Monday, December 3, 2012

Las Vegas Trip Report - November 29 - December 3, 2012

My 22 yr. old son was sitting at his computer one night in October and turned to me and said, "Do you think you could get a better deal at a hotel rather than $600 for four nights at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas?"  My brain came to full attention...Las Vegas?  Did he just ask about Las Vegas?  I told him I could and then asked who he was going with.  He said no one, he just wanted to attend something called "IPL5" and it was four days long and at the Cosmo.  Turns out it has something to do with some game he plays called League of Legends...some sort of gamer tournament convention...His VIP pass was $250!!!!  (Really???  Nerd!)  :-)

So, I asked him if I could go to Vegas with him?  He paused and thought about it for a minute (I could see a light turning on in his head) and then said, "Sure, you can pay for the half the room then!".  Smart kid!  I said we could stay at Bally's for much cheaper and it was close enough to walk to the Cosmo each day with little effort.  He then repeated twice that he would not be available to hang out with me until 10 pm each evening.  I smiled and assured him that I did not need him in Vegas and would not guilt him for not spending time with me!  (I did try and guilt him over a couple of things while planning, but he held his ground and I apologized).  He did commit to "Bally's Sterling Brunch", ummm, pretty much because I refused to accept NO as an answer (I was paying, too!)...he was NOT interested!  I JUST turned 48 the week or so before leaving so I also used my birthday, to make (guilt) him to say yes... :-)

My last trip was in July.  I was solo and spent five days doing nothing but fine dining, drinking and gambling.  I gained 5 lbs.and have been trying to work it off since!  I stayed at Bally's then too, had no complaints, so I figured it was a good CHEAP choice.  We got the room for five nights (son was going a day earlier than me, Wed. - Mon.) for $296 all in for two queen beds in South Tower.  I was only slightly concerned with South Tower because I never even saw those elevators last visit and I thought the North Tower rooms looked dated so I wasn't sure what to expect considering I know these rooms are MORE dated...

Airfare on Allegiant from Bellingham, WA was $150 return for him with a carry-on and $200 for me with a suitcase. My outgoing flight was also slightly more expensive than his.  We used Quick Shuttle to get to Bellingham and with Entertainment Book 50% discount, it was $20 each return.  Definitely a Low Budget trip!

Wednesday, November 28th:

I was a nice mom and drove my son to catch the bus for 7am.  He reported by text that everything was uneventful and he was checked into the South Tower, room 6934 by 3pm.  He took a shuttle ($6) but doesn't know which one.  He said we had a view of Caesar's Palace.  He was headed out to get his bearings around the Cosmopolitan...

Thursday, November 29th:

I had to get up at 5am.  My bus ride was uneventful minus the grumpy border crossing guard.  Kept asking me why I was traveling alone, like there's something wrong with that?  I really wanted to answer him with, "Because I hate people".  :-)

I was happy to find BLI had a restaurant/bar now so I had a Caesar and then it was time to board.

Couldn't sleep because it was a party crowd around me so I joined and had three drinks with them.  Landed on time and I took Bell Trans shuttle to Ballys.  I had an unused voucher from last trip so I used that.  I was checked in by 3pm.  The room was about the same as my last one here.  Big but yes the furnishings were more rundown.  However, there was a flat screen t.v. And I was expecting an old tube.  My son came in to drop off his VIP loot he scored and I agreed to meet him at Cosmo to eat in an hour.  He left and I unpacked, had a glass of wine and got ready...

Chair in my room.  Yuck!  No more South Tower stays for me!  North Tower is fine.

