Thursday, November 22, 2018

Las Vegas Trip Report - November 18 - 21, 2018

I was at the Bellagio in May, so I was fortunate to get to go back for an additional quick solo getaway this year.  Got 3 nights comped, but still had to pay $39 resort fee.  I got my air for $200 CAD return as I had some points on my credit card that I used against the $350 fare.  Flew Westjet out of YVR.  My offer also included a $50 resort credit.  I have always wanted to try Aria, and phoned to see if they could offer the same as Bellagio.  They did, and also threw in $40 free play with the resort credit, so I switched. I have always wanted to try their rooms and I've always loved the hotel.

I usually use "MyVegas" for free slot play - the $50 & $25 rewards, but I noticed the terms had changed to say, "This reward is not combinable with any complimentary room stay..."  I redeemed a breakfast/lunch buffet with bottomless drinks at Aria (I've never eaten at their buffet) and then the $50 free play.  I'd give it a try anyway and if they said no, I'd just refund it.  Nothing to lose by trying.

Sunday, November 18, 2018:

Happy Birthday to me!  But better than that, I am on vacation.  Have been off for a week already and don't go back to work until December.  I was very excited to try Aria.  I love the Bellagio, but I really wanted to stay somewhere different this trip.  Because it was my birthday, I planned to spoil myself for three days, why not?  Flight left at 9am, so I got to the airport just after 7am.  I got up at 5am to drive my son to work and was not feeling 100% as I slept shitty and didn't eat dinner the night before...

Airport was busy and I was rushed with no time to eat.  I brought breakfast on the plane (bought eggs benny to go) and ate it once we were in the air (cold).  I hadn't eaten since 3pm the previous day so was starving.  Unfortunately it didn't sit well - rich hollandaise sauce?  It made me feel bad pretty much immediately after finishing half of it.  I tried closing my eyes, tried sleeping and dozed in little spurts listening to the two men beside me talk constantly.  Near landing time, I went to the bathroom and got sick.  I felt much better after that but it wasn't a great flight and I felt tired and crappy!  Not my usual happy self when landing in Vegas...Took an UberX solo to Aria ($12).  Tipped him $5.  I used UberX solo the whole trip and tipped all drivers the same.

My room was ready, so just had to go to mobile check in to pick up my key card.  I was in the room before 1pm.  When I opened the door, the lights and drapes opened automatically for me.  That was kind of neat.  You could command the whole room controls on an iPad on the bedside table, but if you didn't want to be nerdy, you could use wall switches for everything too.

Below is my room view.

I unpacked and puttered and walked down to Spago at Bellagio for my birthday lunch at 2:30.  I was really, really hungry at this point which was like 24 hours without food now.

I wasn't seated on the patio, but did have a nice view of it anyway.  I had a better fountain view dining at Lago on another trip.  I had a hard time deciding...  I ordered this drink below for $21:

I decided on the Wiener Schnitzel and Grits.

Veal "Wiener Schnitzel"  $44
Marinated Cucumbers, Fingerling Potato Salad, Young Mache

Anson Mills Grits $12
Wild Mushroom Ragout, Parmigiano Reggiano

The food was very good.  Nothing I can complain about except there was something so awfully acidic on the tomatoes and potatoes, I couldn't eat them.  The mushrooms on the grits were wonderful and the dish was perfectly creamy!  I'd expect great grits from Anson Mills...and I'd expect "Spago" to make them great...

Bellagio had a few Christmas decorations up, but the Conservatory was still in "Fall" mode.   I waddled back to the Aria, my gait was definitely slower.  I went to the MLife desk.  The lady who attended to me was sweet.  Added my $40 free play and then told me about MyVegas - they don't allow free play for any comped/promotion room stays any longer.  I played dumb.  But she said because that was a new rule, she would honor my $50 MyVegas free play as a one time gesture.  So, I got $90 free play after all.  How nice! Then she kindly wished m a happy birthday.  I got an Aria breakfast/lunch buffet too, but she refunded my drink pass for it, as it was buy one get one.  Then I was off to gamble.  I played quarter and dollar machines at max play and the freeplay disappeared quickly.  I bounced around machine to machine.  I got a champagne and decided I had enough gambling for awhile.  I pulled out the TITO and my players card and then realized I had no wallet!!!!

I immediately went into shock, fight-or-flight kicked in full swing!  I saw a card table open and told the lady my wallet was stolen or lost and she pointed me off to security.  I was in panic mode.  I had $500 US cash in it, a credit card, drivers license, etc.  I ended up just running in circles.  I went back to her and calmed down and then found security.  (It's tucked in a little alcove beside the cashier cage).  They saw I was frantic and said they had my wallet!! So lucky for me!  They made me wait outside the alcove while they logged the contents and return form.  I got it back and everything was there.  They told me it had been found by some slots. I remember a machine where I was having trouble with it accepting my bills and was sure I must have dropped it there, as I was trying the bills in 2 side by side machines.  Wow.  Totally sober and soooo stupid!  (I'll blame it on "mentalpause").  My heart was still pounding so I went up to my room and had a drink to try and calm down.  I was soooo tired too, but kept on plugging along.

I walked down to Harrah's for Tenors of Rock show.  It was really busy on Las Vegas boulevard.  I was surprised how crowded it was and I have never, ever seen as many young kids as I did today.  They were everywhere.  Just an observation, nothing more.  I went to the Box Office and got my ticket and another ticket for a different show for Tuesday.  I played some video poker at a bar there, no free drink but had a good Irish coffee for $10.  Went to show...usher moved me to front row (without asking - I just showed him my ticket and he said he wanted to look after me, lol) .  I was kind of thankful as I was stuck at a full table in the back and wasn't feeling social.  I got a row to the right of the stage (3 seats) all to myself which was nice.  He pointed me and said, "go to the front row, to the right and pick an open chair" and then he went off seating others.

They were good.  I wasn't in the mood though and I felt lousy still.  I truly did enjoy their tribute to Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody (fantastic!!!) and The Eagles "Desperado".  The Bon Jovi "Bed of Roses" was pretty good too. I snuck out a  bit early (at an hour and 15 minutes - yes I was looking at the time)?  I was starving again and so, SO tired!  I walked back to the Cosmopolitan and headed for the new food court Block 16.

I knew what I wanted, in fact, I'd been craving mortadella from Lardo for weeks now.  Below are the biggest pickles I've ever seen at the Lardo counter!

I'm also a sucker for papaya salad, so I went to Pok Pok.  We have eaten there in Portland.  I was happy there was a minimal wait.  I got it to go, and headed back to Aria to eat it in the room.

Papaya Pok Pok
Spicy green papaya salad with peanuts,
tomatoes, Thai chilies, long beans, dried
shrimp, garlic, palm sugar, lime juice,
fish sauce and tamarind.  $9 (that's cabbage on the left)

griddled Mortadella $13
 Mortadella, provolone, mama lil’s
peppers, mustard aioli

Both offerings were fantastic.  The spiciness was perfect for me in both dishes, and I loved those peppers on the sandwich.  I ate half of both and got to bed and put on a Christmas movie on Hallmark channel.  My iPhone said I walked 20,000 steps today or 10 miles or 15 KM.  Bed was comfy (like the Bellagio beds) but I tossed and turned for a long while.  Probably drifted off after 1am.  Below, the night time view from my room is preferred over the day one.

Monday, November 19th:

I woke and saw the iPad on the bedside table telling me I could pre-order coffee from Starbucks on the promenade level.  I sat up and felt better than yesterday, but still not 100%.  I just got rid of this awful cold that lasted a couple of weeks and it felt like it was threatening to come back.  However, I was not going to let it dampen my spirit or stride today.  I wrote a bit of this trip report, then went in the rain shower.  I liked the layout of the bathroom, and I like having a ledge in the shower to make shaving legs easy.  The tub and shower were all enclosed in the same space.  

