Great beer by Saint Arnold’s in Texas.
17 February 2013
Well, the time here is drawing to a close. I’ve had a remarkable few days with a dear, dear friend, enjoying a city that is unique in all the world. We’ve walked miles and miles of concrete, marble, and rubberized people-moving surfaces. We’ve enjoyed the beauty of the American western desert and learned a little bit about the people who once lived there. We took in an astounding five shows in five days, and were amazed at the varied feats of acrobatics and balance, costume and stage design, choreography and even a little magic. We’ve taken dozens–nay, hundreds–of photos. We’ve shopped ’til we dropped and have now managed to successfully stuff our prizes into our bulging suitcases and carry-ons. We’ve created our own in-jokes (we have to go up to go down), learned more about each other, and strengthened the beautiful bond of the friendship that began over fifteen years ago. We made memories I’ll hold dear the rest of my life, and now, at oh-god-thirty in the morning, we’ll take a taxi to the airport and call it a wrap.
George had a business meeting this morning, so he went off to that pretty early, while I worked on the early stages of packing and uploaded some more photos. When he returned, we headed toward our brunch location–a charming restaurant called Mon Ami, Gabi, which sits in the “shadow” of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Vegas. We took a table on the patio/sidewalk/veranda which allowed us to people watch and get our daily dose of Vitamin D. My salmon eggs benedict was truly perfect, although it proved a little more difficult to get an order of ham omelette without cheese successfully delivered to George. On the third try, they finally got it right, and the manager kindly comped our whole meal. Hmmm … should’ve ordered the mimosa, after all!
After eating, we headed out onto the street and took a pretty lengthy walk down the strip. It was George’s goal to make sure I saw all the important sights, so we were off to the Luxor and Excalibur and Mandalay Bay end of the world. We grabbed a meal in a food court … pizza for him and pasta for me, and then it was time to get back to the room, do some packing and make ready for our lastCirque du Soleil show. This night it was the newest show, Zakara. And, I was especially excited because this was the first of the shows we were seeing that George hadn’t already seen, so it was new for him, too. As with each of these amazing productions, the show was thrilling and beautiful and completely unique. Zakara takes its name from joining the words “bizarre” and “arkane”—an appropriate couple of words for a 90-minute experience like no other. We visited the signature gift shop after the show and surprisingly, we both decided our suitcases were full enough!
Realizing how early we’d be headed to the airport, we opted to make it an early night, and walked back to Bally’s without giving in to detours or distractions. The packing went easier than I’d feared it might, and with the loan of a bag George received free with a purchase, I am all packed up and ready for the day of travel. What I’m not ready for is for this little holiday to be over.
Thank you, to all my customers who understood the importance of this trip, and will bear with me while I may struggle with their deadlines. Thank you, to my amazing husband, Kyle, who encouraged me to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with George and see and experience an amazing place, and who called me every day to tell me he loved me. And, most of all, thank you, to George—the kindest, most generous friend, who conceived a plan, handled all the details and made these five days absolutely perfect. I thought often this week, of the last time George had been a part of a vacation trip with us—in 2005, Kyle and I and sixteen of our dearest friends spent a couple of weeks in Scotland together and had a blast!—and I determined that we will not let eight years go between such excursions in the future! George is already talking about the next time in Vegas, and how he wants to show Kyle all these cute little pubs and such!
I’ve chosen for my photo, today, a shot of George in one of those pubs. This one was called Ri Ra and I loved it. A beautiful, comfortable little Irish-style pub that was able to serve me a half pint, they even had a wee gift shop where George bought himself and Kyle fabulous rugby shirts. And, right next door, was a huge Guinness brand store!
So much more to experience in Vegas … next time!
16 February 2013
The Valley of Fire is so named because it is a huge area of sandstone mountains that are all so full of iron they are a bright rusty red, creating a striking contrast with the limestone rock that makes up most of the mountains, here. Early settlers referred to it that way, and the name stuck. And today, George and I spent nearly five hours on a small tour, enjoying the beauty.
We started out very early and our tour guide had picked up all six of his passengers and delivered us into the beautiful red hills by about 9:30 a.m.
