Las Vegas Gettaway 11/2013 The Full Story

Day 1

The Gordon Ramsay Pub Crawl

I packed my bag early.  My wife and I had been hitting MyVegas hard over the last six months.  This is a facebook game connected with M Life consisting mostly of slot machines that earn you loyalty points as you play for free.  We redeemed our points for free hotel stay at the Aria, a free buffet for two, and free admission to the shark reef at Mandalay Bay, which turned out to be an exciting exhibit.  The plan was to travel light.  We each had a backpack– well, she got one and a half and I got the remains.  I laid out my clothes, tactfully chosen to limit my involvement with TSA at the security checkpoint.  I removed anything I didn’t want from my wallet and armed it with a couple of gift cards and the cash I intended to use on the trip.  I took my house key of the chain and placed it in my wallet so I had to carry as little as possible in my pockets.  I also pre packed my belt, as in my case it is less of a necessity and more of an accessory.

Getting through security was a snap.  We enjoyed breakfast before boarding and the flight was as comfortable as a 737 can be for two hours.  Sara preloaded her ipad mini with some episodes of Shark Tank to pass the time.  We know the McCarran Airport pretty well and worked outr way through the swiftly moving queue for the taxis that made us feel like we were boarding a Disneyland attraction.  The lady in front of us still felt as though small talk was necessary though, and tripped over her bags while asking us about our age.  We are awkward chatters, so the conversation lead briefly to our purpose for the visit (anniversary), to where we got married (The scenic Valley of the Falls just outside Mandalay Bay) and abruptly ended at that crucial juncture where you know if it goes on any longer you may be sharing a cab.  When we got to our own cab the driver quipped “What happened to your luggage?”  We did pack extra light.  We each had a comped stay at the Aria hotel, but we would have to validate them separately.  This meant that Sara would check in early tomorrow, just before I checked out of tonight’s room and I would be handling all the luggage.  We also didn’t want to be carting too much luggage around in the down time before we had to catch our return flight.  The whole process was very smooth.  It went like clockwork, and the staff was incredibly nice.  We wandered through the casino, half looking for the elevators, half taking mental snapshots of our future entertainment.  We passed Jean Philippe, the noted confectionary, with considerable mental strength.  It was time to drop our gear and start our vacation.

***

The room greeted us as wee entered, pulling back the drapes to reveal our view of the Nevada mountain-scape and the neighboring City Center structures.  The architectural design and environmental planning of the City Center is one of the most appealing attractions on the Las Vegas strip.  When we were keyed up and our appetites were raging, we set off on our first quest.  Tonight was going to be our Gordon Ramsay pub crawl.  Start at BurGR in Planet Hollywood for beer, cocktails and Applewood and Alder smoked ground beef heaven, then on to Steak for more drinks and finally the Gordon Ramsay Pub at Caesar’s Palace for dinner and more libations.  But trecking through four hotels in a food coma proved a challenge we hadn’t planned on.  BurGR indeed had the most amazing, delicious burgers we ever dreamed of.  I had a Bleu Burger which consists simply of bleu cheese and arugula on top of the thick juicy patty.  No sauce of any kind was necessary and just the lightest application of bleu cheese brilliantly accentuated the virtues of the burger it rested on.  I paired it with Innus Gunn, a strong and complex brew.  For comparison I’d say it’s reminiscent of Fat Tire, but aged in whiskey barrels.  BurGR seems to have a constant line outside the door, yet they manage to seat guests quickly and the wait is negligible.  Full and now a little sleepy, we almost declared our mission a failure, but still determined we walked it off on Miracle Mile and made our way to the Paris to visit Steak.

We approached the host with hesitation.  We were still very full and it was a but early for dinner anyway.  We intended to have appetizers, so at the risk of losing further momentum, we spent some time in the casino.  The games have changed.  Our favorite slots are rare.  We always liked the penny slots that let you play five lines at a time.  It takes twenty spins to burn through a single dollar and a decent winning streak can earn you $5 to $10, pretty easily.  We also like the old Goldfish machines.  There was one bank of those remaining at the Paris in a shabby, dingy little corner, half of which were inoperable.  The new slot machines force you to play anywhere from 35 to 60 credits a spin.  So, we’ve had to adapt and get bolder.  Sara has taken to the Big Wheel, which we both have a pretty good time at and can sustain you for long periods of time, or win/lose you some real money, depending on how you play and the kindness of lady luck.  I always liked Roulette, but have lately been fond of craps.  The trouble is, I don’t like going over a five dollar minimum bet and five dollar craps tables are more rare than those penny slots that are nowhere to be found.  Luckily, both Craps and Roulette have become prevalent in automated, electronic form, where introverts can comfortably learn a game and play at their own speed with lower stakes.  We sat down at the Big Wheel and were quickly carded.  Everybody carded us on this trip.  I wasn’t carded so much on my 21st birthday.  We had some mild success before the changing of the guards.  She joked with us about what a hard ass the other guy was and we colored up and graciously bowed out.  I don’t know the science behind it, but when your dealer/facilitator leaves your luck always leaves with them.

We knew we would not be eating at Steak.  It would be good food, but we would feel terrible about wasting the money on our already satisfied stomaches.  But the most important thing about a pub crawl is the drinks, so after the Paris casino took my winnings and some of my dignity, we decided to go inside for a drink.  It’s a very vibrant club like atmosphere with lots of squiggly red streaks imprinting the glassware and décor which is all overseen by a Union Jack in an oval ceiling from which a tangled red neon sculpture looms over the dining room.  Our section in the bar was cozy and intimate.  We enjoyed our drinks and now 2/3 of the way through our journey, though no hungrier, our resolve to finish our quest was re-awakened and we left the Paris behind us.

***

I was down considerably already.  Sara had managed to win $40 at the big wheel in Planet Hollywood.  The operator seemed to have personal issues.  She warned the woman next to us to hold her purse on her lap or someone might grab it and dash out of the casino.  “Welcome to Vegas,” she snorted.  The 50 came up twice in the short time we were there.  Someone came to relieve her, but she sent them away telling them she was fine and then her boss came by to check on her.  Apparently, she had been hassled or stalked by some “creepy” guy (I’m not saying there are no creepy guys, but based on what I’ve heard around various sewing circles, the words “creepy” and “cute” tend to say more about the women doing the labeling then the men they describe.).  They had a brief, but unprofessional dialogue which included an F-bomb used in reference to the alleged creep and her boss left.  Sara bet on twenty and won $40 so we took it and ran.  My twenty was gone, as was the twenty I dropped at the Aria.  Now, The Paris had taken it out of me.  I left some meager winnings on a roulette table betting on the middle third.  The first night was half over and between games and dining I had lost nearly a third of my three day budget.