That ugly chair got a suitcase put on it so I couldn't see it.  :-)  (That's Kirstie on Dr. Oz talking about yoyo dieting)

The strip was just mobbed since there was some Nascar thingy going on. I slowly made it to the Cosmo.  I was hoping we could have Happy Hour at Comme Ca but I knew it didn't start until 5:30 and it was just 5 and we were both starving.  We settled on China Poblano, Jose Andre's Chinese/Mexican fusion place.  Except it's not really "fusion"'s Chinese AND/OR Mexican.  They recommend you get three plates per person to have a meal.  To sum up this experience, I would have to say it was over-priced.  Good, not great and I wouldn't rush back to return...bill was $89.  I paid that and my son left a $20 tip.  Service was great.

Salt Air Margarita José Andrés’ personal creation with fresh lime/salt “air” $14

Dim Sum: Golden Pigs 4pc fried delicate steamed buns/
Chinese barbeque pork/ condensed milk $14.88

Carnitas braised baby pig/pork rinds/ spicy salsa verde cruda $5.50 (on left)
Cochinita Yucatan-style pit barbeque pork/ marinated onions $5.50 (on right)

Papas fritas fried potatoes with XO sauce $8
Seriously - $8 ???  My son hated the XO sauce, tasted way too fishy for him.

Chicken Ji Song 4pc chicken/ lettuce leaf cups/fried sweet potatoes $16

Open Sesame cucumber/carrots/ chilled wheat noodles with shredded chicken $13
It was now 6pm and I had a voucher ($45) to redeem for "Vegas! The Show" at Planet Hollywood for 7pm so we said our good-byes and off I went to find Saxe theatre.  I made a brief stop in the casino...I decided since I won nothing last trip I was only going to play MAX in the slots this time.  I put $20 in an Aladdin machine and I was done in about a minute!  I moved on to find the theatre.

So after I found the theatre there was about 15 minutes til entry and a line was outside. I decided to go to the Saxe bar and have a drink instead of queuing in line.  The Saints/Falcons game was on too.  I ordered a vodka/soda and that was $15.  When I gave her my look of disapproval she said I could keep the plastic cup, refills were $5 off and it was a double shot.  It did last me the entire show and longer actually.

I enjoyed the show!  I was seated about three rows up on the left.  It is a tribute to "OLD" Vegas - Sammy, Dean, Wayne Newton, etc...I especially liked the male dancers so I smiled for the hour and twenty minutes.  $45 well spent.

I went back to PH casino to gamble...$80 gone in about 10 minutes.  I did get a cocktail waitress immediately when I sat down so I got a champagne.  I moved to the Cosmo and told my son to text me when he was ready to go.  I found a 25 cent Wheel of Fortune machine that max bet was 75 cents so I put in another $20.  Two spins on the wheel for teeny wins made me cash out and move down the row to another WOF machine.  I soon was out of money, looked at my watch and thought maybe another $5 would carry me until my son was done at 10pm.  I was almost out when I got to spin and won 1000.  I had no idea what it would pay but it paid $250!  So I cashed out and then my son texted saying he was ready to go.  I was happy with my win!!!  It basically paid for today's spendings.

We were going to go downtown tonight but my 5am start was taking its toll and I just wanted to sleep. We went to Walgreens to pickup wine and water then stopped at Earl of Sandwich at PH.  I had the "Holiday Special" sammy of turkey, stuffing and cranberry....delicious for $6!  Back to the room and we crashed watching Conan on t.v.

Friday, November 30th:

At 8am, my son's friends from Arizona had arrived for the nerd convention and were outside at the hotel waiting for him.  He rushed into the shower and was gone in about 15 minutes.  I got the WiFi in the room ($14)  and started typing up this report.

I took my time and headed to the Bellagio.  I had an afternoon tea booking at the Petrossian Bar.  I got this by playing the facebook game "myVegas".  I played this game daily for a month before I left and managed to get three rewards!  This one was a $37 value.  It was easy to redeem this at the MLife desk.  They asked for picture ID and then gave me a comp certificate.  I then gambled while I waited for my reservation and lost $60.  Did not get any cocktail service either.

