Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is a shifting, disconcerting city with the provincial calm of sunlight-spattered streets, lined with secret gardens, town houses and small domed churches that look like cakes of brick sprout. It is also a dispersed city- an urban rift created by the megalomania of Ceausescu. The center of the city is undefined, even though Calea Victoriei remains the principal artery; fulfilling its new role as a luxury showcase for the city, it is once again an attractive boulevard. Bucharest begins to reveal its incommensurable charm once you start to wander through the maze of its neighborhoods by foot, keeping in mind that, if you walk through the city parks which feature numerous bucolic refreshment stands, Romanticism, though gone underground for a time, never completely disappeared.
Bucharest’s taxi drivers have a refreshingly liberal sense of equal opportunities, above all, when it comes to ripping people off, they view anyone as fair game, locals, foreigners, young, old, male, female, anyone who steps in the wrong kind of taxi can expect to be well and truly buggered. This city may just be one of the European capitals with the highest number of taxis per capita, authorities claim to issue about 10.000 permits each year, but everyone knows there are a lot more on the city’s streets. If you want to get by taxi to any meeting point in the city there are several rules you really have to keep in mind if you do not want to get outsmarted. Rule number one: you have to remember when getting into a taxi in this city there are two kinds: those which are operated by a tried and trusted taxi company (of course this is the good choice) and those who are independent drivers (and that is obviously the bad choice). You should avoid taxis with the number 9403 on it, because these are the independent ones, and you should be extra careful around Gara de Nord, Baneasa Airport, Bucuresti Mall, Piata Universitatii and Piata Unirii. Rule number two: only take a taxi that indicates the taxi fare per kilometer, in other words, a maximum of 3 RON (3.6 RON = € 1/ 2.5 RON = $ 1). Rule number three: before getting into a taxi you should ask the driver if he knows the street you are looking for. If not, you’re better off with another taxi, because Bucharest taxi drivers have the unfortunate habit of dropping customers off in the neighborhood, if they have indicated a nearby landmark as a reference. Rule number four: watch the meter, because it sometimes starts to turn rapidly once the passenger gets in. And rule number five, as a tip to all the people than plan to vacate in Bucharest: whenever possible, ask your hotel concierge to reserve your taxi for you.
Divided into six sectors, Bucharest is, similar to Paris, organized around piatas or ‘squares’, whereas sector one is the largest with an amplitude of 67.5 square kilometers. There is a ranger of beautiful streets compartmentalized in those six sectors. The Calea Victoriei, Bucharest’s main street, situated in sector one, leads from Kiseleff Boulevard to the north to the bank of the Dambovita River in the south. Despite all efforts, the Calea Victoriei illustrates a visibly Oriental penchant for disorder: it was not laid out in a straight line. The wealth of Bucharest is completely concentrated along the Calea Victoriei, and turns it into a mecca of shopping, as well as a showcase for western Luxury goods. In sector three you can find the city’s center of commerce in the 18th century, Lipscani, where tiny shops along Strada Lipscani used to sell linens imported from Leipzig back then, but in a poor state of repair and with an indigent population, Lipscani fell into decay during Ceausescu’s reign. A very interesting neighborhood is of course Dorobanti, situated in sector one, whose streets that head toward Piata Victoriei from Piata Dorobantilor are named for major European capitals: Strada Paris, Roma, Londra, among others.
The beautiful Churches of Bucharest
In the beginning I wrote about small domed churches of Bucharest looking like cakes from brick sprout in the midst of concrete complexes inherited from the Communist past – the ‘blocks’, as the Romanians call them. When you walk through the streets of Bucharest you come across the most beautiful churches you have ever seen in your life, above all the Old Court Church (Biserica Curtea Veeche), the city’s oldest church constructed within the walls of the Royal Palace, which is now in ruins (Strada Franceza). After a while of walking through the romantic streets of Bucharest you stop to notice every single church because there are so many of them existing. Constructed on the Metropolitan Hill in the 17th century, the Metropolitan Church (Catedrala Patriahiei) is dedicated to Saint Helen and Saint Constantine. (Strada Mitroploiei). Bucharest’s best choir sings at Zlatari Church (Biserica Zlatari) during mass. Situated on the Calea Victoriei the goldsmiths guild built this church in 1715.
