Vegas Trip

In CategoryTravels

Five days in Las Vegas flew by so fast!  I had so much fun!

storms brewing around Vegas

My sister and I were so lucky to not only get to take a little vacation, but to have the entire trip be a gift from my parents who served as our tour guides.

Everything was amazing,  minus our landing … or not landing… when flying into Las Vegas.  We hit some serious turbulence and when we were about to touch down, the plane was tilted severely to the left (just outside my window).  The enormous wing nearly hit the ground as the landing gear barely tapped the runway.

I turned to my sister and was about to tell her that it looked like we were about to crash.  Just then,  the pilot pulled that huge jet abruptly back up into the air.  I have no idea how he was able to pull that stunt off.  Then there was complete silence … for about 10 minutes.  It took the pilot that long to get back on the intercom, to announce that due to unfavorable winds, we would need to circle back around and try to land on another runway.

Everybody was scared to death!  It’s a funny feeling to know that there’s not a dang thing you can do when you’re high in the sky with no other way out but to land.  When the pilot finally tried it again, landing was a bit shaky, but successful, so everybody on board cheered.  Weird story but true!  Our parents had been trying to call us unsuccessfully and it freaked us out to finally hear the fear in my mom’s voice message.  Many passengers were in tears after this fiasco.

new architecture City Center

My parents have been going to Vegas since the late 60’s … back when Elvis, Tom Jones, and all the other big stars were frequenting the city that never sleeps.  My mom and dad actually saw Elvis perform on numerous occasions, as well as many other celebs.  Those glamorous times of old Hollywood/ Vegas are gone.  Things are super casual now.

My folks own a time share condo right on the strip and that’s where we got to relax between all our fun, entertainment, eating, gambling and running around… oh yes, and more eating!   Our parents are two of the coolest people I know.  They’re known to outlast all the younger folks with their ability to stay out super late and have a good time.  (Just ask my daughter).  They know all the ins and outs of Vegas.  We got to eat at all the great places that only the locals know about.

For entertainment, we got to see the “Fab Four” Beatles show.  That was just incredible to listen to all that old music performed by quasi-look-a-likes.  We also got to see Max King, a comedian/magician.  If you haven’t had a chance to see him perform, do it!  He’s hilarious.

The very best entertainment of all was getting to see the musical Menopause.  This performance was done by four sassy ladies who had me laughing so hard, I was crying.  They sang songs with altered  lyrics, about the “change”.   Because I am such a “risk-taker”, I volunteered to get up on stage for the closing number and danced alongside the cast and other crazy ladies.  Woo hoo (earned a button for this one)!  Loved this so much!  If you ever get the chance to go see this musical when it comes to your city, go!  After the show, we ran into two of the performers in the casino, and  got to chat a bit to one of them … what a lovely woman that Skye is!

I’ve never been to Vegas in Autumn. The temperatures were in the 70s, just perfect. The Bellagio is one of my favorite casinos. Classy all the way. Their gardens were so gorgeous. I especially love the ceiling in their lobby, because it’s filled with glass flower petals that serve as both a piece of art, and a source of light.

lobby ceiling of Bellagio

Not to be forgotten, are the dancing waters out in front of the casino.

New Vegas:  Cosmopolitan due to open January 1, 2011

new Vegas

Old Vegas:  older than me!

old Vegas

Street Art:  done with cans of spray paint … no lie!

I still love this 60s look, now making an appearance in a current ad.

retro 60s look

We had a simple dinner our last night … one that I’ve been curious about for a very long time.  In and Out Burger! This was the exact opposite of  a flat  McDonald’s style burger.  The restaurant only offers you three choices of sandwiches, which makes ordering easy peasy.  Yum, is all I can say.  This burger cost less than two bucks, making it the cheapest Vegas meal on the whole trip.  The only draw back is that when you eat in the restaurant, the neon bright florescent lights inside nearly blind you throughout your meal.  Other than that, it was very much worth the wait.

