Letters From a Bus
April 2008: Springtime Desert
1st entry for April

Bellagio, Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NV, Day Two at Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort, Site: 180

Tuesday, April 1, 2008 — Ten Months

April 1, 2008, Tuesday morning
Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, NV

Happy April Fool’s Day!  Today is the birthday of my long time friend, Pat Condy.  I just sent her an e-card.  Hope you have a fun day, Pat.

Pat and I go way back.  We met at Itel Corp. in Feb. 1979 when I was a tech writer and Pat was still in college and doing data entry part time.  We backpacked together twice — both times in the Sierra Nevada Mts. on the Muir Trail.  Here we are in Aug. 1985 at 12,100’ on Mather Pass.  Pat was twenty-eight.  I was forty-five.

(Once in awhile I have to remind myself that I didn't always feel so tired or look so old.)


Yesterday morning (Monday, 3/31) we got in our car and ventured into Las Vegas.  We’ve never been here before.  We were told to see the Bellagio for sure so when we saw the sign from the freeway we took the exit.  We found ourselves on Las Vegas Blvd. driving in heavy traffic slowly by a gigantic lake bordered by a sidewalk with lovely shady trees.  Then we saw the Bellagio garage entrance and pulled in over the lake.  We were afraid we’d be charged a parking fee in the gigantic garage but that was not the case.  We took an elevator from the second floor down one floor to the casino and stepped into….  Great Balls of Fire!  Or to be more precise — Great Flying Butterflies!

We stood in a gigantic lobby and Dennis said, “We’re in a different world.”  The Bellagio — and maybe all of Las Vegas, is Disneyland for adults.  We were totally unprepared.  We walked around like the local yokels we are, country bumpkins come to see the big city.  Giant flowers and butterflies floated below the ceiling of a lobby that was crowded with people waiting to register or check out of the hotel.  The concierge desk had two long lines to accommodate guests. (Created by Dale Chihuly, there are "2,000 dynamic hand-blown glass flowers peering from high above....")

As we entered from the garage elevator we saw the lobby to our right and the conservatory to our left. We didn't know which way to turn first. 03/31/08.

Adjacent to the lobby, we moved into an equally gigantic atrium, a room with walls and roof of windows.  The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden is a fantastical garden comprised of real flowers massed tightly around oversize sculptural flowers.  Gigantic watering pots pour showers of water onto the gardens. 

Everywhere, in large beds, we saw many varieties of perfect tulips.  Those of us who are gardeners were stopped in our tracks by the quantity and perfection of the tulips alone.  In the center was a path where we walked under arches of water.  This brought us to an aquarium where we could look at hundreds of beautiful butterflies and moths. 

Dennis walks on a path with arches of water over his head. He pauses to look through an aquarium window at this butterfly who is feeding from the tray. 03/31/08.
Masses of perfect tulips are the background for enormous flower buds, lady bugs, storks, snails, and frogs. This "Spring Celebration Show" will be on display until May 11th. 03/31/08.
It takes 140 horticulturists to arrange gazebos, bridges, ponds, water features and other unique features for each season. The personality of the Conservatory changes with each season.
Giant watering cans shower water into masses of flower beds. I am standing under a great tree with glass flowers — probably created by Dale Chihuly. If you read body language you can see that I'm already very tired — and we're just getting started! 03/31/08.

I have some history with Dale Chihuly so I was delighted to find a shop with displays of his incredible, glass, seashell shapes.

In early 1985 I wrote a magazine article for American Art Glass Quarterly titled, “Dale Chihuly; Teamwork and Spontaneity”.  (By then Dale had lost one eye but he continued to create his marvelous glass with the help of a team of glass blowers.)

I traveled to Seattle with my friend Dion Coshigano, the editor of Art Glass.  We interviewed Dale twice and he invited us to watch a glass blowing session at his art glass school, Pilchuck.  Dale was so easy and accommodating that my article practically wrote itself.  It was an amazing experience and I’ve followed his career with great interest ever since.

The Conservatory was surrounded on one side by the hotel lobby and on another a hotel hallway with shops.  A few of those shops opened onto the third side of the atrium.  On the fourth side was Café Bellagio, an enormous restaurant.  Of course, after a period of time we ended up going in for breakfast.  We got a view table overlooking the gardens and it was good to have time to sit and absorb this sight while we sipped on coffee and juice.  Food and service in this glorified coffee shop was actually quite good.  I indulged in a lobster omelet and Dennis had a frittata.  It is advisable not to have anything stuffed with seafood on a Monday. I had to laugh at myself. I kept thinking of Chef Ramsey and I wondered if he would reject the omelet.  The lobster was a bit chewy but I enjoyed it.  We didn’t eat again for the rest of the day.

