Thursday, February 9, 2012

We ran away again...

Sorry for the week off of blogging—but I’m not off track for my resolution, I have 5, yes 5 posts lined up on the runway, waiting for picture uploads & takeoff. Totally keeping up with my proposed resolution of an average of 1 post/week so far…

Speaking of runways & plane metaphors, my husband & I ran away again…on a plane.  How about that transition?  While the Super Bowl was gearing up in our fine city, we decided to avoid the crowds & what-not and would head to the crowds & what-not of Vegas.  

[If you don’t want to read a long rehashing of our trip, stop reading now. This post is long, you have been warned. My next post will be a recipe.]

A few days after returning from our trip last October, I got an email from Southwest announcing $59 flights to/from Vegas.  I noticed that the applicable dates of travel lined up with the Super Bowl being in Indy and since we left “sights unseen” the last time we were there, I pitched my idea about “running away” to my hubster (because it’s not like I was going to be able to commute to work downtown during the festivities anyway?)…and he agreed that running away sounded like an excellent idea.

When departing the Las Vegas airport, our cabbie asked us why we were in town.  When we said we were from Indy & were escaping the Super Bowl crowds…he started laughing, a lot.  He then went on to explain that Super Bowl weekend is one of the busiest weekends in Vegas each year. I don’t know why these little facts didn’t make a connection in our brains when we were planning our trip…“one of the biggest sporting events of the year” + “copious amounts of legal gambling on sporting events” = an incredibly busy Las Vegas.  But it wasn’t unbearable. Vegas was meant for crowds.

 We did a Friday-Monday trip, and stayed at Vdara at City Center.  We had stayed at Aria on our previous trip, but thought we would give Vdara a shot this time.  Overall, I prefer the activities & amenities at Aria, but the view of the Bellagio fountains & the strip from our hotel room at Vdara couldn’t be more perfect. Plus I had gotten a pretty good deal at our hotel through mlife (the “players club” for MGM Grand properties…which yields cheaper hotel deals than or other sites for MGM hotel rooms, even if you don’t gamble).

We did have a little issue with our first night at Vdara.  Apparently the “signature scent” diffuser for the air system of the building was malfunctioning and our room smelled like a citrus-fig perfume factory the first night…it was ridiculously strong…strong enough that my asthma (which is fairly quiescent) was flaring a bit. A complaint to the front desk & the next day the issue was resolved. [most Vegas hotels have “signature scents” to cover up the smell of booze & cigarettes that permeate the buildings from the casinos—I’m not quite sure why the gambling-free, smoke-free Vdara has a “signature scent” though, except for the novelty of it].

View from our hotel room at Vdara...with the Bellagio fountains off

View from our hotel room at Vdara...with the Bellagio fountains on.

Friday night I took my hubby to see the show Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace.  I had seen a few reviews on this show that made me REALLY want to see it.  One review said “it’s a combination of Borat & Cirque de Soliel.”  Another review said “It’s will be the most amazing, and most offending show you ever see.” We LOVED the show. Yes, the humor was a bit awkward, politically incorrect & uncomfortable at times, but I still don’t think I have laughed that hard in 1 night in a long time. The acrobats were amazing.  The best thing about this show is that instead of being a bazillion feet away from the action like you are at most Cirque-type shows in Vegas, Absinthe is a 300 seat venue that is shaped like an old sideshow tent, where in the very farthest seat you are still 5-6 rows away from the action. We were 3 rows away, and at one point there was a guy flying over our head close enough you could feel the swoosh of air as he swung by. It’s a tiny venue & the show is awesome.  The only thing that distracted from the experience were the 7feet tall European students in front of us that kept holding their cameras above their heads to take pictures. Annoying.  But overall, the show was totally worth the price I paid for discount tickets. Absinthe is General Admission (minus a few VIP seats), so you can easily get a front row spot if you show up early.  But be warned, the “hosts” of the show force crowd participation, whether you want to be involved or not.  3 rows back is advisable if you don’t want to be involved in the antics, but would rather sit back & laugh at those poor souls (watching complete strangers “motorboat” each other = awkward, yet hilarious).

Saturday night my hubby took me to Phantom at the Venetian.  We made a stop by Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery for a mocha & his famous macaroons before the show.  I now know why so many chefs refer to the macaroons from Bouchon as the best.  They were the most amazing macaroons I had ever tasted. The flavoring & textures were nothing short of perfection.  I’ve been tempted to try making macaroons since I got my stand mixer last October…but now that I’ve had the ones from Bouchon Bakery, I don’t know if I can make my own.  I feel like I will forever be disappointed in the outcome.  We had 3 before the show & had the other 3 the next morning for breakfast.

Mmm...a perfect Mocha & perfect Macaroons

Phantom was stellar. Jas scored some amazing seats for us. I have seen the traveling Broadway version of Phantom before…but I was pretty impressed with this version, even though I missed a lot of the material/scenes that were cut out compared to the Broadway version. I can forgive the extra scenes/dialogue being cut out though when considering the pyrotechnics & special effects that the Vegas version of Phantom contains.  It’s amazing to think that the entire venue was specifically designed for that 1 production. It’s also sad to think that Phantom will close down for good in September.  I’m glad we had a chance to see it before it goes dark. If you’re in Vegas before September 2012, I Highly Suggest checking out Phantom.

Allegedly you can’t go to Vegas without going to a buffet.  So Sunday night while the rest of the world (& Vegas) was watching the 2nd half of the Super Bowl, we went to the buffet at the Bellagio.  We had gone there on our prior trip, & when considering the ridiculously high cost of food in Vegas in general…we decided it was worth a repeat visit.  I’m pretty sure I ate the cost of my meal in king crab legs. Seriously, minus some roasted asparagus & a piece of prime rib…all I ate for dinner was king crab legs.