I forgot my shampoo so used theirs and the smell immediately reminded me of walking into the "Mirage Hotel".  Same scent.  I left my room and set it for "servicing" with a wall switch.  You could also set it for "privacy" as well.  

I made my way for lunch to Herringbone restaurant in the hotel.  

I got seated on the patio and thought the weather was lovely.  Perfect weather for walking, mildly cool with just a slight crisp in the air. 

Brut Bubbles $15

 Tomato & Avocado 
arugula, cotija cheese, serrano, oregano, lime vinaigrette

Lobster Roll 
butter poached Maine lobster, fine herbs, lemon

I got the lunch box and the above items were $40.  Everything tasted okay but nothing was special.  The four pieces of lobster you see was the only lobster on that bun, there was none underneath so it felt a little chintzy. The bun was just split enough to hold the 4 pieces in place.  I just ate the lobster and left the bun anyway as it was dry from being over toasted.  Duck fat fries were tasty though a few of them were mushy.  I charged it to my room so I could use my resort credit.  That made me not care so much though it did make me wish I chose somewhere different...I will say that service was perfect here though, all staff were wonderful.  

After lunch I went to gamble and lose all last night's money that I didn't spend.  Above was new since my last visit.  I got lots of Blake's but no cash so I went shopping at Ross, Marshall's etc. and did find some Christmas gifts for my son.  I was happy I found a Nine West handbag that I liked for myself too.  My load was heavy so I had to go drop it off in the room and take today's budget out of the safe.  

I saw that the new PARK MGM had opened in place of Monte Carlo so I went over for a wander and was excited when I saw "Eataly" was there.  Alas, when I went in, it was not accessible and staff said it wasn't opening until next month.  I gambled and lost $140 in about 10 minutes, so time to depart and go back to my hotel.  I had got another MyVegas reward since I couldn't use the buffet drink pass and got a cocktail from Alibi Lounge at Aria.  

It was good for $19.  That was the price of their cocktails anyway.  I got a lovely drink called "Afternoon Delight".  It was totally free with no tax and I tipped her $5.  

I lost more gambling, was almost out of today's money except for five $20's left.  I went and got ready, then ordered UberX for Partage restaurant.  $10 for each fare.  I heard about this place on food social media (fantastic reviews) and I saw Chef Yuri win on "Chopped".  I was seated and it was quite empty which surprised me to be honest.  My server, Arthur told me that Monday/Tuesday are quiet with about 25 covers each night.  He said the weekend is packed solid and is by reservation only to get in.  He said Chef Yuri is always there but because Monday is slow, he took the day off at request of his wife.  Can't blame him for that!  Below is the view from my table and then right to the wine cellar.

I ordered the 7 Course tasting menu ($100) with regular wine pairings ($70).  It included:  3 appetizers, 1 seafood course, 1 meat course, 1 cheese plate, 1 dessert.  I'll tell you how great they were, they wrote the menu out by hand for me so I would remember.  I didn't ask about the wines as they were all French and I didn't worry about what they were (I could have taken pictures of the bottles if I wanted).  I just want to note here that the pours were 3.5 oz!  That is very generous!!!  And here we go...

Amuse Bouche:  Blue cheese ravioli with pear and walnuts

Pot au feu soup with ciabatta toast, mayonnaise, old fashioned mustard and carrots with pickles & celery.  Below, is a close up of that toast.  It was delicious!

Deep sea scallop, tangerine butter cream, chives, celery (I remember this wine as it was a Pouilly-Fuissé and that is the first wine I had in Montreal when I visited in my early twenties!)

Pithivier pheasant tart with foie gras and savoy cabbage

Corvina fish with leek layers, nori and dollop of smokey mousse

He asked me to select the one I wanted to use for my next course

Hanger beef with beet ravioli filled with poached pear, rosemary, beet puree and pecans

Young Cantal, Truffle Brie, Ossau-Iraty cheeses.  These were served with a Belgian cider and it went really well with them.

