Needless to say, Vegas is a shock to the senses and a culture shock rolled into one, especially for us denizens of the East Coast. I'm not certain, but I think I was the only Goth over age 13 on The Strip. (The Vegas Look for Summer of 2012? Lots of light, frothy and pastel short dresses and shorts - on locals and tourists alike.)
The scale of Vegas is amazing. All the buildings and attractions are super-sized. My niece Kathy got me a "room with a view" at the Paris Hotel, across from the Bellagio and catty-corner from the Cosmopolitan -- gambling's very own ground zero. I took this photo out my window. The pool in the background, in front of the Bellagio is the site of the "dancing waters"!
Chef Gordon Ramsey's mug on the Arc de Triomphe greets guests as their cabs pull in from the airport. He just opened his new restaurant, "Steak", on the main floor in the Paris Casino. Despite the fact that it was booked solid, Kathy and her friend Mary Ann managed to score a table in the balcony overlooking all the action. As a vegetarian, I have to take their word on how delicious their meals were.
Oh, and did I mention that the Red Hat Society was holding its annual international convention at the Paris? The sight of women in red hats in purple dresses was inescapable. Who knew they had basic attire for luncheons and local get-togethers back home, but also had formal gowns, opera gloves, lots of glitzy jewels and evening hats -- and crowns -- for momentous occasions such as this? The incredible camaraderie among the conventioneers was immediately evident. This was one of the Queens, who took time out for a picture. Note the jewels.
Vegas seems to bring out something in women of a certain age there: They let their Freak Flags Fly.
To coordinate with her hat, this lady was sporting a face-paint tattoo. Check out her specs. Groovy, yes?
On the first evening, we ate "outside" at the Cafe in the Paris - under the painted blue sky with clouds and stars. Jeanne (left) and Teresa (right) are seated at the table while Kathy and I take up the rear. (For those keeping score, Jeanne and Kathy are my nieces.)
What trip to Vegas could be complete without a trip to the site cable TV's big hit Pawn Stars? Here I am, getting the lay of the land. Across the parking lot is a tattoo parlor. Sort of one-stop shopping. One of the ladies in our group remarked: "If I were going to get a tattoo, I wouldn't get it here", to which another responded: "... or a colonoscopy!"
We were warned there would be a line. When it's 107 degrees, it seems even hotter when you're waiting in line ... in the sun. They did have "swamp cooling", where water is forced through holes cut into thin copper pipes which are hung overhead so they emit a very fine mist. As the mist evaporates, it lowers the air temperature. It dries so fast, it doesn't muss makeup or hair, or even fog my glasses.
Unlike on the TV show, where it appears that people browse the store in ones and twos, when cameras aren't rolling, not only are none of the stars are there (no "Old Man" or Chumley to be found), but also tourists crowd in and have to follow a slow-moving line snaking counter clockwise through the store.
Valerie and I play a game when we're in stores or galleries or art exhibitions: If you could have just one thing, what would it be? I passed on the Pawn Stars mugs and magnets and Chumley tee-shirts and picked this gorgeous vintage pedal car, er, pedal truck.
Well, I did pick it -- until I saw the price tag.
Here's the night-time view of La Tour Eiffel from my window.
The iconic big blue hot air balloon sculpture is a recreation of the famous Montgolfier brothers' hot air balloon. If I recall my facts correctly, their adventurous ascent in their balloon in 1783 is celebrated as the first manned flight. I crewed a hot air balloon at the Albequerque Hot Air Balloon Festival in 1993, which celebrated the 200th Anniversary of their flight. Ah youth!
My window also overlooked the pool. Like everything else in Vegas, it too was huge. I ventured out to the pool one afternoon, but after an hour in 107-degree heat, even I cried uncle.
We went to the Bellagio to see its famed Dale Chihuly glass ceiling in its lobby. It was wonderfully baroque - and colorful. The floral arrangements were also large and lavish.
The exhibits in The Bellagio's atrium change periodically. In the spirit of the Rose Bowl floats, the bodies of the suspended bumble bees and the cranes are covered with flowers. The cranes' wings also feature real feathers.
At the Cosmopolitan Casino, the crowd was much hipper, albeit much smaller. In the lobby is a huge Cinderella shoe. How could I pass up a photo op like that?
Loved the laces up the back of the heel. If Valerie ever goes to Vegas, I can't even imagine how she'd pose in the super-sized stiletto!
The Aria likewise had smaller numbers -- of better dressed-- people than several of the old school casinos on the Strip. This is its aptly named View Bar in the lobby.
Elsewhere in the lobby of The Aria is Jean Phillip Patisserie. It had the most exquisite cakes on display, as well as cookies and chocolates.
One afternoon, we went to Henderson to check out Jeanne and Teresa's new house -- and to see Elroy. Adopted from a shelter, he is a rescue dog with beaucoup personality. How could anyone resist those big brown eyes?
Here's the lobby of "M". I had no idea there was such a chic casino in Henderson, built in the high desert with nothing around it. It had an understated elegance more in the same vein as The Aria and The Cosmopolitan than The Flamingo and The MGM Grand.
On my last night before heading to the airport, we all had dinner in the Eiffel Tower restaurant on the 50th floor. While most of the group had souffles of various flavors (e.g., pistachio, caramel), I opted for the merengue -- which was filled with a delicious pineapple sorbet, coated in peaks of toasted egg whites with fresh pineapple and blackberries on the side. Divine. Positively divine. Everyone who tasted mine said it was the best choice.
Here's the lineup of the rest the dinner guests: Denise, Meagan, Kathy, Mary Ellen, Debbie and me. Jeanne took the picture. I wore my white dice and lucite necklace for luck. Teresa stayed home to take care of Elroy.
I cannot gamble to save my life. Luckily, the casinos all have penny slot machines where I could while away the time and people-watch while some of my compadres played other games, like blackjack and craps for higher stakes. Well, kiddies,as they say in The Paris: A bientot! xoxo, Jean