Monday, September 30, 2013

"Ta, London - Had a Wonderful Time!"

And London replied, "Not so fast, American tourists!"

Despite leaving two hours earlier than we'd originally planned to get from "the country" to Heathrow, we missed our flight by five minutes.

Literally.  British Air closes the gate at 3:55 p.m. for their last flight of the day to Los Angeles at 4:15 p.m.

After three different Tubes, we finally got to Terminal 5, Heathrow.  Heathrow is a confusing tangle of  escalators and elevators and the odd dead end.  At one point we had to walk over a glass-floored "bridge" high over the 5th floor below us.  As I am fearful of heights, this was traumatic. 

At Bag Check, a mounful-looking man in uniform, looked at his watch and sadly said that we'd just missed our flight.  He then directed us to the reservations clerk to "re-book" the exact same flight the next day.  The fee was 275 pounds ($412.50 approximately.)  We could have gone out earlier, but the up tick in price would have been even more murderously high than the stabbing we'd just suffered to Ye Olde Pocketbook. 

To add to our pleasure, British Air had just installed a new computer system and our agent wasn't familiar with it and had to keep calling other agents to come help her out.  She finally was able to confirm the change and give us security passes.  We'd have to line up the next day to get the boarding pass.  More fun!

I went outdoors for a much-needed cigarette and personal brood time and Richie went in search of the centralized hotel system for Heathrow.  My only instruction to him had been to get a smoking-permitted hotel.  I didn't care if it was twin, double or a bag of dirty bedding on the laundry room floor.  

He was successful and we were soon fixed up with the Park Inn Heathrow, including a cheauffeur-driven car to the hotel now and back to Heathrow at 11 a.m. tomorrow.  We'd just become gate dwellers until our flight departed.    It would be just like flying non-revenue.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Part II

We dined at The Craven Heifer Inn, in Colne.  Villages are rather sparse on the ground in and around the Dales and often you will find a restaurant, bar AND hotel all in the same set of buildings.  The Craven Heifer Inn is one of them. 

I interrupted myself to show you the pictures of the food.  My starter was billed as "Prawn Puffs" which came with a chili sweet sauce and a half a plate of fancy lettuce salad.

Frank ordered "gammon and egg" which interested me as to American eyes (mine) it looked like a large ham steak with a fried egg on top.  It turns out that "gammon" and ham both come from the hind l
Looking straight down on an Eton Mess

In all it's full glory...
eg of a pig, but gammon is cured with the bacon; ham is (usually) brined. 

Richie ordered an "Eton Mess" which is a wild combination of berries, ice cream, meringue, topped with toffee sauce and Chantilly cream.  If I can't get the picture to stand up right, my apologies. 

And Then We Went Out To Dinner...

Frank had taken the scenic route on the way to Herriot Country (and they do call it that) but after we toured, he used the more direct route.   We did go off that for a quick visit to Bolton Abbey and the countryside there.
Lovely, isn't it?

Anne's dinner - sea bass? over a tian of vegetables

This is my cheese, leek and onion pie, tian of vegetables

This is Richie's stuffed pork roast

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Is The Vet Inh?

Visiting James Herriot's office and home...He is the acclaimed author of  four books about his experiences as a vet in northern England.  His stories, which are woven around animals, are nevertheless, not about animals, but the people who own and tend them.

This was normally the office, but spruced up, it served as a holiday dining room

It was something of a shock (understatement) to come around a corner and see this!

Some of the various items used to cure farm animals and dogs and cats.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Haworth, Home of the Bronte Sisters

When our hosts Anne and Frank first suggested visiting the former home of the Bronte family, I was privately kind of jealous.  I remember thinking, "I'm a writer, too!  And no one cares about my old family home."  Yes, well, my mental health provider is working on this.

Haworth, the home village of these worthies, was first mentioned as a colony in 1209.  Today the main industry is tourism and the population in 2011 was a mere 6,379 souls.