We passed the costumed Walk of Fame rejects who occupy that side of the strip and ignored the sex mongers who always hand their naked girl calling cards to whatever elderly married man happens to be walking in front of me with his wife.  Every time.  We crossed over to the other side at Bally’s on our way to complete this glorious quest, which we were actually really enjoying.  It was getting on to about nine and we were beginning to feel hungry enough for dinner.  I knew I was going to have the shepherd’s pie.  We got to the casino at Caesar’s and I sat down with Sara at the electronic Big Wheel.  I don’t like long shots, but betting on one and two makes me bored, because even if you win, you win very slowly; and if you stay long enough you will lose.  I placed a bet on five.  pulled the lever “This ones five.”  I said.  A man next to me leaned back, “Five?!”  I told him, “Well that’s what I want, I don’t know your bet.” and he said, “No, five is good.”  I’m glad I got his blessing, because that’s what I hit.  I took the modest win and moved on to play the electronic craps game nearby.  All of the displays are circled around something like Trouble’s “pop-o-matic bubble.  I start playing the pass line and lose.  I try again.  I lose.  I only put twenty in the machine so when I bet again I’m down to only five which is less than I won from the last game.  Suddenly, everyone’s rolling sevens and I’m back up I play some more and get a few good hits in, playing the field and the 6 and 8 spots before they crap out.  Sara joined me and tried to understand the game.  She got to see me win a little before the game ended and I took out my winnings.  Next I really wanted to play roulette, just a little.  It was a hybrid roulette system, with touch screen monitors and a real wheel.  each different roulette game has it’s own rules about how you can bet and I tried to spread out my minimum bet in unorthodox ways around the outside (black, odd, 19-36, etc…).  At first I didn’t realize my bet was voided.  I am so glad I didn’t hit a winning number.  I thought I lost and started to walk away, but they stopped me and said my credits were still there.  I took another stab at it spreading my bet around in six-spots along the inside of the table and won $12.  I wasn’t exactly raking it in Vegas movie style, but I was on a nice upswing, recovering a substantial portion of my losses.

We called it quits and went to Ramsay’s Pub, our final stop of the night.  I had been wanting to try the shepherds pie, since the last time I was there and I didn’t order it.  But the signature cocktail called the Scuffle was something I raved about from first sip and was deliriously looking forward to.  It’s Boddington’s ale with Tennessee Honey, topped with a Guinness crème and served in a martini glass.  I was in my chair and could hardly wait to order it.  I couldn’t believe it when our waitress said it had been discontinued because of the crème.  She asked if I would like something similar and went away only to return with the exact drink, complete with crème hand whipped by the bartender!  I was floored.  The shepherd’s pie, the first one I ever had with beef and lamb, was fantastic.  As perfect as the burger was, I had to admit that given the opportunity to eat either one again, I’d pick the shepherd’s pie.  What a perfect end.  I kept my chips from roulette and we left for the Aria via the Bellagio.

Day 2

Room Change-Mesa Grill-Mandalay Bay-Luxor

We woke up early, around 6:30.  Between the free drinks and the bars I felt sure that it would take a while to get going this morning, but we woke up well rested and ready for our next coux.  We planned our whole trip based on where we wanted to eat, and coordinated our movements accordingly.  Today, we were having lunch at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Caesar’s Palace.  Then we would be moving south toward Mandalay Bay for Dinner at Rick Moonen’s new alchemy themed gastro pub with a steam-punk overlay called Rx Boiler Room.  I’ve been excited for this place ever since I read that it was happening on facebook.  I’m a huge fan of his Catfish Sloppy Joe and we’ve visited RM a couple of times before.  We originally planned on skipping breakfast and having an early lunch, but even though we splurged on an early check in, we had a little time to kill and thought it wouldn’t hurt to get a small bite.  Jean Philippe, the chocolatier, confectionary, bakery, etc.  is right next to the elevators on the casino floor.  It’s a tantalizing smorgasbord of treats, but gluten free options are scarce, and for my wife, the absence of gluten is a medical necessity and not a dietary choice.  We looked around for another option and found  café with larger plates, that seemed inconsistent with our plans.  We thought about taking a single omelet to go and taking it to our room to share.  I do this on a lot of trips.  The trip downstairs is well worth the savings on room service and it’s a convenient way to share a plate without taking up a table in the restaurant.  We decided against it and continued looking for the perfect spot.  Sara suggested I ask where we could just find a snack shop.  I found out at the front desk that there was such a shop located right by the elevators.

It didn’t sink in at first, but it slowly dawned on me as we approached that Jean Philippe is a snack shop, apparently.  On closer inspection, we did find that the place was divided into sections and the smaller of the two had a crepe and omelet bar.  We decided to get an omelet which comes with choice of meat, cheese and vegetable.  We waited a while for our turn while the woman made a crepe, for somebody else.  she finally acknowledged us and directed us to a different register at the other end of the bar.  We asked the cashier about the choice of meat.  Specifically, we asked what kind of meats there are to choose from.  She told us “ham.”  “Well,” we asked, “do you have cheddar?”  They didn’t.  They didn’t even have American, Jack, or Swiss.  They had mozzarella, fontina, and something else I didn’t quite catch.  We went with mozzarella and tomatoes and peppers, instead of ham.  It came out a little watery, but it was protein and the portion was perfect to split for a light breakfast.  While we waited, we looked around at all of the chocolate and made plans to return for that later.

***

We took our time and leisurely headed back to the room after playing a few of the machines in the casino.  I tried out Jaws, we played the new Village People Party, which took all of the magic out of the original that we loved and decided Caesar Palace had better odds.  A waitress did take drink orders while we were down there.  Sara had a mimosa, the socially acceptable morning cocktail, I asked for my Sam Adams without hesitation.   We went to the front desk to check into our new room using Sara’s reservation.  This also went very smoothly.  While we waited we were waved over to a rep at a check out sign.  We told them we were checking in and the rep said “It’s okay.  I can do both.”  She was very nice, but I had to wonder about their system if that was the case.  She also thoroughly explained to us the mini bar situation.  The mini bar consists of the fridge, which is not allowed for personal use, and the items above it (boxes of nuts, bottled water, martini shaker, etc.)  Tampering with these items results in a $50 convenience charge, plus the outrageous price of the items used.  We were then told that there was a weight sensor and we could be charged for removing anything.  I suddenly remembered when we were looking at the items in our room and Sara asked me what I thought was in the martini shaker.  I picked it up without a second thought.  I made a mental note to discuss it at check out.

Our new room was on the 54th floor.  The elevators are assigned to specific floor groupings for efficiency, so we rocketed up and went to see our new room, leaving our baggage in the other one.  It was the same basic set up as the previous room.  Sara was disappointed that they didn’t wish us a happy anniversary.  She had told them of the occasion when making the reservation and was hoping for some small gesture.  Once we checked out the view I went down to the other room for the luggage which was one back pack on each arm and a tote bag, and went back down to check out.  I admitted to lifting the martini glass and the woman laughed slightly and told me not to worry about it.  She asked me if I needed help with my luggage.  I suppose I may have looked odd, but convenience for me means getting things done quickly without any outside involvement, so I graciously declined and returned to my wife just moments before a surprise visit from room service.

The man at the door had a plate  of chocolate covered strawberries and cake.  I told him we didn’t order anything, but he said they were complimentary.  They were from Jean Philippe and the quality of the chocolate was very impressive.  The cake squares half dipped in chocolate had a coconut flavor to them.  We were surprised and thrilled by the gesture.  When Sara was ready to head out and tackle our new mission, I called below to find out where the tram station was and we rode from Aria to the Bellagio.  I brought my beer along, which was actually, somehow, my second Sam Adams of the day.  With the room switch behind us, and a wonderful lunch ahead of us, I was truly relaxed and enjoying the ride.

We trekked through the Bellagio and stumbled across their atrium along the way.  It was a gorgeous fall theme with the mythological appeal of trolls and druids.  A lovely covered bridge went through a fountain and a waterwheel churned up water amidst a placid pool surrounded by vibrancy and whimsy.

***

Caesar’s Palace was so nice to us last night and we were very excited, not only for lunch, but to play some more in a casino that we had some good luck in.  Mesa is one of our favorite spots in Vegas to return to.  We used to also love the China Grill at Mandalay Bat until it closed.  They had the best Philadelphia and California rolls.  The best.  We also can’t get enough of Diego at the MGM and sometimes plan whole trips around stopping there.  You will never have a better tortilla soup and the taquitos there are phenomenal.  Mesa is a Bobby Flay restaurant right in the middle of the casino, but surprisingly secluded and atmospheric on the inside.  The barbeque duck and corn pancake appetizer is a starter I never deviate from and this time is not going to be any different.  I haven’t looked at the menu yet, but I think I’m also going to get the chili relleno.  Sara has something else on her mind.  Every time we go to Vegas she wants a margarita popsicle and yet she is always somehow kept from getting it.  As we approach Caesars, we find a bar under a canopy that looks promising,  I ask if they have anything of the sort and they respond in the negative.  The last time I saw it was at a kiosk outside TI, but when we were there on our last trip it wasn’t open yet.  This trip, Caesar’s is the closest we were going to get to TI.  Maybe Fat Tuesdays in The Forum will have it.

We Passed Serendipity 3, an Ice cream place featured on an episode of Tanked.  We went there on our last visit looking for the fish tank they had built on the show, only to find out it was ill conceived and they had to take it out, because the desert heat was killing the fish.  We were also not wowed by the ice cream.  We hurried inside the hotel and found that Big Wheel that Sara loves.  I almost went to play some craps, but the guy sitting next to Sara got out of his seat, because he wasn’t playing.  Such courtesy, unfortunately, can not be taken for granted.  I thanked him and took a seat. I put in ten dollars and placed conservative bets.  The fifty seemed to be popping up on this wheel, too.  after about the fourth time Sara put some money down on it and instructed me to do the same.  When I get permission to bet on a longshot I take it.  It was just a dollar bet from each of us, but when we watched the wheel slow down and our number approaching the needle the excitement was palpable.  Sara says I don’t show my emotion, but when we won $50 each I was positively giddy.  We took out our winnings and went to lunch.  Of course, Sara had to call her parents to tell them about our fortune.

This was the first time at Mesa they asked us if we had a reservation.  We were still seated immediately, but it was a lot busier than it had been for us in the past.  I wouldn’t mind waiting, though.  The restaurant has a very welcoming entrance with the bar in plain sight leading to the kitchen on the right and a cozy, nicely furnished waiting area on the left, just beyond the hostess desk.  Initially, we were given a table in a high traffic area, but Sara asked if we could be moved.  They sat us next to a couple who weren’t getting along for some reason.  I wasn’t paying attention, because they were too close and I didn’t want them to feel like they were my entertainment.  All I know is that they fought over the bill when it came.  The waiter (who may have found us difficult for needing to be moved) must have thought we were strange, because we told him we had a Visa gift card for $100 and wanted to know if he could run it out and have us pay the rest in cash.  Some places don’t do that, because their POS systems don’t allow it, but he acted like it was a no brainer and wasn’t sure why we were asking.  The bread came.  Raisin bread and cornbread with peppers is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy to kick things off.  I ordered my duck pancake and Sara got a goat cheese queso.  For my entrée, I did choose the Chile Relleno, which is actually a corn crusted eggplant.  A new couple sat next to us and the guy was intrigued by my plate.  I told him it was good, and it is, but I did regret ordering it after a while.  It was a bigger one than I expected and despite the great sauces it sits in on the plate, it became a little bit monotonous and I actually didn’t finish it.  In retrospect, I should have had the salmon.

***

I cashed my chips at Caesar’s instead of playing them and we hurried outside to take a cab to Mandalay bay.  Normally, the cabbies aren’t too talkative, but this guy was very chatty.  The conversation started surprisingly when Sara simply mentioned the construction over at what used to be Bill’s Gambling Hall.  It was a dive that I knew for the $5 craps and overpriced diner.  It was an inoffensive relic from before the Bellagio and the Venitian and Planet Hollywood.  The whole section of the strip it belonged to is much worse and distasteful, and really out of place cradled between the larger resorts that have been changing Vegas for the last 20 years.  Our driver, who reminded me a bit of Thomas Haden Church when he spoke, marked it ruefully as he told us about the changes to Imperial Palace which is now called the Quad and its ferris wheel which is currently under construction and will be the largest in the world.  The cars on board the attraction will be fitted with bars and casino tables.

Sara does not like ferris wheels and the issue of heights brought us to the topic of the Stratosphere and it’s numerous attractions.  The driver informed us that the  rollercoaster was taken out because pieces of it kept falling off and crashing to the floor below.  He told us one of their attractions is a drop from the top in which a steel cable is used to lower you and stop you from spraying the sidewalk.  He told us about his experience with it.  “They don’t take refunds” he said.  “Lots of guys will pay for it and then get out there and change there minds at the last minute.  What they do is give you a chicken out token”  The idea behind that is that if anyone gives you crap about not jumping, you hand them the token, which is essentially a ride ticket, and tell them to put your money where their mouth is.  He told us about going with his girlfriend.  He jumped first and when he got back up he found her waiting with the token, so he went again.  About this time, I probably should have paid more attention to how safely this daredevil was driving the car, but I just listened to the story which lead now to the topic of skydiving, of which he is also an enthusiast.  We discussed the safety issues with skydiving and also its allure, teerarticularly to those who have done it, and continue to be drawn by it.  The conversation took a somber turn when he told us of a dive gone wrong, with someone he knew.  She was diving on a blustery day and steered incorrectly.  rather than using the wind to slow herself down in preparation to land the wind accelerated her fall and plunged her into the ground.  She lived but sustained several injuries and is now deaf as a result.  We changed the subject as we neared our destination.

“How is the steak at Circus Circus?” Sara asked.  Everyone says Circus Circus has the best steakhouse in Vegas.  In fact, the only other time we had a cab driver talk to us was three years ago, after our wedding and he told us we had to go to the steakhouse at Circus Circus.  Best steak in Vegas?  There’s no way that’s true.

“It’s not the best. but it’s vey good.” he said.  We approached Mandalay Bay and Sara pointed out the Valley of the Falls at the hotel entrance.

“That’s where we got married three years ago” she said.  Suddenly, the bitterness overtook his tone.  He was not much interested in hearing about that.  We very quickly learned that his ex-wife is apparently a cougar and likes to date men too young for her and that he got the house and the kids.  With that we arrived at the drop off and he quickly recommended we go to RM for dinner.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing,” I said as we got out of the car.

***

We wanted to take our time in the casino but first we wanted to take care of business redeeming our complimentary Shark Reef tickets from myvegas.  We asked the concierge for the worst directions ever, apparently, to the M life desk.  In his defense he was technically correct and the next person we asked told us the exact same thing.  We eventually found it on the casino floor.  It wasn’t obscured necessarily, but it was in a very odd place right in the midst of everything.  I was reminded of our wedding night in this same casino, when I was going to meet Sara for dinner at the China Grill and people kept stopping me for directions, because my tux must have made me look like an employee.  Luckily, my knowledge of the casino at that time and my Disney training allowed me to fill the role.

I approached the M Life counter with my print out of the redemption code and instructions.  I needed an M Life card, because I created the account online.  They set me up really quick using my drivers license and gave me a pass to take to the box office at the reef.  We made our way across the floor to Evening Call, a frozen drinks stand by the entrance to Mandalay Place.  I asked again about the margarita pops.  Again, no dice.  Sara did get a coffee flavored drink with baily’s in it.  I believe it’s called the Wake Up Call.  I briefly considered a Jaeger Bomb, but I knew I’d probably end up helping Sara finish hers.  After dropping a couple bucks in one of the old Party slots, we went back toward the reef.  A craps table was alive with celebration nearby.

The reason I got hooked on craps is watching my best friend collect so much on the game.  I did all right, but he was a little more familiar and I adopted his style after riding out a few games while he just kept raking in wins from betting on the six and the eight.  The last time I was here with him, we played at one of these tables on the last day of our visit.  I was down to low and couldn’t lose anymore, so he gave me a five dollar chip, because he wanted to play.  I soon gave him his chip back and by the end cashed out with $50.  It wasn’t a fortune, but it pushed me back above what I wanted to leave with and it was a nice high to end the trip on.

