Hoover Dam & Vegas

April 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Our last day in Vegas so a drive to the Hoover dam is on the cards. It’s a short drive to the border of Arizona where the dam lies.

Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives. The dam was controversially named in honor of President Herbert Hoover.

Vegas is a great place, it’s amazing how many people you see walking down the street with their glass of whiskey or other cocktails. Alcohol is freely available for purchase on the street. The police are there but generally invisible, we only saw a few on push bikes during our week, but on the road to Hoover Dam, there were plenty waiting for speeding drivers.

Food is cheap, and generally good quality, but I can’t think of it’s nutrient value.

We have packed our bags and getting ready to head to San Francisco.


Mesa Grill Las Vegas

April 29th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Last night we dined at one of the best known chefs in America, Bobby flay who owns a number of restaurants around the country. The Mesa Grill,located at Caesars Palace and the restaurant is a vibrant and busy place so bookings are essential.

We had previously made a reservation and only had a short wait once we arrived at the restaurant. Our table was small and extremely close to the tables next, in fact my wife sitting on the opposite side of the table was further away than the two sitting at the next table on either side, this was disappointing. I told the waiter I wasn’t happy with this arrangement and asked to move, they told me all tables are like this.

Our waiter offered water in a jug or bottled water, which was a surprise as there was no up-selling the bottle water, however the water was pleasant and wasn’t full of chlorine like in the hotel.

We ordered a bottle of local Californian wine at $48 which was average. The wine list wasn’t too extensive, but as any restaurant, they are overpriced and under rated. There were only a few cocktails and from looking at some of the other tables who ordered them, they looked boring.

From the menu, we selected one appetizer, Tiger shrimp with Roasted garlic corn tamale along with Corn and cilantro sauce @ $16. The shrimp was cooked perfectly, however the tamale was a little dry and it should have something like tomato to break the flavor, also there was only 4 shrimp on the plate.

For our Entre, we selected the Mango spice crusted Tuna steak with green peppercorn , green chile sauce, toasted pine nut cous cous @ $38. The tuna was cooked to perfection and the flavors were all there, however it needed a punch which it didn’t have.

Our second choice was pan seared wild striped bass (substituted with Halibut) a with roasted yellow pepper grits and yellow pepper romesco @ $36. Now this dish was something else, the fish was cooked again to perfection and it also had the right flavor combination which also had that kick I was after.

Each of the dishes don’t come with any sides and have to be ordered extra which makes the dish a little expensive.

The dessert menu wasn’t extensive and very appealing at all. Mexican chocolate pudding with gingersnap crumble, Deep dish banana cream pie with praline wafer + hazelnut brittle, Pear buttermilk upside down cake with butterscotch sauce + autumn – spiced ice cream, Red grape + apple pot pie with caramel apple ice cream, Toasted coconut layer cake with coconut cream sauce and finally Churros. As I am diabetic I asked the waiter for a substitute in which he offered coconut sorbet. Bron had the Churros which she said wasn’t as good as she could get back home.

Overall, the atmosphere was pleasant, but the tables were way too close and conversations on each table could be heard.

The food was good, but not exceptional. As always in America, the service was exceptional.

The Bill was $176 in total + tip.


Red Rock Canyon

April 28th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located just a few miles west of Las Vegas and encompasses 195,819 acres within the Mojave Desert. Red Rock is an area of world wide geologic interest and beauty.

Historically, the area was once home to the Kawaiisu Indians, who left petroglyphs in the El Paso mountains and other evidence of their in habitation. The spectacular gash situated at the western edge of the El Paso mountain range was on the Native American trade route for thousands of years. During the early 1870s, the colorful rock formations in the park served as landmarks for 20-mule team freight wagons that stopped for water. About 1850, it was used by the footsore survivors of the famous Death Valley trek including members of the Arcane and Bennett families along with some of the Illinois Jayhawkers. The park now protects significant paleontology sites and the remains of 1890s-era mining operations, and has been the site for a number of movies.

It’s a scenic 13 mile drive around the park and there are several places to stop to explore.

The afternoon we spent down the strip at Fashion Show Mall and we walked back visiting each casino. We are so tired tonight, we are having Sparo and taking it back to our room.


