Kauai Trip Report, Part 3

[If you need to catch up, Part 2 is here].

I’ll try to wrap up the rest of the trip, which consisted of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We had a late flight out on Saturday night (10 PM), but we were still able to enjoy the day.

On Thursday we woke up, ran and had breakfast again at the hotel. I made the mistake of ordering the breakfast buffet. I say “mistake” because when food is unlimited, I tend to eat unlimited amounts. This wasn’t an exception. I had an omelette, an eggs Benedict concoction with crab, a small kale salad, a mini carrot muffin, part of a piece of toast with lilikoi (passionfruit) jam, and some fried rice (!). Oh, and then pumpkin bread pudding for dessert and some token fruit. Ugh. I can easily say that I got my $39 worth of breakfast, not that this should be a point of pride.

After such a decadent breakfast, I needed a nap. The weather was overcast, so I also checked in with the spa to see if they had any openings. Bingo! They did. I had an excellent massage and a facial, both with Michelle, who is the spa’s trainer. Hotel spa treatments can be hit or miss, but this was all hit. Michelle was the bomb. I liked the skin care products they used, too. The brand is Osea. Michelle told me that she calls their Red Algae mask the “hangover mask” because of its complexion reviving capability. I made a mental note of the product.

By this time it was the afternoon and we decided to head to Hanalei for dinner. The valet recommended driving to the end of the road as long as we were heading that way. It’s true: the road deadends at Ke’e Beach, which is also the start of trails to hike the Napali Coast.

The drive to the beach was quite interesting since we had to cross about seven one lane bridges to get there.

When we arrived the parking area had about a dozen cars but the beach never felt crowded. The surf was pretty strong but a few people were swimming, despite signs advising against this posted at the (empty) lifeguard station.

img_1161 img_1162

I’m the worst at selfies. 

We had dinner at the Dolphin Restaurant in Hanalei, which had some of the best sashimi I’ve ever tasted. This was the second – but not last – time we had sushi on the trip.

Friday was a rinse and repeat for the A.M. routine: wake, run, breakfast. I wisely avoided the buffet. We were nervously watching the weather because we had a helicopter tour scheduled at 11 A.M. and were praying that the sunshine would hold. It did.

I decided not to take any pictures during the helicopter tour and just experience it. I’m glad I did it that way. I am actually quite scared of heights and was also a teensy bit worried about becoming airsick in a helicopter, but once we took off, neither of those problems emerged. It was really cool!

I was seated next to our pilot, Steve, who made corny jokes but reassured me when he said that he had over 25,000 hours of flying time. I decided right then and there that we probably wouldn’t crash. Spoiler alert: we didn’t.

This was my first time in a helicopter, and it felt like we were floating. I loved it. The views were incredible. There would be an amazing waterfall and then bam! A better waterfall. Rinse and repeat for 45 minutes. 

Friday afternoon was beach time. I ordered tacos and a beer from my chair and had to fight off this chicken for my lunch.

img_1179

We decided to eat dinner at the less fancy restaurant at the hotel. We had sushi and fresh (cooked) mahi mahi. It rained but we were still able to sit outside under an overhang. It was lovely.

We started watching “Dateline” at 8 P.M., but both of us were snoring before we even found out Who Did It. I did not regret falling asleep at approximately 8:20 P.M. for a second.

img_1166

Saturday was a sad day since we knew we had to leave. We ran, breakfasted, and then (reluctantly) packed up our belongings and parked them at the bell stand.

We spent the entire day at the beach, probably eight hours total. It was mostly sunny. I swam. I read. I visited my jumping crab friends one more time.

At 6 P.M. we started to get ready to go. Pro tip: since many flights depart Hawaii at night, many (nicer) hotels will have a courtesy suite where you can shower, change and prepare for your (sad) return to reality. The St. Regis kindly gave us a key to an unused room and we were able to do exactly that.

Intercession: some of the Christmas decor at the hotel.

img_1187 img_1188 img_1189

We left the St. Regis around 7 P.M. and were prepared for an hour drive to the airport, leaving enough time to gas up and return the rental car. The valet told us a startling piece of news: there was an accident on the lone highway and a fallen telephone pole was blocking all traffic in both directions. He told us to be prepared for a three hour trip.

