Posted in personal
August 28, 2009

Trip Report: Las Vegas Days 2-4


Las Vegas at 7:30 in the morning is a strange thing. I woke when there was enough light to illuminate our room- even though we’re facing the west. It’s one of those unfortunate quirks, that reminds me that even though I proclaim I’m not: I am more of a morning person than a night person.

Ronnie sleeps in the giant sized bed. It is large enough that even with my tossing and turning and his tossing and turning, neither of us woke the other. So I find myself, just as I did yesterday after our nap, looking out the window at Sin City. But it’s a different place.

Today is less windy than yesterday, and there are only a handful of people taking advantage of the pools being empty. Instead, I find myself watching employees at the pool preparing the cabanas for the day and checking the lounge chairs for any sort of damage.

The strip itself seems like any normal street at 7:30 am. There are cars driving, but none of that usual traffic jam that Las Vegas Blvd can be. Very few people walking along the street, even though the temperatures are much more comfortable than they will be in a few hours. I’ve seen several runners, and some people out for morning walks. But the vast groups of tourists are apparently sleeping in.

The signs are all going full tilt. We’re across the street from Fashion Show LV (a very lovely mall, I’m sure) which has four very large screens bombarding visitors with ads. Some for nearby shows (I’ve seen ads for Wayne Brady and Phantom- both of which are at the Venetian/Palazzo complex) and one for the ipod touch. I never want to see that ad again.

The rest of the day.

Ronnie went down to the fitness center at the spa, and after we got ready, it was time for lunch! We’d originally intended to have breakfast, and so we went back to the Grand Lux Café. Only, we’d passed their main breakfast hours and what little they had available 24/7 didn’t seem appealing. So we had lunch instead. Oddly enough, the exact same lunch. The portions at the Grand Lux are described as generous so we went with a lunch special. A half sandwich, half soup with a side salad. I didn’t get any pictures- sadly. I think we were just too hungry! We ordered the Cream of Asparagus Soup and the BLT. Ronnie didn’t touch his salad (he’s not fond of vinaigrettes), but he did devour the soup and the BLT. Both the soup and the BLT were quite good. All in all, a very satisfactory lunch! Also, we tried to ignore the little boy who was seated in a booth on the other side of the glass. He smooshed his little face against the glass and made faces, waved, and in general just wanted to be our friend. We didn’t want to be the weirdos who encouraged him, and so: we stopped.

From there we walked all the way back to the Venetian’s main lobby so that we could get our car back from the valet, and drove south to the Outlet Mall. Ronnie’s been working very hard on losing those last few sympathy pounds (I’m sure any father out there can sympathise) and needed a new swimsuit. I think he’s actually a bit slimmer than he was when we first started dating! We also did what everyone who comes to Vegas does: we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts! While I’m kidding about it being what everyone does, they don’t have DD out in Southern California, so Ronnie thought he’d see what all the fuss was about. He got one with cream and sugar, and still wasn’t entirely sure, so he vowed to come back and try a black cup of coffee. I got an unsweetened raspberry iced tea that was very lovely.

It was back to the Palazzo, and their downstairs valet drop off. While I thoroughly recommend the Palazzo/Venetian hotels: I will state upfront that the downstairs drop off for the Palazzo valet is confusing at best. Signs point left and right, without telling you what lane you need to be in for the drop off. (Once you’re headed towards the valet, just hang to the left most lanes and park near the fountain) Then it was down to the pool!

I admit, I am not a water-baby. Despite growing up in a coastal town, I’ve lost my love of being in the ocean, and for the most part pools just don’t do anything other than cool me down. So while Ronnie enjoyed the water, I enjoyed the sun and did a little reading from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. No, no chick-lit or romance novels for me! I’ll read a serious cookbook and salivate over the dishes. If I remember correctly, I read through Soups and was partway through Chicken by the time we went back upstairs. (Ronnie was reading The Tipping Point)

After the pool, we went back up to the room where we began debating what to have for dinner. And continued debating. Until I’d started watching Stargate (a movie I’d never seen before, shocking as that might seem) and we realized that it’d be extremely late by the time the movie was over, so we might as well indulge in room service.

