Photo Essay: The Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas

After so many trips to Vegas, I finally made it to The Neon Boneyard. At this special place in the outer edges of old Vegas, visitors pay their respects to the glorious signs of Vegas Past. 

The following images were taken with the new Lumia 1520. 

The Neon Boneyard

The Neon Boneyard is only part of the Neon Museum, a non-profit organization founded in 1996. The group's mission is to collect and preserve iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, and cultural enrichment. Tour guides volunteer their time, sharing stories and caring for these old beauties. Our tour guide, Dottie, lovingly retold so many behind-the-scenes stories that were just as interesting as the signs themselves. Since I wouldn't be doing them any justice, I'll only be retelling a few tidbits and sharing these images. You're just going to have to get out to Vegas to hear the stories from Dottie yourself. 

Driving up to the entrance of the museum, you'll see a sign made from familiar remnants of other signs. Can you guess where each piece is from?

The Neon Boneyard.jpg

The first signs of light in Vegas were aglow in 1905 at the Golden Nugget. See the nugget in the middle? Yeah... looks like a different kind of "nugget."

Original Golden Nugget Sign 1905.jpg
El Portal at The Neon Boneyard.jpg
Sahara at The Neon Boneyard.jpg
The Algiers at The Neon Boneyard.jpg
Fantasia at The Neon Boneyard.jpg
Stardust at The Neon Boneyard.jpg

I'll end this photo essay with my favorite.

The letters from the original Moulin Rouge sign were jumbled around to spell something else. Standing on the far side of the giant letters, it's really hard to make out the words they created. But then you start walking past it, and just like that, you see that you're "in love." Apparently, this is a popular spot for couples to have their wedding pictures taken.

Moulin Rouge in Love at The Neon Boneyard.jpg

Needless to say, I was in love with this tour. I'm dying to return to not only take more pictures of signs I missed, but at a different time of day to see how the signs I did capture will look under different light.

If you're ever in Vegas, do yourself a favor and make a reservation to visit.

Turning Cheeseburgers into Chili: Tasty Recipe from Sunny Anderson and Extended Stay America

Traveling can be fun, but eating on the road isn't always a delight. Either you spend too much on a sit down meal, or you end up eating the same old fast food for dinner. Wouldn't it be nice to land at your hotel and have a nice warm meal that's easy to make? If you stay at an Extended Stay America, you can do that in their mini kitchens!

Sunny Anderson and Extended Stay America have put together a few recipes for travelers that are weary of eating the same old thing on the road. By jazzing up ordinary convenience food, you can have a really nice meal.

I put together one of the recipes in our home away from home: my mom's house. I grabbed a few burgers from In-N-Out. I had them put the spread and the cheese slices on the side, which most fast food restaurants can accommodate. Then, I stopped at a 7-Eleven in the adjacent parking lot for a couple more ingredients.

Cheeseburge to Chilii Ingredients

I had some beans on me. I mean, I'm Mexican. I should have beans on me at all times, right? Just kidding. Sort of.

Beans Beans

Then I deconstructed the burger into all of its parts and chopped or sliced into pieces. The lettuce I left as is and the bread I cut up into crouton sized bits for toasting later.

Five Easy Pieces
Deconstructed Cheeseburger.jpg

Start by heating a little bit of oil into a medium sized pot.

Start with Oil

Next, add the chopped hamburger patties.

Add Chopped Cheeseburger Patties

After that, add the salsa and beans.

Add Beans and Salsa

Let that simmer for about five minutes. While that's simmering, put the chopped up buns in the oven to toast for croutons

Chili Simmering
Toast Buns for Croutons

Then add the tomatoes and onions.

Add Tomatoes.jpg
Add Onions

Stir that around for a few more minutes. Top with cheese and croutons (and a little sour cream, if you've got it), and voila! You have a warm and tasty bowl of chili to chow down on!

Sugar with Cheeseburger Chili

And, of course, serve with a side of Frito's. Because it's just not the same without them!

Kids Eating Chili

By the way... my son who was mad that we weren't eating the burgers right away later said, "That chili was WAY better than having burgers!"

YOUR TURN!

I have FIVE copies of Sunny Anderson's Away From Home Cooking cookbooks from Extended Stay America to giveaway! To enter, just leave me a comment about any eating-on-the-road stories you have. Five random commenters will be chosen next Friday to receive a copy of this book full of great recipes and tips for eating on the road.

GIVEAWAY: Sunny Anderson ESA Cookbooks

GOOD LUCK!

