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Posted on October 31, 2009 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Wildlife by Jay24 Comments »

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You know, I love Las Vegas, I really do.  I didn’t expect to when we first had a stop-over there. It was simply that our airline of choice didn’t fly all the way to the West Coast where we were headed, but into McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, and we were so convinced we wouldn’t like it that we chose a hotel in nearby Boulder City.

Well, it didn’t take long to enchant us, once we’d set foot in the place.  We’re not gamblers and never will be (although I did lose twenty or so bucks in the slots, just because …) but the whole place is just so bizarre, so over-the-top, so full of itself*, that you can’t help falling in love.  The free shows on the strip are all very good, but the Bellagio fountains had us from the first millisecond … so now we stay on the strip.

We chose The Venetian this time, and I have to say it’s a very beautiful hotel, even if they can’t process a simple request like ‘no feathers in the room’. Yes, it took them four goes at that one, bringing successive armfuls of pillows containing down or feathers until I was gasping for breath before I’d even laid down.  But anyway.

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Where else can you take a ride in a gondola indoors? Oh yes, that is a ceiling up there, painted blue, with clouds.  Clever, ain’t it?

But Vegas is also an excellent place for people-watching.  Here’s another shot from inside the Venetian Hotel.

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I love the accordian player, don’t you?  But I can’t help wondering what’s going on with those two people standing there.  Are they arguing?  Or is she propositioning him?

I guess that might possibly lead to the obligatory Vegas wedding

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It all looks very grand, but what you can’t see, just down the hall (in the direction they’re headed) is the casino, which is full of tourists in shorts and sandals with socks and serving wenches dressed like hookers and everything.

I don’t have a picture of the casino to show you, but here are some wenches, and they certainly look like hookers to me.

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Interestingly, the young lady on the left (the one NOT dressed like a hooker) is selling cigarettes! Where else would you see that these days?  It’s because smoking is permitted inside the casinos, you know.

So, moving on outside the Venetian, there are plenty of people to watch on the streets.  Like this guy, determined to get that great shot of the Bellagio fountains.

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Or this family wearing their best balloon hats

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And then there are these guys, who are trying to sell the services of girls.  The services are unspecified, but they can have one inside your room within twenty minutes, apparently.

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You know, it seems that they aren’t allowed to actually speak, so they thrust their little leaflets and business cards right across your chest as you walk by, snapping them loudly to get your attention.  And you know what?  I find it insulting that they’re trying to give my man one of these damn ads, when he is clearly with a woman already!  What am I – chopped liver??  I was actually moved to tell one of them to ‘fuck off’ at one point, which is not something I’m in the habit of doing, let me tell you.

Anyway. After being in Las Vegas for a day or so, I find it necessary to get out of town and find somewhere soothing.  Somewhere good for the soul. And to this end, we made our way to the Valley of Fire and took a short hike to Mouse’s Tank.

It’s beautiful.

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It’s soothing**

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And there are petroglyphs!  Enlarge this next photo and look right there on that dark bit of rock, towards the bottom.

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Finding these things out there in the desert, still attached to the very rocks they were pecked into thousands of years ago … well, it’s a bit like OH walking into the Kennedy Space Centre.  And yes, I shed a few tears of my own.  It’s humbling, is what it is.

We stayed until it was nearly dark, and the moon came out, and so did the bats. It was magical.

It was only later that I found out that we were in exactly the right conditions (soft, deep sand among rocks), at exactly the right time of day (dusk), to tread on a sidewinder and get bitten, so I guess we were lucky.  But we returned to Vegas refreshed and ready for another day of tackiness and indulgence.

*Just for the record, yes I do realise there is much more to Vegas than the Strip, and that not all of it is tacky.  We saw a great performance of Jersey Boys, which wasn’t tacky in the least – although OH was warned about the ‘Jersey language’ that it contained, which made him laugh.

**Mostly.  If you enlarge that picture, you’ll see a tiny figure, right at the top of that rock. It’s OH. He’s not a mountain climber, he had no equipment, he just scrambled up.  Luckily, he scrambled down again safely.

Fun, holidays, aren’t they?

Well, here I am, back from our nice long oliday, and ready to get properly organised for this week’s ABC Wednesday!  Fear not, gentle readers, I shall be getting around to read other blogs this week and answer comments – at last!

