Sunday, September 6, 2015

Downtown Las Vegas Trip Report - Aug. 30 - Sept. 4, 2015

I wasn't planning to go to Vegas now as I'm going in November this year.  The travel plans I was hoping for with friends didn't turn out so I ended up booking solo and decided on downtown.  This week was just meant to be pure R&R away from work.  I decided staying at the Downtown Grand.  With air, hotel, taxes including 5 nights my total came to $550 CAD which I thought was pretty good.  Our dollar is really sucking right now in the U.S.A. One of my dollars at the time of this writing is worth about 70 cents US so saving pennies helps...

I am always happy to go to Vegas and I love that it is so close to home.  I think its one of the best places to be a solo traveler, especially if you gamble.  However, that being said, I was hoping not to lose too much cash gambling this time so I wasn't planning to make it like my normal solo trips where each day is full of slots, slots, slots and loss, loss, loss of money...I had plans to read and lay by the infinity pool I saw online for my hotel.  I was not sure how that would work out but it was my plan this trip...

Sunday, August 30th:

This is the first time I have ever not taken a direct flight to Vegas!  At least I had a direct flight home but going I had to make a quick stop in Phoenix, AZ.  Well, not a quick stop, three hours, but it was ok.  I enjoyed a leisurely, albeit expensive lunch.  We had a bit of a problem with our flight from there on US Air.  It was a full flight and apparently an auxiliary power supply was out.  Could explain why the power went off three times before take off?  When we finally got clearance to go (about a half hour late) they flew with no lights on.  This freaked me out and it was a really bumpy ride!  Anyway, they flew in half the time.  It was supposed to be an hour flight but we did it in thirty-five minutes.  I was happy to be there.

I got Showtime Shuttle return for $17.50.  I had to wait about fifteen minutes for the downtown shuttle.  I got to the hotel around 5pm.  I was checked into a non-smoking room on the 21st floor.  It was nice and I had no complaints with the room.  It was a balmy 100 degrees outside.

The Downtown Grand.  I was in the Grand Tower on the left.

My view

I had experienced a 9 hour power outage at home the night before.  When the power came back, I was up very late and then had to get up early trying to get ready for the trip.  Yes, I left everything until the last minute.  So, I was tired now.  Really tired and hungry.  I took a quick walk down Freemont to the ABC store for wine.

Keeping the ladies on Freemont happy?

Then I went to Pizza Rock for take out dinner.  It's really nice inside, huge.  I really wanted to try their "Detroit Red Top" so ordered that for $27.  They told me it would be 25 minutes so I went to the bar and had a really good glass of red Italian wine.  Then pizza was ready so I went back to the room to eat.

This was huge and cut into 4 pieces.  I managed to eat one slice.  It was quite good.  I like sauce & cheese pizzas and the crust on the edges was nice though a little burnt tasting unfortunately.

Square Style Pizza Cooked in Steel Pans from Detroit, Wisconsin Brick Cheese, Mozzarella, White Cheddar, Tomato Sauce, Pecorino Romano, Oregano, Garlic, Butter Toasted Corners

I planned to go get my Players Card and go to the casino to end the night but after that slice I went into a food coma and went to sleep.  I slept through until morning.

Monday, August 31st:

I awoke about 7:30 to beautiful sunshine.  Typed this report, ate a half slice of pizza (not as good cold so I tossed it out) and got ready to go to the pool.  Looking outside my window, atop of Binions, it told me it was 95F or 36C.  I got there at 9am.

It was great by the pool, beautiful setting and not crowded with comfy loungers!  Loved it and the pool was nice and cold!  I ended up having 5 sparkling wines (Mumms, Napa Valley) for $6 each so I thought that was great.  They comped me one too because they brought something else (much sweeter) one trip.

That fake grass gets super hot to walk on in bare feet!

Anyway, I needed a nap after I left about 2pm!  I had plans to meet a couple I chatted with at the pool at Triple George's for Happy Hour but I didn't wake up till 6 pm.  They messaged me and asked where I was but I told them I'd maybe see them later at the casino.  I showered and decided to get my Players Card at the casino.

I blew $120 pretty quickly and got enough points for $10 free play but didn't know how to add it.  The cage told me how and I decided I was absolutely starving and had to go eat.  I went to Triple George Grill next door and sat at the bar.  On Monday's they have half price bottles of wine with the purchase of an entree so I ordered a bottle of Cab Sav from Napa Valley for $24 with the discount.  The bartender said I could take it with me if I didn't finish it.  She recommended the rib-eye or the cioppino so I chose the latter.

SEAFOOD CIOPPINO* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $27.95
shrimp / scallops / mussels / fish / crab / herb tomato broth

It was delicious and it had clams too though I didn't notice any crab if it was there.  There were two really huge scallops in there that were my favorite part of the dish.  The broth was really flavorful.  I was happy with my choice.  I couldn't eat though.  Unfortunately my tummy was upset.  The bartender made me a soda with bitters and it helped but I ended up taking the dish and full bottle of wine to go.  I went back to the room and went to bed.

