Friday, May 30, 2014

Las Vegas Trip Report - May 25 - 30, 2014

My BFF ended up not being able to go on this planned trip so I decided to go solo.  I was really, really looking forward to going alone.  Vegas is the one place I enjoy being by myself not having to do anything  I don't want to.  I like not having to worry about anyone else but ME, ME, doesn't happen that often in my everyday life as I worry about everything but me, round the clock it seems...

I got an offer through MLife for the Bellagio with four nights at $89 USD per night.  That also came with a $50 Food & Beverage credit.  For me this was a good deal and I was happy.  Normally I've always had to put a first night's room deposit down on my credit card but I didn't have to this time.  They told me no deposit would be charged and to just pay when I was there.  After they said that I asked for an email confirmation and it came right after I hung up the phone.

I also used a myVegas reward for one free night at the Monte Carlo so I could extend my trip to five days.  I used it for my first night on the 25th and that worked out well for me as that night had HIGH room rates (Bellagio rate not available) when trying to book it at first (end of Memorial Day weekend I assume?).  As it got closer, the Monte Carlo offered me an upgrade to a "Monaco Suite" for $32.  Apparently this would give me 700 Square Feet of pure luxury.  I figured I gamble/lose that in a minute at times, so why not?  I could not get a proper email confirmation of the offered rate but they assured me it was $32.  (The email they sent me said it was $97.  They explained my "free" night was subtracted from that).

I find that five days is my sweet spot in Vegas.  By the end of that I'm ready to go home; usually a couple of pounds heavier, broke and my liver begging me for a rest.  It is my kind of vacation place!!!

Pic from 

I used airmiles for my flight so with taxes, that was about $200 CAD.  If I mention prices further, it will be in USD.  I have a US $ account and I contribute to it year round, so I spend that with a US Visa so I don't worry about the exchange rate when I go away.  Our dollar has dipped a bit since previous visits which used to be almost at's worth about ninety cents right now.

Sunday, May 25th:

The day before my departure, I awoke with a sore throat and a stuffy nose and head that had me use a full box of kleenex that day.   When I awoke on Sunday, I didn't have the sore throat but I was still stuffed up and I slept like crap the night before, maybe 3 hours in total.  My flight was at 10:15am on Westjet.  I always usually take the same flight when I go to Vegas.

We left a half hour late and arrived about 1:20.  I got a shuttle for $8 and was the third to be dropped off.  There was a long line at check in but it moved relatively quickly.  My room was ready when I got to the desk.  There was some confusion over what I was paying but it got sorted out to the $32 & the resort fee which he said I still would have had to pay for my comped room.  He handed me keys to room 9-202 on the ninth floor.

The room looked exactly like it does in the link I posted above.  I felt so terrible, I just wanted to get into bed.  I used the whole box of tissues in the bathroom.  I had reservations at L'atelier for 6:15 and I knew I'd never make it.  It was 3:30 now and so I tried to change it to a later time on Open Table but nothing was available so I cancelled it.  I made reservations at Sage for 9pm.  I debated over going somewhere new (Javier's at Aria) or repeating one of my favourite dining experiences (Sage) and Sage won in the end.  And then I fell into the comfy bed and boom boom, out went the lights! I took a Benadryl before going to sleep and hoped it would help clear me up as it was all I had in my home made "first aid" kit.

I felt "OK" when I awoke at 6:30.  I puttered and got presentable slowly and couldn't help thinking the whole time I was getting ready that I looked like shit!  My eyes were red, my nose was red and sore now and I looked tired and puffy.  I put a LOT of make-up on and even then I still wasn't looking any better...Unfortunately this is how I felt every single day of the trip it would turn out.

I went and lost gambling at Aria and my $100 a day budget was gone in no time.  So, I decided to go have a drink in the Lobby Bar beside Sage while I waited for 9pm.

Hendrick's Martini $17 w/ some bar snacks.

That martini took me an hour to drink.  I couldn't really taste it.  I could taste the salt on the snacks and the wasabi  peas because they would make my nose run more...

I went to Sage and was seated right away.  I chose the "Signature Tasting Menu" for $89 (I had this last visit too but I ordered different except for the tartare).  I also chose the wine pairings for $44.  My server advised me I'd get  better value by buying the wine I wanted as the wine was only two and a half ounces total pour for all four courses.  So I ordered a bottle of Prosecco and thanked her for that useful information.

The amuse bouche was lamb rillette

Crushed Caper Aioli 
Slow Poached Egg/Crispy Chocolate 

Elephant Garlic Puree 
Beech Mushrooms/Shishito Peppers/Cashew

Confit Baby Root Vegetable 
Pickled Sweet Onion/Buckwheat Polenta

Scalded Milk Gelato

I was full after the tartare which is really heavenly.  My taste was semi-muted at this point, but I was still able to get most of the flavours on my palette.  The octopus was my favourite course of the evening.  The beef belly was melt in your mouth good and the dessert was excellent and I never usually eat it.  I was so stuffed, I could barely move.  I didn't finish any of the courses completely.  I still had half a bottle of wine left so they let me take it in a huge wine glass.  After tax and tip it was $190.  Dinner took two hours.

