Now that we are finally home and (mostly) recovered from our trip, I have managed to get my photos in order, so the next couple of posts are going to be a catch up of the trip. Starting with some of the hotels on the “strip”.
The Strip, or more correctly Las Vegas Boulevard is the main drag in Vegas where everything happens. If you stay in Vegas, you should try to stay on or really close to the strip. Most of the hotels are on the strip, and certainly the big theme hotels are there.
Here are just some of the hotels that I passed on a couple of walks.
Starting with Paris, which contains a scale model of the Eiffel Tower which is approx 1/4 the full height, which is still several stories high. There is a viewing deck on the top level which provides great views of Vegas. Note the traffic at about 10pm on a Sunday night.
Next up is Bally’s, where we stayed. Bally’s is connected to Paris by a short walkway containing a few shops and restaurants. At about $40 per night, Bally’s is one of the cheaper hotels on the strip, but you pay for everything, including $3 per day for the honour of using the hotel safe. But still good value for Vegas.
The Bellagio is across the road from Bally’s, and it contains the famous water fountains, which play in time to music every 1/2 hour or so. The fountains, which shoot higher that the hotel are pretty impressive to watch.
Further down is Caesers palace, which is built to look like ancient Rome, complete with a Colosseum and Pantheon, and “Forum Shops”.
Treasure Island is home to regular evening ship battles as the “Sirens of TI…lure a band of renegade pirates into their cove with powerful and captivating melodies”. The show is a little cheesy, but well it is free.
Last on my list is the Venetian hotel, home to the Blue Man Group, one of my top shows. The entire hotel looks like Venice, complete with St Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge, and gondola rides.
Having being in Venice about a year ago, it was remarkable how similar this hotel is to the real thing. Notice how the docking poles are even a little bent, as if they had been in the Grand Canal for a long time.
This is just a selection of the hotels, but you can easily spend day walking around just looking at the hotels.
I was cleaning up my study, and I found the old ticket stubs from our trip up the Eiffel Tower in Vegas. Ok, so this wasn’t the real tower in France, it was only a 1/2 scale model, but it was still 540 feet (164m) tall, and it was pretty impressive.
Walking through the Paris hotel is really like walking through the streets of Paris – complete with sidewalk cafe’s, accordion music & cobbled streets. I really felt like I was back in Paris.
However, what really amused me was the warning on the ticket – “no unauthorized weddings”. Where else would you find that warning? I suppose that if you are going to do a Vegas wedding, the top of the Eiffel Tower is as good a place as any – good thing Lois and I are already married!
I still think that Vegas is a great place to get married – you can have a drive trough wedding, the reception at the MacDonalds drive through, and even see a show afterwards!
Don’t forget – no unauthorized weddings!
His grave is in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the largest and oldest cemetery in Paris. He shares the ground with several illustrious people, including Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. The crypts (many of them shared by families) almost looked like small houses, rather that a resting place for the dead. While many were very old, several were from just a few years ago. The graveyard is full of labyrinthine paths, criss-crossing on their meandering routes. I had a distinct Ann-Rice feeling in the graveyard.
What I also found interesting is that there were a large variety of graves from different Churches, including Christian, Jewish and a few Chinese graves.
It was quite a walk to find Jim Morrison’s grave, especially because I got so lost that I had to stop and buy a map. So when I eventually found it, I didn’t just pause for to contemplate, I also had to pause for breath. I have never seen a pop star’s grave before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It looked exactly like all the other graves, except that it was covered with bunches of fresh flowers – suggestive of a regular stream of visitors. I was surprised to be the only person there. I also expected graffiti, but there was none.
My reflective moment was shattered when a group of tourists arrived (“there he is!”), and went to gawk and slobber at his grave (Ok so I was also a tourist, but you can at least show some sense of decorum in a graveyard). So I decided that it was time to say goodbye and move on.
I was warned that the Mona Lisa is a bit of a disappointment, it is a lot smaller in real life than one expects, it is not as fine as expected, and the queues into the Louvre and to see her are really long. I have to say wrong on all accounts. I walked straight into the Louvre with a very short queue, and I was on my way to see the world’s most famous painting.
She was recently moved to a much more accessible room (still in the Denon wing) which is very well sign posted. I had a marvellous time walking through the museum, looking at many works, including van Gogh and de Vinci.
I knew that the Mona Lisa was somebody there, but I was not quite sure where. So when I turned a corner and almost bumped into the painting, I was quite startled. There she was – looking directly at me. She is far more amazing in the flesh (so to speak), than any print I have seen of her. I felt drawn to her, like she wanted to tell me something, and I had great difficulty looking away. Whenever I managed to, I still found myself drawn back to her. This is a painting that should be seen, and has to be seen in the flesh to be appreciated for what it is. Visiting the Mona Lisa was a dream fulfilled.
T found it odd that instead of walking around with guide books, many people were walking around with copies of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”. At least he is getting people more interesting in art and history. The inverted pyramid on the left is where (according to the book), The Holy Grail is hidden.
ps – The painting is not small, but is in fact 53 x 77 cm.
The tower looked just like I expected, but then thinking about it, who should it not. The queues were long, but they did move quickly (you can miss the queues by walking up about 12 flights of stairs to the first level). We took the lift to the second level (my first double story lift). This was quite a scary experience, because the lift basically moves up the leg of the tower, so it moves at an angle. This means that you can see the ground fall away below you as you move. The second level platform is about 115 m high, with an incredible view. You can see from the Arc de Triomphe, across to the Louvre, over to Notra Damme, past the Invalides and finally up and down the river.
Once we had adjusted to this height, it was time to move up. The top level is 276 m high, and this level is (not surprisingly) fully enclosed. It is quite a scary experience being at this height, bearing in mind that I was being held up by what is basically a Meccano toy. I thought that the view from the second level was good, but I had no idea. You are actually so high up that you start to see the ground below through the beginnings of the city air pollution. However I did still manage to see about ½ way back to Cape Town.
The Eiffel tower was built in 1889 for the Paris World Fair. It was built by Gustave Eiffel, who also built the Status of Liberty in New York. Its total height is 320m, varying by about 15 cm, depending on the temperature. It weighs 7000 tons, and contains 2.5 million rivets.
If you visit, you really must go all the way to the top – it is worth the wait in the queues. I do have to conclude by saying that I was very glad to get my feed back on solid ground after the visit.