Cirque du Soleil – Ka

Can’t believe I finally got to see Ka! Well, come to think of it, I can’t believe I am back in Las Vegas barely 9 months since I was here last, but I go to Ka! (Which is the proper exciting bit, of course). Last year, when I was in Alaska with Aunty Mary, there was a tragic accident at Ka – one of the performers fell to her death during a performance, causing an immediate enquiry and a temporary cessation to all scheduled performances for the following three or four weeks – which was when we had tickets to go see it. Of course I was disappointed not to be seeing the show, but I remember spending a lot of time thinking about that woman and her family, and how her death must have effected the cast of the show as well. I never thought I’d be back here with another opportunity to see it…cirque ka poster
The show opens with a narration of a plot – bit of a first for a Cirque show in my experience, they are usually light on plot or based on more esoteric themes rather than narrative. This is the story of twin brother and sister, who get separated and embark on a journey of self discovery, doing battle with Ka to find destruction or enlightenment… or something along those lines.
cirque ka twinsThe real business of Ka is the spectacle; while it is unlike any other Cirque production with it’s story line, it definitely follows the Cirque modus operandi when it comes to providing a truly memorable visually arresting production. The experience starts with the purpose built theatre, the large dragon greeting you near the bar, through to the theatre space itself, which provides an impressive space that envelops the audience. cirque ka dragoncirque ka theatre
There are many great characters in the production displaying the full array of creative, gymnastic, and acrobatic talents that we associate with Cirque productions. Somehow they have even made baton twirling appear exciting and stimulating. cirque ka archerscirque ka batons
I also particularly loved the ‘clowns’ or the comic relief element that is in most Ka shows and usually brings everyone back down after a particularly impressive act. In this show they appeared as creatures, like a turtle, a crab, a starfish and a centipede. In keeping with most other Cirque shows, the ‘clowns’ do not speak and work predominantly in mime which allows them to communicate exceptionally well across language barriers.cirque ka turtlecirque ka centipede
But one of the real starts of this show, the importance of which shouldn’t be underestimated, is the unique Ka Theatre. The stage itself is without a floor and instead operates with two large, elevating platforms and five smaller lifts which move the workspace and the characters around. There is a ship platform which flails violently out over the audience, another platform covered in gravel for quiet scenes which then tips up and allows a fast paced climbing/acrobatic scene. The stage itself is a technical marvel and may well be one of the most sophisticated stage designs ever seen. Without it and the large purpose built apparatus, Ka just would not work.
imagecirque ka wheel death
At the end of the show we were almost rendered speechless – the show is soo good. Many people dislike the unusual (for Cirque) plot and feel it detracts from what they came for, which more often than not is to see the impossibly talented performers doing unbelievably difficult things – so Ka tends to pull mixed reviews. I think you need to know what you are getting into before you line up… Ka is a Cirque show, full of physically demanding and breathtakingly difficult and yet beautiful acts, but it is also a production brimming with theatrical drama and brash spectacle. Well worth seeing, imho. And Mr K (who was not really warming up to the Cirque) absolutely loved it – enough to ponder the possibility of going to see it again before we left! Now there is a recommendation for you1

Grand Canyon Helicopters!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words… so, consider this a 15,000 word essay on how just how grand, the Grand Canyon actually is.

pappilion Grand Canyon helicoptersLake Mead.
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Hoover Dam.image
Grand Canyon helicopter flight
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Hot air ballooning over Kapadokya in Turkey, cruising Glacier Bay in Alaska and watching the sunrise over Point Lookout at Straddie – if these things aren’t on your bucket list, they should be. And while you are at it, add taking a helicopter flight into the Grand Canyon! One of the most amazing things I have ever done.

Las Vegas & Penn & Teller

Whoa, what a long day in transit! Portsmouth to Boston, to Chicago, to Vegas… took about 13 hours, door to door. But we arrived safely and Mr K sweet talked the check in clerk at the Bellagio and got us a room upgrade to a high floor with a view of the strip and the famous Bellagio fountains, which is really quite spectacular. So after a few hours settling in and enjoying the enormous shower, we dressed up and decided to head over to the Rio to see Penn & Teller – because Vegas is all about the tickets, and we have tickets! 😀imageOn heading out the Bellagio north entrance you can see the Rio on the other side of Frank Sinatra drive, and after being cooped up in planes all day we thought we’d walk there – it looked predominantly flat, it was cool without being cold and we really needed to stretch a bit. OMG. Big mistake. You can see it, and it LOOKS like there are sufficient pedestrian access areas around the freeway, but not so much. We walked for a couple of kilometres and seemed to be getting further away from our destination, not closer, and then there turned out to be a couple of non-traversable escarpments and culverts in the way too. So, we eventually had to give up and flag a cab to get us to the show. Lesson learned, if it’s not on the strip, don’t even bother trying to walk!

But we got to the show in plenty of time, and had great seats, Row D front and centre. I’m not a huge Penn & Teller fan, I haven’t seen them before and I haven’t watched a lot of their TV shows. You can probably sum up what I know about Penn & Teller from a recent pro-vaccination campaign that’s been going around, and from an old episode of the West Wing where they do a trick burning an American Flag wrapped up in the Bill of Rights in the White House for Zoe’s birthday…

So I had no idea exactly what to expect of the show, except that it is likely to be part politics, part atheism, and a little illusion and misdirection throw in on the side – and that is largely right. What I wasn’t expecting was for them to start pulling apart and explaining how other illusionists are doing their tricks, debunking how mentalists and mind readers do their thing – they’re calling Bullshit on nearly all of their colleagues, which I thought was quite funny considering they are doing the exact same sorts of things, but with a political and religious conscience.
image Anyway, they did do the American flag burning trick, which was very cool, but they did it twice and second time around showed you how it was done… all the while poking fun at China and their lack of rights. They did the old sawing the girl in half trick, showing you how all the other magicians pull that trick off, but then they pushed it a bit further leading you to speculate, ‘well, if that is how the others do it, how did you just do that?’ Teller did some very accomplished sleight of hand tricks where he appeared to be turning droplets of water into coins, and then coins into goldfish which was very cleverly done, and the big finale at the end was a ‘magic bullet’ trick.

They got two firearms savvy guys up on stage (a Texas Deputy Sheriff and a US Marine) on either side of a wide yellow ribbon, and gave them each a .357 revolver to check over and determine if it was a real gun – apparently yes, no tricky guns. Had them confirm that two panels of suspended glass were in fact real glass. They gave them each a bullet to write on – their names on the projectile and a picture or something else on the bullet casing, and then they loaded these two revolvers and set them into a stand while P&T got dressed in protective eyewear, a kevlar vest and helmets. Then they stood at opposite ends of a bare stage and with laser sights on the revolvers, and telling they audience to plug their ears, they appeared to shoot directly at one another. The panels had bullet holes in them and Penn & Teller were each standing there with bullets between their teeth. They called their experts back onto the stage and had them confirm that the bullets and casings both looked and smelled like they had just been fired, and that Penn had indeed caught Teller’s bullet between his teeth and vice versa. At no time did either Penn or Teller appear to cross or interact at all over the divide of the big yellow ribbon, making it appear that there is no way they could have swapped the bullets. It was quite impressive. imageWe’ve been wondering how it was done… it’s going to need some more thought, this one. 🙂

