October 2010 Lanai

And so dawns our final day on Lana’i. Not much to report, though – our last day was a lazy one. We did play the putting course again this afternoon – Lis beat me on the front nine (which I handled most graciously), but I won the back nine and the overall tally.

I’m looking forward to going home tomorrow – I love to go away on vacation, and I love to come back home. Plus, our swanky Four Seasons destination has been great, but there have been some service problems, and while we chose it in part because of its isolation, I am now ready to be done being isolated.

It has been pretty awesome, all told. And, after our first few days, the dolphins haven’t been back, so I feel especially blessed to have been able to swim with them and get as close as we did. But home will feel really nice, and I do miss my kittens.

Thanks to all who followed along and made comments here and there – it’s always fun to share our trips with you:)

Yesterday I didn’t feel well (hence no blog post), and I was afraid that I wouldn’t feel well today, which would be a shame, because today was the last possibility of snorkeling – the surf is supposed to be really high for a few days starting tomorrow (the day we were snorkeling in rough surf, the surf was 2-3 feet; tomorrow it is supposed to be 4-6 feet, though one report we saw said 5-7 feet – anyway, we don’t want to be snorkeling in it). But I woke up feeling OK, or at least OK enough to snorkel.

As you know, we have been having a complimentary buffet breakfast every morning. What you don’t know (though some of you who know us well might have guessed) is that we often take a little tote bag to breakfast with us, and stash a couple bagels or hard boiled eggs to take back to the room for later. We had been doing this pretty regularly at first, but hadn’t done it the last couple days, so that today when I took a bag down, we were out of practice – we filled our bag with a bagel, a hard boiled egg and a chocolate croissant, but then forgot it and left it under the table.

(Lis: I wish to take issue with “some of you who know us well might have guessed.” Or else I’m just defensive. The reason we have been having to purloin food is that the food here is OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced and we need something to snack on mid-morning, Okay, that’s a crappy defense. I guess we’re just tacky food-stealers.)

We were all the way back to the room before we realized we didn’t have our bag. We hurried back to the dining room, hoping to get there before the staff found our stash – but too late; there was my little Snorkel Bob’s Save the Yellow Tang bag sitting on a table behind the hostess desk. Luckily, there were no staff at the hostess desk, so we didn’t have to face anyone – we just grabbed the bag and skee-daddled. I realize that taking the bag without telling anyone probably compounds the faux pas, but I don’t care – I didn’t want to have to claim my ill-gotten-gain-filled bag from an actual person. Tomorrow, our plan is to pretend nothing happened.

On one of our rides in the shuttle bus up to The Lodge, a passenger had told us about a good snorkel spot – he said the visibility was better there, because it was out past where the swells crest. We went out there today, and sure enough, the visibility was very good and the snorkeling was really great. We saw tons of interesting fish, many that we hadn’t seen before, including a little school of sargeant majors – I’d missed them! At one point, we were floating above a school of fish (mostly convict tangs, but a bunch of other brightly colored fish as well) – they were letting the surf move them from place to place, and because we were floating, we were moving with them, and sort of became a part of the school. I started just looking at the colors of the fish and how the school moved with the surf, and then it was later and I started back to awareness – I had become completely absorbed in the movement and the colors, and my mind had turned off for a while. It was very meditative and zen – I was at one with the ocean! Lis had a similar experience, though hers was a little sadder because she’d started to think/feel about her mom. Still, it was really great for both of us.

We had lunch with Roger and Iris on their lanai, and then headed back to our room to just hang out for the afternoon. First, though, we wanted to stop in the lobby, where a painter whom we really liked, Jordanne, was selling her wares until 3pm. We had looked at her stuff a couple times before (she’s there every Tuesday and Friday), and had decided that we were going to buy something today, but we weren’t sure what. She had some small packs of notecards, which we knew we were going to get, but beyond that, we weren’t sure. Our options were traditional prints on paper, or something with a French name that I can’t remember which is a print on canvas (looked really cool), or an original (small).

Lis was nervous about spending money on anything more than a $30 print; I was less so, and enamored of the idea of buying an original piece of art from someone with whom we’d sort of established a relationship (we spent a good deal of time chatting with her each time we looked at her stuff). I’ve been thinking for a while that it would be fun to buy art, but was held back by the fact that I don’t know anything about art – what if we bought the wrong stuff?

