What Happens in Vegas…

15 October, 2011 § 1 Comment

…shows up on WordPress, apparently.

A few weeks ago Holly and I took a vacation to Las Vegas for our fourth anniversary. It took some time, but I’ve managed to chronicle everything we did, to the best of my recollection, day by day. Here it is, for your enjoyment.

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DAY ONE – Sunday 18 September, 2011

Fortunately Holly and I had prepared ourselves for the trip over the course of the previous couple days, so when we got out of bed at 7:00 in the morning that left us with plenty of time to make sure we grabbed any “last minute” stuff and unplugged all our electronics. By the time the limo arrived at 9:30 we were ready for it. We hoisted our single piece of luggage (and our one carry-on) into the trunk, climbed aboard, and left for Dallas Love Field airport.

Neither of us had ever been to Love Field (henceforth known by its airport code DAL) before, so we didn’t know what to expect. In case you’ve also never been there, it’s small. Of course, we were at the United/Continental terminal, which I hear is quite pathetic compared to the Southwest terminal. Quite pathetic, indeed. We walked inside and did not have to wait to check our luggage. We checked in, dropped the single bag, which we had forgotten to weigh at home, on the scale, and were astonished to see that we had kept it under the fifty-pound limit by an incredible half of a pound! I found this so astonishing, in fact, that I couldn’t help but take a picture of it.

Once we got up to our gate (of which there were only four to choose from) we realized our choices for breakfast, which we had abstained from eating at home to save time, were a bit limited. Alright, so “a bit limited” is a bit of an exaggeration. So was the word “choices.” One tiny restaurant was there, which featured pre-made deli sandwiches and tiny muffins similar to those served at any 7-11, but for about three times the cost. Realizing we didn’t have a choice, I had a sandwich and Holly had a muffin, we had a couple cups of coffee, then we went back to our gate.

And it’s important that we ate.

Our flight to Houston (where we had a connection) was scheduled for 12:47 in the afternoon. Some time around 11:30 in the morning is when we learned our flight would be delayed by at least an hour, but possibly even longer. This was not especially comforting, considering it was to be an hour-long flight and our connection in Houston was supposed to leave at 2:40 in the afternoon. In case you didn’t do the math already, I’ll help you out here:

12:47p flight, delayed one hour, becomes 1:47p flight. One-hour flight lands us in Houston at approximately 2:45p. Connection leaves Houston at 2:40p.

So there you have it. We’d just learned we wouldn’t make our connection. While all of the other fliers lined up, demanding to be pushed onto another flight leaving for Houston around the time ours was scheduled to leave (the woman working in our gate had informed us there were eight open seats on that flight, and she would move people over to it who might still be able to make their connections) Holly and I sat patiently and tried to determine our other options for getting from Houston to Las Vegas. Unfortunately according to a couple travel websites, there were no flights connecting Houston to Vegas until Monday morning. Displeased with these results, we too joined the line of passengers.

By the time the line was half-gone, it turned out the Continental employee in our gate had already filled the other flight. They did not prioritize seating based on who had connections at what time, and instead forced the first eight people in line onto that plane. This, apparently, was a decent example of that old saying, “Nice guys finish last.” When we had our turn to speak to her, I simply asked “How can we get to Las Vegas today?”

It turned out we had been “protected” on a 9:11p flight Sunday night, which wouldn’t have shown up online since it had been all but booked or, in cases like ours, reserved. This would get us to Las Vegas at about 10:30 in the evening, local time. Whatever. We didn’t have plans for our first night anyway; we just wanted to get there. So we waited for our delayed flight, which finally arrived at nearly 3:00 in the afternoon. That’s right: over two hours late. We boarded, took off, and headed toward the Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (henceforth known as IAH).

During our flight we overheard a flight attendant explaining what the delay was all about. Apparently they had been heading from Atlanta to Houston when they had to circle around a big storm. While doing so they had to make an “emergency landing” to refuel before they could get back in the air and fly to Houston. So there’s that.

The flight to Houston was short and uneventful, though it was raining a little bit when we landed, and because of the incredible smallness of our plane, for the first time ever I exited a plane directly onto the tarmac. That was fun and a little silly, since during the flight I just happened to say to Holly “You know, I’ve never gotten onto a plane directly from the tarmac.”

Here’s where we found some good news! Holly and I found a ticket counter so we could pick up our boarding passes for the 9:11 flight. I asked if there just happened to be a sooner flight to Vegas, and if there just happened to be a little bit of space left on it. Well, there just happened to be a flight from IAH to McCarran International Airport in Vegas (henceforth known as LAS) at 5:30 and there just happened to be exactly two seats remaining on that flight. And those two seats just happened to be right next to each other. That last bit was the cherry on top. We’d get to fly out sooner, and we’d even get to sit together! So we grabbed some wonderful sandwiches (turkey on a croissant for me and ham on marble rye for Holly – which were the same price as our breakfast, but about a million times tastier) and waited for our plane. Plane come, fly us away. Because of the different time zones, our three-hour flight landed us in Las Vegas at about 7:00p. We landed just in time to witness the sunset over Vegas.

