Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And So It Ends...

...this year, that is. Another one is slowly coming to a close. It’s amazing how time flies. And it looks like this will be the last entry of this old year too. My vacation starts tomorrow and George and I will be rather busy doing a whole lot of different things in the coming days and next week. However, blogging, facebooking and such will not be so much on our agenda.

On this note, we would like to wish all of you out in the blogosphere a Happy Holiday Season and all the best for New Year 2011.

In the meantime, we’ll be using one of these... get to a place called the “fragrant harbour.”

See you all next year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

“It Never Rains in Southern California”

The news today said that the rain over Southern California were record shattering. Well, why not spent the weekend there then and be part of history. George and I were in Los Angeles over the weekend and rained. A lot! As in nonstop. It’s still raining there as we speak. And it has actually reached Las Vegas too in the meantime.

We left for L.A. around 1 p.m. and had a pretty good drive until Victorville. The first wave of rush hour was hitting but it was manageable. But we could already see the looming dark clouds that were building over the San Bernardino Mouintains. Behind those mountains most of Southern California was already being pummeled by torrential rains. As soon as we started to descent from the summit into the valley, the thick dark clouds and heavy fog were settling onto a very busy weekend traffic. I could barely see the brake lights of the car in the front of us. Traffic slowed down to crawl on the very steep section of the four-lane freeway cutting through El Cajon Pass. We were once stuck in a heavy snow storm driving up the pass many years ago. Let me just say it was not fun. At all!

Once we reached the foothills, the fog lifted somewhat and turned into misty rain. It would get harder as we got closer to the city but it wasn’t as bad we thought it would be. Traffic was normal traffic can be on those infamous Los Angeles freeways on a late Friday afternoon. We reached our hotel safe and sound and sooner than expected.

The Disneyland Resort was in walking distance, so we grabbed our umbrellas and headed on over to our destination of the evening, Downtown Disney. We had a wonderful dinner at Tortilla Jo’s, a very festive-looking Mexican restaurant. And since we also stuffed ourselves with scrumptious desserts we needed to walk off the extra ballast again. So we checked out the stores and the beautiful Grand Californian hotel. It’s always worth revisiting.

The next morning it was still raining. After a nice breakfast and with no particular plans for the day we just slowly made our way toward George’s old neighborhood in the Pasadena and Arcadia area. We checked out a couple of stores and stocked up on our Peet’s Coffee. Then it was time to drive up into the hills to visit Rover and some friends at the Green Man Lodge.

It was great seeing Rover again. We spent a nice cozy afternoon a Rover and Cal’s beautiful little paradise. Perfect for a dark and rainy day outside. Cal wasn’t yet home from his drive from Colorado and we didn’t expect to even see him before we had to leave. But he made it home just in time and it was good to see him as well. Even if it was ever so briefly.

Eventually it was time to leave our friends and make our way into Hollywood to see “West Side Story” at the Pantages. This was the English/Spanish version of the musical that made some headlines on Broadway. However, the Spanish bits were a little scarce and felt like they were randomly thrown into the story. It also didn’t enhance anything. That said, the performance and the dancing were still great. The dance routines were close to Jerome Robbin’s original interpretation and to the numbers in Robert Wise’ film version in the 1960s, with slight variation here and there. The song “America” was performed and sung entirely by women. And I have never seen this version of “Somewhere” before. In this case, it’s not sung by Tony and Maria but by Anybodys, the girl whom desperately wants to be one of the boys and part of the Jets gang. It’s set up as a dream sequence and eventually most of cast joins in at the end of this song. I don’t know if this version was in the original Broadway run or if it was altered specifically for the film version. But it was a very pleasant surprise.

George and I did not care much for the main characters, Tony and Maria. Their voices weren’t emotionally involved and at times it felt the two were competing who could sing the loudest. That, the Spanish bits, and the crude and unnecessarily vulgar “Gee, Officer Krupke” scene, were our only complaints. Everything else was absolutely fabulous. Well, I may be a little biased too. “West Side Story” is by far my most favorite musical.

The rain continued all night long into Sunday morning. And it rained harder. We checked out of our hotel and spent a little more time at Downtown Disney before we got ready to drive back home to Las Vegas. The drive along some freeways and up El Cajon pass was littered with car accidents. It was a very slow and trying drive up those San Bernardino Mountains. But once we’ve reached the high desert the rain cleared and traffic was flowing again. There were a few sprinkles along the way into Nevada but nothing too concerning.

Now we’re back at work for a short week. The rain has also reached Las Vegas in the meantime. But that’s okay. Our next little adventure is waiting for us just around the corner.

More about that “next year”...

Below some impressions from our weekend in Los Angeles.

The Pasadena Auditorium on Green Street.

The Pasadena City Hall.

I call this the maharaja’s palace. Some Eastern Indian palace-looking building I’ve seen so many times and always wondered it is. Even George couldn’t tell me and he’s from this area.

Colorado Boulevard in downtown Pasadena. The famous Rose Parade comes through here. On New Year’s Day it will be time again for spectacular floats parading down this street in front of tens of thousands of spectators, displaying scenes made of millions of flowers.

Disney’s California Adventure themepark is undergoing a $1 billion renovation, retheming and expansion. The gigantic tile murals that were at each side of this entrance to the park are already gone. Soon, these huge letters spelling out the word “California” will vanish as well.

George and I standing in front of the letters for the last time. We actually enjoyed the rain. It’s a treat for us. We desert rats are spoiled like that since it hardly ever rains in Las Vegas.

