START SPREADING THE NEWS – NEW YORK CITY , NEW YORK – A VISIT TO GOVERNOR’S ISLAND .

It’s  a  cloudy  day  here  in  New  York  City  as I  leave  my house  in Queens  for  a  30  Plus  Teams  Tour  of  New York  City .

I’m  taking  a  day trip  to  Governor’s  Island .

People  do work  here until  October  or so ,  but the majority  of  us can only  get there  by  ferry  from  Lower Manhattan  , also  until October .

I was born  in  and raised  in  the  city ,  but I  never really  knew anything  about this  island  that  sits in  the  East  River.

When I  returned  to  New York  City  in 2010 ,  I  still  had no desire  to  see Governor’s  Island .

After  all ,  if you’ve  seen  one  island ,  you’ve  seen  them  all.

Sort  of .

Now that  I’m  back in New York  City  with  oh  so  much  time  on  my hands, I  figured  why not  visit  Governor’s  Island ?

They make  it  oh so very  easy  to  get  there .

There’s  two  ferries  that  can get you  there .

One is the  New York  Waterways  Ferry  where you  can  either  purchase  your  tickets  online  or at  the  Governor’s  Island  Ferry  Terminal ,  which  is  next  to  the  Staten  Island  Ferry  Terminal .

For  some  strange  reason ,  if you  buy  your  tickets  online ,  that doesn’t  guarantee  you  a seat  on the  ferry .

For the  New  York  Waterways  Ferry ,  the prices  are   $2 for  adults ,  $1  for  seniors ,  and it’s  free for children  under 13 as well as those  who hold a  card that’s  called  the  NYC ID ,  which is  only  available  to  those  of  us  who live  in  the  five boroughs .

(  Thank  you  for  thinking  about  us, Mayor  DiBlasio ! )

There’s  also  another  Governor’s  Island  Ferry, which  happens  to  cost zilch, nada, that’s  right ,  free.

This  particular  ferry runs a little more often than  the  New York  Waterways  Ferry .

Guess  which  one I’m  getting  on at 9am ?

The  ride  is very calming ,  even though  I’m  not at all  a ferry  person .

On the  ride back, though ,  I was brave  enough  to  sit  on  the  top and watch the waves ripple ,  along with  a  couple  of  other  passengers .

When you  get off the  ferry ,  which  is only  a  seven  minute  ride, by the  way ,  there it is .

No, not  just  Governor’s  Island ,  but part of  the  skyline  of Lower Manhattan  is right  behind  you  across  the  water .

Most prominently  in the  skyline  is  One  World  Observatory .

It’s  beginning  to  rain ,  but  now  that  I’m  here ,  there’s  no  turning  back  now .

I’ve  never  seen  Governor’s  Island  before  and I’m  not  going  to  blow my chance now because  of  a few raindrops .

Do  you  remember  in high  school  reading  about  how the  Indians  sold the Island  of  Manhattan  to the  Dutch to what  basically  would  be   $24  now?

This  is  the place where they did  it, although  it wasn’t  known  as  Governor’s  Island  then.

It became  that name  when the  British  took  over  New  York  and  established  this  area  for  the  royal  governors  of New York .

Walking  around  some  of  the  buildings  reminded  me  of  some  of  the  colonial  style  houses  of  Boston  and  Philadelphia .

Looking  at  two  of  the  buildings ,  Fort  Jay  and  Castle  Williams  confuse  me just  a  little  bit .

Am  I  doing  a 30  Plus  Teams  Tour  of  New  York  City  or Baltimore ?

Both  of  these  forts  look  so  similar  to  Fort  McHenry  in  Baltimore  that  it’s  really  hard  to  tell  them  apart .

If you  happen  to  go  to  either  place ,  you’ll  see  what  I  mean .

All three  of  these  places  were  built  to  defend  the  United  States  from  the  British  and  their  allies  during  the  War  of  1812 .

Even  though  it’s  now  a steadier  rain ,  I’m  really  getting  my exercise  here .

There’s  not  that  many  cars or bikes  around ,  but  just  like  me ,  people  are walking ,  admiring  the  view .

Wait  a minute ! !

What is  that  in the  distance ?

It’s  Lady  Liberty  and far  off to  the  right  it’s  Ellis  Island .

I  didn’t  realize  how  close  it is  to Liberty  Island  either .

(  Liberty  Island  is going  to  be  another  stop  on my  30  Plus  Teams  Tour  of  New  York  City ,  but  not  today . )

Governor’s  Island  is  technically  considered  part of  Manhattan  and while  it’s  just  a  small  part of the  borough  of  Manhattan ,  visiting  Governor’s  Island  is a great  way  to  pass an  hour  or  two  right  in  the  shadow  of  Lower  Manhattan .

LAS VEGAS BABY ! – LAS VEGAS , NEVADA – A SLICE OF THE BIG APPLE IN LAS VEGAS , NEW YORK NEW YORK HOTEL AND CASINO .

I  was born  and  raised  in  that  other  city  that  never  sleeps ,  New York  City .

So I’ll  bet  you’re  wondering  just  why  would  I  fly  across  the  country  just  to see a  hotel  and  casino  with  a  fugazy  Brooklyn  Bridge ,  let  alone  a  replica  of  the  Statue  of  Liberty  in front  of  it ?

Um, because  it’s  there  and  I  can  because  this  is  my 30 Plus  Teams  Tour  of  Las  Vegas .

The  first  thing  one notices  when you  stand  on  the  street  and look up at the  facade, is just  that.

The facade that represents  Grand  Central  Station .

Those  screams  you hear  aren’t  from  people  who  just  won some  money  on the  slots  or on the  tables .

Look  above you before  you  walk in, you can’t  miss it .

Yes, it’s  a  big  roller  coaster  and it’s  called  ”  The  Big  Apple  ” .

You can  pretend  that  you’re  in Coney  Island ,  watching  the  Cyclone  go round  and  round .

The  roller  coaster  cars  are  even  in the shape  of  a  New York  City  taxicab .

Do my eyes  deceive  me?

Right  behind  that  much smaller  version  of  the  Statue  of  Liberty ,  is that a smaller  version  of  what else ,  Ellis  Island ?

(Special  thanks ,  by the  way  to my fellow  New Yorker  and friend Mish  for  allowing  me  to  use the Statue  of  Liberty  picture  in this  post.)

This is  New York ,  New  York  Hotel ,  so those just have to  be replicas  of  the  Empire  State  Building  and  the  Chrysler  Building ,  right ?

Yes  they  are .

When  you  finally  walk  inside ,  there’s  more than  enough  sights  to  make a New  Yorker  or a former  New Yorker  homesick  for all those  things  that  you  remember  as a  kid growing  up  in  the  Lower  East side ,  Washington  Heights ,  Harlem  or even Brooklyn ,  Queens ,  or Staten  Island .

The buildings  with  the  fire escapes  that  a lot  of  us  used to  sit on  to get some air in the summer  because  no one could  really  afford  air conditioning  back then bring  back great memories .

Of course ,  being  the  New Yorker  that I  am, it’s  all about  the  food.

They  even have  a Nathans  , just like the  ones you remember  going  to  in Brooklyn .

What would New York   New York  Hotel  be without  some authentic ,  sort of ,  pizza  parlors ?

This was comfort  food  to many a New York  school  kid, and it still is .

I might  be  in the  middle  of  the  desert ,  but  for  a  few  minutes   visiting  New York ,  New York  brought   me back to  those  memories  of  growing  up  in the  city .

LAS VEGAS BABY ! – LAS VEGAS , NEVADA – CHECK OUT THE FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE .

You’ve  decided  to  leave the  Las Vegas  Strip  for  the  evening  and  head on over  to  the  old  section  of  town ,  the  place  where  Las Vegas  actually  began ,  Downtown  Las  Vegas .

There aren’t  as many  casinos  down here but they  have just  as much  nightlife  and  excitement  going  on  as the  casinos  on  the  Las  Vegas  Strip  do .

One  thing  that  this  area  has that  the  Strip  doesn’t ,is a pedestrian  friendly  mall known  as  the  Fremont  Street  Experience .

Since 1995 ,  there has been  a  covering  over all the  shops ,  restaurants ,  bars and casinos  on Fremont  Street .

