Las Vegas – April of 2011

A little interruption in Spain Blogs (they will follow after this one). As usually in April, we did a two night trip to Vegas. To have some fun before the season kicks in. And to enjoy Vegas while it is not too hot. Well, it was not hot at all, even cold. Too cold to swim in the hotel swimming pool outside…

This time we stayed at Rio. The rate we got spoke about not the best situation in the numbers of visitors to Vegas. Well, to mind they built too many hotels, but I guess they know what they are doing because they are building more. After setting up in Rio and catching the jingle-and-rush atmosphere there we drove out to eat at Mt. Everest indian restaurant on Sahara Ave. It is the matter of taste, but we think their service and food are good, and the prices are reasonable.

Then we rushed to listen to Valeri Glava’s playing his violin at Venetian -in St. Marcus square. He plays with a trio every evening except Mon-Tue. And he does it with great enthusiasm, very pleasant classic pieces. Some people just come to sit and listen for a couple of hours.

Amazing how late the shops and galleries are open in Vegas – evidently they are also lacking business. After 10 pm, when his concert ended – we still wandered around the Venetian and checked the art galleries we like:

If you are not an employee of a certain casino or at least not a constant visitor to some particular casino, it is not always easy to drive directly to the parking of the casino you are intended. So we parked at Palazo, for that is where the traffic lanes as if directed us. But whatever, they are both connected and so it was rather pleasant to the spring decorations of Palazo before heading to Venetian:

I don’t remember Palazo being decorated with taste, so the same story this time…My guess – each casino group has different designers, so while their expenses for the decor may not differ greatly, their taste does…On the other hand – the spaces are so huge, it is really tricky to think of how to fill it up. It is much easier to criticize :-). For the amount of flowers and sometimes for some of their arrangement ideas my favourite is Bellagio, which we visited the next evening:

So much about flowers. The next day we observed how sting rays and sharks were fed by a diver at Silverton casino in a coral reef aquarium:

That was quite an attraction. As you can see the sting rays have their mouth under their body. Some of them would swim eagerly and grab the squid from the diver but some were not so hungry, so the diver literally pushed the squid into their mouths. The same with the sharks, but don’t think they were large ones. Just small playful sharks, some of whom are nocturnal and they just stay at the bottom of the aquarium, but the diver felt they needed nutrients and also pushed squid into their sharp mouths.

The next stop-the Flamingo hotel-casino. They have this nice courtyard with flamingos, swans, koi fish, ducks and other creatures all in a beautiful park setting:

Then again Bellagio. it is very comfortable to park in one of those hotels – Flamingo, Harras, Ballys , Paris, Bellagio or Cesar’s palace and walk around them using the bridges to cross the Strip or Flamingo ave. We prefer to park in the Bellagio because the elevator from the parking gets you directly to the flower world. But there are other nice walks in Bellagio besides the flowers, with designer stores and well designed restaurants on the sides and not as crowded as Cesar’s Palace :

This restaurant is called Yellow Tail – and this wall in front imitates the scales of a fish. The thing about Vegas is that each time you wander around its casinos – you will see new interiors, new details you never noticed earlier. They have exhibits here and there and once we visit Vegas 2 times a year only, we find them changed. This time I looked around the entrance to Cirque de Soleil entrance in Bellagio – a sculptor Richard McDonald was exposing his very realistic but expressive works:

There was a TV screen showing how he works with the models – circus artists, constantly moving and doing poses for him.

Next stop – from the riches to the rags:-) -we had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant that we found on the internet. Once we got there – we wanted to leaved, but stayed to be done with it- to feel like we visited Ethiopia and never bother to go there again :-):

It is not about the interior, yes, it was very simple and luxurious, but the atmosphere was too Ethiopian for us – there were only exceptionally Ethiopians there speaking their language rather loudly, the waitress, alas, spoke some English, there were barely 8 or 10 items on the menu, but the food was tasty and interesting, just too spicy hot for my stomach. So we felt we visited the country, “check!”.

Already for late in the evening we left the best part – The City Center. Again -had a hard time finding the parking for Aria hote, so parked where it was easy – in Cosmopolitan and were happy about it/ I would strongly advise to park there to make your walks around those new contemporary hotels -casinos, galleries, shops,restaurants -once you get from the parking lot to the 2nd floor – you just almost bump into a humongous chandelier – it is as if a chandelier with a restaurant inside/ But the strings of beads, the drapes made from them, are worth seeing and enjoying:

There are bridges connecting all those new buildings,so you have no problem, walking around them, just follow the written directions.

