Two days in Vegas

Before Christmas in New York (and after skiing in Montana), we spent a couple days on the Las Vegas strip. Being the kitsch aficionado that I am, naturally I have an affinity for this city (and here you thought I was all about sophistimicated high-culture destinations in Europe).

How can you not love a street so full of diversions? Everything is so ridiculous and extravagant. Indoor waterways, pirate ships, volcanoes, yummy restaurants, lions and tigers and dolphins (oh my!), Broadway shows, Big Elvis, dancing fountains, a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower and Saint Mark’s Square. Not to mention the gambling… if you’re into that kind of thing. I won a big $20 on nickel slot machines this time around (in other words no, it’s not really my kind of thing… but I like the blinking lights).

This time we stayed at Bally’s, an older hotel in the middle of the strip (next to Paris and across the street from Bellagio) which offers large, cheap rooms. December is apparently a great time for deals in Vegas, although some things (like the pirate ship show at Treasure Island) are out of commission during this slow month.

My favorite meal of the trip was at Olives, an Italian-like restaurant at Bellagio (with good martinis). We didn’t see any shows this time (although we were awfully tempted by Little Legends), although we did catch Big Elvis’s free lounge act at Bill’s Casino. Good times.

More Vegas photos here.

Christmas in New York

Hi there. This week I’m in New York City, one of my favorite places to spend Christmas. I’m a couple trips behind on my blogging, but here are a few New York Christmas photos to keep you entertained until I have a chance to catch up.

Merry Christmas, if you’re into that kind of thing. More photos at my Flickr.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Montana


I’ve learned there’s a key difference between skiing in the Swiss Alps and skiing in Montana: ambient temperature. I had no idea how good we had it in Switzerland, where we could ski on perfect snow in little more than an unzipped ski jacket for most of the season. Not the case in Red Lodge, Montana. All my warmest clothes worn simultaneously proved no match for the frigid air, and I only survived a handful of runs.

Luckily the Bierstube (‘stube’ rhymes with ‘tube’ here) at the bottom of the slopes serves a whole lot of yummy microbrews, so the day wasn’t a complete disappointment. They also had deep-fried candy bars, which Scott insisted on trying. It came in a coating that made it resemble a corn dog. I found the whole thing rather disappointing – I mean, something that sounds as ridiculous as a deep-fried candy bar ought to at least taste insanely good, right? It didn’t.

The town of Red Lodge itself was very cute and small-towny, where the locals all seemed to know each other and restaurants and bars posted their opening hours as “11am till close”. “Close” in this case tended to be rather early, since most folks are done eating and back at home by 6:30 or so.

Bozeman, Montana: me likey

Still in Montana, having a fabulous time. We spent a day in Bozeman, which I found to be an absolutely charming little town. Not to outdo the NYT guy, but we covered quite a lot of ground during our short visit:

  • Lunch at Pickle Barrel, a famous Montana chain of sandwich shops. I kind of liked the lack of options offered – only one kind of bread, no design-your-own million options, just “do you want everything on that or not?” My cheese and veggie sandwich was delightful.

  • Wandering Main Street, browsing some stores and art galleries, and admiring the octopus-like Christmas decorations. While tempted by the delightful assortment of guns and hunting supplies on offer, we managed to resist making any purchases.
  • Coffee at The Leaf and Bean. Comfy little espresso bar with an extensive tea selection, fresh juices, and cute gifts.
  • The Museum of the Rockies, a short, snowy car ride from Main Street. Dinosaurs, bats, Native Americans, and Ansel Adams photographs. Lots of fun.
  • Drinks at Montana Ale Works, a great bar, restaurant, and pool hall on Main Street. Loved the extensive beer menu. And since it was happy hour, pints of yummy local ales were $2.50. Which is about, what, a euro these days?
  • Dinner and more drinks at Plonk. My friend Peter (who lives in Bozeman) described this place as the hippest spot in Montana, and I believe he could be right. My fresh basil ginger martini-like thing (I forget the name of the drink) was awesome. The food was fabulous, too.

Greetings from Yellowstone

Where in the world am I today? It’s getting hard to keep track… I’m several blog posts behind, but I figured I’d share a couple photos from the last couple days in Yellowstone National Park (that’s in Montana and Wyoming, just in case you were wondering).

It has been crazy freaky cold, but we’re having a good time. We saw all kinds of wild animals (elk, wolves, bison, coyotes, deer, bighorn sheep, and an elk-like species I have dubbed ‘white butts’) and walked around the steaming hot springs.

More soon!

What Europe needs more of: microbrews

Sure, plenty of good beers come from Europe. But my favorites tend to be ales, and the continent just doesn’t make many of those (this is one of the reasons I’m sad we won’t be moving to Ireland).

But here in the northwest United States, microbrews are everywhere. The variety is staggering. And delightful. Bars with 30+ beers on tap are common, and the best part is that if you don’t know what you want, the bartenders tend to be very knowledgeable about the differences between, say, the 5 brown ales on tap. Sweet.

The grocery stores also have some lovely variety, but without the accompanying helpful personnel. Leaving outsiders like me to choose based on label alone… which is why so many brands distinguish themselves with memorable ale names such as Moose Drool or Yellow Snow. Good stuff.

Storm chasing on the Oregon coast

Greetings from Oregon. We spent the last couple days on the very stormy Oregon coast. We had a blast playing on the beach in the wind, rain, and foam showers (which looked like big chunks of snow). The wind was so strong and constant you could lean back into it and take a nap. I kind of felt like a weatherman out there.

The coastal road was littered with fallen branches and trees (luckily none of which blocked our way), and the hotel parking lot was scattered with roof shingles and other debris.

We were lucky that our hotel had power the whole time we were there. Many points south and north of where we stayed weren’t so fortunate. The aquarium was closed due to a power outage, but we managed to catch the Rogue brewery just as it was re-opening after their day without electricity. Nothing like a before-noon beer tasting to get you in the mood for some more storm chasing!

More storm (and beer) photos here.

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