OK, first of all this is REALLY long. Sorry. Second, apologies for the delayed TR - sometimes life gets in the way! Anyway, I wrote this in fits and starts so here goes: First a little background. My first trip to Vegas as an adult was this past January with hubby and two other couples. Stayed at Bellagio and generally had a fantastic time. As soon as I got home I started thinking of ways to go back! Iâ€™d been looking at attending a conference in Phoenix that seemed really good but could never justify the funds to go to Phoenix. This year they switched the venue to the Las Vegas Convention Center and somehow it became very easy to justify!! Add to that, my good friend from Vancouver would be there for part of that time and it was a lock. Registered in June and spent the next three months in a state of crazy anticipation. Even though this was a business trip, itâ€™s my own business so funds were tight. They became even tighter in July when hubby was laid off. I considered not going but the bulk of my expenses had already been paid for and I would have lost a fair bit. He encouraged me to go anyway. Gotta love him! Finally, after what felt like years, September 21st arrives. Woke up at 5am, which would normally be just brutal for a non-morning person like me but Iâ€™m happy as a clam. Why? â€˜Cause Iâ€™m going to Vegas baby! Parked in the long term lot and took the monorail to the terminal. (Does anyone else get that song from the Simpsons in their head every time they hear the word â€œmonorailâ€?) Got bumped to the front of the bag check in line and given a very disapproving look by the agent. Apparently when they tell you to be there an hour and a half before your flight leaves it means two hours, who knew? (seriously, I double checked my e-ticket and it said for US flights check in 90 minutes before, whatever!) OK, this part of the trip report is getting too long! Boarded, had an uneventful flight. A little bumpy but not bad. Arrived on time and I have to tell you I really did get the little heart palpitation/adrenaline rush as we were landing! In January hubby and I had taken the shuttle from the airport to the hotel and it had worked out just fine. (this is from the international terminal where itâ€™s right there when you come out) Based on that I had decided to take the shuttle again. Yeah, not so good. Obviously I had just missed one so the shuttle I got on took forever to leave. I have no idea why the driver took the tunnel (they didnâ€™t last time) and the whole adventure took about an hour. Arrived at Ballyâ€™s around 11:15am and there was a bit of a line to check in. Waited maybe 10 minutes. Because funds were so tight I had decided not to do the $20 trick but to just ask nicely for an upgrade and see what happens. Got a very nice check in gal who first offered me an upgrade for an extra $20 a night. I countered with something along the lines of â€œI was hoping you might have some complimentary upgrades available.â€ I canâ€™t remember her answer but it made it sound like there might be something, just not right then so I quickly added â€œI have no problem if the roomâ€™s not ready yet.â€ Which seemed to do the trick. She became much more animated and tapped away on the keyboard. Lo and behold there would be a North Tower room available at 3pm at no extra charge to me. (note to readers, if you are asking for the upgrade be sure to mention that you can wait for a room donâ€™t assume they would tell you that part) This was my first win as I had booked a South Tower room and really havenâ€™t heard anything good about them. I was willing to suck it up as I was pretty happy with the deal I got ($47 Cdn/night) but I was pretty happy to get the North Tower. It was also a bit closer to the monorail (thereâ€™s that Simpsons song again!) which I had to take each morning at 7:30am so that helped. Dropped my bags with the bellman and headed over to Mon Ami Gabi for lunch. For my second win of the day I scored a perfect little table on the patio off in the corner, in the shade. I have absolutely no problem eating alone (in fact I love travelling alone overall) but I had my book with me to read during lunch. Ordered the Ahi Tuna salad which was basically a Salade Nicoise with Ahi and it was good, not amazing but definitely good. I was so busy watching the strip go by I didnâ€™t open my book once. I donâ€™t use the word lovely much but that lunch was lovely. From my table I could see the new City Center and I was pretty amazed at how much progress theyâ€™d made since January. This brings us to about 1pm. Canâ€™t get into my room until after 3pm but hey, itâ€™s Vegas, there