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The Vegas Trip–Warning: Very Long!

I debated posting all of this as one blog vs. breaking it up into individual days.  I’ve decided to go with one long blog, because really, isn’t longer better?  Or at least more appropriate for Vegas?

An additional warning and a note:  Warning–there are bad words in this–or at least in the first section.  If this offends, please skip to Vegas Day 1; the rest is PG-rated.  And Note–I wrote most of this on the flight home, which is likely why it is so…ahem…long.

Vegas Day 0: Pissed

I may never fly first class, but I will now always try to get a direct flight. I will do this even if the flight costs more. It is just not worth the stress and time involved.

I left the house at 9:50 am eastern time–I arrived in Las Vegas at 8 pm pacific time. That’s 13 hours of traveling, if you count the trip to the Philadelphia airport and the two hour layover in Cleveland–which I do. It looked like I might be stuck in Cleveland for even longer, as the weather was scary upon arrival–not more than a half hour before we were scheduled to leave, a scary storm arrived. The skies were black and the doppler radar was red. But lo, the clouds parted, we boarded the plane, and took off exactly on time. We even landed the exact minute we were scheduled to do so.

I made it off of the plane easily, found my way past baggage claim (a bonus of packing light–no waiting for luggage) and located the taxi stand. The line was set up to resemble a ride at Disney World–I wasn’t sure if I’d find a cab at the end of the rows of chains, or Expedition Everest. The line area snaked on and on for at least a block, even though there was no one IN the line. So I stepped over the very low hanging chains dividing the pathways. This was very easy to do, as I wasn’t carrying one of those wheely bags like most people. There was a group in front of me, whom I allowed to continue to be in front of me, even though they hadn’t gone over the totally useless divider. And then a giant security guard yelled at me, to which I replied something along the lines of ‘it’s ok–I’m not line jumping–those people’–I motioned in front of me–‘are welcome to be in front. I simply don’t see the point in walking back and forth when there is no one in line.’–and I smiled pleasantly (which, to be fair, was near an act of God after traveling for 13 hours!) He walked

away–and then returned with a bigger and even-more-of-an-asshole security guard. ‘This is the woman who thinks rules don’t apply to her’ he said, pointing to me. The new, bigger security guard actually took my arm–roughly–and escorted me out of the line, to which I believe I replied ‘you’ve GOT to be FUCKING kidding me’ and then something like ‘for the record, I did NOTHING wrong’. I did not, however, add ‘so does exerting pointless power over people make you feel better about your shitty, fake rent-a-cop job?’ even though I really wanted to add that.  He informed me that I’d been ejected from the taxi line, and that I was welcome to go to the other side of the terminal where I could get the shuttle bus or, he smirked, a limo. Not flinching–but shakingly angry on the inside, because not only do I have a problem with authority, I have a serious problem with ‘authority’–that is, people who have no business trying to tell me what to do, because I am better than them and have done nothing wrong–I replied ‘Oh–I can’t get a limo on the other side? Thanks!’ and smiled as I started to walk away. And that’s what I would have done, too (there was no way I’d sit on a shuttle bus that would likely stop at every single po-dunk motel on and off the strip before depositing me at my hotel), if he’d not seen the err of his little plan, and let me back in the taxi line ‘if I promised to follow the rules’.  I think he was expecting me to cry or, worse, take the actual shuttle bus.  I walked around the stupid painted-white-chain-link-dividers and stood in the line three people behind where I’d been–still shaking mad, mind you. The fact that I did not tell him to go fuck himself and his sad fucking job was damn impressive. In case you can’t tell, as I write this (from the plane home, after taking three pre-flight xanax) I am still very, very angry at this man, and honestly hope he contracts some kind of awful, un-cure-able, crotch burning STD.

I finally arrive at the hotel, and find my husband waiting outside for me. He takes my bag and we head directly to the casino bar, where I order a gin and tonic. It was a really, really good gin and tonic.

A good husband...holds your backpack as you order gin.

After dropping my bag off in the room and checking out the not so great view, we made our way to a Pauline Frommer budget suggested mexican place at the hotel next door–Planet Hollywood. Immediately upon entering the hotel, we are accosted by time share people promising free show tickets if we take a tour of their new ‘facility’. We accepted this offer in keeping with our ‘as cheap as possible’ Vegas plan. The details of this entire experience will be recorded in an additional (likely very long) post, and hopefully shared throughout the world and

the world wide web. Look for something titled ‘The Truth Behind Time Share Bullshit’–I promise, you will laugh, you will cry, and you will never, ever make the same mistake we did.
After drinks and tacos at Yolo’s, we returned to Paris for the night. I don’t know if it was the three drinks or the traveling or the five xanax I’d taken that day, but I’d never slept so well in my entire life.

Vegas Day 1–LOVEd

We both slept so well, in fact, that we overslept, waking up at around 10:15 pacific time the next day, having gone to bed at around 11:00. Throwing on our suits, we sprinted down to the pool, which at that point I was less than impressed with. There’s a lesson in this–never try to have the same experience twice.

The 'view' from the pool on our first day

Last year we stayed at MGM, and while it definitely was not as nice as Paris, or as well located, it had one thing that Paris did not–a blissfully peaceful adults-only pool. Paris has only one pool, and it is stupidly designed so that it only gets sun for a few hours each day–very stupid in a desert, where one expects sun. As we arrived right after the post-breakfast rush to the pool, we got really shitty seats, and I found myself whining that if I’d wanted an experience like this, I’d have gone to the local water park. Fortunately, after several drinks, things got better (as they typically do), and we had much better lounge chair luck for the remainder of the trip.

By early afternoon, it was time for our direct-from-hell time share presentation, after which we raced to PF Chang’s to enjoy some happy hour priced (and much needed) drinks, along with the husband’s favorite appetizer, the chicken lettuce wraps.

The evening plan was already set, as we’d pre-purchased tickets for Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE, showing at the Mirage. The Mirage is quite a walk from Paris–though it does not look this way on the map–so we decided to take the more scenic (and air conditioned) route through Caesars and the Forum Shops. Taking pictures all along the way, it took us about an hour and a half to walk the half mile to the Mirage, where we had dinner at BLT burger. I had a fantastic lamb burger; my only regret is that I did not have one of the very 1950’s diner milkshakes the bar continued to pump out (and yes, they had ‘adult’ milkshakes, complete with liquor).

Doug with his burger at BLT

Our LOVE tickets were for 9:30, which amused me because typically by that time, I’m on Facebook and the husband is asleep on the recliner (though adamantly refusing to admit he’s tired). Fortunately, LOVE was amazing enough to keep both of our attention for the entire time. I’m going to admit it–I did not love the first and only Cirque show I’d seen–KA. It was visually stunning, but I didn’t really ‘get’ the story. After watching LOVE, I realized this was the problem with KA–there was supposed to be a story. Not so with LOVE, which was simply a really awesome trip (and not trip in the ‘airplane’ sense–the other kind of trip…) There were actual points where I had to close my eyes because I was getting dizzy (and no, this was not alcohol induced–I stop drinking hours before a show to prevent mid-show restroom runs). You know how shows often quote reviews that say things like ‘Visually stunning!’ and ‘A treat for all of the senses!’ and you think ‘man, that’s total crap’? Yeah, this actually WAS all of those things. You could say that I LOVEd it.

We walked back to the hotel ‘the short way’, which only took about twenty minutes (I guess I took a LOT of pictures on the way there, and we did get briefly lost in the Forum Shops). We walked through the casino to the piano bar I’d wanted to visit, looked inside, looked at each other, and then took the elevator up to our rooms to sleep.

Vegas Day 2–Trashed

I think of our second full day in Vegas as ‘the lost day’. We’d officially been there long enough to be relaxed, and yet we knew we had many days left to enjoy, so we did what any other self-disrespecting person would do in that situation–we got drunk. Really, really drunk. I started drinking at the pool at 10am–we’d arrived at 8 to get a good seat near the pool but out of the shade and in close proximity to the bar and restrooms–and we stayed there until after 1pm.

The view from Mon Ami Gabi

We then went for lunch at my favorite restaurant in all of Vegas (at that point, anyway), Mon Ami Gabi, located in our hotel and boasting a lovely cafe-esque terrace with views of the Bellagio fountains. Here’s where everything really went wrong. We ordered a carafe of Frangria–French Sangria (which, based on our experience, differs only from regular Sangria in the sheer volume of alcohol) and it was HUGE. And of course we had to finish it. I’m not sure how we got back to the room, but I believe there was some sliding down the sides of the hallway involved.

We got back to the room around 4ish, and the next thing I knew I was waking up, and it was 7 pm. ‘It’s seven o clock’ I shouted to my also-sleeping husband, to which he replied ‘mmmggrmm’, and then ‘wait–seven at NIGHT?!?’ before jumping out of bed and into the shower, so we could make our 7:30 dinner reservations.

Dinner that night was at a totally forgettable Brazilian steak house at Planet Hollywood, followed by our ‘free’ show that we ‘earned’ by enduring afore mentioned time share speech. The restaurant was Pampas, and sadly my husband was expecting something along the lines of Fogo De Chao–which this was NOT. Fortunately, there were some redeeming qualities, namely that we only paid half price by booking through the half price tickets service. Additionally, the husband really liked the prime rib, and I super-loved the lamb. But my husband always loves steak, and I always love lamb.

We arrived right on time for that evening’s show–Planet Hollywood’s ‘headline’ show, Peepshow. Yes, that’s right, I said Peepshow. Peep as in ‘Little Bo’, and show as in ‘boobies’. It was actually quite entertaining, well produced (with all of the requisite Vegas flashing light and spinning from the ceiling), and even very funny at times. I enjoyed it–the husband did not. What that means about the two of us I don’t know, but I think at the very least, he appreciated the boobies.

As PH was only next door to our hotel, we actually had the energy to visit the Piano Bar–Napoleons–right off of the casino in our hotel. It was actually quite fun and entertaining, but it was at this point that my husband began to not feel very well (he has some sort of yet to be determined cold or flu) so I’m pretty sure I was having a better time singing along with Alice’s Restaurant than he was (though everyone was thankful when someone paid the piano player $22 to stop playing it–one dollar more than someone paid him to play it in the first place!)

Piano Bar

Vegas Day 3–Screwed

As it was the day of our fourth wedding anniversary, we had good intentions and great plans on Wednesday morning, but they just didn’t work out.  It was, eventually, for the best.  Because really, it is hard to have a truly bad day in Las Vegas.

First we headed downstairs to have crepes for breakfast, but instead we continued on our way to attempt to go to Hash House A-Go-Go (no, not

Doug in line for cheap tickets

THAT kind of hash!) because it was featured on some show we saw on the food network (and in a picture of this crazy waffle/fried chicken stack that we just had to have–calories and fat be damned).  We got as far as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall, which to be honest wasn’t that far away (things in Vegas are surprisingly far away from each other) where we discovered the Tickets 4 Tonight booth, which was open.  So we stood in line…or, more accurately, the husband stood in line whilst I went inside, used the very nice restroom, and turned my $1 into $6 on the penny slots.  It was at this point that something great and something awful happened at the same time–we scored half price tickets to two different shows we wanted to see, and I discovered my email had been hacked.

So I did what I would typically do at a moment like this, standing in the sun on the Strip.  I freaked the hell out.  And my husband did what he does–calmed me down.  We eventually got the email thing fixed, but it required walking back to the hotel–and, sadly, away from Hash House A-Go-Go–and took about an hour.  By this time I was starving, so we ended up back at the crepe place on the way to the pool, where I swam and drank my freak-out away.  But before we did that, we had the good sense to make reservations for dinner for both that night and the next, as we now had those great half price show tickets.

Our 'snack'

The sun, water, and rum helped, so I was much cheered by the time we returned from the pool to get read for our night out (Are you sensing a trend in our daily schedule?  You should be!) We leisurely walked down to NY NY to have a ‘snack’ before the show.  We ended up back at a pub we’d liked last year–Nine Fine Irishmen–right smack in the middle of their happy hour half price menu.  So our ‘snack’ ended up being two drinks each and three appetizers–ooops.  We then gambled away $20–which takes surprisingly long on nickel machines–and headed off to the show.

