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Herbert

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Welcome, to our site! After living for some time in Israel and then in the UK we've now moved to Germany. We'd like to share our experiences with you. We hope you have as much fun reading as we have writing.

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November 2017
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Las Vegas

As you probably read on our blog I have recently attended a conference in the USA. This conference, titled International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing, is one of the largest conferences in my field of research. Unfortunately, Aukje could not join me this time… :cry: However, I didn’t travel alone. Sharon, a colleague from Bar Ilan University, accompanied me on the trip.

First, we flew from Israel to Atlanta, a flight of approximately 11 hours. In Atlanta we had 2 hours to catch our transfer to Las Vegas. After another 4 hours in the air we arrived in Las Vegas. If you like to lose or win some money Las Vegas is definitely the place to be! If you cannot wait until you get in the city; at least 100 shiny slot machines are just 10 meters from the exit of the airplane ?!?

We planned three days before and after the conference for sightseeing. We quickly dropped of our luggage at the hotel and took the shuttle towards The Strip, which is the most popular street in Las Vegas. Along The Strip you find many resorts. Each resort has a specific theme. We started our tour at the Luxor Resort. The Luxor is build in Egyptian style; the main building is a pyramid and just in front of the resort there is a (scaled) copy of the Sphinx. At the Luxor we also met Elona, who finished her PhD in Tel-Aviv and is currently working as a post-doc at Caltech. We continued our tour on The Strip, a trip around the world so to speak, and visited the Excalibur, New York City, Monte Carlo, Harley Davidson Café, Paris Las Vegas (with a scaled version of the Eifel Tower), Bellagio, Caesars Palace, etc…

On Friday we woke up early. In the meanwhile Jakob (a colleague from Tel Aviv University) arrived in Las Vegas. After fetching the rental car the four of us started our trip towards the Hoover Dam; our first destination. The Hoover Dam controls the water flow of the Colorado River. In addition, the dam is used to generate electricity. The dam was finished in 1936 after 9 years of planning and 5 years building. One year later the first generators of the power plant were operational. We made a short guided tour inside the dam, a must see for us engineers :smile: We walked a bit more on the dam and shot some pictures. We spent the night in Boulder City, a city build for the workers of the Hoover Dam. We had a simple but nice dinner with live music in one of the local pubs. Almost everywhere you have WLAN, a nice opportunity to upload some pictures!

The next day we had an early start towards the Death Valley which is the lowest, driest and hottest valley in the United States. For a desert the landscape is really nice and still relatively green. We first drove to Dantes Peak, which gives you an incredible view over the valley. We continued our drive towards the visitor centre. On our way we stopped at another scenic viewpoint where we met prof. Martin and some of his students. We decided to drive thru the Artistic Drive and stopped at Badwater; the lowest point on the Western hemisphere which can be accessed without getting wet feet. We spent the night at Shoshone a ‘ghost’ town just outside the valley and had dinner in the one and only pub in town.

On Monday we visited Red Rock Canyon which lies in the proximity of Las Vegas. This makes the area quite touristic. The Red Rock area has a complex geological history which over millions of years helped to create the dramatic landscape that characterizes the region. There is a one-way loop drive of 21 km that runs through this magnificent national conservation area. The drive contains several lookout points and hiking trails. We decided to make one small hike of an hour and a larger hike following the river bedding and ending at a nice waterfall. After the hikes we returned to Las Vegas were we checked in at the Caesars Palace; our home for the next few days. The hotel room was rather amusing; huge king-size bed, a shower which is large enough to fit a small family, a 42 inch LCD screen, another small LCD screen in the mirror of the bathroom, blinds that open and close with one button touch… :mrgreen:

From Tuesday through Friday we attended the conference. I presented three papers; two were the result of my collaboration with Imperial College in London and one with my colleagues in Israel. The days were packed with lectures, poster sessions, and lunch meetings. We had a few nice dinners with our friends from all over the world, such as the Imperial College (UK), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), and Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany). One evening Kuti, Ari (friends from the Technion in Haifa), Sharon, Simon, and I attended the incredible show “O” from Cirque du Soleil. The international cast of world-class acrobats, synchronized swimmers perform in, on, and above water. They create a breathtaking experience in a magnificent theatre reminiscent of a European opera house. If you ever have the change; attend one of their shows!!! It is worth every penny.