We set off and – for the win! – did not encounter any problems. The accident had cleared by the time we reached it and were able to get to the airport in our anticipated time of 45 minutes. We had planned to eat dinner there but the options were Slim and None. We went to Starbucks and Spouse had a sandwich; I had a bag of sweet potato chips and a Clif bar that I found in my bag. What a sad letdown from the gourmet food of the prior days.

Our first flight was slightly delayed. We left around 11:30 P.M. when the estimated departure had been 10:28 P.M. I wasn’t worried because I knew on the flip side that we had nearly three hours to kill at LAX before our final flight.

I was still pretty hungry when we boarded and sad to discover that even in First, there was not a meal service. I would have gladly eaten an airline meal at that point. The flight attendant was awesome and gave me a snack box, which I basically inhaled and then regretted because it was all junk food and salt. I felt really gross when we touched down at LAX nearly six hours later.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but our final flight was delayed nearly seven hours and I spent most of the day in the Delta lounge, eating more salt, reading my iPad and people watching. Once we landed in Minneapolis, we were met with single digits temps. Ugh. I asked myself for the millionth time why I live here. 

Final thoughts:

  • This was an exceptional trip.
  • If you love low crowds, traveling between Thanksgiving and mid-December is something you should strongly consider.
  • Nightlife on Kauai, especially Princeville, is – from our experience – limited. If you want to party, go to Vegas. If you want to chill, Kauai is your ticket.
  • Unpack half of your stuff, particularly anything fancy. This is the jewelry I brought that went unused:

img_1213

I brought this new bag but felt ridiculous carrying it during the one night that I wore a dress:

img_1197

  • The grocery store is your best bet for souvenirs, unless you have something special in mind. We didn’t.

img_1192

You may notice that I stole 10 swizzle sticks from the St. Regis. I have a collection. It’s a Thing. 

  • You need to rent a car if you plan to go anywhere. I mean anywhere. Be prepared for low to no radio options and bring cords to connect to your phone if you want music.
  • Plan a picnic. I wish I would have done this. There were so many excellent beaches in Kauai and I saw several people hanging out, eating sandwiches and drinking beer. While we were staying at a really nice resort, the beach was still public and the view was free. Anyone could bring down provisions and basically enjoy the same thing with much less expense.
  • Consider bringing your kids. I hesitate to write this, since Spouse and I remarked several times that we were having a wonderful time sans kids. However, I saw many children at the St. Regis, and there seemed to be even more staying at the neighboring condo properties. The beaches and slow vibe of Kauai are ultimately kid friendly. The time difference for most people also means a naturally early bedtime and wakeup, which is right up Kid Alley. Even without kids, I don’t think we made it past 10:30 P.M. on any given night. Kauai accommodates toddler schedules quite well.
  • Spring for the helicopter tour, even if you are scared of crashing (Me!) or heights (also Me!).

 

 

 

Kauai Trip Report, Part 2

[If you’re late to the party, Part 1 is here].

Our Wednesday routine started the same as the day before: wake up before dawn, throw open the windows to hear the ocean, head out for a run.

A quick search on our phones showed a local breakfast spot called Lei Petite Bakery that was a few miles away. I got a breakfast sandwich and a chocolate macadamia nut latte, which was a big treat since I rarely get sugary coffee drinks. It was delicious.

We also browsed the nearby shops and picked up several souvenirs at the grocery store, Foodland. Tip: grocery and drug stores are reasonable places to pick up Hawaiian souvenir staples like chocolate covered macadamia nuts, coffee, salts, etc. They have a decent selection and the prices were a lot lower than the hotel’s store, which sold mostly the same stuff. They gave us a membership card to their savings club on the spot, too, so that knocked a few more dollars off the tab.