When we were looking at this artist’s work, though, I realized that it didn’t matter – we should just buy things that we like. We’re not buying as an investment – we just want to have things that we think are pretty, and it would be fun to buy an original piece.

We hemmed and hawed for quite some time, trying the artist’s patience a little, I think (though she was very kind). In the course of our million questions, she let us know that she could paint us a small version of a larger piece that we liked, and she would do it on the spot while we watched. That sold me – an original piece that we watched being painted? I’m in. Lis was nervous but acquiesed, and we are now the proud owners of an Impressionist-style landscape of Pu’upehe Rock. I feel like such a grown up – now maybe we’ll put pictures on our walls:)

Lis: Mary totally tricked me. She said to me before we walked over there, “Let’s just take the original off the table and assume we’re going to buy a print.” I said okay. Then Jordanne, the artist, started talking about the originals and how much they would cost us and Mary nodded and looked very interested…so much for taking the original off the table. But it was very cool watching a painting be painted for us, and I think we will probably love it.

Last night we finally got to eat in the main dining room, and it was quite good.  It is Italian themed, and has a fixed price format.  There are three menu sections (antipasti, first course and second course), and three options; two courses and dessert, three courses, or three courses and dessert.  We went the two courses and dessert route, and it was really good – my dessert in particular, something called a bittersweet chocolate mousse, may have been the best dessert I’ve ever had.  So I’ve been steadily upgrading my opinion of the food here – it’s really quite good once you back out the Red Robin quality of the pool grill lunches.  We haven’t had pool grill dinner yet – I’ll be curious to see how that is.

Yesterday Lis’ father and stepmother (Roger and Iris) arrived in Lana’i – they will be staying 8 nights, and overlapping with us for our final 5 nights.  We really like traveling with them, because we enjoy a lot of the same things, and because they need just as much alone time as we do.  We met up with them at breakfast (our breakfast policy is “we’ll see you there if we see you there” so we don’t have to do a bunch of coordinating) and had a nice meal.  Then they went off on a big ol’ walk, and we went back to our room with the intention of heading down to the beach, but actually ended up napping in bed (Lis) and reading on the lanai (Mary).  I must say, this lanai is really very, very awesome – you could spend the whole vacation just reading and napping on the lanai and be perfectly content.

We met up with Roger and Iris at the golf course for lunch – they had been walking the whole time that we had been lazing.  After lunch they were planning to head down to the beach to read, so we said we’d join them there.  We tried to do some snorkeling, but the surf was kind of rough, which made snorkeling less than ideal because the sand was stirred up and the water cloudy.  We gave it the old college try for a while, but eventually also ran in to these creepy little jellyfish-like things, which spooked me (jellyfish freak me out) and even made my sweetie a little nervous, so we gave up.

The rough surf made getting out of the water a little challenging, and Lis began to panic a little, as she was afraid of a repeat of a previous Hawaiian adventure in which she went ass over teakettle.  However, earlier I had noticed some people getting out backwards, facing the ocean so they could gauge the swells, and I told Lis about this method and talked her through it, and we both got out without mishap, and I felt very rescue-y and pleased with myself and all warm and fuzzy toward my girl as well :)

We went back to our chairs and hung out on the beach until it was time to get ready for dinner.  On the way back we saw a flock of wild turkeys walking along the path and I snapped a couple pics.

Even though we only had an hour to get ready, we still stopped at the poolside bar on our way back to the room for our happy hour lava flows; got them to go this time.  We are girls with our priorities in order.

For dinner we went back to the Lana’i City Grill, which is probably our favorite restaurant so far, though Lis really likes The Terrace up at The Lodge, and I really like the Italian main dining room here.  As we were driving through Lana’i City on the way to the restaurant, I saw this kid wearing a weird outfit – “Why is that kid dressed like a soccer ball?  He must really like soccer…” – I was pretty confused.  Then we saw a bunch more kids dressed funny, and finally someone on the bus said “Oh, yeah, it’s Halloween!”

Dinner was divine, as usual, and when we left, the hostess had us trick or treat out of a big tub of candy, and I scored some Tootsie Rolls, which are my fave – so a Happy Halloween was had by all!

