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LAS VEGAS REVISITED

The City of Neon Lights

Welcome to a 13-hour (10 to 11) shopping extravaganza at The Forum Shops at Caesarís Palace whose theme simulates an Ancient Roman commercial thoroughfare. Buying or even browsing here is serious stuff. Several high-end international brands such as Gucci, Valentino and Ferragamo are exclusive to this location and have no other outposts in town. Incorporating an overhead sky, the street ends at the domed rotunda that is the stage for a drama about the Lost City of Atlantis.

Venus Pool at Caesar's Palace

The Baths of Caracalla have nothing on the waterworks at this Caesarís Palace. Hourly at the Festival Fountain, animatronic statues retell the Atlantis story. As the mythical sunken continent rises and falls, Atlas, Gadruis and Alia compete to rule it. Venus, the goddess of beauty, tells Bacchus that itís an honor to attend the party heís hosting. The god of wine and merriment acknowledges her compliment with a belch. Special effects--fire, water, light, sound and smoke--are part of the action.

Company executives admit that in "recapturing the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome" the casino/resort blends "the erotic and exotic with a certain amount of decadence." Classic statuary of mythic gods are everywhere on the property. Hotel facilities and spaces, restaurants excepted, are cleverly tagged with names, which are familiar in the history of the Hellenic and Roman Empires. The wedding chapel is Neptuneís Villa. Towers housing guest rooms and suites bear monikers like Forum and Centurion. The stores in the hotel proper line the Appian Way. And if the atmosphere here is slightly hedonistic, thatís just as it should be in Las Vegas.

Celine Dion, A New Day

At Caesarís where less would never be more, a colossal expansion is and has been underway with more and more facilities being altered or added. In March 2003 the Cypress Street Marketplace, a collection of serve-yourself eateries opened at the Forum Casino. Bradley Ogden, a famed chef and restaurateur inaugurated his first branch outside of California. And the most spectacular happening of all, the unveiling of The Colosseum, a milestone in entertainment arenas, took place. Built in just 14 months, this one-of-a-kind theater has the largest indoor screen in North America. It was specially constructed to showcase Celine Dion in a spectacular production, "A New Day." Dionís boundless energy, partnership with Franco Dragone, director of Cirque du Soleilís finest shows, and awesome advanced technology makes "A New Day" the hottest ticket on the strip. Backed by a talented troupe of vocalists, musicians and dancers, the singerís long-term contract will keep her in front of cheering fans for hundred of nights.

Park Place Entertainment, Caesarís corporate parent, stretched the Greco/Roman motif 30 miles to Boulder to present another latest/best/most eye-popping addition, the just-opened golf course, Cascata, meaning waterfall, whose clubhouse is modeled after a Tuscan villa. You canít play if you donít stay at a PPE property. There are neither greens fees, nor food and drink charges. However, you must be a "special" guest. Like other services that are comped, you need to frequent the casino and place big bets. Golf course architect and genius Rees Jones constructed 18 holes and a practice facility on the side of a mountain. A 418-foot waterfall flows down the mountain and into the clubhouse. Almost every hole is framed by rock ledges. An abundance of water, grass, wild flowers, trees and cacti create a serene setting at Cascata, one of the most glorious golf courses in the world.

Suite with golf simulator

Guest rooms and suites are furnished in the best of taste and would please anyone regardless of whether they prefer a traditional, modern or contemporary look. The front door to our suite closed out the glitz. A kitchen, dining room, powder room, two oversized baths and walk-in closets, living room and bedroom were comfortable and homey.

