Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Westard American Road Diary: Las Vegas

It's no big secret: I'm a francophile. I just love French things. I can't explain it. My favorite episodes of a cherished American sitcom I Love Lucy - when they are in Paris for Ricky's band's European tour. Remember when Lucy thinks she spots Charles Boyer at a cafe and he pretends to be a down-on-his-luck actor Maurice Dubois and she coaches him on how to be romantic? I just bought a perfume, Celine Dion's Spring in Paris, at a library holiday sale that I hadn't even smelled because I was seduced by the pretty pink and green packaging with an image of the Eiffel Tower. It smells quite lovely, like lily of the valley, and very much like spring. Instead of blogging, or things I really need to be doing like exercising or housework, I'm watching Maurice Chevalier films from the library. Favorite cocktail? A kir royale, French, bien sur! I'm sure there's a French girl in Paris who eats bagels since it's a New York thing to do while I think of croissants, and she dreams of cheesecake and a stroll down Fifth Avenue while I long for apple tarte tatin and a walk along the Seine. Maybe we can trade lives for a bit like Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz do in the film The Holiday?

When I got back and told my dad I thought Vegas was seedy, he said people go there because it's seedy. I would have loved to lounge by the pool at our hotel The Golden Nugget with a frozen bellini, but it was 20 degrees below normal. Luckily, I found a little bit of Paris in Las Vegas since Vegas isn't really my kind of town. Vegas stays up late. I go to bed early and am cranky without eight hours sleep. Vegas women favor short tight skirts and high heels. I like flowy skirts below the knees and ballet flats. Vegas bets. My idea of betting is scratch off cards I get on my birthday. Vegas has upscale shopping and fancy chain restaurants. Give me a thrift shop and a mom-and-pop BYOB any day. Vegas really reminded me of a larger version of New York City's Times Square. My least favorite place in New York City (save for Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal): Times Square. I think tigers belong in the wild. In Vegas, they're imprisoned for tourists to take photos of. Some cub is on earth for a $25 a pop picture?

So here we are at touring and eating often at the Paris hotel. We also had a breakfast buffet at our hotel (just so so).

J'adore! One of my favorite things in the "real" Paris was the pastry shops and bakeries everywhere. Do you ever read the scary long ingredient list of store bought cakes, even at their bakeries?

Arc de Triomphe. Steve and I have fond memories of the view from the real Arc de Triomphe. I dream of going back to Paris, but really there are so many places to see yet it's hard to commit valuable vacation time to going back to the same place. Who knew my American Westward trip would be my favorite so far? Maybe because it was so spiritual.

A vegetarian crepe with bechamel sauce and a cider.

Even the pooches in Paris have a charmed life! I spotted these in a children's shop. If we're blessed with children one day we'd love to introduce them to languages early on (Steve studies Spanish while I've toyed around with French at community school classes off and on). It's sad foreign languages take so little priority in education.

Artichoke pizza, so good!

The words "bistro" and "cafe" just warm my heart. I live in a fast-paced world in New York City. Enjoying a meal at a table is so civilized, such a celebration of food and time and life. Life is too short for Lean Cuisines, I say.

A banana Nutella crepe, the perfect ending to a French buffet.

The Graceland Wedding Chapel. Fellow New Jerseyian John Bon Jovi got married here! I've become a bit of an Elvis fan this year and we saw a free show at Bill's Gambling Hall and Saloon. There's a Cirque de Soleil Elvis show but the cheapest seats were $100, too steep for us. I'll stick to my Youtube videos of the 68 Comeback Special.

And then we came happened upon the New York hotel, and remembered the city that I work in and we both live in New Jersey not far from, and it was time to go back to reality.

Our last night was at the Fremont Street experience, an enormous light and music show. Bye Bye Miss America Pie played, and it felt right to end the trip. At one point in Colorado, we realized a different kind of pollution we suffered from - light pollution, how we could not see the stars like we did out West. Vegas was such an assault to the senses after the calm of the rest of the trip.

So my heart is in Paris, but it's also now in the American Southwest. I can't stop thinking of the scenery in Colorado and our short time in Durango, or the smells and tastes of New Mexico. The pioneer footprints all over. We end our journey here. I hope you've enjoyed coming along. I've chosen to document it so extensively as a love letter to the West. I'm someone whose often dreamt of foreign lands for vacation choices. Now I'm dreaming about places like South Dakota and Montana.

I recall something Laura said in Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, "This is where I told myself I must remember. The feel of things, the scratch of wool on your skin, the sharp smell of a wood fire, the long stagnant afternoons when it seems nothing interesting can ever happen." This blog is a diary of sorts and about remembering...the warm feeling of the fire and smile of the woman who invited us in at the Taos Pueblo. The sight and emotion brought on by the one-room school house in Capitol Reef Park. The ravens in the national parks. The decency of all the Americans we met who so love and are concerned about our country. These are my memories.


  1. Thanks for sharing. It's been fun reading!

  2. Hi Amy! Thanks for reading. :-) More adventures to come in 2012. Even day and weekend trips are chances to explore since these big trips for us are but once a year.

    Happy Holidays!

  3. There is something really magical about the Southwest, isn't there? And I'm glad you found something to enjoy in Vegas. It's not my favorite place either!

    You may already know this woman, but if not, I must share. An expat living in France. Rehabing an old stone house from the 1700s, living an uber simple life. Oh, the envy!

  4. I completely agree – magical. New Mexico is right calling itself the Land of Enchantment. I have a friend who traveled for years out West from New Jersey to Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, etc. and people would ask why she keeps going West and she says it's just so beautiful. I definitely caught the Western bug.

    A colleague who doesn't like Vegas told me every American should go there once and have an opinion on it. I'll never forget driving back from our day trip in Rachel, Nevada, to Vegas and emerging from the darkness to this artificial sea of light. No photos I took captured the feeling.

    I do not know that woman from the link you share, thank you for letting me know. Maybe I'll live in a stone house in New Mexico one day. Just maybe. In Colorado, when I asked Steve if he could build a house like Pa Ingalls did he asked if I was trying to kill him!