’t.
Over the past year I have spent so much time at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur that I have many of the hotel staff in my Facebook friends list….I guess that is a sign that you have stayed there too much 😉
My doctor is in Prague, my dentist in Dubai, my tax guy in Serbia.
the classic one that always gets me is waking up and not knowing the country, time zone, why I’m there, etc. And yes, it sometimes happens at home.
Worse still, when you can recite airline and airport announcements in a language you can’t even speak.
Attentie, alstublieft, voor een gatewijziging!
When you accidentally use the term “going home” to describe getting onto a British Airways aeroplane to go somewhere you’ve never been before.
I went through a phase a few years ago when I was on at least four, sometimes six BA flights a week. This went on for about six months, then it reduced to two or three flights a week. A began to recognise certain FAs and there were two or three captains who I always seemed to end up with. At some point I took three weeks off to spend time with the family. When I got back home there was a nice letter from BA asking if I was alright and hoping that I remained happy with their service. The letter said that they had hoped I would be travelling again soon and gave me 50,000 BA miles for the hell of it.
You ask your children via Skype what they want to do this weekend while your home. They respond with a mileage run. You cry on the inside because you have taught them well.
When not traveling, riding with the wife, she drove me the airport before realizing she’s supposed to drop me office at the office, more than once.
You actually have a frequent stay card at the Ice Hotel in Reykjavik

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New Luggage Report

29 November 2011

In the last week-ish, I’ve done both a flight vacation and a car trip with my new Tumi Vapor luggage.
The first piece I got, as you may have seen, is the International Carry-On in pink multi with the breast cancer awareness luggage tag. Very nice.
The second piece I got is the Medium Trip Packing Case in “black,” which is really a nice striated charcoal grey. I did worry how common the color would be, but didn’t see anyone else traveling with this particular bag on my flights, so it turned out not to be an issue of everyone diving for the same piece of luggage.
First of all, it’s really light, and I like the corner reinforcement.
My first trip, as you know, was to Hawaii.
In my carry-on, I carried:
1) CPAP and paraphernalia associated with. This took up 1/2 of one side of the carry on.
2) Liner from my Artisan and Artist camera bag containing two camera bodies and two lenses. That took up the other half.
3) My bag containing: tank top, spare socks and underwear, and bathing suit. (Always in carry-on in case of luggage snafus). Also my sink stopper and clothing hangar.
4) My 3-1-1 liquids bag.
5) My pills.
6) A pair of leggings (wrapped around the CPAP).
7) Banana chips and nuts, aka food for the trip. I always carry food I can eat in case of flight delays; sometimes there’s nothing I literally can eat.
The checked bag seemed overwhelmingly large for one tourist on a four-day trip to Hawaii. I packed two pairs of leggings, four shirts, and other things I needed like socks.
The other half of the bag would have been empty, so I just stuffed a tripod in one half and a super-thick yoga mat in the other. I’d heard that polycarbonate bags are safer when they’re fully packed, and, hey, yoga. Photography. It seemed natural.
On the way back, though, I’d bought so much stuff that my trusty bag was brimming full. I discovered that a bottle of wine (Volcano winery) and a large jar of lehua honey fit nicely inside the yoga mat with three pairs of underwear as a buffer (one at either end, one between the two glass containers). Between the coffee, the macadamia nuts, the honey, the macadamia nut butter, the soaps, the jam, the wine, etc., my bags were packed to the gills. They did smell super-nice, though!
I got to the airport. My luggage weighed 51.5 pounds. Oops! They were nice and didn’t charge me, though I could have moved 1-1/2 pounds to my carry-on if I’d picked carefully. I’m sure that if I had been using my older, heavier, Travelpro bag, I would have been charged, though.
Even at 51.5 pounds, my new bag moved super-smoothly, and I’m really really glad I upgraded.
After I got home and unpacked, I repacked for our three-night car trip to Los Angeles. I packed everything just in the medium trip bag (and overpacked because I was tired). It was a better size for my car than the arrangements I’d tried in the past, and three of us went down to LA and back with no issues.

