Sunday, March 9, 2008

Not Exactly a White Christmas

It seems a bit odd to write about Christmas when it is now March but better late than never...
After a lifetime of summer Christmases with barbecues by the beach, swimming and enjoying the sun, we knew that a winter Christmas was going to come as a shock. Bagdad didn't get any settling snowfalls this winter and the temperatures generally stayed pretty mild so we didn't have to dig ourselves out of any snow drifts or anything like that. The climate is much like Orange (New South Wales) in lots of ways. We didn't get any snow on Christmas Day but Prescott got fairly regular snowfall all throughout winter. From early December on there was snow laying on the ground in Prescott so at last we could relate to all those well-intended but mis-placed Christmas cards in Australia that feature fir and pine trees covered in snow. One weekend in mid-December while the Grans were visiting us from Perth and New Zealand respectively, we were invited to a Christmas caroling party at the home (in Prescott) of one of the company's vice-presidents. It had been snowing all that day and the whole town was carpeted in white which reinforced the city's campaign to be "Arizona's Christmas City". Lots of people decorate their houses and businesses with lights, decorations and so on, really getting into the Christmas spirit. Singing Christmas carols while the snow fell outside was a really nice way to spend an evening. We stayed the night at a hotel in Prescott where there was a big display claiming to be "The World's Largest Gingerbread Village". It was definitely big, a display at least 20 metres long of all kinds of gingerbread houses and buildings, adobe houses, cathedrals, you name it, and of course a model train running through the middle of it all.

Christmas Day was a very special one since we had both Grans and P home to make the day very focussed on family. P has been away at work the past 2 Christmases so it was his first Christmas at home since N was a baby. We had to teach P the Santa protocol: biscuits and juice for Santa with a note from us, plus carrots for the reindeer and stockings hung up where Santa can find them. No getting up in the night or the reindeer will get nervous and won't land. We did a drive around Bagdad to see all the houses decorated with lights for Christmas. Some people had gone to incredible lengths (and presumably, expense) to light up their homes for Christmas and for such a small town there were so many very elaborate displays. Christmas is a lot of fun when you have little children in the house and it was so great for us all to be able to share the time together.

Las Vegas Revisted and Another Look at the Grand Canyon

While the Grans were here P and I took a week off work at the end of November and we all headed out on a road trip for about 6 days. First it was a short visit to Hoover Dam, where we had lunch and walked around the visitor centre and took some photos. Later that day we hit Las Vegas, this time we stayed at Treasure Island (TI) which was very nice and very convenient to everything. The first night of our stay I took the Grans to see Phantom of the Opera while P played chief babysitter and took N for a walk to see the lights of Vegas. Phantom was an incredible production with superb singers and really spectacular effects (fireworks and flares among them), I loved it and was really glad that we took the opportunity to see it. The following night we all went to see the Cirque du Soleil show "Mystere", which is the only show in Vegas that you can take children under 5 years to see. It was playing at TI so it could not have been more convenient. N was really spellbound by it all and it was neat to see so much wonder on his face as he took it all in. It has long been a dream of mine to take Mum to see Phantom and Cirque du Soleil so to share that with her was very special for me. There are a fairly limited number of things you can do with a 3-year-old in the gambling and excess capital of the world but it was enough just to walk around during the day and take in the whole spectacle. We took a gondola ride at the Venetian with a gondolier who was more interested in hearing about copper mining than singing us some opera (which is what he expected us to tip him for doing). We made a very quick (just a few minutes) visit to Paris which was absolutely beautiful inside - I will definitely try to get back there again for a longer look around next time we visit. There were so many beautiful little shops and the whole interior of that part of the casino was just gorgeous - it was all done in such a way that it really did feel as though we were walking in Paris.

From Las Vegas we headed east to Williams, from whence we took a day trip by train to the Grand Canyon. The train trip included lunch and a bus tour at the Canyon which was an ideal way to see a lot of scenery while minimising the amount of walking that the most senior and junior members of our party had to do. The Canyon was no less impressive the second time around and I am still awestruck by the sheer immensity of it. It appeals to me as a place where I could just sit and contemplate, well, anything for hours...the massive scale and incomparable beauty of the Canyon; our place in the Universe and how small and insignificant we really are when we compare ourselves to the great things that Mother Nature has created; and I found that it just really put a lot of things into perspective for me. I would have loved to be able to just sit there for a long time and soak it all in but of course we didn't have time to do that and with a little boy to watch out for (no guard rails on a lot of the lookouts, yikes) it's pretty hard to relax. The Canyon is a truly awesome place and I can't wait to visit it again. Travelling by train was not a bad way to go, at least we didn't have to worry about driving and could just relax and watch the scenery go by. Before the train left Williams that morning there was a mock shootout that had N very worried (he thought the gunfighter had really been shot so we had to explain that it wasn't real) then during the journey the outlaws boarded the train and "demanded" that we hand over our valuables. The outlaws and Sherriff (who of course was there to bring them to justice) are all former police officers who I guess are doing a much more entertaining job this side of retirement.

After spending a wonderful day at the Grand Canyon in chilly but sunny weather we had planned to continue east from Williams to Flagstaff. Instead a big snow storm came in so rather than drive into the worsening weather we decided to head back to Bagdad. It was a shame to have cut our holiday short but rather that than end up stranded somewhere because of the terrible weather.