Archive for September, 2008

Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

 

This snifter of cognac was poured at the Caramel Room in very stylish Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, overlooking Hyde Park.  The room, as its name suggests, is covered and decorated in caramel and chocolate colors, with deep, plush seating and soft lighting.   It’s an excellent setting for a light meal, appetizer or in this instance, a fine drink following dinner at the Boxwood Cafe (see related post by clicking here.)

 

To view previous posts in the “Where is that Drink?” series, click here.

Photo taken: 9/20/08

 

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Go, Go, Billy Elliot!

While in London, I was able to see the smash-hit Billy Elliot, the Musical, at the beautiful Victoria Palace Theatre.  The show, which opened in London in 2005, is based on the critically-acclaimed 2000 film of the same name which was nominated for 3 Oscars and 13 BAFTA awards.  Stephen Daldry, who directed the original film, also serves as director of the stage musical, together with the same writer, Lee Hall, and same choreographer, Peter Darling.  They are joined by Elton John, who wrote a new, original score for the stage musical. 

The demanding role of Billy Elliot is played in rotation by four different actors. During the performance I saw last month, the role was performed by Layton Williams, 13, who joined the cast of the show in early 2007.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show, which I thought was emotionally powerful and far superior to the original film.  The show received a huge standing ovation at the sold-out performance.

The New York production of Billy Elliot is currently in previews and is scheduled to open on 10/1/08 at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre.  Quite obviously, this production will be a huge commercial success on Broadway and beyond.

To purchase tickets for the London production, click here.  To purchase tickets for the Broadway production, click here.

Go, Billy, go!

“Billy Elliot strikes me as the greatest British musical I have ever seen.”

   –Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph

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Today’s Video

NBC’s Saturday Night Live scored again with another spot-on parody of Governor Sarah Palin.  In the broadcast on 9/27/08, Tina Fey returned to SNL with a remarkably-skilled impersonsation of Governor Sarah Palin in her recent interview with Katie Couric of CBS News. 

 

 Hats off to Tina Fey, Amy Poehler (as Katie Couric) and the comedic team at SNL.  Keep ‘em coming!

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Today’s Quote

 ”I think these difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way that so many things that one goes around worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”

   - Isak Dinesen

 

 To read previous quotes in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

This beautiful martini was poured at the bar at Boxwood Cafe, one of seven London restaurants from celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay.  The hugely popular restaurant features an intimate, sleek bar and a warm, luxurious dining room bathed in dark tones.

The food and service at dinner was excellent– a real treat and a memorable evening in London.

To view previous posts in the “Where is that Drink?” series, click here.

Photos taken: 9/20/08

 

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At Tate Modern

While in London, we visited the Tate Modern Museum, which serves as Britain’s national museum of international modern and contemporary art.  The museum is housed in the former Bankside Power Station in North Southwark, along the Thames River. 

Since the museum’s opening on May 12, 2000, Tate Modern has become a major destination for Londoners and tourists. The collections in the Tate Modern include works of Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Naum Gabo, Giacometti, Pop art, and contemporary art.

One of the museum’s most distinctive features is the Turbine Hall, which originally housed the electricity generators of the old power station.  The Hall is five-stories tall with 36,000 square feet of space, and is used to display specially-commissioned work by contemporary artists. 

The Tate Modern also features a large gift shop on the first level and a restaurant and bar on the top level.  The restaurant provides a sweeping view of the Thames River and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Admission to the Tate Modern is free, although a voluntary contribution of 3 pounds is requested.

Above:  A view of the Tate Modern from the Millennium Bridge.  Below: A view of the facade of the Tate Modern.

 Above: A view of the cavernous Turbine Hall.  Below:  The feet are resting inside the galleries, with a view of the Turbine Hall in the background. 

 

Above: The Dining Room at the Tate Modern. Below:  A delicious pasta with pesto dish, together with an heirloom tomato salad, from the Dining Room at the Tate Modern.

 Photos Taken: 9/19/08.

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Where are the Feet?

Where are the feet today?

The feet are standing atop a plaque commemorating the opening of the Millennium Bridge in London.

The Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian-only, steel suspension bridge that spans the Thames River in London, linking Banking with the City.  Construction of the bridge started in 1998, as one of several key projects intended to commemorate the New Millennium.  It is the first new bridge across the Thames River since the Tower Bridge was erected in 1894. 

To see other entries in the “Where are the Feet” series, click here.