We found our bag at LAS, hopped on an airport shuttle, and got off at the Flamingo, the oldest standing Las Vegas casino and hotel, dead-center on the Strip. We checked in, got our room key, and-

Just a little sidenote here: Holly and I had planned on seeing Penn & Teller perform during our week in Vegas, but because Penn was off doing a book signing tour that week, unfortunately seeing them was not an option. So, knowing Penn will often respond to his fans’ questions or comments on Twitter, I asked him what he would recommend we do instead. His suggestion (which was seconded by world-famous stand-up comedian Eric Cash, also on Twitter) was to see Mac King’s comedy magic show at Harrah’s. When two world-famous performers make a recommendation to me, I don’t take it lightly. Holly and I agreed that we must see Mac King in Las Vegas. We checked prices online, found them to be quite reasonable, but held off on buying any tickets.

-just as we were about to step into an elevator we were stopped by somebody in the Flamingo lobby who gave us (no catch) tickets to see Mac King. Okay, there was a small catch. We had to purchase one drink (per ticket) for $9.95 during the show. In other words, Holly and I just got two $10 tickets to see Mac King with two free drinks.

We took the elevator up to our room on the 27th (out of 28) floor, dropped our bags off, relaxed for a little while after what felt like an incredibly long day, and headed back down to find something to eat. We first went to the Sin City Brewery, a small bar inside the Flamingo which we swear we’d seen advertised on TV as having burgers, but found out it really was just a bar. Great, we’d keep that in mind for later, but for now we’re hungry. The bartender recommended a place called The Burger Joint, also in the Flamingo, so we went there instead.

Another sidenote: a friend and coworker of mine, Allyn, turned 21 on September 18th 2011. In celebration of her 21st birthday I had promised her I would have a drink for her. Her request: “The girliest drink you can find.”

At The Burger Joint, they had a cocktail appropriately called “the Flamingo.” It was pink and made of vodka, pineapple, and mango, and was garnished with an orange slice. Happy 21st birthday, Allyn.

After I downed my drink, which was way too sweet and fruity for my tastes, I ordered a fantastic burger with avocado, fried onions, and pineapple, along with a basket of sweet potato French fries and enjoyed my last meal at the end of a ridiculously long and exhausting day. We went back up the elevator, I took a couple great pictures of the view of the northern end of the strip from our hotel window, and we went straight to sleep.

Today’s summary:
-Limo
-Delayed flight
-Vegas at sunset
-The Burger Joint

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DAY TWO – Monday 19 September, 2011

Still on “Texas time,” Holly and I woke up some time between six and seven o’clock in the morning. Just so I don’t have to repeat myself five more times, Holly and I never managed to shake the Central Daylight Time Blues, and woke up around 6-7 every morning; we fell asleep between 10-11 [almost] every night. Anyway, we were awake and soon enough the sun was good and thoroughly up. I drew the curtains and snapped a couple pictures, similar to the shots the previous night, but brighter.

Breakfast on Monday was at the Paradise Garden Buffet in the Flamingo. The buffet was so-so, with some good Eggs Benedict and even better crepes, but mediocre everything else. The Paradise Garden Buffet was nice, though, because it gave us a nice view of the Flamingo’s “courtyard” area, including the wildlife habitat which featured – you guessed it – flamingos! After breakfast we played around in the Flamingo casino for a little bit and enjoyed some Bloody Marys, then headed out on our long, roundabout trek toward the Mirage where we would [eventually] purchase tickets to see Cirque du Soleil sometime during the week.

As I said, we took a roundabout way to the Mirage. We started off heading south on the strip (if you’re unfamiliar with the layout of the Vegas strip, the Mirage is north of the Flamingo), passing Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon. As we headed toward the walkway which would take us over Las Vegas Boulevard, Holly and I spotted a pretty epic lightsaber battle taking place between Darth Vader and… Elvis?! I stopped to snap a photo, but I guess they thought I wanted them to pose for me instead of continuing their fight. Oh, well.

We crossed Las Vegas Boulevard and walked by Caesar’s Palace, taking several pictures as we passed in front of it (including one of the Flamingo across the street), as well as several more once we were inside the Forum Shoppes. We traversed the entire Shoppes, stopping inside several places to look around (we even bought a few shot glasses in a store appropriately called Magnets), and eventually found what we were more-or-less looking for: Spago. Now we knew where it was, and we had a good idea of how long it would take to get there from our hotel room. Fabulous. Here are the pictures we took of Caesar’s Palace, the Flamingo, and the Forum Shoppes:

After Caesar’s Palace, we finally made it to the Mirage. It was probably late morning by this point. That might be irrelevant to you, but I’m trying to keep track of the approximate time so I can remember everything we did as I type this out. Deal with it. Anyway, our first stop in the Mirage was the ticket booth to purchase tickets to see LOVE by Cirque du Soleil. Our tickets were for Friday at 9:30p. Terrific! With our business taken care of, it was now playtime. Our first stop was the LOVE gift shop right next to the ticket booth, which featured a massive Blue Meanie.