Ceausescu’s Palace is the most controversial building in Bucharest, whose construction began in 1983 on Ceausescu’s orders, who razed an entire neighborhood to the ground – an area that has often been called historic. In truth it was an outlying neighborhood with winding streets, low houses and numerous small churches. Its residents were evicted precipitously and relocated an edge of the city. It took 200 architects, 300 engineers and 20.000 workers about six years to construct this enormous white mass that swallowed about 20 billion lei (RON), but the construction was unfinished when the dictator was deposed in 1989 and it remained unchanged for several years as the Bucharest government did not know what to do with the People’s House. Today this building is known as the Palace of Parliament and became a tourist attraction. A forty-minute guided tour takes visitors through the ceremonial rooms. The Modern Art Museum is now located in the rear section of the building. Concerts and conferences are held here, and it has been used as a film set, notably for Costa Gavras’s ‘Amen’ – for which the walls were covered with icons.
Neither the romantic facets nor the beautiful constructions in between several blocks full of Romanian history will be forgotten if you ever visit this city. Marvelous churches, enormous Universities, Palaces and ruins that tell you a story about the history of this charming country will stay in your mind and remain there forever as a wonderful memory of being acquainted with a shifting, disconcerting and dispersed city called Bucharest.
Flashy, colorful and open-minded...that was Vienna’s motto on July 4th, 2009 when the 14th Rainbow Parade took place in the streets of 1st district, the Ring Boulevard, one of the most exclusive and most beautiful streets of Vienna, which is on this special day staged as ‘the Street of Republic’.
Every year, since its first Organization on June 29th 1996 by Andreas Brunner, Christian Michelides, Guenter Strobl and Hannes Sulzenbacher within the ‘Austrian lesbian- and gayforum’, over 100.000 people travel across their constraints and want to be a part of this very special and unique day in Austrian History in connection with the gay and lesbian community. As an official political demonstration the Rainbow Parade advocates for solidarity, tolerance, equality and equal opportunities for gays, lesbians and transgender people in Austria and works parallel to Germany’s Christoper Street Day. The name for this famous event was brought up by Mario Soldo and his thought of incorporating the rainbow-flag, one of the most-known and spread symbols for the homosexual culture.
For the homosexual community in Austria the Rainbow Parade does not only symbolize standing up and fighting for equal rights and opportunities, but also removing the scales from a lot of people’s eyes and showing the world outside that the homosexual community is open-minded to every citizen of Vienna and kind of invites everyone to celebrate and demonstrate with them. According to Mahatma Ghandi’s non-violent resistance the gay, lesbian and transgender community fights against discrimination and for freedom for the full expression of their personalities. Though homosexuals have to face the issue of being politically unprivileged, the Parade shows a political background on the whole scenario of the Rainbow Parade and even various political parties show their respect and party with the homosexual community on this very special day, among all the Social Democratic Party of Austria and the Greens Party. Once again, the main focus of the 14th Rainbow Parade was the homosexual community arrogating a statute of a civil union for co sexual relationships. Minister for women’s affairs Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek from the Social Democratic Party of Austria and Ulrike Lunacek, Europe assembly woman of the Greens Party proclaim at the closing event of the Rainbow Parade on the Schwarzenbergplatz that they are very sanguine that this would be the last Parade without a law for a civil partnership for homosexuals.
Showing that the homosexual community not only cares about the political situation of gays, lesbians and transgenders in Austrian, an own truck was dedicated to commemorate gays and lesbians in Iran. The truck of the organizers of the Rainbow Parade called HosI (Homosexual Initiative) drove with the Motto ‘HosI: Since 30 year a Hit’, because this pressure group celebrates its thirty years of existence. Every year, after the main march around the Ring Boulevard took place, thousands of people assemble at Schwarzenbergplatz, where the closing event of the Rainbow Parade takes place and where politicians hold speeches and celebrities show their respect through performing their songs on a big stage with draped with the rainbow flag. This year, Valerie, a very famous Austrian singer, Lutricia McNeal, a well-known international singer and many others took their places in demonstrating for the equal rights and opportunities for the homosexual community. The whole march for equal rights, civil union and tolerance ends up in a big party where those thousands of people who assemble are having a wonderful time, full of music, love, tolerance and respect. At 10 p.m. the whole Parade ended with the well-known and famous ‘Blue Danube’ by Johann Strauss, just like it has to be for an event of the Danube-Metropolis.
