Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Unpacking my thoughts

Oh, Las Vegas, you flashing sanitarium in the desert. How I love to spend 72 hours within your loud, glittering confines gambling not only on the craps tables, but if I can safely escape that 73rd witching hour when one can turn into a Nick Cage screenplay. Let me see if I can appropriately capture your unique essence in one travelogue...

Traveling There

Las Vegas, Nevada is not the easiest city to get to directly. Every time I’ve been, it’s taken me several connections and hassle which seems pretty bizarre considering it is host to 40 million visitors a year. (Please do not be impressed that I have that number so quick to share--it didn’t come from Google, but from the 24-hour Vegas channel that played in our hotel room.) So this was no exception.

On the way there, we had to go by way of Cincinnati, and this adds needless hours of travel time. Not to mention having to arrive at the airport so ridiculously early so as to get through security. As an aside, might I say how disconcerting it is to me to disrobe in front of strangers. Call me a prude, but the only time I think I should be half-naked in front of an X-ray machine is at an M.D.’s office, not one belonging to a TSA. But I digress.

After logging as many flight hours as a Delta stewardess who still uses the word “aircraft” instead of “plane,” we arrived at McCarran International airport with 39 of those 40 million other visitors. It would have been faster to go by covered wagon pulled by harnessed manatee. The return trip was even longer by way of a delayed flight through Atlanta and one very drunk female passenger that shared her Vegas tales with us all. For 4 straight hours.


We stayed at the Bellagio this time. Of course, it is beautiful. Oceans 11-20 were not filmed there for nothing. They have everything from the world’s largest chocolate fountain, indoor botanical gardens, fine art gallery, premiere shopping and dining, shows, gorgeous spa and pools, and oh yeah, that casino thing.

So we decided to check in and then check out the hotel. We dumped our bags in the very elegant room complete with electric drapes (I must have sent countless Morse code messages to guest at Caesar’s for as many times as I opened and closed the curtains) and went down to explore.

The blackjack and craps tables.


After that, we went to dinner at a much fancier place than we intended, but I am glad we did. One thing I will give this crazy city is that they know themselves the food. The good stuff. The yummy, unpronounceable, delicious delicacies that make your tongue remember even if your head forgets. We said we would try something different every meal, so I had a salad with smoked duck breast and some lollipop lamb chops and Sean had an eggplant appetizer that was absolutely divine. We would dine like this almost every meal--eating at wonderful restaurants, feasting on wonderful food. Even the “snacks” poolside were absolutely delicious.

Saturday night we ventured out of the strip proper, and rediscovered a small French restaurant that Sean had vaguely remembered from a past trip. It did not disappoint. We had a pheasant pate (despite Kiefer’s--our maitre d’--penchant for all things not foie gras), filet with a morel mushroom sauce and some sort of veal chop that shallots were born to grace. It was that good. Other culinary highlights included a chocolate croissant for breakfast on Sunday and poolside mojitos that were the best I’ve ever had. If not the most expensive.


But somehow those poolside cocktails were well worth it. We spent our mornings not in the confines of the smoky casino, but baking on a terrazzo plank like a couple of salmon entrees. Dudes, it was hot. Freakishly hot--like we were in a desert or something. So we handcuffed ourselves to two lounge chairs at about 6 am every morning, and relaxed reading, people-watching and making suntan lotion tattoos. Sean is convinced that the “$” he painted on his belly was the reason for our success at the tables. I say it just confirmed that we spent $25 on useless Bellagio brand suntan lotion.

The Strip

They say that you can see the light beaming up through the Luxor’s pyramid from space. I say the only thing that it illuminates is all of the porn littered on the strip. But my guess is aliens can also see the giant drinks housed in plastic guitars that more than one reveler partook in 420 ounces of Tequila swimming around in a neon blue PVC replica of a Fender in the 125 degree heat whilst collecting Mardi Gras beads one thousand miles from the source.


It is one of those experiences that adds to the collective American suffering or triumph. Or is a pretty good deterrent to stupidity.

But I do love walking it as a means to tour the different hotels. There are sights there worth seeing, and it is a pretty fun way to spend an afternoon wandering.


Gambling is not the only way to get fleeced in Vegas. Consider some of the dumber tourist traps you can fall into if you aren’t careful.

“Minus 5” is an ice bar that sounds pretty hip, until you get there and realize that in this case “hip” means “idiotic.” We paid a ridiculous sum of money--even by Vegas standards--to be clad in down parkas used 5 minutes before by some other unsuspecting thrill-seeker and thrust into a walk-in freezer with a couple of ice cubes for chairs with the choice of 1 of 5 vodka/Chambord cocktails guaranteed to make you vomit before you finish it. I would post pictures, but one of the many, many, many rules in the Ice Age saloon is no paparazzi. But I hijacked this one is courtesy of The LA Times.

Perhaps just as well.


Like everything, there are trends that dominate. Right now in Vegas-style entertainment we are in the Cirque age. Cirque du Beatles, Cirque du Elvis, Cirque du Cirquety Cirque Cirquaroo.

A disclaimer right now--not the biggest Cirque du anything here. I have seen one, and I’m good for life. To me, it’s one of those events that is supposed to be more artsy than it actually is to make you feel better about partaking in the no-so artsy Las Vegas. Like your cultural sensibilities are somehow redeemed by gambling on a French acrobat not falling to his death from a silk ribbon suspended from the MGM Grand than on putting it all on black on the roulette wheel. Let’s just call it what it is, and have at that cup of $175 tea if that’s to your liking.

I’ll stick to my $14 mojitos.

And just so you don’t think my only shade of green this weekend was jade, one of the highlights of this truly wonderful trip was watching the fountains at Bellagio on a terrace watching the sunset with my husband, a Frank Sinatra song and a $22 mojito.

Worth every penny.


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Anonymous said...

Delta was your only bad bet: