Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bellagio - Brunch and Fountain Video

On our last morning of our vacation we went to the spectacular Bellagio brunch buffet - which provided more that enough nourishment to last for the entire flight home. Here's a peak at some of the desserts they offer:

A bit more relaxing in our plush room and then off to the airport to go home.

To sign off, here is a little video that I made of the fountain. It gives you a view at night, and then a little bit of the same song by day. The music recording was fuzzy, so I added another track over the night view, but on the day view I left the music that I recorded from the TV in the room. If you listen carefully you can hear the sound of the fountain water exploding up. Hope you enjoy this virtual fountain view!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bellagio - Las Vegas

The one hotel I've always wanted to stay in was the Bellagio in Las Vegas - with a view of the fountain. Frivolous, I know. But one night of pure luxury was a nice treat at the end of the trip. Our room was on the 14th floor, about the 3 room from the left.

The lobby where you check in is gorgeous! It has a huge Chiluly glass ceiling and beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers everywhere. Very busy, but we were able to check in early.

The rooms are plush and comfortable. The beds have 7 pillows each and were very comfortable. Huge armoire with lighted shelves. Marble tiled bathroom. Lighted makeup mirror. Classy toiletries. (Yes, it's all about the cute little bottles of shampoo, of course!)

But the best part of the room was the window with the view of the fountain. Every half hour (15 minutes in the evening) there is a fountain show and you can listen to the music through your TV. It was way, way cool. Oh yes, and there were buttons on the wall to open and shut the sheers and the drapes - they were very fun to play with!

In the evening we had tickets to see "O" by Cirque du Soleil. This is the second time I've seen this show and it is spectacular. The stage is actually a huge pool in the center of the theater and the acts revolve around a water theme. Amazing show - except for the first half hour we had ushers and latecomers arguing about seating and tickets - so annoying!

I spent the rest of the night watching the fountain. We picked up pastries to go from the Jean- Philippe Pastisserie in the hotel and nibbled as we watched the show.

What a view, huh?

Spotted Dog Cafe - Springdale

Several websites mentioned that the Spotted Dog Cafe in Springdale, Utah (just outside Zion National Park) was a really good place to eat. They were right!

Bread with roasted garlic and whipped butter - wonderful!

Garden Salad - amazing vinaigrette for a dressing! I nibbled on Rick's, wish I had ordered one of my own because some of the choices sounded delicious.

Mediterranean Pizza - cheesy, crunchy!

Chicken main dish - can't remember what it was called, but it had this really good sauce. The vegetables were perfectly cooked and I loved the spaghetti squash with caramelized onions (and I don't ususally like squash).

And dessert - flourless chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, and white chocolate sauce. No comment needed!

The meal was so wonderful we stopped here for breakfast on the way out of the park. Breakfast was good, but not as amazing as supper.

Exploring Zion National Park

Zion has a lot of amazing hikes. And most of them are labeled - "steep drop offs, not for anyone with a fear of heights." So there were a lot of amazing hikes that I did NOT experience while at Zion!

But we did find 2 lovely "low" hikes to take. The first is called Weeping Rock and goes to an area lush with water dripping down the cliffs.

The second hike is called the Riverside Walk is a nice stroll along the river into the narrow part of the canyon. At the end of the trail you can continue walking up the canyon through the river into an area called the Narrows. The water was mid calf high and very cold - without the right shoes and a walking stick it seemed to be a sure recipe for giving the digital camera a bath, so we didn't go any farther upstream.

I took lots of pictures of the the wildflowers....

and played in the cold waterfall.....

More Zion pictures posted here at Flickr.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Zion Lodge

Sometimes it is nice to be able to drive in a forbidden zone! Because we were staying at the Zion Lodge, we had a "red ticket" which allowed us to drive up the road in Zion Canyon to the Lodge. Everyone else had to use a shuttle bus system to visit the park - the shuttle buses had been started several years ago to cut down on traffic congestion in the tiny park. Usually the shuttle buses work great, but because of road construction they were slow and hot and dusty and crowded. We enjoyed driving down the road in our nice private air conditioned car. Did I mention that the temperature in the valley soars to 100 degrees in the afternoon?