Photos taken: 9/19/08

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The London Eye

 

A visit to London is not complete without a stop at the London Eye, the iconic ferris-wheel that was introduced as part of London’s Millennium celebration and is now the most-popular paid attraction in the United Kingdom.  When erected in 2000, the London Eye was the tallest ferris/observation wheel in the world.  The London Eye was designed by David Marks, Julia Barfield, Malcolm Cook, Mark Sparrowhawk, Steven Chilton and Nic Bailey.

Here are some interesting factoids about the London Eye:

1.  There are 32 capsules on the London Eye, representing the 32 boroughs of London;
2.  The London Eye can accommodate 900 passengers in a single rotation;
3.  Over 3.5 million customers board the London Eye each year;
4.  On a clear day, the view from the top of the London Eye extends 25 miles– to Windsor Castle;
5.  A full rotation takes roughly 30 minutes to complete;
6.  The overall height of the London Eye is 443 feet (135 meters);
7.  Individual capsules can be reserved for private events, including cocktail receptions, that comfortably accommodate up to 25 guests;
8.  The London Eye is now the fifth largest ferris/observation wheel in the world, behind (1) Beijing Great Wheel (due 2009), (2) Great Berlin Wheel (due 2009), (3) Singapore Flyer and (4) Star of Nanchang.

 

If you decide to visit the London Eye, here are some tips for you to consider:

1.  Purchase your tickets in advance via their website;
2.  Use a “fast track” option that allows you to bypass the long queue and to proceed directly to the boarding area;
3.  Be on the lookout for two areas within each capsule where you can have your photo taken as the capsule completes its rotation and approaches the boarding platform.  A photo is automatically taken from outside the capsule, which you can purchase as a souvenir of your visit.

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Today’s Quote

 ”I personally believe that there is a part of one’s subconscious will that directs one’s life, that there is a part of me that is carrying out long-range schemes. I believe that this part of my will also knows when I shall die, and how much time I’ve got and everything else. I believe it has schemes which often, in my ignorance, I frustrate — schemes which are not always necessarily for the best.”

   –Christopher Isherwood, Paris Review, Spring 1974

To read previous quotes in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

This exceptionally well-chilled martini is being served with a freshly-sliced, wide twist at The Churchill Bar, located in The Churchill Hyatt Regency London.  The room is paneled in beautiful dark wood and is furnished with comfortable leather seating around a large, long bar.  The walls feature an array of historic photos of Winston Churchill, in whose honor the hotel and bar are named.

The bar was very quiet on this sunny afternoon, which provided an excellent atmosphere to enjoy the cocktail, admire the photos and memorabilia, and chat with the friendly bartender.

To view previous posts in the “Where is that Drink?” series, click here.   To read the entry on The Churchill Hyatt Regency London, click here.

Photos taken: 9/20/08

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Where are the Feet?

Where are the feet today? 

The feet are taking a brief rest while waiting for a train on the boarding platform in the Marble Arch Station in the London Underground (also called the Tube), the large metro transit system serving London.

Above:  The platform at the Marble Arch Underground Station.  Below: The Marble Arch, located in London’s Mayfair District, provides the name for the Marble Arch Station of the London Underground.

Here are some interesting tidbits on the London Underground:

*  It is the oldest underground railway, as well as oldest rapid transit system, in the world;
*  The earlier lines of the present Underground network, which were built by various private companies, became part of an integrated transport system (which excluded the main line railways) in 1933;
*  The system includes 268 stations and roughly 250 miles of track, making is the longest metro system in the world, based on route length;
*  In 2007, the Underground handled over 1 billion passenger journeys;
*  There are 11 lines in the system, which serves most of greater metropolitan London, as well as the neighboring areas of Essex, Hertfordshire, and Buchinghamshire;
*  The escalators in the Underground stations include some of the longest in Europe, the longest of which is at the Angel Station, measuring 197 feet, with a vertical rise of about 90 feet.

I’ve found that the London Underground is an effective and afforable way to navigate London, although the stations and trains are very crowded during peak hours, and some of the walkways within the station are narrow, long and maze-like. 

To see other, previous posts in the “Where are the Feet?” series, click here.

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Churchill Hotel London

During our stay in London, we’re guests at the The Churchill Hyatt Regency London, located at 30 Portman Square, in London’s Mayfair Distrct.  Situated near the Marble Arch and the Marble Arch Undergroun Station, the hotel is within walking distance of Bond Street, Oxford Street, Mayfair and Hyde Park.  The hotel features 444 guest rooms and suites on nine floors, including the Regency Club rooms on the 8th floor.  Dining choices at the hotel include the signature restaurant, Montagu, an Italian restaurant called Locanda Locatelli, and The Churchill Bar.

The hotel underwent a major renovation and refurbishment in 2000 when it was operated under the Inter-Continental Hotels brand; in 2002, management of the property was assumed by Hyatt Hotels and Resorts and renamed The Churchill Hyatt Regency London.

 

Above: Exterior of the Churchill Hotel.  Three photos Below:  Views of the stylish large Lobby.

Room 830, located on the Regency Club Floor, is a somewhat small but very attractively furnished room, overlooking Portman Square.  The room is decorated in beige, bronze and dark moss tones, with contempotary furnishings.  Some of the nice in-room amenities include a flat-panel TV, iHome clock/radio with iPod dock, 110V outlets (in addition to 230V outlets) at the workdesk and in the bathroom, and Molton Brown bath products.

 

Above:  The guest room offers a sunny tree-top view of the nearby park.  Below:  The small bathroom is surprisingly efficient, and nicely equipped with amenities.

The Regency Club Lounge at The Churchill is very spacious and comfortably furnished, with low chairs and sofas– much more impressive than some of the lounges in their U.S. properties.  The Lounge offers complimentary (and hearty) self-serve breakfasts, all-day beverages and snacks, and early evening appetizers and cocktails.   Below: Regency Club Lounge.

Thank you to The Churchill for terrific hospitality and very charming service!

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Shrunken U.S. Dollar

Honey, I Shrunk the Dollar!  This week’s visit to London provided another opportunity to experience the effects of the shrinking value of the US dollar up close and real.   As of yesterday, the US dollar was equivalent to 0.54984 British pounds.  This means that a product priced at 1 British pound costs $1.82.

So, here’s a sampling of what the US dollar will buy in London today:

* Canned beverage (e.g. Coke) from typical vending machine: $2.73
* Grande Cafe Latte from Starbucks: $4.40
* Pint of typical British beer from local pub: $6.50
* One-way taxi fare from London Heathrow Airport to Central London: $112.00
* Small pitcher of Sangria from La Tasca, a neighborhood tapas restaurant: $18.20
* Continental breakfast (juice, fresh fruit, yogurt, pastry and coffee), from Room Service, at Churchill Hotel: $40.95, including 12.5% service charge
* Top ticket to Billy Elliott, The Musical, at Victoria Palace Theatre: $109.20, plus service charge

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Cheers from London

Cheers from London!  Arrived at London Heathrow today after a pleasant 10-hour flight on United #954 non-stop from San Francisco. 

 

The UA flight was crowded but not completely full, and the seat in Business Class on the upper deck of the B747-400 was comfortable and familiar, but unfortunately, not yet refurbished as part of United’s new international cabin configuration that provides lie-flat, fully-horizontal sleeper seats in Business Class.  Still, the upper-deck cabin provides a relatively quiet area (which is ideally suited for longer, overnight flights), more personalized service, and less noise from foot traffic within the cabin.  Plus, since the upper deck is situated directly behind the cockpit, there’s always the added comfort of (frequently) sharing the cabin with an air marshall who (discreetly) monitors the aircraft. 

And now, it’s onward to explore the excitement of London!

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Today’s Video

   

In case you missed the hilarious parody of Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Hillary Clinton, played by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, respectively, on the 9/13/08 broadcast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, here’s the full-length version from the official NBC website.

 Video Credit: NBC

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Today’s Quote

“Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance.”

  –The New York Times, 9/14/08

Click here to read the full New York Times article, entitled “Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes.” 

To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Today’s Quote

“Alaska is right next to Russia.”

   — Senator John McCain and Republican Presidential candidate, on running mate Sarah Palin’s foreign policy experience

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Go, Speed Racer, Go!

Given the critical drubbing and disappointing box office results ($43-million) that Speed Racer (2008) received earlier this year, despite its enormous budget ($120-million) and impressive directorial team of the Wachowski Brothers (of The Matrix trilogy fame), I thought it would be good to re-visit the charming 1960’s anime that inspired the 2008 live-action movie.  For those of you who may not remember, Speed Racer is an English adaptation of the Japanese manga and anime, Mach GoGoGo, which aired on TV starting 1967. 

The principal character of both the anime and manga is Speed Racer, originally named Go Mifune.  He is known for his love of racing and his bond with his family.  He drives the Mach 5 and always manages to wind up in extreme danger (such as encountering thugs, race fixers, gangs, etc.) with his younger brother or his girlfriend.  Of course, Speed Racer manages to overcome each obstacle and triumph in the end.

This animated show was one of the highlights of my afternoon TV viewing as a youngster.

Here’s a short video (1:08), courtesy of YouTube, with the animated opening sequence of the TV show and the highly-popular theme song.  Enjoy!

 

Long live Speed Racer!

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Today’s Quote

“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness…”

   — Dalai Lama

 To read previous quotes in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Movie: Chris & Don

I recentlty saw “Chris & Don: A Love Story,” the sleeper hit at the Telluride Film Festival from filmmakers Guido Santi and Tina Mascara, which is currently showing in San Francisco, and in limited release in major U.S. cities.  It’s my favorite movie of 2008 (to date, anyway) and an extraordinarily tender and moving story. 

Here’s a synopsis from Zeitgeist Films’ official website for the film:

“CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY is the true-life story of the passionate three-decade relationship between British writer Christopher Isherwood (whose Berlin Stories was the basis for all incarnations of the much-beloved Cabaret) and American portrait painter Don Bachardy, thirty years his junior. From Isherwood’s Kit-Kat-Club years in Weimar-era Germany (the inspiration for his most famous work) to the couple’s first meeting on the sun-kissed beaches of 1950s Malibu, their against-all-odds saga is brought to dazzling life by a treasure trove of multimedia. Bachardy’s contemporary reminiscences (in the Santa Monica home he shared with Isherwood until his death in 1986) artfully interact with archival footage, rare home movies (with glimpses of glitterati pals W.H. Auden, Igor Stravinsky and Tennessee Williams), reenactments, and, most sweetly, whimsical animations based on the cat-and-horse cartoons the pair used in their personal correspondence. With Isherwood’s status as an out-and-proud gay maverick, and Bachardy’s eventual artistic triumph away from the considerable shadow of his life partner, CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY is above all a joyful celebration of a most extraordinary couple. ”

One of the film’s most interesting and effective story-telling techniques is the use of animation to bring to life the characters that Isherwood and Bachardy affectionately used to identify themselves in written notes and drawings to each other- a horse for Isherwood, and a cat for Bachardy.  It’s a charming use of animation and really adds insight to their relationship.

The film features extensive interviews with Don Bachardy, now 74, and living in Santa Monica, CA, old amateur video footage from Isherwood and Bachardy and others, animation, commentary from friends and colleagues (including actress Leslie Caron and director John Boorman, among others), as well as narration by actor Michael York.

I think this is brave and very powerfu film, and I’m thankful that the filmmakers chose to make it and that Zeitgeist Films had the courage to produce and distribute it.  Go see it.

 ”A tender, extremely touching documentary.”

   –The New York Times

The portrait of a marriage as full and enviable as the greatest unions in literature.”

   — San Francisco Chronicle

“What could have been sordid emerges instead as fiercely funny and touching. Even the animated sequences featuring the lovers the way they imagined themselves — Chris as a horse, Don as a cat — resonate with feeling and blunt truth. “

   –Rolling Stone Magazine

“A celebration– of love, commitment and devotion until the bitter end. “

   –The Washington Post

Here’s a short trailer for the film from YouTube.com:

 If the movie is playing in your area, go see it.

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Today’s Video

Today’s video features San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom speaking to a group on 9/6/08 regarding Proposition 8, which will appear on the November ballot in California.  Proposition 8 seeks to amend the California Constitution and remove the right of same-sex couples to wed.

“On November 5, the day after the election, I don’t want to have any regrets. I want to know that I did everything I could to defeat Prop 8, to stop the elimination of the fundamental right to marry for all Californians.”

   –Gavin Newsom, Mayor, San Francisco, 9/6/08

To learn more about Proposition 8, visit the No on 8, Equality for All website. 

And, here’s a public service announcement from Power Up for the Equality Campaign urging California voters to vote no on Proposition 8.

Click here to see a related previous post at Jankenpon.

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Today’s Quote

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”

   -Dalai Lama

To read previous quotes in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Remembering 9/11

Seven years have passed since the terrorist attack on 9/11/01, which killed 2,974 people.

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Today’s Quote

“Go, see the world.  You will never regret it.”

