Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Caesar's Palace

Caesar's Palace was an all day experience. We spent most of our time in a section called "The Forum Shops". Basically its a giant shopping mall attached to the hotel/casino. There are very upscale shops that most "normal" people can't afford to shop at unless they've won that fabled jackpot on one of the slot machines. I enjoyed the place because of the decor. You have to admire a place that uses reproductions of life size nude male statuary as decorative items. The only other place you might see this many artistically beautiful nude male figures is in Rome itself or backstage at a modern-day body-building contest. Since its not likely I'll visit either of those locations in the near future this served as a reasonable substitute. So, I appropriately got busy with my camera.
Don't judge me too quickly. I did more than just gawk at the hunky statues. We spent quite a while playing in the three story FAO Schwartz store. I was soundly defeated a couple of times playing air hockey. I would be scolded by my opponent if I were to leave out that detail. And, on the top floor of the store we found a giant keyboard like the one from the Tom Hanks movie "Big". There were a few amateurs goofing around with the thing. But, being a true piano player I decided to prove that what Hanks did in the movie wasn't just possible for movie stars. I located G and F and proceeded to play Chopsticks with my feet. I hit a few clunkers but after a couple of tries I made it through the whole tune. I attracted a tiny little audience and got just a smattering of applause when I finished. I felt good about the performance. Yes, I have pictures to prove I did it. But, you'll never see them here. After seeing my pasty legs sticking out from under my old man shorts and my flabby belly bouncing to the beat, I decided that's not appropriate material for public consumption.
That afternoon we ate at a Cheesecake Factory restaurant. I had never eaten at one before. The meal was great. I also began my Las Vegas relationship with a drink called a "Mojito." I had two with dinner. I think I had two the next night also. I've had mojitos before but it was always a bottled mix with rum stirred in. In a city that takes bar tending very seriously the mojitos are a religious experience. In Vegas they're made with handfuls of real crushed mint, fresh squeezed lime juice and cane syrup. I had a couple that actually had sugar cane sticks in them as stirrers. My Vegas vacation is over now but I'm sure I'll continue my affair with the mojito if I ever meet a good one around here.

The Volcano

I can't believe I did this. The guidebook said one of the best "free shows" in Vegas is to watch the Mirage volcano erupt in the evening. It was okay. I wouldn't describe it as great.

Of course, this was the final event we attended after having walked up and down The Strip a number of times and rode the Monorail until our butts were numb.

At first we thought the volcano (actually a fountain that rumbles, turns an eerie orange, and belches flame at the very end) was scheduled to erupt every fifteen minutes. Boy, were we wrong! We saw a sizable crowd standing around the fountain staring expectantly at the splashing water. Occasionally we'd here a rumble and we'd get our hopes up. Then after almost thirty minutes of waiting (not fifteen) the steaming, splashing and rumbling really cut loose. At the last minute a few flames spouted here and there. There was a slight smattering of applause as if a real performance had occurred. I couldn't help but wonder, "Who are we clapping for? Who's grateful for the applause, the ducks?" But, I'm glad I can say I saw the Mirage fountain. Its one of those touristy things you just have to do if you're in town. Besides, this was a shared experience and my company was great.

Moving Statues

While we strolled through the canal shops at The Venetian (and getting lost a number of times). We found a street performer posing as a "moving statue". He was interesting to watch. However, "moving" is an exaggeration of his performance. He certainly took a minimalist approach to his gestures.

Nearby was a gelatto shop. We actually had lime sorbet. I dropped this guy a few bucks and snapped some pics. I thought that for a few more bucks he might give me a different pose. NOT!!

So, we asked a bystander to take our pictures seated in front of him. We moved on.

Madame Toussaud's Wax Museum - Vegas

Yes, I wish I'd really met The Rock. But, this certainly was the next best thing. The Venetian has a Madame Toussaud's Wax Museum attached to it. When we bought our tickets for the Blue Man Group we received free tickets to the wax museum.

This wax museum is none like I've ever been to. We have a Madame Toussaud's in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Its nothing like this. At the Vegas museum you are allowed to "interact" with the figures. We were able to touch the figures, pose with them, have our pictures made with them.

I have great pictures of myself with The Rock, Patrick Stewart, Capt. Jack Sparrow and Judy Garland. I got to wipe my face with Elvis' scarf. But, I couldn't keep it. Before the visit was over I even pushed the "President" away from his press conference podium. That may have been the most cathartic experience of my entire vacation.

The Venetian

Our first day in Vegas (actually first two days) were all about casino hopping. Almost as soon as we woke up we headed out onto The Strip to begin our adventures. Of course, the most eye-catching thing in that town, in my opinion, is The Venetian. It lies directly across the street from The Mirage. It's amazing to see the tower, the canals, and gondolas sitting there in the middle of the desert.

The most remarkable thing you notice upon entering the casino is the overwhelming smell of orchids. Then as you look up you see huge ceiling murals, looking down you see marble tiled floors. Yes, its gaudy. But, it's not gaudy in the same way as the flashy, neon-striped, glittering style of the others. The Venetian is classy and gaudy at the same time (if that's possible).

We were looking for a show to see. So, we headed to the information desk and booked two great seats to the "Blue Man Group". Then we headed off toward the "Canal Shops". The man-made canal begins outside the casino and runs through the canal shops. The canal is big enough to accommodate the gondolas to be guided throughout the canal shops.

We sat at a little coffee shop and had pastries for breakfast. In the distance we heard singing. The gondoliers were coming on shift. They were marching through the canal shops in step singing on their way to there waiting gondolas outside. Then, throughout the day they continued to sing to their passengers as they paddled their gondolas through the canal. It was a great atmosphere.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Viva Las Vegas!

What a trip! Stayed at the Mirage and saw two shows. But, most of all. The company was great. The weather couldn't have been better. Temps were in the 80's and 90's. We walked the strip from daylight till dark for three days and still didn't feel like we saw everything. This is just a brief primer of the trip. More pics and stories later.