Zion Lodge is nestled in the valley between 2 huge rock mountains. Crowds tend to gather on the lawn under 2 big shade trees in the afternoon, cooling off while eating ice cream. Our little cabin had a great porch from where we could enjoy the view from both angles. And it was airconditioned - somewhat. Actually, as soon as the sun dropped behind the mountain in late afternoon the temperature dropped and it was actually chilly in the morning. The cabin was fine, and we even were visited by some deer trying the keep cool in the shade outside our window.

After getting settled we took the shuttle up and down the road and stopped at the museum and visitor center. Dinnner at the Lodge Restaurant was fairly good, but not amazing. After dinner we took a hike along the river to the Lower Emerald Pool, a pretty area with a small waterfall dripping over a cliff.

Along the trail in the wet areas, these lovely little yellow columbines blossomed.

The Road into Zion

It only takes a couple hours to drive from Bryce to Zion. When you enter the east entrance of the park you begin one of the most beautiful drives ever. You start curving between these red rock formations that are covered with checkerboard and swirling markings. Quite amazing! You travel through 2 tunnels, the second of which is a mile long and actually has windows in it that let you peak out to the view on the other side.

And then when you emerge from the second tunnel the view literally explodes upon you - huge rock mountains! The road delicately twists and turns its way down the side of the cliffs until you are on the floor of the Zion valley, looking up at these monster mountains.

We actually went back and did this drive another time on the next day and I took some little video clips to try to capture the magic of this drive. Not sure how magical it will appear to you through the dirty bug smeared windshield, but perhaps it will give you a little taste of this wonderful drive.

More of Bryce

Yes, there's more. After a shower and a rest and some snacks we drove along the road and stopped at all the other viewpoints along the way. The most stunning view probably was at Inspiration Point because you really get a full view of the canyon and the coolest of the hoodoos.

Natural Bridge

In the evening we went out to watch the sunset and the moon rise. After many attempts trying different settings on my camera, I finally got one perfect shot!

Dusk at Bryce

Moonrise over Bryce

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hoodoo Hike

My absolute favorite event of the trip was the hike that we took down into the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. Hoodoos are the tall strange statue-like geological formations in Bryce. We left about 8 am from our room and walked right to the Navajo Loop trailhead on the rim to start this hike.

The trail hairpins 500 feet straight down the canyon - which was a bit challenging for poor "afraid of high places with edges" me. But once we got down into the deep walled area called "Wall Street" I was totally loving the hike. It was so mysterious and beautiful. We were enjoying the hike so much that we connected to another trail that took us across an area with pine trees in the bottom of the canyon.

Then we started to work our way back up to the rim through the Queen's Garden trail. This trail takes you through little arches and along more incredible scenery.

We reached the top of the rim about 10:30 - just about the time that it was getting hot and the crowds were building. We hiked about a total of 3 miles. Here are some pictures from above the rim of the trails that we took:

I took close to a hundred pictures of this hike I'd guess. There are more of them (and other shots of Bryce) posted at my Flickr site: click here to see the uploaded collection of my best shots.

Bryce National Park

This is the arch that you drive through as you enter into Bryce National Park. Quite cool. But then the land becomes fairly flat again. We drove to the lodge and checked into our cabin - another Lincoln log cabin with a fireplace (which we didn't need) and a little porch.

I still hadn't seen a glimpse of the canyon yet and this was the one thing I was most excited to see on this trip. Rick said that we could probably walk from our cabin to the rim - in under a minute we reached the most incredible view. Wow - we were midway between Sunrise and Sunset Point and the canyon stretched before us. The pictures don't do it justice.

So we had 2 days to enjoy the changing light as it played over the scene - sunrise, sunset, even full moon light. More Bryce to come!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin