Vino Las Vegas

Well, the interest has finally peaked from, of all places, Sin City.

vegas

Pool-Stogie-Looofahhhhh!  All good.

Now Las Vegas gets a bad wrap. Beyond the glitz and tits, there are sane and non-sleazy peeps all over the place. They practice Nobless Oblige, love their vino, and have a great sense of family-fun-frolicking. So, for me, what happens in Vegas will not stay, but stream.

I have staked out production central in Henderson, 20 minutes from the strip and a world away from “the action”.

There is a vibrant production, talent community here, making creation-to-presentation a cinch. So the roll out should be soon plus satisfying.

Vino Las Vegas. Elvis would be proud.

 

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Leather Vineyard Firenze

leather

They hang like grapes from the vines: Outdoor acres (or hectares) of purses, belts, coats, and attaché cases around every corner. Escaping the bazaar only “plants” you in alleys dotted with the same “fruit”.

Firenze (Florence to those outside the box) prides itself as a Leather Capitol and for good reason: Quality, quantity, price, and selection. The cradle of the Renaissance is a favoloso-fantastico flea market as well.

This Tuscan vortex of art and beauty begs to be strolled. The proximity of the Duomo to Ponte Vecchio to Pitti Palace to Piazza Signorelli to Santa Croce to Accademia makes walking the efficient if not only, way to get around. And as you stumble around the herd of tourists and 17,459 American College Students “studying” abroad, you realize how cabs and cars are impossible and bikes or scooters would fail to negotiate the mob packed alleyways. So you mosey along, admiring the sights, sounds, and scents, especially of the “fruit”.

Nothing like the aroma of leather!

There is a charm to this anti-antiseptic shopping mall alternative. No air-conditioning, restrooms, public seating areas, or security centers: Just row after row, streets after street, and piazza after piazza of stuff ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Like wine, there is grand vintage and rotgut. Steals and deals abound. You can purchase a handcrafted masterpiece worthy of Botticelli or buy a nasty naked David magnet for your fridge. You’ll survey the satchels while someone picks your pocket or snap up that new wallet, even though your old one has a few miles left on it.

After the pulsing armpit of outdoor commerce, you flop at an outdoor café or collapse in a trattoria to “heal” yourself with pasta cinghiale (wild boar), cheese, caprese, mixed greens, and/or gelato Florentino.

But, after the pilgrimage through the Leather Vineyards, make sure you sample the real grape deal.

Chianti anyone?

Piazza in the Levant

Batroun deserves a shout out as one big seaside piazza.

batroun

Unease is a way of life in the Middle East these days. You would think the people are tired of it. But, “My God is better than Your God” still echoes in the backward barbarity practiced throughout the region. Yet, they don’t seem to be reading that memo here in Batroun.

Landing in Beirut and then crawling northward through rush hour traffic, I was intrigued, enthralled and mournful. To my left was the sea. No, The SEA! What makes Phoenicia and Phoenicians is their proud, elegant, and glorious history/love affair with the Mediterranean. A sun-gobbling horizon of color looking west can only affirm this. Somewhere deep in my DNA, a sense of saltwater and cedar grips me. The trees of the north will have to wait for another day, lest I lose my head literally amid the chaos that is ever so close, but seems so far away.

I glance right to be reminded of this. Bullet holes and bombed-out buildings dot the perimeter of the highway, sentinels of prime real estate that became “casas of carnage” not very long ago. Potential pulses as renovation, reconstruction, and commerce-hawking signage peer prominently from the panorama. Location, location, location. We are on the sea with a great view, in a major city, close to the airport, and at the mouth of “East meets West”. They have been trading and peddling for millennia, these people. So, one has to bet that making the deal will trump making war, thus, making peace.

We pass a military checkpoint complete with barricades, uniforms, and armed Lebanese military. Doesn’t faze me in the slightest. I think how similar it looks to the American Embassy in Rome main entrance or, for that matter, the checkpoints around the Capitol in DC. A wave, a yawn, a smile, and on we go.

Batroun welcomes me with quiet charm and spectacular weather. I sit by myself at a huge pool and it is nearing November. I have a monstrous restaurant dining room exclusively to myself and sample the famous fare from my childhood, paying almost nothing for it.

Beirut was dubbed “The Paris of the Middle East” back in the day. As I gaze, glance, and gawk around Batroun, I can see how a Monte Carlo-Vegas-Wall Street-Time Square-PGA-Club Med kind of explosion (no pun intended) could, should, and probably would happen here.

Sounds like a tall order? Hey, these are the Phoenicians. Remember to thank them for your Alphabet and Arabic Numbers. Bet on them getting it done. Also wager on their international partners seeing the chance for peace, profit, and people-friendly projects. They are returning in droves to this vortex of hustle and accomplishment because, politics be damned, this place and its populace have an indestructible denominator that combines beauty and business.

Wanna bet? I lay you VIII to V that Lebanon will be in full bloom again and soon. The Cedar seeds are here in Batroun.