Archive for May, 2009

Vegas Finale

May 27, 2009

Time for my final bout of Vegas reminiscing.

By Thursday morning we were understanding why people say 2 or 3 days in Vegas is all you need. We were exhausted and probably overstimulated. We slept late and eventually found the motivation to get out on the strip and see what we hadn’t seen. We had a long day in front of us. We weren’t planning on sleeping until getting on the plane to leave at 6:30am!

We caught the Deuce bus down to the southern end of the strip. We got off at Excalibur and decided to start our wandering there. But first we needed food. We ate at the Excalibur buffet, which was cheap, but also pretty awful. They did, however, have corn dogs, which made up for the rest of the barely edible food.

The Excalibur decor is so 70s “Knightly” that it’s kind of awesome. Once we were done eating, we didn’t really stick around. But I did get a picture with my favorite spongy cartoon character. Nevermind where his eyes are…

We walked on to the Luxor, which was also kind of 70s. Although, when we walked into the giant open pyramid, we were kind of blown away. We wandered around in there for a little while, appreciating the scenery. I love all things Egyptian, even the fake stuff, so I thought it was pretty cool.

We trekked on to Mandalay Bay, which was fabulously luxe. We gambled a bit here, but weren’t very lucky. David wanted to check out the Shark Reef, so we set out to find it. When you go looking for something like that, you realize how huge these places are. It felt like we were walking forever. We walked past the wedding chapel (OOOH!!) and business offices and convention halls and finally got there. We had decided that if it was $15 or less, we’d go explore. I think it was $17.95. But after walking all that way, we decided that was okay!

I’m glad we did. It was pretty cool! There were lots of aquatic animals, like fish and sharks, and even sea turtles! The sharks were awesome, and I really enjoyed the Komodo dragon and the jellyfish. Watching the jellyfish was like having a meditation session. It was a relaxing diversion from the craziness of the strip.
mandalay bay

By this time we were feeling exhausted and decided we should go back to the hotel to rest before our long night. We decided to check out two more places on that side of the strip. First was the MGM Grand, to see the lions. They were not that interesting. The set up is kind of cool, but they just laid there on top of the walkway. We guessed it had to be heated to keep them up there.

We did stop in the M&M store, and were underwhelmed. We skipped the rest of the shops and hotels and tried to avoid the “porn slappers” on our way to the Paris. Those who have been to Vegas probably know what I mean by that term. The (probably illegal immigrant) men and women who stand on the edge of the sidewalk and offer you escort trading cards, for lack of a better term. They are thick cards and they slap one down on the pile in their hand and it makes this incredibly loud slapping noise. I actually found it pretty amusing. They aren’t too bad. If you don’t reach for a card, it’s not like they hound you to take one. The best was a row of about 20 of them right before an intersection. Standing on the corner was a street preacher, talking about how God will save us and to turn away from sin. Um, dude? Wrong town…

The second best thing was this family. Walking down a very crowded sidewalk that was already narrowed by construction barriers. We could NOT get around them for the longest time. It was incredibly irritating, so rather than going into a crazed rage, we made fun of them, right behind their backs,  wondered why someone would take so many small children to Vegas, and imagined potential embarrassing conversations related to all the adult visuals. Please note the escort-card strewn ground and the downward-tilted heads of the little boys.
Yes, she is pushing a doublewide stroller. Errrgggghhhhhh.

I’ve never been to Paris, but it is high on my list of places I must go before I die. I imagine it is quite different than this casino, but it was pretty cool! It had a lot of the sky-painted-ceiling going on and occasionally you could catch wisps of French music floating through the air. We did not pay to go up the Eiffel Tower, but looking at it from outside was pretty impressive.
eiffel tower

We played slots here too, and did pretty well. Then we lost it all on the big nickel Wheel of Fortune slot game right by the entrance. We thought “ooh, it’s by the entrance, we should win a lot to entice people to come in.” That seemed to be true for everyone else playing, but we burned through about $40 in just a few minutes. Le sigh.

After that, we caught the bus back to our hotel to give our aching feet a rest. I think David took a nap and I took a long, warm shower. It felt great and left me refreshed enough to get dressed and face our long last night.