I struck up a conversation with a woman working at one of the boutiques in the shopping center and she suggested driving to the Kilauea Lighthouse, which was only about 20 minutes away. She also told me that if I stayed until 1:30 PM, she’d be leading a free tour of the lighthouse. We were intrigued enough to head over. This area is a national wildlife refuge and in addition to the amazing views of the waves crashing against cliffs, there was some interesting birdwatching. It was overcast that day, which is why this picture looks more like New England than Kauai:

img_1126

img_1094

I wish I could give a better scale to the size of the cliffs and the waves. It was mesmerizing to watch them crash over and over. I was watching for the beautiful flash of blue that can be seen when a wave crests. I kept thinking “just one more wave,” and soon we’d been watching them for more than a half hour.

The weather cleared up a bit and we headed back to the resort and the beach. img_1159 img_1171

I should have taken better ground level photos of the beach and pool, but instead I took some aerial ones from our room to try and show how uncrowded everything was, especially the pool. I went in it twice and once was the only person swimming. The St. Regis also has a really nice set-up where they will outfit your chairs with towels. Most beaches in Hawaii don’t allow alcohol, but there is bar service here. One thing to note: this is still a public beach – like all beaches in Hawaii – so there were people not staying at the hotel using it, too. Even with that, it was never crowded.

If you look carefully at the pictures above, you may see small dots in the water: surfers! It was so much fun to watch them. Most of the surfers were in Hanalei Bay, and we were able to walk along the beach to the pier. We were surprised to see jumping crabs on the rocks and many sand crabs along the beach. It became a game to spot them before they scurried back into their dens. We spotted countless holes like these on the beach:

images-1

We were planning not to miss dinner that night and had a reservation at the Kauai Grill, which is a Jean Georges venture that easily wins the “Fanciest Restaurant in Princeville” award.

But before dinner, I had one thing on my mind: sabrage.

unknown

Sabrage is the art of opening champagne with a saber, and the St. Regis is known for it. 

In Kauai, they do it every night at sunset, and it’s basically the It Thing for Princeville nightlife. But for me, it’s always something I’ve wanted to see and secretly do. This has been a long-held dream, right up there with playing the drums in a super cool all-girl band. (I do not have any musical talent, sadly, but as someone who regularly performs surgery, this seemed like a better bet).

We arrived about five minutes before the sabrage was to start. I started talking to a friendly hotel employee named David, and he laughed when I told him that this trip was to celebrate my Unemployment World Tour. I also confided that I was supremely excited to see the bottle opening. David said that he was, in fact, going to be doing the sabrage and would teach me how to do it.

David then got up in front of the crowd and explained a bit about the hotel, the history of sabrage and then he sabered open a cold bottle of champagne and poured some for the guests, including us. I was thrilled.

What happened next was totally unexpected: David came back with another bottle of champagne and handed me the saber. When he said that he would teach me how to do it, I thought he meant that he was going to demonstrate to the crowd, but no – this bottle was mine to open.

After some instruction, it was my turn:

img_1131 img_1132 img_1130 img_1133

Victory! The crowd went nuts! I went nuts!

This is exactly the kind of magical moment that turns a good trip into a spectacular one. I will never forget the second when the bottle top cleanly sliced off.

And then I immediately realized that the thing I need most in the world is my own champagne saber. It’s Item Number One on my Christmas list.

img_1164

 

[Sidenote: I never went back to see the sabrage again on the trip. I couldn’t. The first time was too magical. I also heard a rumor from another employee that she had never heard of a guest being allowed to open a bottle, and I am still harboring the fantasy that I was the first and only person to be able to do so. I couldn’t bear to go back and see that thought ruined if it is not true].

We *did* have dinner at the Kauai Grill and it was really good, but I was so jazzed about the sabrage that I could barely focus on the food. We both got the tasting menu ($145) with wine pairing ($95), so this was a splurge-y meal. I loved the dessert, which was a butterscotch pudding confection with macadamia nuts. They served it with port AND champagne. It was nuts. Spouse wasn’t crazy about it and passed his plate to me. I obliged and ate his, too.

And then I crashed into bed. I think it was about 7:30 PM. I slept like a baby. Heaven.

 

 

Kauai Trip Report, Part 1

I struggled with a few ways to start this post:

  • Kauai is ahhhh-mazing!
  • Kauai is paradise.
  • Go to Kauai! Stop reading now and go to Kauai!

None of them seemed to capture the awesomeness of the trip, so I hope the extended report does it better justice.

map_of_kauai

Image via Lonely Planet

One thing you may notice about the above map is that there are not many roads in Kauai. Specifically, there are two slow moving highways (50 and 56, respectively) with speed limits ranging between 25 and 50 MPH that circle most – but not all – of the island.

That “most but not all” part became quite relevant on our second day, but I’ll get to that. If you think of Kauai as a clock, the roads basically go from 11 PM to 9 PM and do not connect in between. 

We arrived Monday night at Lihue airport, which is about five o’clock on the map. We picked up our rental (Jeep Wrangler with soft top, which is an extremely popular rental choice in Kauai; we liked it because we currently have two Wranglers and are comfortable driving them and getting the top off) and headed to Princeville, which is at twelve.

As I mentioned above, the speed limit changed a lot – mostly from slow to slower – and the ~35 mile drive took nearly an hour. When we arrived at the St. Regis Princeville, the place was nearly deserted. A lone agent greeted us and checked us in. We went to our room and started unpacking. I tried to look outside but it was so dark that I couldn’t see anything. I was wiped out from the long travel day and decided to go to bed (it was 10:30 PM Kauai time but four hours later for us due to the time change). Spouse decided to get a drink and snack at the bar. Five minutes later, he was back: the bar was closed. 

Let me stop here and make a key observation: the first two weeks of December are possibly the best travel weeks of the year, IMHO. For the past four years I’ve taken a trip this week, and each time I’ve always found low, low crowds. If partying and crowds are your thing, then you may not enjoy the off-off-off season of early December, but I love the sweet spot between Thanksgiving and the Christmas rush and hope to Get Out of Dodge during this time every year, if possible. We later found out that the reason the bar was closed was because these two weeks were traditionally the slowest of the year at the hotel. This played out over and over for the rest of the week.

On Tuesday morning we woke early due to the time difference. I knew this would happen from prior trips to Hawaii. I opened the windows and was greeted to this pre-sunrise view:

img_1172

It later became this:

img_1184

The rooms at the St. Regis Princeville are designed so that you can open the windows all the way (screens, too). The pleasantness of having the windows open directly to see the mountains and hear the ocean cannot be overstated. I was totally awed and spent hours watching the waves during our stay.

If you are curious about the room, I took some photos. The first shows how the windows open to the water:

img_1066

There was a sitting area to the right and a desk to the left:

img_1080 img_1082

There was a king bed that was extremely comfortable:

img_1079

Reviews on TripAdvisor had mentioned the green marble bathrooms, so I was prepared:
img_1067

The St. Regis Princeville gets mixed reviews on TripAdvisor. I know because I read many ahead of time, although nothing would have convinced me NOT to stay there since I was cashing in Starwood points and basically stayed for free.

Some reviewers complain that the hotel is old and dated, and in some aspects, they’re correct. The woodwork in our room, for example, had seen better days. The green marble bathroom had to be seen to be believed. Other guests – and I will firmly put myself in this category – are huge fans of the hotel, mostly based on the unimaginably gorgeous setting on Hanalei Bay and top-notch service.

Since we were up early we decided to go running, a pattern that would repeat every single day. Running while on vacation is absolutely one of my favorite things to do, so this was a huge part of the trip for me. We ran 3-4 miles every day. It was perfect.

img_1077

Breakfast was outdoors and I decided that this view should go with a mimosa.

The sun was out at this point and we decided to take the top off the Jeep and head back towards the airport and see the Wailua Falls, which are featured in the opening credits of “Fantasy Island.”

images

Spouse and I were both raised on 80s TV, so this was something we were both into seeing. Here they are:

img_1087

This. Was. Awesome!

Even with just an iPhone, Spouse captured the falls and the rainbow. No filter needed.

We kept driving on the lone highway and ended up in Poipu, which is at the southern end of the island and is more populated with hotels. We shopped a bit and had lunch, then decided to keep going to Waimea Canyon, which is at the end of the road.

