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Ed Boitano: Kaua’i Island

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawai'i

In Search of Movie Locations
In the Land of Aloha
Story by Ed Boitano
Photographs by Deb Roskamp

he vog blanketed the evening Honolulu skyline, compliments of the volcanic ash that blew in from towering Mt. Pelée on the Big Island of Hawai’i. More a curiosity than a hindrance, a larger than life Elvis was still clearly on display, singing and strumming a ukulele on Waikiki Beach. This was a real Elvis sighting thanks to the Honolulu Film Festival where the film Blue Hawaii was projected on a mammoth screen right on the beach. As patrons spread across the sand in rapt attention, it occurred to me that no personality had a greater effect on tourism to Hawaii than the King. Even today, movie mad tourists and Elvis aficionados journey to Kauai’s’ Coconut Hotel (closed for renovation), the King’s accommodation of choice, when staying on the islands. Movies resonate with people. I once asked a guest at the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of O‘ahu why she chose this property for a vacation. Her answer was simple: she was introduced to it in the film, Finding Sarah Marshall and had always wanted to stay there. I’ve noticed that even when films are loosely based on facts, viewers often prefer the movie version’s take on historic events than the real thing.

Kualoa Ranch Tour bus

So what to do; so many movie sights to see on O‘ahu and so little time. O‘ahu has 600 square miles that can duplicate the looks of Africa, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and the U.S. mainland. A trip to the 4,000 acre Kualoa Ranch seemed in order. With its wide open pristine location, surrounded by majestic mountains and native vegetation, nestled right on the ocean, it is known as the “Backlot of Hawaii.” Films shot on the ranch include Jurassic Park, Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates and the TV series LOST.

There has been much speculation if the George Clooney character, Matt King in The Descendants was based on the ranch’s CEO and president, John Morgan. The most modest of men, Mr. Morgan would not confirm that he was the role model for the character, but did say that director Alexander Payne and Clooney each spent a separate day with him, to get a feeling for his character. Mr. Morgan and family regard themselves as stewards of the land, committed to preserving the natural beauty and cultural significance for future generations to enjoy.

Jurassic Park movie location, Kaua'i

The Kualoa Ranch also offers a Jungle Expedition Tour, Ancient Fishing Grounds & Tropical Gardens Tour, Legends & Legacy Tour, Hakipu’u Hike, Secret Island Beach, Ocean Voyage Tour, ATV or Horseback Tours, Dinner & Entertainment, and a cave used as a bunker during WWII which now serves as a museum of films made on O’ahu. Outside the ranch, the famous beach scene from From Here to Eternity, Mister Roberts and In Harm’s Way were also shot on O’ahu. My movie blood was on fire and was ready for more cinematic delights.

On to Kaua'i

aerial view of Kaua'i Island

Manawaiopuna waterfall, Kaua'i - used as a backdrop for the first two Jurassic Park movies

Soaring through the air with Island Helicopters, you could see why the tropical beauty of the Island of Kaua'i proves the ideal setting for a movie shoot. Blessed with lush green valleys, waterfalls and sweeping mountain ranges, much of this rural 552 square mile Garden of Eden is inaccessible by car, plus 50% of her 111 miles of coastline are beaches. County law prohibits buildings from being no taller than a coconut tree. Over 80 movies and counting have used Kaua’i as a backdrop, including The Descendants, South Pacific, Donovan’s Reef, Tropic Thunder, all three Jurassic Park films, Blue Hawaii, King Kong (1976) and even the TV series Gilligan’s Island.

But, once again, where to start? A helicopter stop at the water falls used in Jurassic Park was a highpoint. But there was so much more to see. Locals pointed to Roberts Hawaii Kaua‘i Movie Tour. Participants take a van ride to various movie locations on the island. A video monitor is synchronized in the van so that when you arrive at a film’s location, the monitor shows the scene from the movie. Another pivotal scene from The Descendants was also shot on Kaua’i, where the Clooney character and family, bask out at the stunning inherited land for sale, which he ultimately declines to sell.

Moreton Bay fig tree trunks at the Allerton Garden, Kaua'i

A tour of the stunning Allerton Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden featured locations used in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Jurassic Park. It rates a tour regardless of the reason.

beach and rental houses used in the film 'The Descendants,' Kaua'i

The most popular stop: the beach and rental house in The Descendants where the Clooney character, confronts his dying wife’s former lover. Walking on the soft sand with the alluring waves caressing the beach, I thought about not getting back on the van and staying there forever. But then I remembered if Clooney’s Matt King could soldier up to reality, then so could I. Besides, Elvis’ Coconut Hotel was the next stop on the tour.