We didn’t take many pictures in the ones we have already been last year and I showed them in my previous blogs about Las Vegas, but it was very curious to see the new Hotel -not a casino! – Oriental Mandarin. We are used to cheap Chinese buffets called Mandarin. This time – a completely different story. This hotel though it stands in the same City center – cannot be reached from those nice connecting bridges…you have to get down on the street level, go around some smaller buildings and walk to its entrance – I guess to stop crowds from entering it in vain. But the two men who met us at the entrance were very pleasant though we warned that we are just browsing, not staying there, they directed us to the elevator and said that their reception is on the 23rd floor! Wonderful – the whole Strip was seen from the big windows there, the lobby quite in the dark so that the lights form the Strip would be especially bright – and a couple of restaurants by those big windows, very silent relaxing music – a very nice spot to enjoy the peace and quietness in Vegas, which is by rule a noisy city. But we didn’t take many pictures there, so you have to come and see for yourself. Just the lobby and the wall once you get from the elevator (it seemed quite impressive):

On the way we found several galleries, again – open way after 10 pm, one of them a new Chihuli glass gallery, with a sreen showing how his crew are blowing and heating and creationg those masterpieces:

And back to Cosmopolitan, where this time we noticed some nice ceilings and a wall of a store made from old sewing machines:

And finally – our hotel room, it was big, all the rooms are like suites in Rio:



















A Trip to Glacier NP-1.Ely

They say it is not safe to write about your trip while you are on it, so here we go – we managed to get out of our home , garden, irrigation, cats and fish two weeks ago – and travel for 6.5 days North. To cool off. So we headed towards St. George in order to start the cooling process – to dip into the emerald Quail Creek lake as it is shown in my previous Blog. Then we drove towards Nevada border, towards Enterprice. And on the way – here was the Mountain Meadows Massacre site…A very sad place. Though the valley is beautiful:

Here in 1857 a group of some 150 people from Arkansas stopped for a rest on their tiresome way to California, at that time – a land of opportunity. They met the Mormons who lived close by and asked for their permission to rest for a couple of weeks. Even gave them a good horse for that. There are several books written about the case but they all have the same conclusion – the Mormons killed those innocent people, except for several kids who were not of 8 years or up. There is something in their religion that forbids killing young kids…I wish there was something that forbid killing, period…Why? I guess even the nowadays Mormons are not quite sure, they explain it in fear, but isn’t fear the main cause of all the killing in the world ? Not to expand on the subject – this is the darkest spot in Mormon history. they built a monument on the grave sites, but…On that monument they as if praise themselves – the Church built and dedicated the monument, preserves it…but the fact that they killed and even the number of people killed – is not reflected on it. Also – a note: the killings were very brutal, happened at night and the killers pretended they are Indians. dressed like them and painted their faces like them…

It sais that it happened on September 11, 1857! Another 9/11… And like Alcaida – the Mormon Church never said: “Sorry”…

Then we drove and drove for some 4 hours over a mountain range, then through Nevada and reached Ely, the first city on the Loneliest Highway in America, that goes through Nevada West-East. It is an interesting city as all of the very few on that road. It has a grandeur in its past, the grandeur of a mining town. But the mining is almost gone, the gambling is also not very big there, far from metropolitan areas, it is depressed. We stayed in its biggest hotel – wow – 6 story high!, called Hotel Nevada. The hotel was the first such a tall building built in Nevada in 1929. Before all the hotels were built in Las Vegas. In its time it had prominent visitors such as Lyndon Johnson, the president of the USA, Ingrid Bergman, the actress and many more celebrities from the entertainment business. Including Stephen King who came here in search of the three ghosts who live in the hotel. I wonder if he met them, we didn’t.

A view from our window and our room:

Rooms are not big, but cozy, furnished in old style, but the facilities are modern and clean. It was funny to see this flat screen TV in our room. The lobby and corridors have a lot of character created by Wild West artifacts:

Though I am very much against killing animals those chandeliers looked very impressive:

I hope they are made from shed horns…

There used to be a bigger collection of miniature scenes of various activities people were doing here, but at least there are still some 4 left:

I guess this is a jail guard working hard.

A farmer.

A bar.

I am not sure if we went to this or another bar for beer…But here is the Woman’s bathroom door in that bar:

I specifically checked the door on men’s bathroom – there was nobody peeking…:-)

And in the morning I walked the meditation labyrinth with all those abstract statues or constructions around:

While two crows were kissing endlessly on the opposite roof:

From there we drove up towards Idaho, Twin Falls.