Cafe Bellagio as seen from the Conservatory. 3/31/08 The Conservatory as seen from Cafe Bellagio. 3/31/08
Above the booths were enormous floral arrangements. 3/31/08 Sitting at our table and looking past drapes towards the entrance of an expensive evening restaurant that also fronts on the Conservatory. 3/31/08

Fortified, we walked through all the halls in a giant loop around the hotel.  We paused to look at menus in the gourmet restaurants, looked through windows or stepped out onto decks to see the huge pools surrounded by deck chairs below. 

We looked through the hotel gift shops and we even walked into the wedding chapel — chapels, actually.  James and Lilia keep saying they’re going to get married but they never get around to it.  I took some photos and an attendant gave me a brochure.  They should fly to the fantastical Bellagio and get married! To do it up right would cost upwards of 20K. To scrape by would cost perhaps 5K. For $1500. you can stage a proposal....

The sign outside the wedding chapel says we are welcome to enter. So I did and took a photo of one of the wedding rooms.

Outside in the hallway was a wonderful floral display. This is for my friend, Gina Doan who does wonderful floral arrangements. 3/31/08

After walking all around the resort we came back to the Conservatory and found this amazing chocolate shop. To the right is a glass chocolate fountain with white, medium and dark confectionary grade chocolate flowing down from the ceiling into overlapping shallow bowls. What a marvelous sight. I'm amazed I didn't run right over to the counter and buy some chocolate candy.
This is the world's tallest and largest volume chocolate fountain. It took two years to plan, design and engineer. Six pumps circulate two tons of chocolate in 500 feet of stainless steel piping. The chocolate circulates at 120° F in a climate-controlled enclosure maintained at 95° F . The chocolate rises 27 vertical feet and six ceiling spouts disburse chocolate 14 feet above floor leel. The chocolate cascades into 25 hand-crafted artistic glass vessels.
We walked out the front doors of the lobby and found the path that leads down to the lake.  This gave us a wonderful view of the other hotels surrounding the lake and on Las Vegas Blvd. opposite the Bellagio.  We walked along the lake under the shade trees until we came to the corner. 
When we exit the lobby we are able to walk down a ramp to the city street. The hotel rises out of sight to our left. Across the lake the high rise white building is Ceasar's Palace. 03/31/08
As we approach Las Vegas Blvd. I can look back at the full height of the Bellagio. Behind me and across the boulevard is Paris and the Eiffel Tower. There's a restaurant up there above the arch. 03/31/08
As we reach the bottom of the ramp by the street I can look back at the Bellagio and Ceasar's. We walked down this street to the corner where an escalator takes you up to the Rodeo Drive type of stores on the lobby level of the Bellagio. 03/31/08
Restaurants and stores face the water. You can enter them on the lobby level above the street. Above is the Georgio Armani exterior. Right is Georgio Armani seen from the interior hall. 03/31/08
The dancing fountain show begins at 3:00 PM. We will see it another day. As we walked by the lake we saw maintenance divers getting ready to check the spouts, pipes and valves. 04/02/08

The boulevards are six lanes wide and we noticed that at regular intervals there are pedestrian bridges so that you can safely move from hotel to hotel across the various streets.  We walked around the corner opposite Bally and Caesars and then climbed stairs to a pedestrian bridge. 

But we re-entered the building facing the lake and found ourselves in a hallway lined by the types of stores you would find on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  We paused to look in the windows of Georgio Armani and the like.  Eventually we found ourselves back at the Bellagio on the casino side.  We walked through what seemed like miles of aisles through the casino and finally emerged into the far end of the lobby.

By now we were tired so we decided that was enough walking and we headed back to the car to explore by driving.  We drove back towards our RV park on Las Vegas Blvd. and saw one fantastic building after another — each offering a new world of Egyptian or other theme wonders.  We must leave them for another day.

Above, Las Vegas Blvd. seen across the street from the Bellagio. Above right, an escalator on the Bally side leads up to a bridge that crosses this corner to the Bellagio. 04/02/08

No wonder people are attracted to Las Vegas.  You don’t need to gamble to enjoy yourself.  It is entirely predicated on Entertainment with a capital E.  The fantastic buildings, the grounds, and the signs that advertise all kinds of wonderful shows: it is Hollywood magnified and gone berserk.  Everything here is large and everyone appears to be in a hurry.  Drivers are impatient and hurried on these six lane boulevards.  

Meanwhile I need time out. I'm not impatient. I think I have a bit of whatever Dennis had.  I’ve felt lethargic and tired for days and my stomach also feels off.  So we rested for the rest of the day and skipped dinner.  I like this RV park and it is fun to walk around when we take the dogs out.  It is very large and we are in a pet section so we meet many other dogs and pet owners as we explore the lanes.

Elsa Walton, Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, NV, Tuesday, April 1, 2008