Oct 4, 2012

Vdara Las Vegas

Smack dab in the middle of the Las Vegas strip is the brand new, sprawling, but undeniably luxurious City Center complex. Within it you'll find the Shops at Crystals, numerous restaurants, condos, and the luxury hotels Aria, Mandarin Oriental, and Vdara. It was my goal to do Vegas a bit bigger this time around, and so I spent five nights in the five star all-suite, Vdara.

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I can wholeheartedly say that I really loved staying here. My room was on the 50th floor and had stunning views of the south strip, including the Luxor pyramid, Mandalay Bay, and with the mountains. Vdara is a no-casino hotel, which I found to be a plus despite my intention to gamble. The lack of casino made for a more relaxed environment, and a far less crowded or muddled layout as far as the lobby was concerned. Accessing the strip (or neighbouring casinos at the connected Bellagio or Aria) was just a short walk away.

My room was brilliant (as was Mike and Erin's on the other side of the tower). I had three giant windows with automatic shades, a stunning view, a large bathroom with a separate shower and tub, a small kitchen and dining area, and a spacious sitting area. The room even had a cool doorbell and electronic do not disturb light. It was an extremely comfortable and quiet place to come back to after a long day and the bed was top-notch (even for a quick jump).

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Vdara isn't really in the heart of the action, but that's kind of what made it for me. I still felt close to everything on the strip, but the location at the back of the City Center complex made the hotel feel more private. I also found the maid service to be particularly good. Every evening when I returned my razor and toiletries were nicely laid out for me on the vanity, and extra care was even taken to roll up my laptop chord or chargers when I left them out.

I'd stay here again if I weren't so intent on trying a different hotel each time I go to Las Vegas, but I can certainly say that despite lacking a novelty theme, Vdara easily out-shined past stays at Circus Circus, MGM Grand, Harrah's, and the Plaza downtown. It's a polished and posh hub just steps away from all of the chaos and energy that make Vegas so much fun.

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Oct 3, 2012

From the Archivist: Five Roses Flour Mill

When I posted about the Five Roses Flour Mill last week, I had quite a bit of trouble with my research in nailing down specific dates about the location in Medicine Hat, Alberta.  I was in contact with one of the archivists at the Esplanade to try and get some help and she was kind to respond in detail to my question regarding the history of the site.  Here is what she wrote:

I have been looking into your question regarding the Flour Mill at 687 South Railway Street. The first building on the site was built in 1901 by the McNeeley family. This was later torn down, and in its place was built in 1910 what began as the Medicine Hat Milling Company (still owned by the McNeeley family, but wasn’t incorporated until 1912). This original building was 130’ x 80’ and built under permit #324 issued July 29, 1912 and the estimated cost of construction was $50,000.  In 1914 the building was bought by Lake of the Woods Milling, and in May 1914 they built an addition of 40’ x 28’ onto the original building—as well as an elevator structure (51’ x 36’) at a cost of $30,000 on permit #136.

Then, we fall into a bit of confusion. The present structures that we see are not the original building. It appears that the original building was knocked down and replaced by a warehouse and mill built out of brick and concrete for an estimated cost of $150,000. As well, elevators built of reinforced concrete were added for and estimated cost of $100,000—built under permits #22 and #23 issued June 20, 1916. I can’t be certain if the existing elevators that were built in 1914 were knocked down and replaced by the elevators in 1916, or if they were the ‘additional’ elevators you described.

I have included a few pictures for reference. Unfortunately, these pictures are just assigned tentative dates, as we are uncertain of their exact dates. My information is educated guesses, and I have put the photos into what I believe is ‘chronological’ order.

Image #0048-0001: This is the early photo of McNeeley’s Mill (Medicine Hat Milling Company). This picture is dated 1903.

Image #0403-0001-06: This is a photograph of the Medicine Hat Milling Company in 1912 or 1913. It does not show the same building as it was in 1903, and shows three or four identifiable structures.

Image #0439-0037: In this image, you can see that the 1913 structure is now gone from the centre of the photograph, leaving only the small house-like (office?) in the front—implying that the building of 1913 has been torn down.  The front of the building still says the Medicine Hat Milling Company.

Image #0350-0075: This photograph shows the exterior of the Lake of the Woods flour mill (notice the Five Roses Flour) named on the front, meaning this photo must be after the 1914 purchase. I also believe that this shows the additions—on the right of the photo—that Lake of the Woods did to the building.

Image #0299-0001 to 0004: This set shows the construction of the large warehouse and elevators, and is most likely the 1916 construction. The final photo, 0004, shows the six elevators, and all seem to be under construction from the top. To myself, this indicates that all other elevators were removed, and that the six were built concurrently.

Image #525-0126: This photograph shows all four buildings of the Mill seemingly after the construction is completed.

To me it's clear that there were further expansions on the site, specifically in regards to the elevator.  As it stands today, it is a wider structure and it makes sense that that would have come as a result of increased production.  The downsizing of the warehouse however, was a result of the renovation into an inn and pub back in the 1970s.

Oct 2, 2012

Now Boarding for Las Vegas

Flying to Las Vegas wasn't really that stressful of a situation, however it turned into more of a story when things didn't go to plan.  It's incredibly expensive to fly out of Medicine Hat's regional airport, so last Sunday I drove up to Calgary to catch a flight to Seattle with a connection to Las Vegas.  I've been to Vegas four times before, driving twice, and flying direct twice, and this was the first time I had to make the flight with a connection - in the future I'll be more diligent about avoiding this.

It all started when I was waiting in the Calgary airport when they announced that the gate for my flight had changed.  Once I got there it was announced that the flight would be delayed by an hour as the plane hadn't arrived in time.  Usually this wouldn't be such a big deal, but I had a small window to make my connection and there's nothing worse than feeling rushed when you're not familiar with the area.  Despite the delay, they assured us our connections would be fine and everything worked out.  That night I made it to Las Vegas and the fun began (more on that to come).  

I was flying with Alaska Airlines, and while my initial flights came together in the end, it was on the way back that things really got messy.  I arrived early to McCarran International in Vegas to take the same route home.  I'd be connecting in Seattle to Calgary and then I'd be driving home late that night, or so I thought.  After about an hour of waiting I heard a familiar announcement.  My gate had changed and it turned out our plane was having mechanical issues and they were going to have to fly in a replacement from Los Angeles.

It was at this point that you could see the frustration levels mounting in the lounge. Not even a bit of last minute airport gambling seemed very fun.  There were a handful of us who had connections to Calgary and Edmonton that night and we'd just been told that the delay would be at least two hours.  This meant we'd arrive in Seattle just as our connections were taking off.  As some passengers scrambled to find alternatives, it was becoming increasingly clear that a bunch of us would be stranded in Seattle for the night waiting for the next flights out in the morning.  

By the time we finally left Vegas the sun was setting and a delay on my connecting flight was the only plausible way that I'd make it.  When we landed in Seattle they announced my connecting flight had left on time, the irony being that it was the only one that had on my entire trip and I wasn't on it.

They booked me on a flight to Calgary the next morning and paid for a room at a hotel close by.  I was happy I wasn't sleeping on the floor of the airport, but I was without my checked bag which was being held for my connection the next the day.  I made due with a late night snack at Denny's, and managed a few hours sleep before heading back to the airport.  Despite the change of plans, I had given myself a few days leeway to recooperate from the trip anyway so I wasn't really pressed for time.  It would've been way worse had this happened on my way there as it would've cut into vacation time, but as it was, I just gained another story from my week away.