Bellagio looks Christmassy

I was seated in the back where they held tea service.  I had a nice table overlooking the casino.  You get a choice of 4 sandwiches. I chose all the open-faced ones but they weren't served open face.  Nevertheless, they were all delicious! (My boss who is a "high tea" expert says they ARE open-faced because of the garnishes on top).  I upgraded the tea with a glass of champagne, which was $14 after tax.  So, after tip, the tea cost me $25 which I thought was great.

My Afternoon Tea setting

My view from seat at the Petrossian Bar

The champagne upgrade 

The tray was delivered

From the top clockwise:  Egg Salad, Crab Salad, Smoked Salmon & Cucumber

The scones were very good (Huge!  I only ate one) and served with 3 spreads including lemon curd but no Devonshire Cream (I missed/wanted that!)

These were PDG (Pretty Damn Good!).  The round one with the "B" was a Tiramisu which I loved.

I caught the tram at Bellagio to the Monte Carlo because I haven't been there before.  Spent a brief bit losing another $20 in the casino and then I walked over to Ross for some shopping.  I did well and spent a couple of hundred and got some Christmas stuff out of the way.  I walked and carried it all back to Ballys.  It was after 5pm now and it was time for a nap!  I guess I shopped til I dropped!

Tree at the Monte Carlo

I awoke about 7pm and was starving!  I had a $15 voucher for First Food & Bar at the Palazzo so I decided to go there.  I walked down and there was Christmas show going on outside the Venetian hotel.  Was nice to watch for a few minutes.

The Christmas show

Of course I got lost but as I was looking at a map, a security guard came over and offered his help.  Turns out I was really close and he pointed me in the right direction.  It was much appreciated.  The restaurant had a d.j. and the music was loud. I guess they were wanting a "hip" crowd.  I sat in the lounge.  It was very dark and I could barely read the menu.  I struggle in daylight with small print, never mind the evening...

I ordered a drink called the "Pink Paloma".  I "saw" it said $10 for the price.  Well when she came back, she had a glass as big as a fishbowl!  I was shocked and asked her what it was.  She said it was what I ordered.  I told her I ordered a $10 drink, how much was this?  She said it was $32 and was 58 ounces!  Anyway, after I explained that I couldn't possibly drink it and would have never ordered it if my eyesight was working properly, she took it back and brought me a single cocktail called THE SAMMY D:  Hendricks Gin, Cucumber, Lime Sour ($12).  I ordered Shrimp & Grits for my meal ($33).

This meal was really good.  Great bacon though the shrimp were a tad overcooked.  The grits were cheesy and creamy and the portion size was just right.  I tipped her about 40% because I felt so bad about the drink.

Ice Rink outside the Venetian

I walked back to Ballys and went into a bunch of casinos I hadn't been in yet like Harrahs and Flamingo and Casino Royale.  I couldn't bring myself to enter the Imperial Palace or "Quad" as the sign said...  I gambled in Ballys for about an hour and never had one cocktail waitress come by so I went to the room.  My son got home late-ish, around 1am.  They had gone to eat after the nerd show ended.

Saturday, December 1st:

The alarm went at 9am and my son was showered and gone by 9:30.  I stayed in bed until ten and then got ready myself.  I headed for the Palazzo about eleven.

I had reservations at noon for Carnevino.  I haven't been to a Batali restaurant since New York 2008 so I felt it was time to return.

I sat in the lounge overlooking the casino.  I ordered a Prosecco which was very good.

I also ordered the arugula salad.  This was soooo good.  It had some shaved Trumpet mushrooms that were really different and tasted amazing.  It was perfectly dressed as well.

ARUGULA SALAD:  goat cheese, mushrooms, pickled onion   $14

I then had the Spago pasta which was incredible.  Perfect el dente and the ragu was heaven.  No complaints at all.  They serve you some house made cured pork fat lardo to use on your bread too.  I received a rosemary bun. Yum!

