Sunday, August 15

Something for Murray to read

Three days of hot, unrelenting sunshine in Las Vegas are rapidly becoming nothing more than a distant memory as I type this blog post. I'm in Tauranga visiting my parents. Since my arrival Friday morning we've endured three days of grey skies and almost continuous rainfall. At least one major highway in the area has been closed as a result of localised flooding.

Last night my Dad proudly declared that his rain gauge in side yard had recorded no less than 50 millimetres of rain during the previous 24-hours. Today, he says another 35 millimetres has fallen overnight. That's more than three inches in two days. After five years in London, the weather feels uncomfortably familiar.

Garry sensibly flew directly to Australia to visit his family where the weather has been predictably dry and sunny. Back in Tauranga my brother Matt came down from Auckland for the weekend, bringing his family with him. I continue to be amazed by how fast the kids are growing, and how well mannered they are despite being cooped up inside by the wet. I'm not sure my brothers and I were quite so well behaved under similar circumstances.

Yesterday, my niece Brooke, and I spent a fun-filled afternoon yesterday creating a coat-hanger mobile of the solar system. I can confidently inform readers that Jupiter is a large planet which takes far too long to colour-in by hand. My cousin Hilary and her daughter were also visiting, enroute to a family reunion in Christchurch next weekend. My parents will also be attending.

We did very little in Las Vegas other than wander the main Strip, enjoying the hot weather and generally relaxing. Garry did some great research and booked us into a suite at the Venetian at a great price. It's a classic Vegas resort; gaudy interiors and painfully faux recreations of Venice's urban landscape (complete with an indoor Grand Canal offering ludicrously overpriced gondolier rides). Our booking also included US$25 credit each to play on the slots which we duly did one evening. Personally, I was bored after 15 minutes and see no serious gambling addiction clouding my future horizon.

While in town we coughed up our hard earned cash for a couple of entertainment outings including the Titanic artifacts exhibition at the Luxor and tickets to Le Reve at Wynn Casino. I found the Titanic exhibition fascinating. It's been thoughtfully laid out, focusing very much on human aspects of this tragedy.

Each guest receives a passenger manifest card on entry which you can check against a giant passenger list as you exit. The board lists the names of all on board, separating names into those who either survived or perished on the night of April 14, 1912. It's a rather chilling experience to suddenly grasp the cruel fate that awaited the 1,517 who perished.

Some of the exhibition's artifacts are more memorable than others. I was captivated by the sight of an unopened bottle of champagne with a 1900 vintage, and by a 17-ton section of the Titanic's hull that was recovered in 1998. The hull section is almost four metres high and eight metres long. As you stand in the darkened exhibit hall, the scale of this sunken vessel becomes very apparent.

Le Reve was a riveting performance. I can only describe it as a Cirque du Soleil style production, conducted entirely in a giant swimming pool from which set pieces rise and submerge throughout the show. We had ideal seats, located in the middle of the theatre, which meant that many of the aerial acrobatics took place right in front of us. We watched incredible high-diving acts, strong man displays and other exotic circus displays of skill and strength.

Tomorrow I fly to Sydney and resume regular work. It'll a be rude awakening after a wonderful extended break. On Thursday, Garry and I will then fly to India where Garry has planned a whirlwind tour while I conduct a week of business meetings in three cities. No doubt there will be some delay before my next post so this one's especially for Garry's father, Murray, who complained about the most recent posting delay.

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