Where to Stay

Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel at sunset

Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel is nestled on a stretch of land across the street from Waikiki Beach. The recently refreshed hotel is both casual and contemporary, and proves the ideal location for a Waikiki Beach experience. The onsite Tiki’s Bar & Grill is an informal eatery that features modern Hawaiian cuisine.

Kaua‘i Beach Resort

The Kaua‘i Beach Resort is set on 25 lush acres of Kaua'i’s longest beach. Popular with tourists and locals alike, the resort is surrounded by the natural beauty of Kaua'i, ideal for rejuvenation as well as home base for exploring the island.

view from the Cliffs at Princeville

Cliffs at Princeville offers the quiet privacy of spacious condominium suites, resting on a secluded bluff overlooking the majestic North Shore of Kaua'i. This is the place to relax and unwind as you bask in the endless sunrise and sunsets with waves crashing against the shore.

Where to Eat

A comment about Hawaiian cuisine is needed. Prior to Western colonization there were virtually no instances of obesity among the locals. But with the arrival of New England whalers, missionaries and, later, plantation owners, new food groups were introduced to the island that include highly-salted meats and canned food. The mainlanders also brought with them a plethora of Western diseases in which the locals had not yet established any immunity. Over 90% of the local population died as a result of these diseases. Farmers found their working staff reduced from ten to one, and a new work force was essential. This led to a massive immigration of workers from such places like China, Japan, Portugal and the Philippines. They brought new food items with them. Rice from China replaced Poi as a staple, which was now used as a condiment to soften the taste of the highly-pronounced seasoning of mainland food items. Lomi Lomi featured salmon and tomatoes. Even macaroni salad and spam found their way onto the table. This created a fusion of food ingredients and cooking techniques, often times referred to Pan Pacific cuisine, Hawaiian or local food. This fusion continues today as more immigrants move to the Islands. A lu’au (an elaborate picnic or feast) with entertainment is a great way to sample some of these dishes that now make-up the texture of Hawaiian cooking.

Tahiti Nui in Kaua'i

Tahiti Nui offers an intimate lu’au with traditional music and dancing. And, yes, it was also used as a location for The Descendants, and is included as a luncheon stop as part of Roberts Hawaii Kaua‘i Movie Tour.

a dish at Chef Chai, Honolulu

Chef Chai is one of Honolulu’s hippest restaurant, offering cutting edge pan-pacific dishes with a Thai influence.

the farm and ranch of Gaylord's at Kilohana
Photo courtesy of Gaylord’s at Kilohana

Gaylord’s at Kilohana is an iconic restaurant that embraces the slow food movement with meals made from their farm and ranch.

a dish at Kaua‘i Grill at The St. Regis Princeville

Kaua‘i Grill at The St. Regis Princeville is a Jean-George establishment. Need I say anything more?

Related Articles:
The Garden Island of Kaua'i; On the North Shore of Oahu; The Big Island of Hawaii; Surfing Oahu; Honolulu; Lahaina, Maui; The Road to Hana

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Let Ed know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for "Spokane, Pullman and the Palouse"

Loved the Spokane article – my mom was born there and my grandparents are interred there. Haven't been back in decades.

--- Nancy, Hawaii

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Feedback for "Norway's Fjords"

Hi Ed. I was just reading your great story about traveling through the Norwegian countryside and the voyage along the coast - sounds amazing. I’ve been to Oslo, but definitely would like to return to Norway one day to explore exactly what you wrote about.


--- Sasha H.

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Feedback for "In Search of Movie Locations In the Land of Aloha"

Mahalo for your article on Hawaii film locations. You should check out our new "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book" at:

--- Ed Rampell (Co-Author), Los Angeles, CA

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Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

--- Christian Louboutin, U.K.

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Cool site.

--- Donna Namaste', San Francisco, CA

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Great work as always.

--- S. Wyatt, Seattle, WA

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Hr. (Danish for sir) Ed,

Thanks so much for your article on Copenhagen, DK...loved it! Very well done actually I used to live in Christianshavn (just next to Christania) and Danish is my second language.

You really did a quite grand job and pulled me ALL of the way into your analogy and experience from my other home.

