Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Six Months

A quick post, before crashing.

My neck/head feel much better! I really should get back to work on my trip report!

Today (Wednesday the 20th) was my six-month anniversary. I haven't had a cigarette since August 19th!! Woo hoo! It is really weird, and maybe it's because it's such a major anniversary, but I dreamed that I smoked, and there have been a few cravings in the last couple of days. Like, "I am bored; I wish I were breathing black death in the form of lung cancer," or, "Gosh, I wish I had a cocktail and a stick of dynamite with which to kill myself."

OK, that was perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. Still, the cravings are weird. Especially since I still think cigarette smoke smells incredibly gross every time I smell it out there in public. Like, incredibly, incredibly disgusting and gross and bad. How did I ever...? Oh, yeah, I was young and stupid.

Oh, well. I'm older and wiser now.

And smoke-free, yay, me!

In other news, I've been thinking about selling my spare scrapbook layouts. I've made tons and tons of blanks in the last year, and I don't think I can possibly use them all. I haven't even kept up with posting pictures of my blank pages. There are that many of them. I mean, I think I could flood the market in a matter of minutes.

Maybe I should just get a booth at a local craft fair. Oh, yeah, baby, that's the ticket. I could post my clips from the mags, and then sell the blank layouts. Cool!

And finally, I have job prospects. Don't want to say what; don't want to spoil my mojo or juju or whatever one's karma is, but keep your fingers crossed for me. Make the phone ring.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Patience, please!

I swear, the rest of my last LV trip is coming! I injured my neck/shoulder last week, and it's still really hard to sit up and type for any length of time. Since I still have newsletters and stuff to do, I am afraid that my trip reports aren't my first priority.

But I did take fabulously thorough notes, and I will finish my trip report. I have to tell you, the best part does come on the Tuesday night report, when Amy and Paul and I went to Rao's at Caesar's Palace. Delish! Faboo! And swoon-worthy!

Stay tuned. I'll try to get the trip report done soon!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Vegas in winter, Pt. II - Monday night

I can't believe I spent so much of today doing things other than writing this part of the report! I was bad. I will try to catch up *Wednesday*. [Added Wednesday afternoon -- OK, maybe I'll catch up Friday!!!]

Anyway, when last I stopped writing, I was running out the door with Amy and Paul. We drove downtown, and I told Amy as we drove along, "You know, Las Vegas is very pretty in the daylight, like when I landed today. But it's *so much* prettier at night!" And it really is. All those bloomin' lights! Amy pointed out one new building that she calls the Borg building. It's a massive brick facade with just a couple of jagged swatches of windows. Looks *very* Borg!!! ROFL!!!

We found Harrahs, and right off the bat, I have to say that is the most circuitous and least direct route I've ever seen at any hotel to find the "front" door. It doesn't have a front! You drive in concentric circles to the center of a rectangular courtyard -- *that's* where the front is? Nuh uh! It's like a secret hide-away, for cryin' out loud.

It's probably that way because they don't have a *ton* of front mileage on The Strip, so they make the most of their property by putting their entrance in the center and surrounding it with buildings. Makes sense, I guess, but it doesn't make for the prettiest hotel from the outside.

We left the cars with the valet, and Amy and I grabbed our bags and went inside, where Paul checked us in while Amy and I played around in the lobby. They have the *niftiest* thing. If it isn't already at Disney World, it soon will be. Projected from the ceiling, straight down onto the polished marble floor, there's a ... like a ... well, it's a moving image. So it's a movie, right? But wait. It's so much cooler than that. One screen is gold fish. So it looks like there's a pool on the floor, and the goldfish are swimming around in it. Right? But if you stick your foot in that image, the water appears to ripple and the gold fish swim away from you!!! Seriously!!!! We scooted around, chasing gold fish. There's another screen with hats, and another one with red and blue dice, which rolled as you walked across the screen. SO COOL!!!! I want one. I want a screen with puppies, and a screen with kittens, and maybe one with earthworms. Well, why not? That could be fun!

After we were checked in, we went up the Carnaval [sic] Tower to room 2114, which Amy pointed out is 3 times 7 and 2 times 7, so that's five lucky number 7's.

As we were headed down the hall, Paul said, "Hey, I'm going to a Las Vegas hotel room with two beautiful women! Fantasy number 349!" Which cracked us up, and we spent the rest of the evening coming up with and ranking various aspects of fantasies that Paul could be fulfilling that happy night! ROFL!!!