In and Out Burger

Well I can hardly wait to go back to Las Vegas.  It was magnificent!  Here are two big fat kisses for my parental units.

hugs and kisses to my parents

Smooch!

Viva Las Vegas!

In CategoryTravels

Elvis circa 1968

Viva Las Vegas

Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher
There’s a thousand pretty women men waitin’ out there
And they’re all livin’ devil may care
And I’m just the devil with love to spare
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas

How I wish that there were more
Than the twenty-four hours in the day
‘Cause even if there were forty more
I wouldn’t sleep a minute away
Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel
A fortune won and lost on every deal
All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas with your neon flashin’
And your one armbandits crashin’
All those hopes down the drain
Viva Las Vegas turnin’ day into nighttime
Turnin’ night into daytime
If you see it once
You’ll never be the same again

I’m gonna keep on the run
I’m gonna have me some fun
If it costs me my very last dime
If I wind up broke up well
I’ll always remember that I had a swingin’ time
I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got
Lady luck please let the dice stay hot
Let me shoot a seven with every shot

Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas,Viva Las Vegas
Viva, Viva Las Vegas

welcome to sin city

Yep, I’m going to be spending some time in the heart of Vegas, baby!

The Las Vegas Strip is where I’m going to call home for awhile.  I’ll keep you posted … or not.

Peace out

Lions and Tigers and Bears … Oh My!

In CategoryPhotos, Travels

This time of year, I’m particularly aware of the bears that are coming into town to feast on the easily accessible garbage in the neighborhoods.  They’re simply doing what they need to do in order to fatten up for the freezing cold winters in these parts.

bear in town ~ Spring 2010

This bear unfortunately ended up in the middle of town in spring.  That’s the other time of year they need to load up on the calories after winter hibernation.  It looks so cute and cuddly right?   …. WRONG!  They can be dangerous, especially if you end up between a mama and her cub.

Flash back to  August, when Dave and I took a couple of days to go camping in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, which are just in our back yard.

love this canyon

Our first stop was a hike at Grizzly Creek.  Now, my friend suggested this hike alongside a rushing river, so I shouldn’t of been concerned.  After all, she came out alive and was able to talk about it.  I still wondered how this particular trail got its name.  Hmmm.

Grizzly Creek

Since I’m trying to be braver than I never am, usually am, I agreed to go.  The surroundings were filled with greenery, the scent of pine, and general mountain splendor.  The rushing water was so refreshing on this hot and humid summer day.

brave me in the enchanted forest

We kept hiking past bushes filled with a variety of plump, ripe, berries.  Oh how ripe and juicy they looked.  There were even wild raspberries.

I was enjoying these splashes of color along the trail until…

I  found a great big pile of  bear scat.  Oh no!

very berry bear scat

We were about 30 minutes into the hike, and the pile was relatively fresh.  That meant that the bear was probably not too far away.  I daringly trudged on, while telling myself, if I’m attacked, “it’s a good day to die”.   I think this came from “Little Big Man.”  A little drama couldn’t hurt, right?

I’m glad the hike was so beautiful, because it made that feeling of fear inside me, a lot more tolerable.

So get out and enjoy the awesomeness of autumn.

We’re lucky to be able to enjoy the bears’ turf after all.

Day 15: Arrivederci Italy … Buon Giorno America!

In CategoryTravels, Uncategorized

Travel Day Home

Today started very, very, early … before 5:00 a.m.  The hotel was kind enough to pack us a breakfast to go.  We sleepily got on the coach one last time and were driven by our adept, and faithful driver Benito to the airport, Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci.

Along the way, I reflected on this trip of a lifetime and knew I would always cherish the experiences and memories created here.   I did rub the nose of the Porcellino – little pig, which folklore says I shall return to Florence some day.  Woo hoo!

Santo cielo, (good heavens) Italy was far more than I ever imagined.   I hope you enjoyed my blog of this spectacular trip.

