Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Make that Venice, Las Vegas!
Had a fab two days in this wild desert city. It's so h-u-g-e, and so glittery, and so gorgeously tacky. Whatever you feel about it - and for me, two days were plenty - you can't help but be caught up in the sheer buzz and excitement. I just wish David had been with me to explain the arcane machinations of craps, which is the only game he reckons is worth playing in a big casino.

:: So this (below) is where we stayed, in the golden edifice of The Mirage ...

... which is in the heart of the Strip (below):

:: I had a luxurious room all to myself on the 25th floor - and, on checking in, I was asked if I'd like a pool view or to see the volcano. Obviously, I plumped for the volcano ... but it was a bit of a fizzer really: half-hourly pyrotechnics with scorching yellow flames, and red lights playing over a waterfall.
For all its comfort, the Mirage seemed to have a crisis of identity: at any one time you could see its dolphin pool with baby dolphin, or the white tigers of Siegfried and Roy, or the wonders of breast augmentation in the admirably succinctly titled 'bare pool'.
The casino, spread out across almost every inch of the ground floor, was impossible to avoid. Wherever you needed to walk - from the flowery, leafy jungle-style atrium to the guest elevators, or from the marble lobby to the restaurants - the route would take you through its noisy, gaudy, fake-wood-and bright-lights poker machines and gaming tables. And they whirred, whizzed, hummed and bing-bing-binged 25 hours a day.

:: There was no such thematic confusion over the road at the Venetian, a massive and very ornately grand resort, complete with its own Grand Canal (with gondolas, natch), Bridge of Sighs, Doge's Palace, and Italianate tower thingy with recorded church bells that chimed on the hour.

But I don't remember the canals of Italy's Venice being this sort of inviting blue. I could be wrong, but they seemed more olive green, and much more viscous than these temptingly cool and chlorinated waterways!
There were dreamy colonnaded walks that looked over the canals - almost as good as the real thing.

:: Not far from the Venetian, and just a little farther up the Strip, we discovered the Trevi Fountain. But of course! It had gorgeous statuary and romantically misty water, with a great view of Caesar's Palace next door - conveniently near the Colosseum.

Caesar's Palace has the most opulent lobby in the whole of Vegas, I reckon - at least out of all the ones we saw:

:: Next door to the Mirage was a resort called Treasure Island. It had enormous pirate ships bobbing about in its pool out the front:

Four times a night, a team of talented actresses and a team of talented actors would bump and grind their way through a short but gripping musical play about sirens luring seamen to their fate.
The sirens all wore bikinis and cowboy boots, and occasionally chains and cutlasses. They pole-danced on the ship's rigging and sang songs loaded with double entendre about 'coming on board' and so on.
The pirates, who, needless to say, succumbed to these wenches' tempting charms, looked like the Chippendales and didn't put up too much of a fight. There were some cannon shots, fireworks and an explosion, the boys' ship sank, and the finale involved a song in which the captain discovered 'the real treasure lies within' as he frolics up the mast to the crowsnest with the head siren.

:: By far the best and most spectacular free show was outside the Bellagio, where the wonderfully choreographed fountains danced for the masses every fifteen minutes, to a different song each time:

:: Fortunately, Don and Laura had come up with the perfect antidote to all this gilt and glistening shimmy-shammy:

A daytrip out to the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Words can't do it justice, and photographs don't come close. Truly awesome. Massive. And utterly breathtaking. And this is only a minor part of it all.
Laura and I took deep breaths and went out on the Skywalk.
I hope you click on the link and have a look - we weren't allowed to take cameras out there. We stood on the Skywalk's glass bridge that juts out from the canyon wall, 1400 metres above its floor. It's one of the best things I've ever done in my life.
And afterwards, we had lunch, though not at these tables right on the edge - a definite appetite killer!

And get a load of the weather: it was not too hot, it was raining, and there were big flashes of lightning. As if there weren't enough drama.

:: To give you some idea of the scale of these pictures, click on this one to see it big, and then you'll notice a helicopter whizzing through it.

:: Back to earth now, home in sunny and beautiful San Diego, where the air is clean and crisp and the temperatures never seem to get any higher than a delightful 28 degrees. Perfect!

Comic-con - 120,000 visitors - has been on at the convention centre downtown, and the Bondi has had a fast and furious weekend. It's been brilliant. Dave reckons we had 1000 people through the doors on Friday alone - yee ha!

Friday, 27 July 2007

Che bella citta!

Sorry I've been a bit slack about blogging, but I've been to Venice!
Just got back ... more later.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

La Jolla jollies!
I've been having such a wonderful time showing Laura (above, with me) and her husband, Don, all the best bits of San Diego - including the fabulous Bondi, which they are very impressed by!

:: Today we went here ...

... to La Jolla, just a few minutes south of Del Mar. It was a beaut sunny, breezy day, and everything looked just gorgeous. We marvelled at the big swell, and, at the Children's Cove, the basking seals, luxuriating in the sunshine and cooling off in their own little rock pools.

:: Tomorrow, we're off to Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. Yee ha!
Then they go on to New Orleans, while I return to sunny San D.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Hearth and home
Well, Gloster Street's looking very chi-chi now the decorators have been in and polished and painted everything ready for showing and - we hope - selling!

Will is worried that new owners will bowl it over and build something big, but I don't really think there's any danger of that. Lily alternates between devastation and fury that we are selling it - but really, the house has come in my mind to represent that chapter of our family life which is over. And there's a lot of fun and plenty of new adventures still in store for all of us.

