Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunshine Coast Weekend

When Andy and I returned from Las Vegas, Fiona was home from university. Alex booked the following weekend off work, and we traveled to the Sunshine Coast for a family mini-holiday.

We have been staying in Andy's brother and sister-in-law's place in a little town called Half Moon Bay. Their house is gorgeous. It's perched on a cliff above the ocean. We have sat out for hours, starting with breakfast in pajamas by the sea to late evening campfire and cliff-top turkey dog roast. We have visited the Sechelt Farmers' and Artisan's market, where we bought locally grown rhubarb, that inspired a kitchen light sabre battle between Alex and Fiona, before Fiona cooked it up with delicious Robert's Creek honey (fireweed and blackberry) for dessert. Mmmmmm... Light sabre, my favourite.

We have gone walking to find access to the closest public beaches: Welcome Beach to the north, and Sargeant's Bay to the south. We have watched deer and eagles, raccoons, bumblebees and one fuzzy and very friendly caterpillar. We have read, snoozed and played Apples to Apples, all the time with the sea at our side, and a gorgeous full moon at night.

Now we are cleaning and packing to catch the evening ferry home. It has been a wonderful getaway, the opposite of Las Vegas, and just perfect for our family. I hope we will be back soon.

Question: when you go away, where do you like to go?

mompoet - grateful for these people and this place

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Las Vegas - FOR SALE

If you want something, you can buy it here and enjoy it right now - no waiting. Here are a few examples.

  • Do you want to fire a real machine gun? Yup! You can! A guy on the strip was handing out coupons to a place where you can go and pay to fire a machine gun. We did not.
  • Do you like cigars? On Fremont, there's a "cigar buffet" where you can buy "all you can smoke - $29.99"
  • Do you like buffets? The food kind I mean? You can pay to have a 24 hour pass to 6 buffets. You could eat breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks, all at different buffets. (I should say, so far we have declined all of the aforementioned opportunities.)
  • Do you want to drive a race car? Operate an earth-moving machine? Jump off a 50 storey building? Zip-line over a busy street? You can if you want to!
  • Do you want to eat at the Heart Attack Grill? If you weigh 350 pounds or more, you are in luck. Dinner is free, and there''s an industrial scale at the door to prove you are eligible. If not, you have to pay. The servers are dressed as nurses, and dinner guests wear hospital gowns. You can eat an 8 layer octuple bypass burger with flatline fries and the world's highest butterfat milkshake. Something tells me they do not have salad or veggie burger on the menu.
  • Girls! Girls! To your room in 20 minutes! When you walk down the strip, day or night, you are accosted by people flicking cards at you, with phone numbers to call to order sex trade workers to come to your room. The sex sellers are ordinary looking, probably low-paid men and women. They flick and clack their cards at you as you walk by. 
  • And of course, booze and gambling. Yup, lots and lots of those. You can walk down the street at 9 in the morning drinking a beer or a margarita. There are slot machines everywhere, maybe even in daycare centres and the public library. Well, maybe not, but I'm just saying...
I haven't bought a lot here. But it has been fun to witness what's for sale.

question: what is the weirdest thing someone has offered to sell you?

mompoet - keeping my money in my pocket (mostly)

Las Vegas - NATURE

We rented a car this morning and drove 45 minutes out of the city to Red Rock Canyon. It's a conservation area in the Mojave Desert that is breathtakingly beautiful. We spent an hour at the excellent visitors' centre, then proceeded around the 13 mile scenic drive. We saw the desert environment and gorgeous sandstone peaks all around. I think Andy took a million photographs. Along the scenic drive there are a dozen places to stop and walk around and look at things and take pictures. It was ver hot and dry, and not overrun with visitors. We saw some climbers high up on the sandstone cliffs, and caught a glimpse of a roadrunner darting across the road. It was truly spectacular.

You know at Disneyland, when you go on the desert rides like the old mining town roller coaster, and there are red stone caves and cacti and Joshua trees? It looks like that, only it's real, and it goes on for miles. Today was such a contrast from the rest of our visit, it was very refreshing.

My mind and heart are in two places, this final full day of our vacation. Fiona is in the air as I post this, flying home from university for the summer. Tomorrow, Andy and I will fly home and we will be re-united as a family. I am grateful to have spent today in a place of stark beauty.

question: where have you had your breath taken away?

mompoet - loving Red Rock

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Las Vegas - SHOWS

I will begin today's post by saying that everything here is a show. Everywhere you turn, there is someone or something to look at, from buskers to spectacles to the very interesting people walking on the pool deck or down the street. Today in the pool there was an Elvis tribute artist on vacation, I think. He was an ordinary middle-aged guy in a bathing suit, but he had the Elvis hair. It was funny to see him sitting in the water with his middle-aged wife. I guess even Elvis lookalikes go on vacation.

There are the free shows outside the hotels: a light show clock outside one hotel, dancing waters outside another, and the volcano and pirate show I talked about yesterday. There are also shows that you pay to see, with big name performers on big stages in the hotels. Andy and I have been to see two of these.

On Monday, we saw Cirque du Soleil Mystere, It was remarkable, and made even better by the fact that we were moved from our cheap seats into 3rd row seats with a breathtaking view of the show. We have never seen Cirque du Soleil before. The music, choreography, circus marvels, costumes and surreal story combined to make for an enchanting experience.