And we’ve reached the letter ‘O‘.  Not the easiest, but a glance through my archive folders revealed some interesting things.  For a start, I went to Oakham earlier this year, when I was mourning the loss of our two dogs and needed to get out of the house.  Oakham is a pretty market town, and not only is it on a local branch line, but the railway station is very close to the town centre, so I took the train.

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Looks to me as if there’s a definite orange tone to that brickwork – what do you think?  And you have to love that old-fashioned overhanging canopy.

Talking of overhangs … here’s a road sign I found in the pavement just around the corner from the station.

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Not something you see every day, is it?  But what does it mean?

Well, Oakham is a very old town, and some of the older buildings do lean a little.  This is one of the oldest, I think, and it’s a bit of an oddity.

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No, not just for the overhang, though it does make it look a tad precarious.  What you can’t see in this shot is the blue plaque on the front.  They put blue plaques on buildings in England to mark the site if someone famous was born there, or lived there. And someone famous – in a small way – did live there!

See?

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Poor Jeffrey Hudson.  I wonder how often he got overlooked in crowds, or in shop queues?

Actually, his story is interesting, since he became a courtier in the court of Queen Henrietta Maria, fought in the civil war, and killed a man in a duel, despite reportedly being only eighteen or nineteen inches tall.  Later, after being captured and enslaved by Barbary pirates he was ransomed and returned to England having grown to 45 inches!  This, apparently, suggests he was suffering from congenital hypopituitarism, since not only did he not show the classic signs of skeletal deformity usual in people of limited stature (dwarfism) but it isn’t unknown for people with hypopituitarism to suddenly produce growth hormones much later in life and grow some more.  Nothing to do with ‘O‘, but interesting, don’t you think?

Anyway, moving on ..

There are many very old walls in Oakham, as you might expect, and I found this one in a side street – well, more of an alley, really.

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And look at that!  The lichen in that picture is a distinctly orangey shade, isn’t it?

Talking of orange, here’s a yacht with beautiful orange sails.

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This yacht is sailing on Rutland Water, which is literally just outside Oakham, which is the county town of Rutland.  It all ties neatly together, you see.  Rutland is England’s smallest county, which is why it says what it does in that blue plaque.

Now, orange is the colour of autumn, as I’m sure you’ll agree.  Fallen leaves, dead plants, autumn flowers … and of course pumpkins!

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Happy Halloween to all my readers!

Oh, but wait!  Here’s another picture.  One which was taken a very long way from Oakham indeed, in the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles.

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Well.  I couldn’t disappoint my Johnny Depp fans, not when I had an orange-tinted picture with a Johnny Depp connection, could I?  It’s not manipulated in Photoshop, this was the cast it acquired through the lighting in the basement room where it was displayed during the triple showing of the Pirates OF the Caribbean movies.

And I’m not going to apologise for working that one in, either!  It is, after all, Johnny Depp’s pirate outfit.

Posted on October 22, 2009 in Johnny Depp, Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay19 Comments »

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Oh gosh… being on holiday has made me lose track of the days!  I had no idea it was Wednesday today until I followed up a comment on my blog and found an ABC Wednesday post!

So, without further ado, let me show you my poor offering, which is ‘N‘ for ‘Night Time‘.  I trawled the archives and found you a few random shots I’ve taken at night over the years, and here they are.

The first is the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas – you can see them at the top of this post.  We stayed there last time we visited Vegas and had a great time. It was so wonderful to look out from our room and see those wonderful fountains any time we wanted to.  This time we’ll be at the Venetian, so probably out of sight of the display, but no doubt there will be other compensations, like an entirely different night view of the pretty lights and neon signs.

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We’ll be there in just a couple of days!

Now, back in January 2008, Heathrow Jenn and I made our way down to London’s Leicester Square for a very special event.

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Notice all the lights, and the crowds and the decorations?  This was the premiere of Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd starring – you guessed it – Johnny Depp!  I don’t have any pictures of Johnny to show you from this event because we had tickets for the movie, and went in to be seated instead of hanging over the barriers. In one sense it was better because it tipped it down with rain that evening. On the other it was not good because we didn’t get to meet him.

We did get to go to the party afterwards though, and here’s a picture of that.

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Pretty, ain’t it?  See the barmen dressed up as pie makers?  See the colourful lanterns decorating the roof?  And, by the way, my blog background is a photoshopped rendition of the lighting effects from the ceiling at this event!  But we didn’t see Johnny there either, despite the ticket sale propaganda stating quite clearly that he would be there, he was not.  Boo hiss.