I walked back to Monte Carlo, put $20 in a Wheel of Fortune max play 75 cents machine and kept playing for forty-five minutes.  It was the first time I just wanted to lose my money!  I didn't want to have a ticket or go cash out unless I won a bit, so finally it happened and I went to zero.  I went to bed about midnight and I felt horrible!  I was now coughing too though thankfully it was just a tickle cough and not full blown.

Monday, May 26th:

I awoke at 9:30.  I didn't feel better and my nose was raw now.  As I showered, I couldn't smell anything, not soap, shampoo, perfume, etc.  The t.v. check out wasn't working so I called the front desk and checked out over the phone.

At 11am, I dragged my luggage and me to the tram for the Bellagio.  There was some walking involved with my heavy load but it was free and I wasn't in a hurry.  I made it to the front desk about 11:30am.  I was checked in immediately and my room was ready.  I was sooo happy!  My room was nice and view looked at Caesars.  27th floor, West Wing.  A bit of a hike from the elevators.  I took another Benadryl when I got in.

I knew I should eat now but I didn't have much of an appetite.  I really just wanted soup.  I thought I'd go to Spago Cafe in the Forum shops and go have some.  On the way to Caesar's from the Bellagio, I saw this slot and sat down as it's one of my favourite shows and I never saw it last visit.

Max play was $2.70 a spin so $60 went quick. I then hit a bonus and made $70 so I cashed out.  An elderly man had come over to me when I was playing and told me I will never win playing slots like these.  I assured him I never win no matter what slot I am playing so not to worry... and then he left.  :)

It was 102 degrees outside and was HOT.  When I got outside, I started feeling worse instead of better.  I was hoping the sun would improve me...

I ended up stopping at Central by Michel Richard in Caesar's.  I ordered an unsweetened ice-tea, French Onion soup and Tuna Carpaccio.  After tax and tip, bill was $37.  I can't tell you if it was good or not.  All I got was texture, ooey gooey cheese and soft, buttery tuna.  I ate half the soup (mostly the cheese) and all the tuna.  I decided I would be better off finding a food court that had soup and spending the rest of my dining there if I couldn't taste anything!  Much cheaper too.  I was very sad.  I come to Vegas to dine mostly so this was not working out well for me.

I decided I had to go to the pharmacy to see if I could get anything better than Benadryl which was now wearing off and I was tired again.  I walked over to Walgreens by Palazzo.  What a long walk that felt like!  Normally,  I wouldn't even bat an eye about it but it was challenging, to say the least.

I got some 12 hour Claritin, some water and wine because I was there and then had to haul it all the way back to the Bellagio and it was rather heavy.  I was over-heated when I returned and got into my jammies and put a cool cloth on my head.  I was supposed to go to Raiding the Rock Vault tonight but I knew I would never make it.  I thought of hoofing it over to the monorail and sitting there for the show for two hours and drinking was the last thing on mind so I put that plan aside for now.  I decided I would try tomorrow and changed my reservation at Table 10 at Palazzo for 9pm tonight.  I wanted to try their reasonably priced tasting menu.

I had a fitful, restless nap.  The bed was very comfy though.  It reminded me of the same bed the Vdara had.  When I awoke at 6:30, I cancelled Table 10.  I just didn't have any energy (or appetite really) and decided I would just stay at the hotel and go to bed early.  I was feeling depressed now...I had a glass of wine and I could almost taste it if I used my imagination really took me an hour to drink it though.  :(

I half-heartedly started to get ready at 8pm for my night at the hotel.  I got in the shower and what - what was going on????  I could SMELL the soap & the shampoo, and then my perfume!  And then cigar smoke in the casino.  I was so happy, I almost skipped over to Cafe Bellagio.  I still wanted some chicken noodle soup.  I had to wait half an hour in line.  UGH.  But, I didn't care, I could smell the food...I guessed the Claritin worked...

Soup was good, not hot enough but it did the trick - $8

Crab Dip - $16

I tasted tarragon and green onion in the dip.  I only ate a couple of toasts and then I took the rest to go so I could have it later in the room if I wanted.  Then I went to gamble.  I played the True Blood slot again and won $100 but quickly put it back in different machines.  I lasted about an hour before I blew my daily budget.  As much as I was feeling better, I was still really tired so decided to get a good night's sleep and hope for the best tomorrow.  I did take a quick stroll through the Conservatory (below) first though, and it's the first time I haven't seen a Christmas display.

Tuesday, May 27th:

I slept till 8:30.  I coughed a lot through the night and my chest was sore and it really HURT to cough.  Today's plan was to keep my breakfast reservation at Tableau at the Wynn and go see Raiding the Rock Vault tonight.  (The show is dark Wed. & Thurs. so this was my only chance to go before I leave).  I showered (with my sense of smell functioning) and left for the 1.2 mile walk at 10am.  I was in the casino at exactly 10:25.  It was a pleasant walk and not unbearably hot yet.

This was my first time inside Wynn and it is very nice and relaxing.  I quite enjoyed walking around and absorbing the atmosphere.  As I was waiting for my reservation time, I dropped about $80 in ten minutes in the casino.  Then I hit a bonus and cashed out with $250.  That perked my mood up.

The restaurant is lovely at Tableau.  I ordered a glass of Prosecco and breakfast.  It was delicious.  Bill was $46 after tax and tip.

Duck Hash & Eggs: duck confit, fingerling potatoes, poached eggs, roasted tomato hollandaise in puff pastry - $23

I left after breakfast, stopped at a slot and picked up another $70, signed up for their "Players club Red Card" and started the walk back.  Ooooh, it was HOT now!  I stopped at Walgreens again for another bottle of wine and then at the Cromwell to check it out.  The atmosphere reminded me of being in a "steakhouse".  I hurried back to the Bellagio so I could go to my room and cool down for a bit.

I went to the casino but didn't manage to keep my winning streak alive.  About 4:30 I got some wings and chowder from the snack bar and took it back to the room.  That was dinner.  At 6pm I walked over to Ballys to catch the monorail.  The fare was $10 for two one way fares and off to the LVH - Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, I went.  The stop was right there at the hotel so that was nice.  And unlike other monorail stops you didn't have to walk 500 miles to get to the casino.

The casino there had good cocktail service.  I lost all of my winnings and more.  I had bought a Groupon for this show for a balcony seat at $27.  When I redeemed it, I was moved up to 7 rows from the stage, smack centre.  What a score!

The show was FANTASTIC!  I wasn't expecting much and it surpassed my expectations and then some.  I can't say enough good things about it.  What a group of talented musicians!  (Though I have to admit that Robin McAuley creeped me out a little in a "smarmy" sort of way).  I highly recommend seeing it.  A good time was had by all.  A double Bombay Sapphire/Soda drink at the bar in there was $18.50 pre-tip.

Monorail back and I got to my room about 11pm.  I was very tired and stuffed up so I took another Claritin and hoped for the best.  It took me a long time to fall asleep but I did finally clear up enough to get some shut eye.

Wednesday, May 28th:

I awoke early but instantly was stuffed up and coughing.  This truly sucked!  So, I went back to bed and slept listening to 80's tunes on the t.v.  I woke up again (to Paula Abdul - so time to turn it off) just before 11 and got ready for the pool.

The sun made me feel better today.  It was overcast so it wasn't painfully hot and I decided to use my F&B credit here today.  I was told you have to charge it to your room to get it applied when you check out.  I started with Sparkling & a strawberry.  I was happy.

I sat down by someone who looked a lot like Rod Stewart.  I looked once, twice and then heard him talk (American accent) and then realized he was too young.  Soon after, he had people constantly people coming over and asking for a picture.  He would tell people he wasn't him but no one believed him!  I started talking to his wife (lovely lady named Paula) and she said it happens everywhere they go but they were on vacation so it would be nice if it didn't happen ALL the time...I felt sorry for her but they were good sports of it and very friendly and gracious to all.

He is actually a Rod Stewart impersonator and I'm sure does very well at it.  I took a picture while everyone else was and she offered to take one of both of us together but I politely declined. I wanted them to just enjoy their vacation.  He caused quite an amusing commotion while I lied pool side beside them.  One after one, two by two, people kept coming over to him...His wife said they caused quite an uproar at the Cher concert which was the reason they were in town.

Oh, and the pool was nice too!  I sat by this little one (below) that wasn't heated so it was very refreshing to cool off in.  And of course it was close to the pool bar.  ;)

 This was my view today

I ordered a Greek Salad w/Chicken for lunch but after a half hour it hadn't arrived so I enquired about it.  It came shortly after with the manager who comped the meal ($20) and apologized profusely.  That was unexpected and  I found it very nice because it wasn't a big deal except I was hungry now and that's why I asked to begin with.  It gave me an extra Sparkling Wine on my credit to spend.  I left after four of those and four hours later.  It was an awesome way to spend the day.  I couldn't ask for a better day really.

I went and had a nice soak in the tub before I got ready for dinner, and really could have just turned in for the night after that...(in hindsight, I should have, lol)

Dinner tonight was at Twist at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  I took the tram to Crystals and walked over from there (5 minutes).  The hotel itself is beautiful, elegant and quiet.  It was very nice to find my way through it to the restaurant.  I was a half hour early and they seated me no problem.  The restaurant was more than half empty anyway.  Service was friendly, though stuffy and well rehearsed like a memorized script.  There was not much personality here and I like service that is a little more "real".  I really wasn't in the mood for stuffy service tonight but I knew that's what I signed up for so I just enjoyed it.  I almost had a view of the strip and it was very nice.  They brought me over reading material too as I was solo.

My waiter talked me into getting a pre-dinner drink to go with my "amuse bouches" that were to be "enjoyed leisurely" so I agreed and ordered a Lemongrass Mojito for $18 (it was very good).  He then asked if I was ready to order food.  I was.  I went for the 4 course tasting menu $135 and wine pairings $85.

My amuses were brought first.  Honestly, I can't remember what any of them were in detail but they were ok, nothing jumped out.  The BUTTER was really good.  I enjoyed that a lot.  He told me it was from France and there was salted and unsalted.  I just got baguette for my bread selection.  My drink arrived shortly after.