This whole entrance plaza will look completely different in 2012.

The rains didn’t stop, not even for the mouse of the house.

The main entrance to the “happiest place on earth,” the original Disneyland. I doubt too many people were all that happy with the rainy weather though.

George and I haven’t held an umbrella in our hands in over ten years. It just felt weird.

A small section of wonderful Downtown Disney, with an array of shops, restaurants, clubs and movie theaters.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Tale Of Sharks And Some Jets

George and I will drive to the City of Angels again tomorrow afternoon to spend another fun-filled weekend there.

Our primary reason to visit this time is to see this... this wonderful gem on Hollywood Boulevard. We’ve seen a lot of great theater at the Pantages lately.

Along the way we will most likely get a glimpse of this skyline....

...but more than likely not since the weather forecast predicts a rainy weekend. Because you know...”it never rains in Southern California.”

However, it doesn’t matter how the weather might turn out to be because we will still have a great time. In addition to the theater we will visit friends and enjoy fabulous food.

Then we will return to Las Vegas for a short work week due the upcoming holidays and finally...finally!...some much needed vacation.

And another big adventure...

Friday, December 10, 2010

More Of The Jimbo

It looks like Jimbo had a successful conference all week while being in our fair city. George and I met him again yesterday evening at the Bellagio. He had a light dinner and we enjoyed some gelato. Afterwards we wandered around the Bellagio, saw the new Christmas display at the resort’s garden conservatory, checked out some new glass art by Chihuly, and took in some of the dancing water fountain shows outside on the lake lining up the Strip.

Jimbo was leaving Las Vegas early this morning to fly back home to D.C. Safe travels! Below are some impressions from yesterday evening.

Actually, this was taken yesterday morning. Another beautiful sunrise in the desert.

Part of this years huge holiday display inside Bellagio’s garden conservatory.

The tall Christmas tree is circled by a moving miniature train.

Outside the Bellagio one can see the new Cosmopolitan resort and casino next door, which will have a soft opening next week and an official grand opening on New Year’s Eve.

This is me and Jimbo at the Bellagio lake, waiting for the next fountain show.

George and Jimbo in the presence of some mysterious orb hovering over the lake. Area 51 is just outside the city. Or it is just a speck on the lens. Nah, a secret government conspiracy sounds more exciting.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Jim, or Jimbo as he’s known to his friends and out in the blogosphere, is currently in the City of Sin to attend a conference all this week. We have heard about Jim many times before, mainly from our mutual friend Homer and other fellow bloggers, but yesterday was the first time that George and I met him in person. Jim is a genuinely nice and funny guy. We like him a lot.

Yesterday was his day off, so to speak, since the rest of his stay in Las Vegas seems to be rather busy. We picked him up at the Hard Rock Hotel and took him to Jamms, a small local restaurant, where we had a nice breakfast. Afterwards we drove westwards on Charleston Boulevard and right into the heart of our destination for the day, Red Rock Canyon.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t all that great. It was cloudy and a bit cool. But I was glad it didn’t rain like the forecast had predicted. That would eventually happen later that night. I was hoping for a little sun. This whole area around Red Rock Canyon looks so much more stunning when it is literally drenched in sunlight. That’s when the colors of the red and yellow sandstone will be most effective.

Jim told us that he used to be a park ranger and was quite impressed by how the newly remodeled and expanded visitors center has turned out. After looking at many of the exhibits and buying a small souvenir at the center’s gift store we were on our way to drive the 13-mile scenic loop drive.

We stopped at various outlook places to enjoy the vistas and to take some photographs before we parked the car at the head of the Pine Creek Canyon trail. It was surprisingly busy and the parking lot had already filled. We parked the car on the side of the road and made our way down towards the trail.

Jim is also an avid bird watcher and brought his book along to compare his bird sightings. There weren’t too many birds out but we could hear a few in the distance. He was happy to see at least one bird which was very indigenous to this area.

After the brisk hike we were getting hungry and we headed on over to nearby Bonnie Springs, which has a small-scale western town, complete with a motel, a cowboy stunt show, a miniature train, a petting zoo and a rustic country-style restaurant. George and I have not been to this place in over ten years and almost forgot about it. Along the way, we even saw a few of the famed wild burros that roam this area. There aren’t too many of them left anymore and the chances of seeing these animals out in the wild have become rare.

After we all had a nice and hearty dinner at the Bonnie Springs Restaurant we were getting ready to drive back into town as it had started to get dark anyway. Before dropping Jim off at his hotel we made a quick stop to have a drink at the Fun Hog Ranch, one of the local gay bars. There was suppose to be a beer bust but apparently we either had already missed it or we were too early as the bar wasn’t busy at all.

After finishing our drinks we returned Jim to his hotel. And so ended another terrific Sunday well spent. It was great to have finally met Jim and to have made another friend. Below are some photos from our day out at Red Rock Canyon.

George and Jim at Red Rock Canyon

Jimbo and Jim. I seriously think there are way too many Jims on this planet.

On our hike along the Pine Creek trail lots of photos were taken of beautiful vistas and interesting plants.

Trying to listen and identify a bird call in the distance.

Thousands of years of erosion carved interesting patterns into the rocks.

Just as the day was coming to a close the clouds were starting to break up and the last rays of the setting sun were illuminating the Red Rock mountains. This is the view from the Bonnie Springs Ranch.