Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What happens in Vegas ... goes on the blog!

Originally, my 40th birthday was supposed to be spent waking up at a local get-away with Eric and then having a relaxing day... instead we wound up postponing our night away and focusing on my departure for a business trip that required me to depart the evening of my b-day. Don't get me wrong, the day was actually still quite relaxing and Eric went out of his way to make sure I wasn't tasked with any chores and relaxed whenever possible. We even did our family trek to a local pumpkin patch (stay tuned for that blog post).

Fortunately, the time in Vegas (not my favorite city ... sorry any Vegasites who might be reading this, but it isn't) was worthwhile, but professionally and sisterly. My sister-in-law Staci and I met at SeaTac Sunday night and flew down to Nevada together. The plan was we'd fly down together and then my sister Suzanne would drive up from San Diego after work on Monday. To my great pleasure, the plans worked out beautifully!!

We left a very foggy Seattle, but once we were above the cloud cover, we were treated to an amazing sunset. I have never seen a more radiant view... the sky was streaked like I have never seen it before. Truly breathtaking. I took photos through the plane's window not expecting any to turn out, but still hopeful I could get at least a little reminder of the beauty... and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I feel REALLY happy with how well the pictures turned out.

I started out on Monday by paying an insane amount for breakfast and coffee at the hotel's Starbucks ... let me tell you, that was a one-time mistake! Seriously... for a venti americano, yogurt, and sausage b-fast sandwich, they charged me $21!!! I about needed CPR right there on the spot. After recovering from the sticker shock, I made my way to the first day of my conference; meanwhile, Staci hung out by the pool and explored the Vegas strip. After I finished up my work day, we re-explored the strip so I could take pictures of the famous Bellagio fountain, stretch our legs a bit, and find dinner. We had success at every turn.

I have to say, there is rarely a moment when you aren't far from seeing something that is really impressive to see while on the Vegas strip. Our hotel's lobby was decked out for autumn.... as were many of the other hotels. Our hotel lobby had huge fabric leaves suspended from the ceiling... it wasn't as impressive as the sunset the night before, but still nothing to shrug off. Our hotel also had a rather colorful fountain in its parking/taxi roundabout; it spouted up in a variety of patterns and the light show associated with it was fun to watch.

So, getting back to our exploration of the strip on Monday... the plan was to hit the Bellagio so I didn't miss out on the fountain photos... and boy, was I not disappointed. We picked out a great location and waited for the show to begin. The song "One" from Chorus Line started up and soon, the water was jumping around in perfect syncopation to it. I was shocked by how loud the air canons were that blew the huge spouts of water WAY up high were. The combination of the song, lights, and fountains was so much fun and exceeded my expectations. 

Inside the Bellagio, we were greeted with yet another incredibly impressive autumn display. This one had HUGE pumpkins, fall flower displays, a working water wheel, and a talking tree that blinked and moved its eyes.

As we made our way down the strip,  we saw the replica Eiffle Tower atop the Paris casino/hotel; I've never been to France, so this was a fun way to pretend... if not for more than just a second ... that I was in France scoping out a great croissant or crepe place for a quick snack.

Speaking of food, we chose to have dinner at BurGR, which is one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants. Oh ... my ... goodness... talk about yummy food! We ordered burgers, and not just any burgers. We had gourmet burgers and to-die-for onions rings. Unfortunately, the gal argued a bit with us when we sent back our burgers saying they were under cooked ("Sell, that's how we do them here" didn't fly with us... and I'm sure Gordon would have had some choice words on the matter!) After receiving properly cooked burgers, we were in food heaven!

Around 10:30, Suzanne made her way into the hotel and promptly set out making our hotel room cozy, game-filled, and not lacking adult beverages. (Hurray for Suzanne!!) 

On Tuesday, I went back to my conference while Suzanne and Staci slept in, relaxed by the pool, and enjoyed some sister bonding time trying to find parking at the local discount mall. After work, we reconvened back in the hotel room, finished off a monstrously huge sandwich from Jersey Mike's, experienced a highly entertaining impromptu makeover on by Suzanne and Staci because I wasn't dressed for Vegas' nightlight (I brought work clothes, not going out on the town clothes),  and then proceeded to the hotel's Cirque Du Soleil theater to watch the show Zarkana. No photos were allowed during the show, so you'll have to settle for a photo of the show's billboard outside of the hotel. "WOW" is all I can say about the show. The performers have insane skills ... not to mention core strength! We saw a juggler, trapeze artists, acrobats, old-style circus clowns, a sand artists, and more. The hour and a half seemed to fly by. 

 After the show, we walked down the strip toward New York, New York and attempted to visit its famed piano bar, but it had an insane cover charge to sit down and the standing room wasn't overly appealing, so we headed around the way to Nine Fine Irishmen instead. In all honesty, I'm glad we did. We got to listen to a fantastic Irish band and the bartender there was great; he was personable and a lot of fun.

 On Wednesday, our last full day in Vegas, I went to my conference while Suzanne and Staci hung out at the pool (notice a trend here??). I did spend my lunchtimes with them there, so I got a taste of it, too. In fact, I hurried and was able to get a swim in during lunch... until then, the pool had just been taunting me. The hotel closes the pool at 5, which wasn't conducive with my work schedule.

After I finished work, we spiffied ourselves up and then walked (and walked and walked and walked) to the Venetian to attend the National Geographic photo exhibit. (Saying a place is "just three casinos over" equates to walking about a mile and a half!) Talk about breathtaking photographs... oh my goodness! There were shots from all over the world and the stories behind the photographs, which were highly interesting.

After the photo display, we went to our fancy schmancy dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House. During our walk, we took in more of the sights and sounds of the Vegas strip, which is when I had the "ah ha" moment that this city really goes all out to get the public's attention. Numerous casinos have outdoor displays that explode fire, shoot water, etc. that are truly amazing.

My brother-in-law Randy came up with this idea before our trip as a way for us gals to celebrate our sister trip and my birthday (insert the collective "Awww!! Isn't he a sweetie?!?!" here). Staci and I were Ruth's Chris novices, so Suzanne led the way... although, Staci did pick out a lovely red wine for us (which highly impressed the older gentleman across the aisle from us). We had a fabulous (and I do mean FAB) waiter named Chas; he was flamboyant and took great care of us. We had amazing steaks, creamed spinach, and the world's biggest baked potato for dinner. At the end of our meal, Chas brought out a complimentary birthday dessert for the three of us to share... talk about decadent. Oh... my... goodness! It was dark chocolate heaven!

 To work off our huge dinner, we walked the strip a bit more and made our way to The Cosmopolitan to check out its famed chandelier. When I heard it had a huge chandelier, I wasn't expecting what we saw because we didn't just see something that dangles from the ceiling and produces light. Oh no, no, no. This bad boy is so big that it creates rooms. It is enormous, incredibly gaudy, and the epitome of Vegas. It was something. Before heading back to our hotel and putting up our very tired and sore feet, we stopped by a huge red high heel shoe that is on display in The Cosmopolitan's lobby. We weren't sure of the reasoning behind it, but it made a great photo opportunity for us!

 On Thursday, I attended my first conference session, raced back to the hotel room to pack up and bid a teary goodbye to Suzanne who drove back to San Diego, raced back to my next conference session, and then enjoyed a lovely lunch poolside with Staci. After my last session of the day, Staci and I hopped into a taxi, mad the short trek to the airport, waited in an insanely slow security line, had my first full-body airport x-ray taken, and then headed back to a cold and foggy Seattle. It was so foggy when we landed that we couldn't determine how high the plane was; we knew that we were coming in for a landing, but couldn't see a a single thing out of our airplane windows. Staci and I had perpetual looks of "are we gonna bounce now?" on our faces. We knew that we were probably getting close to the runway, but had no idea how close. Glad the pilots had their fancy equipment to help them land... I'm sure they weren't relying on their eyes to guide them in too much.

A bit later, I was home in our warm and cozy house and couldn't have been happier. I kissed our sleeping munchkins, who didn't even stir when I tried to say hello, and then drifted off to sleep, glad to be at home, but also glad to have had such a great time in Vegas.

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