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Hilo Wednesday (done)

23 November 2011

Stuff to do and see:
1) Finish packing (ugh)
2) Farmer’s market (6 am – 4 pm), specifically for jam/honey guy and soap guy
6) Imiloa (9-5, $17.50, but this is the most interesting of the museums for me)
7) Place that sells unrefined Hawaiian salt near the farmer’s market
8) Mokupapapa Discovery Center (which is awesome and also free)
9) Hakalau bay (this actually is most relevant to my book, so it’s the most likely to get done)
After most everything closed, I still had hours to kill, so I saw Arthur Christmas. Not bad, not great, but enjoyable. I skipped dinner, likely a mistake, but I wasn’t hungry. I still have cashews. Everything else is checked. With the honey, jam, wine, coffee, etc., my new lighter bag came near 50#. I thought it was heavy.
Halakau bay was awesome in its way. I hope some of the pictures look good.

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Hilo Wednesday (To Do)

22 November 2011

Stuff to do and see:
1) Finish packing (ugh)
2) Farmer’s market (6 am – 4 pm), specifically for jam/honey guy and soap guy
3) Zoo, specifically Namaste’s feeding at 3:30 (zoo’s open from 9-4, free)
4) Pacific Tsunami Museum (9-4:15, $8)
5) Lyman museum (10-4:30, $10)
6) Imiloa (9-5, $17.50, but this is the most interesting of the museums for me)
7) Place that sells unrefined Hawaiian salt near the farmer’s market
8) Mokupapapa Discovery Center (which is awesome and also free)
9) Hakalau bay (this actually is most relevant to my book, so it’s the most likely to get done)
10) World Botanical Gardens (near Hakalau, $13)
Except for the zoo and the beach, all are within a few blocks of each other. Since my plane doesn’t leave until late, I could, in theory, manage several of these.
I’m guessing I’ll get the following done: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9; some of them are only a few minutes and are clumped together.

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Hilo Tuesday

22 November 2011

First, a bit left over from Monday: I went out to Hilo Bay Cafe, which is a more high-falutin’ place than the name suggests, and had an awesome beef short rib dinner. Now, I’m not normally a beef person (except for hamburgers) and I generally don’t like short ribs at all because they are too tough. This was grass-fed beef and super-tender. I’d been there on my previous trip and they were really great to work with to find food I could eat, plus they specialize in local and organic. Considering that (and the price of food generally on the island), it was quite reasonable.
This morning, I went first to Volcano winery. As the name indicates, it’s up by the entrance to Volcanoes National Park, and it’s literally at the end of the road past the golf course. I tasted several of their wines, but I’m not a wine drinker. I’d heard their wines were sweet, but they didn’t seem particularly sweet compared to other wines I’ve tried. So I picked one for Thanksgiving. They do have a macadamia nut honey wine that is very delicate — it reminds me a lot of an elderflower cordial that I’ve tried in the past.
After that, I went to Hilo Coffee Mill, which has coffee from several regions around the big island, and even coffee from other Hawaiian islands. They do roasting for a number of growers, and they gave me a little tour. I had to dodge a few chickens (they’ve got about 200, so if you’re ever in Hilo looking for super-fresh eggs, you might want to try there first).
I tried several of their coffees. As they put it, they get so much rainfall that their coffee is milder than on the Kona side, which is far drier — for the simple reason that soil chemicals tend to get washed away. They do supplement the soil, and they’re not an organic farm as a result, but that’s the nature of working with what you’ve got sometimes.
There are coffee plants on the east side of the island that are 100 to 150 years old; it’s a longer-established coffee-growing region than Kona.
What surprised me most, though, was their pineapple coffee. It doesn’t scream “bad coffee hidden by horrific fruit flavoring” — no, it’s good coffee with a delicate lilt of pineapple, and it seemed to me to work very well. So I got some.
At that point it was around noon. I decided to head south past Pahoa (a town I keep going through) and see how far south one could actually drive. About a mile out of Kalapana, the road forks, and I kept going on highway 130, which ended abruptly. There’d been signs earlier that visiting hours for the lava flow were 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Now that I knew where the entrance was, I had about an hour to kill, so I went and got lunch, then headed back.
At the end of the road, there were scary signs that said, “Restricted Access – Authorized Personnel Only.” So I parked just before that and started walking, but a woman pulled over in a car and said I could drive in anyway. So I did, wondering if I were negating my rental agreement in doing so. I drove about a mile in (over two sections of relatively recent lava flows and regular old road between them) and parked where the security people told me to. The woman said, “Oh, because it’s between 2 and 10, you’re authorized.” Nice to know.
Then I set out to walk to the end of where they let you walk, which is about 4/10 of a mile down the road, crossing several flows that seem at most a few years old, houses (still inhabited) dotting either side of the road. Of course, yards are problematic.
It was brutally hot. The wind was behind me, so I didn’t feel it on my face, and it was full sun, I had SPF 85 on, and a liter of water, my camera bag, and my purse. I felt like a camel. I managed to get up onto the end of the road where the lava flow was and look out; I didn’t see any actual lava activity, but they said it was about six miles from where I stood. Then one of the women who worked there said the flow I was standing on dated from January.
I was thinking as I walked it that it seemed that this spot of land was in fact the very land I was photographing last year from the water’s edge. Some of the details seemed familiar, though of course the perspective was radically different. Another staffer said they’d lost a mile and a half of road in the last year — just eaten up by lava.
So, yes, I was basically standing near the hot melty stuff I photographed last year.
New lava flows are shiny and glassy. I tried to capture that in photos, but didn’t capture it last year and not sure I did this year, either. It turns out that silicon is part of the flow, and it rises to the surface as the lava is cooling (being less dense than some of the other minerals), so it gives the freshest lava a very cool sheen. I’d seen that on the black sand beach last year but hadn’t known the reason. I took some photos; we’ll see how they turn out.
Because silicon isn’t super-hard, though, that layer wears off fairly quickly (over 2-5 years), and then lava takes on the more familiar matte appearance.
On the walk back, I had the breeze in my face, but it was still pretty brutal. At the end, I was hot, I was tired, and I kind of collapsed into the car, turned on the air conditioning, and drank some extra water until I felt unshaky enough to drive.
After that, not much. I missed Namaste’s feeding again, darn it, so I’ll just have to go tomorrow. I’m reserving tomorrow for Hilo town stuff: the zoo, the planetarium, the farmer’s market, and a store I wanted to visit.

