Vegas February 9-16 2008 This was a business trip—my husband’s company exhibited at the ARA show (rental) at Mandalay Bay. This show marked my 10th year of helping my husband (by taking vacation from my own job) and that 1st show was also my first trip to Vegas! Air: We flew Southwest, non-stop RDU-LAS. Uneventful flights. A little bumpy on the return. Transportation: We rented a car this time since we had a lot of side trips planned. Alamo, mid-size (Pontiac G6) with a Costco discount. $187 for the week (Feb 9-16). Used the kiosk to check in, no wait at all. Hotels: Our show was at Mandalay Bay so we stayed there for 5 nights. They sent out an email a couple weeks ago about a cancellation our week, with some fantastic rates (standard room $109 most nights) so we upgraded to a 750 square foot GR suite (I think it used to be called the Executive Suite). It’s been renovated—no tropical theme. Pictures will be up soon. (I have to upload at work—dialup at home means it’s impossible to transfer files like that). We were on the 25th floor (room 25233) facing north on the Strip. Amazing view. Airport, and the Strip. Wow! Except for during the wind storm on Wednesday when I thought the windows would blow out and we’d be sucked out to our deaths…. On Thursday, the show ended, and we moved to Golden Nugget for our last two nights. We adore Golden Nugget, it’s my current “happy place” in Vegas. We had a marketing offer--$59/89 with $50 in promo chips or free slot play. Kind of bummed, because we had free room offers last summer & fall…. Gambling: We didn’t play at Mandalay Bay—just don’t feel the casino there. Played a lot of craps and some slots in the 2 days we were at Golden Nugget. Food: We had a couple of fancy-schmancy meals and some lower end meals. I’ll put the Aureole menu and review in the Restaurant forum. Best meal—Triple George. Worst meal—Grand Café at Red Rock casino. I’ll list the others in the (mostly boring) chronological review. Saturday February 9 Arrive in Vegas 10:30am. Rent a car. Run to convention center to get badges & check on crate. Crate not arrived yet, so we checked in to our room but didn’t bring our bags up. We had an errand on West Sahara so we ate lunch on Spring Mountain at a fabulously yummy noodle place (Noodle Palace; I had shrimp in lobster sauce, hubby had Singapore noodles, $17). I dropped hubby off at the Pinball Museum (Pecos & Tropicana) and I ran off to Nordstrom Rack (Eastern & 215). When I finished shopping I played pinball a little and we had a beer next door at the pub (Putter's, decent selection on tap). We hit Super Walmart to pick up supplies (Eastern & Russell) and went back to the hotel to see our room for the first time. We had a great room—we were given the choice of non-smoking on the 4th floor or smoking on the 25th and chose smoking—it wasn’t an issue, as the room didn’t smell (of smoke OR Febreze, which gives us headaches). We were only a little hungry for dinner so we went to Regale at Excalibur (Italian, food ok but house wine was not good…I had a linguine in a creamy curry sauce with chicken, zucchini & shrimp, hubby had a pizza with basil, chicken, & mozzarella. $42) We took leftovers back to our fridge. Sunday February 10 The weather was gorgeous so we followed through on our plans to go to Red Rock canyon. For breakfast, we stopped at the Red Rock casino. We weren’t feeling hungry enough to spend the money on the champagne brunch (especially as one of us wouldn’t be able to drink because of the driving.) We ate at the coffee shop, the Grand Café. I won’t go back there (can’t say I wasn’t warned, vegasbound!!) The food was ok, but it was lukewarm, because the service was sooooooo slooooooow. The servers they had were as helpful as possible but it’s clear they were understaffed. I had a breakfast skillet with biscuits & gravy, eggs, hash browns & bacon. Hubby had pancakes. $20. After breakfast, we drove to the Canyon, amid many many cyclists heading the same way. Fantastic place to cycle (when it’s not 120 outside) because they have bike lanes (commonplace in many areas, but not where we live). $5 for entrance to the Canyon. We stopped in all the parking areas and did a little bit of hiking and took a LOT of pictures (hubby has a new camera, and he took over 400 pictures this week…) There were a LOT of people out. We’re lucky we started early, because by the time we were 2/3 of the way through the ride (it’s a 13 mile one-way scenic drive) the parking lots were full and there was a non-stop trail of cars on the loop. We ate our lunch (pizza leftovers) at the overlook. It was almost 70 and sunny. Perfect Vegas day. That afternoon, hubby went wandering to take pictures and I took a nap to prep for our dinner at Aureole. I thought it was fantastic. Hubby enjoyed it but thought a couple of the wine pairings were weird and he didn’t like one of the cheeses (in the 3-cheese course) Full reviewhere: $340 Monday February 11 We had to go to a local bank on Monday morning, so we ate at the Palace Station buffet. $15 and the food was better than Red Rock and the server was prompt with all our refills. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat there, but it’s certainly a good value if you’re in the area. After breakfast we went back to Mandalay and over to the convention center to set up our booth. I had leftovers for lunch and hubby didn’t have lunch—he ran away to take more photos. We met CoasterKikky, Kitson, and Kitson’s wife (Michelle) at Jpop (sushi bar/lounge in the middle of the Mandalay Bay casino) at 5:30. Hubby had some sushi, we all shared some edamame, and we drank. Martinis are $13 and 22oz Sapporos are $11. After drinks, good conversations & laughs, we headed to our convention party (at House of Blues) but it was insanely crowded so we left. I think I played $20 in a slot and then headed up to bed. I’m such a wimp in Vegas… Tuesday February 12 The first day of the show it starts late, at 10am, so we went over to the Pyramid café at Luxor. We have eaten there a few times and find it decent food with good service at a decent price. Hubby had French toast and I had a breakfast club. $23. I had leftovers (I wasn’t entirely sober when I went to bed and had a touch of a hangover) The rest of the day was at the show. We had a fridge in our room (we asked for one at check-in because we knew we couldn’t use the minibar for our own stuff, so we bought sandwich stuff to eat at the show) A friend came back to our suite after the show and we had drinks and showed off our view. He showed us the photos of his racing motorbike in Kuala Lumpur. We walked him back to his hotel (NYNY) and took a ramble through MGM. The waits were huge for all the restaurants and we didn’t feel like waiting, so we ate at Gonzalez y Gonzalez at NYNY. I had a combo plate and hubby had tamales, plus a couple beers each. $42 Wednesday February 13 The long day of the show, and my feet hurt. I have a computer job—I’m not used to standing on concrete, smiling, chatting & selling all day long. But it’s a good show for us this year—with all the reports about the economy tanking, we didn’t know what to expect. For breakfast, we went to Raffles. We got there just before 7 am, so the line wasn’t too bad, and the new shift came on at 7. When we left around 7:40 it was a much longer line. I had an egg white omelet, hubby had pancakes and scrambled eggs. $34. After the show, we walked back to the hotel on the outdoor path around the pool and noticed the wind picking up. I took a bath in the fabulous tub and heard noises that sounded like they were moving heavy furniture above my head. Turns out it was the wind. Gusts were up to 50mph I think. That’s on the ground. We were 25 floors up. Our windows were flexing, we could feel the building move. We didn’t stand too close to the windows! HurricaneMikey was coming over for drinks & dinner and he called a little before 7 to say he was in a whiteout on the highway and traffic was stopped. Fortunately he was close to his exit and visibility improved so he made it to our room not too late. We had drinks, we talked—Mikey decided he didn’t want to sit in the chair by the window—and then we went to Border Grill for dinner. I had a fish dish, Dane had tamales, we don’t remember what Mikey had (and I forgot to get the itemized receipt) $88. I loved my fish, Dane loved his tamales. Mikey said he enjoyed his meal too…..Much better than his previous visit, he told us. After coming back to the room to retrieve his stuff and the Carolina barbecue sauce we brought him, Mikey left and we crashed. Thursday February 14 Valentine’s Day, the last day of the show (ends at 2pm) and we have to check out of our gorgeous suite at Mandalay Bay. I decide to eat my leftovers from the Pyramid café and handle check out & car retrieval while hubby eats at Raffles and heads over to our booth in case I’m running late. He had hash browns and mixed berries. The hash browns were cold and unimpressive but the berries were impressive—all ripe and perfect. $13. I had the bellman take our suitcases down, I checked out (wanted to do it at the desk so I could get the hard copy of the bill—expense report—and there was no line). I got the car from valet, the bellman loaded our suitcases in, and I drove over to park at the convention center in hopes of avoiding some of the crowd later in the day. We sold our samples so we didn’t have to pack out anything other than our