Zumanity was our third Cirque du Soleil show, and I honestly never meant to become one of those people who has seen every single Vegas Cirque production (just like I NEVER want to become one of those people who goes to Disney world every year and collects the pins and wears them on a vest), but hey, the tickets were very reasonably priced, and it was on my original list of ‘want to see’ shows the first time we visited.  I was pleasantly surprised at how very different they all are.  Zumanity is the ‘adult’ Cirque show, and yes, it was definitely for mature audiences only.  More than Ka or LOVE, Zumanity really was a circus–a three ring sex circus complete with flying midgets, climaxing trapeze artists, and ring leader in full drag (‘is that a man?’ I whispered to my husband, who responded by rolling his eyes–’duh!’)  It was at times very racy, at more times very funny, and all around a great night.  It didn’t hurt that the theater itself was pretty awesome–floor to ceiling and wall to wall red velvet.  It was kind of like being on the inside of a very nice jewelry box.

After the show we had to sprint to Bellagio, which was only three hotels down, but in a town where hotels are multiple blocks long, that’s pretty darn far.  We took the tram from the Monte Carlo to the Bellagio, which saved little walking, as it was set back so far from the Strip we ended up walking just as far–east and west–as we would have walked north if we’d just stayed on the sidewalk.  We had reservations for Fix, which we’d promised my sister in law we’d visit, as she’d had the best steak ever on her last visit.  My husband agreed–it was the best steak ever–and I had a fantastic Sea Bass over Risotto studded with shrimp.  It was very, very good, and a lovely way to end our 4th anniversary.

Vegas Day 4–Seasoned

By day four of any vacation, you stop remembering what it was like to live in the real world, and do things like spend $200 for dinner.  Instead of going on and on about the details of our day, allow me to summarize by saying the schedule looked pretty much the same as the days before it–a general combination of swimming, drinking, eating, and being entertained.

On day four we went the opposite direction post pool–north on the Strip up to the Venetian for dinner at Bouchon and an early performance of Jersey Boys.  Both were awesome.

Bouchon at the Venetian

We arrived at the Venetian early to pick up our tickets and sightsee, and I got to do a bit of shopping with the $50 I found in the restroom–who needs to gamble when people leave fifty dollar casino vouchers half crumpled on the counter?  (And no, it was not a tip–there was no attendant, nor was there anyone else around.  I know because I spun around looking for someone missing fifty bucks before I pocketed it.) Though, to be fair, in Vegas, with fifty dollars, you can only do a VERY little bit of shopping.  I purchased my only souvenir–a moonstone and garnet necklace.

We had 5:00 dinner reservations, which is insane on Vegas time, and were the second party to be seated, but enjoyed the relatively empty, quietness of the restaurant.  And I love love loved the food–I ordered the special, which was a braised short rib.  I’d never ordinarily order anything short or rib like, but it was fantastic, as was everything else we ordered.  If we had restaurants like that at home, I’d be fat and broke.

We then made our way quickly to the show, arriving a bit to late to get a glass of wine at the concession stand (luckily, there was an intermission).  I cannot believe how much I enjoyed Jersey Boys, especially because we were the youngest people in the audience by far (though that likely reset the balance of nature, as we were the oldest–and most overweight–people at Peepshow two days earlier).  I had no idea that all of the songs I loved growing up–when my parents would play the oldies station on car rides–were ALL by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Hell–I didn’t even know that’s how you spelled Valli!  I will definitely be adding a greatest hits album to my iTunes.  And on top of re-remembering all of the great songs, the cast was amazing.  I was a little leery about seeing a musical in Vegas–we’ve successfully avoided Phantom for two years now–but this was definitely a top notch, standing ovation worthy performance.

Vegas Day 5–Winded

For our last day in Vegas, we wanted to relax, so we didn’t buy show tickets.  We felt like we spent way too much time running around all week,

The Luxor

and wanted a day to relax.  So on Friday we…ran around some more.  I’m not sure how this happened, but I do know it had something to do with my desire to see the south part of the Strip–the cheesy Excalibur and Luxor hotels, as well as the shark reef at Mandalay Bay.

Fortunately my husband made the official decision that we’d run around first, and then relax at the pool–which makes much more sense.  So we took the monorail down to MGM, walked across to NY NY, got giant drinks to keep us occupied on our sightseeing fun, and photographed our way through the south strip.  I would never, ever stay at Excalibur or The Luxor, though I’d definitely consider Mandalay Bay if it wasn’t so damn far out of the way.  Say what you will about Paris’s pool–and I have–but you simply can’t beat the location.

The shark reef was much cooler than I’d thought–and I thought it would be pretty cool, I just thought it would be much smaller.  I took an insane amount of pictures that didn’t turn out very well; a lot of them were of the sea turtles and the oddly glowing jellyfish.  We then planned to have lunch at in the bistro section of the really nice seafood restaurant at Mandalay–RM Seafood–but even the ‘lower priced’ bistro lunch menu was beyond what I was able to justify for an afternoon meal.  So we ended up in a mediocre mexican place in Mandalay’s shopping area, but were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the

Jellyfish at Mandalay Bay

food (if not the quality of the service–the drinks came out AFTER the meal, but were, fortunately, free at that point).

After lunch I narrowly escaped a mid-life crisis induced facial piercing–I wanted my nose pierced, and found a tattoo and piercing place next to The House of Blues.  Had the credit card reader worked the first (or second or third) time they tried it, I’d now have a very shiny cubic zirconia in the left side of my nose.  But standing there, waiting for them to fix the machine, I listened to the very loud rap music playing and thought ‘What I am I doing?  I don’t belong somewhere with loud rap music playing’, and left the nice lady with my paperwork all filled out.  I’d still like to get my nose pierced, and I realize it is totally un-do-able (unlike my awful tattoo), but can’t decide if it is for the right reason–basically, I want to slash need to do something that makes me feel less like a school marm.  Spending ten months a year tying up my boobs to prevent any and all cleavage from escaping so that you can teach gerunds to 13 year olds kind of makes a person want to pierce multiple things and have torrid lesbian affairs.  Or maybe that’s just me.

We were grateful to return to the hotel and the pool, which would have been nice but for the stupid shadow the fake Eiffel tower created around 4pm.  At this point my husband’s cold (or flu or sinus infection–we’re still not sure) was getting really bad, so he retired to the room and I went shopping.  I was trying to find a necklace for my mother, but when she didn’t return my texts (I later discovered that she can’t receive photo texts–oooops!) I gave up and went back to get ready for dinner.

Our last dinner in Vegas was my favorite.  We went to Sensi at the Bellagio–a place not mentioned in any guide book, though for the life of me I cannot figure out why.  We’d passed it two days before, on our way to Fix from the Tram, and thought it looked interesting from the outside.  I wanted Asian fusion, and that’s completely what I got.  Eclipsed only to fresh off the boat king crab in Alaska, it was the second best meal I’d

Blurry us at Sensi, taken by a nice waiter.

ever had.  My husband agreed it would have been great–if only he had a working sense of taste.  I feel terribly for him–his suckling pig trio looked fantastic, though the world will never know.  Or, at the very least, he never will.

I would like to say that I was sad to be leaving Vegas, but I was not.  I had not realized the timing of our trip, but we were leaving just as the craziness of a holiday weekend began.  All week long, sure, there were a lot of people there–it was Vegas, after all.  But Friday night something new and scary happened.  It started to take me fifteen minutes to get to the 26th floor on the elevator.  People crammed in with their wheeled suitcases, looking post-travel frazzled, stampeding like water buffalo in short skirts and awful gladiator sandals.  It was a bad scene, and I was glad to be leaving it.

We returned to Vegas after visiting last year–we will definitely go back, but definitely not next year.  Right now, I’m googling things like ‘most relaxing vacation spot in the world’ and ‘little known Mediterranean beaches’.  Of course, I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out for next summer.  I can’t wait!

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