Zion Sedona Grand Canyon Las Vegas

Overture, curtain, lights. This is it, we hit the heights. Scaling dizzying mountains and descending the grandest of canyons; staying in the fanciest ever hotel rooms, and encountering the biggest rock group of all time (in a sense). In Vegas and area. October 8–16, 2011.

Preparation

We had booked this trip on points, so the flight there (to Las Vegas) cost us nothing. And, we were able to book the exact flight we wanted, on WestJet. We then had to figure out an itinerary, given the possibilities in the area. This involved considering how much driving we were willing to do (we wanted to keep it minimal) vs. what we wanted to see while there. Eventually, we settled on two days in Zion, two in Sedona, two in Grand Canyon Village, and two in Las Vegas.

Then we had to book accommodations. It quickly became clear that Zion was filling up fast, so that was the first one booked. We actually stayed in Springdale, right outside Zion. Next up: Grand Canyon, also with increasingly limited options. But we did get something in Grand Canyon Village. We booked Sedona next (days passed between each booking), using HotWire. We ended up with the same hotel we’d been considering, only cheaper. Finally, Las Vegas. The one hotel that had been suggested to us was no longer offering big discounts, so we used Expedia to find another. And then we added our car rental on Expedia.

We considered booking Grand Canyon flights and Las Vegas shows in advance, but the price of both deterred us. We decided to play those by ear.

But, then I read that by far the best restaurant in the Grand Canyon area was El Tovar, so we tried for a dinner reservation there. We weren’t able to get one until 8:45, but we decided to go with that anyway. We reserved no other meals in advance.

That left just the Toronto airport parking, and the cat sitter. And we were all ready to go but the packing.

Getting to Zion

We’d heard about labour issues with the security team at Pearson, so we aimed to get to the airport early, despite some grumbling from me. There were pretty big lineups, but we were indeed early enough that it wasn’t a problem. A bit harder was finding a place to have breakfast. This was Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, so the airport was busy in general. But we did manage that as well, though the food was, of course, uninspiring.

It was our first time on WestJet. We did find the crew quite pleasant, with the security briefing being the most humorous one we’d ever had (“Raise your seats to the full upright position, otherwise known as the most uncomfortable position.”). We had our own TV, but to watch movies, you had to pay. (Which we didn’t do.) And no lunch was included on the 4.5 hour-long flight, so we bought sandwiches. Leg room was pretty good, though, for economy. And the flight didn’t seem all that long—which it isn’t, compared with flying to Europe.

In Las Vegas, we noticed that there were slot machines at the airport. That was different. Then how close the airport was to downtown Vegas.

After getting our luggage, we took an airport shuttle to the car rental place. They do a big sell there on their insurance policy, but it’s $22 a day added on! Rather a lot, so we went without.

Heading out, the GPS kept trying to get us onto the I75, but it was under construction, so not all the usual access points were available. When we finally did wind our way onto the 175, it was just crawling along, as all cars were restricted to one lane rather than the usual three. It was very frustrating, particularly as we didn’t even see any work actively being done in the other two lanes, which looked perfectly driveable. It took a full hour just to drive the length of Vegas! Walking would have been faster.

When finally past that, the rest of the drive was pretty interesting. The first part featured all these weird gravelly hills, which weren’t exactly attractive, but were interesting to look at. I think they were natural formations, but they almost looked man-made. Around Arizona the terrain became more mountainous, and we drove through ranges. It reminded us of France, only with much wider roads and guard rails.

We were using the GPS, and were confused about the estimated arrival time until we realized that Utah was in a different time zone than Nevada, with only two hours difference from Ontario time. (I later found a write-up on how “What time is it” could be a confusing question in these parts, as some states observe daylight savings, some don’t, and Indian Reservations within can also have their own rules about that.)

In the end, the drive was about three hours, and we arrived around 5:00.

Here, at the Desert Pearl Inn, we came to the first of what would prove to be a series of “better than expected” rooms. It was quite large, with a full kitchen, a patio out front offering a gorgeous view of Zion park, and a big TV with DVD and VCR. It also had free wireless, although that proved to be an extremely flaky signal, frequently cutting out.