As I mentioned in a previous post, the air here is not agreeing with my head – I think it’s too damp, due to the waterfall outside the lanai and the humidity in general.  You’d think humidity would be good for one’s sinuses, but I’ve been stuffy and post nasal drippy all trip – which has led to some gargantuan snoring.  Being tired and eating too much hasn’t helped any, though I haven’t had any booze – my lava flows have been virgin (I actually think I like them better that way).

We’ve tried a variety of solutions (including one where I sleep on the lanai), but last night Lis asked if they would bring us a rollaway bed, which we set up as far from the regular bed as possible (my head is actually in the little hallway next to the door).  This, plus the white noise of the waterfall outside, and the white noise from our iPhone White Noise app (crickets), and we both got a good night’s sleep last night – yay!  Lis:  Amen!

We headed to breakfast fairly early, as we wanted to be down at the water in time for the triathlon.  Breakfast is a buffet affair in the main dining room, and is complimentary with our room, so we make sure we don’t miss it.  It’s overpriced, of course, but it’s also pretty good, and I’ve developed a 3 course breakfast that I’ve been enjoying very much. 

First course: scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes.  I have to be careful in this course, because if I load up too much here, then it impedes the later courses – I try to take just enough to take the edge off.  I also get some juice at this point – guava mixed with whatever else they’re offering (usually pineapple or pineapple-orange).

Second course: papaya and pineapple, and whatever other fruit is out that day.  Everyone else uses the appropriate fruit bowls for this, but we use the little kids’ fish plates, cuz they’re so damn cute. 

Third course: this course is basically dessert – cheese blintzes or fruit-filled crepes, depending on what they are offering, and a pastry (on a second fish plate).  I just grab whichever pastry looks good – a couple days in a row I scored pastries with chocolate inside.  I also have some decaf coffee with my breakfast dessert.

It really is a lovely little routine – I am going to miss it (though my waistline won’t – I’ll have to do some serious food discipline when I get home :( )

We got down to the beach just as the athletes were preparing to start.  It was really fun – we talked with some relatives of people in the race, and watched the racers.  Our normal shady spot on the beach was near where the swimmers come out of the water, so we sat and cheered as each swimmer came out, cheering especially hard for the stragglers, as we are always the stragglers in the itty-bitty tris that we do, and it’s nice to be cheered for.

After the swimming was over, the excitement moved off to the bike and run portions, and we got our beach back.  It was kind of nice – we were able to swim and snorkel, but when we were sitting in our chairs on the beach, we could hear the race results over the loudspeaker, and hear the crowd cheer when people came in, so we got to experience the triathlon in a peripheral way but not have it interfere with our beach day.

Lis was feeling particularly burly today (she is a former cross-country runner, and these things get her competitive juices flowing), and decided to get to the snorkel area by swimming around the bouys that were still out from the swim portion of the race.  I was feeling particulary NOT burly today (see: air not agreeing with head), and decided to meander over to the snorkel area.  This got us both there at about the same time, and we snorkeled for about an hour.  I love snorkeling – it’s as close as I get to those awesome dreams where I can fly.  Plus there are lots of neat fish here.

After snorkeling, we went to our beach chairs and hung out for a while – Lis read and I listened to music.  I made a point of not bringing a camera or an iPhone, as I had been a little too involved with both yesterday.  It was nice to just sit still and listen to music. 

We ordered burgers for lunch, and they brought them to us at the beach.  We hung out for a little bit after lunch, then back to the room for our afternoon naps :)  For dinner we are going to the main dining room that I have been trying (unsuccessfully until now) to get my sweetie to try.

And now, let me close with a romantic little interaction between yours truly and her beloved, that took place during the writing of this very post:

Lis: “Do you want some light?”
Mary: “Um…sure.”
Lis: “I wasn’t going to give it to you – I was just suggesting that you turn on your light.”