Just one detail that I thought might have been included.....the bakeries & cheese shops in the mornings in nearly every 5 or so blocks as they waft the incredible hypnotizing aromas of those amazing Danish specialties.

I most especially and absolutely love the fact that you included the "hyggeligt" element...wonderful!!

Another aspect of the Danish language that I have found interesting is that we only cuss to devil rather than the more typically religious icons and that love (elsker) is only very rarely used.

All-in-all you have me totally on your team and I will always look forward to your future writing.

Med venlig hilsen...(with kind regards).

--- Breeze

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Hi Ed,

Thank you for your article on the Cherokee Nation. I really appreciate the historical perspective and recognition of their contribution to American culture.

--- Nora Weber, British Columbia

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Another cool issue. You da' man. One question: Is that Mark Lindsay on the front page?

--- Brent, Seattle, WA

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This would be a fascinating place to visit. There is so much history within our reach that we don't often acknowledge in more than a token way. I am wondering if any individual or group has ever gone on a vision quest, or perhaps a memorial march, by retracing the path of the Trail of Tears? This would be a painful journey, for most, I imagine.

--- Sandra, Seattle, WA

Osiyo! From Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism: What a great description of Kauai! The pictures are awesome and I loved reading your travel report! Keep pushin' on!

--- Lisa Long, Tulsa, OK

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I'm getting hungry again just reading your article! It's hot today and I could really use a shave ice right now.

Hope you're having a great day!

--- Melissa, Honolulu, HI

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Thanks so much for sharing! Wow. The beauty even from the few pictures here and your descriptions is breathtaking... I can't even imagine being there for real! The food looks and sounds exquisite, I'm not sure my kind of exquisite, but I do like to be adventurous on occasion :).Quite the story there.

--- Emily, Boise, ID

Great pictures!

--- Anna Harrison, Palmdale, CA

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Tough job, Ed! Thanks for sharing.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

Ed, Tim from the team of Jack and Tim - Star Clipper. Great trip. Always enjoy your postings.

--- Tim & Jack, Washington DC

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Hi Ed,

I really enjoyed your story on the Empress of the North. I was an Assistant Cruise Director aboard her in 2004, and you gave me a treasured walk down memory lane with her.You might know this, but if not .... you can cruise the Columbia again late this summer and early fall. The Empress' sister boat, the Queen of the West, was purchased by American Cruise lines and will offer a Columbia River itinerary which almost mirrors the one my Empress used to travel. Just thought you'd like to know.

--- Paul Penta, 2004 Assistant Cruise Director, Empress of the North, Copperas Cove, TX

Ed, you are by far the most interesting of all the Boitanos. Your coverage is extensive and captivating. It's a real treat to read your blogs. Your article on the Baltic Sea Nations is no exception. But don't get me wrong, the other Boitanos have their own charm and perspective. Thanks for all your articles. I can see it's a work of art. I just now noticed your Dog Quotes --- what a great collection! Keep up the good work. Keep on sharing your travels! This is better than the more popular travelogues.

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hi Ed,

How's life? Hope all's well in sunny Cal.

Having just received the latest issue of the Traveling Boy newsletter I popped back over to your site to take a look around and came across this article which I had not previously read:

Loved it! First of all, this is a part of the world that I absolutely adore so reading about it is always a pleasure. Secondly, I'm happy to see you crossing things off your Buck with such gusto! Myself, I have already been to Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen, and Tallinn, St. Petersburg and Moscow are all on my Buck. After reading through the article I reminded once again why!

One of my favourite lines in the piece is:

"Granted, eight to twenty-fours in world-class cities like Helsinki and Tallinn hardly does them justice, but a sketch is always better than a blank canvas."

So very true. I'll take a sketch over a blank canvas any day! Besides, sketches often lead to full-blown paintings anyway.

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this story. Hope there are many more fun adventures awaiting you soon!


--- Ashley, Toronto

Thanks for a great trip, Ed - such a comfortable way to travel, particularly to several cities i knew very little about. I've had only one sea voyage - crossed to G.B. on the United States in the early 60s - no balconies, etc. on that ship, as she was prepared to be stripped down to carry troops in event of WWIII, but still luxurious in her own way.

