My Travel Philosophy

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tired of Vegas?!

I think I'm over Las Vegas.  It's sad, really, because it has always been one of our favorite places to visit.  Maybe it's just the fact that we're here Super Bowl weekend and the place has gotten packed the past two days, or maybe it's all of the changes taking place.  It just seems more sleazy or something.  There are the guys slapping the cards for hookers, of course, but also tables and stands and kiosks everywhere hawking something.  Have they always been there and I didn't notice, or are there more of them because it's Super Bowl weekend, or has Vegas been going downhill and the recession has forced this 'make money in any way possible' mentality?  Maybe it's just this corner of the Strip where we always stay -- I think maybe downtown might be a better choice next time.

Anyway, Jeff finished at noon today so we were able to walk around a bit down toward the MGM end of the strip and spotted some new electronic craps games that look like they could be fun.  We didn't try them, but I think we will at a later time.  Eventually, we ended up at Ellis Island and played a lot of blackjack.  I was doing really well -- and then I wasn't.  But Jeff ended up doing pretty well and we had a lot of fun anyway.

The weather has been pretty chilly for our trip this time, and we're headed home to snow and cold.  Guess we'll need to think of another vacation soon!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Movie Day at The Orleans

Today I decided to go to the movie theatre at the Orleans and had to take a cab.  I was there much too early, so I played some Blackjack first, then I was able to get into the movie for $7 because it was the first showing of the day.  I saw 'The Woman in Black', which was really good (and a new release -- not on the Oscar list) but, after hitting the bathroom following the film, I realized that 'The Iron Lady' was just starting so I slipped into that one -- saving myself $8.  I know it was a sneaky thing to do, but I had already spent $17 on popcorn and soda which was outrageous!

Anyway, I enjoyed both films and the $13 I won at Blackjack, but the $30 in cab fares (to and from) certainly made it a pricey day.  When I got back, Jeff and Travis were in the bar so I joined them for drinks; then I was running Jeff's stuff up to the room when I found a gambling ticket on the floor that someone had obviously dropped.  I was pretty surprised when I turned it over and saw that it was $19.70.  Overall, then, I didn't do too badly on the day!

Room swapping

When we got here two days ago, I had left the boys to have fun after dinner with the intention of going back to my hotel room and watching a movie.  The Academy Awards are coming up at the end of the month and I've seen almost none of the nominated movies.  Unfortunately, the 'menu' command on our TV didn't work so I called the front desk (around 6:30) to complain.  I called a couple more times before finally telling them at 9:00 that I was going to bed so they shouldn't come.  Of course, shortly after Jeff got back around 10ish, the service guy knocked on the door.  We sent him away.  [Note:  the front desk manager left a message on our phone that he was sorry for the trouble and put a $30 meal/bar credit on our room.]
View of Caesar's Palace through the building wrap

Then, yesterday, after visiting Paris and Bellagio, I went back to the hotel to give it another go.  I had to call repeatedly but, finally, the maintenance man came around noon and started working on it.  It appeared to be a problem with the cable company as a result of recent remodeling in the hotel.  I left to go to the convenience store and get some drinks and, when I returned, he was back in the room working on it again.  A couple of hours later, he was back and finally told me that there was a backlog of 150 service calls in his department.

Same view at night
Ok, this was getting pretty ridiculous so I called downstairs again and got a nice person who decided to move us to a different room.  They sent a bellman up with the keys to help me move and we ended up on the other side of the same tower where I would have had a nice view of Bellagio and the fountains.  Before unpacking anything, though, I tried the TV again and found that it was the same problem so I called back downstairs and a manager moved us to a higher floor in one of the newly remodeled 'Fab (for fabulous)' rooms with a view out the front of the hotel.  This room would have cost an additional $10 per night if we had taken the upgrade offered when we checked in.  I'm not too sure I think it's all that fabulous though, really.  The carpet is gone (replaced with a pergo-like floor) so that's kind of nice and there's a flat-screen TV, which is nice.  However, there is no couch or chair -- just a chaise/bench-like thing that isn't particularly comfortable.

Anyway, the menu on the TV worked and I looked through the movie choices -- and decided that I didn't want to pay $14.99 for a movie!  So, we got an upgraded room and a $30 meal/bar credit due to my carping -- but I did waste a lot of time sitting in the room waiting (while drinking my mimosas).

I was able to get a lovely picture of the sun coming up and shining on the mountains out past Caesar's Palace.  Because of a huge Donny & Marie graphic that hangs down on the front of the hotel and in front of the windows, it's a bit like trying to take pictures through a screen but it still came out fairly well for a cell phone.  The night time one is just as the sun is setting and the screen on the window is a bit more visible.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Year of the Dragon at Bellagio

Year of the Dragon at Bellagio
Display at Bellagio is always incredible
As always when visiting Las Vegas, I like to hit my favorite spots so I started the morning by going to JJs Boulangerie at Paris for breakfast but...the first of many changes.  It is no longer the lovely little bakery and eatery -- now it's pizza and a few baked goods.  Very disappointing!  So I had a crepe, which was very good but not what I had intended.  Then, I headed over to Bellagio to view the conservatory and here, at least, I was not disappointed.  It is clearly the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar and the decorations are celebrating the new year.
Other than being rather more crowded than I would have expected, it was really lovely to be back inside Bellagio.  The conservatory did not disappoint; full of beautiful flowers and wonderful decorations that moved and smoke coming from the dragons.  Water sprayed across the walkways, and it was nice and sunny so the lighting inside was really lovely.

Note:  I'm always surprised at the $100 minimum blackjack tables being right on the aisle!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

First Day in Vegas

Sometimes I'm too smart when planning these trips.  Jeff will be in class the next three days, so I thought we should get here early so we could enjoy some time together.  Our hotel room wasn't ready yet, but we were able to check our bags and headed out to have some fun.  Not surprisingly, we ended up at Toby's place playing video poker at the bar.

I used to think that the best margaritas in town were at Margaritaville, but the ones I've had at Toby's bar have always been really good.  Now, they have a new twist:  you can pay $10 for a margarita in a plastic cup (not a red Solo cup, sadly), or you can pay $19 for one in a quart canning jar.  That has to be the 'no brainer' of the century.  So we sat at the bar and enjoyed some drinks and video poker for a while.  The videos used to be almost all Toby, but now his are only occasionally shown.  The upside of that:  free shots when "I Love This Bar" comes on in the bar since it's the signature song.  The bartender grabs a bottle of vodka, pineapple juice, and 7-up and walks around on top of the bar pouring it into everyone's mouth.  Great fun!

Eventually, we were able to get into our room (overlooking the back courtyard where there is considerable construction going on) and, then, met Jeff's work mate Travis for dinner at Margaritaville.  Good food, but the margarita wasn't as good as the one I had earlier.  Then, I went back to the room to read so the boys could go out on the town.