Beyond all this happy an frolicsome party mood and peaceful demonstrations, there are still a lot of problems unresolved and questions unspoken. What happens to the homosexual community politically in the future? Will they ever be equated in rights and opportunities? Will all this fight and effort one day turn out aided and bring up those issues the homosexual community is fighting for so long and so hard? Problems that will remain unresolved until society finally takes a few steps forward to embrace equality of all kinds of human, whether they are gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgenders, because all that really matter is that we are all one of a kind, humans, with one blood and one need… to be loved.
San Francisco is a beautiful city that is really worth visiting. Thousands of tourists visit the city every year attracted by its steep rolling hills that are climbed by the famous cable cars, the chilly summer fog, the fabulous mix of modern and traditional architecture and of course because of San Francisco’s word famous landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.
When you visit the city you want to see all it has to offer in a short amount of time. Due to the special architecture of San Francisco vista points where you can get a great view of the city are very much searched after. Obviously in many cases you have to pay for getting a wonderful view of San Francisco, but not always.
I will share the best and greatest tips for fantastic views of San Francisco with you in this article. I got those tips just 2 days ago from the concierge of the Transamerica Pryamid, on which you unfortunately can’t go up anymore, and tried them out for you.
You know that they say that “the best things in life are free”! This is also true for the travel tips I will share with you – they are all free, meaning that you can enjoy a spectacular view of the San Francisco area without paying any money for it.
1. Enjoy an amazing view from the Grand Hyatt
The Grand Hyatt San Francisco
The view from the Grand Hyatt San Francisco
The Grand Hyatt near Union square is one of the most well-known hotels in all of San Francisco. Its Grandviews Lounge and Grandviews Restaurant atop of the big hotel offer spectecular views over the San Francisco bay area. This makes the Grand Hyatt a place worth visiting even if you are not staying there as a guest.
However, I heard that despite of the great view the food there is pretty expensive. Therefore, just go up to the 39th floor breakfast buffet at around 11am. I was really amazed by the fantastic view and the personell didn’t even bother to talk to me for the 15 minutes I took pictures there. The views of northern beach are really lovely.
2. Free glass elevator views from the St. Francis Hotel
Westin St Francis Hotel San Francisco
Elevators at Westin St Francis
Pretty close to the Hyatt you will find Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square. The hotel features five outside glass eleavators that will give you amazing views of the city when going up the building. And it’s all for free. I walked through the lobby and simply took one of the turbo elevators mounted externally up to the 32nd floor. It felt just like a great ride in a theme park…be sure to go up to 32 and down to 10 multiple times for maximizing your fun
3. De Young Museum – combining fine arts and fantastic views
De Young Museum at San Francisco
View from De Young Museum
The De Young Museum is a modern building complex that houses interesting exhibitions and collections. In case you are not to keen on art the De Young is still a place of interest as you can go up to the free top viewing lounge of the De Young Museum tower. Albeit “only” 12 stories high this is a GREAT view to the ocean beach area. You will be astonished by the beauty of tower’s 360-degree-view. I recommend you bring your binoculars so that you can make most out of the view.
4. Look at San Francisco from Twin Peaks Hill
Twin Peaks Hill in san Francisco
View from Twin Peaks Hill
While you are near the Golden Gate Park you should get a taxi up to the “Twin Peaks” hill of San Francisco. There might be some tour busses up there, but I don’t recommend it as the aprox $12-$15 for the Taxi take you up just when you need it, not when others planned it. The view from the two hills with an elevation of about 922 feet in the center of San Francisco is beautiful provided you have wind and clear weather. Then, when you want to go back ask some tourists that have cars very nicely and I’m sure they will give you a lift down to Height Ashbury again. After shopping around there you can easily take the 71 back to market street.
