The Wild, Wild West (Part 5. Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Hollywood, Solvang, San Luis Obispo, Hearst Castle, Monterey Bay)

…August 19 in the evening

VIVA LAS VEGAS

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Sad to leave the works of Mother Nature behind.  Off to the city that man created.  As one uncle kept on saying, this was the real America. Stayed at the Hilton Hotel. Disappointed.  The hotel lacked the basic amenities.  No free coffee, no free internet connection.  No complimentary mineral water. ( a blue bottle with the Hilton Hotel print on it costs four dollars!)

Went hotel hopping.  Watched the dancing fountains at the Bellagio. Felt underdressed.

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Day 17:  Sunday, August 20

LAS VEGAS

We went to church. With the orchestra and the group of singers,  it felt more like we were watching a Broadway show. Nice stained glass windows.

Day 18:  Monday

HOOVER DAM

amazing what the human mind can doAlso known as Boulder Dam. Built during the Depression, thousands of men and their families came to Black Canyon to tame the Colorado River.  It took less than five years to build the largest dam of its time.  It is rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders.

man and nature at workAmazing what people could do.  But the tour was sort of technical so I wasn’t able to fully enjoy it.  I do applaud the men who built this structure.  And I appreciate the nice art deco style of the buildings.

Trivia:  the hardhat was invented, and first used, by the construction workers of Hoover Dam.

OOOhhh outlet stores!  I bought this gorgeous Missoni scarf for 96 dollars from the off 5th avenue store.  It’s the SAKS outlet store. Yey, my second Missoni!  And I bought two pairs of nine west shoes.

 Day 19:  Tuesday, August 22

HOLLYWOOD PART 2

Went on a tour of the Kodak theater where they hold the Oscars.  Maybe if I had some forensics equipment I’d have been able to gather some Hollywood star’s residue.

We also went back to Grauman’s Theater with the foot and hand prints of famous stars. Stayed at the Vagabond Inn in Hollywood.

 Day 20:  Wednesday, August 23

SOLVANG  –  Welkommen!!!

smile and the whole world smiles with youDanish for “sunny field”, the quaint city of Solvang is nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Founded in 1911 by a small group of Danish teachers, it is now a diverse, modern city, with restaurants, unique shops, and pretty buildings offering a taste of Denmark in California. Loved the architecture which follows traditional Danish styles. (A windmill!)  Visited the Hans Christian Andersen Museum.

Ate at a local bakery.  Ordered broccoli soup. Delicioso!  The rum ball did not meet my very high level of sucrose expectation, though.

DSC02266The colors of the flowers were so vivid. I can’t believe they’re real. (I can’t believe it’s not butter! – as an amazed uncle kept on repeating over and over and over, referring to the sights we’ve seen.)

I bought a pair of tiny ceramic clogs that I, later on, found out, was made in China as well.

SAN LUIS OBISPO in the evening

Stayed at the Days Inn for the night…there only for a few hours.  It’s a college town.  Because of its location (almost halfway between LA and SF), it has long been a stopping point for travelers.  In fact, the word motel was coined here when the Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo was established in 1925.

Lovely weather, lovely flowers. Again, what’s with the flowers?  The green of their leaves were so green! And there are a million shades of green. The flowerbeds in front of the Apple Green Farm Inn, across the Days Inn, were overflowing.  You can’t help but be in high spirits after seeing these.

 Day 21:  Thursday, August 24

HEARST CASTLE in SAN SIMEON

An actual castle in America.  It’s the palatial estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  But we didn’t go there.  We just watched the IMAX at the visitor’s center.  The castle tour costs 20 or so dollars!

Take a load of this:  The estate is a pastiche of historic architectural styles that Hearst admired in his travels around Europe. The main house is modeled after a 16th century Spanish cathedral, while the outdoor pool features an ancient Roman temple front transported wholesale from Europe and reconstructed at the site. Hearst furnished the estate with truckloads of art, antiques, and even whole ceilings that he acquired en masse from Europe and Egypt. Hearst Castle was like a small self-contained city, with 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world’s largest private zoo. Zebras and other exotic animals still roam the grounds. It’s so opulent I could almost taste it.

We were running out of time.  We were like rushing for a deadline.  As if all places have to be viewed quickly or we’d disintegrate. So we left after just a few hours.

The drive to Monterey was way different from the ones to the Canyons.  Now we were along the coasts.  Although there was also a canyon beside the road; it was submerged in the sea.  There were some rock formations rising above the water as well which made it a beautiful, dramatic, scenic drive.  

MONTEREY

Monterey Bay is probably the most important geographic feature of the central California coast.  Just offshore from the Monterey Peninsula, the Monterey Submarine Canyon bisects Monterey Bay, plunging to 6000 feet! – and providing a cold-water upwelling rich in nutrients supporting unusually abundant food for seabirds.  Monterey used to be famous for the abundant fishery.  That changed in the 50s when the local fishery business collapsed due to overfishing.  A few of the old fishermen’s cabins from the early 20th century have been preserved as they stood along Cannery Row.  The famous Cannery Row has now been turned into a tourist attraction. Goodness, the flowers were oozing with color. Is it possible to get color overdose?

            Monterey Bay Aquarium

DSC02467Located in a former sardine cannery and a former brewery on Cannery Row, it is one of the largest aquariums in the world.  I would have loved to have a jellyfish aquarium.  No wonder Spongebob’s so obsessed with them.

Another one I liked was the million gallon tank in the Outer Bay Wing which features many large fish.  Very surreal, very beautiful. I’ve never seen so many big, fat, healthy, weird looking fish in my life.

Charmed by the otters, too!

Stayed at the Otter Inn. Freezing to death!

Day 22:  Friday, August 25

MONTEREY BAY andSF

Went back to the Monterey Bay Aquarium early in the morning.  We all had two- day-pass tickets. I thought I would find the seahorses this time, but the lure of the jellyfishes and the exhibit of Outer Bay Area were quite strong, so I stayed there most of the time.

Obsessing on saltwater taffies.

            Carmel-by-the-Sea/17 Mile Scenic Drive/ Pebble Beach

What’s so scenic about highly publicized but private and expensive golf courses?  That’s almost all we saw during the drive.  And more of rich people’s houses. We did see the Lone Cypress but just for a short while.

           SF

Time flies so fast.  Going home in a few hours.  Finally got to eat the Dungeness crabs everyone was craving for since the first day of our tour.

 Off to the airport at 630 in the evening.  But the sky’s still so bright you wouldn’t think it was already night.

Talk about a hectic schedule. We went up to the mountains and the canyons to look upon the most ancient and magnificent trees and to look down on the most beautiful displays of light, of rocks, of canyons; we went down to another canyon for a different angle; we went to the wharfs and the bays and the beaches and the aquariums to see the most amazing sea creatures; and we went to visit two of the most brilliant engineering feats of all time. Not bad for a three week vacation.

Only Levis Strauss became rich during the California Gold Rush.  He was a tool maker before but the workers needed durable clothing so Strauss invented the now famous denim jeans and made the most money from it. That’s according to my uncle, Mr. Trivia.

What the – – -? What happened to all my dollars?

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