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Confessions of an Imperfect Celiac

21 November 2011

I confess: At times over the years, particularly when it came to certain trigger foods, I was a bad celiac. That changed in 2009 when I saw this video. I mention my failings because I’m not the only one out there.
Truth is, I knew I was celiac for at least three years before I was diagnosed, I just didn’t want to know it. At that time, in the era before good web searches and tireless wikipedia editors, I didn’t know how bad celiac disease really was. Then again, I’m not really sure anyone did.
When I was a kid, people thought celiac disease was something you had as a kid and “got over.” I kind of adapted in weird ways: I ate my sandwiches on white bread (less protein and thus less gluten, but also I respond to the bleached protein differently) open-faced (one piece of bread instead of two). I ate lots of pasta sauce with very little noodles. When I made lasagne, I used half the noodles and twice as much other stuff. I preferred corn muffins and oatmeal cookies (but with chocolate chips). I’d use corn tortillas for my tacos. In other words, there were ways I was unaware of that I tried to reduce my gluten consumption. My dad was constantly nagging me to eat more grains, but now he admits he was wrong on that point.
And then there was the time I went vegetarian. I think I lasted a week or two, probably mostly because the wheat germ made me so very ill. It still makes me shudder.
There wasn’t a history of celiac disease in my family. My father carries some of the genes; my mother doesn’t. My stepmother noticed that I sometimes came back from visits to my mom with stomach cramps. I was sent to a shrink as it was believed to be psychological. It wasn’t, it was dietary. (I don’t actually remember the symptoms, I just remember the outrage of being sent to a shrink over it.) I was eleven at the time, so I know I was symptomatic then, but I don’t know when the symptoms actually started, only when they were noticeable by other people.
Even after I was diagnosed (at the age of 37), I would have moments of weakness. Some celiacs vomit up gluten. Lucky them, as it does less damage that way. Some get cramps within an hour. Lucky them.
And then there’s me. My symptoms take two to three days after gluten ingestion, so you can see that would be difficult to correlate food with symptom. Who remembers what they had to eat in detail 2-3 days ago on a regular basis?
There are certain foods I miss a lot.
At the end of the first week I was gluten-free, I missed two things: pizza and chocolate chip cookies. I made a passable pizza from scratch (my first), but the cookies were awful. I didn’t know the difference between potato starch and potato flour and made the grittiest, most awful cookies such that a house full of college students wouldn’t touch the damn things.
I miss croissants and chocolate cake in particular. Sure, you can make a passable chocolate cake without gluten, and Miglet’s bakery does a great job, but it’s not really the same thing. Sadly, croissants are simply beyond what non-gluten flours can do. Actually, I did hear a rumor that someone in either Australia or New Zealand made a passable croissant without gluten, but I remain unconvinced until I try one.
So, for years, we’d go out for lingonberry pancakes every once in a while. I’d have my birthday croissant. I’d occasionally eat something else sinful, and it was touch and go whether I’d hit the bread basket in a restaurant if I was really, really hungry. Now I have the strength to push it away from me (they always put it in front of me, it’s like being the person in a room who doesn’t like cats).
I’m not talking a lot. I’m talking about a slip on average once a month. Later on, it was more like once every two or three months, but it was a significant slip: an entire non-compliant meal in the case of the lingonberries.
Lest I sound like a complete idiot for the above admission — I know of more than one celiac who, when he or she gave up gluten entirely, developed a life-threatening gluten allergy as a side effect. Thus, I thought, maybe it is better to have low occasional doses of gluten.
When I saw Dr. Murphy’s video, though, it stopped me cold. I’m still not perfect, but I feel better for the more strident and continued effort. Unfortunately, it meant food felt more like a war zone than it had before.
On my last trip to Hilo, it was really difficult. Everything’s got soy sauce or teriyaki (which is derived from soy sauce) or some other form of gluten. This time, I picked more carefully and was able to avoid the land mines, but I nearly had an oops when I saw that McDonald’s was serving banana pies. I love hot bananas, and I love pie. One dollar and you can have both. Grrr!
I was thinking about this earlier: I probably need to make a list of foods I associate with gluten that I really, truly love — then figure out a way to work them into my food plan in some gluten-free version. I think I’ll just bronze a croissant, though, that’s a lost cause.
I also remain unhappy with all my lasagne options thus far.
With that exercise, I’ll probably discover that there’s some aspect of foods that I like where there’s some common thing I haven’t thought of.
For example, Rick and I were talking about some foods I didn’t really like. I’ll eat zucchini, pick at it more like, but I’ve never been a fan. I love the smell of cucumbers, but not the taste. The common aspect to both of those is simply that I don’t like the sharp tang they have to me. I don’t like bitter tastes for the most part. So, weirdly, I don’t like cucumbers and I don’t like vinegar, but I do like the occasional dill pickle, because the taste is more than either cucumber or vinegar or the combination of the two.
I’ve never really heard anyone else talk about having trouble staying compliant. Maybe they’re more like me than they’d like to admit, but it sure seems that most people have much more immediate gluten reactions; I’m not that fortunate. For me, these days, it’s more the emotional reaction: it’s not fair, and it’ll never feel fair. But we forge along anyway.

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Hilo Monday

21 November 2011

I slept in late (really, I slept 8 hours, I just got to sleep late) and got up and had the same old thing at Ken’s Pancakes. For breakfast, I’m a creature of habit.
I’d planned to go to Akaka falls and the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden on Tuesday, but the high bright overcast this morning meant rain wasn’t likely. After the last couple of days, that made for welcome weather prospects, so I headed north to the HTBG, went in and bought my admission and water (knowing there weren’t such facilities at Akaka), then headed to Akaka first.
Last year, I simply couldn’t manage the pathway. It’s 56 steps down, some nasty paths (which are paved at least), and about 2/10 of a mile to the falls proper via the shorter route. The longer route also visits another, smaller fall, but it seemed to have more stairs, so I chickened out on that one.
I managed it without difficulty. Further, last year, if I had done it, I couldn’t have done any other major walking immediately afterward like I did this year, when I walked all two miles of the paths (save for about 100′ where the handrailing for the stairs was underneath significant amounts of overgrown plants). Last year, I walked about 2/3 of the paths and it took me five hours because I was so tired and in so much pain. I wasn’t striving for time (since the point of going was enjoying the scenery, sitting in front of the falls, taking photos of cool plants, etc.), but it took me just under 2-1/2 hours this time. HTBG’s literature says that an average complete visit is around two hours. So I’m not exceptionally slow any more, which is great.
As a photographer, one of the problems of my lack of stamina has caused is that my hands shake when I’m that exhausted, and obviously that means I blow more photos. Much less of that this year.
However, the real point of going to HTBG is the same as last year: Isle of Pearls is set in an alternate Polynesia, and this is the closest thing I have to walking through some real rain forest. It’s not all native plants, granted, but the variety (not to mention size) is stunning. I noticed details that I hadn’t noticed before: how the cliffs are pummeled away at the water line, the difference between the water sounds and the wind sounds, etc.
From last year’s trip, I used a lot of details in other work I’ve done since, but IoP still needs a full re-write and I now feel ready to tackle it.
Now I just need to figure out what to do with the rest of my day; it’s only six in the evening. Hilo being Hilo, that basically means the tourist stuff is over for the day, but there’s still other kinds of adventures like dinner.