Bumped into a documentary recently on PBS re the old lady who is now docked in Philadelphia, I believe with peeling paint on her sides and funnels and of course the interior stripped and auctioned off of everything...periodic moves to rehabilitate her, but so costly people back off. She was the largest and fastest - still is. Her record was 3 days crossing - we did it in a little over 5 (cruise speed I guess!). They showed regular passengers like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who happened to be on board when I was, as well as gazillions of stars who traveled on her. Charles Boyer was the only one on my crossing - we were alone in the library one time, but I didn't say anything. He looked immersed in his pursuit of a book. The Windsors were tiny little people, as was M. Boyer (and this comment from a 5'2" observer!). How's that for an ancient history lesson? Anyhow seeing the ship like she is now made me almost teary - surprised myself somehow.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

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I loved this article!! Kept me in rapt attention, felt like I explored part of the world myself ;) nice way to start my day, sounds altogether amazing and unforgettable!

--- Emily, Boise, ID

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Great writing!! Reading, education and fabulous locations! All around WOWS!

--- E Dava, Burbank, CA

What a wonderful assortment of travel destinations. I have always been drawn to islands, and as a Pacific Northwesterner, dream from time to time about settling in the San Juans someday (like a lot of us here visualize for ourselves). Hopefully, travel will occur before this particular dream comes to pass. I enjoy reading about the connections you have with the places you write about. I will visit that fishing village in Norway, someday, just because of the photograph. Who wouldn't, after seeing it. Thanks, Ed

--- Sandee, Seattle, WA

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Another great edition!

--- CG, Central California Coast

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Hi Ed,

I sailed into Sooke on my way to port Ludlow from Portland, Oregon in my sailboat few years back. It was interesting port. The entry is snake like channel with local fisherman's local markers only to guide you into the port.

--- Larry, Portland, OR

Wow. I want to go to Vietnam! It's beautiful! Those are amazing pictures!

--- Archie, Pasadena, CA

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Kudos to Mark Twain. He knows how to honor a dog, and kudos to Cedric for all he was and still is and kudos to you for another edition of www.traveling Peace and Love,

--- Joel, Pasadena, CA

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Ed, I really enjoy your traveling adventures. Your stories are so well written and the photographs are amazing. Thank you for letting us in on your adventures. You bring the adventure to those of us who aren't able to go. Thank you.

--- Cheryl, Pismo Beach, CA

Amazing story and pictures. To think that 40 years ago we were all terrified at the prospect of going there... what a difference a few decades makes. Fantastic article!

--- Roger, Puyallup, WA

Thanks for your expert insight, Jeremy. Have you ever lived in New York? Don't tell me you are one of those tourists or former transplants. It's a very different experience when one lives here. Unlike Los Angeles, there really is a sense of community. New Yorkers love and care about their city... and, yes, their neighbors too.

--- Lisa - New York, NY

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NY sucks. It's now nothing more than a Disneyland version of its former glory. It city filled with tourists and transplants, and no longer the center of the universe. The WEST is the best. Everyone is moivng to the Coast. Even NY fashion designers check out the LA street scene before launching their new designs. Plus no one in NY knows real pizza. Take a trip to Naples sometime and try the real thing.

--- Jeremy - Los Angeles, CA

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The economic boom is what drove all the changes in New York. The mayors were in the right place at the right time, and to their credit, handled things well. It's easier to clean up the city and cut crime when you have more money to spend. The economic outlook for New York is bleak now with unemployment going up. Bloomberg already is short money and will be cutting services across the board. If things don't turn around, people may not be as friendly in a few years.The idea that New Yorkers are not nice is just a myth; people in L.A. are much more distant and shut-off.

--- Michael, Native New Yorker

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I think that overall, Manhattan has become friendlier in the last few years, not sure why but don't think Giuliani or Dinkins can take credit. There was definitely a surge of NYC solidarity following 9/11, and Giuliani was extremely popular during that period. When he supported Bush so strongly in the election that followed, his popularity plummeted, though. Bloomberg has definitely done a good job with making a lot of bike lanes, blocking off large areas of what was previously street and putting tables and chairs for pedestrian use. Not sure how this economic downturn will affect local attitudes, though....

--- Sue, New York

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This is the best. Keep them coming.--- Paul Ash

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Ed, thanks for putting the Holland button on your site.

By the way, your images really work! I opened the newsletter and was immediately tempted to click on an article. Love it. And also love the fact I can click on images in the articles to enlarge them. The short headline on the image makes me curious. Well done.