5. On top of San Francisco in the Bank of America Building
The Bank of America Building in San Francisco
Carnellian Room in San Francisco
The Bank of America Building is located in San Francisco’s financial district. At 3pm go up to the 52nd floor of the Bank of America Building to the so-called Carnellian Lounge. There you can ahve a little cocktail for relaxation and enjoy a fantastic afternoon view of the city. If you ask the staff very nicely they may also let you into the main dining room that I have been in as well.
6. The unique view from Marriott Hotel
The well-known Marriott Hotel
Baybridge and Oakland from the Marriott Hotel
The Grand View Lounge of the Marriott Hotel at 4th stress is “only” 42 floors high and is very crowded around 5.30. If you want to get a window seat to take full advantage of the unique view offered by this bar I’d advise you to be there earlier. Have a nice drink and enjoy looking down on the busy streets of San Francisco.
7. Spectacular views from a San Francisco landmark – the Coit Tower
The Coit Tower is a San Francisco Landmark
From Coit Tower you have a lovely view of San Francisco
You can see the Coit Tower already from afar. Built atop of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco’s Pioneer Park the tower offers a fantastic view of Golden Gate Bridge, Aquatic Oark, Alcatraz, Angel Isand, Treasure Island, Pier 39, Lombard Street, Nob Hill and the financial district of the city. Admission is charged for going up the tower in an elevator and paying that money is really worth it. However, if you need to save money for another San Francisco attraction you can simply check out the lobby murals and outside vista points for free.
8. Looking at San Francisco from afar – Sausalito
The city of Sausalito is close to San Francisco
Great view from Sausalito
Sausalito, small willow grove, is a city located in the San Franciso bay area. Located near the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge it offers lovely views of the whole San Francisco bay area on the other side. You can either access the city via the Golden Gate Bridge or go over from San Francisco by ferry. Of course you will eventually have to spend money to get there, but the beauiful views of San Francisco that you can get there are all for free. A trip to Sausalito really pays off on a day with nice weather.
9. The secret vista point Tank Hill
Tank Hill is a secret vista point
Tank Hill View
Tank Hill is one of the hidden gems in the city of San Francisco. Many people who live in San Francisco haven’t even heard of this beautiful spot from which you can get some of the best views of the city. On a clear day the small park the panoramic view is amazing and the place is never crowded, so you can joy the tranquility of the place. You will have a slightly different view than from Twin Peaks as Tank Hill is closer to the ground and can discover all details of the landscape surrounding you at a bird’s eye view.
10. Having a relaxing view from Corona Heights Park
Corona Heights Park in San Francisco
View from Corona Heights Park
If you rather want to enjoy a spectacular view surrounded by nature rather than from a skyscraper Corona Heights Park is another place to check out. Despite the altitude being lower than on Twin Peaks Hill you can enjoy nice views of the city from there. The park is less touristy and more relaxed than Twin Peaks and so you can easily sit back on one of the park benches and take a glimpse of Civic Center, Hayes Valley, Potrero Hill and Mission. It’s the perfect place for unwinding and letting your thought wander.
Year after year the townsfolk of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba celebrate on April 30th (or on April 29th if the 30th is a Sunday) a very unique and joyous day, universally known as the Queen’s Day.
Queen’s Day History
Originally intended by the Liberal Union to be a day of national unity in the Netherlands it all found its start in the celebration of the birthday of Princess Wilhelmina on August 31st 1885, where it was called Princess’ Day (Prinsessedag) until the Coronation of Wilhemina five years later, in 1890, where the day finally got its today’s well-known name Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag).
Although Queen Wilhemina almost never attended such festivities on Queen’s Day, it turned, with Queen Juliana, who ascended to the Dutch throne in September 1948 to a national and international jollification which thousands of people from around the world attend every year, to honour the Queens of the Netherlands. Queen Juliana’s date of birth was April 30th and because of that fact this day was celebrated every year on her birthday, and after her daughter Queen Beatrix succeeded over her, she decided to keep the holiday on April 30th as a tribute and an honour to her mother Juliana. And since that day, the Netherlands celebrate their Queen’s birthday every single year, to honour her and to pay tribute to the throne. Every year, since her coronation Queen Beatrix visited the Queen’s Day and celebrated it with the townsfolk of the Netherlands.