:: Do you remember that old Irish comedian, Dave Allen? One of his rambling old stories was about a woman who frequently dreamed of walking up to and into a beautiful house, in which she felt completely comfortable and happily at home.
One day, she was thrilled to find the actual house she'd been dreaming of all her life, and, curious to see who lived there, she rang the bell.
The owner opened the door and blanched at the sight of her, but undaunted by his apparent discomfort, the woman told him how she'd been dreaming about the house all her life, and felt she knew every inch of it.
"That's not surprising," the owner told her, "since you've haunted this place for years!"

:: We'll leave a few happy ghosts for whoever lives in our old place next: there are reminders of our two and a half decades of occupation everywhere! Like this, on the concrete floor of the new garage ...
And this, scratched into a path at the side of the house in December 1992, when Lily was five ...
and little Will was three ... :: Getting back to the spooky blarney stuff ... I never once felt there was anything creepy about this house, for all its hundred years. But one dark and stormy night (of course!), not long after we'd moved in, I was home alone (of course!) getting ready for bed when I heard what I can only describe as the sound of a bead necklace hitting the wooden floor of the front hall and beads bouncing and scattering across the jarrah boards. Weird, huh?

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Antony ...

... singing 'If It Be Your Will', from the Leonard Cohen documentary, I'm Your Man.

:: And, if you look carefully, you'll notice a guitarist bathed in an electric blue light. He is Chris Spedding, whom - ahem - I met at Brian Ferry's post-performance party in the Parmelia Hilton in ... must have been ... 1977.
Sounds glamorous, but it was terrible. The concert promoters had lined up a selection of Perth 'models', including the reigning Miss Jeans West (or was she Miss West Coast?), for the band's perusal. You can just imagine ...
I also remember watching JK struggling to get in to the party, red-faced and outraged at being refused admission, despite thrusting the delectable young GS before him. That was fun! 'Look! Look! I've brought my OWN Perth model!' I can almost hear him squealing.
There was even more fun when G was let in but J was entirely rejected ... though I may be imagining that as the ideal and just ending to that little story.

:: By the way, the new blog header was scanned from a real novel, Perfect Love, by Elizabeth Buchan. It's an all-women-are-saintly-while-nearly-all-men-are-pigs potboiler, though very well written and a fast and entertaining read.
For Dace and Konrad ...
:: We just can't thank you enough for all your hospitality, generosity, fun and a thousand other kindnesses while we stayed with you in Perth - many thanks, you two. Home away from home doesn't come close! Love you both. XXX Les

:: And to the cute-as-a-button MAX:

... thank you so much for giving up your bed! Save hard and come and see us soon!

:: This pic's too dark, sorry, but what a joy to have had all that tarot time at Eagle Bay! Such a good time ...
So there we were ...

... about ten hours after we'd left Los Angeles, another three to go to Brisbane, when our Qantas captain announced a stop in Fiji, "because we don't have enough fuel to get to Brisbane". Honest.
Because of all the runway reconstruction going on at LAX to prepare for the new behemoth-mega-jumbo jets, there's a weight restriction on planes there. So we hadn't been able to start off with a full tank. And with massive headwinds as we approached Australia, the 'nearly empty' warning light was obviously blinking on the dashboard and we had to land at the nearest roster and fill up.
We missed our connecting flight to Perth, and by the time we'd boarded the next available flight, it, too, was delayed an hour. The result was that instead of arriving at Perth at 10.30am, we limped in at 6pm.

:: So, on the day we were due to fly back to the US, it was with consternation that we saw the words 'awaiting technical confirmation' flashing under our flight number on the info screen at Perth airport. Sure enough - our plane's emergency landing lights were playing up.
Well into the second hour after our scheduled departure time, we realised we'd missed our connection to LA.
But Qantas came through for us and flew us - business class, upstairs in a jumbo! - to Melbourne and put us up in the very comfy airport Hilton, with free dinner and brekky and a new flight to LA the next morning.
:: This was our last view of Australia - from the ground anyway - on cold, squally, rainy Tuesday morning. The plane was not a lot more than half-full, so we had three seats and a window to ourselves. And with on-demand in-flight entertainment and a sleeping pill each, we had a blissfully easy flight ... finally!
I do SO love the in-flight program: on the way to Australia I watched Jindabyne (excellent Australian drama), and the amazing Leonard Cohen tribute concert, I'm Your Man, with Nick Cave, Jarvis (must be son of Joe) Cocker, the two Wainwright sibs and U2 (it was so good, I kept rewinding bits of it - I must have watched Antony singing 'If It Be Your Will' about eight times).
Coming home yesterday, I watched two Trinny and Susannah shows, a BBC TV doco on food ... and the Leonard Cohen concert all over again.
And a couple of hours before landing, I watched good old Love Actually - because when you're waking up after almost 12 hours in the same seat, jetlagged and completely buggered, with a tongue like cardboard and a brain like porridge, what better movie could there be?

Well, this is boring stuff, isn't it?

:: We've left both kids in Australia, so the house is q-u-i-e-t and empty. The dogs haven't completely forgiven me for being away - but they'll come round, I know. The sun's shining, the pool's sparkling, the breeze is cool. I'm unpacking, doing some washing, opening all the mail (only an electricity bill to worry about), thinking about dinner, and generally loafing about.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

We're ba-ack...
... after even more dramas on the homeward journey than we had heading for Australia. Phew! Tell you all about it later.
I'm just downloading - or am I uploading? - all my hundreds of photos and videos as we speak, so normal service will resume as soon as possible.
Love you guys