Mainly in Maine

Today we were driving around Maine chaing pretty lighthouses and lobsters – it’s just the done thing up here apparently. Finally the weather turned to be a bit more what we were expecting when we booked for this time of year – nearly 10C and sunny. I can’t get over the snow on the ground everywhere, it hasn’t snowed here for weeks, but there are areas that are shaded that don’t get warm enough to thaw
I was very amused to see a Park Ranger adjusting the fire danger sign at a visitors centre off the higway out of Portsmouth… I was looking around at all the snow on the ground, and we are rugged up in jackets and scarves, and it’s the first day we’ve seen the sun in over a week, and here he was setting the fire danger to ‘High’. Seemed absurd, but I guess they know how to read their conditions.
We found the Nubble Light House which was much smaller than I was expecting. Most of the lighthouses I have seen back home are enormous but this was just a cute little lighthouse sticking out on a point.
The sea was something to watch, the colour of the water was spectacular and the surf was really violent. I don’t think you can really capture how aggressively the waves were beating the coastline, and if this is what it looks like on a beautiful calm day, I can imagine it gets pretty scary up here during storm season.nubble-point-1.jpgnubble-point-2.jpgnubble-point-3.jpgnubble-point-4.jpgnubble-point-wild-surf.jpgMr K observed that people must really bloody love their seafood to risk going out in all that to get it. Nubble Beach itself was a littel calmer, and had lots of empty car parks, so we figure it is probably a very popular spot during the warmer months.
Again with the frozen ponds, though I am beginning to wonder if all these ‘ponds’ we are seeing are natural water courses or whether they are spaces where water has run off from melting snow and then refrozen before it’s had a chance to drain away properly!
Went past this quaint little art studio making wind chimes… they were moving a lot in the wind and looked really pretty, but I’m not so sure they are still wind chime if they sound either silent or clunky and terrible when they move are they? They reminded me of that movie ‘Twister’ where they visit the Aunt who makes all the wind ornaments for her garden (which is neither here nor there, but there you have it).
We were winding our way up to Cape Elizabeth which is a particualrly picturesque spot just south of Portland and we are told has amazing views and a lobster shack with lovely seafood. The Cape was really pretty, but again the sea looks cold and hostile. I just could not imagine being out there in that water. :/
cape-elizabeth-maine.jpgcape-elizabeth-maine-2.jpgcape-elizabeth-look-out.jpgcape-elizabeth-main-beach.jpgWe found the Cape Elizabeth Lobster Shack easily enough, it is literally the only business out here on the point. They have an huge outdoor eating area with about 30 picnic benches that were decidedly empty on a day like today. You could tell by their ordering system that they are used to dealing with huge volumes of customers, so it must be a very popular spot. The speciaility of the house is fried clams apparently, so we had to try some of those.
cape-elizabeth-lobster-shack.jpggot-lobstah.jpgcape-elizabeth-lobster-shack.jpglobster-shack-logo.jpgfisherman-plate.jpgAs per usual, one meal like this is way too much food for one person and the fried clams were as good as they are reputed to be. 🙂
mr-k-cape-elizabeth.jpgAfter lunch we had to head back to Portsmouth to take care of the dreaded packing… our Qantas flights gave us two pieces of luggage each to a total of some ridiculous amount of kilos that we can check. But on our internal flights with American Airlines we have only one piece each to a maximum of 23 kilos. Which really sucks. It totally puts a dampner on the whole shopping bit, we knew we were going to have this enormous allowance once we get to Vegas, but everything up to that point was “no, we can’t fit it in our luggage”. So lots of lovely things we could have taken home for the neices and nephews stayed where they were on the shelves – which is good for the wallet I guess (See? I am a silver linings sort of gal, after all!) But it did mean I was having to get very creative with our packing to make sure neither bag was over weight and we weren’t carrying too much on in cabin luggage! Packing can be a nightmare, but I have the Packing Gene and no doubt I will have the Tetris theme music stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Once the packing was mostly sorted we went for another tootle around looking for one last lobster restaurant… back over the Piscataqua River into Maine we went. The bridge crossing over to Kittery is very cool, but hard to take photos of it as you are driving along.
new-hampshire-maine-bridge-1.jpgnew-hampshire-maine-bridge.jpgIn the end we found ourselves at a place called ‘The Oarhouse‘ (The ‘H’ is silent according to our waiter… though I think he means absent). It was a beautiful little restaurant and we just about had the place to ourselves, though in a few weeks time when the weather has warmed up, it is reservations weeks in advance to get into the place apparently.oar-house-seafood-restaurant.jpgThe menu was very impressive, and I ordered the scallops wrapped in apple wood smoked bacon, which were wonderfully fresh and delicious.scallops-in-applewood-smoked-bacon.jpgAnd then, on John’s recommendation ordered the baked stuffed lobster… which came out looking like this – baked-stuffed-lobster-2.jpg Just how hungry did you think I was John?!? OMG, that lobster was so big, I named him Frank and felt sure that Frank would defeat me. But it turned out, as with all the lobster goodness, it’s 80% presentation, 10% stuffing and about 10% meat! So did my best with Frank and admit, that nearly all the stuffing remained on the plate with a pile of empty shells. So good. Would definitely recommend this place for dinner if anyone is up this way.

