Archive for July, 2015

Route 66, Peebles and Taliesin West. (June 2015)

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015


After the glitz of Vegas we headed south to Arizona.

Just out of Las Vegas we stopped at the Lake Mead Lookout and got our first glimpse of the mighty Colorado River.

This is one of the principal rivers in the South Western United States, running for 2,330 km and taking water from seven US and two Mexican states.

It’s also the principal architect of the Grand canyon.

We detoured via Kingman to travel on the ‘Mother Road’ or Route 66. Unfortunately this wasn’t in a Chevy Corvette, Ford Mustang or even on a Harley Davidson but a rather slothful Nissan Versa.

It’s not the road that it used to be, as the Interstate Highway System replaced it or it has been buried under development.

It was originally created in 1926 and was a major route from Chicago to California and has been imortalised in songs and on TV.

That night we spent a very pleasant time in Peeples Valley with Thea’s friend Ruby – she even cooked us a turkey roast.

The next day the three of us visited Taliesin West. This was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architectural school and winter house in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It was built in 1936 and is the current home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and sister school to Taliesin in Wisconsin.

Built, using local materials in the Organic Style, this property almost hugs the earth with its low profile design of timber and rock.

I felt that the layout was disparate and lacked the visual cohesion of his other houses. Well the ones I have seen so far.

Wright not only designed the building but all the furniture and light fittings.

Navaho Red was his favourite colour and there were splashes of it everywhere.

The only way to visit Taliesin West is by guided tour. This was conducted by a very knowledgable but rather effusive retired teacher.

His views were very blinkered as to the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright, especially in comparison to European architecture.

To his credit he tried to imbue a sense of the aesthetic for architecture into the group, but I found his approach rather condescending.

Las Vegas – Sin City. (June 2015)

Sunday, July 5th, 2015


Another long flight and we were back in LA.

We picked up a hire car and drove to Long Beach. Ian had maps all marked with sticky notes of places we just had to visit. I think it would take us six months rather than two to cover all his suggestions.

We then had to work out just what we could see in the time.

So after a four hour drive from LA, Las Vegas was our first stop.

This is glitz on steroids.

Everything was big and we weren’t even in Texas.

Our hotel, the Stratosphere, had checked in over 500 guests by the time we arrived.

And even more were waiting at the reception desk. Then there’s a staff of around 1,200 to service the patrons and 2,472 rooms to house them.

The Stratosphere is at the northern end of the Strip and we decided to walk down to the main casino area.

This was a mistake as the temperature was hovering around 43°C.

After walking in the heat for an hour or so we escaped into one of the many, air conditioned, shopping malls.

This one was called Fashion Show Mall and they have a catwalk fashion show every half hour.

After a cool drink and a rest we ventured out again and it wasn’t long before we found Caesars Palace.

Originally built in 1966 this massive hotel, resort and casino has 3,960 rooms. It’s Roman theme runs throughout every aspect of the design, with the shopping complex replicating a Roman forum. The temperature is set to a mild 23°C and the domed ceiling is a painting with white fluffy clouds on a blue sky and lit to have a late afternoon glow.

The punters are always comfortable at Caesars Palace, no matter if they are gambling, shopping, eating or just browsing.

Apart from Caesars, Las Vegas is full of themed venues.

There’s the Venetian, Luxor, Caribbean, Paris, Planet Hollywood, MGM Grand, New York, New York and Circus Circus.

And the list goes on.

The latest resort-hotel-casino extravaganza is going to have an Asian theme.

The justification for the Eastern influence is that 75% of the high rollers come from that part of the world.

Our hotel, the Stratosphere, was all about height.

The tower is the highest building in Vegas, standing at 350.2m. In fact it’s the tallest freestanding observation tower in the Unites States and is topped with vertigo inducing rides and activities.

The ultimate adventure for the thrill-seeker is a controlled free fall of 252m from the top of the tower.

On our second morning we had a quick drive down to Fremont, the original gambling centre of Las Vegas.

This areas has a lot of the old fifties charm and a vibrant night life. It’s just a single street that has now been covered with a large, LED lit canopy.

This offers a shaded area in the heat and shelter if it rains – which I doubt it ever does in Nevada.

Bail bonds, attorneys and pawn shops are everywhere, especially in Fremont. This is the lucky city but there are still many people who are down on their luck.

We again availed ourselves of the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus.

This one had two routes – The Strip and Down Town. The temperature was again in the forties but the top level of the bus offered some shade and a cool breeze – so long as the bus kept moving.

We had wondered why there were no Seniors discounts in Las vegas. Brian, our guide on the ‘Strip Route’ had the answer. Seniors represent the largest market in Vegas and it would be stupid to offer them discounts, as they will spend anyway. What Brian did say is that that industry see families with young children as their growth area and for that reason kids, under 12, get everything gratis.

The ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign is another icon of the US, much like the ‘Hollywood’ one in LA. The big difference is that the Vegas sign is copyright free. It was designed by Betty Willis, in the Googie style and built in 1959.

This means everyone can copy it, and they do – rip offs are everywhere.

Las Vegas is Sin City, in many ways beyond gambling. Our hotel offered a happy hour between 2am and 4am, where there were two for one drinks. Smoking is permitted, as are children, in any of the casino areas.

There is even a restaurant in Fremont Street that celebrates their 350 Pound (158.75kg) plus patrons, encouraging them to eat more and not to worry about their life threatening conditions.

Once they weigh-in on the industrial strength scales outside, they get to eat free.

There is an accompanying ‘Hate’ mailbox where you can send your letters of objection.

That’s if you are a ‘self opinionated, sticky nosed, do-gooder’ from San Francisco or LA.

Back to Melbourne for ‘The Event’ (June 2015)

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

The Sunday wedding cake with Sylvania koalas

While we were in Belize our son Evan informed us that he and Stephanie were going to get married.

While this was a surprise it wasn’t altogether a shock.

They wondered if we could come home for ‘The Event’, as it became known.

We immediately booked a flight from LA to Melbourne.

This was a whirlwind visit, in more ways than one.

It turned out to be not just one event but two. The actual wedding ceremony on Tuesday night, followed by a party the following Saturday night.

There were only twelve of us for the ceremony, plus the civil celebrant, Jenny Bahramis, a long time family friend.

The party on Saturday was at the Hares and Hyenas in Brunswick.

This gay and lesbian bookstore also doubles as a venue and was an ideal location for the second event.

Both of these events were fun, creative and unique, a lot like Ev and Steph.

The main events were dispersed with a number of smaller events.

All in all it was a very hectic time and we fell back onto the plane, ten days later, completely exhausted but very happy – especially for Evan and Stephanie.