Thursday, June 30, 2011

Last Full Day in Las Vegas

To back track to last night, we had dinner at The Palm in Caesar's.

This was my choice for my birthday dinner. The Palm is known for its steaks and enormous lobsters. The smallest lobster they serve weighs 3 pounds. I can eat one myself!

To our delight, they have a summer lobster special at all their restaurants: A 4-pound lobster dinner for two, with two salads and two side dishes for $95.

We went for it, starting with Caesar salads.

They split the lobster in half and serve the sides family style. We had mushrooms and spinach for our sides.

Great meal and fun ambiance and, a real treat to eat so much lobster in one seating.

Today we took the Bellagio tram to the Monte Carlo and then walked from there to the MGM. It's been awhile since we were last in the MGM and last week on "Undercover Boss" the boss was the MGM's CEO.

We stopped to see the Lion Habitat.

And then went over to the Arena where the big fights and other big shows is held. When Jimmy Buffett is in town, this is where he performs. The Arena seats over 15,000!

In October, Jimmy Buffett will fill the Arena for two shows.

We cooled off back at the Bellagio with drinks from Jean Philippe Patisserie.

This train at Jean Philippe is covered in marshmallows.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Keeping Cool in Hot Las Vegas

Determined to stay cooler than I was here yesterday, I spent most of this morning in Las Vegas swimming and relaxing by the Bellagio pool. There are two big pools and several smaller ones, as well as many jacuzzi hot tubs...something for every water lover.

First thing in the morning is the time to swim laps. As the day goes on, one has to compete with kids playing, bathing beauties floating on rafts while sipping umbrella drinks, and groups of guys bragging and drinking. Not that there is anything wrong with it...what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, as they say.

The weather Gods were with us today too and it cooled a tiny bit. The temperature never rose over 100 degrees.

As promised in my last post, here are scenes from dinner at Mon Ami Gabi last night.

Mussels for Jim and Skate for moi. We were seated by the open patio, enjoying the view of the Bellagio across the street. We saw several dancing waters shows but could not hear the music across the busy Strip, Las Vegas Boulevard.

After dinner, we watched the dancing waters from our side and took in the views of Paris from the other side of the Strip.

So today was much slower paced than our last several days but we still wound up walking a lot.

As is our Las Vegas tradition, we have at least one lunch at Margaritaville

My Cheeseburger in Paradise could not have been better.

We then spent most of the afternoon wandering around some of the hotels.

We stopped at The Venetian and came upon one of their pop up operatic shows.

We then got lost in Caesar's Forum Shops and could not find our way out. Caesar's is so huge, we always get lost there. I expect this is by design. They want you there gambling, shopping, eating, and drinking.

At least we think we can find our way back there later for dinner at The Palm.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Travel Transition Day

Today was the day that we transitioned from the natural canyons of Zion to the artificial " canyons" of Las Vegas.

We did one last hike to the lower Emerald Pool before leaving the park. As we hiked, we had waterfalls dripping down on plant-filled rock walls on one side and a deep canyon with a pool of water on the other. Very dramatic..

And, as we were moving out of our room, the local wildlife bid us adieu!

171 miles later, we were in Las Vegas at our new home, The Bellagio. As I write this in the evening, the temperature outdoors is 100 degrees.

This afternoon, to stay comfortable, we stayed mostly indoors.

The floral display in the Bellagio's conservatory is their Fourth of July exhibit. This year it has a carnival theme.

After exploring the Bellagio's lobby and losing a little money at the slot machines, we took the free tram over to the Aria hotel and Crystals shopping center in the new City Center. The City Center's public art is amazing and includes a real Henry Moore sculpture.

The architecture is a bit confusing...a modern array of asymmetric forms.

We also took a look at the new Vdara hotel which has a Frank Stella over its reception area and which has no casino at all. It's a big hotel but the lobby feels cozy.

Tomorrow, we have some time at our pools in mind as well as more exploring in City Center.

Also, I'll report on tonight's dinner ar Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris, my favorite Las Vegas restaurant.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Full Day in Zion

After experiencing the afternoon heat in the Park yesterday, our strategy for today, our only full day in Zion, was to get out early.
It worked perfectly and we were on the shuttle on our way to the Temple of Sinewava by 8:30.
At this time of year, early morning temperatures are in the low 50s. By noon, they are close to 100 degrees.

At the Temple of Sinewava, we did the Riverside Walk, a relatively easy 2.2 miles that took about 2 hours to do. It was so comfortable, temperature wise, that I kept my jacket on most of the time.

This hike follows the Virgin River, the main water source through the park. It is possible to many miles further through what is called The Narrrows where hikers actually walk through the river in a very narrow canyon area. At this time the narrows are closed to hikers because the river is flowing faster than 140 cu. ft./second. It might open tomorrow, but this is an area subject to flash flooding and potentially very dangerous to anyone in the path of the water.

But we were more than delighted with hanging plants on rocks being moistened by waterfalls, the monumental rock formations, and views of the rushing waters from a safe vantage point.

This last picture is of me taken by Jim to show the size of the rock formations.

On our way back to the Lodge, we stopped at Big Bend to view a grouping of three, the Organ, the Great White Throne, and Angels' Landing. The Great White Throne is white and flat. I keep forgetting what it is called and keep calling it " The Great White Hoo Hoo." (can't take me anywhere....)

Our final morning hike was a short steep one up to Weeping Rock, up close to a wall of rock with water streaming on it.

After lunch, we went to the Court of the Patriarchs to view formations named Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There is a viewing spot a short hike up from the shuttle stop.
An added bonus discovery today were Prickly Pear plants in flower.

We then cooled off at the Zion Human History Museum where we viewed the half hour film about the origins of Zion, looked at exhibits, and attended a Ranger lecture.

We've had dinner both nights in the Lodge restaurant, Red Rock Grill. last night we sat on the deck and enjoyed Caesar Salad, Chichen Filets and Quinoa Primavera. I'm impressed wide variety of fresh ingredients served both in this more formal dining room aa well as the very casual Castledome Cafe which is also at the Lodge.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Las Vegas to Zion National Park

We got to Las Vegas this morning at 8 a.m. and a little over two hours later (about 170 miles) we were in Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.

Weather is very hot and sunny. Yes, it's dry heat but at about 100 degrees, it's still hot.

After a stop for lunch in Springdale, right by the park's south entrance, ( good Mexican food!), were drove to the lodge,our home for the next three days.

To get oriented, we took the park shuttle to the visitor center. Cars are not allowed to drive in the park, so it is shuttle or hike.

The rock formations are spectacular. We are too hot to hike now, but tomorrow for sure.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Club Tea Party

It's been a little over a year since "Tea Culture" was published and I'm still being invited to speak at an amazing variety of events.

Today I joined a friend's book club for afternoon tea and talk about "Tea Culture" which was this month's book selection.

For me it was a perfect opportunity to meet new people, share a meal, and sip tea.

They were a great group with lots of questions about drinking and growing tea.

Our menu was two kinds of tea sandwiches: Chicken Salad and Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese.

The hostess made the sandwiches and a delicious salad.

For sweets, she bought mini Key Lime Tarts and Canoli at a local bakery and I made the Green Tea Madeleines from the book.

We drank iced tea, iced tea with lemonade, and hot flowering green tea. I brought some alcoholic tea beverages for them to sample. The Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka was the most popular alcoholic tea....terrific on a hot day like today.

As for those in the group who are not regular tea drinkers, I think that after today's book club meeting, they've all found some tea that they will continue to enjoy regularly!