Molti bacios!  (Many kisses)

little kisses

Ciao bella! (Goodbye beautiful)

buon giorno Stati Uniti

P.S.  Remember in one of my first blog posts of this trip, referring to the plane ride,  I said that “my soft Target pants ended up looking like stretched out toddler clothing, while so many of the other lovely ladies on board were in their high heels and skin tight clothing, and full-on make-up … maybe on the way back home.”

Well … although I wasn’t in my stretched out toddler pants this time, I certainly didn’t get all “dolled up” either.  Oh well … maybe next trip.

Italy Day 14: Vatican City and Rome

In CategoryTravels

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vatican City

Today we had an early start, as we were going to spend time in Vatican City in Rome.  It’s the weirdest thing that Vatican City is really a country, is completely protected by a very tall stone wall, and is situated smack dab in the middle of Rome.  To get to it, we climbed a long staircase, and then luckily, bypassed the hundreds of tourists who were waiting to get in.

stairway to (heaven) Vatican City

Vatican Museum

Before we entered the Vatican Museum, there were some beautiful views of courtyard gardens where Popes have enjoyed a stroll, and views of St. Peter’s Basilica, where the Pope delivers his sermons.


The Vatican Museum beholds some of the most magnificent pieces of art … fit for a Pope. These ceilings were particularly striking!

There were statues of angel children holding ducks (some significance associated with death?), and a statue of fertility too. I’ll let you guess what part of the anatomy makes the fertility statue so fertile. Ha!  That’ll do it!

The tapestry room really caught my interest. Each of these were hand made using silk / wool. They were massive in size and the pictures on them were very detailed.

In the tapestry on the right, Jesus’s arm, and eyes move as well as the stone he’s standing on, as you walk by. It’s a particular style of art that plays visual tricks on you. I swear I walked past that tapestry over and over, and every single time, those aforementioned parts on the tapestry followed me. Spooky … yet fascinating!

hall of maps ~ Vatican Museum

The map room had such a magnificent ceiling with old maps of different parts of the world. Oh the talent that was depicted through these maps. They were so glorious.

This long, long, hallway was so regal, and a part of it is roped off for the Pope to use.

Vatican, but looks like the hallway to see the wizard in the Emerald City

There was a long line to get into the Sistine Chapel, luckily we were special and were able to bypass this long line and get right on in … but not through these special heavy doors that are only opened for special celebrations.

Here are a few photos looking out towards the square. This is the area where people sit to hear the Pope speak.

where the Pope speaks to the masses

Pope's residence overlooking square

If you look to the right side of this photo, the second window from the right on the second floor, is where the Pope resides. He certainly has a nice view of everything below.

Sistine Chapel

We entered the Sistine Chapel at our appointment time.  I was amazed that it really wasn’t all that big … or as big as my own mind had imagined.  The frescoes were so magnificent.  Having the opportunity to “feel” the beauty of this exquisite art is difficult to put into words.  Because photos are not allowed, the following are credited to wiki.

Sistine Chapel Ceiling

It took Michelangelo only four years to complete these frescoes which were completed in 1512.  Each one tells a story.  Because one of the Popes thought some of the paintings were indecent, he had another artist cover up some of the private parts.  That artist guy is known as the “underwear artist.”  Hilarious!

My favorite panel is one of the “Creation of Man.”  Oooh, can you feel its beauty?  Magnificent!  Michelangelo is my favorite artist of all time!  Love all of this!

Michelangelo's Creation of Man ~ Sistine Chapel

St. Peter’s Basilica

Our next stop was just a few steps away … St. Peter’s Basilica. This was named after one of Jesus’s twelve apostles. Ralph Waldo Emerson described St. Peter’s as an “ornament of the earth … the sublime of the beautiful.” I couldn’t agree more!

