So, our latest trip to Vegas was quite the affair. We had a heady, ambitious trip planned, the hallmark of which was three different hotels in four nights. This proved to be not the ideal situation, but we also only spent about $350 total on hotel rooms, which, especially during the beginning of a humongous convention, was pretty darn good. Letâ€™s divide this into categories, because I donâ€™t much feel like doing a true chronological narrative. Hotels Our first two nights were at Flamingo, where we had stayed before. I checked in using my Diamond access, and I also tried the $20 trick. The $20 got us a room facing the Strip on the floor below the top floor, which turned out to be fairly large for that reason. However, this was not a newly renovated room or floor, so the furnishings were a bit tired. That being said, it was a good room, with a great view, and definitely met our needs. The Flamingo itself remains the same: not very interesting, few if any restaurants worth trying, poor video poker, but a location that really canâ€™t be beat. Rick has stayed there three times now, and lamented that it means itâ€™s his home casino â€” he could do worse. Our third night was at Wynn, on a deal Rick got through email â€” $129 with $100 of slot credit. As I believe I wrote to a friend, I want to live there. I just love the aesthetic â€” deep colors, over-the-top cornices and flourishes, good art â€” and the room is also just very large. We were able to swing another Strip view, though this one slightly less interesting, but it still made for a nice place to sit and eat a little breakfast the morning of our departure. We gave them a little play, so I hope he continues to get offers, because I would love to make this our home casino. Our fourth night was at Fitzgeraldâ€™s downtown. I got us a $80 room off Vegas.com, which was something of a steal, since that night was the first real night of the huge construction convention in town, and rooms on the Strip were going for upwards of $500. Yeah, no. We had heard decent things about the Fitz, and we wanted to stay either downtown or off-strip, so this seemed like a good option. It didnâ€™t really disappoint. The room was worn, but still pretty decent, and it had a nice view. The notoriously slow elevators lived up to their billing, but we got on one because we were on one of the top floors (it was still annoying though, as after it was full after the 20th floor it kept stopping at almost any floor and we had to say no to the sad people waiting through their third or fourth elevator. However, perfectly able-bodied people on the third and fourth floors got no sympathy from me). I donâ€™t know, with all the options available, if we would stay there again, but it sufficed. Overall, three hotels in four nights was too much. The checking in and checking out didnâ€™t really annoy us; it was more the literal living out of a suitcase and not having a home that got tiresome. I think weâ€™d do two in four nights, but three in that span is just too much. Good stays though. Food and Drink We had initially made a reservation at Okada at Wynn for our "special" meal, but our friends suggested Carnevino at Palazzo for our first night, and we thought that sounded wonderful. The room is interestingly shaped, as it has a narrow bar (at which we sat and I had a barkeep-concocted drink after I requested something with Campari, and he used something else that was Campari-like with various other things â€” it was wonderful. This was the vacation of having bartenders create drinks of their choosing, and it was always great) that then opens into a large open dining room. It was a nice setting, and we were seated next to a window that looked out onto Wynn across the street. The bread came with some wonderful butter and something that was described as a pork-based lard sort of spread. I think you can tell which was which by how much we (OK, I) used. That was followed by appetizers, which included my little Gorgonzola Dolce â€œSformata,â€ that accompanied a pear and endive salad, Rickâ€™s Beef Carpaccio, and our friends' â€œAffetati Misti,â€ a selection of meats, peppers, and, of course, lard. All were wonderful (though our friends didnâ€™t feel so hot afterwards; perhaps the lardo didnâ€™t agree with them as it did me). Strangely, I was the only one who actually got meat: I chose the petit filet mignon, accompanied by a gorgonzola marscapone sauce (duh), while Rick had the gnocchi bolognese. Again, everything was wonderful. The meal was of course expensive (I think around $100/person), but I think it was worth it. It didnâ€™t rank on my top 5 of all time like Bradley Ogden at Caesars does, but it was very good. The service started oddly (some child attempted to tell us the specials, and then was summarily dispatched in favor of someone with