--- Bianca Helderman

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Thanks Ed, for this delightful view of this wondrous city! The first time I traveled with a husband to NYC years ago, it was for an Orchestral Conductor's conference. We lived in Newfoundland at that time, so you can imagine my shock of coming from isolation to the big apple!My heart began beating as I looked out of my hotel window at the figures of humans below, scurrying like ants, I was up so high. It wasn't the height, rather, the invisible buzz, that urgently beckoned me to go outside! But when I reached the sidewalk, the rush of pedestrians made me wonder "where's the party?" Friendly? Yes! I lived in NYC for 5 years with a later husband and loved every minute! Being an artist, I could not relax enough to paint, so I took up acting and worked with "Children In Need" a charity, instead and partook of everything NY had to offer from opera and Off Broadway plays and such to ballet and wholistic healings....a city full of everything one could imagine! I truly love NYC and years later am grateful to live in a quieter area of California so I may relax and paint and do my healing work...going back only to visit my delightful haunts. There is nothing like NYC!.

--- Yoka, Westlake Village, CA


Great issue. Well done. They keep getting better! --- Grace Conlee Micetich, San Diego, CA

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I loved all of the traveling news! It’s good to know you are still out there in the world. --- Judy Vincent


Thanks for getting me back on the Traveling Boy newsletter mailing list- I have missed it!

I do believe we need contributions of the ‘road less traveled’ in the US for those of us whose feet never leave the ground… Ahhhh… the Badlands... Two Medicine in Glacier… the Lava tubes in central Oregon… my next destination wish: Monument Valley.

--- Lorrie Sjoquist

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The photos and descriptions of this trip are wonderful. I love the idea of the slowed down pace of the train. Kind of a throwback to the "good old days." --- Larry Lombard, Puyallup, WA

I think you outdid yourself with the "Two Cities" article. I'm ashamed to admit that I knew so little about these two cities. I learned so much. Your article was jampacked with very interesting trivia. Surprised the Jazz greats and Walt Disney came from practically the same area. And those pictures --- especially the WWI museum --- what an incredible shot --- almost like out of somebody's Satyricon dream. Bravo!

--- Rod, Glendale, CA

What a great article! --- Michelle, Torrance, California


The photos are spectacular. I can envision many a romantic novel inspired by these majestic sceneries. Makes me want to do a little more research on Norway. John Lenon must have been one of the converts when he wrote "Norwegian Woods."
--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena CA

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Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to write. Indeed, Norway was paradise on earth, and I dream of returning again and again. You had a funny line about John Lennon being so inspired by the beauty of Norway that he composed the song, "Norwegian Wood." If I'm not mistaken, his reference to "Norwegian Wood" is just that: an inexpensive pine wood from Norway that was becoming popular in the UK. I did read somewhere, though, that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was inspired by Norwegian fjord trek.

Thanks again… and please keep writing.



Reading Peter's implication that "Norwegian Wood" was based on a trip that John Lennon took to Norway led me to do some research.

According to Paul McCartney at a press conference in Los Angeles: 'Peter Asher [brother of McCartney's then-girlfriend Jane Asher] had just done his room out in wood, and a lot of people were decorating their places in wood. Norwegian wood. It was pine, really, just cheap pine. But it's not as good a title, is it, "Cheap Pine"? It was a little parody, really, on those kind of girls who, when you'd get back to their flat, there would be a lot of Norwegian wood. It was completely imaginary from my point of view, but not from John's. It was based on an affair he had. She made him sleep in the bath and then, finally, in the last verse, I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as a revenge. She led him on and said, "You'd better sleep in the bath." And in our world, that meant the guy having some sort of revenge, so it meant burning the place down....'

Of course, just cause it's on the 'net doesn't mean it's true.

--- Jeff M, Tacoma, WA

Weird piece on Copenhagen (Cosy in Copenhaggen). Do you think now that Keefer’s in the slammer in Glendale for DWI he’s experiencing any hygge? I bet some of those jailbirds would like to see how touch he is.

--- Adam S., Glendale CA

I loved your intro and the way you set up the article. It immediately set the tone of an action-paced adventure. I imagined Annette as a spy in a trenchcoat feeding you top secret information. I'm surprised you didn't get lost. Do they speak English over there? Are the street signs in English? Does a GPS work over there?

I never heard of "hygge" but, like you, I think I've felt that sensation everytime the cold wind blows here in South Pasadena, CA. When I sit beside a warm fire, sipping my hot chocolate, I will remember this article. Thanks!

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

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