Zion National Park in Utah. This park is one of the the most spectacular places that I have explored. It is on our list to visit again!
View of the Zion rocks. Not really taken this day, but it was time for a picture!

We hadn’t eaten in a while by now, and were pretty hungry. So we went out for an early dinner. Jean had the wise idea to walk instead of drive again, so we settled on the Spotted Dog, which was one of the places recommended in the guidebook. We sat outside, where we had a nice view of the sunset over the Zion Park rocks. The food was quite good: beet salad with blue cheese and candied almonds, hearty chicken soup, pear and ricotta ravioli, lamb shank with mashed potatoes, and vegetables. And a bottle of Cono Sur Pinot Noir, which Jean drank most of, ending up a little tipsy. For dessert we shared a delicious molten chocolate cake with raspberry, and decaf cafe.

Zion National Park in Utah. This park is one of the the most spectacular places that I have explored. It is on our list to visit again!

Visiting Zion Park

Early to bed made for early to rise (at least by my standards), and after a buffet breakfast at the Spotted Dog, we got ourselves organized and took the free shuttle from our Inn to the Park interior.

We had been contemplating doing a “trail” called the Narrows, which actually involves wading through water most of the way. It’s supposed to be a beautiful area. We had brought shoes suitable for walking in water and all. But at the Visitor’s Center, the ranger told us we probably didn’t want to do that. While not officially closed, the water temperature in the Narrows had dropped to 44F, and it was neck deep.

He mentioned a couple other trails we could do to get an idea of the area, one of which—the Hidden Valley trail—had sections where the trail became very narrow with a big drop-off beside it.

We would decide on that later. First, we wanted to do the Watchman’s trail, which started at the Visitor’s Center, and was supposed to give nice views and not be all that crowded. We had more trouble finding the trailhead than we expected, but once we did, the trail was as described. It ascended, but not too dramatically, so it was quite doable. We did meet other people, but not that many. On the way up, we were mostly in shade.

We got nice views of the rock face as the sun lit up different parts of the rocks.

Zion National Park in Utah. This park is one of the the most spectacular places that I have explored. It is on our list to visit again!
Starting the Watchman’s trail in the shade

At the top, it was all sunny, and we did a loop around there. Quite a bit warmer with the sun!

Zion National Park in Utah. This park is one of the the most spectacular places that I have explored. It is on our list to visit again!
We saw quite a few of these little lizards, who were a little camera shy

Then it was a more sunny route back down. (The day as a whole was perfectly sunny, with a high of 22 C.)

Zion National Park in Utah. This park is one of the the most spectacular places that I have explored. It is on our list to visit again!

I could see this trail being uncomfortably warm in summer, but it was a good Fall choice.

Getting to Zion Park from Springdale had taken no time at all via the free shuttle service, so we decided to head back after that first hike to dump off stuff we didn’t need, such as water shoes. We then had lunch there as well. Many places were closed at lunch, but we went to Oscar’s Cafe for Mexican. Jean had the special, which were really good mahi-mahi tacos, and I had a flauta, a new dish to me, which, in my initial notes, I had called a flatulah —a misnomer that was destined to make us giggle for the rest of trip. (Because of the beans, you see.) Over lunch I had been pondering whether to try Hidden Valley trail. Early in the trip planning, Jean had gotten excited about the Angel’s Landing trail. This trail involves hiking along cliff edges with sheer drop-off. They have put up chains to hold on to, but it’s still tough going for those with a fear of heights. I figured I couldn’t do it. Hidden Valley had a similar section, just not for as long, apparently.

We decided to give it a try, and shuttled to that trailhead. There was quite a climb to get to the trailhead, which in the other direction veered off to the Observation Point trail. And all was fine until the trail really narrowed, with a big drop-off beside it, and the risk I could meet people coming the other way! It didn’t help that a couple men on the way back said the section like that was actually pretty long, and that it didn’t even lead to any spectacular views or anything. Or that the two women currently attempting it were yelling out things like, “My knees are going to give out! This is so scary!”

I just couldn’t do it.

Jean was a bit miffed by this. But he shook it off and we decided to start down the Observation Point Trail instead. Observation Point did not have any “cliff edge” sections, but it was a long, strenuous trail. It was getting later in the day, with darkness falling around 6:00 pm, so we agreed to just get to where we could get by 4:00 or 4:30, then turn around and back out.

The thing is, Observation Point turned out to be a much more beautiful trail than Hidden Valley, winding its way through dry creek beds. We got some fantastic photos here. And if I hadn’t freaked out about the heights, we wouldn’t have had time to do any part of it. This fact eventually lifted Jean’s mood.

These are photos of the hiking paths that wind their way through dry creek beds. They make for great color and Light. This is the hike up to Observation Point
These are photos of the hiking paths that wind their way through dry creek beds. They make for great color and Light. This is the hike up to Observation Point

And more at http://jean-cathy.smugmug.com/Travel/Zion-Utah-Sedona-Arizona-Grand/19635036_qgqcMK#1539211510_N2cb2X3

We managed to do about half the trail, we figure, likely missing the most arduous parts. But if back here, I think we would tackle the whole thing. The view is worth it, and if we gave ourselves enough time for hiking, we could manage the inclines.

The shuttle back to Springdale was very crowded, but it was interesting to overhear other people’s experience in the park, including some who had done Angel’s Landing.

For dinner that night, we took the shuttle to the Bit and Spur for dinner, a saloon type of place, that was also pretty good. I had pasta stuffed with ricotta, shrimp, and spinach, while Jean had a duck Mexican dish with avocado, rice, beans, and so on.

And with all that hiking, we slept really well in our luxury room.

Getting to Sedona

This was to be our biggest driving day, but we wanted to make it somewhat about the journey, not just the destination.

We started with a bit more visiting of Springdale: breakfast at Oscars (I had a vegeterian egg white omelet with salsa, guacamole, and pineapple. Really good, actually!) and visiting a store that sold polished rocks. All the accommodations in Springdale were full when we were there, as indicated by Sorry! on the signs. We wondered if that would free up now that weekend was over, but I’m not sure it did.

We drove out past a part of Zion Canyon Park that we hadn’t seen before, and that was really spectacular. It included passage through a tunnel built in the 1930s, which was quite a feat at the time.

Our next driving destination was Marble Canyon, the gateway to the Grand Canyon. We did some stops on the way, where the valleys were particularly striking. There were also many Native outposts selling pottery and jewelry. I bought a necklace at one of these. Another stop featured these rock formations with stacked rocks, in which some people had built dwellings. Those were pretty neat.

Further along from this point, though, I started getting distracted by the fact that there were few stores and restaurants in these parts, and I really had to pee. (And this was a really flat part, so not even any handy trees to hide behind.) So a tip: If you can make it to the tiny placed called The Gap, where the service station advertises Clean Washrooms? They really are nice, clean washrooms.

We were also getting a little hungry, and the guidebooks recommended Cameron Trading Post as a good place to stop. It was advertised as one of the few, real Native trading post remaining. This, it turned out, didn’t necessarily mean better-quality or more authentic products for sale; just that the ownership was still in Native hands.

So we lunched here. I had your basic grilled chicken sandwich with a side of fruit salad. Jean ordered a taco, and when asked if he wanted “regular” or “mini”, he said “regular”. Only, this turned out to be anything but regular size. It was a massive plate. And the “taco” was not the flat chip thing I think of as a taco, but this thick bread-like item. It was full of cheese, ground meat, and beans. Jean was hungry, and is not a man of tiny appetite, but he could only manage maybe a third of the serving. (Who could eat that whole thing?)

Therefore, if in Cameron, and tempted by the taco, go “mini”. Trust me.

To continue our way to Sedona, we considered doing the scenic drive throught Desert Valley, but finally decided not to extend the drive and just took the 89 to Sedona. The GPS was helpful in navigating us through Flagstaff, the biggest city in these parts.

The last part of the drive into Sedona is fairly renowned: the Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road. It was a twisty roads through canyons, with rather spectacular views. Someone we met in Sedona later described it as a real “white knuckle” drive, but after some of the ones we’ve done in France, and even in BC, it wasn’t that bad.

Sedona, Arizona - Sedona is a very picturesque little city. The colors in the surounding landscape is really quite remarkable. We took a sunset Jeep tour to get a different perspective.
Sedona! Not take this day, but again, it’s time for a picture

Driving up to the Amara Resort and Spa in Sedona, we were greeted by a porter who looked up our reservation, helped us with our luggage, and gave us a valet tag so he could park our car. We hadn’t been expecting any of this. On checking in, we were told about the free yoga classes, the pool and hot tub, the gym, the concierge service, and so on. (And that there was a $20 resort fee for all those extras. Oh well.) We were walked to our room, which again was quite big, with walk-in closet (though not a full kitchen, this time) and nice sound system. Pretty wow. Nonetheless, after freshening up, we dragged ourselves out of here and into Sedona to explore the main drag. It’s a cute little town with a lot of people in it.

We were hailed a couple times by people offering information about jeep tours and other tourist attractions, in return for sitting in on a presentation on a time-sharing vacation something whatever. We actually debated about doing that, especially with the nicer second guy we talked to, but finally settled on just booking the jeep tour through him, which saved us the cost of sales tax.

We then did a wine-tasting of Arizona wines. (The most exciting thing was that I got carded first! Unless the drinking age in Arizona is 40, that was ridiculous, but flattering anyway.) I had discovered only on the flight over that they even made wine in Arizona. The tasting person said it was a very young wine region, just getting established. We tried two whites that were both really good, in very different ways: a nice Chenin Blanc sipping wine, and a rich Chardonnay blend with an unusual but enjoyable taste. Of the reds we tried, the best was a blend with a strong taste of raspberry (very rare that I can so clearly taste raspberry in wine) with a hint of ginger. Unusual and enjoyable.

We also got to talking a bit with another couple who were wine tasting. They were from New Jersey. We didn’t buy any bottles at that point (and ran out of time to do so later), but we did get to keep our tasting glass for free.

We had a pretty relaxed evening. We used the hot tub, which was just behind the restaurant area. They had a live guitarist playing there, and he was very good. We weren’t super-hungry, but enough, and decided to just eat at the Inn. We sat outdoors again, enjoying the music and the nice night. One of the sales guys we had talked to said the Amara was the most romantic restaurant in Sedona, and at this point, I could see that. They have a lovely setting.

The service, though, was a bit disorganized and slow, for some reason. In fact, I was getting somewhat annoyed at the lateness of our two glasses of wine—a CA petit Syrah and a Malbec. But when the waiter did arrive with them, he agreed that had taken too long, and they were therefore complimentary. That definitely brightened my mood. And the food turned out to be good, especially Jean’s duck schnitzel with mashed potatoes and bacony, sweet Brussels sprouts.

Getting to the Grand Canyon

After another breakfast at the Amara, we headed out. We decided to take scenic route 64 into the Canyon, though it was a bit longer. The first part of the drive was a repeat, up to Cameron. Then we turned onto 64.

Our first stop was at a Native settlement with views of a canyon, though not of the Grand Canyon. There were also tons of vendors, especially of jewelry. It was a bit overwhelming. But with some encouragement from Jean (to hurry up and decide, already!), I finally picked out a couple necklaces (of similar style but different colour to the one I’d already bought).

We then continued into the park. There were quite a few viewpoints along the way. But I think we only stopped at two. The first was quite crowded: It was hard to find parking. The second wasn’t so bad.

Grand Canyon viewpoint

But then we just kind of wanted to get there, because we were getting hungry and needing to pee.

So we decided to bypass our accommodations for now and head straight for the Bright Angel’s diner. It wasn’t easy finding parking there, either (this is low season?), but we eventually did, a short walk away. But we had no trouble getting a seat at the restaurant. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t so good. The corn chowder, in particular, was unpleasantly salty and thick.

We then went to check in at our Lodge. It had been described as “basic”, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but it wasn’t a bad room. Two queen beds, flat-screen TV. Pretty much like the type of room we normally stay in. No wireless service in rooms, but it was available free in the lobby.

After visiting the Visitor Centre (which was in walking distance, and had deer), we headed for the Rim trail, which is a flat trail tracing along the rim of the canyon. It is very popular, as it’s paved. It does give great views of various parts of the Canyon.

Grand Canyon view

Jean really wanted to get sunset shots, so we scoped out a good spot at Yavapai point. We then walked past it some ways, then went back to set up a spot. It did get more and more crowded as the sun set.

Sun starting to set

But it is very cool to see the colour on the rocks change with the light.

Sunset colours

At sunset it got quite a bit cooler, so I encouraged Jean to finish up. We walked back, and the full moon rose as we did so. Jean got some shots of that as well.

Moon rising. Not a bad one.

We definitely wanted to get a better meal than we’d had for lunch, so we aimed for the Arizona Room, which seemed the best bet short of El Tovar. We figured we’d shuttle there and back. On arrival, we were told it would be a 45-minute wait. We thought we could handle that, but got worried about the shuttle, which we had to catch around 9:30 at the latest. Dinner estimated time was 8:15. After musing on it a bit, we decided to take shuttle back and get the car, restaurant pager in tow.

Fortunately, our wait for the shuttle was very short. The way back was longer than there, but we still arrived around 8pm. So then we drove back, managing not to get lost, and to find parking reasonably close by. We arrived a couple minutes before 8:15 and checked with the attendant, only to be told that we were the next to be paged. Indeed, when we went outside to wait, the pager went off almost immediately. Our sudden laughter confused the other patrons.

I suppose it’s one way to pass the time while waiting for your table.

And after all that, I’m happy to report the food was decent. They quickly brought us corn bread and rolls, and we decided on entrees. We were still leery of soup, though, so we both had spinach salad. Not bad, with candied pecans, apricots, jicama. Then I had pork medallions with asparagus and a mash of sweet and regular potatoes. Jean had ribs with corn and asparagus. We both had a glass of CA Cab Sauv, Jean’s more expensive (and better) than mine.

We contemplated dessert, but they were all very cake-focused, which isn’t our favourite. So after some decaf, we headed out.

It was shortly before 9:30, and just as walked past the shuttle stop, the bus arrived. 🙂

Visiting Grand Canyon

After once more sleeping like a baby (which was becoming a theme on this trip, I guess because of all of the exercise and fresh air), we decided to have breakfast at the Canyon Cafe where we staying, part of the Yavapatai Lodge. How bad could breakfast be?

Well, it turns out, pretty bad. It was a limited number of options, all of which were served from vats, which doesn’t do food any kindness. Worse, we had to wait in line for it. Blech.

Nevertheless, we got our calories, then took the shuttle to head of the Bright Angel trail, which heads down into the canyon. As recommended by the park ranger, the idea was to hike for one hour, then turn around and come back up, on the premise the return journey would take twice as long.

It was neat going down and seeing different aspects of the canyon. There were plenty of other people doing this trail as well, both directions, various ages. The trail was always wide enough to never be that scary, and it wasn’t all that rugged.

Walking down into the Grand Canyon

The main attraction proved to be a herd a bighorn sheep that at first seemed rather shy, but then kept popping back out—running along ridges, posing near the trail (not when we were there). We saw about six. Jean took many photos.

Bighorn sheep
When Jean took this photo, we were seeing only the one sheep with big horns. Interesting to see how many others were actually there as well.

At the hour point, we were rather reluctant to turn around, as it’s pretty pleasant going down, and it didn’t seem we had gotten that far, what with all the stopping for photos. But turn around we did. On the way back up we talked a bit to a couple from Calgary; Jean recognized the MEC and Tilley clothes.

It was, of course, more strenuous going back up, and the sun was higher, so it was a little warmer. But it wasn’t as bad as I expected. And almost before we knew it, we were back at the top! It had only taken 45 minutes to do the return trip. So I ended up feeling annoyed that we hadn’t gone on longer, at least to the Half Mile Point. But, not annoyed enough to do the whole thing over.

We not were ready for lunch though, so we decided to follow the Rim trail in the other direction, a part we hadn’t seen before. We saw a lot of different kinds of birds here, including a cool-looking blue one. The ravens fly really close to people, and when one was just below us, we could hear his (or her) wings flapping, which was interesting.

Jean in Grand Canyon
Proof that a) Jean was there, too and b) I take the occasional photo

Since this place was turning out to be a bit of minefield for restaurants, we decided to return to the Arizona Room for lunch. Unlike dinner, though, we didn’t have to wait. The food was fine. I had a pasta dish, Jean a meat sampler.

We then debated on taking the shuttle or hiking back to the lodge, but hiking won. Again, this was along the Rim trail.

Back at the room, Jean decided to nap, so I went to the lobby with the Xoom to use the wireless.

For dinner, we had our 8:45 pm El Tovar reservation. We had a bit of a snack around 5:00, then decided to go look at the sunset again, in a different part of the canyon. It was very pretty, and this night seemed warmer than the previous, with the breeze actually feeling Chinook-like.

Sunset
Sunset from a different perspective
Evening in Grand Canyon
Another cool-looking evening shot

El Tovar is a very beautiful location up on top of the hill. We should have brought a camera.

As for food, it was the best meal we had in the park. I had spinach salad followed by roast half duck in cherry Merlot sauce; Jean had smoked salmon crostini followed by pasta. But while good, it didn’t quite match up to the better meals we’ve had at other places. It lacked the refinement and creativity you get from the best chefs. It also had pretty large servings, unusual for this type of place, but maybe apropos for feeding people who’ve likely been active all day.

Still, for dessert, we could only manage sharing an apple pie slice. And, we couldn’t quite finish that.

We enjoyed the wine, and thought we were being pretty reasonable there, at two glasses each. It did seem to effect the sleep slightly, though, maybe because of the late hour.

Return to Vegas

Wanting to avoid another horrible breakfast, we drove to the Bright Angel for that meal. Though we hadn’t been too impressed with this diner for lunch, they did fine with breakfast, producing a nice French toast with blueberries or bananas.

We had to get the car back to Vegas for a 6:00 return time, but even considering that, it seemed we had plenty of time. We passed Flinstone Park on the way (Flintstone as in the cartoon), but it looked basically old and sad. But we decided to take historic Route 66 instead of just the expressway.

Our earliest stop on this route proved to be the highlight: a town called Seligman. It had a bunch of shops capitalizing on the historic road, featuring humorous, 50s tinged souvenirs, with decor to match. It was kitschy but fun. A friendly guy in one shop said there is a whole Route 66 Historic association, which has an outpost in Vancouver.

On our way to Vegas we drove along Highway 66.
Stop on Highway 66

There wasn’t too much else worth stopping for on the road, but it was somewhat interesting landscape. We even saw cowboys on horses at one point.

Our end point of the Route was Kingman, which rather lacked in charm. But it did have a famous diner (famous partly because Oprah had featured it on her show once), where we had lunch. The Marilyn and Elvis decor and the old jukebox, with pink and turquoise colouring, were interesting. The food was OK.

Me and Marilyn

Our next destination was the Hoover Dam. The terrain got interesting on the way there again, with dark mountains.

We had hoped to take the long tour of the Dam, but it was an hour wait for that, then an hour tour, meaning we didn’t have time. So, we just went for the short tour, which was pretty cattle-like. First we lined up for a movie that gave an overview about the construction of the Dam. Then we lined up to go into the Dam. A very cozy elevator ride rapidly took us way below ground, where we saw one of the big pipes. The guide then gave some more information about the building of the Dam.

Next was another short elevator ride, up to the level where you can see the generators. They pointed out that the power produced is substantial and makes the Dam self-sufficient. But the point of the whole thing is water control. She also pointed out the fancy floors there, which were something of a bargain in the 1930s compared to now.

The rest was on our own. We went up to the observation deck, where you could look down at the dam and see the bridge. Then back down and through an interpretation centre.

Hoover dam

It was interesting, but not as awe-inspiring as one might have expected.

Then on to the final push for Vegas. After a brief delay at the dam, the drive went well and we did find our way to the airport. But we had to fill up the car before returning. That proved harder than it should have. Just finding a station was a bit of an ordeal, then when we did, it wouldn’t let us use a credit card at the pump without a zip code (!). We had to get pre-approval up to a certain amount from the attendant.

We finally managed to fill the car, find the return location, and get all our stuff out of it. Then we shuttled back to the airport proper, and found out there were indeed hotel shuttles available. We were able to get on one of those pretty quickly, and ours was the second stop.

And once again we were sort of amazed by our accommodations. It was a complex within the Strip area, though not right on Las Vegas boulevard. It was big, with a bunch of separate three-story buildings separated by pool areas. We were driven to the room by golf cart. It had a full kitchen, two big-screen TVs, a DVD player, a sound system with iPod dock, a living room and bedroom area, a walk-in closet, the biggest shower I’ve ever seen… Also free wireless (the best signal yet), five pools on the property, golf cart shuttle service, and so on.

We then headed out to the Strip, aiming for “Paris” for supper. Boy, are there a lot of people out at night! A lot of them drinking in the streets, which sure seems odd. (And also, many of what look like immigrant families, trying to hand out pamphlets and cards offering sex services. All featuring women exclusively. I got to wondering: a) What stops these people just dumping their cards/pamphlets and claiming they were all handed out? b) How does one buy sex from a man in this town? Not because I wanted to do that, you understand. I just wondered. For those who did.)

On the way, we saw the Belagio fountain show. It was kind of cool.

In Paris, we aimed for the Provencal restaurant (as I had read about it), though it wasn’t the easiest to find. We had to go through the casino to get there (we were to learn you had to go through the casino to get anywhere in all these hotels) and discovered that the outfits on the women staff of the Paris are exceedingly revealing. Think Playboy bunny outfit without the ears. I had to watch that Jean didn’t walk into posts.

Eiffel Tower
The “Eiffel Tower’ of fake Paris in Vegas. Taken the next day, obviously, as went there at night the first day

They seem to make a show here of having people line up, but it didn’t take long to get in. It was an attractive but noisy room, briefly featuring live music. We both had the $29 prix fixe, which was perfectly decent. And we enjoyed the people-watching, noting that there was a remarkable amount of cleavage on display in this town (all of the female persuasion, sadly). And probably more than your average percentage of good-looking folks (not only of the female persuasion).

Visiting Las Vegas

We slept in the most we had on vacation yet, to about 8:00, and had breakfast at a little bar/cafe at our resort.

Our first order of business was seeing what would be available for that night from the Half Price ticket booth. I was most interested in the Cirque Beatles’ Love, but didn’t want to get my hopes up. However, it was available at a discount—though not nearly as discounted as Mystère, which had been playing longer. Still, we went for that. Second-best seats, as it’s still expensive enough. And we also bought a dinner coupon and reservation; $3 for 25% off our bill at an Italian restaurant.

We then visited the Venetian Hotel, as it was right by there. It is kind of interesting to see the gondolas. As in the real Venice, though, it’s very expensive to actually ride in them.

We then crossed the street to the Mirage, which is where Love is performed, to pick up our actual tickets. We also visited an interesting art gallery there, that included the New Orleans artist we have a painting by, and some other very nice pieces.

Las Vegas

We then basically just wandered down, visiting various hotels and their fancy designer shops. (And one good thing I can say about them is that washrooms are plentiful, easy to find, large, and very clean.) We finally got as far as New York, New York for lunch. I had in mind sushi—a lighter option. Though it wasn’t clear from the restaurant listing, New York did feature on such place: Cafe Chin-Chin. Which also was unusually peaceful for a Vegas hotel.

Instead of walking all the way back, we crossed over to MGM and headed for the monorail. Of course, finding that involved another big travel route through the hotel and casino, but we did get there, and it does give a nice high view the city. Which really has a lot of pools.

And speaking of pools, we decided it would be good to try out one the pools at our hotel. The pool water turned out to be really warm, kind of like a bath. (Heated. In the desert. They really believe in using electricity in Las Vegas.) It was nice and relaxing, though. You can stay in a lot longer when you don’t get chilled by the water. So we probably spent about an hour swimming around. (Jean had two attractive girls in bikinis to look at. I just had two old and overly tanned men.)

At dinner time, we headed out for our Dal Toro reservation. We sat outside, and across, were able to watch a Pirates of the Caribbean-type adventure being played out that hotel. Prices did seem a bit inflated at this restaurant, so it’s good that we had 25% off. Food wasn’t amazing, but it was decent. We both had pasta, and shared a lemon tart for dessert.

Dinner at Dal Toro
Dining at Dal Toro

We then ambled the busy streets again before heading to Mirage for the performance. The Mirage has a 360 degree stage; we were kind of in a side aisle, in row S.

And the show was pretty spectacular. It’s all built around Beatles music, but doesn’t straightforwardly tell their story, though that is evoked. And, the songs aren’t always interpreted in the most expected way. Because the theatre was built for this show (which has been running for over five years), the whole place is utilized as part of the performance. Scenes often occur simultaneously in different parts of the stage, with screens on the side as well, so it was hard to know where to look at times.

Highlights included:

  • A fairly unexpected start in Liverpool at war. Then Beatlemania ripping away at the post-war malaise.
  • A trapeze artist on swing extending himself around in ways that made my palms sweat. And some absolutely stunning roller-skate work on huge ramps.
  • Being reminded that “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” is about—a circus!
  • The lyrical interpretation of the George Harrison songs. “Something” featured a very attractive shirtless man reaching for various beautiful women on trapeze, floating and spinning just out of reach. “Here Comes the Sun” was played as a kind of gorgeous sun salutation. And “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was the soundtrack to one of the most touching parts, illustrating the losses of Vietnam.
  • The first few rows of the stage getting completely covered with a white sheet that was raised and lowered to make a really cool effect on stage. (Advantage: People in the cheaper seats.)
  • Exploring the R&B roots of The Beatles music by doing “Lady Madonna” as a gumboot dance. (Although they use the original Beatles music, only with some remixing, it still sounded really… African American.)
  • War protesters using “Revolution” (fast version) as an anthem.
  • “A Day in the Life”, a highly realistic song in some ways, presented as a child’s nightmare, in which his mother becomes a red lady on trapeze who is first trapped, and then killed in a car crash.

Apart from being entertaining in itself, I also felt the show gave me new perspective on these very familiar songs. Bits from the Beatles themselves were also interspersed in the performance—often dialog of them just goofing around. The show ended with “Hey Jude”, which was very joyful (after “A Day in the Life”), with the audience encouraged to sing along. “Love Is All You Need” and “Goodnight” play as a kind of encore as the performers are applauded.

Jean really liked this as well. Certainly the highlight of Vegas.

It made for a late night, and we didn’t get to sleep til about midnight 30.

Get back!

Our flight was at 12:30 (noon) the last day, so we really only had time to get up and get to the airport. We did meet a friendly couple from New York while waiting for the shuttle. They had spent most of their in time in Vegas itself, having never gotten the car they’d reserved. (That would have been a nightmare for us.) Although they did take a tour to Zion one day.

They really recommended old Las Vegas to us. Maybe next time. (If there is a next time.)

We had no issues on our way home. Shuttle, WestJet, airport shuttle, drive home, there we were. I took the next day off to recover.