Today we spent the day wandering the grounds of both resorts. After breakfast, we walked around the 5 named gardens in the Manele Bay compound, me taking photos like mad and Lis becoming increasingly over it. For lunch, we went up to The Lodge – the food, service and presentation all seem to be significantly better up there. After lunch, we walked around the grounds, me again taking photos like mad, and Lis only a little over it this time, owing to her nap after breakfast :)

As we wandered around, we came across the 18 hole putting course. Lis went back to the lodge to get putters and balls, and we played the course. I won, but only because of Lis’ unfortunate sand trap misadventure – she pulled off some beautiful putts, whereas mine kept threatening to be beautiful but then rimming out and rolling away :(

There is a triathlon here tomorrow, and when we got back in the late afternoon, many of the triathletes were here registering. Lis is feeling grumpy about all the people (there is also a Sunquest Circle of Excellence gathering here right now), but I like the big influx of riff raff – makes me feel better. The triathlon kicks off with the swim at 9:30am tomorrow – we’re going to try to go down and watch it.

And for those of you who are interested in endless photos of landscapes (with a couple golf pics thrown in), here are the links for my photographic efforts of the day:

Yesterday I had been marveling that we had the energy to do all the things we’d been doing, and to enjoy them as much as we had – I had thought we were going to get here and just collapse.

Well, today we had that day – unmotivated and out of sorts, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Lana’i air is not agreeing with my head, making me stuffy and snoring like a tank, which in turn makes my fair one a little cranky…

We didn’t feel like doing much, so lay about for a bit before breakfast and after breakfast, but eventually making it back down to the beach to snorkel and swim.

But, like yesterday and the double-lounger, you just can’t go back – we didn’t snorkel for long because we were tired and Lis kept having trouble with her mask, and we didn’t swim for long because we were tired and the dolphins, while there, never got very close.

I think the lesson here is, enjoy your transcendent experience, but don’t come back the next day and try to do it again, because it probably won’t work.

We did sit on the beach for a while and listen to our iPods, which was nice. 

After lunch, we went back to our room and just stayed there until dinner, reading and napping.  Sometimes, ya just gotta veg in the room.

For dinner we went to a place in Lana’i City called The Lana’i City Grill, which was really good, and much closer to being reasonably priced.

About halfway through, Lis said to me “Uh, oh – did you bring a credit card?”  I stared at her – the question didn’t even make sense to me.  Then I got it – “Oh, because we’re not at the resort – we can’t charge it to the room…”  No, I didn’t have anything but my room key and my camera.

Luckily, the manager is used to this sort of thing – apparently it happens a lot – and let us go back to the hotel and call her with our credit card info.  I guess we have pretty thoroughly adjusted to life at the resort :)

Last night we went to the other Four Seasons Resort on the island, The Lodge at Koele, for dinner.  The food was much better, but still incredibly overpriced.  Still, we had a very lovely meal, and The Lodge is gorgeous.  It’s more country estate than Polynesian village, but it’s very grand.  I can’t wait to go up there during the daylight hours and look around – the Lodge has croquet (free) and an 18-hole putting course (free) and horseback riding ($) and archery ($) and skeet shooting ($).  Don’t know if we’ll actually do any of those things, but it’s fun to dream.

This morning we were up bright and early again, and Lis said “Let’s try to snorkel before breakfast.”  It was pretty windy, and I was dubious, but when it’s your birthday, you get to snorkel before breakfast if you want to.

Yesterday, when we were watching the dolphins, we saw that they are generally on the right side of the bay, but that they do a lot of moving around.  We also saw that people who went out in to the water near the right side of the bay and just hung there would eventually be surrounded by dolphins, as opposed to the people who actively swam after the dolphins, who mostly just scared them away (plus you’re not supposed to do that, assholes – who chases wildlife? – bastards – but I digress…).  So we thought that the next time the dolphins were around, we would try the pick-a-spot technique.

When we arrived, there were no dolphins, so we went to the left side of the bay where the fish are.  Visibility still wasn’t great, but it was good enough, and we found a better site with tons of fish – really good snorkeling.  There was a huge school of Convict Tangs that we followed for a while, and we saw a bunch of other fish, including the Hawaiian state fish, that I recognized from last time but couldn’t remember the name of until we saw it on a T-shirt in gift shop – Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (who-moo-who-moo-new-koo-new-koo-awp-oo-ah-ah).

We snorkeled about an hour, then headed back to our beach chairs.  We were going to rest for a bit, but we looked up and saw that the dolphins had arrived – time to implement our plan.  We swam out to a spot near where the dolphins were and waited, along with another woman doing the same thing.  We all spoke disapprovingly of the people who were swimming after the dolphins (bastards) and hung in our spot.