We played an interesting game on the way to the reef.  I asked Sara if she wanted to go to the Border Grill.  She said “No!  Ask me again.”

“Do you want to–”

“No!  Ask me again.”

This went on for a very long time.  When we got there Sara asked me to make sure they don’t take our picture.  She said she went with her mom and they tried to make her do it, but they ran passed the photo area and narrowly escaped.  Rather than ask her what the big deal is I went and verified that it is indeed voluntary.  What they do is have you stand in front of a green screen and do different poses and then they slap on some sharks and sell it with you looking all ridiculous, because your not Jeff Goldblum.  The beginning of the exhibit is reptiles.  They didn’t have the first animal, a golden croc, so I kind of was starting to feel like Jeff Goldblum, but the Komodo Dragon was out strutting around and we got to see some cool snakes and lizards, before getting to the fish aquariums.  The exhibit was very exotic and the architectural designs were truly submersive.  This isn’t just a cheap thrown together attraction.  We passed some very interesting types of fish and rays, the piranhas, and finally got to the beginning of a substantial shark section.  They are all over.  Just when you think you’ve gotten a good look, you round a corner and are taken through a tube where you are right in the middle of everything.  There is a cool little tide pool section for the kids to touch things and a jellyfish tank , but the main event is up ahead.  A room surrounded by even larger sharks.  You can stay as long as you like and enjoy the creatures in the shipwreck environment, and we really took it all in.  It was a very fun experience made even better for us because it was totally free.

***

It was getting close to dinner time, but we wanted to stay and play awhile, so when we got to the casino again I picked a game for Sara to play while I scouted around for a Big Wheel.  Alpine Adventure was my pick and she did pretty well on it.  I returned with bad news, Mandalay Bay did not have a Big Wheel.  we stayed a little while because she had ordered drinks for us.  I played a dollar while waiting.  We spotted a Ghostbusters machine in the back and decided to give it a whirl.  It was a loud machine with vibrating seats and lots of bells and whistles.  We lost five bucks each, but made it last a little while and had the most fun losing money that you can have, I suppose.  It evokes the vibes of the film we love and the catchy music and the quotes and movie clips along with the hope of scoring a good bonus made it a pretty exciting game to play.  We decided that if we saw anymore that would be one of our new games.

I suggested Life next.  We like the Monopoly games, but couldn’t find any.  Life is based on the board game, but I didn’t understand it at all.  I picked Astronaut as a profession.  It seems money you bet goes into a bank towards bonus rewards they pay random professions special prizes.  Different scatters go toward different bonuses.  I couldn’t get the hang of it and it was an expensive game, like Ghostbusters, but not fun.  After a couple of bonuses that didn’t seem to do much decided to cut my losses at five short from dropping a twenty.  I hit the cash out button and did a double take when I saw that I was up ten dollars.  Sara insisted that the machine was broken and I should cash it before anyone sees.  I don’t know.  She might have been right.  Nothing about the game indicated that I was winning.  Not to mention, I always lose at Life.  At the beginning when you get to choose to go to college and get a higher paying job I always skip it, because screw you game.  So, I felt a little like I ripped off the casino, having my first positive Life experience while still feeling frustrated by it.

I next took my chances on another game I should like but have always had bad experiences with: Alien.  I love seeing games based on movies I have a special attachment to.  Most of those games, like Ghostbusters, Jaws, The Dark Night cost a pretty penny at fifty cents a pull.  Alien is a true penny slot that allows me to play only five lines, just the way I like it.  The problem is, I never had any luck and have always moved on disappointed.  This time was different.  I finally got a bonus and it lets you pick a compartment that reveals a weapon to fend off an attacking alien with.  The arcade style graphics and the element of surprise made it a nice little high as we picked boxes for round after round of a lengthy sequence that kept earning me more money,  I was ecstatic when I revealed a flame thrower, which for some reason Sara thought was a bad thing.  Silly.  Eventually, I opened the air vac and sent that b*tch flying.  I cashed out and we went out to the mall to head up to Rx Boiler Room.

***

When I saw the entrance to Rx I was in love.  It was all copper pipe and gears and things making a presidium that spells Rx Boiler Room in using letters from unrelated fonts.  Inside it is warm and old timey and very posh.  we passed an intimate waiting area and the bar in the back and were ushered into a dining room that for a while we had all to ourselves.  The bar was doing well, but there were no diners.  Eventually and other table was seated, but that was it for the whole time we were there.  It was Monday and the peak season was winding down, so we hoped it wasn’t indicative of a larger problem.  First, we were offered drinks.  Two things all the restaurants in Vegas seem to have are touch screen menus at the entrance and ipads for the cocktail menu.  I perused it and quickly hit on a conundrum.  I usually drink beer, but am inclined not to pass on an interesting cocktail.  In the past, I have been more of a Gin and Tonic, or Jack and Coke guy.  In this menu I saw a variation on whiskey and coke that seemed interesting.  On the other hand there was also a drink called Mario Went down the Wrong Warp Pipe.  What would you have done?  I asked the waiter and he recommended the latter.  He seemed disappointed by the whiskey and  Coke choice.  I said that was good enough for me and opted to find out what Mario encountered in that fateful pipe.

The drink was very good, but unusual.  It contained dry curacao, olive oil, thyme syrup and lemon among other things and tasted like a cure for the common cold.  Honey was hinted at along with the fresh lemon juice, and the dryness of the drink really worked for me.  It was topped with fresh thyme which enhanced it’s herbal quality.  Sara got a bottle of sparkling water.  The entrée was something I also went back and forth with.  Everything was a little tweaked, so it made me really want to know what this version of a fish taco would be or a bucket of fried chicken, which in this case was game hen.  Sara called it chicken and our server casually corrected her, but it seemed like he disapproved of people calling it that, which I could appreciate.  It came with Blue Cheese and Buffalo sauce and it just felt right so that’s what I ordered.  Sara got a burger without the bun, because she was on a burger kick this weekend.  I was really enjoying the atmosphere while we waited for our food.  This was probably the restaurant that I looked forward to eating at the most.  We were served our food, which was very good.  I wouldn’t call it worth the price, but despite the high price point, I thought it was enjoyable and I didn’t have any regrets about it.  Suddenly, an new guy approached our table.  He didn’t introduse himself and had an off-putting gem pierced into his left nostril.  He just asked us if we needed anything else.  We still had our drinks and had only begun on our food, so we told him we were fine.  He then looked down at our table and said “So you’re just having Appetizers and water?”

I didn’t know what to say.  Neither one of us was eating an appetizer and the water remark was completely wrong.  I was beginning to feel like I had gone down the wrong warp pipe.  I didn’t want to over-react so I just nodded.  “Yeah, I think we’re good.”  He smirked and slightly snorted at us.  This guy.  Then he left us alone and harassed the table next to us.  They seemed confused by his presence as well.  We shrugged it off and continued our meal.  Our waiter, whom I really liked didn’t come around.  We didn’t need him to.  I only noticed because we still had the ipad on our table and I was wondering if they’d pick it up.  Eventually, the BeDazzled guy came back for round two.

“Are you enjoying your chicken fingers?”  He asked me.  Boy, is this guy working in the wrong place.  He was getting to me, and I really wanted to have a good time.  On the other hand, I was a little entertained, because what grown person acts this way?  When our real server came over to check on us I said we were fine, but I asked about the BeDazzled guy.  He told us he was the busser.  Something in his tone suggested this was not an unusual situation.  I said he was being rude and he assured me we wouldn’t be bothered by him again.  We finished our food and left with mixed emotions, laughing off the disappointment in what I had hoped would be the highlight of our trip.  We agreed that we would return for the atmosphere, but probably only for drinks.