are millions of things to do! Last trip I fell a little in love with New York New York for some reason so I decided to toddle on over there. Signed up for my very own Players Club card and thought video poker would be a good start. I hadnâ€™t played for real before, just used a free online site to practice for about 3 months prior to the trip, after reading so much about it on VMB and OV. I know the machine I played wasnâ€™t full pay but at that point I wanted to play a little in a place I felt a good vibe. Plugged in my whopping $40 on a $0.25 machine and after about oh, 20 minutes or so I hit a royal. Whatâ€™s that you say? I WAS DEALT A ROYAL FLUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have to admit, the cocktail waitress had just delivered me a nice cold Sam Adams so I wasnâ€™t paying complete attention when the hand was dealt. It crossed my mind that it was a bit strange that a flush was paying out without me doing anything. Then I thought Oh itâ€™s not a flush itâ€™s a straight flush, cool. Then it just kept going and I finally clued in that this was a (can I say freaking on this board?) royal! The heart started to pound, I got this goofy grin on my face and started looking around to see if anyone else could see this miracle. (no one could) Knowing proof would be demanded I quickly snapped this shot: I then very carefully selected â€œcash outâ€ and headed to the cashier. Considering my biggest win before this was around $100 I had no idea whether the redemption machine would pay this or not but at this point I was craving human interaction. The big goofy grin still on my face I present myself at the cashier cage. A very nice lady notices the big goofy grin and asks me did I win? I hand her my voucher (big goofy grin intact) and say I know that itâ€™s small potatoes compared to what she sees in a day but I just hit my first royal and considering my bankroll for the trip the money is crazy welcome! (or something like that) She gives a whoop and a â€œHigh five girlfriend!â€ which causes the big goofy grin to become even bigger and goofier! Now so far this massive news is known only to me and the very nice cashier lady so I whip out the blackberry to call home. (I actually need to turn the beast on as Iâ€™d turned it off to avoid colossal roaming charges) Hubby answers and I start gushing. Heâ€™s all excited and I hear him tell the kids then theyâ€™re all excited. So if you saw some woman walking through NYNY on the 21st of September bubbling on a cell phone with a humongous goofy grin on her face, that was me. If you havenâ€™t been keeping track, Iâ€™ve been in Vegas less than 4 hours! So itâ€™s still only about 2pm and Iâ€™m at a complete loss as to what to do with myself. I decide to explore this area of the strip. NYNY I know fairly well from last time, same with MGM Grand (where hubby likes to play poker). Letâ€™s go see this Excalibur place. How bad can it be? Letâ€™s just say that I have pretty low expectations of things and it didnâ€™t disappoint. Now that Iâ€™ve seen it I have absolutely no reason to go back. (sorry to those who like the Excal, just did not get a good vibe from there at all) OK, how about the Tropicana? I have to say that as faded, as tired and as desperately in need of renovation as it is I really liked the Trop. I reminded me of a beautiful woman who has aged gracefully but aged nonetheless. I may be a teeny bit biased as Iâ€™m a shareholder of the new owners, Onex Corp. Letâ€™s put this in perspective though, Iâ€™m a very small shareholder. I figure I might have a loose claim on one part of one bathroom tile in one room. By the time I wander back to Ballyâ€™s itâ€™s after 3pm so I get my key and head up to my room on the 8th floor in the North Tower. The first thing I notice is that the room is huge. For just a regular room the square footage is pretty impressive. The second thing I notice is someone elseâ€™s stuff on the desk. Uh oh, they didnâ€™t seriously give me keys to someone elseâ€™s room did they? One of the items on the desk is the check in slip so I check the dates. Yikes, this person isnâ€™t checking out until tomorrow! I check the closet and the bathroom and thereâ€™s nothing in either. Call down to confirm and everything is fine. The previous guest checked out early. Still, thereâ€™s debris from someone else in my room. (just a t-shirt, bag and literature from a conference but still) I poke around a little more and find that unfortunately housekeeping at Ballyâ€™s lives up to itâ€™s reputation. Not gross and disgusting just kind of lackadaisical. (thereâ€™s another word I donâ€™t get to use often) Before