Still on a Johnny Depp theme, this night shot comes from inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at LA’s Disneyland.

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Never let it be said that I don’t work Johnny in whenever I can!  And a nautical theme, too!

Here’s a close up of another part of the scenery in that ride

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Are those men up in the rigging Navy ratings, or naughty pirates?  I can’t remember, and it’s too far away to see. I’m guessing pirates … much more likely, don’t you think?

And finally, still on the nautical theme (but sadly not Johnny Depp), here’s one from our Vancouver holiday in May 2007.

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This one was taken in Horseshoe Bay one evening. We didn’t actually go to eat in that restaurant, but it looks nice, doesn’t it?

Well, there you go.  A little rushed, but I made it – just in time.   By next week we’ll be back home, and I hope that I’ll be here once more with the letter ‘O’.  I will be pretty jet-lagged though, so don’t hold your breath!

Posted on October 21, 2009 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay15 Comments »

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As you all know, we’re on holiday at the moment, touring America from East to West, starting in Washington DC and Delaware and ending in Vegas.  Yesterday we drove from Bryce to St George, Utah.

Such a pretty drive.  We chose the scenic route (naturally), and it took longer than it should have (naturally) because I kept stopping to take photographs, including that one up there of a stunningly beautiful pull-in where we ate our picnic lunch and OH caused a minor ecological shift by peeing in the bushes, there not being a restroom in sight.

So a little later we found a gas station and I stopped and used their restroom and bought myself a nice big cup of French Vanilla coffee.  I’m not really a coffee drinker, not a real coffee drinker, but I do love that stuff.

And I sipped the coffee till it was all gone, and then I drank the bottle of water I’d brought with me because we’re in the desert, right?  And you need to drink a lot when you’re in the desert, don’t you?  Especially if you’re on diuretics and you’ve just loaded up with caffeine.  I’m a sensible person, me.

A little later, OH said ‘Would you like to take a detour?  There’s a great little place up here called Cedar Breaks. It’s like a mini Bryce Canyon in the making, with the hoodoos just coming out of the rock. It’s not very big, but it’s really pretty!’

So I said yes, I would (naturally), because I love Bryce, and off we set.  The skies were a little grey by now, but we’d been very lucky with the weather, and we didn’t think much of it, and we drove on up.  And up, and up.

And sprinklings of pretty snow appeared at the roadside and we oohed and aahed at all the natural beauty, and then the mist appeared, and it turned into dense fog, and the snow got thicker and thicker until we realised that it wasn’t fog.  Cedar Breaks is at an elevation of somewhere around 9,000 feet, you see, and we’d driven straight up into low cloud.

Well, we continued on, because I needed a restroom by now and OH remembered there being one at the top, and you never knew, we might have been able to see something of the view …

So we got there, and this is the view from the top.

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It’s all very pretty with the snow and everything, but by now I’m pretty desperate for that restroom, so we parked close by the little wooden building so I didn’t have to walk too far in the snow wearing my nice new suede mountain trainers, and this is the sight we saw.

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You know what that sign on the door says, don’t you?  Yep?  ‘Restrooms closed for the season’.

Being a woman, I figured I might be able to hold on, but what with the slippery roads and having to put the car into four-wheel drive and crawl, halfway down the mountain I decided that no, I couldn’t.  It was far, far too cold to get out and drop my jeans – and besides, the odd car was still passing us – so I did what I thought at the time was a Sensible Thing.  I stood on the running board, loosened my jeans and inserted my empty coffee cup.

Now.  Remember we are at 9,000 feet?  My ears were muffled, the snow muffled the sound further, and it was a nice, quiet, syrofoam cup. I couldn’t hear a thing.  And let me tell you that this middle-aged woman’s bladder contained a tad more than 20 fluid ounces (the size of a French Vanilla coffee cup), and what’s more, it’s actually quite hard to balance on a running board while extricating a full cup from the depths of your trousers.

So thanks to the Cedar Breaks’ restrooms being closed for the season, I drove the rest of the way to St George with damp jeans, sitting on a Bryce Canyon tourist information newspaper to save the hired car’s upholstery.

And what did OH say?  In response to my cry of It’s alright for you men!’, he said: ‘I’m sorry.’

He said:  ‘I’m sorry you’re a woman!’

Oh well.  You have to laugh, don’t you?