Our next stop was Sigfried and Roy’s Dolphin Habitat and Secret Garden. Admission was a bit steep, but we found an offer to see three attractions including S&R’s (all of which were in our itinerary) for a pretty reasonable price, so we went on in. I don’t have much to say about this part except that the dolphins were a lot of fun to watch (a baby boy dolphin had just been born!) and the big cats, while beautiful, were all asleep. It was pretty hot outside, so I won’t hold it against them. This time. Anyway, I took a ton of pictures nonetheless.

After S&R’s Dolphins & Garden Holly and I enjoyed some fried pickles and the house beer at BLT Burger in the Mirage, which was fabulous on both counts. We people-watched from our booth by the entrance ’til it was time to go. And go we did. Back to the Flamingo. It was hot, we were sweaty, and we wanted to get cleaned up and relax for a while before going back out. Here’s a quick shot I took of the Flamingo’s “courtyard” area from the twenty-seventh floor:

Holly and I hung out in our hotel room until the sun started going down. We contemplated what to do with the rest of our night and, most importantly, where to have dinner. At some point before we decided on sushi at Grand Wok at the MGM Grand, the Mirage’s volcano blew up.

After the volcano had finished, we headed down to the concierge’s counter, found out how to get to the monorail, paid [way too much] for a couple tickets, then rode the sky-train to the south end of the strip and got off at the MGM Grand. As promised, we had sushi at Grand Wok (sushi is kind of an anniversary tradition, since that was our dinner the night I proposed to Holly), then found our way back out to the strip. The plan from here was to visit M&Ms World, a multi-storied shop containing pretty much everything you could imagine regarding M&Ms. The grand walk from Grand Wok was pretty long, so I took a few more pictures, including some of the casinos across the street, on the way, ending with a picture looking up at the giant M&Ms World sign.

Man, it was colorful in there! Red, green, blue, yellow, orange, everywhere! M&M pants, M&M toys, M&M coffee mugs, M&M shot glasses, M&M trinkets, M&M dispensers, M&M sculptures, an M&M race car, M&M movies and, of course, M&Ms in pretty much every color imaginable.

Immediately following M&Ms World was the Coca-Cola Store. They were right next to each other on the strip, and the latter seemed the reasonable next step to take. On the top floor of the Coca-Cola store was a small Coca-Cola “restaurant.” I’d seen people walking around with two-foot-tall souvenir cups filled with frozen Coke and I sort of wanted one, so we stopped to check out their menu. Instead of going for the souvenir cup, however, there was another menu option which piqued our interest: sixteen Coke products from around the world. Our server gave us two trays with eight small sampler cups on each, and Holly and I got down to business.

I won’t list all the drinks here (we did keep the list, however) but they came from as close as Mexico to as far away as South Africa, India, and Japan. Most of them were pretty good, but there was one from Djibouti that tasted like carbonated mouthwash. Oh, and that wasn’t even the worst. The Coca-Cola company apparently likes to torture its Italian drinkers with something called “Beverly” which tastes like a cruel combination of licorice, tonic water, and butt.

We couldn’t finish them. Our decision to completely finish off the first tray was probably a bad one, since we could only manage to take a couple sips each out of every cup on the second tray. Our stomachs hurt and our opinions of the Italians had been tarnished, so we decided it was time to call it a night. We made our way back through the MGM Grand to the monorail and took it back to the Flamingo. After getting a couple quick shots of the courtyard from the walkway between the monorail and the hotel, it was bedtime.

Today’s summary:
-Paradise Garden Buffet
-Forum Shoppes
-Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
-BLT Burger
-Mirage volcano
-Grand Wok
-M&M’s World
-Drink tasting

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DAY THREE – Tuesday 20 September, 2011

Our third day in Vegas began with breakfast on the roof of Margaritaville, next to the Flamingo. I don’t remember what we had; all I remember is that it was the best breakfast we’d had in Vegas so far. Out of two. From the rooftop we had a great view of Caesar’s Palace across the street.

Our plans for today were really made the previous day at the Mirage. Along with our tickets into the Secret Garden, we also purchased tickets to Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef, and the BODIES exhibition at the Luxor. With Mandalay Bay and the Luxor being all the way at the south end of the strip, we decided to kill some time by hopping back onto the monorail and taking it to the MGM Grand once again. This was the furthest the monorail would take us, leaving us to walk the rest of the way. We decided to walk all the way to Mandalay Bay, then work our way back from there.

