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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I'M BETTING ON A LONG WEEKEND IN LAS VEGAS--PART 2

I've come prepared with a list of the Top 17 Attractions as provided by Frommer’s, Fodor’s, www.schmap.com, and 24/7 Magazine, provided free in every taxi in Las Vegas. Isn’t that a great idea for a tourist town? All sources prove invaluable.

First stop of the day—The Luxor. We navigate through the MGM Grand and follow all signs to New York, New York. We cross one of the many overpasses connecting hotels on the Strip, go through Excalibur, where I take a photo with Elvis, and we arrive at Mandalay Bay. From Mandalay Bay we ask directions to the people movers and finally get to the Luxor.



The Luxor is a pyramid shaped (at least in part) building which takes us back to the days of the Pharaohs, and we are here to see King Tut's Tomb and Museum, a replica of Tutenkhamun's tomb discovered and unearthed by Howard Carter in 1922. The entire exhibit, room measurements and placement of artifacts are based on Carter's notes. There is an introductory BBC film with clips of Howard Carter and we have an audio tour featuring “Howard Carter” to guide us through. He describes the artifacts and their placement, explaining how each, symbolically, helped the young King make the transition to the afterworld. It is so stunningly realistic that it is hard to believe these are replicas. The $9.99 admission fee is well worth it.

Retracing some of our steps, we board the free monorail at the Luxor which runs between it, New York, New York and Mandalay Bay. We get off at Mandalay Bay to walk up to the Bellagio to catch their famous dancing waters fountain show.

Las Vegas is a sensory overload experience, and the Bellagio's grandness adds another WOW to the long list. We get there just in time for the fountain exhibit, and the dancing waters are lovely though not that unusual. Inside, the Bellagio is anything but usual. The theme is flowers, and decorating the main hall's ceilings are hundred of glass flowers reminiscent of the Norton Museum's exhibit of flowers. This is Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como, and it is magnificent.

Behind the registration desk is a courtyard garden complete with arches and brilliantly colored gardens. The guidebooks suggest visiting the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, but we are not prepared for this spectacular domed array of vivid greens, purples, yellows, and reds. The display is so rich, bright, and vivid that guests find touching a petal irresistible just to make sure this is not a lustrous, sparkling hoax. There are actually more than 5,000 green and purple succulents here. There are giant snails and ladybugs composed of roses. There are birds made of flowers, a garden of outsized watering cans nourishing the plants, a tree-lined walkway and a butterfly sanctuary. Every visitor wears a smile and feels as if he is in a grand and colorful world. That's probably because for the time we are in this rare botanical garden, we are.




Next we’re off to the Flamingo Hotel, a still vital remnant of a bygone Las Vegas era, and our place of rendezvous is Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Rob and I hit Margaritaville in Myrtle Beach, and in Vegas we are treated to more of the same--wonderful, exciting decorations: planes overhead, booths shaped as boats, big screens and pumpin’, thumpin’ music. We join Heather’s wedding party’s rehearsal dinner, and are welcomed as one of the family. They’re joyous; we’re joyous; everyone is so happy to be here. Heather and Cliff are the happiest couple, and we are all so welcome to participate in their joy. We party hardy until it’s time to get ready for nighttime in Vegas.

This evening's entertainment with many of the Hills' relations is Cirque du Soleil KA, one of several Cirque du Soleil shows running in Vegas. This one is reviewed as the best. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a circus; it is not. It is a theatrical show combining acrobatic performances, martial arts, puppetry, multimedia and pyrotechnics in a theater that is huge and almost a spectacle in itself. Prior to the show's beginning, cast members swing from and climb up the balconies. They fly through the air. I would love to describe the performance for you, but words fail. The agility and skill of the cast interweaves with unique lighting and incredible sets that move and tilt. Combine that with the number of stunts that had to challenge the imaginations of the creators, the skills of these most expert performers and the minds of the jaw-dropped audience who are dazzled and stunned. I would go to another Cirque du Soleil show in a minute. I’d even hurry back to this one!

Thank goodness Cirque du Soleil is in the MGM Grand because by evening’s end my feet have forsaken me. I’m beat. For a hoot, this morning I clipped on my pedometer, and by the time we get back to our room, we have walked just short of ten miles. That doesn't, of course, count the people movers, the monorail, or the taxi back from the Flamingo. We sure did cover a lot of space.

Heather and Cliff's wedding is another unique and wonderful experience. Elvis entertains and performs the ceremony, and the songs are great. There is dancing and happiness and a good feeling of laid-back well being. For folks who couldn't make the trip, there is a computer link enabling them to watch the ceremony in real time. A few days later, the ceremony and photos would be online for everyone to see. The reception follows at the Hofbrauhaus, and there we have another grand surprise.
For us this long weekend is a time of smiles and making memories. Heather and Cliff's wedding is lovely; we get to spend some time with the Hills family which is always fun and grows in warmth each time we get together; Michael is on leave from Iraq and spending time with him and Leslie is indescribable; at the reception Leslie recognizes our nephew Noel who is in Las Vegas for a bachelor party for a guy Heather actually knows--talk about six degrees of separation--and we get to have brunch with him the following morning before he leaves; Rob leaves Las Vegas in the black (although I was $.15 in the red); we then head off to Anaheim, California for a short visit with my Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Jesse before returning home to NY. Whew!!!!


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