Unfortunately, the weather started to turn rainy as we winded our way up the road to the canyon. There are switchbacks and the driving is not for the faint of heart. The view wasn’t terrific once we got there, so we only stayed at the lookout about five minutes.

img_1085

We next began the arduous trip back to Princeville. If you’re keeping track, we’d traveled from midnight to nine o’clock – right up to where the roads stopped – and had to reverse our course. This was about an 85 mile trek, but with slow traffic it took nearly two hours. Another tip: we discovered that Kauai radio is spotty at best, and the stations weren’t all that good, anyway. Our rental did not have satellite radio so for during our long day of driving around the island, we were basically stuck with radio static or no music at all. Later in the week we bought an adapter and cord to connect our phones to the radio and play music, and this significantly improved our time in the car. I will remember this in the future and strongly recommend this strategy to anyone else traveling to the island.

We finally arrived back at the hotel around 6:30 PM and found a nearly deserted bar and closed restaurant. We ordered a drink and two sushi rolls and chatted with the bartender, then went to sleep around 9 PM. Not exactly wild and crazy, but in all honesty, I was wiped out and happy to snooze in my soft bed with the sounds of the ocean.

Next up: I fulfill a very surprising dream. 

 

Home From Hawaii

Quick post: we safely returned from Kauai last night, although it was seven hours later than we expected due to a delay in the second leg of our trip.

We unexpectedly spent the day in the Delta lounge at LAX, where I felt extremely gross after flying a red-eye from Kauai to Los Angeles that morning. What we thought was a two hour layover turned into most of the day, but we made it back to darkness, snow and single digit temps. On the plus side: Delta sent me a message saying they were going to give me 17,500 bonus miles for the inconvenience.

img_1057

Bored in the lounge

Given my current unemployment, my schedule today is pretty open so in the end, I was ok with it all. But today I’m tired.

Back to the trip: it was fantastic! I will post many reports about our adventures, but in summary, it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Spouse agreed. 

I dubbed this trip my Unemployment World Tour:img_1111

As promised, I also drank champagne:

img_1077

This was a guava and champagne mimosa that I had for breakfast on our first morning. Yum.

One more teaser pic before I get some of the trip report ready:

img_1087

More forthcoming. Soon.

What To Do When You Are Between Jobs

As I mentioned a few days ago, I am between jobs.

This is a such a rarity for me that it’s only happened once before.

I don’t count the period between finishing residency and starting fellowship as one, because I only had a weekend to pack up my stuff, drive from Colorado to Texas, and establish myself in an empty house (save a mattress) with a dog. I started my new job on Monday. 

In contrast, many of my co-residents graduated and went to the East Coast to stay in a summer house that belonged to one of their families, where they spent a week bonding and having a last hurrah. Several took the summer off before starting their new, “real” job. My friend E. charted a sailboat and tooled around Greece. I so wanted to be with her on that boat.

Fast forward three years: after fellowship I had almost three weeks off before starting my new job, the one I just left. It would have been the perfect time to do something fabulous, except I was newly pregnant with Baby #2 (Trixie), and Baby #1 (MGM) was a rambunctious toddler. Spouse was cleaning up and out our old house and wasn’t able to immediately join us, so MGM and I suffered through two miserable flights before decamping to my mom’s for a few weeks. We lived in the basement. It was summer. MGM slept about three hours a night, which meant I did, too. I was mildly nauseated the whole time. Still, I remember it as a boring yet pleasant experience, although it wasn’t the Total Reset that I imagined would ideally mark the occasion.

I want this time to be different.

Originally, I had planned for a month off between gigs. It didn’t work out, and I am totally ok with that since this means my income and benefits won’t be on hiatus. The gap is now two weeks.

I decided to do something big to celebrate.

Over the past eight years, I’ve hoarded my Starwood Hotel travel points and frequent flyer miles enough that I could book two first class tickets to Kauai and stay at the St. Regis in Princeville for a week.

unknown

Kauai image via Fodor’s

unknown-2

St. Regis image via Starwood Hotels

So that’s what we’re going to do. Spouse and I leave in two days.

While planning travel is one of my great pleasures in life, I’ve left this trip entirely open.

I’d like to do some hiking, a helicopter tour, and visit a coffee farm. Honestly, I didn’t research Kauai enough to know if there is a coffee farm there, but I’m hoping for it. Of course I will also hit the spa as much as legally allowed, and I will drink champagne.