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Hilo Sunday

20 November 2011

Woke up fairly early and decided to venture forth for breakfast. Last time, I found a cheap place to eat, but their food quality wasn’t so hot, so I decided to try some place different this time.
When I asked about the farmer’s market at the airport, the guy said to turn left at Ken’s Pancakes. Now, as a celiac, I notice pancake houses like never, but this place is an institution, it’s open 24 hours a day (except a few days a year), and it’s close to where I’m staying. Fine.
They had things I could eat, so I had a nice breakfast of corned beef hash, eggs, hash browns (I know, seems redundant, right?), pineapple and coffee. Not bad.
On my flight over, I’d struck up a conversation with a woman who works at Starbucks, and she told me about some of the non-Kona growing regions of coffee on the big island, so I decided to check them out. Essentially, I’d made a pact that I wasn’t going to the west side of the island. Not not not. All the tourist stuff is there, but there’s so much to see on the east side, I’d spend all my time driving around again like last year. Boo.
So one of them was in Hilo, so they were on the way to the volcano. I accidentally passed the place, so I kept going to Volcanos National Park, paid the $10 to get in, and then drove to the steam vent lookout. The area between the parking and the rim is covered with molasses grass, and last year it smelled strongly of sulfur and molasses together (yes, that is weird). This year, though, the molasses grass was mid-thigh height, and the rain minimized the sulfur smell where the dampness made the molasses super-strong. Very neat. I got a half-decent picture of a lehua blossom on an ohi’a tree, so I’ll post that when I get a chance.
It was too wet for me to feel safe going to the Thurston lava tube again, plus I went last year. Just as I was pulling into the Kilauea Iki lookout, the sky opened up, so I continued south along chain of craters road.
You don’t realize how big even a relatively short shield volcano like Kilauea is until you drive the whole thing: it’s about 20 miles from the summit to the shore. Shield volcanoes are deceptively large, like super-big cow pies that make up a big chunk of a large island.
I pulled out several places to take pictures of the destruction one lava flow or another caused, but the sheer vastness of the place was overwhelming, and I was actually volcanoed out (which happens like never) before I was done for the day.
On my way back, I stopped at the coffee place, but it turns out they were closed on Sunday all along. I licked my wounds and went to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut farm, which I hadn’t visited on my last trip. There’s 2500 acres of mac nuts, and they are separated by very tall and very narrow Norfolk Island pines. The 2500 acres contain about 250,000 mac nut trees, apparently.
I don’t know what I was expecting — more, maybe? They had a little Maui Divers jewelry store in the shop, and the woman recognized the gold coral necklace I was wearing as one of theirs (since they’re the only purveyors of gold coral). Also, they told me that the pink coral they have, they will not be getting more of it, so if you like it, go pick some up. I’m not that into the pink, personally, so I just filed it away. I will say they take their ecology very seriously, and if they aren’t harvesting pink any more, that’s because there’s either an issue of ecology or economy.
Anyhow, I walked out with the requested macadamia nuts, as well as a small can of the kona coffee-covered ones Just For Me ™, which I have half enjoyed.
For dinner, I went downtown to another place, Café Pesto, which is mostly a pizza and pasta joint, but they do serve local fish and stuff. The waiter knew exactly what I needed when I asked about flour content, got me my ahi just right and all gluten-free. Yay.
I wasn’t tired, but it was wet and dark, so I decided to go to the movies. I really wanted to see the new Clooney flick that takes place on Hawaii, but it’s not showing here. Instead, I went to see Twilight 4 of 5, which was better than I’d feared (given the general bad ratings it’s gotten) and reminded me how much there was in that last volume of the series. They got Carter Burwell back for composer, and this time, they nailed the ending — which is pretty hard to do in the middle of a book.
I’m down to 5% battery on my iPad, so I’m going to call it a night and post this.

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