The dessert cart came with a glass of port.  I let him choose for me and he selected the one on the right.

White chocolate shell with hazelnut mousse and mango marmalade

It was two and half hours later and I was done.  I was feeling no pain - the wine had caught up to me.  He even poured me extra when I had his favorite wine with the beef.  I've done a lot of fine dining and lots of it in Vegas, like at Twist, Le Cirque, etc and those meals ran me $500 for myself.  This bill came to $225.00 after tax/tip.  I call that a steal!  LOVED it!!!  Service was fantastic and I'm not going to complain about a place full of French men serving you with their charming accents.  I was content and satisfied when I left here. 

Back at Aria, I saw Christmas and I was even happier.  It was beautiful!

I went to gamble my last dollars.  I played max bet on a "Goldfish" machine and hit $500!  So, I ran around with that TITO after playing max everything and did well for an hour or so, but never got above that. Then my luck started to sway, so I cashed out and now had $400 in my wallet which made my day almost perfect.  It only could have been better had I'd been feeling 100%.  However, almost perfect is a day I will take!  I fell asleep easier tonight too.  Was getting used to the bed now.

Tuesday, November 20th:

I awoke feeling stuffed up and coughing.  I stood in the shower for a really long time hoping it would clear my head.  Sometimes A/C stuffs me up as well and I had my room set to a cool 62 degrees (16 C).  I felt okay, but still rough.  

I had the free buffet so went down.  I couldn't believe how BUSY it was.  Even the VIP line was long.  I went to that line and staff were asking everyone to show their cards as they said people were trying to hop the line, so to speak.  She warned people that if they didn't have "Pearl" or higher, they would be sent away.  I waited about 15 minutes.  There was lots of choice (Asian, Indian, Italian, carvery station, full breakfast station, etc) and I was happy to see Dungeness crab legs at the seafood station.  I only went for one plate as I was going for "High Tea" later.

I had a Hawaiian ahi tuna poke bowl on greens which was quite nice.  The crab was great though a little water logged.  The chicken looked good but was inedible as it was DRY and hard.  The mac & cheese was fresh when I scooped it, but it just tasted processed.  I enjoyed looking around at all the food.  I never get value at a buffet because I can't eat enough in one sitting to make it worthwhile.  I guess I could if I just ate crab.  So, "free" is my buffet mantra.  Anyway, I headed to the casino.  Below, the flowers were all fresh in the vases.  Very pretty display.

My first $40 in and I won again.  Since my first trip to Vegas back in 2000, I've had a soft spot for the "Wheel of Fortune" slot.

I played till time to go, and didn't lose anything at all.  I had an extra $300 in my wallet.  I walked down to the Waldorf Astoria which is the former Mandarin Oriental.  It's a really easy 5 minute stroll from Aria.  You can find the stairwell as you walk towards Las Vegas boulevard on the right.

The tea lounge is on the 23rd floor, and the menu is here.  Getting off the elevator, there is a robot, and I got him to dance freestyle for me, lol.

I was a bit early so went and used the restroom.  Below is a view from where I washed my hands in there with a pyramid of hand towels.

And after I washed my hands,  I could not stop smelling them.  It was the best hand soap I have EVER smelled in my life!!!  I asked Concierge and she wrote it down for me.  She said I could order it online.  If anyone is interested, the soap is called WASH by Aromatherapy Associates.  Below is looking into the Tea Lounge from the front desk.

I was seated at the window and had a beautiful view of the Strip.

I chose the afternoon tea (English Breakfast) with unlimited mimosas.  She advised me that I had a two hour limit on them.  I told her that was fine.  She immediately brought them out.