Sunday Driving: Santo Tomas Winery

Sunday is the day we reserve for exploring. Sometimes, it's on foot or on bikes. Other times, it's a long drive, seeing what we can see. This past Sunday, we actually pulled out a map and decided on a place we'd been wanting to go check out: Santo Tomas.

Bodegas Santo Tomas #ensenada #mexico #wine

When we first moved to Ensenada, we thought all the wineries were in the valley northeast of the marina. In doing a little research, I found out that the Ensenada wine region is actually made up of three wine regions: Valle de Guadalupe, the most well-known and closest to town, as well as Santo Tomas and San Vicente, both south of Ensenada on the Transpeninsular Highway, or Hwy 1. While I'd love to go to the Valle de Guadalup EVERY Sunday, I wanted to explore. I also wanted to see the winery that started it all in the Californias. 

A Little History

In 1697, Jesuit priests were given consent by the Spanish crown to enter into the barren, unattractive peninsula at their own risk and expense. The Spanish needed a post on the peninsula to protect trade, but had until then been unsuccessful. The Jesuits did what they could not and were left alone. And, being quite enterprising and not afraid of work, they eventually were able to support their existence in the foreign land. Unfortunately, after nearly 70 years of faithfully working the unforgiving land, they were rounded up and expelled from the country. It seems that they had a some opportunists and royalty against them.

The Franciscans and Dominicans took over the enterprises after the Jesuits left, but with the new Constitution and Reformation Laws, all lands once held by the Catholic Church were expropriated by the Mexican government. Santo Tomas was handed over to Don Loreto Amador.

In 1888, a former gold miner and his friend purchased the winery from Loreto Amador and officially established Bodegas de Santo Tomas. In the 1920's, the Bodegas was purchased by former President of the Republic of Mexico, Don Abelardo L. Rodriguez, under whose hand the winery went through major expansion, including moving the bottling to its current location, Miramar 666 in the heart of Ensenada.

Fast Forward to Our Afternoon at Santo Tomas in 2013

We drove past the winery the first time. I told Mr. Jones, "Hey, that sign said Santo Tomas!" He looked around while continuing to drive and said something to the effect of that couldn't be it, too small, let's keep driving. About a half an hour later and a few miles of off-roading where the highway was under construction, we reached San Vicente, which is south of Santo Tomas. We turned back, drive through the dirt road detours and finally ended up back at Santo Tomas. I tell you this for two reasons:

  1. No matter how much it annoys my husband, I will continue my horrible habit of being a backseat driver because things like THIS happen, and
  2. If you blink, you'll drive right through the town. 

The campesino at the gate scribbled our names in his log clipped to his board and then manually lifted the gate to let us in. Along the drive up to the tasting room were signs that invited us to mingle our senses... taste the air... breathe the sun. Essentially, live life fully. After easily finding a spot in the unmarked lot (there were only two other cars there), we walked past a wine cave, a fountain that wasn't fountaining, and some picnic tables where a group of people were enjoying a bottle. As we entered, we saw two couples at a table near the windows enjoying some wine and cheese and, across the room, a young lady at the counter wearing a panda beanie with tassels and pom poms. It was an elegantly decorated room that clearly didn't take itself too seriously.

Perfect for The Joneses.

Sipping and Noshing

Tasting Room at Bodegas Santo Tomas #ensenada #mexico #wine

We picked out a meat assortment and some cheeses from the deli case next to the main counter and asked for a wine recommendation. The young lady with the panda beanie said that for our meats and cheeses, she thought the Tempranillo would be best. While we were making our purchase, another employee appeared out of thin air, and just as quickly, disappeared with our food. We went to our table with our glasses and bottle, and within a few minutes, the disappearing employee reappeared with our cheese, meats, and crackers beautifully placed on boards.

We sipped and noshed and laughed and talked, all the while, watching a stream of small groups and couples come and go. It's definitely not as busy as the location on Miramar, it does seem to enjoy its share of foot traffic.

We finished our afternoon snack just in time to walk about the vineyards and take some pictures before the sun set. Waving goodbye to the campesino as we drove out the gate, we promised each other to come back and try another bottle on another Sunday very soon.

 

A Proper Pub in Vegas, Baby!

When I think of going to Vegas, two images come to mind. One is of Daniel Craig as the sexiest Bond ever in Casino Royale. The other is of my friends and I staying up all night, drinks in one hand, chips in another, winning and losing and winning and losing, not knowing the time, and really... not caring. Just having a blast, letting it ride.