We got dressed up and went right to the Bellagio to pick up our tickets for “O.” Our show was at 10, and it was already around 8:00, so we didn’t have a ton of time to wander too far. Fortunately, the Bellagio is so amazingly gorgeous. Just walking in stunned us, especially David, who is a huge fan of Dale Chihuly, the creator of this foyer ceiling:

I neeeeeded to see the fountains, but we also needed to eat. Throwing caution to the wind and ignoring our budget, we got in line to eat at the Bellagio Buffet. The line was long, and after waiting for many minutes, we started to get anxious. Would we have time to eat? Would we miss the fountains before our show? We almost left the line. I know we wouldn’t have known what we missed out on, but the idea of not eating that meal is so sad!

Seriously, eat at the Bellagio Buffet. I have never seen so much amazing food in one place. We stuffed ourselves silly. I tried anything and everything that looked good. I ate sushi and pesto mashed potatoes and roasted lamb and sea bass and veal and tiny individual ramekins of mac & cheese and the list goes on. And that doesn’t include dessert. I almost fainted when I looked at the dessert counter. Hundreds of tiny, perfect, delicate pastries, cakes, pies and chocolate creations looked back at me. I couldn’t help but sample a healthy portion of those, too! I was so full that it hurt, but it was so worth it. Let me just say this. We finished eating around 9pm on Thursday night. I didn’t eat again until Saturday afternoon. I didn’t feel the need.

Afterwards, we rolled ourselves out to watch the fountains. This is when it really hit me that we’d be leaving this place. The fountains were magical. I cried. I could have stood there for hours, just watching and thinking about this crazy city, in the middle of the desert. It’s like the modern Brigadoon. Things happen here that are totally surreal, and you won’t really be able to explain to people back home! Or maybe you just don’t want to explain…
bellagio fountains

The view of the strip was gorgeous, especially the Paris.
paris at night

We eventually made our way back inside, full of anticipation for our BIG BUDGET show. So in reality, we got “obstructed view” seats for less than $100 a piece. Do this. We were a couple feet away from seats that cost $50 more than ours, and it really was not obstructed at all. There was a railing that might have gotten in the way, sort of. It didn’t matter in the slightest.

Here’s a random picture I snuck before the show started. This is a weird chandelier thing on the ceiling. I knew it would be used in the show. I was right.

WOW. O. What an amazing show. It’s weird and gay and French Canadian, but it was SO AWESOME!!! I couldn’t even speak afterwards. The stage was incredible (it turns into a POOL!!!) and the performers were mind blowing. I haven’t seen any other Cirque shows, but I can’t really imagine anything better than this. I would even see it again in a heartbeat. It was breathtaking. I can’t even fathom the work that went into this. And how do you even come up with that kind of stuff?! Wow.

So it felt like the night was over when we left, but it was only around midnight. We had over 4 hours before we had to be at the airport! I wanted to be “daring” and play some quarter slots at Bellagio. I finally found some and even found this cascading slot that we liked a lot. I think it was called “All That Glitters.” I put $20 in and was blown away by how fast it almost disappeared. But it didn’t and I ended up tripling my money! That was exciting, though it just made me want to play MORE! Thankfully I had level-minded David with me, and he got me out of there.

We walked through New York NY, though we didn’t get to do the roller coaster (next time!). The streets were really cool! We played some slots, continuing with our average luck. I wish we could have gotten back to the Venetian, but we went again to visit the Encore and Wynn. The Encore is just as opulent as the Bellagio, but it still feels slightly less cool, maybe because it’s so new. We played a bunch of slots here, wandering between the two, and looking for luck.

I really wanted to try out Roulette, so we decided to leave and head over to Slots-a-Fun, our last stop before heading to the hotel to pack up. I just wasn’t brave enough to get into a table game! I know dealers are nice and if I was confused about something, they’d help me out, but I just didn’t want to seem like a total novice. So I chickened out and played Star Wars penny slots. David and I got on machines next to each other, and mine was hot! I turned $5 or $10 into $30! I wanted to play a different game, so I hit cash out. Apparently S-a-F hasn’t caught onto the “high tech” ticket approach to cashing out (which I love, by the way) so instead I got $30 worth of nickels pouring out of my machine. It was kind of obnoxious, but it was also kind of cool! There aren’t many places you can get that anymore!

We played a little more and finally decided to head back to our hotel. We packed up and caught a cab to the airport at about 4:30am. We were exhausted, but something about the air in Vegas after midnight had kept us going.

We had a moment of awesome hope in the airport when our flight had been overbooked. We volunteered to change our flight if they could get us a direct flight to Milwaukee. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The travel home was fairly miserable. I don’t remember much about it at all, except that I puked on the plane. I hate that. And the flight attendant made me feel totally bad and embarrassed about it.

We got home around 3pm Friday, Milwaukee time, and pretty much went right to bed and slept until around 11 on Saturday. We even slept through our midnight show!! We felt bad about that part, but the sleep was awesome.

So Vegas is an amazing city. I don’t feel the need to rush back, but I would love to visit again. It would be great to spend another couple days there and have some time to relax and see things that we missed. I know, however, that I can’t go back without having some serious cash to spend. Sure it’s fun to look at and do the free stuff, but I am drawn to the expensive excitement and glamour! David and I had a great time, and it was a totally awesome way to celebrate his golden birthday.


Say What?

May 8, 2009

Who just paid off her first MAJOR credit card? Oh, that would be me!

This baby was hovering around $2,000 just a year ago. WOW does that feel good.

Of course I had to have proof.
credit card

Clicking that “Statement balance” radio button felt pretty damn good!

Now onto the next one…

Calgon, Take Me Away

May 7, 2009

I wish I could go on vacation right now. I’d leave town tomorrow if I could afford it. But I can’t, so I’ll try to chill out by reliving the second half of my Vegas vacation. Live! Right now!! Right here on my blog!!! Can you tell I’m strung out?

We decided to sleep in for as long as we needed on Wednesday. We planned on staying up all night Thursday, until heading to the airport, so we figured it would be good to get the rest now. However, I didn’t really anticipate sleeping until 11:30! We had passed our magic “pay for a breakfast buffet 3 minutes before it turns into lunch” time. Oh well, we had bigger issues- like what to do that day! (Our 11:30 wakeup was made more amusing to us by the fact that Sandy and Jeff were with friends in NYC- where it was already 2:30 in the afternoon!)

We wanted to see some sort of burlesque show while in Vegas. I wasn’t really interested in an overpriced strip club. I (and David) wanted something a little more interesting and exotic. I was thinking something along the lines of Dita Von Teese, but David had found a crazy burlesque type show called “Bite.” I’d link it for you, but I’m at work and don’t quite trust it to be SFW, considering it’s a “topless revue.” We had it recommended to us, and at first I thought it sounded lame. Erotic vampires? Lord Vampire searching for the perfect female? But as we read more about it, it started to seem kind of cool. There are many ways to get 50% off each ticket, so we decided that this would be our nekkid Vegas show.

“Bite” is at the Stratosphere, so once we were dressed we decided that we’d walk there to get the tickets (you can’t order ahead of time with the coupon) and stop somewhere for food on the way. We ate at IHOP which was kind of lame and almost as expensive as the Circus-Circus breakfast buffet! But we wanted somewhere cheap because that night was our big fancy splurge meal.

Stratosphere is FAR. And it was hot! It’s true that things seem misleadingly close in Vegas. We took in some of the scenery, like empty lots, bilboards and the Sahara. And this:
Gosh, maybe we should have just taken the bus.

We got our “Bite” tickets and enjoyed the Strat’s air conditioned casino for a few minutes. Then we hopped on the bus (which I highly recommend. $15 for a three day pass.) and took it to The Mirage.

The Mirage is quite lovely and home to our second-place Cirque show “Love.” There are plenty of Beatles references, like the Revolution bar. This place looks pretty cool and we wanted to come back at night, but we never found the time. Add that to the list of things to do on our next trip!
That’s David sitting in the “U.”

We had a little luck at the casino here. I think we came out $10 or $20 ahead. We also visited Seigfried and Roy.

It was already getting close to the time we had to head back to our hotel to change for our dinner reservations at 7, so we rushed over to Caesar’s Palace and the Forum Shops. We didn’t have much time, so we didn’t get to see any of the living fountains, or stop in every store that drew me in. I limited it to drooling over the really BIG time stores that I’ve never seen or been to. One of the big ones for me was Agent Provocateur. I spent five breathless minutes in this incredible lingerie store. I guess there are several places in the US where you can buy their stuff now, but for a long time I think Vegas was the only store. Someday, when I am thinner and can fit into their skimpy items, I am definitely splurging on something. Also, I love their crazy marketing and advertising.