my â€œbig winâ€ I had decided I would have dinner at Ellis Island that night and I saw no reason to change my plans. Played video poker a while in the casino until a reasonable time for dinner. (Iâ€™m on east coast time so Iâ€™m starving but itâ€™s only 4:30pm!) Have to say I didnâ€™t think much of the casino and judging by how few people were in there I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m alone. Finally itâ€™s 5pm and an acceptable time for dinner. (comment away people, comment away) I have my handy dandy Steak Special coupon (thanks Westie!) but Iâ€™m starving so I order mozzarella sticks and an amber ale before the steak special. Their amber ale was nice (and Iâ€™m a bit of a craft brewery beer snob), surprisingly light and sweet. The mozza sticks were mozza sticks, no biggie. In hindsight I should have just waited for the steak as the portions were huge! Decent piece of meat, very yummy mashed potatoes and green beans with garlic. While this was definitely not haute cuisine it was good â€œdown homeâ€ food and I enjoyed it immensely. The waitress, Sue, was really sweet and friendly too. My tummy full, I headed back to Ballyâ€™s for a â€œrestâ€. Yes, sports fans I admit it. I was in bed by 9pm on my first night in Vegas. Sad but true. Of course the flip side to this is that Iâ€™m up at 5am. Probably doesnâ€™t bode well for a late night again but oh well I need to be at the Convention Center for 7:30am. My winnings and I headed over to Paris for a leisurely sit down breakfast at the CafÃ© Ile St Louis. Waffle with bananas, yum. (the pre-win plan had been to get some granola bars from Walgreens for breakfast. This was better. ) From there I head to the monorail station to get my 3 day pass and head to the LVCC. The conference was about the business of wedding planning. (Iâ€™m a wedding planner) I met up with another planner from Toronto that I knew, weâ€™ll call her C and a planner from Edmonton who Iâ€™ve â€œknownâ€ online for years but never met in person. Weâ€™ll call her â€œJâ€. I love these gals and we had a great time together. I had posted on VMB asking for suggestions for food around the LVCC and someone suggested the Sahara. With visions of the elegant Tropicana still in my head C, J and I head over there at my suggestion. As I mentioned before, I donâ€™t tend to have high expectations (means Iâ€™m rarely disappointed and often pleasantly surprised) but this place is a dump! Seriously, the whole place smelled like bathroom air freshener and something else a little rank. Well, we think, they must have a good old fashioned cheap-o cafÃ©, weâ€™ll eat there - closed. Buffet â€“ closed. Some other restaurant â€“ closed. The only place we found open was the Nascar CafÃ©. Apologies in advance to those who like it but man, you can have a heart attack just looking at the menu. After a bit of discussion we decide to risk it. I think J had wings, I had a burger (well done please) and C ordered the cheese sticks. All 3 of us laughed out loud when the waiter asked if she wanted a half pound or a whole pound. Suffice it to say that jokes abounded about what would happen to C if she ate an entire pound of cheese for lunch. Nuff said. I suggested that we all drink rather heavily to kill any bacteria that might linger in our lunch so we kind of missed the first seminar after lunch. Oops. While I thank everyone for the lunch suggestions I would have to rank the Nascar CafÃ© and the Sahara on the whole as eeeeeewwwwww. To those who suggested brown bagging a healthy lunch I salute you. However it would not have involved beer. Sigh. After the conference I was almost downtown so I took the 108 CAT from Sahara station (avoiding the hotel itself) down to Fremont Street. I was really looking forward to seeing downtown (I hadnâ€™t been in 20 years and that trip was a little fuzzy) as itâ€™s not somewhere hubby would willingly go but I had high hopes. Obviously I should have stuck to the low expectations dogma as I have to admit I was kind of disappointed. I think it was more me than downtown though. I may not have been in the right mood for it and I think it might be a place to come with a bunch of people, not by yourself. I wandered through the 4 Queens, Golden Nugget, Binions, Fitzgeralds and Iâ€™m sure some others but the only one I got a good gambling vibe at was Golden Gate. I thought of playing some blackjack but was a little put off by the fact that I would be sandwiched between the tasselled â€œgo-go dancersâ€/dealers and the guys ogling them at the bar. Just wasnâ€™t in the right mindset to deal with any potential hassles. Took the Deuce back to the