On the long trek we passed multiple hotels which we hadn’t gotten any close-up views of yet, including New York, Excalibur, and of course Luxor and Mandalay Bay. Before anybody makes a big fuss about it, yes, that is my finger in several of the pictures below. I am not a professional photographer (I was using my phone to take all the pictures) and it was bright outside and I had my phone’s brightness turned all the way down to save battery power so I couldn’t even see what I was taking pictures of anyway. Leave me alone.

After walking for what seemed like another hour around the perimeter (inside) of the Mandalay Bay resort, we finally found the entrance to the Shark Reef. We grabbed a bottle of water from a nearby convenience store, sat down in the food court for a moment to catch our breath, then headed inside.

Of course it wasn’t a full-sized aquarium or zoo, but there was still plenty to see! Alligators, piranhas, Komodo dragons, a touch tank full of stingrays and horseshoe crabs, moray eels, sawfish, lionfish, jellyfish, plenty of other exotic fish and, of course, lots of sharks.

When we were finally finished looking at all there is to look at in the Shark Reef, we decided to look for a place to eat. I had heard of a place in Mandalay Bay called Red Square – a Russian restaurant which featured an ice bar – but unfortunately when we found it, we learned that Red Square is only open in the evening hours. Being only about noon-ish, we kept walking. Red Square did have an impressive statue of a headless Vladimir Lenin, though.

Still looking for a place to eat but not finding anything particularly interesting, we instead opted to look through the shops between Mandalay Bay and Luxor. Of particular interest was the Guinness Store, where Holly and I each bought a hat and we found a nice bottle opener (featuring the Guinness toucan) as well. After that we walked briefly through LUSH and I got a picture of the storefront just to show my friends back home, many of whom work at the most sellingest LUSH store of 2010.

The hallway containing all the shops suddenly opened up into a massive room and we realized we’d just stumbled into the Luxor. This only came as a surprise to us because it was the first time during the week when we had walked directly from one resort to another without stepping foot outside. I snapped a few pictures of the interior of Luxor before we went into the BODIES exhibition.

There was no photography allowed inside the museum so I don’t have any exciting pictures to show you, but you can of course visit the BODIES website to see pictures of their exhibits and descriptions of the museum. It was pretty surreal, knowing that all the exhibits were real people and real human organs. I learned a lot about anatomy that day, but Holly and I both agree the museum was a bit smaller than we had anticipated.

From Luxor we walked directly into Excalibur, still in search of something to eat. Excalibur wasn’t anything special. We played in the casino for a little bit before moving on. For the first time in hours we stepped outside and I caught a nice picture of the New York, New York resort.

New York, we just knew, would have a restaurant for us. And it did! Nine Fine Irishmen, an Irish pub I’d read about when we were still in the planning stages of our vacation, was right inside, next to the casino. I’ve been to Australian, British, and Irish pubs before, but this one was definitely the most authentic. Mind you, I’m basing this strictly on the fact that Holly and I were the only two people in the entire establishment who didn’t have an Irish (or at least English) accent. Well, until the couple from Boston came in.

Feeling trigger happy, I took a couple pictures of my beer (Smithwick’s) and Holly’s cider (brand unknown) and another of our lunch, which was a bread sampler appetizer with beer cheese dip.

After lunch we crossed the street back to the MGM Grand and, after taking a couple quick pictures of the lion habitat, jumped back on the monorail for the last time all week.

For some reason, those were the last two pictures I took on Tuesday, so the rest of this day is going to seem to fly by.

In any case, we took the monorail back to the Flamingo, played around in the casino for a little bit before taking our drinks back up to our room to figure out what we would do with the rest of the day. We had to go to Harrah’s, we knew, because we still had to redeem our Mac King ticket vouchers. We also wanted to have dinner at the Rio, but we had no idea how to get there. After some quick research we learned that the Rio hotel was clear across the highway; not exactly an easy place to walk to, so we would have to figure out another way of getting there. It turned out there’s a free shuttle at Harrah’s that exists for the sole purpose of taking people from Harrah’s to Rio, and back. Perfect.

We walked to Harrah’s, redeemed our ticket vouchers (we would see Mac King on Wednesday), played around in the casino for a little bit (Harrah’s drinks are weak), then found the shuttle to Rio. Just a sidenote: Rio is where we would have seen Penn and Teller perform if they had been in town that week. My one regret is that I didn’t manage to get a picture of the Rio as we approached it on the shuttle. The building, especially at night, is beautiful and bright, with plenty of neon lights adorning it. Alas, the shuttle’s windows were tinted and I never had a decent photo opportunity.

