Friday, May 20, 2016

Downtown Las Vegas Trip - May 15 - 20, 2016

I told everyone I know that there would be no trips to the U.S.A. this year with our bad Canadian dollar.  I came home from work one day in February and had a large flyer in my mail from the "D" hotel.  My offer was 3 days free with no resort fee in April or May.  That also included a $25 Food & Beverage credit and $25 Free play on Slots and $25 Match Play on tables.  I had some vacation booked off for May with no plans so called the hotel.  The offer was valid for those days and my 2 extra nights were $28 USD (Wed) and $35 USD (Thurs) with a $20 resort fee for each of those two nights for $116 USD total for 5 days.  So, I booked it.  I could cancel up to 48 hours before.

I got airfare from Bellingham, WA on Allegiant for $150 USD or $200 CAD.  I was OK with that since that price included luggage and taxes too.  By the time it was mid-April, our dollar had come back a little so it didn't feel as bad.  I was glad I had booked.

Sunday, May 15th:

This will be the most unexciting trip report I have written, at least to me it is - I bored myself! I had been fighting a nasty cold/cough for the last week and it had finally taken hold of me Friday night.  Saturday, I was really debating just not going, I felt like bloody hell.  Sunday, it hurt to cough and I felt like a big bag of poo...I called my cab at 9:45am to take me to the train station where I was catching a bus to Bellingham airport.  The drive and flight were relatively painless though I coughed the whole way on the bus, thank goodness there was only one other person, the driver and me.  I probably had twenty cough drops today!  I used Showtime shuttle when we arrived and got to my hotel just after 7pm.

There was no line, so I was checked in immediately.  I  felt awful!  I dropped my luggage, then I made my way to the ABC store on Freemont and bought some cold/flu pills and water.  I was starving, so I bought a Coney Island Chili dog at my hotel.  Then I went to the room, ate and took the pills.  I didn't sleep well, coughed all night and woke up every hour.  Also the noise/bands on Freemont traveled right up to the 25th floor I was on and I could hear the ruckus quite well...

Monday, May 16th:

I stayed in bed until 11am and then decided to unpack, shower and try and get out for awhile.  However, when I went to use the shower, it either didn't work or I didn't know how to turn it on!  I had to call guest services to send someone to come look at it.  He came right away and it was indeed broken, but he fixed it in about 10 minutes.  When I was ready, I went downstairs and gambled a little.  Broke even and then used my $25 voucher at the "D Grill" for lunch.  I ordered chicken fried steak.  I pecked and had a couple of bites, but I had lost my appetite and was starting to lose my taste and smell of food as well...

My bill was $15 and she told me they don't give any change.  I told them that was fine and went back to the room.  It still wasn't cleaned but the cart was in the hall now, so I went back down to gamble while I waited.  I sat at a "Buffalo Gold" machine and put in $40 and played $3 a spin.  When I got down to $12.75 left, I hit a bonus and then kept winning spins.  I took the picture below when I started winning...

...and it just kept going, and going and going!  74 free spins in total!  This netted me my first ever hand pay!

Wow, that was exciting, though the US Taxman took 30% so $688 came right off.  I tipped her $60 and collected just over $1500.  I wasn't complaining though.  I took my win and went back to bed.

I woke up at 5pm and felt even worse.  I had antibiotics with me so took them.  I knew if I did that, it would mean I had to quit drinking, but I wasn't drinking anyway at this point.  I went back to sleep, coughing relentlessly.  I awoke and decided I should try and eat, so looked at the room info and saw I could order from "Nacho Daddy".  I ordered a chicken kale salad, cheese quesidilla and two bottle waters for $32 pre-tip ($30 minimum order).

It was here in about 15 minutes.  I had a couple of bites.  I'm sure it was good, but I had no taste now and so I went back to sleep.   I awoke constantly, again, to the noise on Freemont Street and slept lousy.  That being said, the bed was super comfy!  I had no complaints about it at all.

