Vacation Report…

I’ve been back for a week now and feel rested enough to reflect on my week of financial recklessness in Las Vegas!

Being as I spend so much time in the Los Angeles area every year, and invariably drive there for at least two of those trips, I’ve driven through Las Vegas on I-15 probably a hundred times – but never stopped.

Well, it was high time for that to change!

Being as a friend of mine in the Army is heading over to the sandbox for nine months here soon, and he’s a /huge/ fan of all things Ancient Rome, I thought it would be fun to have a bit of a get-together with him, his wife, and two other friends of ours at Caesars Palace for a week as a bit of a sendoff.

Monday!

So we all arrived at McCarran Airport at around noon on Memorial Day, collected our luggage, and hopped into the ginormous limo to head for Caesars Palace… I’d never actually seen “The Strip” before, so this was quite the experience. As we meandered through the traffic between the monstrous hotels and resorts, the cohort polished off a bottle of champagne as I rubbernecked at some of the largest buildings I’ve ever seen.

It’s fascinating that this was all in the middle of a blasted wrath-of-god desert…

Anyway, we arrived at Caesars in short order and began the check-in process.

Check-in is all automated. You just stick your driver’s license into a machine, it figures out who you are and what your reservation is, and then makes your room keys and prints your paperwork. Brilliant!

But right after this you discover that Caesars Palace is a literal rat-maze the size of a small town. The clever check in kiosk gives you printed directions to your room, but it uses landmarks like “the lobby bar” which make no sense when there are no less than five bars within view from the lobby.

Anyway, after a good half-mile hike and a solid half an hour of searching, I was able to locate the “Palace Tower” where my suite was located; a 750 square foot apartment basically, on the 25th floor…


(The two doors are for each of the two bathrooms…)
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(25th floor)

The others were in the “Augustus Tower” which is essentially the other side of the planet… So I dropped off my luggage and immediately attempted to return whence I came as we were all hungry and wanted lunch.

After another 20 minutes of aimlessly wandering the casino I eventually found the others, and we hit the first restaurant we found; Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill, which was pretty amazing for what amounts to a burger joint.

After lunch it was decided to walk off the big meal by wandering the Palace and seeing what was to be seen. This resulted in us walking amongst the Forum Shops for a few hours…


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While on the rounds we got coffees from one of the several in-casino Starbucks while Cass tried valiantly to get “The Prince of Lightning” (a penny slot machine) to refund the money Imperious had spent on some other machine.

She was actually successful!

After this we hit up “Rao’s” for some superb Italian fare.

Seriously, this place is amazing… Which then led to me, being the elder of the group, entering a food coma and retiring to my suite. While I was hot-tubbing, the others trekked to an oxygen bar where they were hooked up to medical equipment and oxygenated whilst being electrocuted, or something. Apparently this was not all that amazing… I dunno, I was asleep. 😀

Tuesday!

The following morning, I was up hours before the rest of the group so I decided to go get some coffee and play some slots for a bit. And once I’d gotten another dose of Starbucks to carry around, and having pulled $20 out of an ATM to feed to the one armed bandits, I started cruising the casino looking for a machine that caught my eye.

Of course the one that did was called “Mystical Unicorn”…

So I parked myself at the machine, put in my $20, and after carefully reading all of the instructions (apparently something no one does, judging by the looks from the older folks next to me), I pressed ‘max bet’ and watched.

This machine was amazing to watch… Even having read the instructions I had /no/ idea what the hell was going on other than it was pretty, flashed a lot, and had nice music.

On the third press of ‘max bet’ the first two rows filled up with Unicorns, and the machine started to get frantic as each additional row slowed to a crawl and began to flash, filling up with more Unicorns. Eventually the machine lit up like Christmas and started playing a full orchestra piece, loudly, and was counting up coins.

It did this, and other musical, flashing gyrations, for a good 3-5 minutes while it racked up my $500 in winnings.


(this is from a later play of the machine, where I won a mere $45…)
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(Cainos don't have the clatter of coins anymore – just silent thermal printers everywhere)

The older folks next to me were agog, and the fellow said “was that a $2 bet?” I just nodded, not really knowing but assuming ‘max bet’ was probably $2. He said “Nice” and suggested I stop for the day… I agreed, cashed out, and went on my way – leaving him to scoot over and start playing that machine.

A few hours later he was still feeding that machine, but it appears I’d stolen its thunder.

Anyway, eventually the dead were roused and the team was reassembled before we gathered for brunch at the Payard Patisserie & Bistro – which was once again amazing. Afterward we meandered around the casino for a while before deciding to spend a few hours at the “Montecristo Cigar Bar”.


(The largest walk-in humidor in Vegas right there…)

This is where we basked in expensive Scotch and cigars for several hours – and determined this would be our base of operations between events for the rest of the week…

Eventually though it was time to walk over to the Paris casino to see “Jersey Boys”. We headed over about two hours before the show just to see the other casino and take in the ambiance… I played a few more slots and lost about $50 of that $500 before the show started.


(The shops in the Paris casino)

“Jersey Boys” was a really great show, highly recommended, and we all had a fantastic time. The seats were right in front of the sound booth, which is the best sound in the theater – and for a musical this is perfect.

We then walked back to the hotel and ended the night at “Beijing Noodle Number 9”, a Chinese restaurant there in Caesars that was quite good. We were eating light, for tomorrow we would face the beast…

Wednesday!

While I waited for the others to rise from their crypts, I spent some of my now $450 in winnings on a few more slot machines. I won some, I lost more, but eventually walked away with about $100 less than I started with. My primary goal was just getting in a good walk around the casino (about a mile or so of walking) before the others joined me at the “Bacchanal Buffet”.

Essentially, for $45 you get access to like 120 yards of buffet line, where each kind of food is in its own somewhat themed area and ranges from 20 kinds of salad, through Chinese, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, European, etc, etc, etc. The only catch is you only get two hours to eat.

That was quite literally the most food I have ever seen in one place, and all of it (that I had) was superb. I was full in 15 minutes though… I am clearly not a champion buffet eater by any stretch.

From here we waddled back to the cigar bar for a while before braving the Las Vegas heat and walking over to the Luxor hotel to see the “Blue Man Group”. Which, even at 106-108 degrees it wasn’t too bad of a walk, because you can hopscotch between casinos and malls to cool off in air-conditioned bliss between stints of hellfire outside.

It’s still a two-mile hike though, with a lot of stairs to traverse to get to the pedestrian bridges – so at those temperatures it is not something for the weak of constitution to attempt. 🙂

Once at the Luxor I made the determination that my next Vegas trip will be staying there. It’s a really, really neat building full of really, really neat stuff to see.


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Once we’d looked it over a bit, we decided to lay siege to the “Aurora” bar for a couple hours until the show started… Not only because the bar was really neat looking, but also because it was very appropriately named. 😉


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Eventually though it was time for the show, and we were treated to a lot of blue whilst taking our seats – which were about the best you can get without being so close you get wet.


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And after the show we walked back to Caesars…

By the time we got back to Caesars, Imperious and Marco had each had about a gallon of beer and were looking a bit green around the gills. So I determined the best course of action was to get some starch into them, and this of course called for a return to Rao’s for some more astounding Italian food. Which was followed by another stint at the cigar bar where I have more Glenmorangie ‘Signet’, and Imperious had coffee.

Thursday!

Given the epic drinking of the day before, no one was even breathing before noon today. So the first stop of the day was a late lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s “Spago”.

Unfortunately, Spago sucked majorly. And this was amplified by the entire week leading to this being so full of truly amazing food. Everyone’s meal at Spago was either bad tasting, prepared oddly, or in my case simply undercooked by a dramatic (and probably unsafe) margin.

Of the lot of us, I think only Marco left a visible dent in his dinner…

So we decided to self-medicate at the cigar bar once again, and drink enough to ensure anything food-borne was good and dead before walking across the street to the Bellagio to see Cirque Du Solei’s “O”.


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“O” was… Well… Very French. There is clearly a story there that they are trying to tell, as there are reoccurring characters with what appear to be agendas – but I’ll be damned if I could figure out what it was. So it turned into this amazing stage and set dressing doing truly magical things while a bunch of weird people cavorted about and I head-scratched at what they were trying to show me.

I probably would have liked it more if I’d not seen several other really amazing shows beforehand. That and I was really burned out on Vegas; five days of Vegas is the upper limit of human endurance.

After “O” we returned to Caesars and I took the crew to the Old Homestead steakhouse, which is supposedly the best steakhouse in the world.

It is.

First of all, I’m from Colorado… Colorado is a beef state and we know a thing or three about steak, and accordingly there is a plethora of steakhouses here. And many of them are world-class establishments I frequent pretty often. So I’m a pretty good judge of steak.

I had the 12-ounce fillet with a side of grilled seasoned mushrooms, and it was essentially the best steak I’ve ever had. Aurkae and Mario had a surf and turf dinner that involved steak and shrimp – and the shrimp were the size of bananas. I’m not sure what Imperious and Cass had, all I know is that Imperious’ meal evaporated in about two minutes flat and he was extremely happy with it.

And this left us all totally stuffed… So of course I had to order deserts for everyone…

This is the apple cobbler with cinnamon ice cream and a bourbon anglaise I ordered for myself, and it /wrecked/ me. It was soooo good though. I ate about a quarter of it, and had the rest for breakfast the next morning. 🙂

Anyway, after dinner we went our separate ways as we were all on early flights home the next morning.

Friday!

I was up and at ‘em bright and early, packed, and ready to go. Made it to the taxi stand where I ran into Aurkae and Marco so we split the cab ride, and eventually made it back to my spot on the map without incident.

It was a fantastic week with equally amazing folks, and from what I gather was a pretty stereotypical ‘week in Vegas’.

I will probably do it again someday – but probably only over a long weekend next time. Five days is about two days too may for me. 🙂