I woke up a couple of hours later starving and totally devoured and finished the meal.  Then I slept till morning.

Tuesday, September 1st:

I decided I didn't want to go pool side today.  I wanted to go to the Neon Boneyard but all tickets were sold out for my entire stay so I wished I had pre-booked them now.  I had no idea it was that popular.  I decided I would go for lunch to the Park on Freemont and then see where the day brought me by wandering around.  Can I just say when walking around in 96F, I was HOT!

Texas Tuxedo - Vodka, Cucumber, Basil, Grape Tomatoes, Fresh house-made Mary mix.

Fried Chicken & Waffle sandwich.

The Bloody Mary was interesting...I haven't had one like that before featuring cucumber.  The sandwich was pretty good.  I only ate one piece of waffle because I really just wanted the chicken.  The salad was good with blue cheese crumbles.  Staff were super nice, friendly and young.  Cute little place.  Lunch was under $30 with tip.  I departed to go check out Atomic Liquors.  


And there it was, the infamous Atomic Liquors - but it was closed.  :(  It didn't open until 4pm.  So, I made my way back and ducked into the El Cortez for A/C and a little gambling.  

After that, I just wound my way through each casino and played (lost) a little in each.  I stopped at Dupar's in the Golden Gate for a $3.99 Shrimp Cocktail.  It was good with a nice spicy sauce.  Service is very nice and friendly.

Outside the "Heart Attack Grill" and also my theme of the day...

I made it to Happy Hour at Triple George Grill.

Today's martini was an Orange Cosmopolitan.  I also ordered the Calamari and the Goat Cheese appies.

I finished my night on Freemont, gambling and losing and then called it a night.

My fave T.V. show slot ate my money as fast as people are murdered in Charming!

Wednesday, September 2nd:

Today was pool day again.  I was there by 9am again and went to the bar to order the Mumm's champagne again.  This time when it was rung up it was $11 a glass (price swing was due to a replacement bartender who didn't know the POS system the other day, it turns out).  The glass was only just under 3/4 full as opposed to full to the top like last time too.  I knew I got too good of deal the other day.  Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.  It was hot as usual.  And it wasn't long before I was in the water again.

A lady I had talked to earlier in the elevator came out with her husband so we hung out at the pool and drank the day away.  I left about 2pm with plans to meet them at 3 at Hogs & Heifers.  I was itchy and red on my back from all the sun.  The worst thing was being solo and I couldn't get aloe gel or cream rubbed on it so I had to resort to a towel, like I was drying my back,  to try and relieve the itching,  I even put gel on the towel to see if it would work, but it didn't unfortunately...

I met my new friends at Hogs and we started to do shots.  I didn't realize it was like Coyote Ugly inside.  I walked by lots of times, just never saw the bar dancing.

We went next door to Triple George's for happy hour again.  Then they needed to go take a siesta and freshen up for awhile so I agreed I'd meet them later so we could go zipline on Freemont.

I started talking to an odd-duck older gentleman at the bar.  I mean, he admitted as much saying he was uncomfortable with talking to women and other tidbits like that.  Anyway, I had reservations for Vic & Anthony's and thought I'd be nice and invite him along since he said he was uncomfortable dining out alone.  Plus I was pretty buzzed so didn't mind the company, odd duck or not.  He told me he didn't drink and the two he had was his limit pretty much.  So, I ordered a cocktail and decided not to have wine.

He then asked me if I wanted wine and was perusing the menu.  I told him I wouldn't say no if he was going to order it and we discussed types we liked but we had no discussion over price.  He selected and ordered it.  I assumed he was buying the wine and didn't think anything more of it.  At the end of the dinner when the bill came, he told me my half of the bill and twenty percent tip down to the penny!  We had the same prix fixe menu but he started saying, "you had Bearnaise sauce and that was $6" and then I snapped at him to just tell me my total.  He said we'd split the cheque evenly even though I had a couple of things he didn't have.  I didn't know what to say, I was so surprised!  So I didn't say anything but told him I would be on my way after we exited the restaurant.  Honestly, I wasn't expecting him to buy the meal but I did think he was buying the wine.  My bad, I guess.

I didn't get very good food pictures but the menu we had is here.  In fact, after a couple of bites I packed up my whole dinner (except dessert) and took it with me.  I just wasn't feeling the meal.

My 9oz filet cooked medium rare.

The Au Gratin Potatoes - VERY RICH

Creme Brulee

My Croissant Bread Pudding (which he ate)

I met my friends back at the hotel and we proceeded to Slotzilla to sign up for the Zipline.  It was $40 and we had to wait until 12:20am so we sat at Mickie Finnz and did more shots.  

The anticipation to the Zipline was exciting, more thrilling than the actual ride itself.  It was fun "flying over Freemont" though.  We bought the pictures at the end.  Those were $20 each.  I thought they would take it of us actually ziplining but they just took a picture of us at the end, so we were a little bummed out about that.  

We walked back to the hotel and were going to have a drink but the bars were all closed inside so we just hugged and said goodnight.  They were leaving for the Grand Canyon in the morning.  I went out like a light!

Thursday, September 3rd:

I slept in.  I felt "cloudy" and blah.  I stayed in bed until about 1pm before I got up and stood in the shower for about an hour.  My back was even more itchy and it was driving me crazy!  My only plan today was to go to Carson Kitchen and gamble.

I had a hard time finding Carson Kitchen.  It was hidden around the corner of the old John E. Carson motel.  I liked it inside.  I got seated at the bar watching the open kitchen.  Staff were all young, beautiful and really friendly.  I knew what I wanted...

Chicken Skins and Bacon Jam of course!  I ordered a cocktail and it was very good.

Get Shorty!  el jimador tequila, grapefruit, fresh lime, cayenne simple syrup $12

Both were tasty.  I could finish half of each, at the end I was dipping the chicken skin into the bacon jam.  They asked if I wanted to pack it up but I said no.  I had enough decadent food.  I kept seeing these green beans coming out of the kitchen so I decided I would have to come back tomorrow.

Then I went back to my hotel and gambled for the rest of the evening.  I did have a bit of luck by breaking even for the day.  I went to S&O restaurant in the hotel about 10pm for $9.99 Prime Rib.  Can't complain, it was very good and served with garlic mash, broccolini, carrots, horseradish sauce and Au Jus. 

Instead of quitting gambling, I went back on the floor, lost a couple of hundred and then called it a night.

Friday, September 3rd:

Check out today.  I slept until 9 and then got ready to depart.  I checked my luggage.  Then I walked back over to Carson Kitchen.  I still got lost again and had to remember to walk around the hotel to find it.

I got seated at the bar this time.  

Nikki Sixx?

The chef came out and came over to me.  He said, "Oh, you came back!  I was watching you yesterday and I thought you didn't like the food.  You didn't eat very much.  I thought you were a food critic or something because you kept taking pictures and were texting on your phone".  I laughed out loud.  I told him I'm a food nerd but that is all.  I told him I was showing off the chicken skins on facebook and we laughed.  He asked me where I was from and we talked a bit of hockey.  I also chatted with a server and she was was really funny.  I ordered the green beans and a sloppy joe with no tater tots.  I started with a Rose wine but switched and drank some Spanish cava that was better.

Wild Boar Sloppy Joe - crispy fennel, orange aioli $14.  YUM!  Good spicy kick to it.  I ate it with a fork and knife and left the top bun alone.

Tempura Green Beans - pepper jelly cream cheese $8.  Sooooo good!!!!

I started talking to some other people at the bar on my left and was having a really good time.  The server came over to me when I got my bill and told me she didn't want me to go because I was so nice.  I went back to the kitchen to say good bye to the chef.  I shook his hand and we talked about hockey a bit more.  This was definitely my favorite spot this visit.  I liked it even more than Triple George's where I spent a lot of time at.  Actually, they're all pretty great there too, now that I think about it.  I guess I liked these two places most this trip.

I went and gambled the afternoon at the D hotel.  I had really good cocktail service here.  Too good, methinks.

I finally hit a bonus that broke me even for the days losses and then went to Triple George's for the happy hour.  I stayed for a couple of wines and said good-bye to them.  I was pretty buzzed so thought I better go eat something.  I decided to eat a slice and take the pizza to go so I could eat it later at the airport.  I went back to Pizza Rock.

Mozzarella, White Rose Potatoes, Chorizo, Pork Cheek, Rosemary, 
Fromage Blanc, Calabrese Peppers, Lavender Sea Salt

And then it was time to go claim my luggage and head to the airport.  I had to wait for the shuttle but I'm not sure how long it was.  I was just happy to sit there and stare at the Gold Spike, which it seemed I did for a long time.  :)

The driver came and I was his only rider.  We had a good chat and he even walked me all the way to the doors.  I gave him a hug!  

So, here's a word of warning or an airport tip.  Don't tell them you're drunk when you're checking in.  I mentioned it light-heartedly when they asked how I was.  When it was almost time to board, I was called up over the loud speaker.  When I got there, he told me that I had told them at check-in that I was drunk and he wanted to see if I was OK to fly.  OMG, so embarrassing, but I was fine by this time.  Just tired.  I did win enough at the airport slots to bring home some duty free Grand Marnier that didn't have to go on my credit card so that was good.

I enjoyed the Downtown Grand.  Nice place.  Great pool, good location.  I always had good cocktail service.  I met some really nice people and am happy for that.  I brought $1000 US cash with me and spent every last dollar and another $500 US on my credit card.  That's not including my trip price.  So, I didn't go as cheap as I thought or was hoping I might, but that's Vegas and that's me.  Another trip in the books...

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