Tuesday, May 17th:

I felt slightly better, still coughing but on the whole, there was a little improvement.  However, I had completely lost all sense of taste AND smell now.  I had pre-booked and pre-paid the Neon Museum for 10am this morning, but I knew I wasn't up for it.  You can't get refunds or re-schedule, so I lost that $18.  I went back to bed and slept restlessly until 11am.  I gambled at the Golden Nugget, got a tea at Starbucks then walked over to the California hotel.

I went to their Market Street Cafe and got some "Oriental Saimin (Ramen)" soup combo ($8).

I couldn't taste anything but salt in the broth which is what I was after anyway - broth.  It is so weird to eat food without taste buds working.  Texture becomes such a huge part, and I admit that most textures are unappealing...soup was the only thing that appealed to me.  I gambled there for a bit, saw this machine which was new to me.  Won $80 at it and then left.

I gambled at a few places, all losses pretty much today, and was starving about 7pm.  I was at the 4 Queens, so decided to try Magnolia's.  I ordered a cup of soup (cream of mushroom) and a French dip or as we call them, a beef dip.  All I know, is that the beef had a rubber texture that I couldn't even eat!  I dipped some of the bread in the au jus.  Between that and the soup, it was enough to fill me up.

Then I went back to the room and back to bed about 8pm.  Wow, how exciting!  I slept to the Freemont Street noise as usual...I think I was starting to find it comforting in a weird way...

Wednesday, May 18th:

I slept restlessly till 11am again.  I was seriously tired of not having any taste/smell now, so I went to Walgreens and bought some nose spray to see if it would fix it.  About a half hour later, it seemed to.  I got whiffs of scents.  I decided to go have lunch at the D Grill.  I ordered eggs benedict.  Unfortunately, I could taste this and it wasn't very good.  The hash browns seemed fine though.  I had a $5 off coupon so the meal only cost me $6 and change.  I've left and wasted a LOT of food so far...on the up side of that, I was sure I wasn't going to gain weight this trip.

I set off to gambling and lost again.  My hotel was really unlucky for me now.  I couldn't even hit bonuses and if I did, they were lame.  I did much better at the other hotels but wanted to spend some money here.  I lost about $400 here today.  The Game of Thrones machines were also new to me.

I got a bonus and cashed out before I lost.  Around dinner time, I wanted to get some "real food" so went to The Smashed Pig Gastropub on Freemont.  It was quiet in here but the decor was really nice.

I hit the last 10 minutes of happy hour so ordered 1 each of the 4 apps that were on HH special.  I also ordered the daily "sashimi/tartare".  It was tuna tonight. I also ordered chicken lettuce wraps.

These were three of the apps.  The slider was pork belly ($2).  The croquette was "shepherd's pie" ($2).  The other two were mac & cheese balls ($1).  The slider was tasty.  The frying was perfect on the others but unfortunately the insides were lacking in flavour.  I was so excited for that croquette too.  Too bad...I picked at everything.

These two dishes were good, but not exciting at all.  The chicken wraps were super salty, and I've had way better seared tuna dishes but this was balanced at least and had hot sauce on it for a nice kick.  Below are shrimp "fries" ($1) with some super sweet dip.  Meh.  I left those.

Service was good.  I was his only customer so we talked and chatted.  Bill was just over $20 so I got what I paid for, for sure.  I'd give them another chance.  And then of course, it was bed time!  This was my first night out after dark!  Even the canopy show was on.  This was the Who.

I stopped at the Freemont Casino for a bit.  This was my fave place this trip.  I enjoyed it here and always seemed to do well.  Then I went to bed to the "now soothing" noise of Freemont street.  I slept well - first time since I've got here...

Thursday, May 10th - a.k.a. last day:

I awoke earlier today and took some nasal spray so I could keep my taste/smell alive.  I went downstairs in the hotel and lost $300 pronto!  That meant I had now spent the $1000 I brought with me and was now spending my winnings.  I decided/realized to not sweat it and just be happy I was ahead still.

Then I decided I must have some GOOD food today.  So, that made my choice easy and I headed for lunch to my favourite place downtown which is Carson Kitchen.

I ordered the Butter Burger with Boursin, cheddar, lettuce & mayo.  It's served with spicy tater tots.  OMG! This was soooo good.  Finally, some great food!  I ate it all except for 3 tater tots.  I was so stuffed, but my taste buds thanked me - seriously, they did.  I was so happy!  I trotted back over to the Freemont Casino.

I even decided to have a couple of drinks today.  It was my last day and I was pretty bored of never taking up those free drinks that kept going by me and always ordering "water".  I got a nice Bailey's coffee with lots of whip cream.  It was really good.  I had a great cocktail server here so I tipped her well.  I sat down playing an older Wizard of Oz machine and just at $1.50 a spin.  Well, that first $20 in and quite awhile later turned into $300!  I had a nice roll on it.  I cashed out and played some old school quarter slots (1 pay line).  I hit one of those for $200 (2 doubles on the pay line) and cashed out.  I was back even with my money now and put back my "win" money to keep it untouched.  I still had a couple of hundred left.  I left the Freemont Casino on a happy note.  :)

Dinner tonight was at Andiamo Steakhouse at my hotel.  My reservation was at 8:30pm.  I was offered water and then my waiter came over and brought me some bread and caponata.

He came back twice to see if I was ready to order but never asked if I needed help or suggestions, so I just quickly decided.  I finally asked him which pastas were good and he was good and told me all but two of them that he didn't recommend.  I ordered 2 starters and a pasta.  I also ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio.  I had a bite of the caponata and it was very good.  Very quickly my first dish came out.  It was only warm, but the tastes were fine.  A nice garlic flavour in the sauce, but I wasn't overly impressed so far.

Escargot Bourguignon
Baked in mushroom caps with garlic butter,
finished with toasted bread crumbs - $16

My waiter came over twice to see if I was finished and while I had a mouth full, asked me if I was still working on my dish?   I was a little surprised by this, so quickly finished and he immediately brought the soup out.  I was starting not to like him...

Italian Wedding Soup
Herbed brodo with root vegetables, meatballs,
spinach, allice pasta - $8

I am a huge fan of this soup and this was very, very delicious.  I was really enjoying it.  When I was just over half done, my waiter was back with the pasta this time.  He just stood there holding it, looking at me.  Finally he said, "Am I too early?".  I looked at him, like DUH but he still stood there, so I told him to just put it down.  I took my time and finished my soup at the pace I wanted to.  I tried one bite of the pasta, but I was turned off now and just asked for it to go.  It was very delicious as well.

Handmade pasta filled with ground veal,
spinach mascarpone crème, black truffle, wild
mushrooms, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano - $26

He packed it up at the table and then asked if I wanted dessert.  I told him no.  I gave him my "Club" card because I had $20 of comps on it and wanted to use it with my bill.  He came back and was sure to show me the REAL total before the comp was applied, like he had to remind me to tip on the full price.  I did 20% because the bill was cheap.  If it was an expensive bill, I might have only gave him 15% because he annoyed me.  I had another bite or two when I got back to the room and then was in bed by 11pm with a wake up call for 6:45am.  I drifted off to the noisy Freemont street usuals and I slept right through until my wake up call.

Friday, May 20th:

Check out, shuttle, flight, shuttle home was all painless.  I won a little bonus at the airport while waiting to board.

My air/hotel/shuttles cost me $400 CAD for 5 days. I brought $1000 USD spending money and spent it all! I came home with $1600 USD though, so I guess you can call this a free trip!  That really made up for being so sick (and I still am) and really brought a bright side to what would have been a real downer of a trip otherwise.  I am really thankful for that.  :)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Harrison Hot Springs Getaway - April 6 & 7, 2016

I like Harrison.  When my son was little, I took him here to get away.  He also camped with Scouts here when he was young.  It's a beautiful spot about a two hour drive away from my home in Vancouver.  Since it had been so long (14 years?), we decided it was time for a return visit.  We decided to splurge and get the best room and stay at the nicest hotel in Harrison.  I sure couldn't afford to take my son here when I was a single mom, raising him.  So, now we could do that!

These two nights wouldn't be cheap as after tax it came to $650.  However, that did include a lake view room, dinner in their fine dining restaurant one evening, and a breakfast buffet in their casual restaurant for our stay.  The resort also has five natural mineral hot spring pools which we would have access to.  We were both looking forward to this.

Wednesday, April 6th:

I woke up tired and really didn't feel like going, to be honest.  The sun wasn't shining as was forecasted either, it seemed cold and gray.  I absolutely detest driving, so trips like this are rare and not high on my list.  My car, which I bought brand new in 2002, at time of writing this, has just over 38,000 kilometers on it, which tells you how much I like driving...  I drove choosing Highway 1 the entire way to the Aggasiz exit, leaving my house around noon.  The drive was simple all the way to the exit.  We used his iPhone for the directions to the hotel with only one wrong turn, one time.  It took about an hour and 45 minutes total.  They let us check in right away so by 2pm, we were in the room and settled.  My son didn't have his iPhone charger though, so it was lucky the hotel offered to charge it for him.  They wouldn't let you borrow the cable, but they would charge it, so that was fine.

I'll start with my East Tower, room view "money" shot, below...yes, I zoomed in for it, but that was the centerpiece of looking over the balcony.  Gorgeous!

Panoramic view from our balcony

Let's be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the room.  For the price, I just expected a little more.  The t.v. wasn't even HD.  The carpet had stains and lots of other wear and tear throughout the room.  The staff was friendly though the friendliness seemed forced and indifferent, and other little minor things... normally I don't even look at things like this or CARE, but it was because of the price that I did.  The view was amazing though and I got what I asked for in that respect.

We were pretty hungry so decided to grab a bite somewhere.  I remember going to this pub with my friend last time and it was nice and was like a log cabin.  We found it pretty easily walking around, and it was called the Old Settler Pub.

It was very quiet in there, only a couple of people.  In fact, the whole town seemed like a ghost town right now.  Staff was friendly and we ordered an appy platter for two for $15.

Unfortunately the food was packaged frozen crap and very pedestrian.  We bought some water for the room at a convenience store and dropped it off.

We decided to take a walk around the lake and go look at the cabins we used to stay at.  They were still there.  The walk felt good and there was a nice breeze and scenery that was very relaxing and calming.

We walked for just about an hour and then went to the hotel for a drink.  We found the "Island Bar" and went in for a cocktail.

Staff was genuinely nice and friendly and we enjoyed our drinks.

It was about 8pm now so we decided to head out to dinner.  I looked online at reviews and realized that Harrison was not going to be a "foodie" town by any means.  We elected to go to the #1 rated place on ALL of the food sites like Yelp.  That happened to be Village Pizzeria.  All the restaurants we walked by were empty, but at least this pizza place had people in it.  That was encouraging.  Staff seemed family run and were very nice.  No alcohol served here.  This was a small little place, like a coffee shop.  We started with a Caesar salad for two and that was ok.  At least the lettuce was fresh and crisp.

#7 - Teriyaki Chicken (medium)

#11 - Chef's Special (small)

The pizza was good.  We both enjoyed it.  It certainly wasn't the best we've ever had, but there was nothing to complain about.  If this was the highest rated #1 place in Harrison, then I knew there wasn't anymore looking to do, for other places...

We went back to the hotel and went to the pools.  I took the shots below before it was dark.

Now this is what you get for your money! The pools are so soothing & almost as hot as a bath.  Totally comforting.  Plus, they are open late.  The indoor ones are open until 1am and the outdoor until 11pm.  We really enjoyed this, it was like huge hot tubs in the dark. We stayed right until 11, showered and went to bed (comfy beds!), both falling asleep while watching Stephen Colbert bash Donald Trump on the non-HD t.v.  ;)

Thursday, April 7th:

I awoke to see a beautiful day on the horizon.  I got out of bed at 8:30 and headed for the shower shortly after.  We picked up my son's phone at the front desk.  It was 100% charged. We then went to the Lakeside Cafe for our breakfast buffet.

