I just returned from Vegas yesterday, and while it feels wonderful to be out of the smoke-filled casinos, I definitely miss the plethora of activities available to me at all hours of the day. Our stay began at the Palazzo, where we checked ourselves and our luggage into what I considered a mini-palatial suite with a purple velvet couch, dark wood table, and other lavishly furnished accutrements. From there, we drove over to the Excalibur (again, one of the pluses of the road trip: we didn’t have to take a taxi everywhere:) and caught the Tournament of Kings. Each of us received a royal feast: Dragon’s Blood (tomato soup), a game hen, broccoli, potato wedges, a roll, and an apple filled dessert. I couldn’t even finish my food. Simultaneously, we cheered on our valiant King of Norway as he jousted and fought the evil enemies. (I also wanted to be up and performing with the dancers. Who wouldn’t?) From there, we made our way to the Rio to pick up our tickets for Penn and Teller.
Once we entered the theatre, I noticed a line of people had formed onstage. We took our seats and felt ourselves finally relax as we absorbed the jazz wanderings of the Mike Jones duo. In between songs, Mike quietly urged us to come up onstage, look into a wooden box, and sign an envelope, as Penn and Teller wished us to be part of the show. The stage was a highly polished black with some kind of clear finish (truly gorgeous!) I checked out the red and yellow glow tape “marks” as well. As for the show itself: worth every penny. Whether they were performing magic/illusions, deconstructing them, or asking the audience to examine the purpose of a metal detector (and thereby its potential infringement on personal rights), they were informative, entertaining, and never preachy. I was lucky enough to meet each one after the show and found them to be very personable. (On a gush note, my husband and I got photos with them! Eeee!) Riding on that high, it was time to return to the hotel for some much needed rest.
The next day, my husband and I went exploring. We headed over to the Venetian, the adjoining hotel to our own, and discovered an exhibit of dinosaur bones presented by an auction house! My inner dinosaur-loving child took over, and I absolutely devoured the exhibit! I saw one of three complete T-rex skeletons in existence, as well as a ceratopsian, “cat” varieties, a woolly mammoth, trilobites, ammonites, and other assorted sea life. Best of all, it was complimentary. From there, we ventured across the street to Treasure Island, where we snagged some lunch at Canter’s Deli. I had half a salami sandwich on rye as well as some matzo soup. After lunch, I had an itch to see the Flamingo Hotel, if only for two reasons: 1) Its role in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and 2) I’d read a bit on Bugsy Malone and wanted to see it for myself. So we wandered over on foot and headed into the smoky casino area. Jar spied a sign reading “Habitat,” so we wove our way through the hotel and discovered its live flamingo collection. (Yay!) There was also a shady waterfall area, complete with coy fish varieties, as well as a plaque for Bugsy Malone near the wedding chapel area. (Score!)
After the Flamingo, my husband led me over to Harrah’s, and we checked out the action there. Once finished, we made use of the complimentary Harrah’s to Rio shuttle. To our disappointment, we found that the Penn and Teller giftshop was closed (sadness), so we decided to explore the Masquerade Walk. I dropped in to a few stores, but the best find of the day was a little coffee and dessert place next to McFadden’s. I selected a sumptuous fruit tart with apple, pineapple, pear, and three types of berry. Everything tasted as if it had been sliced mere hours ago. My husband chose a strawberry/chocolate/whipped cream affair, and proclaimed it equally delicious. Both were only $3.50 each–truly a steal in Vegas. We wandered over to the Keno area afterward, but the smoke started to get to me, so we left the Rio and walked over to the Palms.
The Palms was swank–pale green gleaming Escalades parked out front, each emblazoned with the Palms logo; neatly organized gambling areas with a walk circling the perimeter; a classy spa and giftshop just off the casino area, etc. I picked up a couple of delightfully fragranced Mistral soaps and promised myself I would give one away to a friend. (Haven’t done that yet…tempted to keep both). J was a bit fatigued after our walk (everything in Vegas looks closer than it really is in reality), so we took a taxi back to the Rio. There, we met our other traveling companions for an incredible meal at the Rio buffet. I would recommend the following, amongst many other things: the pork chile verde, the salmon/tuna sushi, the bananas foster, and the mozzarella, tomato, and onion salad. I couldn’t try everything in the mile long buffet, but everything I tried was superb.