At first, it seemed like the dolphin chasers might have succeeded in running them off (dickwads), but eventually our plan paid off, and we were surrounded by dolphins – breaching, spinning, slapping their flukes on the water, blowing through their blowholes, swimming together under water (at one point directly under me – actually kind of scared me, they were so close) – it was one of the most awesome experiences I’ve ever had. 

dolphinsWe were very scrupulous about not trying to touch them or interact with them in any way, but it was not possible to avoid whooping with delight when a dolphin would leap out of the water and spin in the air just a few feet away.  The picture I’ve posted here is actually from a post card we bought in the gift shop, but it’s a good representation of just how close we were – we saw things that looked exactly like this.  As my Facebook friend Pinkie Toenail would say – FUCKING EPIC!!  It was really exciting – we hope to do it again and again.

We had to rush back to get to the breakfast buffet before it closed at 10am – otherwise we’d have to actually PAY FOR our overpriced breakfast.  After breakfast we went to the Spa Ladies’ locker room for our Poor Woman’s Spa Treatment (veteran readers of this blog – and there ARE some; HOLLAH!! – know that we love to stay at expensive hotels and then spend as little money as possible), which is using all the free amenities of the locker room.  We had a glorious steam and sauna, and then used the rain water showers – I practically had to be poured back to the room.

For lunch we went to the golf course club house – the food was much better (and bigger portions) – we really enjoyed it up there, and will probably lunch there a few more times.

After lunch we went back to our glorious double-lounger.  It was still really good, but not quite as glorious as yesterday – a bit hotter, not quite enough shade, not nearly as much attention from the attendants.  Still, we had a lovely time – and then it was Happy Hour!!

We went to the pool bar and got Lava Flows.  And, to show what a good couple days we’ve had and how relaxed we are feeling, we were able to sit at the bar with a bunch of drunk people in swimwear, and have a really good time (An aside: how come we have to cover our boobs and big bellies, but all these men don’t have to cover THEIR boobs and big bellies – we saw A LOT of man boobs).

For dinner tonight we went for pupus in the Hale Ahe Ahe Lounge.  It’s a very pleasant lounge, and we enjoyed the musicians, but the service was very slow and (as usual) the prices high and the portions small.   Tomorrow I’ll see if I can get my sweetie to try out the main dining room, which we haven’t tried for dinner yet.

Yesterday we flew to Lana’i.  In keeping with our spirit of splurge, we had booked first class seats on Alaska (which we don’t usually do – we may stay at the Four Seasons, but we fly Southwest).  I had never flown first class before, and Lis had only done it once on a short flight from the Bay area.  I must say, I could get used to it – it was so nice not being crammed in to a tiny airplane seat.

We had booked the first class air primarily because the flight was long, and so we wanted it to be pleasant, too.  And this worked until we got to Honolulu and our transfer to Island Air for the 25 minute flight to Lana’i.  Island Air said that Alaska would transfer our bags, but they are BIG FAT LIARS.  We had to get our bags from Alaska and take them to Island Air and check them again, the Alaska lady in Portland said.  “Oh, but you’ve got an hour – you’ll be fine.”

Little did we know that Island Air is about a mile away (literally) from Alaska in the poorly marked Honolulu airport.  So there we were, run/walking our luggage through the afternoon heat and humidity, desperately trying to make our connection – totally undid all the benefits of our lovely first class flight (and my shower – DRENCHED in sweat).  Luckily, our Island Air flight was delayed and so we were able to make it.

We showed up at our swanky resort rumpled and sweaty (and possibly smelly, though I don’t know this for sure) and were greeted as if we were the most important people in the world.  This is what I like about the Four Seasons – they don’t treat us like the riff-raff we are (or at least usually look like).  It is our litmus test of any luxury hotel – do they treat us like riff-raff – some do (I’m lookin’ at YOU, Empress Hotel in Victoria…)

We were assigned to a personal… something (“Here is your person, Karen”), and she showed us to our room.  They weren’t able to give us a free upgrade (an amenity we get by booking through our travel agent, Plaza Travel), but did have a couple $$ upgrade options for us.  Karen showed us the garden room we were getting, and the two ocean front possible upgrade rooms.  The ocean fronts were nice, but cost too much, so we stuck with our garden view room – which turned out to be great; secluded, waterfall outside our lanai, away from the loud pool area.  We are very happy here.