The tour consisted of many stops to climb out and take photographs, and with good reason. What majestic and amazing sights we saw! Rock formations with names like Elephant Rock, Beehives, Cobra Rock and Piano Rock and Seven Sisters are aptly named. We took photos and learned about the native flora and fauna and the history of the people who lived here before “the white man.” We got to see Anasazi petroglyphs and we had a delightful picnic with the ground squirrels for entertainment. The park’s visitor’s center was very informative and our tour even included a separate visit to the Lost City Museum which deals with the ancient Anasazi people that lived here 2000 years ago.
When we got back to the hotel, we decided we weren’t completely tuckered out, so we headed back onto the strip to visit a couple of iconic places. First, the M&M store, which was perhaps not my best idea ever. On a Saturday. During a three-day weekend. With perfect weather. In other words, it was actually a rather hellish experience, full of ill-behaved children, and stupid parents in a store that was horribly poorly planned and laid out. I was not happy, and ultimately made a selection and got the heck out. Before I was tempted to push somebody down an escalator.
Escalators! I think I’ve ridden more escalators in the past three days than I have in the whole rest of my life put together. My joke with George is that we always have to go up to go down, or go down to go up! To get the monorail from our room, we take an elevator down to the lobby level, then an escalator to the level below, and an escalator back up to the tram station platform. To get across streets throughout most of the strip, you go up an escalator, across a bridge and back down another escalator! To get almost anywhere, there is an escalator involved somehow—usually in pairs! There are long ones and short ones, sloped ones, and slanted ones–even an omega shaped one…and one shopping area even has a spiral escalator! But, I digress…
Our next stop was more fun: The Coca Cola store. Now, I’m a Pepsi girl from way back, but I’ve always been a sucker for the Coke ads and commercials … and they know how to do merchandise! They even had a spot for photos with the (very charming) polar bear of TV commercial fame. And, upstairs–the Coca Cola bar where you can have pretty much any flavor of Coke you want from all over the world.
When we finished our Chocolate Cherry Cokes, and went back downstairs, we realized we were hungry and now would be a good time to have some dinner before our show. So, we chose another iconic place–The Hard Rock Cafe–for our dinner spot. The food was good, and this is a beautiful HRC. We left happy, and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the show we were seeing tonight: Le Reve (The Dream).
Playing at the beautiful Wynn Hotel Resort, this show is an amazing spectacle of aerial work, diving, dancing and special effects. The choreography blew me away. Very much born of the Cirque du Soleil family, it is not technically a “Cirque” show. The costumes were a bit simpler than most of the Cirque shows, but certainly achieved the desired results. The music was excellent and the performers top notch. Another fabulous theatrical experience.
Only one more day, here. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by.
15 February 2013
Someday, when I have nothing exciting to photograph, I’ll take a photo of the fabulous new shoes I bought today with my “winnings!” I can hardly wait to wear them! (The winning thing actually happened on my first day here, and I forgot to write about it! I guess that proves I’m not really the gambling type. It’s kinda fun when you win, though–free money!)
Today was a day of mostly walking (again) and shopping (again) with a Cirque du Soleil show in the evening (again). But, as much as that may sound like the same thing as yesterday, it was as different as can be! Every day here is a new adventure. I suppose if you lived here, you could eventually get bored or run out of things to see and do … but I’m doubtful. I only wish I had a pedometer!
The highlight of the day, by far, though was tonight’s Cirque show: We saw “Love,” which is a celebration of Beatles music interpreted in Cirque du Soleil style. I bought t-shirts for Kyle and I, and a cd of the music. And, so far, this was my favorite. My photo is of the walkway leading into the Love theatre. The lights on the floor cycle through the colors of the rainbow in sequential order so the walkway is constantly changing. Just a tiny freckle on the face of the type of special effects and design that is a part of every Cirque event.
Still 14 February 2013
This colorful scene is yet another of the many amazingly detailed displays in honor of the Year of the Snake. The snake’s head was even animated to move back and forth and up and down.
We rested after returning to the hotel from our tour, but only for a while. After freshening up, and most importantly, changing shoes (and clothes) we headed out to see some sights. It’s pretty easy not to spend money shopping, when the offerings are things like $700 pairs of shoes and $5000 cell phones, so it’s mostly a window shopping sort of thing. We “shopped” our way around the Venetian, had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, and then headed to the Bellagio for our second Cirque show: O.
And, at last, there shall be some sleep!