January 13


Nevada Profile

We arrived in Las Vegas just after 3pm.  The Southwest Airlines crew was a silly group and the flight was smooth.  We took the SLC Limo past several hotels.  It stopped at the New York New York which looks very Deco and stylish, then on to the Luxor

Check-in at the Luxor was easy. We used the "inclinator" up to the ninth floor, room 9127, which faces the Strip. The inclinator moves diagonally and upward along the walls of the  pyramid. This causes many people, ourselves included, to temporarily lost their balance.

We took time to unpack, check out the view to Mandalay Bay, Tropicana and Excalibur. Stepping out of the room onto a balcony overlooking the atrium, we walked around the interior to another inclinator. From there we had a clear view of the casino, slots, and buildings with hieroglyphics (later determined to be the exterior of a theater). We descended to the main floor (Casino level), and walked around, ducking into shops and restaurants. The decorations are classic motifs interspersed with "modern nonsense" hieroglyphs and fanciful interpretations of Egyptiana, including dressy cartouches, good ram sphinxes (à la Luxor), an  "alabaster" sphinxes (à la Hatsheput - but larger), lotus capitals, papyrus capitals, and Amenhotep. All these were quite remarkable, but lacking in fine detail. 

Next we ascended to the Attractions Level - Imax shows, arcade, "Tomb and Museum of King Tut", various shops, and the Pharaoh Theater (home of glitzy shows). The focal point of the entire floor was a large obelisk, which sits over a room reserved for the high rollers. We checked out restaurants, noting a good menu and sushi selection at Hamada's. After a temperature check (too cool in January for shirtsleeves) we left the edifice and proceeded to the tram. 

The tram runs from Excalibur to Mandalay Bay, stopping in the middle at Luxor. We intended to eat at the Mandalay Bay buffet, see the House of Blues, and generally check out the places. Mandalay Bay has a dozen eateries, including a Wolfgang Puck (Trattoria de Lupo), Aqua (high rated, with a huge glass-encased wine cellar), and the usual blend of mass market fare. After reviewing menus and sniffing the air, we selected Red Square, a Russian theme restaurant with a pleasant ambience, including an droll headless Lenin statue in front. We had tuna tartar and smoked salmon, served with potato crisps, crème fraiche and an interesting honey and horseradish sauce. Other appetizers included Siberian nachos (large won tons with smoked salmon, scallions, green and yellow caviar). Main courses were crusted sea bass with a mushroom risotto, and kulebyak (puff pastry-wrapped salmon with a crab mousseline). Wine - always an important part of any meal - was a Beaulieu Vineyards  Carneros Pinot Noir. Everything was well-presented and prepared by attentive staff. We passed on the excellent selection of desserts and huge assortment of vodkas. 

We returned to the Luxor. It looks great at night. A bright laser light on the peak of the pyramid, running strobes down the edges, and giant blue and gold sphinx. Although tired, we managed to imbibe a few glasses of Cosentino Vintage Port before retiring.


Luxor Hotel Las Vegas

The Luxor Hotel Las Vegas



January 14


After sleeping in, we headed up the strip in the morning (?) to the New York New York and started out the day with coffee and pastry. The interior of NYNY is a charming 1930's-1940's art deco recreation of the city, including various landmarks and atmospheric streets. 

Next, on to the Monte Carlo. It had the feel of class and civility, with a touch of whimsy. Grace would have liked the gardens. Beautiful blue ceilings with crystal chandeliers, stained glass - a real class act.

From Monte Carlo, we rode another tram to Bellagio. We entered the lobby with its spectacular blown glass ceiling art created by Dale Chihuly, visited the Botanical Garden, and browsed menus of overrated and overpriced restaurants. The overall decor was garish, but had some nice mosaics in the central foyers. The overdone, dark colors were caricatures of true Tuscan tones. 

We took the walkway across to Bally's with its techy, modern design, and headed to Paris. The major landmarks were recreated - the Eiffel Tower, fountain, street scenes with art nouveau style metro signs, and a overall feel of "authenticity." As advertised, the buffet was very well executed with a good variety of food. The staff get a crash course in French (two weeks) and are friendly and helpful. Feeling full, we walked down to the MGM, across to the Excalibur and took the tram back to Luxor for a nap.

The evening took us through Excalibur with its wizards, knights, fair damsels, purple dragons, and general "Disney-family" atmosphere. Our destination was Times Square at NYNY to hear the dual piano players. We took a table across from the bar's open doors, which kept the volume to a good level. The pianists were tuned in to party crowd inside and kept things lively. Had a corned beef on rye with coleslaw and a Dr Brown cream soda at Greenberg's Deli. A stop in to Il Fornaio's espresso shop for a couple of doppios and a chocolate hazelnut cookie made for dessert. Upstairs is a virtual Coney Island arcade with bumper cars, games of chance, and an excellent roller coaster (the Manhattan Express) which takes you inside and outside the building. Finally, a trip down to what became our favorite evening spot, Hamilton's Cigar Bar. We smoked our Romeo & Jullietas, sipped B&B's, and listened to the cool musical styling of the James Dixon Trio. Later, they were joined by a silky-voiced lady named Fay.