This monstrous beauty is situated on 5.7 acres and has the capacity to hold 60,000 people. The shape is that of a crucifix with four great piers. The outside is guarded by 13 travertine statues on the rooftop.

St. Peter's Basilica ~ Vatican

Michelangelo contributed to the design of this Basilica, and especially the dome.  It is so massive that when we looked up and saw a guard walking around the top, he looked the size of an ant.  The letters at the very top are six feet tall, if that gives you some perspective.  People are simply swallowed up and dwarfed by the enormity of this place!

dome in St. Peter's that seems to shrink people


Here are some of the intricately carved statues inside St. Peter’s.

Two very important structures inside the Basilica are the baldachin, or large canopy made of bronze, and St. Peter’s chair, both designed by Bernini.   The baldachin structure covers the main alter.  St. Peter’s tomb is below this.  The twisted columns signify the post that Jesus was crucified on.  The second structure, or St. Peter’s chair is surrounded by so much art that it’s hard to actually see the chair.

baldachin

St. Peter's chair

The most elegant piece of art is housed in the Chapel of “Pieta,” which in Italian means “pity”. This beautiful sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the body of Christ was done by Michelangelo. It was carved out of a single slab of marble, and is the only piece of his art that was signed by him. I love this piece and was mesmerized by the feeling it gave me. I could of pulled up a chair (if there was one) and stared at this magnificent art forever!

Michelangelo's Pieta (Pity)

Michelangelo portrayed a much younger Virgin Mary than the 40-50 year old one portrayed by all the other artists.  Her face is serene and almost at peace with the fate of her only son. He said he thought of his own mother, who died when he was five, while sculpting this.  Michelangelo was only 24 years old at the time of this work.  The Pieta left a lasting impression with me as a gorgeous sculpture portraying human suffrage.

When we exited St. Peter’s we saw two of the Swiss Guards who were guarding the area.  These young men have flare, and sport uniforms designed by Michelangelo himself.  Molto attraente.

Swiss Guards

After a quick lunch of lasagna, we boarded the coach and went over to the Colosseum.

Colosseum

Once again, we were lucky enough to spot another bride and groom in Rome.  They were taking photos right outside the Colosseum.

bride and groom at the Colosseum

We walked directly beyond the imperial Arch of Constantine, which commemorates one of his victories, in order to get to the Colosseum.

Arch of Constantine

The Colosseum is a magnificent landmark of Roman history.  This ancient amphitheater was completed in AD 80 and was part of Nero’s great park in central Rome.  There were numerous “fake” gladiators strolling around the exterior. They charged about 30 Euros ($40 American) to get a photo with them, so being the thrifty gal that I am, I simply took a photo of them when they weren’t looking.  Ha Ha!
Once inside, I was taken aback by its enormity. There were four stories in the Colosseum, with the top one for the poor (think “rock pile” at the Rockie’s baseball games) and the lower story for the wealthy. It gave me an eerie feeling … one of sadness, since there were executions, and so many lives that were lost there for the sake of public entertainment.

underground structures of Colosseum

There was a big, simple cross just inside one of the entrances.

Gladiators were often slaves, criminals, or prisoners of war. They engaged in contests, battled one another, and slayed animals (or got slain by them). Animals, held captive in the lower structure in cages before the show, killed one another for public enjoyment.  Eww! Macabre entertainment!

outside Colosseum, this gypsy beggar made me sad

On the way back to the hotel, we passed the Circus Maximus, where public games like chariot races were held for the masses.

Circus Maximus

After a little shopping, we had our final dinner with the group at Cassanova, a “Casa Bonita” type of Italian restaurant in the heart of Roma. There was an ear-shattering Italian opera singer which was just over the top.

farewell dinner with friends at Cassanova (Casa Bonita)

Took lots of group pictures and rushed off to bed, although some of our party friends stayed up much later celebrating Italy. Our wake up call was 5:00 a.m. so we needed our beauty sleep!

Yippee … home tomorrow!

Bravissiomo!