Our June in Rockville

I decided to post the main events of each month once. At the end of the month. Unless we go onto some exciting trip…

So here we go – we went for an overnight stay in Vegas, the beginning of June. It was so hot…like in an oven. But we wanted to have a little break between guests, gardening, irrigation and sitting by computer (the last one is obviously not applied to me). Besides swimming in the pool at ours now liked Tuscany Suites we visited Bellagio with its excess of flowers, as always:

Had a curious glimpse at the chocolate bar there (we don’t indulge – it is unhealthy…) – the eagle is made of chocolates:

And the rest of the evening we spent walking and admiring or just wondering under this super modern architecture in the newly built City Center:

We almost bumped into this construction once we entered The Crystals – the shopping area over there… At first it was hard to understand what it was. Then we saw a restaurant in the middle wider part of it and a reception desk in the bottom part:

Because it looked so bizarre, we took one more picture from another angle- maybe that will reveal its beauty better..:

And here are shapes of their ceilings – wherever you look at – it is intriguing:

And the floors:

And the decors on the floors:

there was an island of glass tubes with colorful hurricanes in them:

You could walk around them, touch them and get the feeling of the humid air they were emanating.

On a different note – when the weather cooled off for several days we went on a Coal Pits trail which has a positive feature to be not popular among tourists. There some rather exotic plants were blooming:

Also we had a lot of blooming around our house:

Which leads us to another adventure – the King snake:

Here she is trying to climb a tree and find birds’ nest…She didn’t find on this tree but found on a bush by our door and that was really sad…I noticed finches flying desperately around the bush, we both came out to see what is going on and until we noticed her in the bush – it was too late… So all Andrei did was heroically catch the snake with a stick and place it into a bucket, cover it, we then relocated it to its natural habitat called desert. For God’s sake, why are they coming to peoples’ gardens, is it safe enough for them? I don’t think so. There are worse ways of getting rid of those pretty but not very friendly creatures.

And finally – while on the way to St. George for once a week shopping we picked cherries in M&I Farm in Hurricane. This is the main fun of June! Their cherry orchard is huge:

This year the crop was big -when I saw how many cherries were hanging on the branches – I thought they could feed all Utah citizens and still have more left. They have ladders, buckets prepared for picking. It was a pleasure to see such abundance and to pick them:

To tell the truth lots of them went to waste…left for the birds to feast on. Not enough demand for them…

Here is the Quail Creek lake at the end of Hurricane – it is a reservoir, but of very beautiful green color amidst the red mountains and a very good place to swim and cool off before diving into the shopping frenzy in St. George:

the end.

Our Trip to Valley of Fire and Las Vegas

Last Tuesday before the big storm (04/20) we headed to the Valley of Fire – Nevada’s oldest state park, dedicated in 1935. But the sandstone formations from sea dunes over there formed during the age of dinosaurs, some 150 million years ago… There is a complex uplifting, faulting of the region with extensive erosions that made the place special and worth of not one visit:

Several kinds of sand stone – maybe I should say several colors of sand stone there competed well with the spring flowers:

The first canyon we went in was called Mouse’s Tank – it was very red, too red for my eyes :-). Thanks God there were some yellow flowers here and there and some prehistoric petroglyphs:

In fact, there was a lot of them along the canyon walls, which witnesses the times when the Basket Maker People and later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers visited the Valley from 300 B.C. to 1150 A.D. There is little probability they could live there because of the scarcity of water. The Mouse’s Tank was the only little basin of naturally collecting water there:

It was nice to see water after going in that very sandy very windy trail.

Evidently lots of airplanes fly over the valley of Fire – it is only 40 mi from Las Vegas.

The peculiar thing is that this rock looks like letter “F” from the other side…

Then we drove to another stop of interest – it was through Rainbow Vista to White Domes:

There is a pink layer seen on the sides of the Domes. Beautiful colors…can’t get them right in pictures…

I am a fan of roads winding in landscape. It was my “thing” !

Driving back towards the visitor’s center we admired this balancing rock – keeping sturdy at thins angle…

Bye bye Valley of Fire, hello Las Vegas! it is a convenient place for us to sleep in order to do some shopping at Trader Joes next morning. This time we found a really good hotel – i wonder where my eyes were earlier, why didn’t I notice it… Tuscany Suites – on Flamingo Blvd., less than a mile from the Strip. The hotel is only 3 story high, no crowds or stops while you get in your elevator to the third floor, very quiet, no slot machine sin sight – they were in a separate wing. the buildings surrounded with trees and blooming bushes, lots of pink bougainvilleas by the swimming pool which is enclosed from harsh L.V. winds in between buildings. Also – live jazz in the main bar where people were dancing happily. A very intimate atmosphere. For $30/ night – we couldn’t wish for more:

The room was huge – well, it was the suite:

And where did we go in Vegas after taking a dip into the hot tub by the pool (BTW- the pool is open from 7 am to 10 pm – find a hotel with such long pool hours, and i promise – you won’t) and eating? To Bellagio, of course… The fountains were not showing – due to high winds. But the flowers were, as usual. It was a spring theme, and this time i got a little anoyed:

