Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vicarious Tourism: Vegas, Baby!


How's that for a view?
After six months in Conakry I decided I was due for some serious pampering. It's been great being in Houston for the holidays - driving on real roads, making ridiculous Christmas cookies, acting stupid with my sisters, drinking non-shelf-stable milk - but for real over-the-top indulgence there's no place like Vegas. Mom and the sisters and I went for New Year's weekend and lived the high life for a couple of days, and it was great.

I had never been to Vegas before and quickly discovered that loud, smoky, crowded casinos riddled with headache-inducing lights are not exactly my scene. But that's okay, there are other ways to pass the time. We spent it mostly eating outstanding food, seeing amazing shows, and indulging in a truly outstanding spa experience. We all had luxurious hour-long massages and then spent an hour or so sweating in the steam room, soaking in the hot tub, and relaxing in the lounge with peppermint tea. There's nothing like admiring the lights of the Vegas strip from a hot tub to make you feel rich and famous. If I ever go back to Vegas I'll stay at the Mandarin Oriental and go to the spa every single day.

The other highlight for me was seeing Cirque du Soleil's "O". There are no words to adequately describe the jaw-dropping awesomeness of this show. I marvel that this show was even conceived, let alone that it is put into execution ten times a week. It's an aquatic circus show, but if you're imagining a cross between Barnum and Bailey and Ethel Merman you are so, so far off the mark. The "pool" built into the stage is a mechanical marvel, an incredibly complicated system of pumps and vacuums and platforms that raise and lower so that sometimes the water is deep enough to accommodate a breathtaking dive from the very top of the stage and other times there's no water at all. And that's just the logistics. I could go on, about the music and the set design and the art direction and the unbelievable feats of strength and flexibility, or you could just watch the preview.

So, I had a hell of a weekend and return to Texas much poorer than I set out, but it was totally worth it. I'm going to need some happy first-world memories to snuggle with in Conakry the next time the power goes out.

(Photo generously donated to the cause by Laura.)

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