Our return to the Luxor took us thru the MGM Grand with its empty lion habitat, then the Tropicana with its faded carpets, worn costumes and seedy-looking customers - old Las Vegas. Back at the Luxor, we had some more port and celebrated a day well spent.



NYNY Statue of Liberty

A well done representation that gives the feel of New York City


January 15


It's Gala's 50th birthday! After sleeping in and coffee in our room, we took a taxi to the Venetian. Easily our favorite hotel, beautiful and authentic design, perfectly-executed Venetian street scenes with romantic lighting, marvelous restaurants, and a myriad of small touches that make a hotel memorable. Whenever we return to Las Vegas, this is where we will stay. Lunch at the Pinot Brasserie began with a Saintsbury Pinot Noir and French onion soup, followed by an endive, pear and walnut salad complemented by a Joseph Phelps Viognier - perfect matches! Third course was braised lamb sandwiches accompanied by baby greens, along with a Rosenblum zinfandel. The Pinot Brasserie has an excellent "country French" style menu and a comprehensive wine list (many wines by the glass). After lunch, we browsed the Grand Canal zone with its great shops. World-class restaurants abound here - Lutèce, Canaletto, Delmonico Steakhouse, Postrio, Valentino, and others. Gala bought Salvador a birthday present at Burberry's - a great tropical print shirt, and for herself a set of oil and vinegar cruets.

Across the street and checked out the newly-renovated Mirage. Hung out in the Lagoon Saloon and listened to a combo sipping on fruity drinks with silly umbrellas. Lovely orchids and plantings, home of Siegfried and Roy, with regular appearances by part-owner Paul Anka. We had recently seen him at the Green Valley Winery fall harvest party, where he and his compatriots were hyping the new Mirage. Nice place.

On to the Rio, a bit off the Strip. Despite it's newness, it felt old. The draw for us was it's four-story wine bar. Over 240 by-the-glass (and costing as much as 1/2 bottle) choices and a vintage collection with prices from the $20's up to more than $3500 per bottle.  However, if you are looking for a Petreus from your birth year, this is THE place to look for it.  They claim a choice of over 700 different wines and 65,000  bottles in the cellar. They do specialty tasting, seminars, etc. The "Napa Restaurant" was interesting but had a rather trite menu. Other features included a Titanic exhibit, several nice swimming pools (including the ubiquitous rock waterfall), seventeen restaurants priced fairly, and lots of neon. One memorable costume was a hostess à la Carmen Miranda, right down to the bananas and ruffles.

We returned by taxi to the Monte Carlo and went directly to Andre's Restaurant when they opened at 6 pm. We had tried several times to call for a reservation, but hadn't connected. We asked if they had any open reservations, but they were complete booked. However, when Gala told the maitre'd it was her 50th birthday, he gave us a table immediately. Dinner was marvelous. We began with a seafood tartar on endive, followed by a perfectly grilled foie gras with scallop mousse and greens, a delicate lobster bisque in puff pastry. Entrees were duck breast set on confit with creamed leeks and veal medallions with a carrot-potato mousse (shaped liked little carrots and topped with parsley), all superbly presented on fine china (Studio Linea Baroco), crystal and silver. We accompanied this with a Ramsey Petite Syrah. After dinner, they brought us birthday cookies, coffee and sweets. It was a perfect dining experience.



Andre's Restaurant

Andre's Restaurant, rated #1 in Las Vegas by Zagat


January 16


Off to a very slow start, but we finally made it out again. We're at Bellagio, it's crowded, the so-called world famous buffet has a line too long to consider, so we've opted for the outdoors. We sat on the patio at The Olives cafe and watched the impressive musical fountain show. Across the street is Paris, it's pleasantly cool (most interiors are overheated this time of year - about 75F). We had a Cuban sandwich and French hanger steak served on Roquefort mashed potatoes with broccoli, watercress salads - $15 per plate. Typical Bellagio service - the waiter was an idiot (vapid and neglectful), but the busgirl was thoughtful.

We caught a taxi for a ten-minute ten-dollar ride to the Liberace Museum. Everything you would expect - spectacular pianos, costumes, memorabilia, and very old visitors. Loved it. Special features included the 200-pound Neptune Sea costume, black diamond mink cape, and the "phantom" costume. The pianos were Salvador's favorite items - a harp-style piano, rhinestone encrusted, a classic Bosendorfer, and others. One exhibit showcased an antique Louis XV desk which was a gift from Russian Czar Nicholas II; another was Lee's complete bedroom suite. Overall, a charming and nostalgic collection.

Back to the Luxor and a tour of the Tomb and Museum of King Tutankhamun. This was very thoughtfully presented, mostly accurate, with a good narration. A good facsimile of the real thing. Our last meal was a corned beef on rye before the flight home. A good trip.


Liberace Museum Interior

The Liberace Museum showcases pianos and costumes of the great entertainer


Just between the two of us

Gala's Note to the reader:  It had been more than 20 years ago that we visited Las Vegas.  The MGM had just been built.  The "theme city" hotels did not exist.  I was stunned at the changes and similarities of the town.  I hope to visit there within 10 years.  And is was a very nice way to celebrate my birthday! Caesar's Palace - an old favorite

Fond memories