Saturday, April 28, 2007

Panorama Towers

Last night, my wine group had an event at one of the member's homes in Panorama Towers. It is directly across from where they are building CityCenter on the other side of the 15. The reason they call it Panorama Towers? Because you have a perfect panoramic view of the Strip. The view from the 28th floor was amazing, as you can see by the photos below. Although I could never live in a condo with no yard, I could definitely get used to having a view like this. The event was a huge success. There were about 30 people, and each person brought a different bottle of wine. I tried so many types of wine, my favorite being an Alsacian Gewürztraminer. The hit wine of the party, and one that I always try to keep on hand at home, is the Ménage à Trois Red by Folies à Deux. It is a blend of zinfandel, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. It tastes even better knowing that you can get it for $9.99 at the grocery store.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Planet Hollywood

On Tuesday, I met one of my best friends from elementary school and her family at Planet Hollywood. The Aladdin officially changed its name and theme to Planet Hollywood (aka, PH) just a week earlier. I've only been inside the Aladdin one or two times. It had a very cheesy Arabian Nights theme and looked run-down compared to other Strip casinos, despite having been demolished and rebuilt in 2000. They've been transitioning to the rebranded casino over the past few months, and you could watch as the facade changed. The sign on top of the hotel read "Planet Ho" for several days, then changed to "Planet Hol" as they were installing the letters at a leisurely pace.

The casino is fabulous inside now. It is a very contemporary style with clean lines, contrasting colors, and of course bright lights. The only thing that would keep me from coming here often, and this is a big thing, is that the parking garage is a long haul from the casino. I don't know what genius designed it this way, but you basically have to walk through an entire shopping mall to get to the casino. You have to read the map to even figure out how to get there. Because the casinos are so big and it can take a long time to talk from one end to the other, parking is very important to me - I want to be as close to the casino entrance as possible. The Wynn has the ideal parking garage. It has electronic signs telling you how many spaces are available on each level, and the door is about ten feet from my favorite destination, the poker room.

We all ate at Lombardi's Romagna Mia in the shopping mall (the Miracle Mile, or formerly the Desert Passage). This Italian restaurant was a bistro style with open air seating (well, open air in the sense that the mall is designed to look like it's outside, though it's just painted ceilings). The food was wonderful. I had a chop salad, my favorite meal as of lately. It had avocados and artichokes in it, yum! I usually don't order desserts, but since others were having some, I jumped on the Crème Brulée. Oh, it was so delicious! If you somehow find yourself lost in this mall, I would highly recommend this restaurant.

I don't have any pictures from PH to share, so instead I will share these pictures that I took from Stephanie's garden this weekend. Her husband, John, has done an amazing job on their landscaping. Their yard is the envy of the neighborhood!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Trip to NC

With me having to travel to the east coast anyways for the conference in DC, I thought it would be a good opportunity to swing by NC. The great thing about having to travel to NC for work is that I get to see my girlfriends from college while I'm in town. I had a wonderful visit catching up with co-workers and friends. I stayed with Stephanie, my sorority sister and French class buddy. We had so much fun together. On Friday, we went to B-Risque, a new women's fitness facility that has sexy dance classes. We took the "floor and chair" class, but I really wanted to take the pole class! Afterwards we had awesome sushi at Shabashabu and rented a funny French movie (Décalage Horaire).

On Saturday, we went to the flea market at the fairgrounds in Raleigh. This was a really great flea market, and I can't believe I hadn't taken advantage of it sooner. Then we had lunch at Brixx with Lorin, another sorority sister, and her husband and daughter. After a long nap that afternoon, I was rested up to hit the town with the girls. We went to two bars in Raleigh, and they really made me appreciate the Las Vegas nightlife. At White Collar Crime, the women's bathroom was flooded - you would never see that in a club in LV. And since when is breakdancing back in style? People were spinning around on their heads, so there was little room to dance. At Bogart's, there was a crappy frat house band that was just screaming their songs. Again, entertainment in LV is much more talented. Oh well, I still had fun with the girls.

On Sunday, we took a long walk with Stephanie's sweet Boxer, Kona. Then we went up to UNC's campus. I walked around taking pictures for quite some time while Stephanie got in a run. Afterward, I met Jamie at Ham's, my favorite restaurant in town. Mmm, their chips are so good!

Here are some of my favorite landmarks on UNC's campus...

Bell tower:
Old well: Columns at Wilson library: University seal on the main quad:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On the Road Again

Now that I'm a telecommuter, I travel a lot. I like to go back to my office in North Carolina every three or so months, just to refresh the bonds I have with my co-workers. This week, I set off on my eighth trip since moving to Vegas (four trips for business, four trips for pleasure). I left LV on Wednesday morning for Washington DC to attend a conference on Thursday. In LV on Wednesday we had very high winds (gusts to 50+ MPH), so I was really dreading the take-off. The initial ascent was no problem, but as soon as we got up to a good altitude and started making the controversial right-hand turn, the plane started shaking like it was a prop duster going through a hurricane. I have never felt turbulence like that before, and especially on a plane so big. Thankfully, it didn't last long, and I enjoyed the flight to Chicago without anyone sitting next to me.