***

We decided to head to Luxor to play a little more, because we’ve never been too terribly fond of the odds at Mandalay Bay.  Luxor always seems a little more forgiving.  We pulled up a seat at a small bank of Monopoly games where an elderly couple was struggling to understand the value of their credits.  Sara jumped in to help them figure out what they had.  They played a little more until they had too little to bet.  I told them they could cash out, but they felt it wasn’t worth it.  They seemed to still be struggling to understand and ultimately took their change anyway.  I didn’t like the machine I had and I spotted Spiderman just a few feet away.  Since I promised myself I would play any Marvel or Lucasfilm licensed game I found, I sat down in the large stereo equipped, vibrating seat.  It had all the same razzle dazzle as the Ghostbusters game, but wasn’t nearly as fun.  Plus the guy next to me got a pretty big bonus.  Content that he was the lucky one, I cashed out.

Finally, Sara spotted a Big Wheel that had quite a crowd around it.  A man with a roll of hundreds was placing one Joker bet after another.  A couple of Asian tourists that reminded me of an older version of Hiro and Ando from Heroes were occupying a space.  We approached them and they graciously stepped back.  “I am only learning.” said Hiro.  They liked Sara a lot.  She bet on the one and the two and they had seen the odds thus far.
“Patience,” he kept saying to Ando, and “Good Sense.”

He was very excited by the smallest win, but I saw it becoming clear that he would see the role time plays in losing to the house.  Meanwhile he was paying attention to the gambler in the middle with his Joker bets.  The wheel slowed as it approached the 50.  “Oh!  You’re possible!” Hiro exclaimed.  Alsas, it was off by one.  The gambler left an open seat.  I asked Hiro if he wanted to give it a try, but he declined.  I took the seat and placed my bets.  I play prepared to lose, but aiming to win.  I wasn’t buying time so I reached a little.  I expected the five would hit soon and placed a couple of bucks down. Sure enough, it hit and Hiro changed sides.  “You have good sense.”  I was happy with my win and didn’t want to lose my ground, so I cashed out and gave Hiro my seat.  I cashed my ticket and came back for Sara.  We wished them good luck and continued toward Excalibur on our way back to our hotel.

Nothing happened at Excalibur.  We just went straight through.  But somehow, six separate people tried to stop us to pitch a timeshare.  We used to stay at Excalibur, back when we first started visiting Vegas together.  The price was low and the positioning ideal for access to Mandalay Bay, Luxor, New York, New York, and MGM Grand.  Later we made MGM our home base until we eventually became more interested in the Caesars Palace/Mirage side of the strip.  We used to be really familiar with the Excalibur layout.  I was surprised this time that I had to ask for directions out of the place.  We passed through the ruins of memories that for me go back about twenty years to when I first came to Las Vegas with my parents.  We got to the taxi queue and told them we wanted Aria.  Our driver gave us the silent treatment the whole time and he practically just kicked us out when he got to the hotel.

We finished off the night with another visit to Jean Philippe for some crème brulee.  It was delicious.  We knew we’d have to pick something up tomorrow to bring home.

Day 3

Check out-Buffet-The Flight Home

Last day in Vegas.  After such a great night it was a little sad to think about leaving, but too long away from home and we really start to miss Watson, so we were ready to get back to see him.  We took our time packing up and went down to check out and head to the buffet, which we also had comps for through myvegas.  Its become customary for us to do the buffet for brunch after checkout on our last day.  It fills us up before travel and we don’t need anything until we get home.  I didn’t even eat dinner.  When I go to a buffet I sample.  If I really like something, I will go back for more, but usually a small plate is sufficient and I will move on to another section for a sampling from there.  I like to do many small plates, rather than pile it all on.  I do generally clean my plate though.  I don’t like to leave a mess of unfinished food unless its really bad and there is a lot more to try.  At the Mirage, I really like their salad station.  If I went back to Cravings, I would definitely do more with the salad and desert.  TI has a terrific desert station and a pretty descent buffet in general.  I loaded up on southern food there.  Aria’s buffet was nothing special.  Sara told me I could skip the salad.  I went for some of the breakfast stuff which you can’t really go wrong with.  We had asked for water with our Diet Coke and coffee, but we didn’t get it.  The server left me with a coffee pot, but Sara finished her Coke and was left hanging for a refill.  I spent more time in the buffet looking for something to eat than putting anything on my plate.  The seafood section was awkwardly filled in with scattered buckets of crab legs that I was not going for and shrimp that were unappetizing.  They did have cute little fish and chips baskets that were all right.  All the food was free and I filled up on a lot.  Even though there wasn’t a large selection it was adequate food for a buffet.  The only complaint I had was our server whom we could overhear complaining about having to clean peoples tables.  When she finally came by after we’d taken a few turns heading back to the buffet, Sara asked her for more Diet Coke and reminded her about the water.  She eventually returned with the Coke, but we still never got the water.  We just kept hearing her complain.  There was hardly anybody even dining, but it was all too much for her.  I’m afraid she thinks a job at a real restaurant would somehow be easier.  She probably was expecting not to get a tip, so she didn’t.

Back on the casino floor we got Sara her M Life card and we decided to run them up a bit before heading to the airport.  I had just put five bucks on a 2 to 1 spot at the roulette table and won, so I was feeling pretty cocky.  I tried a slot machine I wasn’t familiar with and forgot to reset it so I dropped a huge chunk by mistake.  We cruised around for a little while, trying to find a new game, or an old favorite.  We played a bunch of an uninspired haunted house themed game that allowed us to run up some loyalty points, but wasn’t all that exciting.  I went back to the craps table while Sara went to The Wizard of Oz.  I threw in ten and lost it.  Then I threw in twenty.  I was the shooter and I was pretty hot.  I had a great run.  Didn’t win a bunch, but I did all right.  The number to roll was nine and I was starting to sweat it a little bit after a while.  When it came up, I said “Finally!” and the other players laughed.  I cashed it out and joined Sara who was having pretty good luck.  She sent me across the street to get a souvenir from BurGR at Planet Hollywood.  We had decided on a shooter shaped like a beer glass that says BurGR on it.  I left our bags with her.  When I don’t have baggage and I’m traveling alone I make great time.  I learned how to crowd surf while working at Disneyland.  I had the merchandise in my hand within five minutes of leaving the Aria casino.  I came back to find a 60 year old woman playing next to Sara.  I picked up our things to move on.  Sara told the woman happy birthday.  I had missed the conversation when the woman sat down next to Sara and told her she had just had her hair done and how it was her birthday.  From there we went to a game Sara always seems to be lucky on.  It’s Chinese and features dragons and has the word fortune in the name.  That’s all I can recall.  It has those expanding wilds and you can get a crazy amount of free spins off of it.  While she played that for a while I found my Jaws machine and gave it another go, we didn’t play too much, though because we liked what we were heading back home with.  It wasn’t a fortune but we were able to make up for a fair amount of expenses with the winnings.  We made a final stop at Jean Philippe for some chocolate to take home to the family and took the cab back to McCarran Int. Airport.

