Star Travel Grand Tour finishing with a bang...Grand Canyon, Vegas and Love
We've taken readers on quite the ride since we launched our "Grand Tour" series a month and a half ago. We've visited glorious, historic neighbourhoods in Rome, wandered the markets of Dubai, checked out the wild contrasts of dynamic Tokyo, sipped South African wine in the shadow of Cape Town's Table Mountain, dined on caviar in St. Petersburg, Russia and met some amazing characters last week in tropical Maui, Hawaii.
We've had six spots so far; with a very good Final Four to come. This Saturday, we'll fill you in on incredible Buenos Aires; a South American capital with flair to spare. After that we've got Sydney, where I just spent a couple of days soaking up a little rain but a final, glorious day of sunshine on the Manly Ferry, then historic and fascinating Jerusalem.
Our final stop will be Paris, the city of Light and the winner of our readers' poll for the tenth Grand Tour destination. We hope folks have enjoyed reading, and perhaps we'll do something similar another time.
In the meanwhile, stay tuned for our final destinations, starting with Buenos Aires on Saturday, Nov. 27.
LOVING LAS VEGAS
We'll put aside the insane aspects of this town for a minute, because they're well-documented. Instead, I'll focus a bit on two bookends of an absolutely marvellous day.
The morning began with a 5 a.m. wakeup call - most folks go to BED at this time around here, not get up - and a bus ride down to the Maverick aviation office at the airport for a 7:30 a.m. helicopter departure for the Grand Canyon. It's a place I've never visited (or Las Vegas for that matter), despite growing up in California. I don't know why I'd never come, as I really love the desert and the shadows and the sense of mystery and the exotic people and creatures who make a life for themselves in hostile surroundings.
Anyway, pilot Boyd Hardy was very funny, as were my fellow passengers; a bunch of 40-year-olds from Ottawa who were celebrating their youth (but lamenting their inability to stay out as late as they used to). And the trip was glorious; cool temperatures (about 13 Celsius) but lots of fun and a smooth ride with maybe one little exception coming over some hills on the way home. We flew over the Strip, which was great, then out over the desert and past the Hoover Dam and the new bridge (looks a bit like the ones alog the coast of California south of Big Sur). Then we lifted up over the rim of the Grand Canyon and...wow.
The colours weren't as vivid as they'd be at sunset, but they were absolutely spectactular. The silence was amazing, and the sense of majesty in watching that river flow through the
rocks the way it has for millions upon millions of years, well, I was stunned. It's an incredible experience. "Shadows dance/powerful, living rock/Water flows/solitude and beauty." That's a lame attempt at haiku, I think; I don't know. I admit I was kinda stunned sitting on the side of one of earth's
most amazing creations, so forgive me if that sounds goofy or something.
Anyway, it's a few hundred bucks for the ride but it's an unforgettable experience. So thanks to Body Hardy and the Ottawa gang for a great morning.
After exploring the Strip and having lunch at the terrific Country Club at Wynn (great views of the golf course and terrific shrimp dishes), I took in the Beatles Cirque du Soleil "Love" at The Mirage. I came here telling myself I'm not a shows guy, just like I went to see Star Wars a year after it came out telling myself I wasn't a sci-fi/space movie guy. I left Star Wars with a smile the size of the galaxy on my face, and I came away from "Love" last night wondering why I'd never come to see a Vegas show and why I'd never caught anything from this remarkable Canadian-born group.
I was absolutely blown away by the whole thing; a magical 90 minutes of dancing, acrobatics and incredible costumes all set to the music of my life; throbbing guitars and dancing melodies and pounding drums and a remarkable weaving of Beatles' hits into an incredible soundtrack. I loved the start with the anthology version (voices only) of "Because," which then stomped its way into "Get Back" mixed with the powerful chords of "The End" and even "Glass Onion." Amazing costumes and folks bungee jumping down over the audience and springing back up. Eleanor Rigby was a touch melodramatic and I thought they overdid the white costume, dancing fairy bit on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" near the end, but most of it was stupendous; a riot of colour and artful design and great music and audience participatio with a white parachute-like sheet. "I am the Walrus" felt like Johnny Depp in Pirates mixed with Les Miserables, Oliver Twist and West Side Story, with a generous dose of psychedelia. Marvellous.
And the end? It was almost to weep, standing with a group of a couple thousand Beatles fans of all ages, clapping our hands to "All You Need is Love," and then seeing that marvellous coda to their career inscripted on the wall "And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make."
I'm a little sappy, I admit (I get misty-eyed at the end of "When Harry Met Sally") but I get chills right now just thinking about it.
Following the show I came to back to Encore, where I spent the night in a room with a great view of the Strip. I had dinner at their restaurant, Sinatra, and enjoyed the most silky smooth, flavourful pasta of my life. It was agnolloti with a bit of ricotta in a light cream sauce with herbs, parmesan and shaved truffle, and it was like biting into a soft pillow. Absolutely marvellous and highly recommended!
More later from Las Vegas....