On Tuesday, we saw Jersey Boys. That was a very sweet story with great music.

Every hotel has a theatre with some big show going on. I think there are 5 different Cirque du Soleil shows alone. If we had a million dollars, we would see one every night. For now we are very happy with the two that we chose.

Tonight we are going to take the bus to Fremont Street to see the lightshow. We have heard that it is spectacular, and it's free. I think shows, free and otherwise, are one of the best things about Las Vegas.

question: have you seen any good shows lately?

mompoet - I like shows

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Las Vegas - FAKE

I will begin by saying that I intend to use the word "fake" in as neutral a fashion as possible. This post is simply about the gigantic fake things that make up the major attractions on the Las Vegas Strip. I have heard about them and seen them on TV and in photographs, and now I have seen them in person. In all their non-pejorative fakeness.

We are staying at a hotel with a fake lagoon and fake pirate ships. Four times each night. 1,000 passers-by stop to watch the "Sirens" show, in which women in lingerie battle from one ship, with a bunch of pirate men in another ship. There's a fake cannon battle and fake fires. The pirates torch the lingerie ladies' closets, and the ladies retaliate by singing fake Spice Girls songs and doing sexy dances. "Watch out you mean prates! just for that we are going to sing another sexy pop song!" SPOILER ALERT: At the end the pirates' ship sinks, and the pirates swim over to the lingerie boat where they live happily ever after.

At the hotel next door there is a fake volcano that erupts on the hour from 8pm to midnight. Down the street there is a hotel with fake Venetian canals. For $20 you can sit in a gondola and be paddled around the canals by a singing gondolier. Beside that hotel, there is a hotel with a fake Eiffel Tower and a fake Arc de Triomphe with a banner of TV chef Gordon Ramsay nearly obliterating it. That is one big banner. Farther down the strip I went inside a fake Great Pyramid, saw a fake Sphynx and a fake Statue of Liberty and a fake Chrysler Building, Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building.

On the sidewalks there are fake Disney characters, who pose with tourists for photographs for tips. There are also fake Sesame Street characters, fake superheroes, fake Star Wars characters, and a fake Elvis and a fake Zach Galafianakis. There's also a wax figure of Johnny Depp dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow. That's an ad for the wax museum, where you can see lots of fake celebrities made out of wax.

Once there was a desert. Somebody got an idea to build a city there. The city was there for no reason other than to attract people to spend money. To attract people, the city-builders made lots of interesting and unusual things. They found that this was very successful, so they kept going, which led to a place so excessively spectacular and mind-boggling in its over-the-top fakeness, you just have to give it credit for being the best and truest of all of the fakers everywhere, for all time. But I had better not say more. I am trying to remain neutral.

question: What's the most convincing fake you have ever seen?

mompoet - really

Monday, May 13, 2013

Las Vegas - BIG

It seems like a long time since I posted a blog. Here I am now, enjoying a few days with Andy in Las Vegas. He has been here several times, but I am visiting for the first time. I have always thought I wouldn't like it much here, but I am having a really good time. It is a very strange place. But being here with Andy is good, and we are having fun.

We are staying on "The Strip," a long road with hotels and shops all up and down each side. The hotels are gigantic, like no hotels anywhere else, and the are lots of them. We are staying in a medium-sized gigantic hotel that has 36 floors, each with at least 100 rooms I estimate. It could be more. Our gigantic wing on our gigantic floor has room numbers up to 100. The main floor has a casino and restaurants, so many that we have got lost already a couple of times looking for the elevator or the exit. Finding the exit is especially hard. The hotel is designed so you will spend lots of time eating, drinking, shopping and gambling in this one place. And all of the hotels seem to be like that. Andy and Iwalked into the one across the street to look around this morning and we got turned around in the winding corridors and discovered we were walking in the opposite direction from the one we intended, for at least 15 minutes, and we were still in the same hotel. We found a directory map with a "you are here" sticker. Luckily I read it carefully. It was mounted exactly opposite to reality, so left on the map was right in real life and vice versa.

Outside the road is gigantic. Mostly, you can cross the strip only on giant pedestrian overpasses that feed you back into another hotel. We found one street level crosswalk, and I counted the lanes. The strip has 8, except where it adds on turn lanes, then maybe it has 10 or 11. Each big hotel takes up at least a half off very long block on this gigantic street. Many take a whole block.

Some big things are nice. Our hotel has a lovely big pool. This is a very good thing because it is very hot outside. We have been enjoying the pool a lot. And our room is very spacious and lovely and elegant, with a big, comfy bed. When we look out our window, we can see a volcano, the canals of Venice, and the Eiffel Tower, but that's another blog post.

So you might ask, "Why do you like this place full of giant hotels?" I am not sure, but I do. Maybe I am impressed by the surreal excessiveness of it all. I am very curious about how it works, and would love to see behind the scenes. I would also like to know if there are really several thousand people staying in each gigantic hotel, or if they are mostly empty. Ours looks pretty well occupied, but there may be whole wings or floors that never see guests. I suspect nobody would tell me that. I will be looking and listening and blogging some more in the meantime.

Question: do you like Las Vegas?

Mompoet - curious about this strange gigantic place