We got to use their trial express lane at the security check,  but it did us little good, because the people in front of us were clueless and opted for the full on pat down because they didn’t want to go through the scanners.  They didn’t understand why they had to take off their shoes and brought the line to a stand still while they complained about every direction.  Once they were out of the way and we could get moving again it was smooth sailing, there was much less scrutiny on our luggage and we were able to get through a little quicker with less hassle.  Though I don’t see the point and fail to understand how less scrutiny is better or how some lines can have stricter procedures than others, I appreciated the ease it provided.  We grabbed our stuff and I flung my shoes on, looking for a bench.  “Didn’t they used to have benches?”  I tied my shoes and glanced back at the cavity search junkies, still enjoying the free pat down.  The flight back was underbooked, so Sara and I got a row to ourselves, which was great.  A couple of episodes of Shark Tank later we had arrived safely in Portland and went straight home to see Watson, who played it cool for about two seconds before cozying back up to us.  He could not get enough love.

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Las Vegas Day 2 part IV

Day 2 Part I, Day 1

I cashed my chips at Caesar’s instead of playing them and we hurried outside to take a cab to Mandalay bay.  Normally, the cabbies aren’t too talkative, but this guy was very chatty.  The conversation started surprisingly when Sara simply mentioned the construction over at what used to be Bill’s Gambling Hall.  It was a dive that I knew for the $5 craps and overpriced diner.  It was an inoffensive relic from before the Bellagio and the Venitian and Planet Hollywood.  The whole section of the strip it belonged to is much worse and distasteful, and really out of place cradled between the larger resorts that have been changing Vegas for the last 20 years.  Our driver, who reminded me a bit of Thomas Haden Church when he spoke, marked it ruefully as he told us about the changes to Imperial Palace which is now called the Quad and its ferris wheel which is currently under construction and will be the largest in the world.  The cars on board the attraction will be fitted with bars and casino tables.

Sara does not like ferris wheels and the issue of heights brought us to the topic of the Stratosphere and it’s numerous attractions.  The driver informed us that the  rollercoaster was taken out because pieces of it kept falling off and crashing to the floor below.  He told us one of their attractions is a drop from the top in which a steel cable is used to lower you and stop you from spraying the sidewalk.  He told us about his experience with it.  “They don’t take refunds” he said.  “Lots of guys will pay for it and then get out there and change there minds at the last minute.  What they do is give you a chicken out token”  The idea behind that is that if anyone gives you crap about not jumping, you hand them the token, which is essentially a ride ticket, and tell them to put your money where their mouth is.  He told us about going with his girlfriend.  He jumped first and when he got back up he found her waiting with the token, so he went again.  About this time, I probably should have paid more attention to how safely this daredevil was driving the car, but I just listened to the story which lead now to the topic of skydiving, of which he is also an enthusiast.  We discussed the safety issues with skydiving and also its allure, teerarticularly to those who have done it, and continue to be drawn by it.  The conversation took a somber turn when he told us of a dive gone wrong, with someone he knew.  She was diving on a blustery day and steered incorrectly.  rather than using the wind to slow herself down in preparation to land the wind accelerated her fall and plunged her into the ground.  She lived but sustained several injuries and is now deaf as a result.  We changed the subject as we neared our destination.

“How is the steak at Circus Circus?” Sara asked.  Everyone says Circus Circus has the best steakhouse in Vegas.  In fact, the only other time we had a cab driver talk to us was three years ago, after our wedding and he told us we had to go to the steakhouse at Circus Circus.  Best steak in Vegas?  There’s no way that’s true.

“It’s not the best. but it’s vey good.” he said.  We approached Mandalay Bay and Sara pointed out the Valley of the Falls at the hotel entrance.

“That’s where we got married three years ago” she said.  Suddenly, the bitterness overtook his tone.  He was not much interested in hearing about that.  We very quickly learned that his ex-wife is apparently a cougar and likes to date men too young for her, but that he got the house and the kids.  With that we arrived at the drop off and he quickly recommended we go to RM for dinner if we like seafood.

“That’s exactly where we’re going,” I said as we got out of the car.

To be continued…

Las Vegas 2013 Day 2 part III

Part II, Beginning

Caesar’s Palace was so nice to us last night and we were very excited, not only for lunch, but to play some more in a casino that we had some good luck in.  Mesa is one of our favorite spots in Vegas to return to.  We used to also love the China Grill at Mandalay Bat until it closed.  They had the best Philadelphia and California rolls.  The best.  We also can’t get enough of Diego at the MGM and sometimes plan whole trips around stopping there.  You will never have a better tortilla soup and the taquitos there are phenomenal.  Mesa is a Bobby Flay restaurant right in the middle of the casino, but surprisingly secluded and atmospheric on the inside.  The barbeque duck and corn pancake appetizer is a starter I never deviate from and this time is not going to be any different.  I haven’t looked at the menu yet, but I think I’m also going to get the chili relleno.  Sara has something else on her mind.  Every time we go to Vegas she wants a margarita popsicle and yet she is always somehow kept from getting it.  As we approach Caesars, we find a bar under a canopy that looks promising,  I ask if they have anything of the sort and they respond in the negative.  The last time I saw it was at a kiosk outside TI, but when we were there on our last trip it wasn’t open yet.  This trip, Caesar’s is the closest we were going to get to TI.  Maybe Fat Tuesdays in The Forum will have it.

We Passed Serendipity 3, an Ice cream place featured on an episode of Tanked.  We went there on our last visit looking for the fish tank they had built on the show, only to find out it was ill conceived and they had to take it out, because the desert heat was killing the fish.  We were also not wowed by the ice cream.  We hurried inside the hotel and found that Big Wheel that Sara loves.  I almost went to play some craps, but the guy sitting next to Sara got out of his seat, because he wasn’t playing.  Such courtesy, unfortunately, can not be taken for granted.  I thanked him and took a seat. I put in ten dollars and placed conservative bets.  The fifty seemed to be popping up on this wheel, too.  after about the fourth time Sara put some money down on it and instructed me to do the same.  When I get permission to bet on a longshot I take it.  It was just a dollar bet from each of us, but when we watched the wheel slow down and our number approaching the needle the excitement was palpable.  Sara says I don’t show my emotion, but when we won $50 each I was positively giddy.  We took out our winnings and went to lunch.  Of course, Sara had to call her parents to tell them about our fortune.

This was the first time at Mesa they asked us if we had a reservation.  We were still seated immediately, but it was a lot busier than it had been for us in the past.  I wouldn’t mind waiting, though.  The restaurant has a very welcoming entrance with the bar in plain sight leading to the kitchen on the right and a cozy, nicely furnished waiting area on the left, just beyond the hostess desk.  Initially, we were given a table in a high traffic area, but Sara asked if we could be moved.  They sat us next to a couple who weren’t getting along for some reason.  I wasn’t paying attention, because they were too close and I didn’t want them to feel like they were my entertainment.  All I know is that they fought over the bill when it came.  The waiter (who may have found us difficult for needing to be moved) must have thought we were strange, because we told him we had a Visa gift card for $100 and wanted to know if he could run it out and have us pay the rest in cash.  Some places don’t do that, because their POS systems don’t allow it, but he acted like it was a no brainer and wasn’t sure why we were asking.  The bread came.  Raisin bread and cornbread with peppers is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy to kick things off.  I ordered my duck pancake and Sara got a goat cheese queso.  For my entrée, I did choose the Chile Relleno, which is actually a corn crusted eggplant.  A new couple sat next to us and the guy was intrigued by my plate.  I told him it was good, and it is, but I did regret ordering it after a while.  It was a bigger one than I expected and despite the great sauces it sits in on the plate, it became a little bit monotonous and I actually didn’t finish it.  In retrospect, I should have had the salmon.

To be continued…

Las Vegas 2013 Day 2 part II

For the previous chapter click here, or go back to the beginning of the story.