The Calm before the Storm
Until this year’s Queen’s Day, it was kind of a miracle, that there has never been any kind of scandal or inauspicious incidents, (except for the year of 2001, when the Queen’s Day visit of the Royal Family has been cancelled as there was worry about maintaining the quarantine measures to control an ongoing outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease) but that just seemed to be kind of the calm before the storm. But like usual, changes occur and so it happened that this year, when everybody expected to celebrate a usual Queen’s Day one man planned something different. A man, authorities released that the man was called Karst Tates, tried to attack the Dutch Royal Family during a Queen’s Day celebration by crashing his car, a black Suzuki Swift, accidentally close to the Royal Family’s bus.
On this Thursday, where everyone just wanted to celebrate frolicsome and have a good time, five people were killed, and another twelve were injured during in this incident in the Dutch town of Apeldoorn. Among these twelve, five have been injured very seriously, including the driver of the vehicle which crashed into the low metal railing along a column on the side of the road. Suspiciously the vehicle appeared to be heavily damaged even before the actual crash transpired. Until now, the reason for this affair still is completely unclear and inexplicable. As the Royal Family’s bus moved along the street through the crowd, who were behind the barriers off the road, a black vehicle zoomed past it. The crowd luckily stayed safe, because of being sheltered through the barriers but security officials and journalists including many camera men, were in the road as the car went by and finally got stopped by a monument.
Members of the Royal Family had to see the whole scenario, gasped in shock and then quickly sat down as the bus continued driving to make sure that the Royal Family remains safe. The police announced that the driver came right to hospital badly injured and being charged with trying to attack the Royal Family, nights after his attack, he died by reason of his bad injuries.
The Queen’s Day is not only famous and well-known for the celebration of the birthdays of the Queens of the Netherlands throughout the centuries but for its free-market all over the country where anybody is allowed to sell things on the street, comparable to nationwide car boot sale or a flea market. Many people set up stalls or blankets in the parks, on sidewalks and even on the roads themselves, which is possible, because cars are banned on some streets. It is kind of a tradition that children do sell their cast-off toys and clothes while entrepreneurs do sell food, beverages and a wide range of other items.
Besides the traditional free-markets there are a lot of other activities on Queen’s Day taking place, such as typical activities just for children or performances of music or other entertainment for money. With the years the Koninginnedag developed to obtain the character of an open-air party, with a variety of concerts and special events taking place in public spaces, particularly in Amsterdam, which attracts year after year about 450.000 to 850.000 people from anywhere around the world.
The Color Orange
This very special day, which is rich of traditions and customs, is marked with the color of orange all over the whole country, as a reference to the colors of the Royal Family, who actually comes from the House of Orange-Nassau. Everywhere you look you can see a variety of orange banners, orange colored foods and drinks and an inconceivable amount of orange clothing and a range of interesting as well as creative accessories, sometimes it even occurs that you can see the water in fountains being dyed orange. Those who do not dress in the traditional Queen’s Day color are usually dressed in the national colors red, white and blue.
Night follows Day
After the Queen’s Day traditionally and chronologically appears the Queen’s Night, which is, just like the day, a whole night full of party and music. Many bars and clubs throughout the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam or The Hague, arrange special events catering to revelers that last all night long. This tradition found its commencement in the early nineties when Queen’s Day riots were an increasing problem in The Hague, so tenants of clubs and bars came up with the idea to convince the rioters that continuing the celebrations is a much better way of spending the Queen’s Night.
Obviously no one will ever forget this tragic incident that cast a cloud over the usually happy and glad Queen’s Day in April 2009, but as always in history people and the tide of events will move on and maybe next year the loss and the pain will be a little bit forgotten when the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba celebrate the Queen’s Day of 2010.