Clockwise from the top was the butter salted, then unsalted.  On the plate: square beet thingy, fish thingy, cheese thingy, I don't remember the stuffed pillow and a bread sticky thing to the left.  He took my bread sticky thing away before I could try it.  I liked the round cheesy thing the best.  I know that's a terrible description.  I apologize.  I just wasn't into this tonight.

My waiter had told me to relax, enjoy my drink and take my time before the menu started arriving.  I had eaten half the amuses and went to the bathroom (very nice!  I should have took a picture) to find when I returned, my first course and wine were there already.

Charred Onions Gelée, Passion Fruit Pulp 
Artichoke Cream with Thin Slice of Foie Gras 

Honestly, this dish didn't taste as good as it looked or I was hoping for.  I tried the first couple of bites trying to get all the different tastes/textures together and it wasn't doing much for me.  It worked better as I ate the different elements separately.  The terrine itself was very tasty though.  It was paired with a German white wine.  I want to say a Riesling but he could have said it was similar to a Riesling...

After this, two ladies sitting by the window started talking to me and said I looked like a food critic in Oahu, Hawaii, where they were from.  I told them it wasn't me but told them I had been to Oahu many times.  They asked me to join them and I did.  The staff kindly accommodated our move and let us sit together at another table by the window.  The ladies were fun to talk to and food has a way of bringing people together, it seems.  It was their first night and they were having a girls school reunion get together after 40 years and were expecting the rest of their group tomorrow.  I was happy for the invite and company since I've felt pretty anti-social up until today.

Coffee Morel Ravioli, Peppered Shrimp, English Peas

This was probably my favourite dish of the evening.  It had everything going for it and the taste balanced beautifully in my mouth.  It was paired with an earthy red wine that was quite good.

Sorbet, fruit palette cleanser

Eggplant Slice, Chorizo, Tomme de Savoie 
Ramp & Potato Crisp

I was a little bummed about this dish.  It was Wagyu and I ordered it medium rare and I just expected it to taste BETTER and have more flavour.  I guess I wanted it to melt in my mouth but it was no where near that.  I liked the accompaniments but again, separately, not all together in one bite...the Spanish red wine that was paired with it was nice.

One of the ladies had ordered the lobster which looked heavenly but she said the rice side dish (finished with lobster bisque)  it came with was way over salted and she couldn't eat it.  She told me she knows salty since she's Japanese and they eat a lot of salty food.  She also said the lobster was overly salty too.  The other lady was having the vegetarian menu and she said she was happy with everything so far.  She did tell the waiter about the saltiness and of course they seemed taken aback.  She just mentioned that she wanted the chef to know her thoughts and was very polite.

OK, I don't eat desserts, so this description will be as horrible as the amuse bouches...

OK, from the bottom right going clockwise:  Some non-memorable cherry thing (and I love cherries!), some non-memorable raspberry thingy.  Some green tea dish that was quite good.  A Bailey's chocolate coffee cream thingy (my fave) and the middle thingy was just fruity and way too sweet. I only had one little taste (the "sugar leaf" was good though).  OH, the pairing was really good for these, a sweet Rosé I think...

Here's the proper description from the menu, if you're interested:

Declination of Raspberries 
Biscuit Moelleux & Green Tea Ice Cream, Sweet Wine Gelée 
Black Chocolate Ganache, Milk Caramel Ball, Baileys & Coffee Granite 
Cherry Soup, Prune Cream & Cassis Sorbet, Meringue 
Peach & Apricot Compote with Rosemary, Pistachio Sugar Leaf 
& Orange Almond Cream

The only thing I finished was the Bailey's dish.  Then they brought us a lemon curd tart with meringue curls (below) that was "special compliments" of the chef for the salty food.  We all looked at each other and laughed out loud and then dared each other to eat it!  It was very good actually, but I only had a couple of bites.  I was done, done with dessert!

And if that's not enough, they ended with some more treats from the chef (below).  Hazlenuts, chocolate and some weird fruity thing like a gummy bear.

And then bill time.  Ka-ching, Ka-ching.  My bill for little ole lonesome me was $310 after tax & tip.  Ouchie!  That's all I can say.  Would I return?  NO.  But, that being said, the service was fantastic.  I just didn't feel the food lived up to the hype.  And, perhaps this place is better than I thought, it was just my feelings, this day at that particular time. I wouldn't try it again (if I was paying).  The ladies said they both felt rushed and it made them uncomfortable especially since the place was half empty and that the food servers could have taken more time explaining the dishes better.  As one lady said, "Not everyone is a foodie, you know".  :)

When I left, I walked by Bobby Flay's Burger Palace and really wished I dined there for about $290 cheaper.  :)  Live and learn.  I took the tram back to Bellagio and decided to gamble.  That went as well as my dinner.  I was down $300 in less than an hour so I decided to call it a night.  At least my dinner took two and a half hours.  It was about 11:30pm (and I was hungry too, so I just typed this trip report and ignored it).  Oh my slot machine told me I had earned $6.99 in comps, LOL.

Thursday, May 30th:

I awoke with the usual stuffiness and tired body and took another Claritin.  I had no plans to leave the Bellagio today, none and I was happy about it.  I had a myVegas comp for the lunch buffet so I went there at 11am for it.  I walked right in and got a nice booth to myself.  I got unlimited Sparkling and took my time at dining and it was all very good.  I left at 1:30, lost $40 in a slot in five minutes on the way back to the elevators and then went for a nap.