Dinner at the Carnival World Buffet was amazing. There is exactly one thing I remember in full detail from my vacation to Las Vegas with my family in the 90s, and that is the Carnival World Buffet at Rio. It was exactly as I remembered it: all sorts of foods from all over the world that you wouldn’t expect to find all in one place. My dinner, while I did enjoy a few fried foods and Asian delicacies, consisted almost entirely of sushi and pasta. Holly couldn’t keep away from the crab legs. Dinner was certainly worth the trip to Rio. In fact, that’s all we did there. After dinner we hopped right back on the shuttle and got off at Harrah’s.

We were pretty tired after dinner. Our only stop after dinner, on the way back to the Flamingo from Harrah’s, was at the Margaritaville gift shop. We had seen a giant shot glass in there after breakfast and had to go back for it.

Today’s summary:
-Margaritaville
-Shark Reef
-Gifts at Guinness Store
-BODIES
-Nine Fine Irishmen
-Carnival World Buffet
-Giant shot glass

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DAY FOUR – Wednesday 21 September, 2011

Wednesday started in much the same manner as the previous few days: Holly and I woke up and got out of bed. We drew the curtains and stood nude, gazing proudly out the window at another sunny Las Vegas morning. No, don’t worry, I forgot to save those pictures.

Wondering what we should do for breakfast but not wishing to spend an exorbitant amount of money, Holly and I opted for a casual breakfast of cream cheese danishes and coffee ($20) from a kiosk in the Flamingo. We took our breakfast outside, into the Flamingo’s courtyard, sat down on a bench near a lovely waterfall which spilled into a pond full of fish, and enjoyed our danishes.

With the Mac King show in the early afternoon, we decided to spend the rest of our morning at Harrah’s. Wednesday was a day of some heavy gambling in the Harrah’s casino. We took our time, enjoying multiple lightly-alcoholic beverages. In the end we probably broke even, much like most of our gambling escapades that week. At one point, tired of the watered-down [free] drinks they were serving us in the casino, Holly and I found a frozen drink bar called Numb where we purchased a souvenir refillable cup of some delicious alcoholic slushy drink. I don’t remember exactly what we drank, but it had frozen blueberries in it.

Mac King was hilarious. I won’t spoil his act, but Holly and I received a couple nods from him during the show when the two of us busted out laughing at a thing or two he did that nobody else really responded to. His “invisibility cloak” was hysterical, as was the running gag with the Fig Newton. The crying – and at some times, screaming – baby near the back of the room was not hysterical, but Mr. King’s responses to the baby and his subsequent heckling of the couple who owned the baby was very entertaining. After the show, I shook Mac King’s hand and told him that Penn Jillette and world-famous stand-up comic Eric Cash had personally recommended that I see his show, to which he responded “You need to find new friends.” Photography was not allowed during the show, so here’s a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Moneybags in the Harrah’s casino:

After the show we visited the Venetian and Palazzo hotels, capturing quite a few pictures along the way and inside. I don’t really have anything else to add about the trek from Harrah’s to the Venetian, as it wasn’t particularly long. Just… look at some more pictures while I try and remember what happened next.

Ah yes. There was some light gambling going on in the Venetian before we decided to find a place to have lunch. We wandered around the shopping area until we found the food court between the two resorts. This was where we discovered the Towers Delicatessen. This, we decided, was to be our lunch place. Holly ordered a sandwich called the Italian Stallion and I ordered the Reuben, then we split the sandwiches so we could both enjoy half of each at a table next to what appeared to be Lady Gaga, 40 years from now. The following picture of our lunch, along with the picture from day one of me drinking that girly drink, are the only two pictures taken by Holly that will be included in this narration.

Lunch was fabulous.

Being that the Mac King show was really our only solid plan for Wednesday, we decided to wander toward the north end of the Vegas strip after we left the Palazzo. The goal was to eventually get to Treasure Island, which was right across the street from us, but we took a pretty roundabout route to get there. Our route took us past the Wynn, Encore, and the Fashion Show Mall, and finally to Treasure Island.

Our plan was to watch the “Sirens of TI” ship battle show in front of the hotel, which we thought began at 5:00p. We arrived at Treasure Island probably around 3:30p which gave us a little time to wander around the shops and play around in the casino. Not too long before five, we learned from an employee in the Sirens gift shop that the show didn’t actually start until 7:30. So we killed several hours in the TI casino, which turned out to be our winningest casino adventure during our entire stay in Vegas. After fooling around in the casino long enough, it was time to head outside and find a good spot from which to watch the show. And watch we did.

The pictures unfortunately don’t do the show any justice. Alright, it was cheesy and the actors overplayed their parts a little bit but the pyrotechnics were exciting (and HOT!), the music was loud, and the pirate innuendo was flowing. I mean, really. One of the temptresses invited the pirate captain into her murky cove, or something along those lines. They went about as far as they could go without mentioning any briny clams. But oh yes, booty was plundered.

