Arrived!


I am writing this from the hotel lounge in New York. I arrived, and so did my bag, so that was something of a relief. The flight all went smoothly, and I managed to get through immigration and find a the taxi rank, and got to the hotel — with all my possessions. My sister Ruth was arriving from Calgary, so we tracked each other by phone.

We are staying at The Sheraton, Times Square, which is perfectly placed midway between Times Square and Central Park. I arrived and checked in first, and the nice man at the desk upgraded me to an spg room (which means we can use the spg lounge — which is the lounge for their card members). We can go into the lounge for coffee and drinks, and they serve a breakfast, and nibbles in the evening. I’m sitting in there now, as I write this, watching people outside as they hurry through the New York rain.

We’ve had a lovely couple of days so far, with great NY cold-but-sunny weather (though Ruth informs me that NY cold is nothing compared to Calgary cold!) The time difference is annoying, as I wake at midnight, ready to start the next day. We’re sort of managing a compromise, so I stay in bed until 6am, and Ruth gets up early.

Day 1: We ate dry bagels in the deli opposite the hotel. Then they started to wipe the table, so we guessed they wanted us to leave (even though they had spare tables). We recamped in the hotel lounge and ate a second breakfast, with more coffee, and chatted some more.

Walked up to Central Park. Ruth is a talented wildlife photographer, and there are rumours that a Mandarin duck has been seen in the park, so she was keen to find it.
We saw sealions on the edge of the zoo, and lots of squirrels and sparrows, and a little bird called a ‘crested titmouse’ and robins­ – which are not the same as the friendly little bird in the UK. But no Mandarin duck. We saw the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ sculpture that my children climbed on 20 years ago. But no Mandarin duck. No ‘Birdy Bob’ either (he gives guided bird walks, but we arrived too late). There were lots of people though – masses of them; all taking photos of the autumn leaves and faded chrysanthemums, and reflections in the water.

We actually spent longer in the park than planned, as it turns out that Ruth’s sense of direction is as bad as mine. We walked up the east side, all the way to the north edge, then crossed and walked down the western side. Except, we didn’t, and after walking for about an hour we realised we had turned north again, and were back at the top of the ball-field. We also walked the wrong way around the reservoir (it has one-way signs, but we didn’t notice them until we left). It was a long walk – we walked 21.5km according to my phone app. My legs really ached! But we had some good chats, and it was so nice to be together after months and months apart.

Later, we went to see the dregs of the Veterans Day Parade. It really was the dregs — am assuming the actual parade was much better. We saw people in matching hats, and a woman walking her dog (not sure if she was even in the parade or had just decided to walk on the road as there were too many people on the path). We managed to miss the tanks and soldiers and most of the bands. The most interesting thing was the two men in black hats standing on the corner of a tower block, watching the crowd. Am guessing they were keeping us all safe.

I’ll write more another day.
Hope you don’t get lost today.
Take care,
Love, Anne x

New York in November


 

The day after Thanksgiving is an excellent time to arrive in New York. The fares are cheaper, you miss most of the shopping frenzy, and everywhere is beginning to get ready for Christmas. New York decorates very beautifully for Christmas.

Husband was working in Manhattan, so I joined him for a few days. I needed to get home in time for multiple Christmas Fairs (great time to sell books) so I decided I would keep to a slightly late English clock. This worked brilliantly, as New York at 6am is fantastic. You can wander along empty streets, all the shops are shut (am not a shopper) and there are enough diners open so eating is easy (I am an eater!)

 

We mainly ate at Westway Diner, 614 Ninth Avenue. It has a plaque up, saying it is the birthplace of the Seinfeld series, but mainly it’s just a great New York diner. I got used to this when we lived here, and I love coming back, and slipping back into the easy routine of eating whenever I want: comfy booths, constantly topped up coffee, huge portions of comfort food, fast service. Nowhere in the world does pancakes, bacon and maple syrup quite like New York. Or cinnamon bagels with cream cheese. Or waffles with bananas and pecans. Or blueberry pie and cream. Really, I come to New York just to eat.