Another photo-less meal. Ronnie ordered a burger & fries. I ordered fish & chips. I won’t comment on how expensive it was- isn’t room service always expensive? But I will comment, that like the Grand Lux, the portion sizes were huge! Ronnie’s burger was just as large as the one at the Grand Lux, and it came with a giant bowl full of fries (we actually double checked the order to make sure we hadn’t accidently ordered a side of them as well). My fish & chips? Contained the usual amount of chips (aka fries. They weren’t steak cut, sadly), but 5 FILLETS of whatever fish they use. Yes, 5 full fillets, each larger than a pack of cards.

So we went to bed extremely full, but realizing that we could have simply split either one of our dishes. A lesson learned for another trip.

Day Three

Again, I woke before Ronnie. Though not as early as the day prior- I’d remembered to close the drapes. Sunday morning on the strip at 9 am was just as slow as 7 on a Saturday. Though I did see groups of people walking somewhere, undoubtedly for breakfast.

After Ronnie’s morning workout, we found that it was almost noon, and once again too late for a breakfast. So we decided to visit the restaurant I’d been longing to go to on the first day- Pinot Brassierie. Armed with one of the vouchers we’d gotten from our vacation package, we were ready to eat!

For our first course, Ronnie and I each decided on the Onion Soup Gratinee. In looking at it, it was so nearly identical to the Onion Soup I’d read about in MtAoFC, I half wondered if it was the same recipe! Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture prior to devouring mine. I’ll save you from having to look at an empty crock.

For our main course, Ronnie selected the seared salmon- served on a bed of sautéed spinach and an herb sauce. It was absolutely lovely! I chose a leek tart with a salad. The salad was nothing amazing, simply a mesclun with a vinaigrette. But the tart? It was in a buttery crust, and just a marvelous savory tart with leeks and goat cheese.

Pinot Brassierie Pinot Brassierie

When offered the dessert menu, we made sure to inquire about the sizes. We each wanted to try a dessert- but it wouldn’t make sense if they were intended to be desserts for two. Then we’d have enough desserts for an army of people. We ordered the creme brule, as well as their chocolate soufflé. The creme brulee had a lovely thick layer of sugar to break through, and was velvety and delicious. I admit, I am not a connoisseur of chocolate soufflés as I do not typically have chocolate. But I am always curious about restaurants’ made to order desserts. It was nice- a little reminiscent of a molten chocolate cake, but with a more bittersweet chocolate than most American style restaurants use. It was served with a Wild Turkey cream sauce, which certainly tasted more like whiskey than the sauce for the beignets did.

Pinot Brassierie Pinot Brassierie

All in all, if you were to ask what the perfect meal of our trip was? It was that lunch. From start to finish, I couldn’t name a dish that wasn’t perfectly balanced in flavor and utterly enjoyable.

Utterly full, we returned to our room. It was nearly 4 pm and we discovered that our room still hadn’t been made up. So we called housekeeping and decided to go down to the pool to kill some time. After all, the pool was open until 7! So we dressed, and went downstairs to lay poolside. I continued to look through the cookbook and work on getting a slight tan, and Ronnie went for a dip and worked on a program. There we stayed, until they started closing all but the main pool.

We packed up our things, and went up the elevator to our room. Only to discover that while we’d been gone for hours, our room still wasn’t made up! Ronnie has since decided that the housekeeping staff must have switched the room numbers around. So instead of 832, they went to 823. So we got cleaned up for dinner, and decided to go back to the Grand Lux Café (because all the other places we wanted to eat at still sounded like too much food).

Dinner (no pictures, sadly). Ronnie had a vegetable pizza, which had the usual culprits as well as some feta. I had pasta carbonara, and a pomegranate martini. We took as long as we could, though neither of us were very hungry. Still, we thought it had to have been enough time.

Up the elevator we went, debating whether or not it was a cast recording of Phantom, or if we were listening to the movie soundtrack (it was the latter). Down the overly air conditioned hall, where I complained about freezing to death: only to see that there was still a cart in front of our room.

So we decided to walk around the Palazzo shops and give the housekeeping staff some time. (I realize now that I forgot to mention the bizarre exchange the day before with the afternoon housekeeping person for our floor who knocked on our door and was stunned that the morning person had cleaned our room.)