After the show Holly and I decided to spend all our TI casino winnings. We bought a fun treasure chest trinket storage thing which has now found its home on one of our bookshelves and, when trying to come up with an idea for dinner, decided to eat at the high-priced Kahunaville, located conveniently within Treasure Island.

High priced, yes, but absolutely worth it. First, instead of ordering an appetizer we decided to order their signature drink, appropriately called the Big Kahuna. Oh, and it’s big. Kahunaville offers on their drink menu the option to “Kahunafy” any regular drink. Well, the Big Kahuna comes pre-Kahunafied. It’s loaded with banana and coconut rums, vodka, Southern Comfort, Amaretto, and a variety of juices. And cherries. And oranges. And gummy worms. Yes, that’s right. Gummy worms. There was even a small chunk of dry ice in the drink to give it a murky, piratey feel. Plus, we got to keep the cup. Plus, our server gave us a second cup for free. Yeah, because we only ordered the one. Trust me, one was enough for us to share. I took a couple pictures and even dropped a penny at the base of the cup so you could get an idea of how big this thing was.

I got carried away describing the drink and almost forgot to tell you what we ate! Holly had, I think, the pina colada chicken. My dinner, however, took the prize: teriyaki-ginger flank steak. I devoured that meat like a desperate tigress. That wasn’t even the best cut of meat I sunk my teeth into that week, but we’ll get to that later. For now, just know that our dinner was magical.

Stuffed full of food and drink, we took the quicker way from Treasure Island back across the street. Our first (of two) stop was a Harrah’s street-front gift shop where we’d seen giant plush poker chips earlier in the day. We bought one that’s apparently worth $20,000, though we only spent $14 on it.

Funny story: before leaving for Vegas I told Holly I’d like to bring something back for our two cats, Odin and Freyja. “Gosh, it’d be pretty sweet if we found a giant plush poker chip. They’d love that!” I said.

We walked by Harrah’s again, as well as the Imperial Palace and all the shops in-between, and we even passed a clutch of smoking Elvi. Elvises? Elvish? No, I’m sticking with Elvi. I took this opportunity to take several pictures of a late-night Las Vegas strip in all its neon glory, before we ducked into a liquor store and bought some champagne, a bottle of Captain Morgan’s Long Island Iced Tea, and a two-liter bottle of Sprite. Finally, with our booze, we made our way through the late night Vegas crowd back up to our hotel room in the Flamingo.

Today’s summary:
-Danishes and coffee
-Mac King’s comedy magic show
-60-year-old Lady Gaga
-Lots of money
-Sirens of TI
-Utter Kahunafication
-Giant plush poker chip
-Smoking Elvi
-Booze

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DAY FIVE – Thursday 22 September, 2011

Our fifth day in Vegas started out pretty fun. This day was the reason we visited Las Vegas in the first place, as it was the fourth anniversary of our wedding in 2007. We went to Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon next door to the Flamingo for breakfast at The Victorian. Since the restaurant was a little busy we were given about a fifteen minute wait so we sat down at a slot machine, put five dollars in, and won another eighty right off the bat! This was enough for us, so we cashed out and waited for our name to be called for breakfast.

Breakfast at The Victorian was pretty good. We each had some pretty fantastic omelets and coffee and the ambiance was really nice too. Well, except for the part when a waiter collided with another staff member behind me and a glass of ice water went down my back. I wasn’t super concerned, though; it was hot outside and I knew I’d dry up pretty quickly. Plus, it was only water.

Anyway, after breakfast we decided to visit Paris.

We wandered around inside Paris for a bit, played in their casino, visited their gift shops, and played in their casino some more. We found a big silicone pint “glass” in one of the shops that we had to buy. It’s freezable, heatable, and even bouncable! I also took this opportunity to finally take some interior pictures of a casino. And a gorilla. I totally fist-bumped the gorilla.

Our next visit in Paris was, of course, the Eiffel Tower. La Tour Eiffel. The sight from the top was incredible. I got pictures of the Las Vegas strip from all directions. There was a fabulous breeze while we were up top, too. I wish we could have done this at night but unfortunately we never found the time.

After la Tour Eiffel, from which we had the opportunity to look down upon the Bellagio’s inactive fountains from above, we decided to cross the street and see the active fountains up close. We hadn’t seen the fountains at all yet, except for during our short ride on the airport shuttle on Sunday, but then the windows were tinted and we were driving so we couldn’t catch much of the show.

But first, it was lunchtime and we were hungry so we headed back past Bally’s, Bill’s, and the Flamingo and landed at Margaritaville for the second time this week. Lunch was just a shared appetizer of their signature crab, shrimp, and mushroom dip with a couple glasses of their house margarita. I took a few pictures while we were traveling past Bally’s on the way.

At last it was time to see the fountains, so we crossed the street and hiked to the Bellagio. Finally, here are some more pictures of the inactive fountains I took once we got to Bellagio.