Last week on the 12th of July 2008 the 13th Regenbogenparade took place in Vienna, which is a street festival for the rights of gay people always attracting homosexuals from all over Europe. This year 120.000 spectators, among them many tourists, gathered along the sides of the street and had a look at the spectacular outfits presented in the colourful parade to the rhythms of classical music and techno. Due to the European Football Championships the parade also had a football theme: “No more offsides!” whereby the organisers called for the discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people to stop.
Regenpogenparade means rainbow parade in English. The name for the event was chosen as the rainbow flag (or pride flag) is a symbol for the homosexual culture. The original rainbow flag was introduced in 1978 at the San Francisco Freedom Gay Parade consisting of eight stripes in different colours that each has a deeper meaning. Pink stands for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity and violet for spirit which are all important themes for the gay community.
The Vienna Rainbow Parade was started in 1996 in order to emphasize solidarity, tolerance and equality for gays, lesbians and transsexuals. It should remind people of the first upraise of lesbians and gays against the police in June 1969 in New York on Christopher Street. This is also why there are many similar parades around the world on the so-called Christopher Street Day. While preparing for the event the gay community as well as clubs, bars and shops in Vienna host several events every year with the theme “Gay Pride” in the 29 days before the Vienna Rainbow Parade.
Ever since its start the parade has been a great success with a huge, colourful crowd walking down the Ringstraße (the grand boulevard surrounding the inner city of Vienna) and passing by Vienna University, City Hall and the Parliament finally ending at Heldenplatz, a huge square where a huge open-air event takes place after the parade has finished. This event usually also features prominent acts and celebrities.
At this year’s event Right Said Fred and Kosheen partied with the big crowd celebrating their lifestyle on the streets of Vienna. However, the event is not all about partying; it is also there to remind people of the equality of the gay community and also of risks of this special lifestyle. Therefore, a minute’s silence was held for the remembrance of people who died from AIDS because of their sexual preferences.
The 48 groups who presented there crazy and creative costumes on the parade also showed that the event wasn’t all about fun, but definitely had a political background too. The call for the legalization of gay marriage was clearly in evidence throughout the whole parade. In an act of solidarity two rainbow flags were hissed by politicians on the Parliament for that special day.
Due to the good weather and the immense efforts of the organisers and participants of the parade the event could achieve a visitor record this year. This makes it one of the most important events for gay rights right after the Lifeball Austria’s famous AIDS charity event held every year in the Vienna City Hall that attracted popular celebrities such as Elton John, Sharon Stone, Linda Evangelista or Kylie Minogue over the last years in order to raise money.
Time will tell if the demands of the gay community proclaimed in this demonstration will be heard and fulfilled by the Austrian politicians. In any way the Vienna Rainbow Parade 2008 was a huge success and people here in Austria look forward to the 14th Rainbow Parade that will take place in 2009. If you happen to be in the city around that time, this is definitely a place to go!
Welcome to the ‘city within a city’ – Rockefeller Center. The project started with the intention to build a new opera for the Metropolitan Opera but was changed due to the drop out of the Metropolitan after the stock market crash in 1929. John D. Rockefeller Jr. stated “It was clear that there were only two courses open to me. One was to abandon the entire development. The other one to go forward with it in the definite knowledge that I myself would have to build it and finance it alone.” Thank god he chose the second option.
But those mundane facts give no hint of the excitement to be found within those boundaries. Built on top of underground corridors, known as ”the catacombs” which stretch from 47th Street to 51st Street, the area is home to restaurants, shops, NBC Studios, a skating rink and much more.
Take a stroll around the plaza and watch the ice skaters, or join in! From the plaza level (the rink is sunken) above the skaters you can see the giant, prone Prometheus sculpture.
Above the gilded Prometheus – bringing fire to mankind – is the massive 70-story RCA (now General Electric) tower, housing the Rainbow Room and the observation deck. The Rainbow Room is on the 65th floor and makes for a memorable meal to accompany unforgettable Art Deco décor.
The observation deck, Top of the Rock, has re-opened after a 20-year closure in 2005 and the view is simply breathtaking. On the 20 foot wide viewing area people have the chance to enjoy a 360 degree view of New York City.