Caesarís Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Tel. 702-731-7110. www.parkplace.com/caesars/lasvegas/

The Forum Shop at Caesarís, 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Tel. 702-893-4800

Tickets for A New Day, 1877-4-Celine

WHERE TO DINE

The eponymous Bradley Ogden at Caesarís staged an opening party, passing a dozen and a half samples of starters, small entrees and desserts. Farm to table ingredients are the focus of Ogdenís cooking. Appetizers included mouth-watering bites of potato cake with caviar, oyster fritters and sugar snap pea soup. Standouts among the main courses were Colorado lamb chops and morel salad and lobster-crab cakes. A variety of sweets like chocolate explosion and vanilla tangerine madelines showcased the kitchenís talent in dreaming up great pastries. The modern yet rustic decor blends bright earth tones and warm woods and enough simplicity so as not to intrude on the central experience hereófine dining. Waiters look spiffy in conservative gray suits and ties.

Bradley Ogden, Caesar's Palace. Tel. 703-721-7140.

Across the strip from Caesarís at Paris La Vegas, Ah Sin, an Asian restaurant with a new concept, was recently added to PPEís varied dining scene. The cuisines of China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Korea are all featured here on a very long menu. The large group at our table shared some of the specialties so that we could all taste the beef sashimi, golden triangle wontons, roasted duck salad, crunch rolls, suckling pig barbecue, charred chicken, Vietnamese glass noodles and lobster chunks. In Cantonese Ah Sin means Always Lucky, the name of a Chinese gambler who was created by writer Bret Harte. The lead designer on the project calls the space "contemporary zen."

Upstairs from Ah Sin is another new spot, Risque, a late-night dessert bar with a nightclub atmosphere. Jean-Claude Canestrier, who was named top international pastry chef in a 2002 international competition, prepares unique sweets. Our favorite was apricot souffle.

Ah Sin, Risque, Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Tel. 702-946-7000.

Michael Goodman who had only been head man at Veranda at the Four Seasons for three weeks, but who had been climbing the hotel chainís ladder for years prepared a superlative tasting dinner for us and matched every luscious course with an equally outstanding wine. Peppery foccacio and balsamic and olive oil dip accompanied seared scallops and spinach sauced with a red pepper reduction. A Ferrari-Carano 2001 fume blanc chosen as the starting vintage had a citrus finish and peppery balance. Tender juicy duck breast cooked medium, napped with balsamic sauce and sided with a greens-filled squash basket, was matched with a California Acacia Pinot Noir 2001. We sipped cabernet sauvignon while eating lamb loin and morels in a cabernet reduction. Lime sorbet was soothingly delicious and chocolates and marzipan provided a sweet finish to an evening of grand dining.

Service was attentive. The natural colored dining room is quietly elegant.

The Veranda, the Four Seasons, 3960 La Vegas Blvd. South, Tel. 888-632-5000, 702-632-5000.

Culture has been asserting itself in Sin City. Ballet and creative theater enthusiasts might enjoy Mystere, one of Cirque du Soleilís two local productions. The graceful, skilled gymnasts who perform in Mystere, a sensitive celebration of life, combine dancing with acrobatics. The color, music, talent and joy of this show make it easy to understand why it has been playing twice nightly for a decade.

Mystere, Treasure Island, 3300 Las Vegas Blvd. South. Tel. 800-392-1999, 702-796-9999

If you like aquariums, head for Shark Reef. Dangerous and exotic aquatic animals swim in 14 water venues including one that houses a sunken pirate ship. Crocodiles, lizards, sea jellies, eels and turtles are a few of the more than 2,500 specimens. Shark Reef is meant to educate as well as entertain. Hand-held audio guides help with that task.

Shark Reef, Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South .Tel. 877-632-7000.

The Guggenheim Hermitage Museum is now showing its second exhibition "Art through the Ages: Masterpieces from Titian to Picasso." Works borrowed from New Yorkís Guggenheim, St. Petersburgís Hermitage and Viennaís Kunsthisorisches Museums range from 15th-century Renaissance to 20th-century modern. In a well-edited display of 39 masterpieces, the key moments in the development of Western painting are represented. Canvases by Darer, Poisson, Tintoretto, van Dyck, Velazquez, Delacroix, Cezanne, Picasso and Kandinsky take the viewer on a journey through the centuries ending with Pollack, de Kooning and Lichtenstein.

Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Tel. 702-414-2440.

Summer 2003