   –Ashoke (played by Irfan Khan) to his son, Gogol (played by Kal Penn), in The Namesake (2006), directed by Mira Nair

To read previous quotes in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Cher at Caesar’s

Cher, 62, and still going strong, opened her new show in May at Caesar’s Colosseum in Las Vegas, in what is now a “perfect storm” of pop divas, comprised of Cher, Bette Midler and Elton John, in rotation over the next two years.  (On a combined basis, the three performers are 185 years old.  Yikes!)  I saw the show on 8/31/08, in a packed house of 4,300 people, where Cher delivered a solid, 90-minute show of what her fans demand– a retrospective of her big hits, lots of razzmatazz, and over-the-top, practically bare-all Bob Mackie gowns.

Through a series of costume changes (12 or more, perhaps), Cher takes her audience on a time travel through her four decades of singing, including an emotional and highly-effective segment featuring video images of Sonny Bono projected on huge screens onstage. 

The audience was filled with an interesting mix of people– soccer moms with their drag-along husbands, retired couples who may have been expecting re-runs of the old Sonny and Cher shows, groups of “girls gone wild,” as well as core, die-hards from her touring concert base, and of course, her gays.

 

 

In a review of the opening night performance, the Los Angeles Times said “One last tribute must be paid to the Colosseum’s new goddess.  Any sixtysomething who can wear flesh-colored body stockings, even with the hint of a corset beneath, is truly supernatural.   Maybe she really is immortal.”

To purchase tickets from Ticketmaster, click here.

“Lavish, nonstop fun, with the usual array of outlandish Bob Mackie costumes…”

   –Los Angeles Times

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

This martini, poured into an unattractive (and increasingly popular) squat cocktail glass, was served at Taqueria Canonita Mexican Restaurant, a charming, open-air casual dining restaurant, located along the Venice canal (not really) in the Venetian Las Vegas.

The restaurant provides a charming view of the (rather tacky and oddly bright blue-colored) waters in the canal at The Venetian Las Vegas.  The open-air restaurant serves traditional Mexican fare, along with a diverse mix of cocktails.  The terrace directly overlooks the Canal of The Venetian, where a parade of gondolas (and their singing gondoliers) pass slowly by with their riders. 

The martini was accompanied by a delicious plate of fish tacos, served with black beans and rice (see below).

To view previous posts in the “Where is that Drink?” series, click here.

Photos taken: 8/30/08.

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Where is that Drink?

 

This flute of tasty champagne was served at Daniel Boulud Brasserie in the Wynn Las Vegas, another outpost from celebrity Chef Daniel Boulud.  The restaurant is situated on the lower level of the casino property, with a veranda overlooking the “Lake of Dreams,” which features a multi-media show each evening.

 

 To view previous posts in the “Where is that Drink?” series, click here.

Photos taken: 9/1/08

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Today’s Quote

ON ABORTION AND EQUAL MARRIAGE RIGHTS:

“I am pro-life and I believe that marriage should only be between and man and a woman.”

ON CREATIONISM AND SCHOOLS:

“Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information.  Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject — creationism and evolution. It’s been a healthy foundation for me. But don’t be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.”

ON RELIGION:

“San Francisco judges forbidding our Pledge of Allegiance? They will take the phrase ‘under God’ away from me when my cold, dead lips can no longer utter those words. God bless America.”

   -Governor Sarah Palin (R) Alaska, 2008 Republican Nominee for Vice President of the United States

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

This attractive and nicely-shaken martini was served at Table 10, the new restaurant at The Palazzo Las Vegas from world-renowned chef and restaurateur Chef Emeril Lagasse.  According to the restaurant website, Table 10 was named after an iconic table at Lagasse’s flagship restaurant Emeril’s in New Orleans, where Chef Lagasse and his staff would regularly sit together before and after restaurant hours to plan their menu and review the daily activities for his restaurant.

Table 10 is one of many new restaurants in the (rather dowdy and unimpressive mall-like) Palazzo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, a 3,068-room, 53-story behemoth located on The Strip, next to The Venetian.

To view previous posts in the “Where is that Drink?” series, click here.

Photo taken: 8/30/08

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Where are the Feet?

Where are the feet today?

The feet are admiring the beautiful and whimsical mosaic tiles in the impressive lobby of Wynn Las Vegas.  In the photo below, Wynn artisans are carefully repairing and replacing some of the mosaic tiles which get damaged or lost under the stampede of guests and gawkers in the Wynn lobby.

To see other, previous posts in the “Where are the Feet?” series, click here.

Photo taken: 8/31/08

 

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