The decorations are good too though. As I said, 6am is the best time, as later there are queues of people lining up to see the displays in the big shops. Saks on Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Cartier – not places I would enjoy entering, but beautiful displays for Christmas. Outside, the Salvation Army ring handbells and collect money for charity. Even the banks make an effort.

There are lots of little parks, with Christmas markets (not that they call them that – they are keen to remove all religion, so they are “Winter Markets”. But everyone knows they are for Christmas.) I especially liked the one in Bryant Park. Early morning, you can wander round, looking at all the wonderful stuff which is great to look at, but you wouldn’t want to actually own it, and no one hassles you to buy.

People are very friendly in the mornings – lots of cheery greetings from the bin men (and homeless people)! New York generates a lot of rubbish, so there seem to be piles of it awaiting collection on every street. You can also, if bored, play a fun game of “spot the rats”.

The main thing to remember in New York, is to look up. At street level, many of the buildings look like boring offices, but several storeys up, they have wonderful carved facades and decorations. Husband assures me this is because when touting for work, architects make models, which are viewed from above, so all the fancy bits are where they will be seen by prospective buyers but are never noticed when the real building is actually built. Not sure if that’s true or not.

You should also visit Trump Tower. Whatever you think of the man or the politics, you have to agree that his tower has the cleanest, fanciest public washrooms in New York. And finding public washrooms you want to use is quite hard in New York.

We also popped into St Patricks Cathedral. They have a Nativity scene, which includes a dog. Not entirely sure this is at all accurate, but it’s sweet to look at. There is also a sign, assuring you that if you donate money, you will receive more in the future. Am sure this is not accurate and was slightly shocked by the gall of it. But it’s a nice building to visit.

We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton, on 40th between 8th and 9th. It was a great position for seeing things, as it’s just down from Times Square and an easy walk from Westway diner. However, it is not the nicest area. You can do a Google search for ‘safe places in New York city’ and there is a map, which shades areas according to how safe they are. Our hotel didn’t score too well – which, as it’s behind the bus station, sandwiched between the Probation office and various sex shops, was understandable. However, whilst I wouldn’t have walked outside after dark on my own, it was fine. And the hotel inside was clean and comfy.

Unfortunately, there is an Apple shop, and Husband was keen to look. Apple shops are very boring, and have a weird queue system, whereby the very long line of people are ordering the new iphoneX, and if you want to buy anything else you have to ask the man in the red fleece, who will put you on a list. However, if you write a blog, there is hours of fun to be had, making every display model look at your blog – which does wonders for the number of views you receive in a day! (But don’t tell anyone, is probably not very ethical.)

 

We decided to walk from the bottom of Manhattan to the park. I’ll tell you about it in a later blog. Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you won’t miss it. anneethompson.com

Thank you for reading.

Here are some more displays, for those of you who like pretty Christmas stuff!

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Christmas is coming, and books make great gifts. So much nicer than yet another scarf for Aunty Joan… So, why not buy one of my books? Available from an Amazon near you.

  

 

xxx

The Charging Bull in the Financial District


Here’s something to think about. I popped to New York (husband on a work trip) and while there I went to see the sculpture of a charging bull in the Financial District. It’s big, raging, and impressive. It has also caused some controversy.

Apparently, bulls have long been associated with the stock market. A rising trend in the markets is known as “a bull market” and a falling trend is known as a “bear market”. Which is why you tend to have The Bull and Bear pubs situated near old markets in the City of London. The Charging Bull, however, was meant to signify something else. Charging Bull was sculpted by Anturo Di Modica in 1989. It was after the stock market crash of 1987, and he wanted to create a symbol of the “strength and power of American people”. The bull is twisting and turning, full of unpredictable energy and strength. I like it.

