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by Barbara Kingstone
Las Vegas strip was once notorious for the raunchy, glitzy skin baring babes, cigar smoking macho men and although it may have been a 50s expression, here we are a half century later and when it comes to great extravagance as seen in this desert oasis, the term jet set is still very much in use.
Hot shots with high hopes spend hours at private room ‘tables’ or the slots dropping their chips as easily as the ash from their stogies. You could bet that culture wasn’t high on the original list of visitors who came to this gaming heaven But Las Vegas has re-invented itself and has come out the antithesis of that old cliché scenario. In the re creation, Las Vegas tried hard to become a family entertainment destination, but alas, some sin and sex have returned with a vengeance taking us back to the adult fantasyland yet remarkably, culture has stuck. Yes, art appreciation and gallery hopping has hit the jackpot with high and mighty exhibitions. It all started when zillionaire casino owner Steve Wynn who built Bellagio, also included his $500 million art collection in an on-site gallery. The first hint that he had stumbled onto something important and new was when the early morning queues snaked around the large, airy conservatory and botanical gardens in a town where going to sleep is usually the time when sensible people are just waking up. Soon the gallery was moved into larger quarters, still located on the hotel’s main floor. It had set a precedent and as Professor at the University of Nevada, Bill Thompson explained “this fits in with what Las Vegas has to be in the future.” But now The Guggenheim has made headlines on the Strip. Soon after the newly erected Venetian Hotel and Casino included the Guggenheim Museum. Between the slots and gaming tables, clients can now grab a bit of culture in this gambling mecca. The 63,700 square foot warehouse- like space, designed by the renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas will exhibit shows from New York – a first time collaboration of art and hope. At another in-house area gently refereed to as the Jewel Box, this intimate ambience encourages patrons to visit the Hermitage Guggenheim Museum which includes masterpieces from the famed Hermitage Museum in Russia and obviously the Guggenheim. It’s a rare opportunity for the audience who may never have had the chance to see these priceless canvases . It has created “a unique culture experience,’ said Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage. While on the art theme and scene, Asian Art Now at the Las Vegas Art Museum, is worth taking time off to see.
Las Vegas is like The Wheel of Fortune’s guest who shout, ‘big money, big money’ as they take their turn at chance. Several very new, very upscale condos overlooking the Strip sell between $600,000 and $5 million. Just add water, mix and you have a very exclusive hood. Lake Las Vegas, is where Canadian super star Celine Dion and hubby Rene, have decided to domicile. One wonders what Mademoiselle Dion’s home built in South Shore near the lake, is worth. But then with Caesar’s Palace opening a theatre just for our Canadian chanteuse, her few gigs a week will certainly make the mortgage payments easier.
As the fastest growing city in the US, in this land where dreams often do come true, Bill Walters president and visionary, has a unique golfing enterprise. Grip, turn, swing and balance if you must but these four actions create a crowd pleaser for the ‘fore’ guys and gals. What could be more unexpected in this unbelievable city. Even more over the top, is that his golf courses all have themes. For instance, Royal Links Golf Club is an Ode to the British opens while Stallion Mountain Country Club , a semi private golf haven with wall to wall grass courses are appropriately called Citation, Secretariat, Man O’ War. Bali Hai has a South Pacific theme and Desert Pines gets the Carolina look.
You have to eat, no matter how much ‘crap’ you shoot, or golf swings you take. Glory Days Grill is a sports bar with a twist. A dial a number gizmo allows clients to watch and listen to any broadcast they want while the kiddies are able to enjoy the Cartoon Network programs. The eatery is filled with sports memorabilia and posters, just as one would expect. A hot tip…try the Glory Wings. They’re crisp and spicy…like LV itself.
The high stakes here is where to start your retail therapy. Shopping is so tempting in the indoor ‘streets’ where you can sit at a café before heading into the hundreds of designer label stores. Naturally, shopping concourses are often themed also. The glassed domed Via Bellagio is reminiscent of Milan’s Galleria. The ‘street’ is lined with luxury retailers e.g. Hermes, Prada, Chanal, Tiffany & Co. Giorgio Armani, Gucci and for the high stakers, huge sparklers at jeweller Fred Leighton. For Roman splendour, Caesar’s Palace with the over 533,000 square foot offers shops at the Forum area. Depending on your entrance – and there are several- you may come face to face with a full sized replica of Michelangelo’s David. Italian jewellery par excellence, Bulgari, is nestled near the huge Fountain of the Gods where Jupiter rules high above strolling shoppers. Here you’ll find Fendi, Polo, DKNY, Versace, Dior, Louis Vuitton and dozens more. Next, it’s magic carpet time so fly directly to the Desert Passage at Aladdin’s across from Bellagio and next to Paris. You’ve travelled from Italy to France and North Africa in a few easy steps. Only in Las Vegas!
The “passage” transports you to the sands of Morocco and the Spice Route. In this 475,000 square foot high-end atmosphere, there are 130 shops to tempt you with an array of sophisticated international merchandise. Over 100,000 shoppers a week spend their winnings at the Venetian Hotel’s 500,000 square foot mall. What you can’t find anywhere else, you’ll definitely discover here– Anne Taylor, New Balance, Jimmy Choo Shoes, Mikimoto, to name a few. The streets have been recreated to look as though you were in Venice with cobblestone walkways, arched bridges and vaporettas that slowly float along the indoor canal.
These days, what’s a hotel without a spa.? Whether you need one or not, these are worth a visit since they are world class and offer the newest sensory treatments.