Too many flowers, who needs so many? Too big mixture – is a a good taste to mix spring, summer and autumn flowers all together that you get a chaotic chaos, a “noise in the field of beauty…

I liked the big ants here and there and luscious succulents planted on their mounds,

But the total composition was a disaster (excluding my dress from Thailand :-)). This big shovel – does it have any aesthetic value? the enormity of gerbera daisy plants pouring from a dull pot – where was their sense of “enough” or was there a goal to use as many plants as possible to get a better commission. See – there are chrysanthemums, together with tulips, hyacinths, poppies, lilies, etc…When seasons are so ignored – it is going against nature…

The snail’s “house” is made of roses, and the bees’ and frog’s bodies are decorated with chrysantemums:

And, of course, there are artificial decors, as usual. But this was the first time I was disappointed in their design. The economy is still not strong. but they are demonstrating this strange excess…What is the point?

Some words about the Thai restaurant we ate at. My guest Daniel Pyne advised to go to the Lotus of Siam – close to Sachara ave. We found it in a Business plaza – lots of Korean and Japaneese restaurants around there and there was “it” , looking very unappealing from outside. The inside didn’t look modern, either. But there was a crowd and we were amazed how do they find it there – only by word-of-mouth. I looked into their menu – it seemed good, had some fancy fishes, a good selection of wines insa special wine cupboard by the wall. But so crowdy. we had to wait in line and waiting is not our thing 🙂 So we left and found another Thai restaurant very close by in the same plaza called Komol – it even had “…and vegetarian” in their name. And it was good, it had organic engredients if to believe their menu, they had good coconut soup, non-dairy ice cream and they also had meat choices. It was good enough for us. Was it better than food in Thailand – some was, some wasn’t. So thanks Daniel for directing us there. Next time maybe we will try the Lotus of Siam.

Belated New Year celebrations

I am sorry, I guess my mind was somewhere else, that I didn’t describe our New Year’s celebration in St. George. First of all – we do it every year. Since we figured out that it is so much fun. Maybe it was the fourth year we participated in the First Night – that’s how they call it. I consider it to be an incorrect name – because the celebrations go from 7 pm on the 31st of December till 12 am. Which makes it the Last Night. But maybe it would sound too gloomy, like “the last night of your life” :-), almost reminds Halloween, so they named it optimistically.

No pictures from St. George, sorry. It was dark already, lots of trees diligently wrapped with red and blue lights and several very tall pine trees all decorated with colorful lights to the very tops. I bet they did a lot of work there. The celebrations were held in the Ancestor square – newly arranged square in the place where old library was demolished. There were stages with rock music going, vintage car show, painted kokopellies and food booths, but the main thing for us was in the Arts center – they were showing short movies non-stop from 7 pm till 11:45 pm. The movies that had won prizes in Red Rock Film festival. On the top floor of that building there is a fantastic newly remodeled hall for dancing. With a small orchestra playing swings and foxtrots. So our evening looked like this: first figuring out what where the movies worth watching and then running up and down the building – to see some movies, to dance, then again to watch, etc. The only time we sneaked out of the building during the evening – was when we literally ran to a school on the other side of the square to watch a magic show by Max the local Magician. Which was entertaining and good. The room was over packed, everyone laughed and happy so that that the good mood spread around. I think people who live around could even feel it. Why not to be happy – no traffic jams, no problems to park the car, all the events going on close around, just relax, consume and enjoy.

At 12 am people gathered from dances, movies and shows and saw a 15 min firework show which was fantastic! I mean fantastic for a small city like St. George, because maybe a good 10 years ago I happened to see the Independence Day fireworks in Washington DC – they were similarly good. And that is it – no more activities, you just find your car and head home. Oh, one more detail – no alcohol in this celebration, it is run by Mormons. Who else would desire to sacrifice their New Year’s night and volunteer…except for the saints. Therefore I doubt other cities with non Mormon population can have such a First Night. And the last detail – all this costs $5 a person, totally, food not included. Except for some cookies with hot chocolate in the dance hall. They were included :-).

Meanwhile we managed to visit Bellagio in Las Vegas and here is what they had for Christmas and for the Chinese New Year which started on January 24th:

Those snowmen are all made of white carnations. They smelled good!

Based on the Chinese calendar this is the Brown Cow year. Some call it Ox year. Whatever – but this bull is standing on a platform covered with real mandarin oranges…

My mom came to visit us, so here we are after we picked her from the airport.

With another version of cow in the background…

This is how she enjoyed the fountain show by Bellagio. They start at 3 pm, so we had to wait for some time and then they start it with American Anthem. Another song follows after – it means we were lucky – we got two shows! for the price of one (the price was our waiting time).

And that is it from Las Vegas.

Happy New Year, Happy Brown Cow year!