Now, Di Modica wasn’t commissioned to make the bull, nor was he paid for it. He had the rather clever idea of making five bulls, and placing one in New York (for free) and hoping to sell the other four. As a self-published author, I can relate to his feelings – you just want people to notice and appreciate your talents, then you hope the sales will follow. (Not sure a book placed in a park would work as well though.) Initially, NYPD impounded the bull, but so many people liked it, they were compelled to return it to the street. There are now bulls in Shanghai and Amsterdam (which I assume were paid for). So Di Modica’s gamble paid off. Sort of.

The problem arose later this year, when State Street Global Advisors had a clever marketing strategy of their own (possibly inspired by the success of the Charging Bull). They commissioned Kristen Visbal to make a sculpture of the Fearless Girl, and they placed it in front of the bull. Now, the unleashed power and strength of the bull appear aggressive. The placing of the girl has completely changed the image of the bull. Di Modica is rather annoyed by this, and I guess as he owns the bull, he might come and collect it one day. Alternatively, I think he should make another sculpture – of a calling mother shouting towards the girl. Then instead of being a brave, ‘fearless girl’ she would look like a defiant, stupid child. But then that could go on forever, and probably Wall Street doesn’t want hundreds of sculptures, each one changing the image of the other. (Would make for a good exhibition though, someone should do it.)

Now, what I want you to think about, is this. One thing can very much change in the light of something else. I remember, not so long ago, when the news reports were full of fleeing Syrian refugees, and most people felt very sorry for them. People made big statements about the world needing to help, that our country should allow them in, famous people even announced that they would be willing to house a few families in their mansions. Which were all good, well motivated, human responses.

However, today my local authority is discussing plans to build lots of new houses. No one wants them. No one is discussing who will live in them (and probably it won’t be Syrian refugees, but it will, I assume, be people who do need houses) but no one wants them. Not in our fields, not where we walk our dog, not within sight of our house. You see, the view of meeting the housing needs of others changes. As perhaps, do people’s views about everything. Whenever we make a statement, we need to be aware that unless we see the whole story, our views are likely to change. The strength and power of the American people can look like an aggressive charge against a defenceless girl. And a brave girl can look like a naughty child being stupid. It depends what else is in the picture.

 

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Thank you for reading.
You can sign up to follow my blog at anneethompson.com.

 

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Christmas is coming, and books make great gifts. So much nicer than yet another scarf for Aunty Joan… So, why not buy one of my books?

  

 

xxx

A Snapshot of New York in March


A Snapshot of New York in March

A Quick Trip to the U.S.

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     Husband had a work trip in New York, so I decided to tag along. I knew it had been snowing (even more than usual) so chose my clothes carefully: no thick sweaters because all rooms, restaurants and taxis would have heating on full, very thick coat because outside would be freezing, walking boots because paths would be wet and salty. This all worked well except that I had not thought about the journey. As we walked through the exec lounge and sat in first class on the plane, everyone else was wearing suits and smart shoes. I pretended I was part of Bear Gryll’s production team and dirty walking boots were completely normal footwear. Think everyone was fooled. (Except for husband, who banned the woolly hat until we had left the airport.)

     Stayed in the Chatwal Hotel on 44th Street btwn 6th & 7th Ave. Very nice place to stay, comfortable and clean with excellent facilities and art deco furnishings.

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When we first arrived, I wanted to go and see the flower display that Rebecca Law had done in the Viacom building in Times Square.

I had seen it on the internet, so was interested to see it myself.

There are three different art displays, one in each entrance and one at the top of the escalators, before you go through the security barriers.

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I liked them a lot, especially the upstairs one as it was in a smaller area and you could smell the flowers as they dried.

It was interesting to notice that people leaving the building all tended to look up at the display as they passed.Most art displays become ‘invisible’ after a while, where as this was clearly still being looked at.

We spoke to a man who worked there and had been involved with assembling the display. He said it was quite hard work. I think he enjoyed talking about it more than he had enjoyed actually doing it.

Strolled around. There were piles of snow heaped in the gutters and all the paths were very wet. I liked looking up, seeing all the different levels of rooflines. Lots of huge billboards flashing brightly lit adverts. The streets smell of roasted chestnuts and hotdogs as you pass the vendors. It was so cold, any exposed face actually hurt.

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     Went to Duane Reade – useful if you travel with someone who snores (earplugs), are feeling unwell (medicines), or have lost your luggage (make up and toiletries.) They also have food for when you wake at 4am wide awake because the time zone is different.

     Passed the New York Public Library, which I have seen many times but never actually been into, so decided to go inside. It has a beautiful entrance, you walk up marble steps into a marble lobby with many staircases.
I walked upstairs and came to a hallway with a beautifully painted ceiling and lovely carved door frames. Went into a room, where people were working at long tables and portraits lined the walls. There were no books. I had seen the library in a film where they had burned books to keep warm, so I was pretty sure there should be books. Unless they had burned them in real life?
Explored a bit further. Still did not see any books. There were lots of doors, which were locked. Found more paintings and a book in a glass case. Began to find this amusing. Were there books in this library? I wondered if the architect had got carried away with making it all look lovely and had then decided he did not want it spoiled with lots of books. Maybe the initial brief had been unclear. Guessed this may have caused some arguments, especially as the word ‘library’ had been carved above the entrance.
Asked a guard if there were any books. He directed me into a room of map books. Not really what I had hoped for. Saw lots of people studying microfiche, but no books.
Decided to go back to the entrance and ask at the ‘information’ desk. Felt a little surreal to ask “Are there any books in the library?” However, found a very helpful little man who looked like he should have been selling magic wands. He explained that actually this was a research library. He told me that most books – novels etc – are kept in the library opposite. He then clearly decided that as I was foreign, I may not understand what a library was, so went on to explain that residents could obtain a library card and could both read books or even borrow them and take them home for a week or two. Managed to keep my expression interested and surprised. Thanked him and left. I still have a feeling that I somehow managed to miss a huge room full of books, but I never found it. Beautiful building though.

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     Went to bed about 5pm. Woke about 3:30 am. At 4am, gave up on sleep and got up. Decided to try and find a deli or diner for some breakfast. It was snowing quite heavily, so very happy to have my sturdy walking boots and big coat. Did not expect to meet anyone, so pulled on jeans and coat over pyjamas. Felt rather adventurous to stand in Times Square wearing pyjamas!

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New York at 4am is very nice. It is still brightly lit and feels very safe (I wouldn’t go down any small alleyways but main streets were fine.)

Lots of people were around – mainly shift workers and homeless people I guess.

Found a deli and had bagels and coffee. Nowhere in the world does bagels and coffee like New York. Perfect.

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Walked past the ABC studios. They have a window into the studio, so you can watch them filming the breakfast show.

We were joined by a lady who became very excited to see Mary Mary about to perform. Apparently they are famous gospel singers. We joined her in waving excitedly and they looked pleased and waved back.

Luckily they didn’t know we had absolutely no idea at all who they were!

     At 8:30 NY time, we went into the hotel restaurant and had pancakes and more coffee. (I was showered and dressed by now, in case you were wondering.) Had a stack of pancakes and maple syrup. Another New York essential. I figured this counted as lunch if I stay on BST.

     In the afternoon we met some friends. Got a taxi (they allowed us to fit 4 people) to Central Park. It was so pretty with all the snow.

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Ate in Tavern on the Green. This is a lovely restaurant right in the park, inside had lots of art deco furnishings, outside twinkling lights reflecting on the snow. It had comfy seats (makes a big difference to a meal!) and an open kitchen so you could watch the chefs. When we had eaten there previously (1999) it had a smart dress code but now it is casual, so jeans were okay.
Food was nice but my body thought it was 2am and could not cope with eating much. They packed up the remains of my dinner ‘to go’, which all restaurants in US seem happy to do and it takes the guilt out of having a small appetite.
A lovely evening in a beautiful venue.

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Didn’t go shopping, but there is every opportunity if that’s what you enjoy.

It would at least be warm.

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Another, colder, option is to visit the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier museum on the Hudson.

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You could then eat in a typical American diner.

I ate in the Market Diner on 11th Ave and W34 street.

Had pie and coffee and pretended I was Jack Reacher.

A slightly more luxurious alternative with a much better view is dessert for $12 at The Mandarin Oriental on Columbus Circle. Afternoon tea is $48 (or $80 with a glass of champagne.) If you want a window table (which you will) then be sure to book it when you make your reservation.

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Another fun thing to do is to walk along The High Line. This is a disused elevated freight railway, which has now been turned into a park/walkway. In March, with all the plants under snow and in freezing wind, is probably not the best time to see it. However, even in arctic conditions it is interesting. You can see lots of old industrial buildings, there is random artwork along the route and best of all you can walk for nearly two miles without constantly stopping for road junctions. (Walking in New York is mostly slow and disjointed unless you are in Central Park.)

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      Being in New York is always fun, always easy and there is always something to do. Even a short trip is worth the jet lag.
(And if you happen to know where the books are in the public library, please do tell me in the comments below!)

If you enjoyed this, you will love my new book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary.
I have always written a diary on holiday, so last Christmas, I decided to find all my old diaries and blogs, and make a book for my children. However, several other people also asked for a copy, so I have written a public version – it’s available on Amazon and has been described as “The Durrells meet Bill Bryson”!

Why not buy a copy today? I think it will make you laugh.

The US link is here:US link

https://www.amazon.com/Sarcastic-Mothers-Holiday-Diary-ebook/dp/B07N95281F/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549015525&sr=8-1&keywords=the+sarcastic+mothers+holiday+diary

The India link is here: India link

https://www.amazon.in/Sarcastic-Mothers-Holiday-Diary-ebook/dp/B07N95281F/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549015429&sr=8-1&keywords=the+sarcastic+mothers+holiday+diary

The UK link is here: UK Link Here!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarcastic-Mothers-Holiday-Diary-ebook/dp/B07N95281F/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1549014970&sr=8-2&keywords=the+sarcastic+mothers+holiday+diary

Anne E. Thompson

Thank you for reading
anneethompson.com
Why not sign up to follow my blog?

Look on your device for this icon (it’s probably right at the bottom of the screen if you scroll down). Follow the link to follow my blog!

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New York and Denver to Las Vegas


New York and Denver to Las Vegas.

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New York and Denver to Las Vegas

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New York and Denver to Las Vegas

Excerpts from a family holiday diary

August 2010

Thursday: Flight from Heathrow. David used his Virgin Gold card to get us all into the executive lounge. Very nice, will forgive him for all those business trips. We made good use of the facilities. Becky had a haircut. We had cocktails and champagne, then a meal. Boys played snooker while we read papers and had coffee. Very nice.

Flew Economy to JFK. Flight lasted forever.

Arrived JFK. Got monorail to Avis. Rented totally massive car.

Drove to Hilton in Montvale. Nice but am way too tired.

Friday: Got bus into Manhattan. Checked into W hotel in Times Square. Very trendy. Suite. Bathroom had a glass wall, very strange – who wants to watch someone using the toilet?

Looked down into Times Square. Pedro spent ages looking out and learnt the sequence of all the electronic billboards. Can recite them. Sad. Clever, but sad.

Walked around. You feel like you are in a movie set in NY. So many people, everyone rushing, shops you can get lost in, sirens and cars beeping, smells wafting from all the fast food places and delis.

Ate at Smith and Wollenskys. David and James shared a huge steak (half a cow.) I ordered chicken, expecting a portion and a WHOLE chicken arrived! Delicious food but too much. Excellent red wine. Fun evening, ate and laughed a lot. Didn’t see anyone famous.

Saturday: Breakfast at Starbucks.

We all queued outside Abercrombie and Fitch, waiting for it to open. I had an argument with a woman who pushed in. Can’t quite believe I did either of those things, embarrassing.

Went downtown. Saw Statue of Liberty, China town, Little Italy. It’s nice to just walk around, looking at places.

Lunch in a diner. So american! Had booths and everything! Pedro had philly cheese steak. Very NY.

Got bus to Woodcliffe Lake, then taxi to Hilton.

Dinner at Applebees. A comfortable restaurant, reminds me of Beefeater in the UK but with lots of sports paraphernalia on the walls. Becky got told to move further from the bar – I always forget how strict the US drinking laws are.

Shopped.
Really really tired.

Sunday: Church at Cornerstone Christian Church in Wycoff. Saw a few people we recognised. Good music with a band, interesting talk, friendly people.

Went into city with some friends. Ate at a mexican restaurant. They kept bringing us huge platters of food. Really nice.

Walked through central park and round zoo. Very hot. Central Park always surprises me, such a big park in the middle of the city. Saw lots of places I recognise from films. The zoo is small and smelly but nice if you like zoos (which I do.)

Back to friend’s house. Take-out pizza.

Monday: Pancakes at IHOP on Route 17. Perfect! Quantities still huge though. It is not possible to only order one pancake, they come in stacks. All the coffee everywhere is ‘bottomless’ (free refills) which is wonderful.

Went to a friend’s pool. Swam, chatted, relaxed. BBQ chicken and corn with friends. Then went to Paramus Park Mall in the evening. So big! Dairy Queen ice creams, then said goodbye – always sad.

Tuesday: Gym and swam at hotel. It’s a nice hotel, very inexpensive and convenient being so near the city but also in New Jersey, so you can see a little of ‘real’ America too. Breakfast in hotel lounge. Bagels – I had forgotten how fantastic the bagels are in NY.

Drove round Upper Saddle River, saw the house where we used to live. Remembered all the traffic laws – like having to drive slowly past schools, not being allowed to park on the street at night, having to stop if you see a stationary school bus. Also all the ‘unwritten’ rules, like watching the opposite traffic lights and moving the very second your light turns green or you get honked!

Went to Summit, met friends.Sandwiches from a deli for lunch. Had forgotten how easy it is to get nice food in US. Summit is nice, lots of trees, lots of typically american houses, clean and peaceful.
Went to town pool. In US, most towns seem to have a town pool. You have to be a resident of the town to become a member but can then invite friends. It’s where people meet their neighbours and spend summer afternoons. It doesn’t really have an english equivalent.

Wednesday: Breakfast. Packed.
James informed me that if you hide shampoo they keep leaving more. (Horrid image of hotel shampoo stashed in mini fridge comes to mind…..) Becky added that it doesn’t work with hairdryers. (Not sure how she would know that.) The boys swivel chair was in the bathroom. They told me they had used it in a game. I decided not to ask… (Tip for parents of boys: If its not dangerous, illegal or mean, then you are probably happier not knowing.)
Boys raved about how comfortable their beds were and even went as far as looking at the name on the mattress!

Newark airport. Awful.

Flew to Denver.
Collected another car the size of a caravan and drove to Best Western in Dillon. Next to a lake. Very pretty.
Ate in an American Restaurant. Nice.
James threw lemonade over Pedro, who was surprisingly good about it.

Thursday: Beds do not compare well with Hilton, bad night’s sleep.
David went for early walk and came back with coffee for everyone.
Breakfast bar in hotel. James used internet in lobby. I looked at views across lake.

Supermarket trip. Family stocked up on bottles of water and gateraid (which no one likes, so not sure why.)

Drove. Went through a dodgy town (it had a ‘Kum and Go’ – didn’t stop to find out WHAT that was!) Listened to audio book. Drove. Denver to Vegas is shorter on the map…..

Amazing scenery. Amazing weather. Few rain showers, fantastic clouds, snow at one point when we were really high. Mountains, lakes, trees, rivers, cattle ranches.
Stopped at Bongo Billy’s deli (yes, real name!) and bought sandwiches. Boys bought food from a Subway opposite.

Had ice creams in Ouray. Cute houses, looks like a cowboy film set. Spent some time wandering around. Interesting curiosity shops.

Drove up a steep mountain pass – scary. Brilliant red rocks. Followed annoyingly slow lorry.

Pizza Hut in Durango.

Arrived at Holiday Inn in Cortez. Really nicely decorated with lots of American Indian stuff.

Friday: Slept well.
Breakfast not so good. Polystyrene plates and plastic spoons. David burnt finger on bagel. I put sugar on oatmeal, then discovered it was mushroom soup (don’t know how I missed that one!)
Got petrol.
Becky spotted meercats. But they aren’t really meercats, must be cousins.

Found track to Valley of Gods (not easy, drove along someone’s driveway at one point. Lucky we didn’t get shot.) Saw amazing rocks. Road very rough.

Back on main road. Totally straight, no bends for many miles.
Saw eagles eating dead horse.
Looked at American Indian stuff on stalls next to road. Interesting but expensive.
Went to a visitors centre. Looked across a valley to an ancient town built into canyon wall. Looked like a toy town because the canyon is 4 miles across.

Drove to Tuba City, checked into Quality Inn Motel.
Lots of American Indian stuff.
Ate in restaurant next door. All other customers Native American Indian. Not sure if that’s a good sign or not. Nice pink lemonade. Very pink. Menu had food poisoning warning at the bottom, rather put me off my dinner.
Bad night due to motel having a blocked toilets problem (not ours). Maybe related to food poisoning warning on menu…..

Saturday: Went to Indian Trading Post. Interesting, some good stuff.

Drove to Grand Canyon. Found really good place to stop, amazing views.
Saw eagles soaring. Beautiful. You cannot help but be amazed at the size of the canyon. It deadens all sound and sucks you into its peacefulness. Best if you avoid the main car parks which are touristy. Bought a Christmas ornament.

Drove to Las Vegas. Queues at Hoover Dam, checking for terrorists.
Drove down The Strip. Checked into Mandalay Bay hotel. Nice room, tele in bathroom.
Met my sister who has come down from Calgary.
Mandalay Bay is nice if you like massive hotels. It was clean and the rooms had everything we needed.

Sunday: Starbucks breakfast. James awake and smiling. Pedro awake but not speaking, just making rude gestures.
Pool, incredibly hot. Lazy river nice but too crowded.
You remember you are in a desert as soon as you step outside of the hotel.

Lunch in a diner. Huge portions again.

Walked to other casinos: Luxor – impressive (though males rather distracted by bikini clad girl in lobby.) Excaliber – pretty castle outside. MGM – boys remembered rainforest cafe. Too hot to walk further.
Las Vegas seems different to when we visited in 1999. It seemed smarter then, everything looked new and people were well dressed. Also, all the food was very cheap due to hotels making their profit primarily from the casinos. This time it felt slightly old. Lots of people were very casually dressed and the food was pricey. It felt like it was trying too hard.The casinos didn’t feel excitingly low lit, they just felt dark, as if they couldn’t afford any more light bulbs.

After dinner, drove to Bellagio. Amazing lobby, like a giant garden. Watched fountain/music display.

Monday: Coffee and donuts in room. Swam, chatted, relaxed.
Drove to Venetian to pick up theatre tickets. Ate in their Italian restaurant (waiters were arguing.)
Saw gondoliers and giant toffee apples.
Went to Phantom of Opera show. Nearly late because traffic was so bad. Show was short but good scenery and singing.
Drove home past erupting volcano and fountain display.
To date, seen 4 brides, 2 Elvis’, 2 show girls in a car park.

Tuesday: Donuts and coffee.
Packed.
Swam and sunbathed.
Drove to airport, which is right at the end of The Strip, so very easy.
Nine and a half hour flight home. Ugh.

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Please note: Some (one) names changed to protect the identity of persons involved. (I do not know why their identity needs protecting and maybe should be worried……)

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