We had both lunch and dinner at the poolside grill.  The food was good in a Red Robin sort of way, and spectacularly overpriced.  We knew this and had prepared and budgeted for it, but still, it’s a little disappointing.

Other than lunch and dinner, we were unable to muster the energy for any other activity, not even exploring the grounds of the resort (which are gorgeous) – the triple whammy of getting up early, running through the airport, and the time change had wiped us out, and we were in bed by 8pm. 

This morning we were up early (9am Portland time = 6am here) and both felt much better.  I went to the lobby for the free coffee, and to look around a bit.  The birds were singing (tons and tons of birds here, including a bunch of wild turkeys – normal turkeys, too, that can fly; not those top-heavy monstrosities we breed for Thanksgiving) and it was really lovely.

Back at the room, we hung out a bit and then went down for our complimentary breakfast (another perk via Plaza Travel – we love our Four Seasons specialist travel agent!!).  Breakfast was better than the Red Robin pool grill, but still not as good as other Four Seasons we’ve been at – I think the point of this Four Seasons is the setting and not the food.

We were both still feeling tired, and decided not to worry about making sure we snorkeled today – “we’ll just walk around a bit.”  Then we saw the spinner dolphins in the bay, and raced back to our room, got in our snorkel gear, and headed to the water.

We watched them for a while from the beach – they are SO AWESOME!!  They jump out of the water and spin (hence the name) and do somersaults, and there were so many.  Apparently this bay is one of their resting sites.  You aren’t supposed to bother them, and once you’re actually in the water you can’t really see them anymore unless you do bother them – they’re often behind a swell.

We snorkeled for awhile.  High-ish surf, low-ish visibility today, but we didn’t care; we got to float in warm water and see some fish, which is all that really matters – plus we were in the water with a school of dolphins, which we COULD see every now and then.

We were heading back to our room when we passed these covered lounge-chair things, overlooking the dolphins and not too far from the pool grill.  We stopped to consider them, and an attendant came up to us with glasses of ice water.  We asked if they served lunch in these things; he said yes.  That decided it – we spent the next several hours in our covered double-lounger, watching the dolphins, having lunch, taking pictures, napping.  Attendants came by periodically to: refill our water; bring us lunch; give us chilled cucumber slices for our eyes; give us chilled wet towels, spritz our faces with an Evian mister – it was unbelievably, amazingly the coolest thing ever (you can see some photos here – be sure to check out the Lis cucumber series…).

We are back in the room now, resting up from our exertions, and thinking about trying out The Lodge for dinner.

We had scheduled the most awesome vacation for this past July – travel to Chicago by train in a sleeper car for a Square Dance convention!  Plus visit some family in nearby Moline, IL, and then spend a few extra days in Chicago and fly home.  We were REALLY looking forward to it.  But, alas, it was not to be – Lis’ mom got sick in the spring, and we ended up canceling this and a couple smaller trips to be available for Lis’ mom and family.

After Lis’ mom passed away in September, we decided it was time to reschedule our long-delayed vacation.  We also decided that, after our rough several months dealing with terminal cancer, we deserved to splurge.  And so we booked ourselves for 10 nights at the Four Seasons Lanai.  Lanai is a private island just off Maui, and is essentially deserted, so we should have plenty of what we are craving, which is peace, quiet, snorkeling, and someone else cooking.

We have been telling people that we are splurging because of the difficult time we just recently went through, which is basically true.  But (and here is where I am spilling the ugly truth) — we would have gone to the Four Seasons anyway.  The truth is, it turns out we really love luxury travel.  And, it turns out, we both feel fairly embarrassed, or at least self-conscious, about loving luxury travel.  And so whenever we splurge on a stay at the Four Seasons or a Regent cruise, we always have these long explanations about how we found a really good deal, or how this or that happened, or something to downplay the whole thing.

But we’re trying to work on just owning the fact that this is what we like.  Everybody has something that they’re willing to spend extra on – ours just happens to be stays at high-falutin’ resorts.

So no more shame!  Out and proud!  We’re here, we stay at the Four Seasons, get used to it!  (Maybe our slogan needs more work…)