a clue), but hit its stride. Overall, thumbs up on Carnevino, and it gives me some motivation to give Batali another chance after a less-than-wonderful experience at Babbo in NYC. The next morning, Rick and I went to the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood for Sunday Champagne Brunch. Weâ€™d heard good things about this buffet for a while, and we were not disappointed: great selection, roundly wonderful quality, some damn fine bacon (applewood smoked, natch), and a lovely stuffed pork loin. Also, it was a good deal: just over $50 for the two of us, which included unlimited champagne. Having stuffed ourselves at brunch, we decided to go light for dinner and met our friends for drinks at the bar at Guy Savoy. Someday I will eat here for dinner, as well as at Joel Robuchon. This is when I win the Powerball. For our four glasses of wine and a cheese plate, the bill went to $200 â€” one glass of champagne hit the $45 mark. A bit ridiculous, but nice. The next morning we went to the Paris breakfast buffet, where we fast-forwarded using my Diamond status and had a fine but unspectacular breakfast. This used to be a destination, but now itâ€™s just convenient, which is too bad. For dinner, we ate at Red 8 at Wynn, a casual (for them) Chinese place, where I just had a plate of tempura and Rick some steamed vegetables. It was good tempura, and a nice setting; nothing to really be dramatically gaga over, but quality food at not horrible prices. Speaking of horrible prices, the next morning, I hopped down to the cafe at Wynn to grab bagels, a fruit cup, two waters, and a coffee . . . for $30. OK then. Note to self: bulk up before going to Wynn. Downtown that night, we had a slightly surprisingly good meal with Becky at Robertaâ€™s at the once-sketchy and now charming El Cortez. We had a coupon, so dinner was a good deal for salad and meat (again a filet mignon for me, while Rick had sea bass, and I want to say that Becky had beef too, but I'm blanking). Oh, drink: we of course had our spiked lemonades from the kiosk outside Caesars, one of the best things on the Strip. Theyâ€™re slightly expensive (running $8.50 for 24oz.), but they are chockful of alcohol and plenty yummy. They are guaranteed to give you a buzz. We also enjoyed many cocktails at the Diamond Lounges, including an invented drink at Harrahâ€™s called a Purple Alaskan Thunderfucker (it involved some Jack Daniels, but I canâ€™t remember anything else) and a oatmeal cookie â€œmartiniâ€ at Caesars (not a drink I need to have again, but it was fun). While gambling, it was a lot of gin and tonics for me this trip, while Rick stuck to rum and diet coke. It was all good, and I refrained from the enormous frozen drinks downtown this trip â€” saving me from Slurpee headaches and drunken embarrassment. Gambling and Other Activities Iâ€™ll dispense with copious amounts of writing about my gambling. I did better than Rick. There was a lot of video poker, interspersed with some blackjack (including at a $5 table at Bellagio Sunday morning, featuring the oldest dealer on earth (Richard) and the most annoying Canadian couple on earth, the latter causing us to leave the table â€” a $5 table at Bellagio! The height of the coupleâ€™s idiocy came when, after flipping a 50-cent piece at Richard for a top which landed in the chip tray, rendering it no longer a tip but the property of the casino, the guy kept on telling Richard that it was a tip for him, to which Richard mumbled, â€œitâ€™s not worth it.â€ When Richard took his break (to, presumably, nap), the guy kept on going on and on about how Richard should retire because he wasnâ€™t in a good mood. No, asshole, you need to stop being an idiot.), roulette (largely even there), some slots (including stellar wins at two different Wheel of Fortune machines, including my first 1000 on the big wheel), some bad sports bets (except I have futures bets on the Mâ€™s, which Iâ€™m sure will turn out well), and some craps downtown with Becky, featuring some construction guys who completely rocked and won me $250. So, gambling wasnâ€™t horrible, which was nice. We also used some POV and ACG coupons with matchplays all over the place, and a massage for me at Palms. We also used the POV coupon for the awesome miniature golf at Angel Park -- real grass, real sand, real water, all putting. Very cool. What did we do otherwise? We did some shopping for a watch for Rick (apparently, at a certain price range, you can haggle for watch prices? Who knew? Donâ€™t pay full price!), and generally just walked around. And drank. And saw some stuff. Sunday night, we saw Bette Midler. I had never seen Bette, and I canâ€™t say that I am a huge fan, but I like her well enough â€” like her personality quite a bit. The show was really great. It had a great mix of music, dance, and comedy. The first part was surprisingly good: her rendition of â€œWhen a Man Loves a Womanâ€ showed she still has the voice to pull off some difficult stuff when she wants to. There were her usual standards (second was â€œThe Rose,â€ last, â€œWind Beneath My Wingsâ€) and others, including the saddest song Iâ€™ve ever heard, â€œHello in There.