Saturday, April 21, 2012

What Happens in Vegas...gets told on my blog

Las Vegas has a reputation for being "sin city", a place where people go to do things they might not otherwise do at home. There certainly is the opportunity for excess, but in our case we go there to enjoy the luxury of a five star hotel at a bargain price, eat at restaurants and see top-notch entertainment the quality of which are usually not available to us at home. You can stay cheaply in a lesser quality hotel, but if you check the websites of the top rated properties and get on their email list, it is equally affordable for a higher-end experience. I got an email offer from the five star property in City Center, Aria, for only $79 a night. (As most hotels nowadays they do charge a daily $25 "resort fee" in addition to the room rate.) Nevertheless, that is what I paid to stay at the airport the night before our flight in a LaQuinta. That is like comparing the Taj Mahal to a tent.

It's not an accident that you have to walk through the casino to get to the guest elevators. We don't gamble as a rule, but just for fun we occasionally will sit at a penny or quarter slot machine for a short while.
On the way to the room we did just that. I dropped $1 into a penny machine and pushed a few buttons. I didn't actually know what I was doing, but all of a sudden the light on the top of the machine started flashing and before I knew it I had won $78. Suffice to say, I wasn't taking any chances and cashed out. That was the last time I played until the last day, when almost the exact thing happened at another machine where I won $40 in the span of a few minutes. The key is to take the winnings and not fall into the trap of using it to try to win more. It was a nice little treat, but not an addiction I care to flirt with.

I loved the health club at Aria. The service is impeccable. Upon check-in you are given a chilled bottle of water and a towel. The beautiful sitting room complete with fireplace and couches has a refrigerator with more water and urns with fruited water. The swimming pools are beautiful, although too shallow to do any serious swimming (my only complaint). Poolside drink service is plentiful and prompt and there are plenty of lounge chairs to go around. All the most renowned chefs have restaurants in Vegas. These can, of course, be pricey. We did try one: Nob Hill, a Michael Mina restaurant at the MGM Grand. A great choice! The decor was subdued and masculine. It reminded me of a place businessmen would take their clients. Our appetisers were quail and fois gras and we shared the signature lobster potpie, which was brought to the table in a large pot and served to our plates by the waiter. Other favorites were Todd English P.U.B., which was in Crystals right next to our hotel. I still can't stop thinking about the fabulous lobster on toasted buttered rolls. (Hmmm, seems like a recurring theme, now that I think of it.) 

My favorite restaurant by far was Julian Serrano, inside Aria, a tapas restaurant which offers small plates, all of which are tempting. The ahi tuna tempura, served on seaweed salad would be my choice every time.

Two meals revolved around the fountains at Bellagio: a must see when in the city. The computerized fountain show has no equal in the world except in Dubai. Every 15 minutes the fountains dance to a different musical piece. The water is choreographed to match the music and is thrilling to watch. During the high points in the music, the water rockets hundreds of feet into the air with a loud explosion. We were blessed to get a ringside seat at the patio at the restaurant Olives in the Bellagio Hotel. Another day we ate dinner at Mon Ami Gabi, across the street from the Bellagio and in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower for a different view of them.

I can't stay in the neon lights of the city too long without getting into nature. We took day trips to Lake Havasu, Arizona, where we visited a friend and saw "Fiddler on the Roof" at Grace Arts Live, and another day to Red Rock Canyon, just an hour outside of Vegas. It is a beautiful place to hike and enjoy God's beautiful creation and quite a contrast from the glitz and man-made excess of the strip.

Now that we are home, I have gotten my fill of Vegas for awhile.  But I know from past experience in time I'll be ready to go again.  Perhaps someday when Eric Kunze is starring in Phantom of the Opera...

More photos on my Picasa photo album here


As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

You know, I've never been to Vegas because it's been so hard for me to separate it from its former reputation. But it looks like it would provide a relatively affordable long weekend getaway with some style.

Maggi said...

You're right - and there is reason for some of that reputation. I think it has changed a lot in recent years, but I still don't think it's for kids, as they are trying to promote it. We saw lots of kids being wheeled around in strollers at 1:00 in the morning, on the strip, through the smoky casinos. Oh My. My focus is the reasonably priced luxury hotel, nice restaurants and shows. It's a cheap airline hub as well, which gives us a chance to drive in one day to Palm Springs, Lake Havasu, Utah.