Roadtrips are wonderful, especially road trips to Las Vegas. The first time we (Ronnie and I) went, it was just a couple weeks shy of my 21st birthday. (I’d been to Las Vegas a couple times with my family, but you have to admit, Las Vegas as a kid is an entirely different experience) At the time, we were working at Disneyland and going to school. January was (and still is) the slowest month at the Park. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, everyone stays home. Consequently, there aren’t many shifts during the week. January was still part of the winter holiday for me, as I never took part in the Winter Semester. So we could take off in the middle of the week, as we did, for Sin City.
The first trip was largely just to see the sights, since I couldn’t gamble. It was during the CES convention, so Las Vegas was packed. We (our group also included three other friends) crammed ourselves into a room at the Travelodge next to Circus Circus. I had a cold, and was taking plenty of medicine to keep myself from making everyone ill. Mostly, we ate. We walked along the Strip, went to the Forum Shops. Mostly, it was the journey that made the trip fun.
Driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, you have to make a couple stops along the way- either to fill up with gas, to get a bite to eat, use facilities, or just to stretch your legs. This trip, we left our house around 10 am, got some Starbucks and headed off.
It didn’t take long for us to get to Barstow, which is always one of our stops. The first few trips, we stopped at Barstow Station – a run down little cluster of shops with a Taco Bell, Quiznos and McDonald’s thrown in. The most notable part about it is that you dine in the train cars at the McDonald’s. It was where we’d all stopped as kids, so we stopped there, and looked at the candy shop, at the variety of bizarre hot sauces.
This time, we stopped near the outlet mall. There’s a Del Taco, an In n Out, and now a Bob’s Big Boy (“The Big Boy never left, Sir. He still offers quality food at reasonable prices!”). We gassed up, and went to the Del Taco. Barstow’s the home of Del Taco, as they’ll proudly tell you, and the food’s just a little different than the rest of their chain. The chicken soft tacos are larger, for one. The first time we’d stopped there, we made our usual order, and the woman looked at us like we were insane. Five tacos for two people? Then we saw how large they were, and understood. This particular Del Taco is a well oiled machine. They deliver the food to your table, have people monitoring the tables to make sure they’re cleaned promptly, that you get bags to take your excess food in, and that you always have enough hot sauce.
From Barstow, we blew past Baker. Home to another Bob’s Big Boy and the World’s Largest Thermometer (which wasn’t working), it was just too close to Barstow for us to justify a stop. Instead, we stopped at a rest stop to use the facilities and stretch.
I love driving places with Ronnie. Road Trips, especially. We’ll talk about anything and everything, and always have good music playing in the background. That and he’s always willing to stop someplace new and try something- the mark of a great adventurer. (Even if he doesn’t always let me navigate)
It was about 3 pm when we got into Vegas. The freeway was at a dead stop, and we made our way onto Las Vegas Blvd which was similarly stopped. Eventually, we made it to the Venetian. The valet was completely backed up, and Ronnie and I realized that we’d arrived at the height of check-in, so of course it was going to be crowded.
I’d had plenty of friends wonder why we were staying at the Venetian. The deal was pretty good, but they sighed that it just wasn’t nice enough. The massive lobby with its frescos and Venetian glass chandeliers seemed to indicate otherwise. We waited en queue to check in, and finally were checked into our room. We could stay at the Venetian, the woman told us, but the highest room for our suite range was only on the seventh floor. Or, she could upgrade us to the Palazzo where we’d be on the fifteenth floor. We took the upgrade and started the long trek to our room.
We crossed the Venetian casino floor, off to their Restaurant Row. Past the brasserie, past the Delmonico, past Mario Batali’s place. Into the Palazzo’s shops. Past Wolfgang Puck’s steakhouse, past a slew of expensive jewelry stores. Past the Palazzo casino floor, and finally to the elevators. Then, we had the long walk to the room.
We opened the door, and it was Paradise. All the rooms at the Venetian and Palazzo are suites. The bathroom was immediately to the right (more on that in a moment), then the king sized bed with its down comforter and fluffy pillows, then down a few steps to the sitting area. With a sectional couch, dining table and office station. Not to mention the flat screen tv and “refreshment center.â€ Which, in reality is the honor bar. And a high tech one at that. The whole thing is equipped with sensors, so that if you remove an item at all (even if you put it back), your room is charged.