At Aladdin, The Elemis Spa (the name of the product used) is designed to transport you to Morocco with their bright colours and earthy textures. The various treatments are in 29 perfectly set up rooms. Bellagio’s nine massages and nine facial, body treatments and wraps, La Stone and aromatic therapy, Lemon salt rubs can be found under the sprawling staircase among the trees and flowers in the glassed in conservatory.
Just behind the orchids and the water falls at the reception area, MGM Grand also offers numerous treatments including shiatsu, reflexology and certainly has paid attention to Feng Shui with their room arrangement.
One could only expect Paris’s spa to have a French flavour. But who would have come up with caviar facials and body treatments with champagne. I’ll drink to that. Being tres, tres Francais, they also have packages for two neatly called Celebration of Love and Paris for Lovers.. Although the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is the only hotel that doesn’t have a casino, they do have 16 treatment rooms, the floors scattered with fresh rose petals and the most divine aroma. They feature a hydrotone capsule and eucalyptus facials and wraps.
And for the final bliss, don’t expect to see designer Vera Wang’s multi thousand dollar designed gowns on the bride as she soothsays down the aisle, but weddings are still a great incentive for that spontaneous linking. I toast them and the trendy city in the desert and wish them all wealth and stayablility. After all, life is a gamble.
By Barbara Kingstone
Sure there are the wonderful resorts in Maldives, Comoros, islands in the French Polynesian seas, another off the coast of Fiji, of course many in Caribbean…but and this but should be capitalized, since my visit COMO Group of hotels and resorts, Parrot Cay in the Turks & Caicos was right up there with the best of the world, even noted in Conde Nast’s best 100 spas. This Shambhala had nicely placed at 46.
Whatever were the Canadian politicians thinking when they twice rejected the offer of this lovely area that wanted to become part of Canada? Of course, there were probably reasons like not having a great industry or serious economic sources or few commercial industries. But wouldn’t it have been great for all the ‘snow birds’ dollars to come back to Ottawa’s coffers?
Now, one acre of the 1,000 acred small island of Parrot Cay off the main island, sells for $1million- with the caveat that the minimum is 2 acres. At the small Island Villa at which I had my only site inspection since even at this unusual time of year the resort was fully booked (start of September) and this was the only one, other than my splendid suite, #703, I could see.
Perhaps it could be that since the recent hurricane, a small portion of land near the infinity pool had to be re-landscaped. It was also being spruced up for purchase which is another arm at PC. You can buy, build, or just stay at villas like this with three bedrooms, an infinity pool, facing the ocean, far enough from the hotel for total privacy but still reachable within minutes with the villa’s own golf buggy. And the asking price is $13 million.
It takes stars like Bruce Willis and designer Donna Karan to have had the vision buy land few years ago and build their own hideaway, hidden by trees and a long driveway. But homeowners as like guests, have access to The Shambhala Retreat Spa, and other amenities at the same price as guests pay.
What you see is what you get at the Shambhala spa- perfection in service, technique, knowledgeable, well trained technicians, oils, potions and lotions made in England for all the COMO properties worldwide. The products are truly wonderful, the treatment rooms reasonably large, bright, spotless and overlooking a small canal leading to the Caribbean Danti, a wee Balinese woman was my masseuse. I was handed a form with space specifying the plethora of aches and pains. Filled out, Danti went over the areas to specify. I, as a writer, pointed my finger at the computer as the culprit for my aching shoulders, neck and lower back.
With my face poking through a hole looking at a frangipani in a copper pot filled with water, while on my stomach for the first 1/2 of my 60-minute treatment, Danti didn’t take long to locate the source of my misery. Her small structure was deceiving as she pressed with great strength, but did suggest, if the pressure was too strong to let her know. She certainly tried her hardest to dissolve those nagging lumps and bumps. Ouch– I squealed, as she pressed a little more. However, it seemed to have worked with the application of the perfect combination of oils rubbed, not like feather but firmly into the area. Dant, also spent time doing reflexology on my feet, also deep muscle massaging on calf muscles, thighs hands and arms. Danti really knew what she was doing and I could attest to that having had spa treatments around the world. The scalp and face wasn’t forgotten as she massaged the temples and top of the head.
Did I really feel better, a cynical guest and my new Toronto-based pal, Frances, asked before she decided to book a massage. “So good, if I were staying longer, I would certainly come back for seconds,” I answered without hesitation.
One morning Indian born Dr. N, Pradeep, with years experience in Naturopathy and yogi science discussed Ayurvedics. His lecture on all these disciplines on fitness, wellbeing, healthy living with yoga was most interesting. He spoke about the five important elements, earth, air, water, space, fire, each with their own means to a better lifestyle.
Another morning, this time with Andrea, an internationally certified Vinyasa Yoga instructor. She’s known to inspire you “to push new boundaries”. I’ve been practising her breathing methods which I have found most helpful. And now continue to do a few minutes of these breathing techniques daily.
For years I have been dedicated to weekly Pilates workouts. But here, Isabel, the American Pilates Polestar expert, made me feel as though I had never had a session since this is a very different and difficult form. The daily activity sheet mentioned, Pilates Mat with Props, for which I felt a comfort lever…or so I thought. We used the Magic Circle that certainly reminded me that I had unused inner thigh muscles. The two men in the group of 12 were struggling and amazed to discover this was not for sissies.
Parrot Cay, although it may sound corny, is a true paradise with the whitest sand, the multi blue seas, the stunning accommodations and the freshest food if not available here, flown in daily from Florida and among the mega activities is this magical spa. And just like the well thought out meals, the Shambhala Retreat has a menu of treatments for everyone’s needs and desires