strip. It took an hour to get to Bellagio, which was expected. Iâ€™m hoping to go back downtown next trip with a few other people and see what happens. After getting off the Deuce I just wandered in and out of casinos seeing what was what. For some reason I thought the blackjack tables at the MGM properties were paying 1:1 (2 for 1) so I didnâ€™t play at NYNY as I had intended. (after posting about that I realise that I may have been either in a parallel universe or having some kind of flashback from my troubled youth) One of my favourite pastimes in Vegas is just walking the strip so I did some of that. Now either the porn slappers are getting desperate or I look like a player because they were trying to hand cards to me all up and down the strip. (thereâ€™s a thesis for someone â€“ The Current Economic Impact on LV Porn Slappers) I head to bed at a still pathetic (but much better) 11pm. Wednesday I woke a little late so just grabbed a coffee and Danish ($9) from the lobby coffee bar and run to the monorail to get to the conference. For lunch I acquiesce to C & Jâ€™s suggestion that we take full advantage of our 2 hour lunch today and the fact that we have these unlimited monorail passes and go to NYNY to have fish & chips. After yesterdayâ€™s Sahara debacle I jump eagerly on board. C & J are staying at the MGM Grand so we make a quick stop to drop off some conference material before heading over to NYNY. They are staying in a West Wing room (I believe just a standard room) and itâ€™s TINY. Nicely appointed but holy cow is the room ever small! Thereâ€™s no door on the bathroom itself, just a WC. (water closet or toilet stall for the non-Britishy) Lunch was better than yesterday but not much. Why I ordered calamari at a fish & chips shop I donâ€™t know. Not so much. A couple of beers on the patio at Nine Fine Irishmen and our lunch is complete. (I canâ€™t remember what started it but for some reason the 3 of us fell into one of those fits of laughter that just canâ€™t be stopped or shushed. A couple of older ladies come over once weâ€™ve settled down a bit and very diplomatically ask where weâ€™re from. When we tell them weâ€™re Canadian them simply say â€œOhâ€ and nod as if that explains all types of socially unacceptable behaviour. Of course that sets us off again.) Back to the conference where there are some really good speakers and a couple of real snoozers that are simply cutting into my gambling time. (Not doing much gambling this trip. Feeling like I may have used up all of my VP luck and not getting a good vibe from any blackjack tables) Rushed back to the hotel after the conference to change and gussy up as I was meeting my friend A for dinner at Japonais. A and I have been friends for over 30 years and since I moved from Vancouver to Toronto 12 years ago we donâ€™t get to see each other much so this was a double bonus. A get together and in Vegas! Dinner at Japonais was good, not outstanding but certainly good. The passionfruit martinis with cucumber however, were outstanding! After dinner we met up with Aâ€™s friends (she was down with a group of 17 women) at Fontanaâ€™s (?) in Bellagio. Danced a bit. Drank a bit more. Have to admit I felt a little cougar-ish. Whether it was Fontanaâ€™s or the fact that I was one of 18 women there in their 30s and 40s who knowsâ€¦â€¦ Thursday I woke up feeling surprisingly good. Had time to head down to the Sidewalk CafÃ© in Ballyâ€™s. Now, I ate there in January and really should have thought twice about going back but breakfast was surprisingly decent. (except the coffee, bleh) The first two seminars sounded dead boring so I made the executive decision to head to the Tropicana instead. Signed up for a card which came with $10 freeplay. Blew through that and a more on JOB for a small loss. Decide to head to the last two seminars at the LVCC. C & J stumble in for the last seminar and tell me they have a â€œsurpriseâ€ for me. I donâ€™t actually freak out but I do come close. Instead of the expected horrifyingly embarrassing moment, Iâ€™m actually touched. They brought me a â€œbreakfast margaritaâ€. Are they friends or what? Conference ends at noon and I cab over to the Premium Outlets to meet up with A as arranged at some point last night. Shop like a madwoman. The suitcase is now officially overweight but I have cute jeans. Back to the hotel to change and make myself presentable for dinner with A and her entourage. Head over to Bellagio where theyâ€™re staying and up to Aâ€™s room which has become headquarters for them. There are no set plans for dinner and apparently trying to get 18 women to decide on dinner plans is