At night, from 8 pm  until  Midnight ,  this  canopy  lights up and becomes  something  known  as  ”  Viva  Vision  ” ,  where you can hear the  music of  acts like  the  Beatles ,  Green Day, and Bon  Jovi  ,  accompanied  by   what seems to be the entire  light  bulb  section  of every  Walmart ,  Target ,  or Home  Depot  store in all 50 states and Puerto  Rico  plus  the  District  of  Columbia .

If this wasn’t  enough  going  on ,  on either  side  of  the  street ,  there are  two stages  that people  perform  on, that is  when Viva  Vision  isn’t  playing .

Viva  Vision  runs   every  half hour, by the  way .

If the fifty million  lights from Viva  Vision  weren’t  bright  enough ,  every casino from The D all the way down to  the  Plaza  Las Vegas  gets a  little  brighter  also .

No, that’s  a  lie.

It gets a LOT  brighter  actually .

Do you  want  to  have  a  closer  view of the  goings-on  at Fremont  Street ,  including  the  crowds  and  the  many  street  performers  that seem  to  pop up  everywhere ?

You can by paying   $20 and riding  the  zip line  known  as  ”  Slotzilla  ” , which  shoots you out of  a what else, slot machine

,  and sends you zooming  over  the  crowds just like Superman  or Wonder  Woman .

No one ever told  you  that  Downtown  Las  Vegas  was  just  as much  fun  as the  Las  Vegas  Strip  even  though  it’s  much  smaller

You had so  a much fun at the Fremont  Street  Experience  that you just  might  come  back again  tomorrow  night.

LAS VEGAS BABY ! – LAS VEGAS , NEVADA – YOU MEAN THAT WE AREN’T IN EGYPT? – THE LUXOR HOTEL

It’s  been  a  long  day  in Las  Vegas  for  you  and  your  family .

The  four  of  you ,  you ,  your  wife  and  the  twins ,  a boy and  a  girl ,  age  15 ,  have  just  come  from  riding  the  Big  Apple  Roller  Coaster  at New York ,  New York   Hotel .

Being  the  New Yorkers  that  the  four  of  you  are, the roller  coaster  ride  reminded  you all on a ride on  the  New York  City  subway .

The  kids aren’t  ready  to  go  back  to  your hotel  just yet and neither  are  you  and your  wife ,  by the  way .

The  kids  have  told  you  as only  tweenagers  can ,  that they want  to  go  see the hotel  with ”  that mad huge sphinx . ”   in front  of  it.

You’re  guessing  that  they’re  talking  about  the Luxor  because  it reminds  you all of the time that you took the kids to visit  their grandparents  in Cairo ,  Egypt .

Normally ,  you would  walk to  this  hotel ,  but it’s  117  degrees  out, and that’s  with  no shade whatsoever .

If there’s  one  thing  that  you’ve  learned  from  your  trip  to  Las  Vegas  is that  objects  are NOT  as close  as  they  appear  to  be .

Luckily ,  there’s  a  free  tram  that  goes  from  Excalibur  Hotel  to the  Luxor .

The  four  of  you  get  off at  the  Luxor  stop, and there it is right in front  of  you ,  the half man, half lion, ”  mad huge sphinx . ”

The hotel  is  in the  shape  of  a  pyramid  and at night ,  there’s  a  beacon  of  light  that shines  from  the  top of  the  hotel   that supposedly  astronauts  can see from  Outer  Space ,  but you aren’t  sure  if  that’s  true  or if it’s  just  an urban  myth .

You  do know  that  when  your plane landed from Laguardia  Airport  to Las Vegas  McCarron  International  Airport  the other  night ,  you did see the  light  and it just wasn’t  the  lights  from  the  Las Vegas  Strip .

As you  all walk  through  the  lobby ,  there’s  two  huge  statues  of  a  Pharoah ,  which  one ,  you have no idea.

It does  remind  you  of  the  statue  of  Pharoah  Ramses  I I that the four  of  you  saw when you  went to  Abu  Simbel  with your cousins a few years  ago .

The  kids want  to  take  a ride  on  one  of  the  “inclinators”  at Luxor .

Because  of  the  shape  of  some  of  the  rooms  at the  hotel ,  the elevator  doesn’t  go straight ,  it inclines.

The kids won’t  have the  chance  to  ride the  inclinators  because  you all aren’t  staying  at  the  hotel .

Maybe  the  next  time  that  you  all come  to  Las  Vegas ,  whether  it  be  a 30  Plus  Teams  Tour  or not,  this is  the  hotel  that  you’ll  make  reservations  for .

You have to  agree  with  the  kids, just  being  at Luxor  for  a  few minutes  reminded  you of those  wonderful  times  that the four of  you  had visiting  your relatives and  in laws  in Egypt .

LAS VEGAS BABY ! – LAS VEGAS , NEVADA – A QUIET OASIS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT, BELLAGIO CONSERVATORY AND BOTANICAL GARDENS .

You’ve  been  in  Las  Vegas  for  three  days  or so ,  but  it seems  longer  because  there’s  so much  to  do  and so many places  to  see.

You  can’t  believe  that  you’re  actually  on a  30  Plus  Teams  Tour  of  Las  Vegas ,  but  you  are.

You gambled  a little ,  you ate a  lot  at the  buffets ,  but most  of  all  this  is  Las Vegas ,  so you definitely  did a lot of  partying .

Way too  much  maybe.

Now  you just  want  to  get  a little  peace and  quiet  here .

Just a  little ,  if that’s  possible .

Your  concierge  thinks  that  he knows  just the  place .

The Bellagio  Hotel  on the  Las  Vegas  Strip .

You’ve  already  been  there  before .

That’s  the  one with the  dancing  water fountains that  look  oh so  beautiful  at night ,  just like  the  rest of  the  Las Vegas  Strip  does .

”  No ,  it’s  the  Bellagio  Conservatory  and  Botanical  Gardens   that’s  inside  of  the  Bellagio , ”  he says .

How did  you  miss this ,  you wonder ?

Easy ,  you  didn’t  go inside  of  the  Bellagio ,  as it looked  just  way  too  elegant  for  your  taste .

Very high end and sophisticated ,  you think.

Since the Bellagio  isn’t  far  from the  hotel  that  you’re  staying  at ,  you’re  going  to  walk there, even though  you’re  very tired.

You’ve  been  walking  all day and you just know  that you haven’t  seen all of  this  place .

The Bellagio  does look oh so fancy from the  revolving  front door  to the   Dale  Chuily  chandelier  in the  lobby .

You  see the  signs for  the  Conservatory  and  Botanical  Gardens  right  in  front  of  you .

You  realize  that  you  aren’t  the  only  person  who’s  going  there .

The  Bellagio  Conservatory  and  Botanical  Gardens  are  one  of  the  top free attractions  in  the  city ,  and as you can  tell ,  it draws  a lot of  visitors .

You  can’t  believe  all the  of the  beautiful  flower arrangements  that are in front  of  you .

You  heard  that  the  conservatory  changes during  the  seasons  and you can just imagine  how it looks  during winter time  as well as  Chinese New Year .

You  know  that for Christmas ,  this  place must go all out with  the  flower  arrangements .

Right now  though ,  it’s  summertime  and  the  lavender ,  yellow ,  orange ,  blue  and  red  flowers  in front  of  you  are simply  breathe  taking .

You smile  to yourself  and think that who ever does these arrangements  isn’t  getting  paid  enough  for all this  work .

You  find  a  bench  nearby  and  sit  down ,  still  admiring  the  flower  arrangements  all around  you .

Your  concierge  was right .

This is  a  very  quiet  place in spite  of  all  the  people  that are  here.

No one  is  being  loud ,  nor is there loud music  or music  of any kind  being  played  here.

People  are  taking  pictures  and  just  admiring  the  scene .

Lots of  selfies  are being  taken ,  that’s  the  only  sound  you hear, people  posing  that perfect  shot.

For the  hour or so that you  were here, admiring  the  flowers and the objects  around them, the Bellagio  Conservatory  and  Botanical  Gardens  was an oasis  of  quiet  in that  hectic  city  in the  desert .