Monday, February 20, 2012

Vegas Adventures

Last week, Nathan and I went to Las Vegas.  Even though I have lived in Southern California for almost my entire life, this was only my third trip to Sin City.  My first trip to Vegas was in June 1994 when I was 15 years old.  We were there for my oldest cousin's wedding, and for a 15 year old in 1994, Vegas sucked.  I was too young to drink or gamble and just felt really awkward. 

Then, I went to Vegas again about five or six years ago with a work friend for a girls' weekend.  Shortly after we arrived, my friend announced that she likes to gamble alone and then she ditched me in the casino.  I was left to my own devices.  I won about $80 from a slot machine, but it was otherwise the worst girls' weekend ever.  

So I had low expectations for last week's Vegas trip.  I assumed I would spend the entire trip feeling disoriented from the dim casino lights and ill from eating too much crappy food at overcrowded buffets.

But holy crap, we had so much fun.  I officially "get" Vegas.

We drove from Pasadena to Vegas last Wednesday morning.  By "we drove," I mean "Nathan drove and I sat in the passenger seat taking photos."  It was a rainy day, and for about five minutes, it snowed.  Fun fact: in the past 4 months, Nathan and I have been in two snowstorms, both in Southern California (the first was during our November 2011 Palm Springs trip). 

Do you watch Pawn Stars on the History Channel?  That is one of our favorite t.v. shows.  Before we even checked into our hotel, we visited Gold & Silver Pawn of Pawn Stars fame.  The stars of the show (Rick, the Old Man, Big Hoss and Chumlee) were all on vacation (boo), but it was still cool to actually walk into the shop.  It was a lot smaller than I expected it to be, and not a lot of merchandise was for sale.  About half the shop is devoted to souvenirs for the show, e.g. Chumlee t-shirts and Old Man shot glasses. 

After paying our respects to Pawn Stars, we went to Circus Circus, hoping to see one of the free circus shows.  We did not get to see a show, but we walked around the midway and discovered a carnival game with the best prizes ever: Minions!!!  (If you do not recognize the minions, go watch Despicable Me immediately if not sooner).  Nathan won me a mid-sized minion, and it is now proudly displayed on our living room sofa.

Next stop: the Bellagio!  Nathan booked us a room online for the cheapest price available, and then he bribed tipped the front desk clerk $40 for an upgrade.  The clerk gave us a room on the 28th floor with amazing views.  Not only did we have views of the Strip, but we were the last room on the floor, which meant we were the corner room and had views of the Strip in both directions.  Best bribe tip ever.

In addition to the usual shampoo and lotion, the Bellagio provides a complimentary loofah for its guests.  How bitching is that?  (And yes, the complimentary loofah is now in my shower at home).

We had an unobstructed view of the Paris hotel, which is across the street from the Bellagio.  I don't know which I like better, the late afternoon view of Paris:

Or the nighttime view:

But the best part of our rooms at the Bellagio was our view of the fountains.  Before we left, Nathan told me the Bellagio fountains are really impressive.  I imagined the fountains would be like something you see at a fancy mall.  Wrong.

The fountains are HUGE and they can do all sorts of tricks.  They can act like a geyser and blast water 30 stories into the air; but they also delicately twirl water around like graceful dancers.  The shows are synchronized to music, like Elvis/Viva Las Vegas, Sinatra/Luck Be A Lady, the Star Spangled Banner, Andrea Bocelli/Time to Say Goodbye, Michael Jackson/Billie Jean, and Copland/One of His Famous Uplifting Pieces. 

Here you can see the fountain apparatus underwater.  As you can see, this is not your average shopping mall fountain!

And here are the fountains, in action.  I cannot say enough about the Bellagio fountains.  They are beautiful and inspiring.  Think of the best fireworks display you ever saw, and then merge that with the best ballet performance ever, and then make that aquatic.  That's what the Bellagio fountain shows are like.  

At night, the shows are lit up and run every fifteen minutes.  During our first night in Vegas, Nathan and I felt like we were "slaves to the fountains."  We were tired and just wanted to zone out and watch television, but every fifteen minutes, we crawled out of bed to watch the next fountain show.  We could not, in good conscience, lie in bed while one of the Modern Wonders of the World was right outside our hotel window.

The Bellagio also has a beautiful conservatory that was decorated for Chinese New Year.


Despite what my photos may suggest, we did not spend our entire trip at the Bellagio.  We ate some amazing meals at other casinos, including one of the best Italian dinners of my life at Rao's.  And don't even get me started on the breakfast buffet at Paris' Le Village Buffet - I ate a crepe that is easily one of the five best things I have ever eaten in my life.  We also went to the top of the Stratosphere and walked around the Venetian's "canals." 

We were in Vegas for about 36 hours, and we gambled for about a total of 20 or 30 minutes (playing a Deal or No Deal slot machine - we won $3).  We also only had two drinks each.  So, we did not exactly have the Hangover or Swingers Vegas experience.  But so what?  We had fun, just in our own Vegas way.  I cannot wait to go back!