PART 1 OF 3
Cali Trip - Nov 20 - 28, 2009 Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles
~ fire, crystal crapper, windmills and Zin Zanni ~
Our vacation started at home, at least for me it did. Last time we left for a vacation the kitchen flooded and the alarm system went kaput right before we left. This time, we had excitement to get your blood pumping prior to a flight too. Greg picked up chicken sandwiches from Wendy's. He wanted to heat them up, so he threw the bag in the microwave. As he gave me a hug, I yelled, "STOP IT! TURN IT OFF!" I'm seeing flames and sparks... from sandwiches wrapped in foil! Greg jumped to the microwave, flung open the door and grabbed the burning bag; he threw it into the sink, while another part of the bag started to flame on the counter. What a smelly mess. I didn't know if I should laugh or scream. Greg laughed and I smiled.
Same day and a couple of hours prior to the flight, I realized that the heater wasn't turning off. The heater works, but the fan wasn't turning off. I told Greg that the last time this happened, I had to get the AC/Heater guy out to flip a switch or something in the attic. Greg got on the phone and crawled through the attic while the guy described what to do. Well, at least it’s a new thing learned, but again, nothing like starting off a vacation with something going wrong at home.
The limo bus picked us up at my parents' home. Just as the driver was making a turn, we heard Rob say, "We need to go back and get Roda's ring!" It was slightly out of the way, but not a bad route. Rob teased Roda about her ring for a little while thereafter. I'm glad they remembered before we got to the airport. Greg and I had no problems with security, but we noticed Rob was missing from the group. Roda informed us that Rob blamed her for not reminding him about his pocket knife in his pocket! At least he didn't go through security with it on him. He did have to leave it at the airport though. Poor Roda, she's learning her "wife duties" as Rob goes along. Hehe. She'll have a checklist for each vacation and it will start with 1) Remember Rings and 2) Check Rob's pant pockets (wait until you read later on in this journal to see what number 3 is!!)
Fortunately, we had a nonstop flight from New Orleans to Vegas. Before we even got to the baggage claim area, we saw rows of one-armed bandits. Mom was not going to be deterred and then complained that something was wrong with the machine, because it was doubling her bet when she didn't want it too. Ah, the joys of gambling! We didn't stay long, just enough to drop a buck or two. I'm happy that Greg doesn't like to gamble any more than I do.
It was a bit of a pain to go from the airport to the car rental main location to a car rental off sight location to get the rental vehicle ~ Only to realize that the SUV wasn't large enough for 6 people and the luggage. Dad rented a second vehicle and our caravan began.
We stayed at the Trump Towers (did you know there are TWO Trump Towers in Vegas... in different areas, good thing I had the address for the GPS). Trump Towers is not your typical "Vegas" hotel. You won’t find a gambling section or a long slew of stores. What it does have is over the top elegance with chandeliers, marble floors, crystal lights and hey, let's throw in a camera crew doing a "take" on a "reality series" when we first arrived.
And the rooms? Wowza ~ King size beds, full kitchen (including microwave, refrigerator, stove, coffee, all kitchen pots/plates that you need) and the bathroom. Yes, let's talk about the marble bathroom with a huge Jacuzzi, walk in shower that could fit 10 people easily and a separate area for the toilet (with a phone next to it, of course).. two sinks and in the middle of this massive mirror, there’s a TV. IN THE MIRROR... as in, it's flushed against the mirror, as if part of it. How cool! Greg called it the "Crystal Crapper" because of the glass walls for the toilet area and shower area. He said, "Reminds me of Superman's crystal home and what his bathroom must have been like."
After we marveled over the rooms, we asked the front desk for restaurant recommendations. We were told that Maggiano's was within walking distance. Keep in mind ~ we didn't have anything to eat since breakfast and according to Louisiana time it was midnight. I enjoyed my portobello mushroom ravioli, different and tasty. The view of Vegas from the corner section of the restaurant was great. I think the sign mesmerized us all as it moved outside, up and down, very entertaining. Of course, it could be we were deliriously tired. As Greg said, "What a first day, here's your reality show for you - First we starve you, then we stuff you!" That's how we felt on the walk back, stuffed and ready to sleep.
