Last week we had some guests( a cousin, her husband and their two children) and I went several days without posting. They went on an overnight bus trip to Niagara Falls, did a whirlwind tour of New York City and all of us drove down to Atlantic City, staying for one night at the Tropicana.
It’s been awhile since we went to A.C and the first time that I can remember driving there myself.After the number of times we have driven to Washington D.C to visit our daughter, it was a piece of cake driving to A.C. It was midweek and we got there in less than two hours.
Considering that it was the week before Memorial Day, the Trop was fairly crowded. From the lobby on the 12th floor we had a grand view of the barrel shaped roof of the Convention Center, where the Miss America pageant used to be held until recently. The temperature was in the high seventies, just perfect, and the sunlight sparkled off the water.We freshened up in our rooms and strolled the arcades and their shops. The ceilings are painted to resemble a summer sky complete with wisps of clouds and it is difficult to know what time it is. Of course, there are no clocks anywhere, the better to induce you to stay longer. As at all casinos, you have to pass through the gambling rooms to get anywhere, even the parking garage. The minimum at the blackjack tables is $ 10 and I wonder at the people I see gambling there; they don’t look like they can afford to have even a moderate run of bad luck.
Even without clocks, those internal chronmeters, our stomachs, tell us when it is time to dine. The beginning pangs of hunger made their presence felt and we decided on the Red Square, a faux Russian restaurant. It is aptly named because everything inside was red- the floor, the furnishings , the draperies and the ceiling; red spotlights heightened the effect. On the walls were giant sized posters depicting Lenin , the Kremlin and heroic workers waving the red flag. A giant chandelier had green and red, onion shaped domes, reminiscent of Red Square.
Three pages of the menu were devoted to vodka based cocktails( $ 12.50 each) and there was a further page of premium vodkas. I tried and enjoyed the Dutch Connection. Don’t ask me about the name. It had two kinds of vodka, enlivened with raspberry liquer and sour mix. The food was Russian style rather than authentic Russian. The coulibiac( Kulebiyaka in Russian ) is usually like a Beef Wellington in which the beef has been substituted with a slab of salmon. Here, the salmon was perfectly cooked and placed betwen two sheets of puff pastry. Some entrees were definitely not Russian.My choice was seared pork tenderloin served on a bed of basmati rice, with bits of apricot , nuts and greens.Other choices included Chicken Kiev and pasta with seafood. One of the appetizers , the fried calamari, was outstanding. The squid rings and tentacles had been coated in a tempura -like batter, fried to just the right degree of doneness and served with a sweet spicy sauce. Overall, I would rate the food as good, eclectic and expensive. But then you have to expect that in such a setting.
The real surprise at the Red Square was the toilet. Right next to the watercloset was a comfortable vinyl upholstered sofa. The five year old , who had gone there with his Dad, was moved to remark ” Dad, I have never seen anything like this before.” To which his father replied ” I’ve never sen anything like it either !” Someone in our party cracked that the sofa was meant for constipated patrons who were waiting for inspiration to strike. I guess that makes as good an explanation as anything else.
Before we left the next morning, we went for a stroll on the fabled Atlantic City Boardwalk. First built 150 years ago, the Boardwalk was conceived as a means of combatting the problem of tourists and guests going directly from the beach to the hotels and tracking the beach sand onto the carpeting. Atlantic City was the first to come up with the idea of a boardwalk and , over the years, it has been rebuilt and strengthened several times. The present day version is 4.2 miles long and 60 feet wide and the planking has been supported on steel and concrete.Lining the boardwalk are fastfood establishments, souvenir shops and other tourist temptations. We sat at an open-air table and tried the funnel cakes and cheese fries, washing them down with coffee and , in the case of the kids, orange juice. A pair of Japanese tourists used sign language to order slices of pizza and cokes – at 10.30 in the morning!! I wondered what brought them to Atlantic City.For gambling, Las vegas is closer but yet I couldn’t imagine them coming all the way to Atlantic City for a stroll on the Boardwalk.
For me, one of the great attractions is sitting back and watching the passing parade of humanity. What a variety of shapes, sizes and clothing! With school not yet out for the summer, it wasn’t as crowded as it would be in another week or two and the passers by were preponderantly families with pre-school children and retirees. There was only one pedicab in evidence and he wasn’t having much business. There is a heavy police presence in the tourist areas of A.C and we saw police in cars, ATVs and bikes. The cops on their bikes reminded me of that shortlived TV series of some years ago; can’t remember the name. Before leaving for home , we took the kids to the beach and they had a grand time writing their names on the sand and wading in the surprisingly warm water. How little it takes to make a child happy !