Scones were served on a warming plate to keep them...ummm...warm

For the scones there was berry preserves, lemon curd and then the heavenly Devonshire clotted cream

Smoked salmon tartar Cucumber and dill cream cheese on pumpernickel bread, Chicken Curry with Trumpet Mushroom and Asian pear on sesame cone,  Egg salad and chives on croissant, Black forest ham sandwich

I only had a nibble of each one, not my thingy, below is what I left of those pastries  😊

I think I floated out of there after all the liquids I drank at that table!  It gave me another excuse to use the restroom and wash my hands again!  I stayed the full two hours and truly enjoyed the relaxation and change of pace.  Such a nice getaway from what Vegas normally is...Bill was $80 and I left a $100 and thought it was a great way to spend the afternoon.  I walked back to Aria.

I freshened up in my room and then walked to Harrah's.  Of all the times I've been in there, I've never seen "Winnie and Buck", but I did tonight and they were ready for Christmas.

I had a bit of time before the show so sat down at a "Buffalo Gold" machine.  I won a $2300 hand pay on that machine one trip, but the Buffalo haven't been kind since then, so I wasn't expecting much.  I put $40 in, played $2.40 or $2.60 a spin, whatever is left of  the $3 button.  I hit a bonus, but I didn't think it paid much, I thought $47 but when I cashed out the ticket I was stunned to see:

I had to go, so I cashed the ticket and made my way to Tape Face.  I had zero idea who he was or what he did on stage, except that he probably didn't talk...  I don't watch "America's Got Talent" and have never "youtubed" him.  I wanted to go in without knowing anything.

And am I ever glad I decided to see this!  I thought the show was funny and fabulous!  I laughed until tears ran down my face.  He is so talented and his comic delivery was impeccable.  Delightful.  When everyone was exiting the theatre, his opening act was giving out balloons and I politely declined.  He made a mean face at me and hit me with the balloon.  😄  It was after 8:30 so I was ready for dinner now.  I made my way over to Caesar's to go to Old Homestead.  I knew what I wanted - the burger!  It has been on my "to do" list for a long while now.  Below is the view from my table.

I wanted to celebrate my wins today, so started with some champagne.  I also wanted to celebrate my last night in Vegas too. 

I thought it was reasonably priced - for Vegas standards...  And then the burger arrived...

Old Homestead Burger $35 - 10 oz. dry-aged Pat LaFrieda burger seared in a 800°F 50-year-old cast iron pan, brioche bun, foie gras butter, aged Tillamook cheddar, caramelized onions, duck fat fries, bourbon ketchup. 

So, I'm always on the look out to try great burgers.  My favorite burger in Vegas is at Bardot Brasserie.  That being said, this was just as good.  I could only eat half but got it packed to go because I was going to enjoy that whole fine meal.  I had another glass of champers for dessert and after tip bill was $100.  I put $40 in a Monopoly machine and lost immediately so I walked over to Bellagio.  I stopped at "Goonies" machine, put $40 in and cashed out $140.

I walked back to Vdara and then over to Aria.  I went to my room and put all the money in my safe in case I got stupid.  I took $160 down to the casino to close the night.  I hit on a Megabucks (small progressive).

I went to the room and counted the money.  I had brought $1100 USD cash and that's what I was going home with.  I had still charged stuff on my credit card and of course had my resort fees to pay, so it wasn't a free trip, but it was nice to win, for sure.  I had a glass of wine, finished the burger and went off to "la la land'...

Wednesday, November 21st:

I awoke early and was watching the news.  It made me nervous with the airport warnings about Thanksgiving travel.  I decided to leave earlier.  My flight was at 12 noon.  I ordered an UberX at 9am.  $15 fare.  Well, geez, I was checked in and through security by 9:30-ish, it was dead - maybe Terminal 1 was busier?  Flight was delayed till after 1 so I had a long airport day.  Great trip.  Short trip!  I like 5 days usually.  Now that I'm home, it's time to get ready for Christmas!!!  P.S.  Yes, I ordered that hand soap and a few other items from Aromatherapy Associates Canada.  $40 for a 300 ml hand soap is ridiculous, but I loved it that much.