The Palazzo shops are filled with all sort of luxury jewelry and clothing stores, as well as some fabulous restaurants. We walked, not finding too many places to wander through where we could actually browse. We went to the Victoria’s Secret, but had to leave when their lotions and fragrance section started making me ill. So we walked along towards where we’d seen the sign for a rare book store. While obviously we weren’t intending on actually buying anything, I was pleased to see that there was a nice selection of books in the window to admire and quietly whisper about how much I wished I could own them. There was a first edition boxed set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (first edition of a boxed collection, that is), which now I can’t recall how much it cost. We also saw a set of all the Patrick O’Brian novels, that was a steal! Only $43,000 for the entire set. Conversely, I could get have bought the first edition copy of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale for that much. They also had Moonraker and Live and Let Die for sale.

Hilariously, they were trying to lure hotel guests into the rare bookstore by mentioning in the weekly room newsletter (with events and parties) that they had a first edition of The Deathly Hallows, the final book in the Harry Potter Series. While, it was autographed, and a British edition- it still didn’t seem like much of a lure. Apparently they couldn’t get a hand-drawn copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

When we couldn’t walk anymore, we sat on a wonderfully comfortable bench and talked. And then I snapped a picture of this mannequin, because I couldn’t believe that I was seeing it in a supposedly classy shop – though, I will say that all their clothes were silky and loaded with lace and sheer panels. It was expensive, but definitely sleazy.

Only in Vegas

We returned to our room, which was made up and retired for the night- which meant we watched Sirens of TI from our window and enjoyed Cool Hand Luke (another movie I’d never seen until this trip). Another wonderful night in Vegas.

Day Four

The Return home. We set an alarm for 7 am, though that was a bit wishful on Ronnie’s part. So I woke, and packed up my things and made sure that Ronnie woke up so that he could pack as well.

We checked out from our room, and were startled to hear a loud clicking sound as soon as we did so. Impressively, the smart honor bar locked itself down as soon as we were checked out of the room. We retrieved our car, and felt a little sad. While we still had the road trip ahead, it was still the end of the Vegas portion.

I will admit that we did delay leaving Vegas city limits for just a little while. Ronnie was going to get his Dunkin Donuts coffee, and I was famished. So I stopped at the Jack in the Box on Las Vegas Blvd that’s across from McCarran. Now, I’m not new to fast food establishments so I feel I can honestly say that I received the worst service at this Jack in the Box that I ever have. The family ahead of me ordered, and the cashier vanished. I’d thought he was collecting an order, but a minute passed and he hadn’t returned to the front. It’s a busy location, so a line was forming behind me. Another couple minutes passed, and he still hadn’t returned. So I opted to use their automatic ordering system- a full touch screen system where I could even swipe my credit card and pay. So within 30 seconds of figuring it out, I had an order, and the cashier was only just returning- to a line that stretched out the door.

While I’d been ordering, Ronnie had gone to put some gas in our car at the gas station next door, and actually had finished shortly after I’d put in my order. And it wasn’t an empty gas station either!

We stopped for the Dunkin Donuts, and hit the road. As we made our way to Baker, where we’d decided we’d have lunch at the Mad Greek regardless of how full we were, he tasted and considered the coffee. While not as bitter as Starbucks’ house blend, it wasn’t anything special. We decided that ultimately, what makes it so rave-worthy on the East Coast is that it’s what they’re used to getting. It’s an affordable cup of coffee, that is an upgrade to the typical home brew. But it just wasn’t anything note-worthy compared to what we’d had in other coffee shops.

Then it was a stop at the Mad Greek! Stopping at the Mad Greek is a bit of a tradition that started with our friend Randy. Grilled cheese sandwiches with strawberry shakes! I ordered a BLT, and Ronnie got the Grilled cheese-“ though neither of us got a milkshake. Sadly, I was not very enthused with my BLT. The bacon just wasn’t quite crispy enough. Nor was I enthused with their bathrooms, which while clean, had doors with broken latches. Ah, well.

There was nothing else of note about the rest of the trip home. It was a wonderful drive, but nothing especially noteworthy happened. Except that we’re already dreaming of our next trip to lovely Las Vegas.

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