Dinner tonight was at Le Cirque. I know, from twisted French last night to classic French tonight.  I wanted this whole trip to be about French dining when I was planning.  I had a 6:00 reservation as I planned to do the early Prix Fixe menu.  

When I got in, I was welcomed kindly.  I had a myVegas comp for two glasses of champagne valued at $54 and that got me Veuve Clicquot and I was happy about that. Service started kind of stuffy again and I tried to shift my mind back into fine-dining mode.  BUT, the staff here was much more at ease and I felt very comfortable and relaxed and the service wasn't stuffy at all but it was the utmost professional.  They actually had personality and talked to you about other things rather than strictly about the food & wine.  A perfect combination.

I took a long time trying to decide between between the Prix Fixe ($72) or the Dégustation Menu which was the same price at Twist ($135).  My waiter convinced me if I wanted to try all things Le Cirque is famous for, I should go with the latter and I did.  I also did the wine pairings again.  Cheaper at $68 here.  They brought me my champagne to start and then I said I'd finish with the other one at dessert.

The restaurant is gorgeous and it started good!  The amuse bouche was a hibiscus foam thingy with cucumber and it just totally was a good start for what was about to follow...

If you sit by the window, you have a table-side view of the Bellagio fountains

That delicious Hibiscus Amuse with Cucumber

First off, I have to say that I enjoyed the wine pairings and the sommelier much more than at Twist.  I felt these pairings tonight enhanced the food and the wine when together.  The sommelier also explained the wines in a way that was easy to understand and not pretentious at all.  I think I liked him the best of all the staff that waited on me, actually.

“Le Cirque” Lobster & Avocado Salad, Black Truffle Vinaigrette

I chose this for my first course.  OH MY is all I can say.  This was divine perfection on a plate.  I can understand why it's a signature dish and will never go off the menu.  I absolutely loved it.  It was paired with a white and I can't remember much about it except it was my least favourite wine of the night but still good.

The second course was also a white wine but sweet and he told me it tasted like honey and emphasized that most.  And it was so good but became great when eaten with the foie gras.  To me, everything melded in harmony.  A very well executed second course indeed.

Sautéed Foie Gras, Candied Kumquats, Baby Turnips, 
Pain d’Epices, Pomegranate Reduction

The next course he brought me a Californian Pinot Noir.  It was sharp and crisp and paired perfectly.  Below is also a classic signature dish and I can see why.  I was beyond happy at this point and think I realized that "Twist" may have been just a little too ahead of my tastes and I like old school French...That sea bass was just what you hope fish will taste like.  I don't think it could be better.

Paupiette of Potato Crusted Mediterranean Sea-Bass, 
Braised Leeks, Pinot Noir Reduction

The next wine was a red and I can't remember it but it did go well with the lamb which ended up being my least favourite dish of the evening.  I've had Colorado lamb at three different high-end Vegas restaurants now (Milos & Charlie Palmer Steak were the other two) and all three times I haven't been impressed.  Not sure why?  Maybe I just don't like Colorado lamb?

Espelette Crusted Colorado Lamb Chop, Braised Leg, Moroccan Couscous, 
Piquillo Coulis, Baby Zucchini, Turnips, Tomato Confit, Navarin Sauce

They brought me my last Champagne here and an intermezzo cheese course with apricot jam.  It was good to rest too, actually...

The last wine for dessert was a port and I didn't like it at all!  However, when I tasted it with the chocolate it took on a whole new life and both complimented each other as one.  I let my waiter pick my dessert as I didn't really care at all what I was served.  He served me the "Chocolate Sphere" as he said it brings customers back.  It almost was good enough to make me eat dessert but I only had a few bites until the port was gone.  Mmmm, mmmm good - the two together!  They bring the sphere and then pour the chocolate sauce on top which immediately melts the sphere down...

Petite Boule de Chocolat, Eclats de Noisette Caramélisée, Glace Chocolat Blanc Chocolate Ball: Praline Mousse, White Chocolate Ice Cream, Hazelnut Caramel Crunch, Chocolate Sauce

Then I was served some Mignardises & Gourmandises and I only had a little nibble of each so can't comment on them at all really.  I had some coffee too to end dinner.  And my experience took  3 hours that went by in no time, it seemed.  

And then dinner ended with a little box of chocolates for the road.  I really, really enjoyed dinner here and will return.  It was night and day compared to last night.  Bill after tax & tip was tip (I tipped more) was $285.  I felt it was money well spent.  Every one of my servers said good-bye and something nice to me on my way out and I truly enjoyed the experience.

I was feeling no pain when I took this picture here of the chocolate jewellery box. :)

And then unfortunately all good things must come to an end...I spent $500 max play in slots and went to bed with nothing in my usual, except like 5 times over my daily budget...sigh...Time to go home!  That's why I don't like to drink too much in Vegas, my money sense goes out the window.  I would have never spent that had I been sober...

Friday, May 30th:

Ugh, I was up quite late (or early as it may be) after losing and writing the trip report.  But, I was happy the report was all done.  I was stuffed up, coughing AND had a hangover which I'd prefer not to have when travelling but it figures, the only day I did was the day I was leaving.  So, I'm just packing up and getting ready to go.  Will do Express check out and grab a cab to the airport at 11.