When we return I’ll be home for two days and then I’m taking the kids (just me, no Spouse this time) on a short trip to Florida. I have to pull them out of school for a few days, which I know is not ideal, but with all the changes that are coming I thought it would be nice to do something fun for them. The three of us will leave on a Wednesday and return Saturday. We’re spending two nights with my mom at her place in Florida, and then one night at Disney (staying at our favorite place, the Swan Hotel) to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

unknown-3

Image via Disney

And then I start my new job on Monday. Whew.

Full trip reports forthcoming.

 

 

 

 

 

Lo & Sons O.G. Review

Lo & Sons is a brand that gets a lot of attention on blogs and other social media.

I was intrigued by their Catalina Weekender bags after seeing a few of my favorite bloggers write about how much they held, and I bought blue one about a year and a half ago.

cbcatalina_natindigo_front_crop

Photo from Lo&Sons website

After using the Catalina for a few trips – including a complicated carry-on only jaunt that took me from a work trip in Dubai to running a race in Florida – I can attest to the fact that it holds a lot.

Too much, in fact. That trip I mentioned above gave me permanent shoulder grooves from hauling a heavy, overstuffed bag across 30,000 miles.

(Now there is a Deluxe Catalina available in two sizes that seems more travel friendly; there’s a sturdy crossbody messenger strap and a back sleeve to slide the bag on top of an extended luggage handle for easier transport).

But sometimes the Catalina is still more than I need.

Enter the O.G.

The O.G. (“overnight and gym”) bag is described as a lightweight overnight travel bag.

og_blkgdlav_front_375x500

Photo from Lo&Sons website

 

Honestly, the O.G. is better looking than the Catalina. It would be perfect to bring on a short work trip that involved traveling with your boss.

In contrast, the Catalina is better for a beach weekend with friends.

The O.G. also comes in two sizes: original and medium (cutely named the “O.M.G.”).

The O.G.’s features include:

  • A padded laptop sleeve
  • A side-entry shoe compartment
  • A crossbody messenger strap
  • A key fob on a strap
  • Many, many pockets to hold essentials, including pens, which seem to be something I always need and never have when I am on a trip

When I found a sale on the O.G., I bit.

I selected a black bag with lavender interior and gold hardware.

img_1014The bag arrived in only a few days. It was packaged extremely well. Every zipper, tag and strap was wrapped in packaging material.

img_1016There are metal footings on the bottom. I love when bags have this feature.

img_1017The decorative “L&S” tag on the front is a nice touch.

img_1018Ok, the above image is blurry and I have mentioned many times that I am terrible photographer, but what I was trying to show is the padded laptop sleeve, the lovely lavender interior and the folded white item in the laptop compartment is a dustbag. You know you’ve got something nice when there is a dustbag.

img_1020Here is the shoe compartment on the side. This is clever: on the inside of the bag’s main compartment, the rest of the shoe bag (entry only shown here) can be rolled up and snapped into place when not in use so as to not take up space in the main compartment with an empty, floppy shoe bag. When needed, it can be unsnapped on the inside and shoes placed in it from the outer entry shown above.

This, however, is the cleverest feature of all:

img_1015

On the back of the bag, there is a doubly zippered compartment spanning the bag’s width. There are zippers on the top and the bottom. When it’s opened all the way, this is an open sleeve to slide over the extended handle of a wheeled carry-on. If just the top is open, it is an exterior pocket that is big enough to hold a magazine, books, etc. The top compartment can also be zippered for extra security. I thought this design element was an especially nice touch.

I’m about to embark on a lot of work-related traveling, especially with carrying a laptop back and forth, so I am excited to see what this bag can do.

P.S. You may need to watch carefully, but Lo & Sons often runs sales on their bags, especially around holidays. If you are not picky about color, you can get the O.G. right now for 30% off in red or blue, or 20% off for black, gray or olive.

P.P.S. The Catalina bags are on sale, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Vegas Trip Report, Part 4

Final installment, I swear!

(Part three is here).

The last thing we did during our Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas racecation weekend was visit the Spa at the Bellagio.

We didn’t book appointments before we arrived and were fortunate to secure them, although for a while it looked like we might not. Next time, I would book my appointments far in advance, especially for the busy hours of 9-11 AM.