After we stumbled out onto the strip in a food coma…we decided that since it was going to be our last night in Vegas for most likely the next few years, we decided to go see all of the free “Vegas Kitsch” we didn’t see on our last trip. We had already seen the “Old Strip/Downtown Fremont Street” during our last visit [never, ever again], so we could cross that off the list.  The MGM Lions are MIA while the MGM Grand is under renovation, so we’ll have to visit those at some point in the future.  So that basically left the Mirage Volcano show & the Treasure Island Siren show to cross off of the list.  First stop, the Mirage Volcano.  Overall, I enjoyed this more than I was anticipating.  It was not nearly as hokey & foolish than I thought it was…and was an interesting melding of a light show, water show & pyrotechnic show.

Jas watching the Mirage Volcano
Next stop…the TI Siren show.  This can be added to the “never, ever again” column.  I guess I went to the show being jaded due to all of the negative reviews, but those reviews were truly justified in this case.  Considering this is considered to be one of the big “family friendly” things of Vegas, I was majorly disappointed.   Overall it was the worse example of lip-synched, cheesy “entertainment” ever, that was way too over-sexed to be considered family friendly.  I think one particular special effect regarding a ship, plus the pyrotechnics at the end were my favorite part (and perhaps only because they signaled that the atrocity was ending?).  My gut feelings that I would never take a child to view this show were confirmed when we were walking down the strip, and we saw a young boy who was about 7 years old, singing one of the incredibly inappropriate, oversexed songs from the show while shaking his butt and shimmying his chest.  Granted, Absinthe was way more oversexed & “vulgar” by conventional standards than the TI Siren Show, however the difference is that Absinthe was an 18-and-over show, that we researched and paid to see…and it didn’t occur on the side of the street to the general public as a “family event.”  Ok…stepping off of my soapbox.

After catching a couple more up-close Bellagio fountain shows (my favorite)…we headed off to bed.

On both Saturday morning & Monday morning of our trip, Jas and I made the ‘pilgrimage’ to In-n-Out Burger of Las Vegas for lunch. Seriously…they need little markers to designate the pathway for the 1.5 mile each way journey off-strip.  It was so worth the 3 mile round-trip walk + playing a live-game of Frogger to get to though.  We love In-n-Out Burger & dream of the day that they replace McDonald’s nationwide.  We both order off of the not-so-secret “secret menu.”  Jas gets a 2x4 animal style (2 beef patties, 4 slices of cheese, onions grilled in mustard, lettuce, tomato & spread). I get a 2x4 no tomato, onions grilled, light spread, extra toast (2 beef patties, 4 slices of cheese, no tomato, grilled onions, smaller amount of spread, with the bun extra toasted/crunchy). We both get our fries “well done” (their same awesome fries, except cooked longer to be super crunchy).   Deliciousness. It’s the only fast food worth walking 3 miles roundtrip for…


After we ventured back to the strip from In-n-Out Burger on Monday, we hopped on the bus & went to Fashion Show Mall to browse around for an hour or so.  It was there that my husband learned just how low-maintenance of a girl I really am.  In browsing through the purses of Neiman Marcus & their house wares section (where Jas made the mistake of looking at the price tag for a mink bed throw)…I like to think that he fully gained appreciation for my budget-friendly decorating style & my hatred of clothes/accessory shopping.  I also think he was thankful I didn’t fall in love with any of the $500-$1000+ bags we saw.  In other news…Fashion Show Mall has a Bloomingdale’s Home Store…which Indianapolis REALLY needs.  It’s like the Macy’s house ware section, except it’s the size of a Macy’s, & had great sales going on...

 Finally, before picking up our luggage & departing for the airport we made a stop by Jean Philippe Patisserie at Aria for a decadent treat.  Jason had the Chocolate Cheesecake (chocolate shortbread cookie, topped with mascarpone cheese mousse, folded with 2 types of chocolate mousse, covered in a thin flexible shell of white chocolate, with a chocolate truffle on top).   I had the Triple Chocolate, which was dark chocolate, milk chocolate & white chocolate mousses swirled on top of a flaky shortbread cookie, covered in dark chocolate ganache and cocoa, and topped with a miniature pistachio & chocolate ganache macaroon. They both were delicious. We also picked up a couple of truffles (Jason a coconut rum one, me a raspberry mascarpone one) & a chunk of chocolate pistachio nougat to take home as our souvenir.

We were so excited about our treats from JP...that we didn't even take the
time to take a good picture of them.

Overall it was an excellent trip.  It will probably be our list trip to Vegas for awhile, as we have other people/places on our to-visit list for our future vacations. Plus, the slot machines were not nearly as friendly this trip, & the free drinks were virtually non-existent with how busy Vegas was for Super Bowl weekend…making the trip a little less exciting.

I’m incredibly thankful for my wonderful parents who were our airport transport (since taxis were so much more expensive due to Super Bowl) & who watched our dogs for us.  I love that our dogs were basically indifferent that we came home…because they love spending time with my parents THAT much.

1 comment:

  1. I have mixed feelings about Vegas. Its a great place to visit for a few days but I always leave overwhelmed and overstimulated! I liked the Treasure Island show and Mirage volcanos, granted I saw them my senior year of college but I assume not much has changed. We saw Thunder From Down Under for a bachelorette party and I liked the smaller venue too. Much more intimate and your comments about they pick on people in the front rows applies to Thunder as well!