In the room, Amy and Paul repeatedly told me not to get into the mini bar, and I repeatedly kept either threatening to get into it or whining because they wouldn't *let* me get into it. I don't remember the last time I was in a hotel room with a mini bar. I was trying to read the menu on the mini-bar, and it said, "Intimacy pack," and I didn't get much further because Amy said she didn't want to know what was in an Intimacy Pack, and Paul said, "Intimacy pack, two beautiful women... fantasy number 117!" Or something like that.

We needed to hie ourselves down to the Paris hotel for our ressies, so we considered how to get there -- walk a couple of blocks, get a taxi, or ride the monorail. I was trying not to whine too much, but I really wanted the monorail. Amy and Paul said we might as well walk to the hotel instead of taking the monorail, so we started walking. It was getting a *little* chilly, but I was warmed up by the exercise. Amy and Paul both had coats. I had left my coat back at Amy's house -- I just didn't think. I thought, "I'm hot," and I thought I would always be hot, I guess. OH! I had also left my driver's license at Amy's house. BAD me.

We walked briskly down to the Paris hotel, and Paul videotaped me and Amy. We also got hooker cards from the porn slappers. (I don't know if y'all are familiar with the term "porn slappers," but that's the moniker they've come up with the describe the guys who stand around handing out cards and flyers with hookers and strippers and stuff on them.) I swear, I think the hooker cards have become dirtier in the last two years.

We got to Mon Ami Gabi fifteen minutes early, and there was this horrid line at the door. We got in line, but it wasn't moving. And we had a reservation. I couldn't understand and neither could Amy, so we talked Paul into going past the line to the podium to inquire about whether we were supposed to wait in line like that, since we had a reservation. I mean -- this line was not moving at all. So Paul went up front, and we stayed in line.... and we didn't move... and he was gone for several minutes... and when he got back, he said, "Yep, we're supposed to be in this line." ARGH! The people in front of us turned around and chatted with us for a while. They didn't even *have* reservations, and they were worried. And well they should have! After a while, a hostess walked down the line asking people if they had reservations. The people without reservations were told they wouldn't be seated until sometime after 8:45. It was now 7:30 or so. Finally the line started moving, and when we checked in with the podium, we were told it would be only fifteen minutes.

I really don't understand why. It's not the busy season, is it? And it was a Monday night! So... where did all those people come from, anyway?

Well, we waited. We were all really looking forward to this meal, after all. And when we were called in, we were rewarded with really good seats in the very front part of the restaurant. So I got a view of the Bellagio fountains. Wooo hoooo!!!! They did have those big outdoor heaters outside so you could sit outside and watch the fountains, but honestly -- that's just going to make the food get colder faster, isn't it?

Our waitress was *wonderful*, I just liked her soooooo much. And they're very attentive here. The moment we looked at the menu, we decided to get two appetizers for the three of us to share. We got the "baked cheese and tomato," which comes with garlic bread, and we ordered the same fabulous crab cake we had last June. Amy and I also tried to order a mojito, because last June the mojitos had pomegranate juice in them, and they were extra delicious. We were sad to discover that not only don't they still add juice, but they don't even make mojitos at all.

Amy got a drink off the cocktail menu, and ... I can't remember what it was. I'm very sorry. I got something called the Harvest Apple Martini, myself.

Our drinks came, and we sat and soaked in the ambiance. It really is a little loud in Mon Ami Gabi, cheerfully so. The lighting in the front section of the restaurant is very, very dim -- I suspect so you can see the fountains and the lights of Las Vegas more easily -- but I couldn't take pictures of my food. I apologize for that. The food was good, after all.

Our appetizers came, and the crabcake and vegetable remoulade (a crunchy slaw-type salad thingie with some kind of incredible dressing) were just as spectacular as I remembered them. The "baked cheese and tomato" surprised me -- I expected a tomato covered with cheese. It looked like a disk of brie baked in the center of tomato sauce. Whatever it actually was, it tasted wonderful spread over points of garlic bread. Delicious!

I nursed my Harvest Apple Martini -- it was an acquired taste. It was very, very sweet and had lots of cinnamon and nutmeg in it. It just wasn't what I was expecting, but I did finish it before the end of the meal, and it had quite a nice kick to it.

Now, Amy had ordered the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with pureed potatoes and orchard sauce. That's what I had in June, and it was spectacular. She loved hers, but we noticed it was plated differently. When I had it last summer, I had two pieces of pork, the potatoes, and a dish of spinach and crunchy thingies. Amy had no spinach, but she did have an extra piece of the pork.

Paul got the arctic char special on a bed of pureed sweet potatoes. I can't remember what all the sauce was made of on his fish, but I remember when the waitress was telling us about it, we all said, "Oooooooo!" He loved his dish, too.