Day 2 - Drive to San Francisco
Greg woke up early. I think he was still on New Orleans time. He wanted to take pictures of the Vegas strip, but the windows were dirty in our room. He went upstairs to a "viewing room" but it didn't overlook the strip, oddly enough. Thinking about it now, I have the feeling Trump Towers prides itself on being "slightly apart" from the gambling.
As we waited for the rest of our party to wake up, we took pictures around the hotel.
Then Greg received a phone call. It was from our Alarm Company! This was the first day our good friend, Gwen, went to the house and she set off the alarm and wasn't able to get to the phone in time to give them the code. So, they called us and the police were sent to the house. I felt bad for her, because I know it can be nerve wrecking to deal with and we really do appreciate her taking care of Tigger and Pebbles while we were gone and spending time at the house. Greg called Gwen's cell phone and the police were there, so he spoke to them and assured them all was well. At least we know the alarm works, is monitored and the police come out quickly. (Tigs and Pebs were very well cared for. Gwen sent us emails throughout the week to say how they were doing. Greg said, "It sounds like Gwen is making them very happy! ..... hmmm.... if Pebbles and Tigger don't show that they missed me when I come back, I'm going to be upset." He was teasing, of course, but it was his way of saying his appreciation.)
That morning, the six of us went to breakfast at Peppermill Restaurant. Yes, the same kind you find in New Orleans, only it had a rainforest feel with flowers and vines on the ceiling and fun confetti colored sugar on the table.
Somehow the conversation went to how long the couples have been married. Greg said, "Aleta and I are still newlyweds, but R&R aren't anymore." He laughed and looked at Rob and Roda, saying, "You're an old married couple now." Roda responded, "I can tell too." Awww, poor things, they looked so tired. I don't think they had enough sleep the night before and I worried about them driving all day.
The 10-hour drive from Vegas to San Francisco was long, but lovely with Desert Mountains, crows and tumbleweeds. Sometimes the tumbleweeds would stick together and roll across the interstate in huge lumps. Along the way, I took lots of pictures, one of which Greg requested.... of the road sign, "Zzyzx Road." He said, "Do you know how much that would be worth in a game of scrabble?"
Mom and I were tickled with the large windmills! They were beautiful giants in the sky. Mom said, "My class is studying alternative means of energy. This will be great to share with them." Rob and Roda were in the other vehicle and Mom asked if Roda took any pictures along the way. Roda said, "No, Mom. I saw lots of deserts in Dubai." I hadn't thought of it that way, but I see what she means. Mom asked Roda if she was able to get any sleep during the drive and Roda said, "No, I was worried about Rob." I thought that was sweet.
A side note ~ when we drove into California, I wondered if we were crossing a state line or a country line. The reason I mention this is because we were stopped and questioned if we had any fruit coming into the area, the reason for our visit and how long of a stay we were planning. Goodness, it was just like going into Canada!
Day 3 - Two Performances and a Boat Ride
Zin Zanni ~ What a welcome to San Francisco ~ under the Gypsy Moon!
The theater looked like multiple circus tents from the outside, but on the inside, it was decadent with red velvet curtains draping the walls, gray velvet on the ceiling with hanging chandeliers and sensual, albeit odd, art work in each room. I got caught up in the ambiance and even had a touch of face painting done ~ in black and gold. I wanted to be part of the gypsy heart.
Dad said, "This is the only performance of Zin Zanni. You won't see it elsewhere unless it moves to another location." In case you're wondering, it's nothing like Cirque du Soleil, etc. It is a small theater, where everyone has a table and chairs to sit. It's very intimate and the actors move in and out of the crowd. Even the four course meal was delivered with flare ~ keeping to their character and chatting with everyone. The theater performance included juggling acts and a love story.
We were right next to the center round stage. Literally, right next to it! At one point, Greg thought for sure he'd have to catch something when the juggler went into action. It was wild! The juggler ~ that sounds simple, but what this man did - was balance on multiple moving objects about 5 feet high AND juggle. I was impressed when he jumped up on the moving objects and didn’t fall, much less juggle at the same time while balancing. Greg asked me if I was going to keep my "souvenir" (when the juggler perspired and wiped his brow, he threw me the towel), uh, yeah, no, that's ok.
For comic relief, an old man came in, singing and telling jokes. Later that same old man was dressed as a female and had the audience participation in order to receive the main course, which surprisingly was very good! (As Rob said, “When you go to a performance and lunch, you don’t expect much for the food. You’re there for the entertainment.”)
Other performances included the couple on a swing, doing beautiful stunts. Another lady with incredible strength worked a rope from the ceiling and no net below to catch her.
At one point, the guy, a little person, did a King Kong act. At first, we didn't understand the items he took out of a garbage can ~ boxes, Barbie doll, giving paper airplanes to people. But it all came together and was hilarious.
The guy took a Pringles Chip round container and was about to put it on the ground when he shook it and heard a sound. He opened it up and held up a chip; then he walked over to Greg, pointing to him. Greg, being the good sport that he is, walked up to the stage. We're laughing at this point... The guy did the sign of the cross and starts mumbling, as if giving communion. Greg played along, made the sign, did a quick kneel and ate the chip. The performer actually laughed, because Greg played along so naturally! I was crying from laughing so hard. (The performer later came up to our table and thanked Greg for going along with it.) When Greg sat back down, the performer said, "Ha! I just made you eat out of a garbage can!" It was all in good fun. That Greg fit in perfectly with the act ~ well, it's his character, that fun loving man of mine.
More juggling acts followed and a light show with cool hula hoops like I've never seen before. The show ended with awesome singing (main lady character was actually a "stand in act" for Heart before and I can believe it!) We were even treated to a festive Gypsy wedding and served desert ala tossing it in the air and caught by the servers.
As Greg said, "We were entertained from start to finish!" Kudos to Dad for finding this performance! It was great ~ blessing of stars and moons.
After the performance, we walked the pier from 29 to 39 to find the Blue and Gold Fleet. (We were supposed to go to the Red and White Fleet, but Dad had it in his mind that the pre-bought tickets were Blue and Gold... ah well.) By this time and the long walk, I was feeling the heat on my skin. As cool as it was, the sun was shining bright and I could tell I would soon have a burn if I stayed outside for much longer. Thankfully, the boat had a large cabin on the second level.
The boat ride tour took us extremely close and around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge. Though I didn't go outside for the ride, I was happy that the cabin had huge windows, so I didn't miss the sites. I also had an advantage of hearing the stories by being inside the cabin... such as.. Alcatraz inmates were given 2 hours of outside activity time. They played baseball with one rule change.. if a ball went "over the fence and into the water" it was a "strike out," not a "home run." While under the Golden Gate bridge, the captain informed us of the ugliest, dirties, lowest, most despised, curse word the natives can't stand to hear...... "Frisco." Do NOT call San Francisco - Frisco. I hope that Cali is OK for Californians!
You would think the day would be over. We were tired, but there was more to do. We ended up at a Fort. From the looks of the brick, cold looking buildings, you wouldn’t think there was a theater or restaurant, gym, etc, inside. The Fort barracks were converted into modern living. Dad looked for a restaurant called "Greens" but given an hour and a half wait, meaning we'd miss the show, plus, "Greens" meant GREEN - as in veggie only restaurant, everyone said they wouldn't mind only veggies, but at 49 dollars per person... for veggies only? Hence, we left.
And we almost didn't go to the performance. We questioned, "How can a theater be on the 3rd floor of a Fort?" We couldn't go in early to see what it would be like, but we waited and braved it out to see "Mrs. Whitney." Dad said, "It's not the Saenger Theater in New Orleans! It reminds me of the performances at Tulane University." ~ mostly because of the small stage and the theater fit about 150 people. I told Greg early on, "I have the feeling it's going to be Dark Comedy." Greg agreed that it was. Don't get me wrong, the actors did a good job and we stayed to the end, but I'm not much for Dark Comedy. It leaves me feeling kind of sad. That said, I'm glad we went, because I'm always game for a performance and it was one heck of a wide variety!
(Please note - I took a lot of pictures, on the third/final post, I'll add a link where you can see the rest of the pictures if you have the time.)
Cali Trip - Part 2
Cali Trip - Part 3