Vegas Day 2

April 27th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

It was yet another beautiful day in Vegas as it seems to be each day. After breakfast (Denny’s) we headed off to The Valley of Fire which is about 1 ½ hours north of Vegas. We spent a good few hours at the National Park and saw the most amazing landscapes. Being spring all the wildflowers are out and it was great to see. The rock formations were spectacular and some even have native American petroglyphs (rock drawings/carvings) dating back to pre 300BC.

We headed back mid afternoon via Lake Mead and again saw absolutely gorgeous scenery.

Back in town and we headed to the Strip to try and get tickets to Penn and Teller (magicians/comedians/skeptics) for the evening, which we were able to do. We had some dinner a another great Mexican restaurant called Ricardos, which we found by chance, and then made our way to the Rio hotel for the show.

Into the theater and we found our seats, which we were very happy with. A couple of guys were playing the piano and bass on stage as the patrons came in.

No sooner had we sat down when a guy who was playing the piano invited all guests onto the stage to sign an envelope and check out a large box on the stage, which we did. While on stage we noticed the guy playing the bass was actually Penn Jillette!

The show was fantastic. The tricks were great and they really include the whole audience. I have no idea how they do some of them, but as they keep explaining,  it is all tricks!

After the show they have a meet and greet in the foyer and Mark had his photo taken with Penn, which was pretty cool.


Vegas Day 1

April 27th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

It was a bit of a sleep in today, well until 8.00 am. Today was going to be a lazy day, as Mark had a shoot in the afternoon so we went to WallMart and Target to get a few things. We went back to the hotel and met the model (Anna) who Mark had arranged a shoot with. She had brought her entourage with her, including her partner Tom, her make-up artist Sammy and her boyfriend Jesse. They were all lovely people and it was great to chat to them and get the low-down on Vegas from locals point of view.

After the shoot, we ate dinner at the Border Grill,  a restaurant we have been wanting to try for a while as we have been cooking from the chef’s cookbooks for years. It was expensive, and we have had better Mexican at other places, but it was still a good experience.

Los Angeles to Las Vegas

April 27th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s hard to adjust after a flight, even though I hadn’t had any sleep for over 24 hours, I still woke up at midnight and had trouble getting back to sleep. Breakfast at the Holiday Inn was basic, but it wasn’t bad.  After breakfast, we made our way via the GPS on the freeway to Las Vegas, it was very overcast and a lot of drizzle until we reached the mountains about 1 hour out of LA, then bright sunshine for the rest of the way.

It was a scenic drive through the Mojave Desert and we stopped at an outlet mall in the middle of an Indian Reservation about 40 minutes from Vegas to stretch the legs.

We arrived in Vegas around 2.30 and headed straight for the hotel, however we couldn’t check in as our room wasn’t ready, so we headed out on The Strip for a walk to kill time. As we remembered this place is “manic”

After checking in about 5pm, we again headed out for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, which we have been looking forward to for a long time as it was one of our favorites when we were living here, and, as usual, it didn’t disappoint. After dinner we made our way back to the hotel and fell into bed exhausted.


Melbourne to LA

April 24th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

We left for the airport around 7am and the airport was jam packed with people, we thought it was because of the Easter weekend, but we also learnt that a number of flights had been cancelled the day before.

We were lucky to be upgraded to Premium Economy so thanks to my father for arranging it.

You forget how long that flight is, it just seems to go on forever and ever, but lucky the seats were nice and big and the in-flight entertainment was also extensive. Although VA forgot my special meal, the food wasn’t too bad, but overall, I can highly recommend VA.

We arrived in LAX thinning it was going to take hours to get through immigration and customs, but the queue was short and we didn’t have to wait long. The guy at immigration didn’t have any sense of humour but we moved through without any issues. Our bags were some of the first to get out and as we made our way from customs, I saw most of the people from the aircraft still waiting for their bags.

We got through customs without any issue and made our way for the rental car company. We picked up our car and headed to the hotel. Bron did the driving and I did the navigation. I don’t know how many times she turned the windscreen wipers on to turn the corner, but for the entire day, it must have been at least 20 times.

We couldn’t check in early as there were no rooms available, so we walked to Century City and had some breakfast and a look at some of the shops. Boy some things are very cheap and with the dollar up, even cheaper.

We checked in the hotel at noon and after a shower, then we hit the streets and went to Rodeo drive.

Dinner at www.thepinktaco.com which was magnificent and an early night.

California and Vegas April 2011

April 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

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