I enjoyed my getaway but hope to NEVER be sick when I return.  That was really awful and just cast a dark cloud over everything.  Until next time, Vegas...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Disneyland (Anaheim) Trip Report - January 6 - 11, 2014

Everyone who knows me well, knows how much I LOVE Disneyland.  It TRULY strikes happiness in my heart and soul. I totally agree with it being called "The Happiest Place on Earth"...

I tell everyone I know this story...and let me just say here that my "prologue" will be long on this report, I can't help it, sorry!

I first took my son to Disneyland in 1996.  He was six and I was thirty-one.  I never experienced vacations as a child, so I always dreamed of doing this for my son and really, for myself too (as a kid, I remembered Sunday nights watching Disney (below) and wanting to meet Tinkerbell at the Castle).

I had just left a relationship and booked this trip when my son ended Kindergarten for summer vacation before grade one...I remember feeling brave, scared and ecstatic about the thought of being single, and FINALLY getting to see the "Magic Kingdom"...

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So, I remember our arrival to Disneyland like it was yesterday.  We didn't get there till just before sunset.  I was so excited my heart was pounding through my chest.  I remember looking around for a ticket window so we could get in with our Park Hoppers but couldn't find one open.  We walked closer to the park searching and suddenly these gates opened and people flooded out (a parade or show ended, I thought after I was familiar with the park).  I asked one of the staff at the gates how I could get in and they waved us in without asking for our tickets.  I remember feeling guilty, worried and giddy at the same time as we entered, passing by all the exiting people...

As I stood in the park...for the first time, I have never ever felt the feeling I did at that moment ever again.  I can't even put it into words, really.  I was in AWE, It smelled wonderful!  (Those heavenly "Main St. U.S.A. smells of baked goodies" and yes I know that smell is piped in, now).  I was DUMBFOUNDED, I felt the "MAGIC"...I honestly don't even remember what my son thought as it was suddenly all about ME, ME, ME!  :)  I remember that trip shopping in the "Main Street Emporium" and one of the staff said to my son, "Are you out shopping with your sister?" and then winked at me.  I remember when I realized that he was complimenting me, how good I felt and I had many more experiences like that while there...everyone made us feel special and happy.  It was pure bliss.  I remember my sweet son falling asleep in my arms as we sat on the sidewalk watching the Main Street Electrical Parade.

FAST FORWARD to 2003.  I took my son EVERY year after that back to Disneyland and one trip to Disneyworld too.  I could tell so many good stories and tales but I'd never get to this trip report!  Anyway, Christmas 2003 we stayed at the Grand Californian hotel and spent the holiday like celebrities doing things like watching "Fantasmic" on the balcony with a dessert buffet in New Orleans Square.  We had chairs at the Christmas parade and were served Hot Chocolate as the characters danced and waved at us.  We really lived it up that trip - it was the ULTIMATE Disney trip...

Also, on that trip, I lost my wallet in the park.  It had ALL my spending money - over $500 cash, our Park Hopper passes, credit card and driver's license.  I reported it to Security and and went back to the Grand Californian and started crying my eyes out.  My phone rang and they told me someone had turned my wallet in.  Nothing was missing, including the money.  I always wish I could thank those people to this day!  To whoever turned my wallet in, I will never forget it and thank you for saving our Christmas!!!  Only at Disney this stuff happens, I say...

When we got home, I remember saying to my son who now was thirteen about maybe next year we could go to Disneyland, Paris?  He told me, "Mom, I'm done with Disney.  How about we go to Hawaii?"  And I remember feeling like he slapped me in the face!  I realized then, at that EXACT MOMENT, that I was the Disney fan and not him...(we went to Hawaii next, a few times, and Honolulu is still one of HIS fave places, ever).

Our last visit to the park was in 2009.  I most remember our $300 Chef Table's Dinner at Napa Rose, unfortunately, more so for the money than the food (food was good, don't get me wrong - it was just the first time I paid that much for a meal).  We stayed for three days and then moved to Hollywood for the rest of the trip.

Monday, January 6th:

Our flight from (LAS) Vegas left at 2pm on Southwest.  We arrived at (SNA) John Wayne airport at three.  We took a shuttle that was $10 pp.  We were booked right across the street on S. Harbor Blvd. from the entrance to Disneyland.  We chose a Best Western.  If I can't stay at the Grand Californian then this location is next on my list.

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The front was being renovated so it didn't look like this.  Our room was at the very back of the property making it the farthest away from the park, of course.  It was fine, your typical older motel property.  It was a real step down from the previous weeks 5-Star accommodation in Vegas.  It did only take us 10 minutes to walk and be inside the park though so that alone was worth it.

We dropped our luggage and headed to the park.  It took about a half hour to get our 5 Day Park Hopper passes done and then it was time for dinner as we were starving so we decided to go to Catal in Downtown Disney.  It wasn't until we were seated upstairs on the patio that I realized we had eaten here before.  It was kind of like a "deja vu" moment.  Our waitress said she worked there for ten years when I told her I think she served us last visit.  I think my son even ordered the same dish he had last time too. (See, camera & blog is good for my memory...)