The deck sits on top of the famous Raymond Hood designed RCA Building which is now named GE Building due to the acquisition of RCA by General Electrics. Home to the well-known, and still going strong, Radio Corporation of America, the tower is an architectural landmark. It is also well known for the famous picture of workers lunching on a steel beam without harnesses taken by Charles C. Ebbets in 1932.
Should you be visiting during the Christmas holiday period, you can watch the lighting of the 50 foot (or more) Christmas tree here. Don’t forget to walk around and spend some time taking in the sights, including the huge Atlas statue bearing a ringed world on his shoulders.
Shops line several of the ground level buildings, including the popular Nikon House which attracts photographers from all over the world. All around are ample opportunities to find things and people worth snapping, as well. This part of the complex is heavily frequented.
But the shops and restaurants don’t stop at ground level. In the Underground Concourse fast food and other dining, clothing boutiques, card stores and a blizzard of other stores can be found. For those who missed it uptown, the Metropolitan Museum has a store in the complex as well.
Due to the nearby subway entrances running through the concourse, travel to and from the Center is easy from any part of the city.
The Las Vegas Strip is popular all over the world for its glamorous hotels and casinos. The Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas is one of the most elegant complexes and was inspired by the Lake Como resort of Bellagio in Italy. Gambling, entertainment, dining and accommodation are first class at the five diamond establishment.
The hotel was featured many movies but most prominently in Oceans Eleven and Oceans Thirteen which starred George Clooney and Brad Pitt as part of a team of gentleman thieves who intended on robbing casinos. A fictional vault of the Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas was indeed robbed in that story! The hotel was opened in 1998 and cost a staggering $1.6 billion to build. The interior is luxuriously furnished with fountains and the lobby ceiling is decorated with colorful hand blown glass flowers.
The grounds are also worth visiting and the 18 acre artificial lake at the front of the hotel is the location for the much loved Fountains of Bellagio display of music and lights. The musical extravaganza is repeated throughout the day and features a variety of music including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Aaron Copland and Gene Kelly. The natural world is also on show at the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens which has free admission and the gardens are open 24 hours a day.
The Bellagio rooms contain a flat screen TV with pay per view movies, mini bar and an in room safe. There are numerous market stores in the Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas complex including Tiffany and Chanel. Guests can choose between six different swimming pools. Dining at the Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas is also an experience. There are several restaurants including the award winning Le Cirque, a French cuisine experience by the lake. Japanese and Chinese restaurants are also first class and there is a traditional steakhouse.
The Spa and Salon offers a variety of treatments for guests of the Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas including facials, yoga and water massages. Fitness equipment is also available to have a good workout. A personal instructor is on hand to give advice.
The poker room attracts professional poker players, who take advantage of the high table limits and call it “The office”. The Bellagio has hosted several tournaments of the World Poker Tour. It is rare for a Las Vegas hotel to have a permanent show but the Cirque du Soleil’s production of ‘O’ is outstanding. It’s an aquatic show featuring synchronized swimmers, divers and acrobats. It’s a combination of street theater, folklore traditions, martial arts and circus fire stunts.
The astounding Cirque du Soleil is a world famous acrobatic act… and still so much more. If you have an image of an old time circus with clowns and acrobats, be prepared for a shock. Cirque du Soleil has all this and much more but in a form that you have never seen before.
With dozens of artists – tumblers, fire-eaters, clowns and others – the show has many of the traditional entertainers but that’s already where the similarities end. The difference is immediately visible the very moment you see the entertainers. Carefully crafted makeup and costumes, it has to be seen to be appreciated. Deep blue or orange suits with tie-dyed designs, Chinese red capes and kaleidoscope makeup are only the beginning of a wonderful experience.
The performers are the best acrobats from all over the world. Displaying their talents inside huge arenas that seat over 1,600 they astonish audience members with their skills. But those skills are in service of the most unusual, individual and innovative choreography you can imagine.
Whether it’s the Aerial High Bar act making death-defying leaps that seem as if they truly can fly or the Alexis Brothers with their amazing tumbling the shows never let up for a moment. For 90 minutes at the Mystere Theatre, the audience is agog with wonder as they watch how the show unfolds. At the MGM the KA show dazzles the eye. The O performance is as wondrous as its title signifying ‘everything’.
One of the highlights of the Cirque du Soleil are definitely the dancers. Combining traditional movements from their native countries with modern twists and turns that surprise at every step, the artists leave you with something to remember for a long time after the show has already ended
But the show isn’t all just traditional high wire acts, comedy or dancers in new costumes. Every show has its own theme that weaves and tangles and then resolves like a complex detective story. It might be necessary to attend a show several times to unravel all the mystery that’s packed into the performance.
Performances can be crowded. Once an insider tip, Cirque du Soleil has taken the center stage in Las Vegas and became an important part of the whole ‘Vegas experience’. Like many shows in Las Vegas, ticket prices are a bit high but a web search might yield a discount with one of the many available Las Vegas Vouchers.
Well worth the price, the Cirque du Soleil is an unforgettable theatrical experience. Don’t miss seeing it in the Desert City of Lights. Whether O, KA or Mystere, or any of the several other shows that are brought forth over the months and years, Cirque du Soleil will always leave you guessing what’s next and asking for more.
MGM has a long and glorious tradition as an entertainment company. After its foundation by Marcus Loew in 1924 it became on of the leading film studios in Hollywood. MGM was always known for having a large variety of stars and also of putting them in one big movie like “Grand Hotel” in 1932 with stars such as Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. But in the last decades of the previous century, the company branched out to other forms under the lead of Kirk Kerkorian. The MGM Grand is one excellent sample.
Completed in 1993 and located on the Strip – a four miles long boulevard filled with the largest casino, hotel and resort properties in the world – this 30-floor hotel covers almost 7 acres and houses over 5,000 rooms. In addition, the site offers a 380,000 square foot convention centre, the CBS Television City in Las Vegas and one of the largest casinos in town. At over 170,000 square feet you’ll find more games than anywhere else.
If you’re in the casino you should grasp the opportunity and enter the Lion Habitat. Behind glass walls you can observe lions lounging on an artificial savannah so close that you might think you could reach them. They’re changed on a regularly basis and have a permanent home at the owner’s ranch about a dozen miles outside of Vegas.
Watching the lions is free and you can take a picture (without a flash of course) with the animals in the background, then walk over to the gift shop and buy something to support them. A portion of the proceeds goes to preserve these majestic creatures.
The perception of Las Vegas and the MGM Grand in particular, changed over the past 20 years. The city came a long way from its gambling image to a city which offers all kind of sources for family-friendly amusement. The MGM Grand carries that theme to its pinnacle.
There’s the elegant La Femme production that celebrates the ‘artistry of the nude’, with 13-ballet trained dancers. The show is in the tradition of the Crazy Horse in Paris and is equally tasteful. It’s also possible to do your own dancing at the MGM recreation of the popular New York Studio 54. Undoubtedly tamer than the original, it offers plenty of opportunities for getting a ‘high’ in a drug-free way.
The world famous Cirque du Soleil offers its dazzling hire wire show KA at the MGM. Combining world-class acrobatics with epic-scale theatre, KA tells the tale of Imperial Twins on a journey to fulfil their destinies. If you want to narrow down a Cirque du Soleil performance to just one source, it would be an Asian theme. It offers an array of martial arts moves elegantly combined with the troop’s world-renowned acrobatics.
The hotel itself is a form of high-wire entertainment for guests. After the First World Hotel in Malaysia the MGM Grand is the largest hotel in the world if it comes to rooms. Besides the over 4,000 regular rooms, there are 751 suites but that’s not where it stops. The Skylofts are 51 luxury rooms within the hotel that offer butlers, catering and every form of pampering imaginable. But there is the small matter of the fee – between $800 to $6,000 per night – to contend with. Better bring some lion-sized plastic.
Just today I installed the “visited places” app in Facebook and after 1,5 hours of clicking around like being crazy I found 181 places I’ve already been to in my life… WOW.. that’s more than 6 diff. places per year I live…
Very heavy crowded in Europe (obviously, alone 50+ places in Austria of course) and in the USA, from my California and Florida trips of course.
I really need to see a bit Asia and Australia soon