SPAGO:  lamb ragu with some Pecorino Romano  $21

I couldn't finish the pasta but I tried my best.  I tried really, really hard but fell short.  Service was excellent, I had a great waiter who knew the menu inside out and I really enjoyed lunch here.  After tip, bill was $64.

I waddled out and started walking to the Stratosphere.  Googlemaps told me The Strat was a two mile walk from Ballys.  I passed by Wynn & Encore.

I originally intended to stop by the Fireside Lounge at the Peppermill but I was so full, I couldn't even think of having a drink at this point!  So, I just continued on walking along...

And my destination was in sight

Because it was so grey and overcast when I got to the Strat, I decided on not going to the Observation deck.  I had originally planned to have lunch at "Top of the World" and get free admission to the observation deck but the restaurant was closed for renovations during my visit (I think it opened again on Dec. 4th). So, I just sat in the casino and lost $40 having a bad glass of champagne before leaving to my next destination:  Circus Circus...

I got here about 3:30ish.  I had a myVegas pick up for a $50 restaurant credit.  I had to go to the "Players Club" and get one of their cards and they put the credit on it.  Very easy and no problems.  I then gambled for a couple of hours until my dinner reservation time at The Steakhouse.  I won $120 on a "Reel 'Em In" slot on my first $20 and I played with that and lost $40 more by dinner time.  I could hear people cheering and clapping at some kind of Circus show above me.  I found this casino very amusing.  I was expecting to not like it, but I didn't mind it for the time I spent there.  Then I made my way to the Steakhouse.

I ordered a Chandon split, $11, I think and then the house salad was brought to me.  The house dressing was red wine vinaigrette.  I chose that.  I didn't try the bread basket at all.  

I ordered the Bone-In rib eye with rice pilaf ($50).  It was a monster of a steak.  I ordered it medium but it came more medium-rare.  While it was great in taste, it was a little tough to cut/chew, unfortunately.  I asked if he had any sauces for the steak and he brought me complimentary Bernaise and Peppercorn.  Both were very good.

I could not even eat half of the steak.  I felt bad to leave so much but even though I sat for a long while trying to eat more, I couldn't.  I even ordered another Chandon to rest and try to work up more appetite.  My waiter tried to convince me to eat through the pain, but I had faded again.  My Players card credit was $53.75 so I guess that was my slot play too?  I owed $23 only.  My bill came came to $40 after tip.  Service was really great and they treated me like royalty.  I really enjoyed my visit here.

And then I walked again.  Past the Riviera again.

Then I walked to Bellagio as I heard the Conservatory was done up for Christmas and with a grand tree, so I wanted to check it out.

Then I took the tram back to Monte Carlo.  I found I had a casino ticket for $20 in my wallet.  I don't know why I didn't cash it when I was there last but I decided to do that and use my last myVegas reward at Aria.  I cashed the voucher and then walked over to Aria from there.  Wow!  I loved this place.  I will be spending more time here next time.  When I went to Sage last visit, that is all I did, spent no time otherwise.  I found my way to the MLife desk and redeemed my voucher for a $10 credit at Jean Philippe Patisserie.  This was also easy to redeem and I made my way over.  It is close to the MLife desk.  

Cakes on display!

Christmas treats abound

I got my son a chocolate cupcake and some chocolate mousse thingy.  They came to about $12 but he said it was fine and I didn't have to pay any extra which I was more than willing to do.  I had to show my MLife card when redeeming the voucher.  My legs were getting pretty tired at this point from all the walking today and I headed back to Ballys to retire for the evening.  I took the tram and walked from Bellagio.  My son enjoyed the treats though they were a little mangled with the travel.  

A pretty site at Aria

Sunday, December 2, a.ka. last day:

I had the Groupon for Sterling Brunch at Ballys which I bought for $98 for two.  Normally the brunch is $85 per person.  We had the first reservation at 9:30am.  My son only wanted to stay for half an hour so he could get to the last day of his nerd convention.  