After a few days in the city I was looking forward to our final trip: the Grand Canyon! I spent the last days with Sharon and Amir (from Bar-Ilan University). We left on Friday evening directly after the conferece. This time we rented another car, a huge Cadillac. The car was very comfortable, especially for these long drives. The Cadillac was stuffed with gadgets. I accidentally pushed a button on the rear mirror. Suddenly we were receiving calls thru the satellite phone service. Apparently we activated a distress signal and an operator was desperately trying to call us to verify our status… Anyway it was good to know that we had such a service just in case. We drove for a few hours and spent the night in Kingman. Next day we continued driving toward Williams. The road to Williams leads thru a huge plain. We found a nice motel in Williams for two nights. From here it’s just one hour drive to the Southern rim of the canyon. We decided to go to the rim and follow the East Rim Drive. When we finally reached the rim the view was astonishing and completely unexpected. On the East Rim Drive there are plenty of stops with very nice scenic viewpoints. Our final stop was at the Watchtower just before subset; also known as the golden hour, which is the time to shoot pictures. After buying some souvenirs we drove to Flagstaff to buy some food and water for the next day. On our way to Williams we had dinner in a steak house; they had delicious and juicy steaks. The next day we got up early and drove to the canyon. We decided to walk into the canyon along the so called Bright Angel trail. Amir had to shorten his trip due to some asthma problems. Sharon and I continued our way down. While we were descending the view changed considerably and the amount of people on the trail quickly decreased. Finally we reached the Indian Garden (almost 1 km below the edge of the Southern rim), where we had a nice and quiet lunch. We continued our walk a bit further towards the Colorado river. A hiker gave us a very valuable tip to continue to the Plateau Point, the distance being just another 5.5 km roundtrip from the Indian Garden. On the way we found some flowers and at the end of the trail we had a very nice view of the Colorado river (just 400m below us). Looking back on the Southern rim we quickly understood that we had to start heading back. It toke us approximately three hours to get back. Amir quickly spotted us when we arrived at the starting point of the trail. Back in Williams we had a quick (and unfortunately very bad) dinner in a Mexican restaurant. The last day we started our way towards Las Vegas. We took the historic Route 66. After a short lunch in one of the towns on the way we stopped at the Grand Canyon Caverns. For 10 dollars you can have a good laugh with a friendly tour guide. Personally, I think this is a perfect example of how to make something out of nothing. Note that this place does not have anything to do with the Grand Canyon!

Our final stop was the SkyWalk; a glass bridge at Grand Canyon West. This new attraction, fairly close to Las Vegas, was opened early 2007. The SkyWalk gives you the opportunity to walk on a glass bridge that hangs just over the edge of the canyon. The last 25 kilometres towards the entrance still consists of a simple dirt road. When the dust has settled you must pay 20 dollars to park the car. A bus will bring you to the bridge and another scenic spot. Frankly, we found this attraction heavily overprice and as Amir noted they should have called this the Grand Scam. I have to say that the experience is nice, nothing more. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take any pictures (even cellular phones are not allowed on the bridge). Instead they take a picture that you can buy for 30 dollars (excluding tax of course). Just after sunset we drove back to Las Vegas.

The last night we spent at the Hilton in Las Vegas. On Tuesday we started our journey back to Israel. In Atlanta we had 4 hours, which is quite a lot if you want to get to your love… Aukje was waiting for me at Ben Gurion Aiport with a very nice balloon that said ‘I Love You’. Welcome home dear… :grin:

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