In the end, the three of us were able to have facials and massages.

The Spa at the Bellagio is huge.

When they were checking us in and leading us back to the waiting area, I could see a list on a clipboard of all the people who had appointments at 9 AM, and it was a full page.

The robes, slippers and lockers were pretty standard. In the changing area, there was fresh carrot juice (I did not try; B. liked it and J. said it was gross), lemon and ginger water, tea, coffee and bottled water.

The waiting area for massages had about 15 people in it while we were there, and I did not like the fact that men and women were in the same area. There were some guys who did not seem to have their robes secured very well, and these were not the kind of guys you would want to see with their robes undone.

Fortunately, this part of the visit was brief and we could silently roll our eyes at each other while avoiding direct views of the unpleasantry.

I had booked a standard facial but changed to an anti-aging one when I got back to the room. The products were from a professional Elizabeth Arden line. I thought they were fine.

What was really amazing was the lip balm that they applied at the end. Over the course of the weekend, my lips went from dry to parched to raisin-like to peel-y. The combination of dry desert air and dehydration, plus licking my lips constantly during the race even though I know I should not do this was too much. Once the facial was done, I inquired about the balm and learned it was this brand.

f9f0e444d7986a41473cf91c81c3b1841

From what I can tell, What’s Your Virtue gloss is such a small company that they don’t have a website, but there is an outdated blog from 2014 I found. How the Bellagio chose this brand is a mystery, but I bought the clear gloss and I absolutely love it. This turned my dry lips around in less than 24 hours. The price was $12.

The second appointment I had was a 50 minute massage. Especially after a race, I would prefer a deep tissue massage to work out the knots, but hotel spas are – IMHO – notoriously light on the pressure. The technician I had was somewhere in the middle, so I was ok with that.

There seemed to be quite a few people who had already checked out of the hotel and had their luggage with them when we got back to the locker room. This is a reasonable strategy if you have an afternoon or evening flight (one I have used many times), because you can shower and get ready to go home after your appointment at the spa. For reference, the Spa at the Bellagio had many private rainfall showers, shampoo/conditioner/shower gel, oversized towels, and the standard things (combs, hair dryers, hair products, aerosol deodorant) that you would need. If you had an abundance of free time, you could also use hot tubs, steam showers and a sauna in the women’s only locker area. We did not have an abundance of time so we did not.

Sadly, then it was time to go to the airport.

We did.

The flight home was uneventful.

My final thoughts: I had a blast. J. and B. are super fun travel companions. The three of us had actually already been to Las Vegas for a long weekend over Memorial Day, so this was a familiar trip. I liked the fact that we could offset some of the calories with running. The two trips were different, though, so I am not sure if one was better than the other.

How does the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon compare to other races? As I said previously, the course is flat and fast. This is great. The night start is unique, as is running on the Strip. I have only done two Rock ‘n’ Roll races (the other was Dublin in 2015), and overall I think I like the organization of Run Disney races better (signage, water stops, corral placement). Having said that, I’ve done worse races, too. I would do this again. If you can swing it, I’d also strongly recommend adding the VIP package, even if just for the eagle eye view of the finish line at the post-race party.

How about the medals? These were solid, heavy and quite interesting. I forgot to mention earlier that since we did both the 5k and the half marathon, we got a third medal for completing a “Remix Challenge.” Some 5k medals are flimsy, but even this one was substantial. The half and Remix medals had spinning elements. (See below).

Would I change anything? This is a hard one to answer.

  • I definitely would have done a better job with pre-race fueling.
  • We didn’t get to try as many excellent restaurants as the first visit (including Mr. Chow and Giada’s) since we had the pre-race party one night and room service another.
  • We didn’t get any pool time (although that was mostly temperature related; it was in the low 70s and we could have gone to the pool but decided not to).
  • On the plus side, I burned off a lot of calories and didn’t feel quite so gluttonous on my way out of town despite having an excellent cookie/brownie/cupcake/cannoli from Carlo’s Bakery, and there were the Meb sightings and Snoop Dogg.

So there’s that.

And this guy came home with us:

fullsizerender-15