Today I am back from the best vacation I've ever had. Clergy have weird schedules under the best of circumstances because we work evenings, weekends and most holidays. As our services are often committed months in advance for client sessions, workshops or ceremonies, getting vacation time is difficult and requires a lot of planning.
This year Lindsay and I decided we would take a February vacation to somewhere warm. February is a month that needs all the help it can get, and we decided to spend a week in a luxury hotel in Las Vegas. Neither of us opposes gambling but neither of us much enjoys it either. The attraction was the fine dining and entertainment.
We'd been to Las Vegas before on business, but we wanted to pamper ourselves this time. We took upscale accommodations at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. The Bellagio is an Italian themed hotel, famous for its luxury (the bathroom we had was larger than my office, featuring a deep tub and separate glass steam shower).
In front of the Bellagio there is an artificial lake. In the lake are circles and rows of lights and high-pressure nozzles. Throughout the day the lights and nozzles emerge from under the water and a glorious dancing water show is performed, set to music. It is truly astounding to see. Our room overlooked the Fountains of Bellagio, and we could see the show until the finale at midnight. Here is a photo taken from the window in our room:
I even enjoyed the irony of returning to our hotel one evening to watch the Fountain show set to the old Shaker Hymn "Simple Gifts." The irony was seeing thousands of pounds of water, blasted stories high in the sky by tons of hydraulic pressure from an artificial lake in the middle of a desert, while the music played "When true Simplicity is gained,..." There is nothing "simple" about the Fountains of Bellagio.
It was a wonderful time. We saw several Cirque du Soleil performances from terrific seats and toured an exhibition of landscape paintings at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art that included several by Corot, Monet and Renoir, and a magnificent van Gogh (his "Houses at Auvers") that I'd never seen before.
I experienced some of the best dining of my life. I'm a former chef and my standards are high. Five Star restaurants are nothing new to me. We dined at the Eiffel Tower, Le Cirque, Picasso, Jasmine and Shintaro.
I expected the experience at the two world-famous restaurants, Le Cirque and Picasso, to be wonderful and they were. Chef Julian Serrano did an artful job for us at Picasso. Yet I found myself really impressed with Le Cirque and Chef Sirio Maccioni who presented us with what I can only say was the finest French meal of my life. I can not even imagine better.
Very pleasant surprises awaited us at Jasmine and Shintaro as well. I know Chinese and Japanese cuisine although I do not prepare that style of food myself. Our meal at Jasmine was a magical time as the restaurant overlooked the main circle of the Fountains of Bellagio and is gorgeous. Imperial Peking Duck is a favorite and this one was outstanding, as was the Sharkfin Soup and the Green Tea and Pistachio Creme Brule. I am a sushi fan, but I never had better sushi than I had at Shintaro.
We plan to do this again next year in combination with a tour of the Grand Canyon. We will return to Le Cirque, Jasmine and Shintaro and to try some of the other restaurants we didn't have time to get to this year. But we are home now, very pleased with our trip (and also pleased to be home).