Saturday, January 8, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

 It was Vegas, baby!  Buffet lunch, a fine arts exhibit, rare gems, Chinese New Year, and a case of cheap wine.
OK – so it wasn’t exactly your sordid “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” scenario.  But it was an adventure, nevertheless.  I knew I would find geology somewhere in Sin City! And we ended up having a ton of fun. 

Detail of Fiori de Como glass chandelier in the lobby of the Bellagio

Measured in miles, the distance from St. George UT to the Las Vegas city limits is really not that far – just over 100 miles.  At 75-mph interstate speeds the drive takes barely an hour and a half.  Culturally, though, it’s light years away. 
Every now and then I feel the need to swallow my general antipathy for all things Vegas (particularly it’s perceived plastic glitz and its grab for groundwater beneath the Snake Valley – but that’s another story for another time) and just go there.  Usually I only go for the day, but if I’m seeing an evening show I’ll stay the night.  

A while back my sister Jeani and I had read about an exhibit at the Bellagio gallery of fine art entitled “Figuratively Speaking:  A Survey of the Human Form.”  So we planned a day outing which included lunch, the exhibit, and a couple of passes through Trader Joe’s aisles during which time we would empty the wine shelves of as much Two Buck Chuck as we could fit into the back of her SUV.  Neighbor Barb came along for the fun.

The buffet at M Resort and Casino at the south end of Las Vegas Strip was voted the best buffet in town by  readers of the LV Review Journal.  We gave ourselves nearly two hours to enjoy our lunch and the surroundings.   My end-of-meal coffee included a shot of Bailey’s.  Luckily I wasn’t driving.

Calla Lily wall in lobby of M Resort and Casino

Jeani and Barb avoiding the slots


Paul and Rae Lane (on left) from San Diego, enjoying the buffet with family and friends

How many glasses of wine have we had already?

No such thing as too many dessert choices!

We could have sat there all afternoon, but we had places to go and things to do. 
Barb and Jeani

Next it was on to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art located in (of all places) the Bellagio (too exclusive to have “resort and casino” in the name).  In my opinion, this is the most visually impressive (in a good way) hotel on the Strip.  And also, I suspect, one of the most expensive.  Throughout the hotel there were lavish decorations for the Chinese New Year.


On our way to the exhibit we passed some exquisite geology ~~~


IMG_5193 Cameras were not permitted inside the exhibit.  However, woman-of-many-hats Laura Norton – ticket seller, docent, and gallery supervisor – was gracious enough to pose for a blog photo.  Her bangs were really cute!

I am by no means an art expert; going with a docent helps me “see” the artist in relation to his or her art.  There were familiar artists: etchings by Edgar Degas, paintings by Picasso and Renoir, and photographs by Helmut Newton.

I was unfamiliar with most of the other artists whose work was on display, such as the paintings by Yousef Karsh, Milton Avery, David Hackney, and Yasumasa Morimura; photographs by Barbara Kruger and Vanessa Beecroft; video art by Bill Viola and Tony Oursler; and a “sound suit” by Nick Cave.

The gallery is fairly small; the tour lasted less than an hour.  Afterwards Jeani, Barb and I took few minutes to look at other works the docent had not covered.

IMG_5199We then waltzed ourselves over to the conservatory and botanical gardens to see the exhibit for Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rabbit.  


IMG_5213                 IMG_5201

IMG_5216We paused to admire the ceiling in the lobby, a sculpture of 20,000 hand-blown glass blossoms, a chandelier called Fiori de Como.

 We had to stop one final time to stand in amazement at the geology found at  Fred Leighton Rare Collectible Jewels on Via Bellagio Way. 

Lisa Lichty, professional sales executive (and new follower of this blog!), was gracious enough to personally explain the fine points of some of the collection found in the store.  Here, Lisa models (how lucky can one girl be?) a necklace with a 50.98 carat solitaire emerald certified by AGTA on a 40.93 carats of diamond chain.  This beautiful necklace can be yours for $550,000.


 This Classic Bib necklace is Cabochon Emeralds that have been fluted and drilled with Diamonds in centers, Cabochon Rubies and Sapphires.  It is all set in 18 Karat Yellow Gold.  The cost is $150,000.  The weight of gems are 630 Carats with 38.90 Carats of Diamonds.  It has been worn on the Red Carpet by Beyonce and Amy Adams.


 So much lovely geology (OK mineralogy works for me too) to admire ~~~
IMG_5219Sapphire and Diamond Earrings 1920's Art Deco 13 Carats of Sapphires + 12 Carats of Diamond
Tiffany Twist Bracelet signed by Schlumberger 40 Carats of Diamonds $250,000
Sapphire and Diamond Necklace set in Platinum $65,000
Large Sapphire Ring with Diamonds 28.36 Center plus 4.01 Carats of Diamonds $110,000
Smaller Sapphire and Diamond Ring 6 Carats with a Ballerina Skirt of Diamonds 2.50 Carats $25,000
Art Deco Diamond Bracelet 21.50 Carats $60,000
Diamond Bracelet set in Platinum 10.73 Carats $35,000
Besides the shop in the Bellagio Fred Leighton Rare Collectible Jewels also has a shop in Manhattan.   Be sure and ask for Lisa whenever you come to the Bellagio!  She was kind enough to forward this information on the gems. 
Paleontology at the sushi restaurant

It was not quite dark when we tore ourselves away from the Bellagio and made our way to Trader Joe’s on Decatur.   Along with several containers of the bleu cheese and roasted pecan dip suggested by Lisa, we loaded up the car with our purchases not otherwise available in Utah.  By this time it was dark but the early evening traffic flowed smoothly.  We eased our way through the I-15 spaghetti bowl, watching as the lights of Las Vegas disappeared slowly in the rear-view mirror, our memories already full of friendly people and one fun day.  

As the miles ticked away I wondered aloud to Jeani and Barb “Why hadn’t I gotten the fried chicken at the buffet?  I never cook or eat fried chicken these days, and I’ll bet it was really tasty.”  I’ll just have to go back one of these days and try it.


  1. What a whirlwind tour of geologic Vegas. The shiny baubles are spectacular, although I'm more into the semi-precious stones myself. Wondering if those blown glass flowers are Dale Chehali (terribly mispelled)creations? Not being a city/light/noise person I haven't explored Vegas in over 35 years. Maybe this summer on a long weekend from the North Rim. Might be a nice treat.

  2. Hi Gaelyn,
    Those blown glass blossoms are indeed Dale Chihuli creations - there are some links to follow in the text - "Bellagio/Explore Bellagio/Amenities" then click on the image of the chandelier.

    My least favorite time to go to LV is summer - way too hot, too much traffic, and way too many people. The winter months can't be beat - after the holidays in particular. My favorite month to go is actually January.

    I have serious issues with LV particularly where its water grab is concerned, and I go maybe once or twice a year to shop, or see a show or an exhibit - I don't gamble. There are definitely "gems" to be discovered there.

    And the geology was exquisite!