The Brontes came to Haworth in 1820 because the pater familias was assigned there as the Perpetual urate of the church.  The church is conveniently located a short way from the house.  And they lived in that house for the rest of their lives, as short-lived as some of them proved to be.

By 1822, Mrs. Bronte and two of the older daughters - Marie and Elizabeth - had all died.  The only son, Branwell, because a dissolute drinker and died in 1848 with his family gathered around him.  As he had been considered a danger to himself and others prior to his demise, it is likely that some family members weren't all that grief stricken

Mr. Bronte died in 1861 at the ripe old age (for those times) of 84.  He had outlived not only his wife, but all of his children as well. 
Inside, many of the original fittings still exist.
This pharmacy was once owned by Anne's grandfather

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Getting Around

We bought Oyster cards when we arrived at Heathrow.  They are a distinctive blue and white, made like a credit card but instead of slipping it in and out of a slot, we merely swept the face over a yellow triangle at the entrances and exits for the Tube.  You have to use it to exit or the Tube people will assume you're still in there, riding aimlessly around and around.  Each card cost 20 pounds and the usual fare was around 1.44 pounds or approximately $2.16. 

Prior to actually getting there, I had kind of feared the Tube.  I worried that the cars would be filthy, the outsides covered in graffitti and an Arab terrorist in every car, lurking fiendishly.

Nothing could have been farther away from the truths that faced me -- spotless plastic seats, no graffitti at all and best of all, no apparent terrorists.

We hadn't had occasion to take a cab anywhere and I'd already read that the famous Black Cabs were roaringly expensive.  The drivers all have to pass an exam called The Knowledge, a series of tests on the location of every street in London.

But it was raining when we were ready to leave the hotel.  The Tube to Euston Station would require two transfers - during rush hour.  It would require me to pull a roll-on suitcase, topped by another bag while clutching my purse (the size of a satchel) under my left arm and then carrying an open umbrella over it all (and me.)   

It was imperative that we catch the train for which we'd bought tickets.  Richie was seriously annoyed; he hates spending money for a cab except in dire necessity such as to and from LAX.

The desk clerk called their pet cab company, but, alas - nothing for 30 minutes.  So the doorman was bid to go outside and flag one down.  The cab that stopped was a Black Cab!  Another tour goal score!

There is no trunk.  Instead the luggage is piled up against the driver's back seat with pull-down seats folded up behind the luggage.  No chance of your luggage being lifted at a long traffic light.

We had an uneventful ride to Euston Station, albeit in silence on Richie's part.  15 pounds and well worth it. 

Euston is a big station with an even bigger patio on one side.  This square is dotted with fast food restaurants, stone benches and people eating or smoking in the rain.

Our train was announced and we hastened to the track.  Other than a really long-looking snout, the Virgin train seemed no different from trains we've ridden in France.  The Brits did add a crescent moon shaped, hard plastic handle to the back of every aisle seat though.

After we got out of London, we saw rolling green fields bordered by hedgerows and short stone fences.  As we went farther north, the distant hills began to get steeper.  We were looking forward to new sites and seeing good friends.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Tate Modern Scenery

A view of the Millenium Bridge from the Tate Modern.  This Tate (there is another up river with classic paintings) was once an old power factory and like our electrical power plants, no windows.  The architecture was what I wanted to see at this one.  Museums are, generally speaking, full of natural light.

A modern, glass windowed viewing station that opened out onto a spacious terrace offered prime views of the Thames and surrounding buildings, but the rest of the place had to rely on artificial lighting.  And once again, it was Kensington Palace lighting - big patches of utter darkness when you crossed from one room into another.  I've read that Queen Elizabeth shuts off the lights when she leaves a room, but not that her subjects took her so seriously that they don't bother to turn ON lights when they enter a room. 

Oddities in London

After touring the Tate, we ankled over to the Albion (pub) for lunch.  Richie ordered the Classic Burger (10.20 pounds) and I threw caution to the winds and ordered the BBQ Pulled Pork with colelsaw and chips (9 pounds.)

London BBQ Pulled Pork
 I thought that it would surely come with malt vinegar as "barbecue sauce" since malt vinegar is the sauce-of-choice. 

Pubs are replacing the use of china plates for sandwiches and such with 2 in. thick wooden planks.  They aren't as sanitary as china - germs sink into the wood.

The older the building, the more likely the unisex bathroom will be up stairs.

Speaking of toilets, Tube station toilets are usually 50 pence per use, bu the ones at Blackfriar station are free!  Make a note

Trenchant sign in a pub bathroom:
A night you'll never forget/A night you can't remember.  Pace yourself!

Euston Station's Ladies room has a couple of "wide cubicles" for the anorexically challenged.  So - they DO have fat people there after all. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

At the "Friendly Bar"

Richie named it that.  We got off of the Tube at Earls Court, our station, and Richie spotted it across the street.  "C'mon, let's have a pint," he said.

It was clearly an old building, but the pub was well-kept-up with a crimson pressed tin ceiling and a long, faded red cushion on the banquette that ran along under a side window.  Neat little tables with chairs faced the banquette.

The place had filled up and the only vacant seats were on the banquette between two men and a really fat lady.  We approached and I asked if anyone was sitting there, pointing at the space.

"No, no!  sit yerselves down!" came the genial reply of the two gents.  The lady patted the space next to her and gestured welcomingly.  Gratefully, I started to sit down, but the space was so narrow due to the lady's bulk that I almost fell into the man's lap on the banquette.  I sat down and then down some more and finally bottomed out so to speak on the boards supporting the "cushion."  I apologized profusely to the man who waved it away.  "No worries, luv."

Richie went to the bar for a pair of Stella's (they finally put on a second shift to accommodate us) and I looked about me.  The lady was looking at me with open curiosity.  

Of course, she started talking to us.  Her accent was "foreign" but I couldn't tell from where.  Richie point blank asked her if she was from the Caribbean and she smiled mysteriously.  She said that she was going to be late for an appointment -- she'd only been sitting here trying to decide between a cab and the Tube.  She said that London's Tube was not very accomodating for the handicapped passengers.  

She said that with her great weight, she found stairs terrifying and exhausting.  But cheerfully added that she was happy being fat!  I told her that she was being a "fat-ist" like being an "age-ist" and she roared with delight.  

She turned to Richie and said that for him, she would make the time to answer his questions.  He leaned forward with interest.  Since she was nearly sitting on me, I didn't have any trouble hearing her as she launched into her difficulties learning French!  "A bit off topic," I thought to myself. 

Again she told Richie, "You can ask me anything!" 

"No, No" we protested sincerely.  But she never gave us a chance to ask anything as she launched into learning English, Spanish being her first language.  She asked me if I spoke French and I answered in it.  She responded (in English) about how hard English was to learn.  I would bet she speaks as much French as our cockatiel...

While I was thinking that, she kept on talking and waving a free hand.  The other hand was digging in her purse.  She pulled some money out and asked Richie to go to the bar for her for two shots of Bell whiskey in a small glass and a "baby" beer, adding graciously that he could have a drink on her.  He declined and went to the bar.  Later, he told me that when he ordered her drinks, the bartender looked up and said, "Oh. Her."  Clearly she was no stranger to the place.  

Now freshly fueled (she'd dumped the whiskey into the "baby" beer) she relaxed, seemingly forgetting her appointment which was quite possibly a conversational ruse at best.  She continued to be as dramatic as a Mexican sunset, waving her hands, making faces and talking incessantly.  She complimented me on my beauty (further proof she was loaded) and admired Richie's hair.

Desperate to say something nice back to her, I focused on her make-upwhich was flawless and I told her so.  She gasped in studious surprise and yelled, "That's the exact opposite of some of what my friends say!  Thank you! Thank YOU!" and lurching toward me began loudly kissing the left side of my face!  It was like being caught at Pompei but with cascading fat, not lava.  With every smear of lipstick on my face she said, "SMACK!"  I was appalled as you can well imagine and shrieked, "No! No!"

The men on my right thought this was hilariously good fun and very nearly slapped their thighs in glee.  Shortly after, they got up to leave, thanked us for the unexpected comedy turn, waved genially and departed.     

Then a tall, exceedingly thin black man wove into view.  He was clearly a happy drunk/drugger who greeted us by saying, "What are three lovely ladies doing in here?" the implication being that our beauty transcended our surroundings.  Richie turned his head and the poor guy hastily back pedaled, a routine reaction to the back of Richie's head.  He apologized profusely; Richie merely nodded.  It wasn't the first time and unless he gets a haircut, it won't be the last time either.   

The man could have been in his 50s but there was no way to know his age. For sure this was not his first beer of the day.  Nor, possibly, his first joint.  If I'd had the proper tools I could have taken out his appendix then and there, no anesthesia needed. 

He was enjoying the music only he could hear and from time to time favored us with a line of song.  He volunteered that Bach and Mendelssohn were his favorite composers.  I couldn't resist and slyly said authoratarily, "And Bobby Darrin..."

"Like, like" he said blissfully and sang another line of something.  It was as bizarre an hour as I have ever known.  Being enveloped in cascading fat was extremely disconcerting let alone the SMACK SMACK.  The fat lady looked ominously near to pouncing again and I knew we had to get out of there.

I looked at my watch, tapped it and said, "Richie, you know we promised to meet the Smythe-Braytons" and he said, "Yes, yes - let me finish my beer."  He did and we fled to the dubious safety of the street and its rushing traffic, all of course driving the wrong way.  The Kings Head up the road was much quieter.  For the moment, I'd had enough pub joviality for a day. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Blue Rooster

After lunch with Sherlock, we ambled over to Trafalgar Square, headed for the
National Portrait Gallery which is just behind and to the right of the National Art Gallery.

This caught our eyes almost immediately.  Why was it blue?  What was it about?  In the immortal words of art enthusiasts, "But what does it mean?"

When we got home, I Googled "Blue Rooster, London" and up popped a lot of articles about it.

Katharina Fritsch is the German artist who created it as a bit of whimsy to celebrate the British when they defeated the French at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  Ms. Fritsch told reporters that ultramarine is a French favorite color (who knew?) and roosters are also a symbol of the French.  I knew about the Napoleanic bees... but no roosters. 

The main exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery was the 2013 winning portraits.  I particularly admired one of a man, looking straight out at you, but it was tightly cropped on the right side of the man's head with at least a third of the canvas on the left side blank.  Very eye-catching.   

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lunch Time

After Richie floated off of the Eye, wrapped in bliss, we got down to more mundane matters, i.e., lunch.

We hiked over the Millenium Bridge to an area near Trafalgar Square where the Sherlock Holmes caught our eyes.    The downstairs is the pub part and upstairs is the more formal restaurant although one can eat in the pub part.

Richie ordered a Ploughman's Special (8.95 pounds) and we shared an order of garlic mushrooms in a cream sauce over crispy bread (which wasn't when the sauce settled in and made itself at home.)  5.95 pounds  I ordered a "giant Yorkshire pudding" with beef gravy and could manage only about one-third of it.  When the Brits say "giant,"  much like Texas' emphasis on size, they aren't kidding. 
This is a typical pub and restaurant - old building, tons of flowers.

The Ploughman's Lunch

The Giant Yorkshire Pudding - that's a normal-sized fork to give you an idea

Add caption
 is the second floor museum (so to speak).  The restroom key (unisex bathroom) was attached to a giant magnifying glass.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What the (London) Eye Sees...

Richie has been dying to go on the London Eye and since it wasn't raining (yet) we set off for that singular attraction.  District Tube (I think) to London Bridge where we cross the Thames and on down a river walk to the Eye.

He splurged and bought himself a FastTrack pass and got on much more quickly than regular ticket holders.  I went to an outdoor table area and wrote postcards, but it was very cold and very windy so I soon switched to an indoor cafe where we'd agreed to meet when he got off. 


Yesterday's mail brought Richie a letter that purports to be from "Fly The US Airlines" (no such organization exists) promising him two round trip airline tickets within the Continental United States plus a two night stay at any one of over 1,000 Marriott hotel locations.  And that the retail value of this award is up to $1,398.00. 

It is signed by one Elise Warren,, Guest Services Manager.

I Googled it and found multiple listings announcing it as a scam.

                                                    Caveat emptor.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 2 continued

We made our small purchases and left Harrods to get back on the bus.  And then we endured an endless ride around London - we passed Picadilly Circus three times! - until we finally got to Kensington Palace.    We weren't there to see Diana artifacts and just as well.  There is only a photograph of her in a room full of current royal portraits.

No, we were there to see an exhibit on Queen Victoria, who was born there.  It was very much drama (several actors in period costume) over substance.

They have a funny law there in that Richie paid 16.50 pounds admission but I got in on a "concession donation" for 13.50 pounds.  Once in, we went directly to the museum cafe where we split a very nice prawns and rosemary sauce sandwich, a sack of crisps and a bottle of water.

(a note of criticism)  British crisps are not.  They are softer than our potato chips and the bag of "sea salt" crisps must have only been exposed to a passing wisp of salty air.

Kensington Palace disappointed us.  We'd been expecting a sort of mini-Buckingham Palace, but either George II and his crew lived very simply or the Kensington Palace people cleared everything out in an effort to have changing exhibits.

It was this kind of showmanship - a long cushion in a window seat invites us to "Sit here on this window cushion to hear the walls whisper."  When you sit down, your weight turns on a tape of several people whispringt unkind comments about the royals via a hidden speaker.

Every other room and many of the corridors were nearly pitch black making it difficult to get around.  I didn't think to pull out my wind-up flashlight until we were walking back to the bus.  Happily this time, the bus behaved tamely and took us right to our stop.
This view looks back to the street and it's the route to Kensington Palace

This was the chair King George used to listen to people's plaints and tales of woe.

It took six young boys to carry this in the King's wake

Won "Best Dressed" 1593.
One of Victoria's summer frocks.  It was considered quite daring for her to wear muslin!  Horrors!  Muslin was for poor people.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 2 in London


This is how they dress for "authenticity"

One of the food courts

We woke up to rain and it didn't look like it would go away, so we planned to go see  some of the inside things on our list.  Accordingly, we walked back to the Stanhope Arms to catch the Hop On, Hop Off bus.   Yesterday we paid the 28 pounds each admission because you get 1 1/2 days with it.  Yesterday we did the joyriding and overview of London Bridge, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the Thames ... and never got off until we were back at our stop.

Today we bailed at Harrods which looks rather plain from the street, but is a glittering cave of wonderful things inside. 

This is a "regular" bus and I suppose you could hop on and off, but paying bus fare each time.

The memorial to the late Princess Diana and her beaux at the time, Dodi al Fayed, is at the bottom of an escalator from the ground floor. 

The pyramid in the center contains another pair of "eggs"- one for the champagne glasses they used That Fateful Night and the smaller holds the "engagement ring" (snort) he gave her that day.

Apparently this area is meant to be taken as an Egyptian shrine.

A burka-wearing mourner...

A better shot of the pyramid contents

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

We Knew There Would Be Differences

At the Stanhope Arms

Zeroing in...

Traditional Sunday lunch.  The puffy looking thing is the Yorkshire pudding and it goes wonderfully well filled with beef gravy!

Oh!  There's other people here!
Between Los Angeles and London, but we didn't expect them to start when we boarded the British Air flight. 

The first thing was:  a mandatory stop at two different show-your-passport podiums, followed by security and bag x-ray.  British Air boards from the back of the plane; none of this nonsense about putting First and handicapped on first. 

The seats each held:  a plastic-sacked small blanket, a pillow in a sturdy fabric case, an antimacassar for the top of back of the seat (to avoid hair oil on it?)  The back of the seat in front of you has a button to pull out and hang your coat!   The flight attendants all wear WW2 hats -- the kind worn back then, half cap/half beret designed to ride on the side of the head and partially encase the French twist of the hair.

After take-off, the drinks cart came rolling through  and when we had partaken, dinner was served.  Every one got the same Starter (Brit speak for appetizer) of mixed green salad with a balsamic vinegar dressing.  The Mains (we call them Entrees) were choice of:
Seared filet of British beef (after "mad cow disease" scares, am not sure just how good an idea it is to label it ...) with port wine sauce, creamed leeks, roasted pumpkin and roasted new potatoes     OR     Black truffle tortellini with chestnut sauce, roasted morel mushrooms (a huge portion) and dessert for all was strawberry swirl cheese cake.

For breakfast we were each given a box containing a cold croissant, no butter but strawberry jam,  a small sack of dried cranberries and a "health bar" that looked and tasted as if it had been made out of particle board.   

An uneventful landing, brisk trip through Immigration and on to the Tube to Earls Court, our stop.  We found the Rockwell easily enough, inquired about the nearest place to get a traditional Sunday lunch, left our bags and took off for the Stanhope Arms.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Random Thoughts from a Recovering Mind

And that would be from jet lag.  I've started transcribing notes and have made it to Day 2, but as I'm transcribing, I'm adding details, specific memories - in short: this thing called "writing."

This is a general topic and it's this:  the generic British do not like spicy or "hot" foods.  Before we ever left, a guy at Redondo Tobacco upon learning we were going to London, asked, "Do you like hot foods?" 

"Yes!" I enthused.

"Well, take a little bottle of Tabasco with you - only a few places have ever heard of it."  I laughed at the absurdity of carrying a little bottle of Tabasco around with me.

I rued my laughter when I realized that Burning Hot! to many of the English is:  (drum roll) malt vinegar, used on chips (fries.  "Crisps" are potato chips.) 

I ignored my first clue.  Aboard the flight to London, I decided to have a Bloody Mary.  What the hell - I wasn't driving! 

The flight attendant politely handed me a can of tomato juice and one of those little airplane bottles of vodka and a plastic cup of ice.  "Bloody" Mary indeed!  It was an odd drink and my tongue and brain kept waiting for the usual kick which never came.

At the hotel dining room, I ordered a gin martini.  "Of course, mohdam (madam" said in Britspeak.)   He brought a clear liquid in a short glass on the rocks.  I grinned with anticipation and took a swallow and thought I was hallucinating somehow.  It was sweet!  He'd used Sweet vermouth.  "  He tried again with dry but my fervour had faded.

Another late afternoon we went into a pub not far from the hotel and since it was a crowd of 30-somethings, I thought I'd have better luck.  When I ordered a gin martini, the bartender asked with interest, "What's that?"  I explained and he said, "We don't serve many mixed drinks -- just mainly beer and wine."  And shrugged.  Clearly the customer is not always right and he was letting me know it.  I sighed and ordered a gin and tonic. 

My advice is to bring the bottle of Tabasco.  You never know where you'll need it.  Oh! and you might import a bottle of the proper vermouth for a gin martini.  Gin, they've got!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two Very Weary Eagles Have Landed

More of a controlled fall into LAX which is not a reference to the landing which was quite smooth, but to our condition.  "Knackered" as they say in England.

Going to bed as it's 10:30 p.m. and we're sleepy.  Hoping this will do much to put us back into a normal circadian rhythm. 

No gym tomorrow, but a chance to unpack and start transcribing my notes.  I may have material up to December! 

Saturday, September 7, 2013


That's the initials for the British "Ta ta for now."  We are flying to London this afternoon.  We won't be there very long; we're billing it as the Tourists Overview of Famous Stuff in London.

We'll be flying British Air, a new experience for us.  Their Website says that for mid-afternoon departures, they serve "tea."  Pictured was a nice cuppa plus an overflowing basket of various pastries.  I won't drink the tea because it's got caffeine and I want to sleep most of the way, but I can probably makes serious dents in the goodies bowl.

