Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vegas trip report, continued

Friday dawned bright, sunny, and beautiful, so we enjoyed pastries from the in-hotel bakery (an almond croissant and a plain croissant - both seriously yum) and caught a cab to the airport. We rented a sporty little blue Mustang convertible and set our sights on the Hoover Dam. Now, I'm sure many people visit Las Vegas and never give a thought to the Hoover Dam, but both hubs and I were interested in seeing this feat of engineering up close. I was doubly curious because, in addition to being a pretty mighty construction project, the dam also incorporates a hydroelectric power generation facility.

We skipped the indoor tour, opting instead to enjoy the visitor's center and spend our time exploring the structure. First, let me say, the visitor's center at this attraction is really, REALLY nice. The center does a great job of explaining the long process that had to happen before it was decided the dam would even be built, plus the careful (and dangerous) construction steps that had to take place. Spending enough time in the visitor's center made our visit to the dam much more meaningful.

Once we finished absorbing the exhibits, we headed out on the dam. I loved the "Winged Figures of the Republic" statues. They stood out in stark relief against the red canyon walls and the blue, blue sky. The sheer mass of the dam, and the gaping abyss of the canyon, made my heart flutter a little. (As did the transmission towers hanging out over the canyon. WHAT?! Can you imagine being the person who had to climb out there and service that equipment?! Shudders.)

In addition to the dam, Nevada is in the process of building a bridge further down the canyon that will help divert traffic from the top of the dam. The Mike O'Callaghan/Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge arcs across the canyon beautifully, and it's a wonderful complement to the Hoover Dam. Crews were working on the bridge the day we visited, and I have no idea how they can maintain their sanity, working with heavy equipment at such a height, perched over a dizzying amount of yawning negative space.

After our morning of tromping all over the Hoover Dam, we were starved. We stopped at Boulder City on the way back to Vegas for lunch. We really didn't know where we were going, but we followed signs to the historic downtown. We were thrilled to find a quaint little main street dotted with shops and local restaurants. We settled in to Milo's Wine Cellar. I chose the Beaujalais Platter, which was a big plate of crusty bread, a warmed chunk of brie cheese studded with dried fruit and nuts, and a generous helping of grapes and sliced apples. We enjoyed our lunch in the open air, washing our food down with glasses of house red.

Afterwards, we strolled the little downtown a bit, picking up a souvenir for little man, before hopping back into the convertible. On the way back to Vegas, I HAD to stop at The Liberace Museum. Wonderfully campy and indicative (to my mind, anyway) of Vegas, this attraction was one of my must-sees while we were in town. After entering, you're treated first to Liberace's delightfully gaudy automobile collection, with each vehicle shinier and more decorated than the last. Then, you get to see his historic piano collection, which features instruments owned and played by the likes of Brahms and Gershwin. After that, it's costumes and accessories!! Mannequin after mannequin of caped, sequined, feathered and furred coordinating outfits. They even let me try on a sample cape. HEAVEN!

After the museum, we returned the car and went back to the hotel to dress for the evening. We had tickets to Le Reve at The Wynn, and I didn't want to be late! The show is a Cirque-style water show, with lots of amazing acrobatics and dance. The music was gorgeous, the set was amazing, and the performers blew my mind. The theatre was built for this production, and Steve Wynn must have spent an absolute fortune on the space. There's not a bad seat in the house, and the entire show was a marvel of color, sound, water and the human body. Highly, highly recommended. The entire experience felt like some sort of magic dream.

Once the show was over, it was off to Dos Caminos at The Palazzo for a late dinner. I'd read about this Mexican cuisine restaurant in a guidebook, and it sounded perfect for hubs. We settled into the atmospheric dining room and placed our orders. I chose the prickly pear margarita, he got a Corona, and we opted for their well-known guacamole with chips and salsa to start. From there, he got steak tacos, and I had the cazuela de queso fundido. The cheese dip came with fingerling potatoes, chorizo, tortillas, and artichoke hearts for dipping. Delicious! We fully enjoyed our dinner before hitting the hay.

This was probably one of my favorite days of the trip. It was nice to get out of the city for a bit, and I loved all the attractions and shows we saw. (Plus the food was amazing. Never hurts.)

More to come!

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