Now, the bathroom. There’s a vanity, two sinks with ample counter space, a large tub and a glass walled shower. It’s everything I ever wanted in a bathroom, and sadly, everything I expect our bathroom to eventually be when Ronnie and I get a house. (I don’t need all the lovely marble floors, dear – but oh, I want the space)
Once we were settled in our room, we took a nap. Neither of us had much sleep the night before, so it was nice to get in a couple hours of rest. I woke before Ronnie, and enjoyed the view from our room. We face Las Vegas Blvd, and have a clear view of Treasure Island’s harbor (where they have their “Sirens of TI” show). Below our room is the Palazzo pool deck, where I can count 7 individual pools of varying depths and 3 hot tubs. Not to mention a bar, and a couple restaurants that can be accessed from there. It was windy, and part of me wondered how relaxing the pool could possibly be with that much wind.
Once Ronnie was up, we debated where to eat. I’d had plenty of time to read the book detailing the restaurants (as well as the one for In-Room Dining), and so we settled on going to the Grand Lux Café, which seems to be their most basic restaurant. But not before we watched the Sirens of TI show from our room – the daytime edition. Granted, I’ve never actually watched it from the viewing area, but it seemed to be about scantily clad Sirens in pirate boots who inhabit a ship rather than a rock covered island, who dance like the Pussycat Dolls. A pirate ship (of sexy Romance Novel Pirates) stumbles across them. The pirates don’t seem to appreciate the sexy dancing and occasional singing of the Sirens and open fire. Which ticks off the Sirens, who sink the pirate ship. Of course, the Sirens continue to sing and dance all the while, so the pirate men don’t mind that their ship sank and join in the sexy dancing fun. (That’s just what I gleaned from across the street and behind glass)
Dinner at the Grand Lux Café. We’d expected a bit of a wait, but were immediately led to our table (albeit through a labyrinth of other tables). The menu itself seemed to have all the typical Vegas fare- burgers, pasta, salads, seafood and steaks. I’d been in the mood for a burger, and so I ordered their “Chophouse Burger,â€ which I ordered medium and with bacon and cheese. Ronnie ordered their vegetarian burger, which was a variety of wild mushrooms that were cooked down (but not into a patty, though they were served on the bun as though they were). We also ordered our dessert in advance, as it was made to order. But more on that later.
My burger was thick and juicy, and a bit rarer than I usually order them. But oh, was it wonderful. Juicy, and pink in the middle. I just might order burgers a bit more rare from now on. It was served with a lovely creole mustard that complimented the burger quite nicely (and made for a nice dipping sauce for the fries, too).
Ronnie’s mushroom burger was also quite tasty, and was served with what I believe was a basil aioli. I wasn’t entirely paying attention when the waiter said what it was, and only heard aioli, but it tasted like basil!
We stopped ourselves short of finishing them, determined to leave room for our dessert. Beignets, made to order, and served with a trio of dipping sauces – a chocolate ganache, a raspberry sauce, and a Jack Daniels cream sauce.The cream sauce was fantastic- melting into the beignets, it seemed. The raspberry sauce’s tartness played well against the sweetness of the beignet. But the ganache seemed too separate from the beignet. We tasted beignet and then chocolate, not a harmonious combo of the two like we did with the other sauces. Amusingly enough, we tasted each of the sauces on their own and were surprised to find that the cream sauce wasn’t very exciting. It was only with the beignet that it created this delightfully sweet taste explosion. (And perfectly demonstrated Remy’s food combination theory from Ratatouille)
After dinner, we bought some water in the gift shop (who wants to pay Refreshment Center prices, anyways?) and headed back to our room. We waited for the 10 pm showing of Sirens, since I’d wanted to see if it was any different during the night than it was during the first show- when it was only just dark enough for the pyro used. Crowds of people waited, but the show didn’t start. We realized it was windy enough that they probably would cancel (our combined years at Disneyland taught us that wind and fireworks does not a good combination make) and ultimately, the crowd thinned out- confirming that it had been canceled.
We watched a lovely show on Vh1 about Woodstock, and ultimately turned in early. I wish I could say that we were the partying sort, but when both of us basically have lives that require us to be on call 24/7, it’s always good to get some rest.