â€ The dancing was good and the comedy ribald, though I could have done with less mermaid stuff. Overall, definitely a show to see and well worth it. The next day, we drove to Hoover Dam, which is less than an hour from Vegas, which surprised me. It was really impressive and pretty interesting. And, yes, the bypass is truly frightening: It was all very cool and Iâ€™m glad we finally made it there. So, the last thing. When we were in Vegas a trip or two ago, we saw ads for an event featuring Sylvia Browne, and thought, oh what a hoot. For those of you who donâ€™t know her, she is constantly on Montel Williams, telling people their futures, who their spirit guides are, and how their loved ones died. She sounds like sheâ€™s been smoking since age 10 months and has the kind of attitude of someone who is not just world weary, but tired of you and your shit. I sort of love her. So, we saw ads for her again (this time at Excalibur! Perfect!), and I started to do my Sylvia impression for our friends, and they were really loving it â€” to the point that they decided we actually needed to see her. I thought they were kidding. But, no, thereâ€™s us calling the box office on the way back from Hoover Dam; there we are buying our tickets; there we are entering the same theater as the Thunder from Down Under male revue and hack comic Louie Anderson. So, there were two price points: $141 for VIP tickets, which guaranteed you a question for Sylvia, and $85 for us shlubs (hey, itâ€™s Vegas). We entered, sat among true believers, and listened for the first half-hour to Sylvia explaining her lexicon ([the following are paraphrases unless quoted] when you ask for an angel, make sure you ask for the principalities and the thrones â€” theyâ€™re the ones that have the real power) and then just ranting (I donâ€™t understand why weâ€™re not drilling in Alaska for natural resources â€” I mean thereâ€™s the oil, but also all kinds of zinc). Then we got to the questions. The first person explained to Sylvia how she and her father had to leave their house a year ago because their neighbor had put a hit out on them. Her question was whether it was safe for them to go back to get their stuff. Hereâ€™s what followed: Sure, honey. Just get a police escort and youâ€™ll be safe. Are you sure, because I just donâ€™t feel right about and Iâ€™m worried about us getting hurt. Now, are they still after us? Iâ€™m sorry honey, but itâ€™s just one question. Oh, but I bought three tickets. Oh, OK. Yes, rather than spending $500 on, oh, I donâ€™t know, a bodyguard, she sought Sylviaâ€™s advice. Yes, this is who we were with. My two favorite other moments from the questions: Sylvia, will I be a millionaire? Noâ€¦.but youâ€™ll be comfortable. Sylvia, can you tell me the names of the spirit guides for me, my wife, and my son? Leon, April, and Loretta. (Other spirit guides included Andrea and Frida) So, once all the VIPs got their turn, she pulled tickets out of a bowl, and if the number matched yours, you got to ask a question. As our spirit guide would have it, we all got to ask a question. I asked a semi-serious question about my uncle (died from a heart problem; heâ€™s still watching over me; he was eccentric â€” all feasible, all relatively predictable), while the others asked the following, in order of my favorites: what is my financial outlook? Bleak until Decemberâ€¦of course, itâ€™s been bleak all year, huh? (he's has had the best year financially of his career this year) how long will I be in my current job? As long as you want. (Um, what spirit guide did you consult for that?) will my current relationship last? Is it with a light-haired female? No. Then, no. (as he goes to sits next to his boyfriend). Our friend maintains that Sylvia was better than Bette; all Iâ€™ll say is that it was entertaining (but also pathetic or perhaps just bathetic â€” I mean, there are a few relationships in the dust after this thing, and possible death with that one woman) and definitely worth the money. Overall, we had a really good time with all of our friends, including Becky, who deigned to join us downtown once more. I think four nights may be the right amount of time â€” if we can swing it with our schedules â€” but obviously three hotels is ridiculous. We didnâ€™t gamble as much as we usually do because of the longer stay, in some ways, because we didnâ€™t feel pressured to get everything in that we wanted to do â€” we were much more relaxed. All in all, a very good time.