We took our time and leisurely headed back to the room after playing a few of the machines in the casino.  I tried out Jaws, we played the new Village People Party, which took all of the magic out of the original that we loved and decided Caesar Palace had better odds.  A waitress did take drink orders while we were down there.  Sara had a mimosa, the socially acceptable morning cocktail, I asked for my Sam Adams without hesitation.   We went to the front desk to check into our new room using Sara’s reservation.  This also went very smoothly.  While we waited we were waved over to a rep at a check out sign.  We told them we were checking in and the rep said “It’s okay.  I can do both.”  She was very nice, but I had to wonder about their system if that was the case.  She also thoroughly explained to us the mini bar situation.  The mini bar consists of the fridge, which is not allowed for personal use, and the items above it (boxes of nuts, bottled water, martini shaker, etc.)  Tampering with these items results in a $50 convenience charge, plus the outrageous price of the items used.  We were then told that there was a weight sensor and we could be charged for removing anything.  I suddenly remembered when we were looking at the items in our room and Sara asked me what I thought was in the martini shaker.  I picked it up without a second thought.  I made a mental note to discuss it at check out.

Our new room was on the 54th floor.  The elevators are assigned to specific floor groupings for efficiency, so we rocketed up and went to see our new room, leaving our baggage in the other one.  It was the same basic set up as the previous room.  Sara was disappointed that they didn’t wish us a happy anniversary.  She had told them of the occasion when making the reservation and was hoping for some small gesture.  Once we checked out the view I went down to the other room for the luggage which was one back pack on each arm and a tote bag, and went back down to check out.  I admitted to lifting the martini shaker and the woman laughed slightly and told me not to worry about it.  She asked me if I needed help with my luggage.  I suppose I may have looked odd, but convenience for me means getting things done quickly without any outside involvement, so I graciously declined and returned to my wife just moments before a surprise visit from room service.

The man at the door had a plate  of chocolate covered strawberries and cake.  I told him we didn’t order anything, but he said they were complimentary.  They were from Jean Philippe and the quality of the chocolate was very impressive.  The cake squares half dipped in chocolate had a coconut flavor to them.  We were surprised and thrilled by the gesture.  When Sara was ready to head out and tackle our new mission, I called below to find out where the tram station was and we rode from Aria to the Bellagio.  I brought my beer along, which was actually, somehow, my second Sam Adams of the day.  With the room switch behind us, and a wonderful lunch ahead of us, I was truly relaxed and enjoying the ride.

We trekked through the Bellagio and stumbled across their atrium along the way.  It was a gorgeous fall theme with the mythological appeal of trolls and druids.  A lovely covered bridge went through a fountain and a waterwheel churned up water amidst a placid pool surrounded by vibrancy and whimsy.

To be continued…

Las Vegas 2013 Day 2

This is the beginning of day 2 of our Vegas trip this month.  Day 1 starts here.

Day 2

We woke up early, around 6:30.  Between the free drinks and the bars I felt sure that it would take a while to get going this morning, but we woke up well rested and ready for our next coup.  We planned our whole trip based on where we wanted to eat, and coordinated our movements accordingly.  Today, we were having lunch at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Caesar’s Palace.  Then we would be moving south toward Mandalay Bay for Dinner at Rick Moonen’s new alchemy themed gastro pub with a steam-punk overlay called Rx Boiler Room.  I’ve been excited for this place ever since I read that it was happening on facebook.  I’m a huge fan of his Catfish Sloppy Joe and we’ve visited RM a couple of times before.  We originally planned on skipping breakfast and having an early lunch, but even though we splurged on an early check in, we had a little time to kill and thought it wouldn’t hurt to get a small bite.  Jean Philippe, the chocolatier, confectionary, bakery, etc.  is right next to the elevators on the casino floor.  It’s a tantalizing smorgasbord of treats, but gluten free options are scarce, and for my wife, the absence of gluten is a medical necessity and not a dietary choice.  We looked around for another option and found a café with larger plates, that seemed inconsistent with our plans.  We thought about taking a single omelet to go and taking it to our room to share.  I do this on a lot of trips.  The trip downstairs is well worth the savings on room service and it’s a convenient way to share a plate without taking up a table in the restaurant.  We decided against it, however, and continued looking for the perfect spot.  Sara suggested I ask somebody where we could just find a snack shop.  I found out at the front desk that there was such a shop located right by the elevators.

It didn’t sink in at first, but it slowly dawned on me as we approached that Jean Philippe is a snack shop, apparently.  On closer inspection, we did find that the place was divided into sections and the smaller of the two had a crepe and omelet bar.  We decided to get an omelet which comes with choice of meat, cheese and vegetable.  We waited a while for our turn while the woman made a crepe, for somebody else.  she finally acknowledged us and directed us to a different register at the other end of the bar.  We asked the cashier about the choice of meat.  Specifically, we asked what kind of meats there are to choose from.  She told us “ham.”

“Well,” we asked, “do you have cheddar?”  They didn’t.  They didn’t even have American, Jack, or Swiss.  They had mozzarella, fontina, and something else I didn’t quite catch.  We went with mozzarella and tomatoes and peppers, instead of ham.  It came out a little watery, but it was protein and the portion was perfect to split for a light breakfast.  While we waited, we looked around at all of the chocolate, which all looked amazing, and made plans to return for that later.

To be continued…

Vegas 2013 Day 1 conclusion.

I was down considerably already.  Sara had managed to win $40 at the big wheel in Planet Hollywood.  The operator seemed to have personal issues.  She warned the woman next to us to hold her purse on her lap or someone might grab it and dash out of the casino.  “Welcome to Vegas,” she snorted.  The 50 came up twice in the short time we were there.  Someone came to relieve her, but she sent them away telling them she was fine and then her boss came by to check on her.  Apparently, she had been hassled or stalked by some “creepy” guy (I’m not saying there are no creepy guys, but based on what I’ve heard around various sewing circles, the words “creepy” and “cute” tend to say more about the women doing the labeling then the men they describe.).  They had a brief, but unprofessional dialogue which included an F-bomb used in reference to the alleged creep and her boss left.  Sara bet on twenty and won $40 so we took it and ran.  My twenty was gone, as was the twenty I dropped at the Aria.  Now, The Paris had taken it out of me.  I left some meager winnings on a roulette table betting on the middle third.  The first night was half over and between games and dining I had lost nearly a third of my three day budget.

We passed the costumed Walk of Fame rejects who occupy that side of the strip and ignored the sex mongers who always hand their naked girl calling cards to whatever elderly married man happens to be walking in front of me with his wife.  Every time.  We crossed over to the other side at Bally’s on our way to complete this glorious quest, which we were actually really enjoying.  It was getting on to about nine and we were beginning to feel hungry enough for dinner.  I knew I was going to have the shepherd’s pie.  We got to the casino at Caesar’s and I sat down with Sara at the electronic Big Wheel.  I don’t like long shots, but betting on one and two makes me bored, because even if you win, you win very slowly; and if you stay long enough you will lose.  I placed a bet on five.  pulled the lever “This ones five.”  I said.

A man next to me leaned back, “Five?!”

I told him, “Well that’s what I want, I don’t know your bet.”