The fountains weren’t scheduled to start for another half hour when we got there, so we wandered around inside for a few minutes, then found a nice place to stand outside where we’d have a good view of the fountains. Near us was a Silver Man who was attracting a lot of attention. A lot of photographic attention, at least. Nobody was dropping tips in his silver “tips” urn, so we gave him a few dollars and he was gracious enough to pose for a picture.

Finally the show began and the fountains danced to Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas. It was beautiful! The water rocketing into the air was so loud, and the spray from the fountains was really refreshing on such a hot day.

Somehow, time flew by really quickly so Holly and I had to get back to our hotel room so we could get showered and dressed up for our dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. It had begun to get dark outside, so I got a couple really nice pictures (including one of the Bellagio fountains lit up) on the way back to the Flamingo.

We got pretty and hung out for a bit in the room before heading back out. We showed up pretty early so we had about half an hour to hang out in the Forum Shoppes at Caesar’s Palace (where Spago is located) and just people-watch. I grabbed a few photos that I thought were pretty artsy at the time but now think were just too cluttered.

Finally it was time for dinner. Spago was beautiful, dark, and pleasant (except for the loudmouth a couple tables over). We sampled some wonderful breads, had a small bowl of carrot soup each with a glass of Stella Artois, and then it was time for our entrees. I had the mesquite grilled prime filet mignon and Holly had the pan seared duck breast. This filet, while not much to look at (at least in the pictures below – the lighting was really poor for my cell phone’s camera) was phenomenal. It was easily one of the three best filet mignons I have had in my lifetime. The other two, just for the record, were at Cool River in Denver and at the Aventura Spa Palace outside of Cancun, Mexico. Anyway, for dessert we shared a coconut pot de creme with chocolate ganache and shortbread cookies. The whole experience at Spago was really delightful and delicious.

Instead of going back and undoing a mistake I made earlier, I’ll just take a moment to point out right here that Holly took the picture of her duck breast, which makes the total number of pictures she took which are included in this epic tale three and not two, as stated previously.

Worn out and stuffed full of wonderful food (and Holly not particularly wanting to continue exploring the strip in her high heels – which I completely understand), we retired back to the Flamingo.

Today’s summary:
-$5 into $80 at Bill’s
-I got wet at the Victorian
-La Tour Eiffel at Paris
-Margaritaville
-Silver Man
-Fountains at Bellagio
-Spago

**********

DAY SIX – Friday 23 September, 2011

Our last full day in Vegas consisted of a lot of walking, driving, and sitting in photography-free places, so unfortunately I don’t have many pictures. Fortunately, I have a pretty good recollection of what we did and the order in which we did it even without a whole lot of pictures.

Breakfast on Friday, I’ll have you know, was the best breakfast we’d had our entire trip. This isn’t to make light of any of our previous breakfasts; this one was simply the best. We walked, for the final time, back to the Bellagio. I would like to say we didn’t simply eat at their buffet; we experienced it. The Buffet at Bellagio is huge and wonderful. Yes, even better than the Carnival Buffet at Rio that we visited earlier in the week. We had crepes, eggs Benedict, bacon, sausage, orange juice, the best coffee in the world, fresh fruit, toast, breakfast burritos… the list goes on.

I didn’t get any pictures of the Buffet (capitalized because that’s the name of it), so here’s a lovely picture I took of the interior of the Bellagio:

Our plan was to take the Deuce to the north end of the strip so we could visit the Stratosphere, so we crossed the street to find a bus stop. We found one right outside the Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile Shops, so we decided to spend a little bit of time inside the shops. We had plenty of time to kill, after all, as our only solid plans weren’t until 9:30 that night.

We ended up only making a quick run through the Miracle Mile Shops, but we did stop at a frozen drink bar called Fat Tuesday where we picked up a hefty drink in a souvenir cup with a couple extra shots added of Bacardi 151.

The bus stop wasn’t any fun. I’m just letting you know. We waited for what felt like two hours but was probably only more like forty-five minutes. Still a bit long for a bus, if you ask me. The wait was only so long because the first time a bus showed up, the driver announced (over an exterior loudspeaker) that the bus was full and wouldn’t pick any of us up. A second bus finally came by, but not until after I managed to get a couple extra pictures of my surroundings.

We hopped on the Deuce (or, as I so eloquently put it on Facebook at the time, we took a Deuce on the strip) and rode it north to the Stratosphere. The north end of the strip is a lot older than much of the south end. We passed by the abandoned Sahara casino and several empty lots that used to be casinos but had been imploded. We passed Circus Circus, which I remembered from the Vegas trip my family took back in the 90s, but Holly and I never visited it. Maybe once we have children we’ll go back to Vegas and let them play around at the indoor amusement park.

Anyway, we were at the Stratosphere now, which is where I took the bulk of my pictures on Friday, both from the foot of the tower and from the very top of the tower.

We spent a great deal of time at the Stratosphere and had lunch at the Tower Pizzeria, back at the bottom of the tower. We each had a huge slice of pizza and a pint of beer. The pizza was great and the beer, coupled with the beer I had at the top of the tower and the multiple shots of Bacardi 151 we’d shared earlier, was enough to make me slightly tipsy.

We went outside, hopped back on the Deuce, and rode it to Caesar’s Palace. Still with a bit of time to kill, we wandered around a bit and played around some more in the casino. This would be the last gambling we did on our vacation. While at Caesar’s we stopped at Vegas’ second Numb bar and used the souvenir cup we got at the Harrah’s Numb to get a discounted frozen drink which we shared. Also, a butt:

So there we were, killing time at Caesar’s Palace, and it was getting closer and closer to 9:00, which is when we needed to show up to be seated for our show. We headed over to the Mirage and got in line at the LOVE theater. There isn’t a whole lot I can say about the show put on by Cirque du Soleil that you wouldn’t be able to guess if you already know about Cirque and, especially, about this particular show. The music was fantastic, but that was to be expected of a show consisting entirely of Beatles songs. I was not terribly familiar with Cirque du Soleil; my idea of Cirque was a bunch of acrobats in fancy costumes doing tricks on wires above a net. Don’t get me wrong, I expected to enjoy the show; I just didn’t know what would actually happen in the show.

The costumes were extravagant but not all of them were the fancy costumes I pictured with conical hats and frills and painted faces. There were contraptions that seemed to move on their own, roller skaters doing tricks on ramps, trampolines, breakdancing, confetti, a tarp that covered the entire lower level of the audience (we were on an upper level), a flying bed, cars that were made out of people… I was absolutely in awe. If you ever find yourself in Las Vegas and can’t think of something to do, go see LOVE by Cirque du Soleil.

After the show we stopped briefly in the LOVE gift shop and bought a couple martini glasses that we’d seen a few days earlier. It was probably about 11:30 when we left the Mirage, so we headed across the street to Harrah’s and sat down at KGB for dinner. The restaurant’s full name is the KGB Burger & Vodka Bar. The “KGB” stands for “Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers,” and the restaurant is owned by Iron Chef America winner Kerry Simon. My burger, a double bacon cheeseburger, was really wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that it received the special honor of being the subject of the second-to-last picture I took during our vacation.

Today’s summary:
-Buffet at Bellagio
-Miracle Mile Shops
-Stratosphere
-Tower Pizzeria
-LOVE by Cirque du Soleil
-Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers

**********

DAY SEVEN – Saturday 24 September, 2011

Don’t worry, I’ll make Saturday short and simple. We woke up early, packed up all our stuff, hopped on a shuttle outside the Flamingo which took us back to McCarran, checked our one piece of luggage (now a bit lighter than before since we bought a second carry-on bag at one point), went through security, and found our airport gate. Once we knew where we were going, we went to a small convenience store and bought a puzzle book as well as some snacks for the flight, then walked over to a Burger King for breakfast.

Most importantly, we got coffee.

So Holly and I sat down with our coffees and breakfast, I with my puzzle book and she with her Amazon Kindle or her phone or a magazine, and we waited for our plane.

So here it is, folks. The LAST PICTURE TAKEN DURING OUR VACATION!

Our plane showed up, we boarded, and I ended up sitting next to a creepy old guy who kept talking to himself. Whatever. I put in my earphones and watched Wisconsin beat the hell out of South Dakota on my personal mounted television while Holly watched some movie I wasn’t interested in on hers.

We landed at IAH on time and found our gate quickly and easily. If I remembered what we had for lunch, or whether we even had lunch at all at IAH, I’d tell you what it was. Unfortunately I don’t remember.

So it turned out our plane back to Dallas was delayed. It was there, out on the tarmac, but it hadn’t been flown all day and nobody had turned on its fans so apparently its interior was sitting at a comfortable 115 degrees Fahrenheit. They decided that instead of boarding us they would give the plane some time to cool down. When we finally boarded (directly from the tarmac), it was still a bit hot, but whatcha gonna do? The flight back was short, but there was a woman sitting across the aisle from me who whipped out a sandwich loaded with onions that stunk up the whole area. Somewhere behind us, a baby was crying, and the guy sitting immediately behind Holly was snoring loudly.

Oh well. We arrived at DAL only about 45 minutes after we were scheduled to, and Dad was there to pick us up. We waited another twenty minutes or so for our luggage, then went home.

Holly and I ordered a pizza for dinner.

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§ One Response to What Happens in Vegas…

  • I really enjoyed that, Dave! I’ve been in Vegas probably a dozen times, but never had the time or money to explore it like you guys did! So thanks for sharing, and kudos for your keen memory in the face of all those cocktails!

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