The only other store in here that was a MUST for us was Vosges. We had the hot chocolate in the SOHO store when we were in NYC many Novembers ago. In honor of the 80-90 degree weather we were experiencing, I wanted to try their ice cream.

OMGDELICIOUS. I had the Naga, one of their original and most famous flavor combinations. It was a sweet Indian curry custard with hints of coconut and other spices. It was rich and creamy and amazing. David had the Red Fire, another classic of their flavors. Dark chocolate, ancho and chipotle chilies, and cinnamon. YUM!! They were both amazing. We also bought some goodies to take home with us, including the Comfort Food tower and a mini chocolate bar set. We left the Forum Shops feeling alive and decadent!

We promptly rushed “home” to change for our evening plans. We hadn’t even been out that long, so we didn’t have to deal so much with the draw of the big comfy bed. We changed and headed out to our first stop of the night, the Sirens of TI. This is the free show at Treasure Island. I guess they revamped it recently, as it used to be more of a pirate battle. Now it’s trying really hard to be soft core porn. The special effects and sinking ship were cool, though the lighting and fireworks of course would’ve been better had we seen it at night.

After that we caught a cab to the Hard Rock Hotel. We had dinner reservations at Nobu!! We got there a little early and had time to wander around and play some slots, where we won $50! Perfect timing, as we were heading into the most expensive restaurant of our trip.

I almost wish I had taken pictures, but I let myself hang out and enjoy the experience. The food was incredible. It was very possibly the best meal I’ve ever had. We started with Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapenos and the Black Cod with Miso. WOW! The black cod was indescribable. Our server told us it was marinated in Miso for three days. It was served warm and it melted in my mouth. We also had an order eggplant with miso, because why not? It was good, but not as good as these “signature dishes.”

After that we moved on to some tempura, and got a couple pieces of asparagus and avocado tempura. The avocado was so interesting! We love avocado, but to taste it with a crispy outside and a hot creamy inside was certainly different.

We couldn’t eat at Nobu without eating sushi! I think our server was wondering how much we were going to eat, but we ordered anyway. We got an assortment of fish, like salmon and scallop, but the big momma of it all was the Toro. If you’ve ever had real Toro, you know what I’m talking about. This is the fattiest cut of the tuna; pink, tender, and melt-in-your-mouth. I think it was $18 per piece. It was worth it. It may have been the most amazing thing I have ever eaten.

We left in euphoria. How could we go home to Milwaukee after this?! I’m so glad we chose Nobu for our fancy dinner. Our bill was just under $200 after tip. Including that toro! I think we would’ve been well over $200 if we had splurged at one of the other restaurants we were considering, like Le Cirque or Aureole.


We floated off to a cab and let it whisk us away to the Stratosphere. Our night was only just beginning! We played penny slots and got a little tipsy on free alcohol before our show time. We had paid a little extra for up-front seats. They were right next to the stage!

So… “Bite.” You should see it, if you’re ever looking for that kind of entertainment in Vegas (with the 50% off coupon). It was cheesy, but it didn’t take itself to seriously. The dancing was acrobatic. It was like a cross between a strip club, a cheerleading competition, and Cirque du Soleil. With a classic rock soundtrack. It was long too! Props to those girls for dancing forever! The topless part wasn’t really that much more exciting, but whatever. The girls were athletic and fun and some of them had major kickass attitude. We had a good time!

After that spectacle we waited for a bus to take us to the “old downtown”/Freemont St. The buses are nice, but we had bad luck with them. Whichever way we WEREN’T going, we’d see several buses pass before having one come on our side. That was lame, and we ended up getting downtown after midnight. I think the giant light display must shut off then, so we didn’t get to see the crazy stuff there. We played some slots at some of the “classic” places like the Golden Nugget and Binions. It was kind of dead though, and we weren’t really winning much, so we went to catch the bus back after a couple hours.

I might have gotten us a big lost and we waited for the bus on a very deserted part of Las Vegas Boulevard. I was totally creeped out, even though we didn’t see anyone or anything scary. We probably only waited 15 minutes for a bus, but it felt much longer. It was a relief to get on that bus and head back to our hotel. We went right to bed, as we had a full day of plans. We were going to use our last day in Vegas to the max.

I’ll recap our final day in my next entry. I want to go back so badly!