And he said, “No, five is good.”  I’m glad I got his blessing, because that’s what I hit.  I took the modest win and moved on to play the electronic craps game nearby.  All of the displays are circled around something like Trouble’s “pop-o-matic bubble.  I start playing the pass line and lose.  I try again.  I lose.  I only put twenty in the machine so when I bet again I’m down to only five which is less than I won from the last game.  Suddenly, everyone’s rolling sevens and I’m back up I play some more and get a few good hits in, playing the field and the 6 and 8 spots before they crap out.  Sara joined me and tried to understand the game.  She got to see me win a little before the game ended and I took out my winnings.  Next I really wanted to play roulette, just a little.  It was a hybrid roulette system, with touch screen monitors and a real wheel.  each different roulette game has it’s own rules about how you can bet and I tried to spread out my minimum bet in unorthodox ways around the outside (black, odd, 19-36, etc…).  At first I didn’t realize my bet was voided.  I am so glad I didn’t hit a winning number.  I thought I lost and started to walk away, but they stopped me and said my credits were still there.  I took another stab at it spreading my bet around in six-spots along the inside of the table and won $12.  I wasn’t exactly raking it in Vegas movie style, but I was on a nice upswing, recovering a substantial portion of my losses.

We called it quits and went to Ramsay’s Pub, our final stop of the night.  I had been wanting to try the shepherds pie, since the last time I was there and I didn’t order it.  But the signature cocktail called the Scuffle was something I raved about from first sip and was deliriously looking forward to.  It’s Boddington’s ale with Tennessee Honey, topped with a Guinness crème and served in a martini glass.  I was in my chair and could hardly wait to order it.  I couldn’t believe it when our waitress said it had been discontinued because of the crème.  She asked if I would like something similar and went away only to return with the exact drink, complete with crème hand whipped by the bartender!  I was floored.  The shepherd’s pie, the first one I ever had with beef and lamb, was fantastic.  As perfect as the burger was, I had to admit that given the opportunity to eat either one again, I’d pick the shepherd’s pie.  What a perfect end.  I kept my chips from roulette and we left for the Aria via the Bellagio.

Day 2 part I

Las Vegas 2013 Continued

If you missed the beginning of this true story click here.  Leave your embellishments and plot twists in the comments.

The room greeted us as wee entered, pulling back the drapes to reveal our view of the Nevada mountain-scape and the neighboring City Center structures.  The architectural design and environmental planning of the City Center is one of the most appealing attractions on the Las Vegas strip.  When we were keyed up and our appetites were raging, we set off on our first quest.  Tonight was going to be our Gordon Ramsay pub crawl.  Start at BurGR in Planet Hollywood for beer, cocktails and Applewood and Alder smoked ground beef heaven, then on to Steak for more drinks and finally the Gordon Ramsay Pub at Caesar’s Palace for dinner and more libations.  But trecking through four hotels in a food coma proved a challenge we hadn’t planned on.  BurGR indeed had the most amazing, delicious burgers we ever dreamed of.  I had a Bleu Burger which consists simply of bleu cheese and arugula on top of the thick juicy patty.  No sauce of any kind was necessary and just the lightest application of bleu cheese brilliantly accentuated the virtues of the burger it rested on.  I paired it with Innus Gunn, a strong and complex brew.  For comparison I’d say it’s reminiscent of Fat Tire, but aged in whiskey barrels.  BurGR seems to have a constant line outside the door, yet they manage to seat guests quickly and the wait is negligible.  Full and now a little sleepy, we almost declared our mission a failure, but still determined we walked it off on Miracle Mile and made our way to the Paris to visit Steak.

We approached the host with hesitation.  We were still very full and it was a bit early for dinner anyway.  We intended to have appetizers, so at the risk of losing further momentum, we spent some time in the casino.  The games have changed.  Our favorite slots are rare.  We always liked the penny slots that let you play five lines at a time.  It takes twenty spins to burn through a single dollar and a decent winning streak can earn you $5 to $10, pretty easily.  We also like the old Goldfish machines.  There was one bank of those remaining at the Paris in a shabby, dingy little corner, half of which were inoperable.  The new slot machines force you to play anywhere from 35 to 60 credits a spin.  So, we’ve had to adapt and get bolder.  Sara has taken to the Big Wheel, which we both have a pretty good time at and can sustain you for long periods of time, or win/lose you some real money, depending on how you play and the kindness of lady luck.  I always liked Roulette, but have lately been fond of craps.  The trouble is, I don’t like going over a five dollar minimum bet and five dollar craps tables are more rare than those penny slots that are nowhere to be found.  Luckily, both Craps and Roulette have become prevalent in automated, electronic form, where introverts can comfortably learn a game and play at their own speed with lower stakes.  We sat down at the Big Wheel and were quickly carded.  Everybody carded us on this trip.  I wasn’t carded so much on my 21st birthday.  We had some mild success before the changing of the guards.  She joked with us about what a hard ass the other guy was and we colored up and graciously bowed out.  I don’t know the science behind it, but when your dealer/facilitator (whatever you call the wheel spinner) leaves, your luck always leaves with them.

We knew we would not be eating at Steak.  It would be good food, but we would feel terrible about wasting the money on our already satisfied stomaches.  But the most important thing about a pub crawl is the drinks, so after the Paris casino took my small winnings and some of my dignity, we decided to go inside for a drink.  It’s a very vibrant club like atmosphere with lots of squiggly red streaks imprinting the glassware and décor which is all overseen by a Union Jack in an oval ceiling from which a tangled red neon sculpture looms over the dining room.  Our section in the bar was cozy and intimate.  We enjoyed our drinks and now 2/3 of the way through our journey, though no hungrier, our resolve to finish our quest was re-awakened and we left the Paris behind us.

To be continued…

Las Vegas, November 2013

I went to Las Vegas with my wife about two weeks ago and we had a really good time there.  I wanted to write it all down for my own benefit, and while it’s probably not super exciting to read about, I thought I’d share it anyway, because it’s the thing I’m currently writing.  Feel free to comment on plot twists and things that could happen to make the story more exciting.  As it stands, it’s just a slice of life on a Las Vegas getaway.

DAY 1

I packed my bag early.  My wife and I had been hitting MyVegas hard over the last six months.  This is a facebook game connected with M Life consisting mostly of slot machines that earn you loyalty points as you play for free.  We redeemed our points for free hotel stay at the Aria, a free buffet for two, and free admission to the shark reef at Mandalay Bay, which turned out to be an exciting exhibit.  The plan was to travel light.  We each had a backpack– well, she got one and a half and I got the remains.  I laid out my clothes, tactfully chosen to limit my involvement with TSA at the security checkpoint.  I removed anything I didn’t want from my wallet and armed it with a couple of gift cards and the cash I intended to use on the trip.  I took my house key of the chain and placed it in my wallet so I had to carry as little as possible in my pockets.  I also pre packed my belt, as in my case it is less of a necessity and more of an accessory.

Getting through security was a snap.  We enjoyed breakfast before boarding and the flight was as comfortable as a 737 can be for two hours.  Sara preloaded her ipad mini with some episodes of Shark Tank to pass the time.  We know the McCarran Airport pretty well and worked our way through the swiftly moving queue for the taxis that made us feel like we were boarding a Disneyland attraction.  The lady in front of us still felt as though small talk was necessary though, and tripped over her bags while asking us about our age.  We are awkward chatters, so the conversation lead briefly to our purpose for the visit (anniversary), to where we got married (The scenic Valley of the Falls just outside Mandalay Bay) and abruptly ended at that crucial juncture where you know if it goes on any longer you may be sharing a cab.  When we got to our own cab the driver quipped “What happened to your luggage?”  We did pack extra light.  We each had a complimentary stay at the Aria hotel, but we would have to validate them separately.  This meant that Sara would check in early tomorrow, just before I checked out of tonight’s room and I would be handling all the luggage.  We also didn’t want to be carting too much luggage around in the down time before we had to catch our return flight.  The whole process was very smooth.  It went like clockwork, and the staff was incredibly nice.  We wandered through the casino, half looking for the elevators, half taking mental snapshots of our future entertainment.  We passed Jean Philippe, the noted confectionary, with considerable mental strength.  It was time to drop our gear and start our vacation.

To be continued…