In Chicago, I had a layover long enough to grab dinner, and then I switched from Southwest to their partner ATA. Now, I love Southwest. They are very laid back, and I like to call them a frat party in the sky (examples of that another time). But they get their stuff done efficiently, they are generous with their snacks and drinks, and I prefer them because free flights are fast through their frequent flier program. I bought my flight through Southwest, but they don't go to Washington National, so I had to use ATA to get there. ATA is definitely a no-frills airline. There were no snacks, but they did have several for purchase. Not even free peanuts. And they actually charge for pillows and blankets. I'm sure many airlines have resorted to this approach, but it makes me appreciate Southwest all the more. Once I finally got to DC, it was a full half hour after I got off the plane before our baggage started coming around the belt. Southwest and ATA are both discount carriers, but with ATA you can really tell it.

I stayed in the Hyatt in DC, right next to the Capitol Building. I can't get over how expensive hotels are in this city. My room was $400 a night, and the room was nothing special. They charged $3.75 for bottled water in the room (my crappy Radisson in NC gives free bottled water - I am a bottled water fiend), and they didn't even have free internet! For $400, I expect to be able to check my email.

I like DC so much. It is such a pretty city with so much going on. I wish I had stayed an extra day to explore the city. I enjoyed seeing the capitol from the hotel, and flying out was neat because we took off right over the city and I could see every monument. DC seems to be a popular location for these meetings of the minds in my field, so I'm sure I'll be back again soon.

Me in front of the capitol...

The capitol glowing at night...
The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial taken from the airport. I didn't get to explore the city during this trip, but at least I got to enjoy its view from the airport!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Knitting Group

When you work from home, you look for any way to find people to interact with. Upon moving here, I discovered, where you can find local groups that share the same interests. I joined the Henderson/Las Vegas Wine Meetup Group, which has been an awesome resource for meeting new people, taking part in fun social events, and discovering some great new wines. I even became an assistant organizer of the group, though social planning is not on my list of talents.

I've been waiting for a local knitting group to start on Meetup, but finally I discovered one on Yahoo! Groups. They meet once a month on the west side of town and once a month on the east side of town. Last night I went to the east side gathering, which is at a coffee house. I met six other women, each of whom knew a heck of a lot more about knitting than me. It was great getting to know six other people in town that share an interest with me. They told me about some yarn stores in the area and some good websites to use for getting patterns and ideas. I'm glad to find some other people in town who knit because now I have a resource when I have questions or when I just don't want to knit alone!

This is a baby blanket that I made for my friend Camille. Her nursery is pink and brown, so this blanket matches perfectly. It looks complicated, but it is really easy to make. I'm working on a second one now for another friend.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Frenchman Mountain

One of the best features of the house I am renting is its view from the backyard. It is on the edge of a ridge, so I've got a panoramic view looking east towards Lake Mead. So many homes in Las Vegas are built right on top of each other, and backyard views include a tall cement wall and the neighbor's house, so I feel so lucky to have this view to enjoy. When it's time to move, I want my next house to have a view of the strip. This picture was taken peeking through the pine trees behind us looking at Frenchman Mountain during sunset.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lunch at Mt. Charleston

It's funny that this blog is intended to rave about how much I love living in Las Vegas, yet I'm going to begin by talking about escaping the city. If you need a break from neon and desert, then the best cure is a quick drive up to Mt. Charleston. From where I live in the south valley, it's about a 45 minute drive. As you approach, you are surrounded by cactus and dirt, but you can see the beautiful snow-capped peaks in the distance. It's a striking contrast.

As you keep driving, gradually the cactus turn into small bushes.
And suddenly, you're surrounded by tall pine trees. To think that on the other side of these mountains there's a bustling city. It is so peaceful up here, but you do see many other people driving up here to enjoy the hiking and scenery.
When I come up here, I always eat at the Mt. Charleston Lodge. It's a quaint lodge with a fireplace in the center of the room and a nearly panoramic view of Kyle Canyon. The food is fabulous. I always have a cup of their french onion soup to warm me up - it's usually 30 degrees cooler here than it is in the valley. The lodge elevation is about 7700 feet while the peak of Mt. Charleston is about 12,000 feet high. Someday I'll hike up there, but for now I'll just enjoy a nice lunch at the lodge.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Better Late Than Never

When I moved from North Carolina to Las Vegas in August 2006, I told myself that I should document the move in a blog. I thought it would be neat for family and friends to see my adventures now that I would be so far away. Well, I'm lazy and never did it. My new friend, Leigh, just finished a two year road trip all around the country with her boyfriend. They kept up a blog that was kind of like a picture diary of their trip. I really enjoyed looking through their blog, as well as the comments left by their family and friends, who obviously followed their journey closely. So, I decided, it's better late than never.

Even though I've been here eight months, every day is still a new adventure. I've made some friends, but it takes a long time to develop close friendships like I have at home. I'm still exploring the area, finding fun locals hangouts, favorite stores, and new hiking locations. There's still much to tell, and on the slow days, I can recap events from the past eight months. And even when there's nothing to talk about, I can always post a picture. To many people, Las Vegas is a dreamland where you can be someone you're not while you're on vacation. But for me, it's a place where I can be myself. I hope that this blog shows that Las Vegas is a normal place where normal people do normal things. There are just a lot more things do here, and they don't always have to be normal!

With that, I leave you with a picture from the airplane the last time I flew out of Las Vegas before I moved. I was so sad to see it disappear from my view because I didn't know the next time I would see it again. Just ten (long) months later, I was here, and now I can see it every day!