We began our winter break with a JSN shabbaton in Santa Clara. Maor babysat for the little kids and we hung out with the adults, listened to some interesting divrei Torah, particularly by Rabbi David Fohrman, and enjoyed not having to cook for Shabbat.
On Sunday morning we grabbed some food for the long drive and set out for Las Vegas.
I took my laptop so Maor could watch movies in the car. I think she should be able to occupy herself without always being plugged into a screen (tv, computer, mp3) but for the sake of not listening to her whine for over 8 hours (and saving my sanity) I gave in to the electronic box.
The drive down was uneventful and after arriving Sunday night we went out for pizza and settled into our hotel.
On Monday we visited the small and unimpressive Las Vegas Zoo (alas, no tigers) and then headed over to the Las Vegas strip where we saw 3 slumbering lions at the MGM lion habitat, visited m&m world, and walked down to the wildlife habitat at the Flamingo Hotel. That night we went out for dinner at Tari Grill and Deli with my Uncle and cousin. I haven't seen my cousin in about 20 years and the last time I saw my uncle was 10 1/2 years ago when he came to see us in New York when I was visiting my mom. As we reminisced, at that time, he came to the NY Aquarium with us, where Maor had a tantrum during the dolphin show (she was 2 1/2 at the time) and I had to go out and find her milk for her bottle while my uncle watched the rest of the show with Liam. Anyway, one of the highlights of the trip was spending time with my uncle, my mother's brother.
Tuesday we headed to Circus Circus where Maor played arcade games at the Midway and we all played skee ball. This was definitely a trip down nostalgia lane since when I was a kid my uncle would take my cousins and me to Coney Island every summer, and skee ball was always a hit. We then headed to the adventuredome but Maor didn't want to go on the rides by herself so after one 4D movie and a spin on the bumper cars with my cousin we headed out. We went to Adar pizza for a late lunch again with my uncle and cousin and headed back to the hotel. That night we left Maor with the electronic babysitter and went back to the casinos by ourselves. We are not big gamblers but it was fun to soak up the crazy atmosphere and gamble a bit.
On Wednesday morning we headed South to the Hoover Dam. I was never very interested in history or geography, and being a typical New Yorker (as my Chicago husband is constantly reminding me) I think the USA revolves around NY so now I actually find seeing the USA quite interesting and a real eye opener. I am amazed at the vastness of the United States. As a kid my family didn't really go on vacations and except for a few trips: a weekend in Washington DC in 6th grade, Disneyworld with a friend in high school, and a high school trip to Canada I didn't leave New York (well, a few summers in Israel as well). After my year in Israel where I met people from other parts of the US and the world, I had the chance to visit both Southern and Northern California and then before making aliya we drove cross-country. But for some reason it is only now that I am really appreciating the sights of the US. When foreigners think of America they imagine the big cities - New York, Los Angeles, Boston, maybe Chicago but not the wide open spaces and the beautiful landscapes that America has to offer. Anyway, back to the Hoover Dam. For those of you as ignorant as I, the Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s to control the Colorado River. It was a government project that actually was completed ahead of time and under budget. The dam supports itself by selling electricity and the electricity generated by the dam serves over one million people in Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. After our tour of the Hoover Dam we stopped to eat lunch at Lake Mead, the largest US man made lake, which was created by the building of the Hoover Dam.
On Thursday we went to Red Rock Canyon and again, it's amazing that this beautiful site is located so close to the Neon of Las Vegas. We did the scenic drive and took a very short hike where we saw a frozen waterfall. Thursday night we went to see a magic show - Steve Wyrick Real Magic. We all enjoyed it although I thought it was a bit too much gimmick and show and not enough magic. We walked around Planet Hollywood and while passing by some of the carts selling things I started to say to Arthur, I wonder how many of these kids are Israelis and sure enough, we hear them talking Hebrew to eachother.
Friday we went to the shark reef at the Mandalay Bay (what can I say, we like zoos and aquariums) and then to the Pinball Hall of Fame which has pinball machines and some old video arcade games. To Maor's chagrin they do not dispense winning tickets like in Circus Circus but we all had a good time playing. I used to love pinball, since I used to play in the bowling alley when I went bowling with my friends and I hated to bowl. They also had games like Ms. Pacman and Centipede in this hall of fame, definitely a blast from the past. Maor and Arthur played this old time baseball pinball:
We then went to buy food for Shabbat and checked in to our new hotel conveniently located literally next door to 2 orthodox shuls! Arthur and Maor went to shul Friday night and we ate in the hotel room, played some card games, read, and went to bed. Shabbat morning we went to shul and were invited to the Rabbi's house for lunch. In shul we met a family who had made aliyah to Karnei Shomron and were there for 3 years before coming back to the US since half their family was here (work and school) and it was too difficult with the family split. They hope to go back to Karnei when their kids finish college. Some of the kids went to the same school Maor went to and when certain teachers were mentioned, she grimaced and everyone laughed. One of the nicer things about traveling is meeting people in shul and doing the Jewish geography thing. In New York if you're an unfamiliar face in shul no one gives you the time of day.
After breakfast on Sunday morning we headed back to San Jose with a short stop to see Calico ghost town which was way too commercialized and not enough information. Unfortunately I felt nauseous the entire way home and eventually threw up about an hour away from San Jose. That hasn't happened to me in a very long time.
We had a quiet new year's at home and are now back in the routine of work and school. One of my classes is starting this Tuesday (it's from the University of Pittsburgh) but the other two don't start till the 23rd. I am NOT liking my job and hope I can hang on till the summer. That's all the news that's fit to print for now. Enjoy the photos from our Las Vegas trip below.