And so ends our journey in New England… tomorrow off to Las Vegas where the weather should be a balmy 20-22C. Yay! 😀

New Hampshire, not the Old one.

On the whole, Boston, we were less than impressed with your horrendously cold and wet weather, putting a crimp in our touristy plans to get out and about and see as much of town as possible. Instead we did a lot of racing between under covered portico to under covered portico with other harried residents decked out in anoraks, wellingtons, scarves, gloves and no doubt thermals under the lot! Damn uncivilized of you, Boston. Mind you the rows and rows of walk up town houses still look kinda cool in the rain…boston-in-the-rain.jpg…the highway as we were heading out of town… not so cool at all! Visibility was low, most people were driving without their headlights on (bloody morons!), and continuing to change lanes without indicating (flamin’ wankers!), and speeding (fuckin’ eejits!). So not fun. Then the pouring rain started making strange noises. Sounded a bit like sand spraying all over the car, and that was when we realized that it was itty bitty frozen rain. 🙁 Not snow, and not big enough to be hail, so I guess it was sleet or some such shit.) Either way very unpleasant and the sound reminded us how cold it was outside… as if the windows fogging up and the seat heaters not cutting the mustard, weren’t already ramming that bit home! driving-in-the-sleet.jpg

Other than the ugly weather, driving around New England has been a lot of fun, and I find a sort of poetic irony in having spent the last few weeks engrossed in American history, particularly their struggle for independence from British rule – only to be driving around the countryside to places all named after towns in England. It started with the ‘News…’ New Jersey, New England, New Hampshire, New London, New York ferfucksake! And the further we went the more of it there was – Essex, Salisbury Plymouth, Portsmouth, Hampshire, Georgetown, Manchester, Hampton, Dover, Bangor, Chester and it goes on and on and on. I guess all these places were named before “the Incident”. 🙂

Once the rain stopped we found Portsmouth in New Hampshire was really quite picturesque. There is a river that runs between New Hampshire and Maine, called the Piscataqua River, (I can’t even pronounce that shit) creating an effective state line.New-Hampshire-river.jpg There was a lot of snow lying around in a manner that I found disconcerting – like it was stubbornly refusing to have the decency to melt in a timely fashion.

Now, as anyone I discussed this trip with before we left, y’all know that the sole reason we had for coming up this way was to:

  1. check out the lighthouses,
  2. rug up and walk on the beaches *scoff*, and
  3. find as many lobster shacks as humanly possible!

Thanks to Yelp, TripAdvisor and Reddit, we took all the guess work out of choosing good places to check out. First stop was Warren’s Lobster House in Kittery, which is just over the Piscataqua River, placing it just in Maine… a genuine Maine lobster shack right on the water.

Warrens-lobster-house.jpgThe menu was somewhat overwhelming, and evoked way too many questions – what on earth is popcorn lobster? do I want 1 and a 1/5 pound lobster? or 2, 1 pound lobsters? How much meat do you actually get from a boiled lobster anyway? Any why aren’t Americans on board with the fucking metric system yet? In the end, the lovely waitress told us there was about 9 oz (about 180gms) of lobster meat in a 1 1/4 pound lobster, which doesn’t sound like too much, so I opt for something called a Lobster trip to try and get a taste of all the good things – Stuffed lobster tails, steamed lobster claws and popcorn lobster! Lobster-Trio.jpgOMG. It was absolutely delicious! Lobstery goodness all round. They gave me a bib and an offer of assistance to help me get into the lobster if I ‘couldn’t figure it out’. Turns out I didn’t need either, all those years of fighting to get meat out of sand crabs and mud crabs totally paid off. 😀
Lobster-bib.jpgWe notice quite a few things driving around New England at the end of March… there’s a lot of stuff that is still “Closed For The Season”, which is a euphemism for “We think it’s too fucking cold and there aren’t enough visitors to open yet”. And ‘the Season’ seems to be really subjective. Some places were opening March 1, some felt the season started March 12 (no idea why), some said April 1, other signs said April 25, and some people we spoke to said, ‘usually after Labour Day’, which is like late May! So everyplace we went to see, it was bit hit and miss as to whether or not it was going to be open – we were mostly lucky but there’s plenty of restaurants, tourist centres and stuff that are all closed.

Another thing that we thought was really odd – people here still have their Christmas decorations up and it is now April. They have their plastic Santas and reindeers on their snow covered lawns, lights strung up on porches and wreaths still hanging on doors! Yeah… I’m usually trying to pack Xmas away the day after Boxing Day, so I am not really understanding this one. xmas-decorations.jpgStill, things are so pretty here, even a frozen pond on a day that is about -3C and raining can still look quite beautiful, so long as you don’t have to get out of the car!
Frozon-pond.jpgWe had a few errands to do this afternoon and Mr K insisted we go into the store called ‘Big Lots!’ With absolutely no idea what they sold big lots of, we found ourselves in the biggest, tackiest, shit for sale you’ve ever seen – also known as a dollar store.
big-lots-of-what.jpgOnly thing I saw here that I thought was fun, well funny really, was ‘Hamburger Helper’! I’d heard about it on TV shows and stuff, but never seen it – and to discover that it came in a variety of flavours? Well this was a real revelation! Ahuh, diverse flavours of Hamburger Helper, who’d’ve thunk?image We also went looking for a couple of bottles of Shiraz, the booze here seems to be sold mostly in state run Liquor stores which is odd… but we won’t compain too much as it somehow seems to keep the prices (probably the taxes) down. Aussie wines were cheaper here than they are at home! This 1.75L bottle of Captain Morgans Private Stock was *drumroll please*… USD$32.00! At home you’d pay AUD$90.00 for a 750ml bottle, and that’s if you could find the stuff. I’d probably be a very accomplished alcoholic if I lived here.capt-morgans-32.jpgIn the car park at the shopping centre, both Mr K and I notice at the exact same time that the motto for New Hampshire is “Live Free or Die” which seems a bit extreme nowadays. So we figured it too was a hangover from the struggle for Independence and took it upon ourselves to look it up. Not so, apparently the sentiment was penned by some old General in the Civil War era, but it wasn’t adopted as New Hampshire’s state motto until 1945, and there were Supreme Court rulings made on the displaying of the motto as recently as 1977 (some religious Jehovah Witness dude covered up the ‘or die’ bit on his number plate and ended up in court for defacing a licence plate), so it seems this whole state motto thing isn’t just them paying lip service to long dead ideals – libertarianism might be alive and well in New Hampshire (or free and dead, the jury is out).
license-live-free-or-die.jpgWe did manage to rug up and go for a bit of a wander around Portsmouth but as I said, there were LOTS of places that were closed, and many more that were bringing in all new stock getting ready for ‘the season, darlings’, but we did stumble on this cool little nautical gift shop called ‘Tugboat Alley’ – Surly would have loved this place, everything boats and knots and all nautical and sailing related are right up his alley. I had to take a pic of the door way with it’s port and starboard lights, we thought it was very cute.
kZVJuEJrcKTksVvd.jpgOh, and I found this pic for The Small Child… kiddo, if you were here, we would have totally taken you to the water park, just ignore all that white crunchy stuff you can see on the ground all around the park, that just softens your landing when you come down the slides!