View from our table - a little warmer outside and to sit out there, the view would be incredible

We saw that the credit on our receipt was worth $44.  The price of two buffets.  It was actually pretty good.  It's hard to screw up breakfast and they didn't.  They had an omelette station, the usual bacon, sausages, hash browns, scrambled eggs, pastries/muffins, fruit, toast station, cereals - hot & cold, yogurts, waffles, and lox/cream cheese.  All juices as well.  Coffee was served in a pot to your table.

We didn't have cash on us and asked our server how the gratuities worked.  My concern was with the guy making the omelettes.  I usually tip them cash.  She said he was not included in the gratuities and worked for tips.  I was disappointed but without cash, there wasn't much I could do now.  :(  I hoped he would be back tomorrow so I could make it up.

We went for another walk, this time starting to the left of our hotel.

This brought us to a place called "The Source" which is what feeds the hot springs pools at our hotel.

We went as far as we could walk and then turned around and did the walk we did yesterday and back.

It turns out, this wasn't that far. My son's iPhone app said it was only 4 kilometers - our whole walk.  Oh well, it was better than no walk.  Below, the hotel told me is an "Ornamental Cherry Blossom Tree".  These were all over Harrison, though the hotel we stayed at seemed to have the most on their property.

My son was feeling "under the weather" since yesterday - sore throat and minor cough.  We went to the Island Bar and he had tea with honey.  I had an Irish coffee.  We sat there until it was time for him to get his massage.  A 55 minute massage was $120 pre-tax and gratuity.

I left him there and went back down the strip to get a fridge magnet from one of the shops.

Once I got back to the room, he showed up shortly after.  We decided to go down to the pools for a while.  He swam, I just lounged enjoying the fresh air.

We decided we were peckish so went back to the lounge and sat on the outside patio.  My son had more tea & honey and I had a "Manhattan".

We ordered dry ribs and wings.  These were ok, about what we expected.  The ribs were above average though they didn't look like they would be.

It started to get chillier as evening approached so we went back to the room to relax and chill until our dinner reservation at 8pm for the Copper Room.

There was a live band with a dance floor.  This dining room was HUGE!  I asked the waiter if it ever got full and he said every Saturday night.  The band played old time hits - I'm not sure my son knew any of the songs, if he did, it wasn't by the original singers.  The emptiness of such a large room kind of made me feel like I was at the "Overlook Hotel" from the Stephen King novel, "The Shining".  It felt like a setting from long, long ago...

Our set menu included 3 courses, as below.  We were given a choice of this menu or a $42 credit each to the main menu choices.  We ordered an appy from the main menu of Scallops and Pork Belly for $20.  I chose the trout as my entree and my son picked the filet mignon.

My trout portion was humongous!  I wasn't expecting that.  Everything up to this point was very good.  I wouldn't say it was great and it wasn't "Nouvelle Cuisine", but there was nothing to complain about.  It was well done with good flavours (son didn't like the gratin potatoes but I did) and service was very good.  I gave my son my dessert after a bite.  It really did nothing for me at all, but he did a good job at almost finishing both!

This took us till about 10:30pm.  We were soooo stuffed, and now tired.  Our hopes of going back to the pools for one more evening swim did not happen.  We dropped his iPhone off at the front desk again for charging.  We went back to the room and slept almost immediately.  We woke early at 7am.  We had a Bailey's coffee.

We decided to shower, pack and go for breakfast at the buffet (I tipped the omelette guy).  We left the hotel at 8:45am.  Thanks to google maps navigation on the iPhone, we were home an hour and forty minutes later.  It was nice to go back to Harrison.  We discussed it, and both agreed that if we do another "local getaway" it will be Whistler.  There is more to do and the scenery is just as beautiful, if not more so.  Harrison was expensive and comparable to Whistler prices.  A great destination for families with young kids.  There isn't a lot for adults in the evenings, unfortunately.  However, if you just wanted to relax and do nothing, this would be a great place for that.  The hot springs pools are incredible!  Below is another shot of "The Source" hot springs and then Harrison lake (again) in the picture under that.