I got the "hanger" steak, which was the simplest steak on the menu, served only with merlot butter. And all the steaks, since Mon Ami Gabi is a "French steakhouse," are served with what they call Frites -- or french-fried potatoes. I wish I had asked for a substitution of the pureed potatoes like the ones Amy got with her pork tenderloin. That stuff was sublime. The Frites were just french fries.

I couldn't eat all of my dinner, and I was hoping to save room for dessert. HA! I shouldn't have had any dessert, but Paul ordered a dessert, anyway.

Now, some of you may recall that we all shared the Bananas Foster Crepes last summer, and they were just perfection on a plate. So when Paul ordered the Flourless Chocolate Cake, Amy and I -- separately and silently -- thought, "Oh, that might be a mistake."

We shouldn't have worried.

We've all had tons of flourless chocolate cakes, but I swear, I've never had one as fluffy yet rich and decadent as this one was. It was warm and served with a sauce as well as a blob of incredibly light and perfect whipped cream. It was de-licious and easily the very best part of the meal for me, and that includes the crabcake. ;)

Waddling out of the restaurant, I wanted to visit a ladies' room. I remember thinking the restrooms at Paris were so pretty -- but I found a weird one off to one side of the casino, and it was not pretty. It was also loud and stinky and full of loud, smoking, arguing, mouthy party girls. I was *very* surprised. That was not at all the way I thought this casino was last summer.

Then Amy and Paul and I all traipsed out to the street, where I discovered it had become much, much colder and much, much windier, and I was freezing in no time flat. I made Amy and Paul let me walk between them with my arms linked through their arms, and ... OK. Maybe I was a little tipsy from that Harvest Apple Martini. Maybe that's what it was. But I swear, I was laughing so hard on the walk through the terrible cold. And everything Paul said was *hilarious*. This walk took us past the Flamingo and a couple of other hotels, but I can never remember which ones. I just laughed and walked, walked and shivered and laughed all the way back to Harrah's.

Paul bid us adieu, and we went back upstairs so I could change shoes and freshen up a bit, then we went downstairs to go to the flair bar to get drinks. That bar was set up in a kind of a semi-permanent tent outdoors, but the walls had been pulled in around it fairly closely, and they had heaters set up pumping hot air as hard as they could.

It was kind of crowded. And every once in a while, the wind would find a way in, whip through, and carry all the heat away with it. Just across the way, there was a disco cover band playing very, very loudly, and all the musicians were wearing gigantic afro wigs. Some people were dancing, especially one guy about my husband's age who was seriously cutting a rug out there. That man obviously had spent a great deal of time dancing in the late 1970's.

We sort of thought about getting a drink, but there was only bartender doing the flair thing, and the bottles he was juggling (and dropping, every time the wind blew through) were dummies, anyway. Most people were just drinking beer and chatting. OMG, there were some blackjack tables out there. Far from the heat. Crazy people.

So we went back inside and walked past the piano bar. Then we walked in circles for a while, trying to find the Toby Keith's I {Heart} This Bar & Grill bar. We had a hard time finding it because it was on the second floor. Ah ha! So we went up the escalator and found the Toby Keith's I {Heart} This Bar & Grill bar. I so love calling that thing by its full name. I want to have business establishment with a name longer than a novel.

By the way, I have no idea how that song goes. Is Toby Keith the one who married Nicole Kidman?
Edited to add: A friend of mine took pity on me and told me that Toby Keith is not the one who married Nicole Kidman. That's some other Toby something. Or Keith somebody. I'm really not "up" on country musicians, am I?

We found the Toby Keith's I {Heart} This Bar & Grill bar, and it was very crowded right around the bar and up next to the stage. We got a table way, way, WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY in the back right next to the entrance. And we sat there for a few minutes while nobody waited on anyone. We finally decided this must be the kind of place where there aren't waiters or waitresses, and Amy went to the bar to order us a couple of mojitos. And dang it, the Toby Keith's I {Heart} This Bar & Grill bar doesn't *do* mojitos.

OK, y'all, what happened? When did mojitos not just go out of style, but fall totally out of the good graces of the bars and gin joints of America to the point that you can't even get one ... in frickin' Sin City??? I know I can get fresh mint at my dinky grocery store in Podunk, Tennessee. So why is it so hard to get a mojito out here in the Mojave Desert, huh?

Whatev. I find it curious. Maybe it's just me.

Maybe I'm too demanding and picky!!!

Anyway, after that, Amy and I threw in the towel and returned to our very lovely, very comfortable hotel room in the tower, and we washed our faces and got ready for bed. My first night in Las Vegas was coming to an end! And it had been perfectly lovely! Woo hooo!!!!