While you are waiting, there is a Bloody Mary bar so I had one of those and it was  very good.  I didn't understand why the first seating wasn't seated at once but only like two tables at a time.  I had to tell the hostess that my son had to leave by ten and she did sit us immediately at 9:45.  

I started with a cold plate with spicy cocktail sauce.  It was!  The oyster was great as were the crab claws and shrimp!

Son had the "Famous Lobster, Cognac and Boursin Cheese Omelette"

Bacon, sausage, lamb chop with mint demi-glace, king crab & lobster (mushy and yucky!)

I took a break here, a long break.  I really liked the bacon and sausages.  Son had left and I just sat and drank champagne (very good - Perrier Jouët!) for quite awhile.  I started talking to locals from Henderson beside me and we had quite a good time getting to know each other!  We exchanged emails at the end and I will keep in touch.  I got one last plate...but not one last champagne...

Crab frittata

So, I really didn't eat that much, it turns out, but I drank a WHOLE LOT OF CHAMPAGNE!  I tipped $35 for the brunch as I didn't really have any idea what I should.  I stayed until 1pm!!!  I must say that one waiter there, Eduardo was really, really exceptional.  He just ran his ass off non-stop through the entire brunch!  He even brought me a rose when I was leaving.  I carried my last glass of champagne out, then I went and gambled for half an hour.  I was more than done and then staggered my way up to my room for a much needed NAP!  

I awoke at 3pm and thought I still had time so I went back to sleep.  A friend was heading in today for a "guys trip" but agreed to meet me for a few hours first.  He was staying at the Mirage so we agreed to meet at 6pm by the Sports Bar.  I woke next at 5:20pm!  I flew out of bed and got ready.  I left the hotel about 5:45.  I don't like to be late and I don't like when other people are so I started to move.  A marathon was going on along the Strip so it was a little congested.

I made it to the Mirage Sports Bar right at 6pm.  My friend said he was starving so I agreed to join him at Carnegie Deli.  He had the hard salami sandwich and the smallest thing I could find on the menu was a chicken salad sandwich, $12 - I think.  I could only eat half, less than half actually so I took it to go but forgot it at a slot somewhere!  I had asked him if he wanted to share something but he said he could eat a whole sandwich to himself.  He only ate half too...

I asked him to show me his room and he needed to get some Advil anyway so we went up. I really liked it!  I'd like to stay at the Mirage.  It sure beat my room!

He and I gambled at the slots (Max play) in tandem for the next couple of hours.  He was meeting the guys at Bellagio so we wandered up there.  I left him there and it was about 10pm when I departed.  I almost stopped at Olives but refused to on principal since Todd English is such a douche.  I felt like a final snack so I decided to go to Mon Ami Gabi at Paris for something.  My son texted and said his nerd convention was finished and he was back in the room so I invited him to join me.  He did but had eaten at McDonalds so he just had dessert.

I had some French Onion soup and a glass of sparkling.  Son had an apple tart tatin and a cappuccino.

While we were sitting there staring at the Bellagio, I said to my son that we should come back at Christmas next year for a week and asked him what he thought.  He said sure but he wanted to stay at the Cosmo.  I agreed and said it would be nice to stay somewhere better so I said I'd pay for that for his Christmas present.  He said he loved the Cosmo...

So we paid, and then went to gamble at Paris a little before retiring for the evening.  I didn't lose anything at all today and actually came ahead $50.  We had a 7am flight so we had to get up at 4am!  He didn't sleep much but I managed four hours.  Did the express checkout and went to catch a cab.  Cab was $12.90 and I gave him a twenty.  

Arrived home at 2pm today.  I have to go to work tomorrow and I'm tired!!!!  Great trip and as usual, every trip to Vegas is so different from the last.  I look forward to the next one which will HOPEFULLY be before Christmas next year, but if not, then I look forward to spending Christmas at the Cosmo in 2013...and I'm happy that I got two trips to Vegas this year!

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