personal stuff—we were out of there by 2:30. We drove downtown to end our trip at the Golden Nugget. We were not all that shocked to hit traffic on I-15…..GN check-in was crowded—it was Valentine’s Day and there were brides & grooms wandering around, and there was some sort of slot tournament going on at GN this weekend, plus some sports teams (college) in town for a game or a tournament. Lots of people. And sadly, no rooms in the North Tower for us. We got a standard in the South tower—non-smoking on the 11th floor (1166, facing east, nothing terribly exciting—Fitz sign in the distance). We played some craps & slots, made spa reservations for the following afternoon, and then got ready for dinner. We had 7:00pm reservations at Triple George (www.triplegeorgegrill.com) Yum Yum Yum. We had a bottle of Artezin zinfandel, shared an appetizer of fried calamari. Hubby had Shrimp George (shrimp stuffed with crab) and I had shrimp & scallop carbonara on linguine. For dessert we shared crème brulee (I don’t normally eat dessert—neither of us really have a sweet tooth—but if I do eat dessert, crème brulee is one of my top favorites!) It was perfectly creamy and flavored, but it could have used a titch more melted sugar crust. $101. I gambled a little more then fell asleep early, and Dane went back out to take nighttime photos with his fancy-pants camera. Friday February 15 We met Sin for breakfast at Careful Kitty’s (El Cortez) It’s such fun to meet other board members whom I feel I know, but just haven’t met in person yet! Careful Kitty’s still has my favorite biscuits and gravy in Vegas! (Dane & Sin both had the 2 egg plate with bacon, sausage, hash browns) $20 Sin left to do her law stuff and we got the car out of valet and went to the outlet mall (the ones on Grand Central, close to downtown). I prefer to shop early—I’m a morning person, and the stores really get crowded after lunch. With the holiday weekend sales I figured it could get really crowded. We only spent a couple hours shopping, then headed back to gamble. We needed a snack so we went to Golden Gate shrimp bar and had a combo (big shrimp, fake crab) and soup of the day (New England clam chowder)—(hubby) and a liverwurst sandwich (me) with 2 draft beers each. $17. We had spa appointments at 4:00pm. Hubby had a foot massage that he enjoyed (half hour) and I had a 50 minute relaxation massage with special attention paid to my feet & lower back (I’m still sore from standing on concrete, I know I know—I’m pathetic—and that’s WITH comfortable, supportive shoes!) I stayed and played in the spa for a while—sauna, hot tub, etc. After I got back to the room, we did our packing and headed to the casino to do the lion’s share of our gambling—craps, baby! We got on a $5 table and played for a while—barely staying in. Eventually we ran out of money and got hungry, so at 8 we went to Red Sushi and had dinner. We had edamame, a hand-rolled California roll, ikura nigiri (that’s my favorite!) tuna nigiri, and a spicy tuna roll (cut) with a couple beers. $43. Very sexy place, the food was pretty good, but it smelled fishy. And you don’t want to go to a seafood place and smell fish like this—something needs to be cleaned better! Back to a new craps table after dinner—we hopped on an almost empty $5 table and it quickly filled up—and went back up to $10 but we were grandfathered in at $5. Golden Nugget is really good about dropping the table limits (on the craps tables at least) to fill them up. The limits will go up again, but if you start at $5 you can continue to play at that rate. We played until 1am and I doubled my money. Hubby did well too. We were a little hungry so we went to the bar at Grotto and had a pizza--$13. After that hubby went to bed and I played slots for a while before stumbling up myself (cocktail service at the tables is great—I was double-fisting much of the time) Service at the slots varied by time of day. Saturday February 16 Our flight was at 11:00am (I checked in via cell phone while we were shopping at the outlet mall) so we got up, loaded the car and headed south on the Strip so we could see all the construction. We filled up the car at the gas station on the west side of Las Vegas Blvd just before the 215 interchange, returned the car, checked in our bags ($40 for 4 bags) & printed our boarding passes, then jumped on the shuttle to the airport. We headed straight to the security line and walked to our gate. We had breakfast at the Tequileria (2 chorizo & egg burritos, $19) and got on the plane. It was a business trip with a little side order of fun—as usual it was wonderful to meet people from the board, eat good food, see the lights of Sin City. Las Vegas is truly my happy place!