paramount to negotiating peace in the middle east. They are all drinking champagne (Veuve Clicquot, my favourite!) which I decline as Iâ€™d be hammered after one glass. I run downstairs and overpay for a couple of Coronas (which is the best they have to offer in the gift shop) then succumb to the Grey Goose, soda & V8 Tropical Splash which has replaced the champagne. We are now well on our way and somehow dinner has gone by the roadside. One of the gals was a bit of a poker player and got us all passes for the Bank nightclub. I cannot think of a purer form of hell than going to a nightclub in Vegas. Thatâ€™s just me, I canâ€™t even imagine going to a nightclub at home anymore. Iâ€™m officially old. Itâ€™s my last night in Vegas and as much as I love A and her friends, I bail in search of a really good blackjack table. (to me blackjack is as much about the social interaction at the table as it is the game) The Tropicana beckoned so at about 11pm I took my leave of the gals and toddled off. Along the way I made a half hearted attempt to find dinner and failed. The Trop had 3 tables of $5 blackjack so I plunked myself down at one of them and bought in (is that the right term?) for $150. Other players came and went but towards the end it was a good table. After about 2 hours they bumped it up to $10 and didnâ€™t grandfather us so most people left. I figured it might be prudent to pack it in so I cashed out up about $45 which made me happy. Heck, Iâ€™m happy when I break even at BJ. Itâ€™s that low expectations thing again. Walked back to Ballyâ€™s with a smile on my face, being accosted by porn slappers and talking and laughing with perfect strangers the whole way. I love Vegas. Friday morning I woke up after a solid 5 hours sleep and my first thought is â€œOh dear, it looks like Iâ€™ll be flying with a hangover.â€ OK thatâ€™s the really, really cleaned up version. What I really thought could get me banned. Texted A as we had agreed to meet for breakfast and (big surprise!) sheâ€™s not up yet. To hell with it, I still have winnings and that waffle with bananas was really good. Back to CafÃ© Ile St Louis for breakfast and lots of coffee. Finally heard back from A, met her at the poolside cafÃ© at Bellagio and we chatted until it was time for me to go to the airport. After my experience *from* the airport you would think Iâ€™d have the sense to take a cab *to* the airport. Youâ€™d be wrong. Waited for a shuttle that a) wasnâ€™t full b) wasnâ€™t on charter c) wasnâ€™t ignoring me and finally got to McCarran. My flight return was a little odd in that it was a â€œdirectâ€ flight but not a â€œnon-stopâ€ flight. I had to change planes in Chicago but it was the same flight number all the way through. Iâ€™ve been flying since I was 4 and thatâ€™s a first for me. Anyway, finally got checked in at United which was novel since Iâ€™ve always flown in and out of the international terminal. Charged me $20 to check one bag. I guess I shouldnâ€™t complain considering how much it weighed after all that shopping! Plane change in Chicago allowed me to have a Chicago style pizza for dinner which was a bonus. Otherwise an uneventful trip back. Arrived in TO around midnight and was actually able to find my car in the long term lot. Woohoo another win. Random observations: -Ballyâ€™s is a cheap hotel in a great location. If youâ€™re not expecting much from the rooms and can get a good price go for it (good water pressure/temperature to boot) -porn slappers â€“ there donâ€™t seem to be as many as in January but they are targeting a woman in her early 40s pretty aggressively -my kids are still asking what weâ€™re going to do with â€œall that money Mommy wonâ€! -the blackjack table I was at in January may have been a once in a lifetime event. I hope not. (I played for 4 hours and got back to the hotel at 5:30am that trip! Amazing people, great fun) -travelling alone can be absolutely great -seeing palm trees will always make me happy! -canâ€™t wait to see what they do with the Tropicana -I need to approach downtown differently next time -the monorail was great. Came often, fast, fairly clean -went down with an absolutely unthinkably small budget and still won! -I may have to change my name to microroller All in all this was a fantastic trip. I won money. The conference was really good, better than I was expecting. (low expectations, Iâ€™m telling ya, itâ€™s the way to go!) Got to hang with C, J and A and spend time alone which I love. I have yet to meet anyone in Vegas who isnâ€™t happy and outgoing. While that may be the low expectations thing, I donâ€™t think so. I think thatâ€™s just Vegas baby.