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I feel like a vegetable today. And, as the last part of the word spells, my head was on the table (or desk) during my lunch today. Perhaps with some snoring and dribbling, to boot.

You see, we caught the red-eye back from Los Angeles last night. And since I just can’t sleep comfortably on planes, I think I’m less than highly effective today.

But, oh, what a great trip we had. It had been a complete two weeks since I last went to work. It started off with us going to my parents’ place on the Cape for Christmas Eve and Christmas. Then we came back to Boston to finish packing for our trip to California.

We arrived the evenining of December 26th and spent one night (playing card games, of course) with my old friend, Jeff, and his partner Paul. On Sunday, Randy and I drove out to Las Vegas (a miserable 6+ hour drive of hellish traffic). But it paid off when we arrived and found our dive of a hotel wasn’t too bad of a dive afterall. We stayed at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon, which sounds scary, but is far from it. Part of the Harrah’s chain that owns 1/2 of Las Vegas, we were located at the primest of prime interesections of the Strip and Flamingo. Our room overlooked (obstructed view, of course) the fountains of the Bellagio and the Eifel Tower of Paris. Across the street was Caesar’s Palace.

The room was remodeled within the last few years, but you could tell this was one of the old-school Vegas hotels from a prior era. Unlike most hotels with bathrooms next to the door (to help block the sound of the people in the hallway, the bathrooms at Bill’s are against the streetside wall. This makes your view smaller than it could be.  On the eclectic side, it provides a stained glass window in the bathroom that provides funky natural light.

Enough about the hotel, we didn’t spend much time there anywah since we were walking the strip, eating, gambling, eating, seeing a show, or eating. The last time we were there we saw “O” (the water-based Cirque de Soleil show. This time, we saw “Love”, the performance set to Beatles tunes. I loved it.

We also visited the new City Center development (kind of a town center for the strip). Aside from a few fun fountain features, the “Crystal” shopping arcade is a disorienting bust. The hotels behind it are nice, and the monorail between buildings is a nice touch. But the main Ghery-esque entry way is less than impressive.

We also drove out to Red Rock Canyon for a day and did some driving and walking around.

To build on to the nature theme, the next day we drove from Las Vegas to Death Valley, CA. The entire drive is through desert. The town of Beatty (where we stayed) was basically a cross-shaped intersection in the middle of the desert. Not much going on there but a saloon (where we had dinner), a Mexican restaurant (where we had a breakfast) and a ghetto casino that still used slot machines with quarters (I lost…sigh).

But the town was just minutes away from Death Valley behind some mountains. And what a view that mountain descent brings. The roads are straight (I’m talking 28 miles of straight road with not a tree or building in site. The entire national park is half the size of Massachusetts so I pinpointed on the map that part of the distance we were goign in our first day was actually a longer drive than from Boston to my parents’ place on Cape Cod. And on that entire drive we might have passed 20 cars (and not a single house). It’s amazingly deserted (fitting for a desert, I suppose).

My favorite parts that first day were the sand dunes (the kinds you see in movies with deserts but never see when you actually visit a desert in this country) and the dormant volcanic crater.

We returned to the park the next day and did even more driving, going from the highest reachable peak (by road) at well over 5,000 feet which abuts the lowest point in the United States at 287 feet below sea level. Across this flat, salty canyon was then the parks’ highest peak at over 11,100 (snow capped, despite sun and temperatures in the upper 60’s).

This was New Years eve saw we walked around the salt flats of the below sea-level basin before driving back to Orange County to spend New Year’s Eve with our friends.

The rest of the trip was a blur of lazy days and meals. We went to the beach one day, the hot tub one night, dinner in Corona del Mar one night, lunch in West Hollywood another, and to the LA Museum of Contemporary Art another day. After the museum, as the sun was setting, we went to the trendy Standard Hotel roof bar and watched as the sun set around the downtown skyline. It was so relaxing. I could have spent hours relaxing there (though, I hear it gets pretty crazy later at night, so maybe not).

On Monday, Randy and I drove up to Venice Beach for lunch, then along the coast of Malibu, before cathing up with some friends in Agoura Hills (outside 1,000 Oaks). We stayed with them for the night then drove out to Santa Ynez (a small…I’m talking tiny….town in a local wine country region. A few miles away was Solvang, a larger town built completely in the style of an old Danish Village. We’re talking windmills and the whole 9-yards. I suppose it’s kind of Disney-esque, but was still cute. And the drive over the mountain pass to get there was pretty spectacular, too.

We finished off the day in Santa Barbara, visiting the old Mission and then stumbling upon the gorgeous Spanish architecture of the Courthouse. We went in and there was a tower you can climb that gives you a panoramic view of the red-roofed buildings below, plus the ocean on one side and mountains on the other. Beautiful.

Then, we drove straight for the airport, with pit stops only to pee and refuel.

by 11:11PM (2:11AM back east), our plane was taking off. By 7:28AM, we had arrived in Boston.

Ah 2 weeks of sun and fun. I’m ready for a new life, I think.


  1. Comment by Godlen on January 7, 2010 8:56 am

    SoCal is gorgeous. My MIL lives 2 blocks from the Mission in Santa Barbara. We were there for a week (and San Diego) this past summer. 74 degrees and sunny every day in August. It was splendid!

  2. Comment by Will on January 9, 2010 11:50 pm

    I always like your travel descriptions. You go to great places and describe them extremely well.

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