From that point, we headed back to the Palazzo to change for Phantom of the Opera. I put on my Michael Kors dress, and my husband pulled out stylish shirt and slacks. We walked down to the Venetian and took our seats for Phantom. Aside from the rude person sitting behind me who said, “I hope there isn’t going to be commentary throughout the whole thing” when I had just mentioned to my husband the difference in theatres from this one compared to the Geary in SF, I had a lovely time. The singing, acting, and dancing were all at Broadway calibre, and the moment when the chandelier dropped was priceless. People in the audience were screaming as if it was really coming down on them. (Relax, people–the Venetian is not trying to kill its guests. Really). Afterwards, we caught part of the Siren Show at Treasure Island, then it was time for a bit of gambling, then bed.
The next day, J went racing with one of our traveling companions, and I went shopping with the other. We hit Bill’s Gambling Hall initially so I could purchase a shot glass for my brother (he adores Bill’s), then wandered over to Paris to shop. My companion also led me to the Miracle Mile at PH, where I scored a Bettie Page alarm clock at the store of the same name. (I would recommend their store to anyone looking for vintage style dresses–they have TONS in the 40s and 50s cuts). I couldn’t resist picking up an “I Love Las Vegas” shirt as well, if only because it was $5, I could wear it to dance, and because our dance show in the spring is actually set to be Vegas themed. Other finds: the Tacone Flavor Grill. Oh my goodness. They have a ridiculously tasty caprese sandwich with pesto and an olive tapenade, and it’s served with freshly seasoned chips. I was going to get a snack and realized I was flipping starving, so I inhaled that sucker and loved it. It had to have been the best mall food EVER. Next stop: the Forum Shops at Caesar’s. On the way, we snagged drinks (lemon drop for her; sex on the beach for me), and played some machine poker. The Forum Shops were fantastic. I dragged my companion into Jimmy Choo’s where we drooled over a $5k snakeskin handbag. We also hit Michael Kors, Aldo, Bebe, etc. I resisted the urge to buy a wine colored satin purse at Bebe because it was a bit too steep for me–also, it was really a going out purse, and as a rarely club, I couldn’t justify it.
That evening, after a rendezvous at the Palazzo, all four of us hit La Cantanita, a Mexican food place right on the Venetian Canal. I ordered mushroom tacos with cotija cheese, and these came with cilantro rice and black beans. (So good!) Our companion gave us a ride to the MGM, and J and I wandered over to take our seats for KA by Cirque du Soleil. To our delight, we found that our seats were in the 4th row! I could see people cabling up, incredible cast facials and performance maneuvers, as well as a few cast members rocking backstage during the finale when the pinwheel came up. My favorite point(s) in the show: the “pegboard” sequence when the pirates, the young female twin, and her companions are sliding down the nearly vertical platform, catching themselves on pegs, and twirling around. Just incredible, especially since more and more pegs kept popping up. There was also a vertical battle between the pirates and ancestral folk that just rocked. Completely worth the price of the ticket.
For our final morning in Vegas, we ate at Lucky’s in the Hard Rock Hotel. I ordered the Atlantic Salmon (lox) which came with onions, tomato, cream cheese, capers, and a toasted bagel. It was FANTASTIC. I also sampled a bit of my husband’s pancakes and eggs, and they were wonderful as well. My final purchases: a golden Seatbelt bag from the giftshop (couldn’t resist, despite my other Seatbelt bags…it was a good $30 off), and a HR magnet for my bro-in-law.
Vegas was fantastic. Part of me wants to return soon, and the other recognizes the artifice and extreme living that Vegas encourages. My next week long vacation will probably be Europe. As much as I enjoyed the beautiful Italian style exterior work at the Venetian, I’d like to see the real thing as well…at least once.