In a (largely vain) effort to balance outgo vs. income (and outgo is currently ahead two to one) we've rented the house to members of a S.W.A.T. team,   in town for a convention of some sort.   A friend who is a former LA County Sheriff mentioned it in casual conversation and I jumped at the chance to get two for one -- reduced rent for household protection.

Richie Made the (Local) Paper!

Letters To The Editor, Daily Breeze

How About Using Super Scoopers to fight fire?

Re:  "Canadian Super Scoopers arrive" (Aug. 27)

Dear Sirs:

Great story about the Super Scoopers.  There's only one problem - instead of dropping water on a runway, why not into the Yosemite fire where it's needed and not for the amusement of the media?

Richard W. Murphy, Redondo Beach

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bacon Is So 2011 -- Or Is It?

Remember the publicity Denny's got with their Bacon Maple Sundaes (in 2011)?  I did and mentally snickered at all the bacon dishes I was seeing on Las Vegas menus.

We will gloss over the Bacon Roll incident at the Bellagio and move on.

One late morning heading toward noon, I had a bacon/lettuce/tomato/avocado sandwich at the Flamingo cafe.  With onion rings.  That cafe has a rather strange "breakfast" menu, if you ask me (and of course, no one did.)

When I discovered that the redoubtable Pinks Hot Dogs, famous in Los Angeles for 60 years, had opened a satellite stand in Planet Hollywood, I bragged the place up enough that our party was anxious to try it.  I saw no point in revealing to them that the first Pinks chili dog I'd ever had (and last) made me as sick as a dog for three days.  That was 40 years ago; surely Pinks had improved their chili. 

I ordered a Bacon Burrito which consisted of:  one 12-in. flour tortilla, stuffed with two hot dogs, two slices of American cheese, three strips of bacon, a splosh of chili and a handful of chopped onion ($7.99)  I could only manage to down about a third of it so I carefully re-wrapped it, stuck in my purse and then put it in our little room refrigerator.  I finally finished it off yesterday (Thursday.) 

My last bacon foray was at Center Cut, Flamingo.  I must say the ad for it was deceptive... It looked like this  Center CUT.  The real CUT is Wolfgang Puck's and it's in the Venetian.  Caveat emptor, eh?

I started off with a Caesar salad and then into the Trio Bacon Satay ($14) which consisted of three portions each of chili-peppered, blue cheese crusted and plain with pink rock salt.  Both the chili-peppered and the accompanying dipping sauce would have seared my tonsils off were they not already gone.  "Hot" is understatement. 

So bacon is clearly flourishing in Las Vegas.  Denny's is celebrating a "Baconalia."  Clearly I dropped the ball, Vegas; apologies.  Bacon is still chic. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

You Can't Win'em All in Las Vegas

Explanation:  Las Vegas (finally) installed pedestrian bridges over the major streets on the Stip after 1,600 people a year were hit by cars.  There are escalators up to them and down from them.

# 1    We'd decided to go to Olives, the Bellagio, for a light early dinner;  we hadn't had lunch, just breakfast.

We'd walked across the bridge and I was just turning right to take the down escalator when a man came barreling around the corner, head down, texting furiously and slammed his right shoulder into my right eye.  The blow was hard enough to snap my jaw shut and I distinctly heard the "click" when my teeth met.

"OW!" I said indignantly while others asked if I was okay and others called "Hey!" after the offender.  He finally responded some 10 steps away from me -- still texting -- and yelled over his shoulder, "Sorry!"  I yelled back sarcasticly, "Hey - what's a black eye?"

I brushed aside the fussing and clucking among our group and on we went to Olives.  The blow didn't leave a mark until the next morning when I found a dime-sized purple mark on my cheek.  My titanium-framed glasses had saved me from worse.

#2  Despite the fact that the restaurant was a sea of empty tables with only three people at the bar, we were turned away from the place.  "You don't have a reservation," we were told rather loftily.  Sensing that begging would do any good after a bit of groveling, we walked away.

Bellagio has 10 or more restaurents, but had objections to all that we saw.  "Too expensive!"  "I don't like (fill-in) food."

Finally we came to the Cafe Bellagio in the right hand corner of the Conservatory which did have seating for us.  In fact, we were given a big round table/booth in an open "window" overlooking the flowers.  Purring contentedly, we perused the menu.

#3  I ordered a Bacon Roll and a Thais salad and a glass of white zinfandel.  We all ordered and then, here came the food.  The waiter set down a platter of sushi in front of me!  Ten little bales of God onloy knows what - I recognized rice, seaweed, tiny little squares of salmon ... surely this wasn't a bacon dish!

I smiled and politely told the waiter it must belong to someone else in our party of six.  But he smiled back and said, "No, this is the bacon roll" - searching his mind, he said. "Like a California roll?"  Light dawned; I'd misunderstood "roll."  

He graciously took it away and brought me the shrimp cocktail I'd ordered as a replacement.  It was certainly good, but nevertheless, I was 0 for 3 in Las Vegas.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Las Vegas Diary - Friday, 8/39/13

Red and Barbara's flight from DFW came in 20 minutes later than ours so we had a joyous reunion at Baggage Claim.  In our shared cab to the hotel, the driver was loquacious (as so many are there.)  He was bubbling away excitedly about something he called "the link."

We soon discovered that "The Linq" is going to be a huge new shopping mall and hotel with the added attraction (drum roll) of the High Roller, a 550 ft. tall ferris wheel with a diameter of 520 ft.  A single rotation is expected to last for 30 minutes.  There will be 32 passenger cars, capable of carrying 40 people in each 225 sq. ft. "cabin."  Each cabin weights 25 tons.  I have to wonder if they've factored in the morbidly obese tourists...40 of them could bring down the Queen Elizabeth II.

Roll all of the above around in your mind.  The engine that drives it sticks out to the side from the hub and is about the size of two semi trailers.  Would you merrily climb aboard?  Me either. 

It is literally right outside the door of the Hilton Grand Vacations (time share) in which we stayed.  We had an up close and personal view of its construction, which is expected to be completed in the 2nd quarter of 2014. 

Nancy and Billy (Barbara's sister and husband) all hugged in the lobby and then we hiked up to Mon Ami Gaby's patio, Paris, which is a favored spot even when it's hot -- umbrellas shade the tables; misters blow idly over us and the white table clothes and silverware glean in the sun. 

Red asked our waiter Colby T. for "An ice-cold beah (beer)"* and he duly returned gravely bearing a silver ice bucket on a stand with a single beer centered in its ice.  Colby T was absolutely professional, but he had a great sense of humor and the balance to know just where to draw  a line.   He really brightened our meal.  

We returned to the hotel, unpacked and then we went from the hotel along the gardens and enormous pool at the Flamingo and entered the casino.  After awhile Richie and I ended up at the Garden Cafe (guess what it overlooks) which is an enjoyable spot because it has big picture windows.  One of the depressing things about casinos is that they are generally all artifical light (as well as maddening with the incessant jingling and ringing and canned music  played rather too loudly.)  We settled into playing quarter poker.

As we were the only people in the bar, the bartender was quite friendly.  he said that he'd worked at the Flamingo since the days of the Mobv and admitted freely that he preferred Mob management as they were generous whereas today's suits most definitely were not.  He added casually, "All of us bartenders are scheduloed to go on strike this Monday" (seeing our panicked faces) "But I doubt it'll happen - they're not organized enough."

We filed this information away and Monday afternoon (having forgotten all about it) when we arrived at the Garden Cafe for 3:30 libation, we were stunned to see -  no bartenders!  "Could it be true?" we murmured to each other in hushed tones.  We asked around and learned that the Garden Cafe opens at 4 p.m.  We were quite relieved.

*  Everyone but me is a New Yorker.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

We're Home!

Las Vegas still has plenty of money left so don't be deterred by going there.  If you run into mine, say "Hello" for me.

I noticed a new sign at McCarran Field - People 75 or older do not have to take off their shoes or light jackets.

Gee - start counting the birthdays!