Going to a casino is a fun experience, a chance to dress up and enjoy yourself with friends at the various tables playing games like poker and roulette and enjoying cocktails. When you are in Las Vegas, everything is to the extreme. Going to a casino resort, you have so many things to do, all under one roof. Multiple casinos offer games (similar to those at www.jackpotcity.co.uk/mobile-casino/iphone-casino) as well as endless restaurant and entertainment options. Then there are the world class spa facilities... ahhh...

It's all enough to keep you busy for your whole trip!

The food in Vegas is a whole experience unto itself. It's a mixture of diner, specialty, and high end fare, with many celebrity chef owned restaurants. At Caesars Palace you'll find none other than Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill.

Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill Las Vegas

This is a 290 seat restaurant and is a complete English pub experience. It's actually two restaurants in one with the grill section having a more relaxed setting and the pub section being a lot livelier. (That's likely where you'll find me.) This is one of three restaurants that Gordon Ramsay owns in Las Vegas and serves as the middle ground restaurant. His Steakhouse at Paris Las Vegas is higher end and his restaurant BurGR at the Planet Hollywood Resort is more fast food diner style.

The Pub and Grill has comfy chair seating and flat screen televisions playing sports and music stations. With union jacks and wood and brick, the place is designed to give the pub a proper British feel. You'll also find beer kegs lining a wall and Tower of London and Big Ben artwork. There are even those cute little red British telephone booths!

There are two different menus available-one is the pub menu which has classics such as shepherd’s pie, and the grill menu after 5pm offers things like pan-seared diver scallops.

If you go, try the 8 selection tasting of beer at the bar ($15). The hard part is choosing from all the beers, including Ramsey’s own 'Innis & Gunn'.

 Cheers!

Sunday Driving: Found Farm Fresh Eggs AND Free WiFi at La Flor de la Calabaza in Ensenada!

It's not easy going back to store bought eggs after a year of farm fresh eggs from your own backyard chickens. It took me about a month after moving to Ensenada to finally break down and buy a carton at the store.

The first egg I cracked made me sad. Unlike the robust orange-yellow I was used to, the color of the store-bought yolk was pale. The taste was just as bland. I have to admit, I had to choke back a few tears. I missed our chickens and I missed their eggs. I knew that the feed I gave the girls had a lot to do with the eggs, as well as letting them roam around the yard, playing in the sun. They were happy little birds. We were also eating eggs that had been laid that week, so the freshness contributed to the taste, too.

And those fresh eggs were so delicious!!!

Last Sunday, Mr. Jones and I went out exploring another part of Ensenada, just north of the ships and south of the toll road entrance. We drove over to a surf spot I've been wanting to check out and walked around a bit. We were too late for breakfast at the little kitchen nearby, so we drove over to a nearby hotel and marina to walk around and maybe get some lunch. The staff was late setting up because of a concert the night before that had them all working until 4 that morning. We were as patient as we could be as they set up, but after about an hour of sipping our beer, they still weren't set up, and I was done being patient. We decided to drive up the road to see what we could see.

La Flor de la Calabaza

La Flor de la Calabaza

It was the beautiful flower on the sign of La Flor de la Calabaza that caught my eye. I thought it might be a gardening store, but then I saw "Mercado/Cafe" and thought we might find a bite, but it was too late to pull in, so we had to turn around and go back. Right at the entrance of Las Playas resort was a tiny metal shack of a market that was too inviting to pass up.

Inside, we found local and specialty food items, like honey, jams, olive oils, lavendar, vegetables. We walked over to the xounter to see what we might order for lunch. They were out of a few of the items we wanted, but before I got completely frustrated, I said "What DO you have that we can order?" She smiled as kindly as she could at my hungry, impatient face and sweetly told us our choices. We decided on a sandwich that we both liked and asked if they could split it and add a salad. They were more than happy to do so.

While we waited, I walked around and explored the other side of the market. That's when I found the eggs. I asked the girl at the counter if they were fresh, and she said that they had just been delivered the day before from a local farm.

Happy Sugar!!!

 

La Flor de la Calabaza Mercado in Ensenada

Lunch took a little while, but like they said on their menu, everything is made fresh upon ordering and they appreciate our patience. It was completely worth the wait. Inside the panini was a thick piece of cured ham, thin slices of salmon touched with smoke, and a fried egg, seasoned to perfection. It was served with natural chips and a fresh salad, drizzled with a light dressing that was tangy and sweet. Mr. Jones and I both agreed, it was one of the best things we'd tasted since moving here.

Did I mention the free wi-fi?

My sweet heaven... my patience had been rewarded ten fold.