Our view from the balcony

Wedge Salad came with my Prime Rib

10 oz. Prime Rib (medium, a little chewy) with Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Chicken:  half chicken, mushroom fideuá cake, green olives, soft herbs, garlic aïoli, roasting jus

I ordered extra "au jus" and horseradish for mine.  It was good flavour wise but a little tough.  Had I known it would be, I would have ordered medium rare.  My son loved his chicken.  Said it was really crispy.  When he was finished he said, "Oh, I forgot to ask you if you wanted a bite".  :)  

We went to Disneyland and rode Space Mountain.  The stand by wait time was one hour.  The park was pretty busy Monday night.  The big Christmas tree was still standing at the entrance to Main Street U.S.A.

We ended the first evening at Golden Horseshoe with a Chocolate Sundae for my son.

Tuesday, January 7th:

We had an early start this morning and were in the park by 10am.

This was a good time to go as most of the rides were a wait of less than fifteen minutes and lots were walk on.  My son mentioned how happy he was to be here and that really made me smile.  We reminisced together of past visits a lot this trip.

We started our day with a usual tradition of breakfast on the patio at Carnation Cafe on Main Street.

 Spinach and Tomato Egg White Frittata

Chicken-Apple Sausage Links

Ham and Cheese Omelet

Breakfast was good.  I always find it comes out a little cold as it's all pre-made.  The setting is why we return visit after visit though.  I just love the scenery sitting outside.

The Market House is home to Starbucks inside now.  I didn't like that...

Drooling over the Mickey Bakery Goodies

We took a stroll through Toon Town

Then we made our way over to go on my sons favourite ride (below):

I told my son about how when we visited in the summer how he would patiently wait in line for two hours for this ride.  He said that he was much happier not having to wait like that this visit!

We stopped for lunch and split a bowl of Clam Chowder at the Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square.

We did a lot of walking today in the park and we seemed to be famished all day!  After we rode Indiana Jones, I stopped for my favourite treat in the park (below):

The heavenly Safari Skewer.  Mmmmmmm.

My son had the Banyan Beef Skewer which was nice & spicy.

We then went and rode the Jungle Cruise (below) which is always fun too in that corny joke kind of way.

Eventually we made our way to the Matterhorn (below) and then returned to the room for a freshen up and rest.

Our friends who we were in New Orleans with live about twenty minutes away from the park so we agreed to meet them at the Disneyland hotel at Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar.  We walked back to the park, headed to Tomorrow land and took the monorail over.

My son ordered this:  Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum:  Reserve Rum, Cream of Coconut, and Pineapple and Orange Juices dusted with Cinnamon and Nutmeg

Pu Pu Platter:  Tamarind-glazed Island Pork "Wings", Sweet and Spicy Asian Wings, Panko-crusted Chinese Long Beans, Green Papaya Slaw, and Sriracha Aïoli

It was great to see our friends and I am always happy to spend time with them.  They took us to Food 4 Less grocery store so I could buy some cheaper wine/water etc. as the area we were in, the prices were ridiculous.  I got so excited at the wine selection I ended up forgetting to buy water!  They drove us to our hotel and we said good night.  I literally was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow!

Wednesday, January 8th:

We awoke, had a Baileys Coffee after showering and left for the park before 10am.  Today we went to California Adventure.  We immediately went to get our Radiator Springs Racers Fast Pass and it was a return time of 6:20 to 7:20pm that night.  The fast pass is actually located in a Bug's Land which was kind of weird too!

We like the "It's Tough to be a Bug" 3-D movie so we saw that with no wait and walked right in.  It reminded us of seeing this for the first time in Disneyworld when my son was 8.  He leaned over and told me someone had hit him but it was just one of the effects in the show.  We had a good laugh about it.

Cars Land is totally new since our last visit, so we spent some time looking at it.  Pictures below:

Luigi's Tire Ride - really LAME Bumper Cars

The town was cute.  We wandered around until it was time for our lunch reservation at Blue Bayou restaurant.  This is also a tradition with us.  We always go here for lunch every visit.  We like to go at 11:30am so we can get a seat water side and watch the boats for Pirates of the Caribbean go by.

At our table overlooking the bayou.

It is very, very dark in this restaurant so getting good pictures was next to impossible and I have a new camera that I didn't spend any time reading about how to take better shots with night views.

We always order the Monte Cristo sandwich here.  It is so decadent and really the best thing you can eat in the entire park in our opinion.  It is deep fried goodness!

Your sandwich comes with gumbo or salad.  I had the gumbo which was pretty full of rice as you can see below.

There were three dipping sauces this time.  The traditional Blackberry Preserves is what we know.  They have added Creme Anglaise and Strawberry Preserves (it might have been Raspberry, I can't remember now).

Le Special de Monte Cristo Sandwich (another view of it):  Turkey, Ham, and Swiss Cheese battered and fried to golden brown served with a Fruit Skewer. Choice of Blue Bayou House Salad or Cup of Signature New Orleans Gumbo - $25.49

This was soooo filling.  We took one full sandwich to go as we just couldn't eat it.  It surprised us because we've always been able to finish it on previous visits.  Perhaps it has gotten bigger?  Anyway, we took it back to the room and put it in the fridge for dinner later.

We came back and did the Cars ride with our fast pass when it was time.  We were a little underwhelmed to be honest.  The ride was cute but I guess our expectations were too high and ended up being let down a little.

The construction in front of the coaster & ferris wheel was like this in 2009 too!

In the evening we walked over to Anaheim Garden Walk and saw "The Wolf of Wall Street" at the UltraLuxe Cinemas.  The movie started at 9pm and ended at midnight.  It was deserted around there and I felt really uneasy walking back to our hotel.  Anyway, we called it a night after that.  My legs were really tired with all the walking we were doing.

Thursday, January 9th:

We started this morning again in California Adventure.  Our first walk up and get right on ride was Tower or Terror, below:

I love the Twilight Zone and I love this ride.  I always scream my head off as I'm afraid of heights.  This is one of my son's faves too.

The Hotel Lobby

We went to the Cove Bar (below) on the pier for lunch today.  This is part of Ariel's Grotto.

My son ordered this:  Barbecue Chicken Pizza:  Thin-crusted and topped with Jack and Parmesan Cheese, tender chunks of Roasted Chicken, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Pepperoncini, Onion, Tomato, and a hearty Barbecue Sauce

Lobster Nachos:  Tender Lobster Pieces atop fresh Corn Tortilla Chips, Black Beans, Pico de Gallo, Serrano Peppers, Cilantro, Chipotle Crema, and Jack and Cheddar Cheeses

My son said his pizza was really good.  I ordered extra Crema and Pico de Gallo as the nachos definitely needed more.  It was an ok meal and nice to be able to sit and have a drink of sparkling wine and and enjoy the pier atmosphere in front of the coaster.

We went back to Disneyland and saw a High school Marching Band on Main Street that was nice to watch.

I had a voucher for $25 off dinner at Fire+Ice Grill & Bar.  It was at Anaheim Garden Walk so we walked over again.  It's a Mongolie Grill - All You Can Eat type place.  Put your ingredients in a bowl and they cook it up for you on a big grill (below).  

Complimentary Cheese Bread

Salad Bar is included too

My Stir-fry but OMG did I over do it with Garlic!!!!

My son's Apple Tart Dessert

With the coupon and three cocktails, the bill was under $40.  Of course we tipped on the full price and tipped the guys at the grill too.  Not a bad meal and would be good with a large group of people.  

We walked back to the parks, rode a few more rides.  Then we went to see Disney's "Frozen" movie at the AMC theatres in Downtown Disney.  We both LOVED it.  Such an improvement from the previous movie.  Then we retired for the evening back at the hotel.

Friday, January 10th, a.k.a. Last Day:

We awoke today and just repeated doing our favourite rides in the two parks.  Again, all rides in the morning were walk on.  The park started getting quite busy at lunch time.  The park was also open until midnight today.  The other days it was closed at 9pm except for Monday where it was open till 10pm.  California Adventure closed an hour earlier.

We ate at the French Market for lunch today.

My son had the Market French Dip:  Thinly sliced slow roasted Beef with crispy Onion Straws on a Potato Roll with a side of handmade Cajun Chips and Au Jus

Cajun Meatloaf:  A blend of Beef, Turkey, Pork and Andouille Sausage, Smashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, Worcestershire Cream Sauce - Served with your choice of fresh artesian breads (I got no choice)

The meals were good but could be a bit hotter.  They are made to order though of course it's all pre-made, they just dish it out for you.  It's cafeteria style.  Sitting outside was lovely and I was comfortable and I didn't want to move...

After wandering around, I took my son to the Golden Horseshoe again as I promised him a Rootbeer Float.  

We were so lucky to be in time for the show too (below).  It's so funny.  It's about "Sally Mae".  Her dad is trying to marry her off with blindfolded audience members.  I was glad we caught this again as we haven't seen it for quite awhile.

Star Tours was re-vamped since our last visit.  We really enjoyed it and were pleasantly surprised.

We met our friends in the park again about dinner time.  We all decided to go to Cafe Orleans for a bite.  My son and I each had French Onion Soup and shared some Garlic Pomme Frites (below).

Our friends graciously paid for dinner so I invited them for an after dinner drink at the UVA Bar in Downtown Disney.  We first went to Ralph Brennans but when the band was playing we couldn't hear each other talk so we decided to move.  

We had some good drinks and better conversation and then we said our goodbyes.  My son and I watched the Fireworks and then went for a snack at Earl of Sandwich.  We had to be up early as our shuttle was picking us up at 7:30am.  The park was pretty crowded too and I had had enough of crowds for the day.

Saturday, January 11th:  

The shuttle arrived on time and we were checked in, through security and had breakfast sitting in front of us by 8:30.  Our flight was at 11:30 and so we had some time to kill.  A Bloody Mary and a couple of Irish Coffees helped.

We landed at 2:10 and were home an hour later.  Very quick and painless once we touched ground.  

We had a great trip and it was so wonderful to spend time with my favourite person in the world.  I am very blessed to have him.  Until next time will be in my heart and I will continue to treasure those fond memories you have given me over the years...

I wish I worked here.  ;)