Back from Sin City

July 31, 2008

I just got back from a 4-day vacation in Las Vegas.  Yeah, Las Vegas.  In July.  Needless to say, it was hot.

I first went to Vegas about 12 years ago.  A couple of friends and I stayed in Circus Circus because it was cheap.  We had a good time.

This time, I went mostly as a birthday gift for my girlfriend.  She had never been, and I figured it’d be a nice vacation for both of us.

We flew in, direct from Baltimore, on Tuesday last week.  We were both pretty much exhausted because we had gotten very little sleep the night before.  I was up late getting music and videos on my iPod and my cell phone.  She just couldn’t sleep because she was so excited.  Plus we had to get up at 4 in the morning to catch the cab and make it to the airport for our early flight.

5 hours later, we landed in Vegas.  Instead of catching a quick nap at the hotel, we went straight out and started seeing the sites.  We stayed at the Venetian, so we started our tour there.  First, we went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.  It is what they call an “interactive” wax museum, which means you get to walk around and touch the wax creations and pose for pictures with them and all those mildly fun things.  Some of the dummies were really impressive looking and others sucked.  For instance, when you first walk in, you’re greeted with Jessica Simpson in some Daisy Duke shorts.  The wax dummy was incredible looking.  Honestly, it looked like a real person was standing right there.  I’m sure there’s a joke in there about Simpson looking exactly like a wax dummy, but I’m just too tired right now.  Some of the other dummies didn’t look so great.  Brad Pitt looked horrible, as did Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

After the wax museum, we went to the 2nd floor of the Venetian, which is where the shopping mall and “Grand Canal” are located.  We walked around and took the typical tourist pictures, then we paid through the nose for a private gondola ride.  Our gondolier was pretty cool and belted out some Italian love songs during the ride.  We got our picture taken with him.

Finally, after doing all of that, we went back to our hotel room and crashed.  This was around 4 in the afternoon.  We woke up at 1:30 in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep (at least she couldn’t…which means that I wasn’t allowed to).  So we went downstairs and she lost about $40 on the slot machines (I hate those things).  We walked out into the night and headed out to some of the surrounding hotels.  Treasure Island (they call themselves “TI” now…I guess they’re trying to update their image), The Mirage, and Caesar’s Palace.  Obviously at that time of night, no stores were open, so we mostly just walked through the hotels, checking out their finery.

Wednesday was pretty tame.  More walking, checking out the sites.  That evening we had tickets for the Blue Man Group at the Venetian.  Word of advice:  If you’re going to Vegas and your entertainment choices come down to sitting in your hotel room watching reruns of Dobie Gillis or going to see the Blue Man Group, pick up the phone and order some room service, because you’ll be much more entertained in your hotel room.  We were both incredibly bored by the Blue Man Group.  A good 50% of the show is spent watching these clowns just stare at each other, not doing anything else.  When they were on stage and actually doing something, they were good.  But the lag time between “skits” was way too long.  They need to work on their pacing so as to be more interesting.  If this is the standard show that all the Blue Man Group troupes perform, and there are no differences in timing, then how the hell do people not only put up with this crap, but praise it as well?  I always read reviews saying how great and original the Blue Man Group shows are.  Now, it’s possible that this particular show was relatively new, the actors may not have had their timing down yet, or they may have had to cut certain things out at the last minute which meant they had to stretch the other things longer, so I’m not saying that all Blue Man Group shows are bad.  But the one we saw really freaking sucked.

Thursday was another good day.  We had some time to kill before our dinner reservations at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, so we booked some tickets to the Gregory Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater show.  This guy is a former circus performer from Russia.  He is a fantastic juggler and clown.  Half of his show is spent with him or his daughter performing incredible athletic feats, juggling acts, etc.  The other half is his pets.  He rescues tons of animals from shelters every year and incorporates some of them into his act.  He has trained several dogs and house cats to perform crazy things like jumping through hoops, climbing 30-foot tall perches and jumping down onto his back, etc.  In one part, he has a dog in a stroller with a cat pushing the stroller while walking on it’s hind legs.  Most people aren’t amazed by dog tricks as dogs are more easily trained, but seeing house cats do the things Popovich has trained them to do is really entertaining.  It was definitely worth the money for the tickets.

After the pet show, we went to the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris hotel.  Now this is not a cheap meal, so be prepared for some world-class dining.  All the waiters and additional staff are dressed in tuxedos or evening dresses or finely pressed shirts and pants.  We were seated at a half-table facing out on the Las Vegas Blvd strip, directly across from the Bellagio.  We had a front row seat for the Bellagio’s world famous fountains.  The waiter placed our napkins in our laps, gave us the menus, and an incredibly well-stocked wine menu (when the wine menu requires a table of contents, you know they carry a wide selection of vino).  I ordered a slow-cooked north Alaskan salmon filet in a buttery pinot noir sauce.  Julie ordered the filet mignon.  I can say, without much resistance, that this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.  The filet was cooked to absolute perfection and that pinot noir sauce was stunning.  Julie loved her filet and is still talking about it a week later.  I also asked the waiter to suggest a nice pinot grigio (yes, I ordered pinot grigio at a French restaurant…minor faux pas.  I should have said “gris” instead of “grigio”).  I didn’t feel that a fruity pinot gris would compliment the fish that well, but I was in the mood for gris, so the waiter brought me a glass of Klipfel pinot gris.  I wasn’t sure of the year, but it was fairly good.  Better than the Kendall-Jackson pinot gris I recently tasted which was too dry, but it wasn’t quite as good as my favorite pinot gris, Willamette Valley Vineyards.  All in all, the meal was excellent.  Julie was stuffed and didn’t want dessert, but I wanted to try the white chocolate banana dessert.  I ordered a cup of coffee (they had excellent coffee as well) and the dessert.  It came out looking incredible.  It was a three-tiered tower of white chocolate discs with banana and ice cream in between.  It was capped off by a hardened sugar dome.  Again, the dessert was incredibly delicious.  I didn’t even blink when the bill came because the meal was worth the (relatively) high cost.

After dinner, we went up to the observation deck on the third level of the Eiffel Tower (as the French would say, “le troisième étage”).  The restaurant is on the first level, or première étage.  Now, I’ve been to the real Eiffel Tower, and this Vegas recreation is an incredible facsimile.  Not as tall, and the third level is definitely not as big, but it’s impressive.  It was dark by this time, and the fountains at the Bellagio were in full swing, with lights and music blasting out into the night.  The entire crowd at the top of the tower was completely silent  and huddled together to watch the show far below.  It was a great cap on the evening.

Friday came and, again, we spent the time walking around, shopping, checking out New York New York and the Titanic exhibit at the Tropicana.  That evening we went to see the Lance Burton show at the Monte Carlo.  I had booked our seats a few months in advance and we had front row seats.  I was in the third seat from the center aisle, and Julie was in the fourth.  There are 5 or 6 steps in the center of the stage that lead down into the crowd seating area.  This is for Lance to come down and pick people from the audience to help him in some tricks.  Of course, being in the front row, Lance came down in the middle of show, looking for someone for his next act.  He shook each of our hands and asked us where we were from.  That was kinda cool to meet him.

His act was fairly standard, i.e., producing birds out of his handkerchief, a floating woman that he passes a ring over, etc.  That’s not to say it wasn’t impressive.  His final act involved him flying around in a full size Corvette, flying through a giant ring so that we’d know there were no strings attached.  Again, fairly standard magician stuff, but still mind-bending for the non-magically inclined audience.  He’s also got a good stage presence and is quick on his feet with his interaction with the audiences.  It was a good time and we’re glad we went.

After that, we came back to the hotel, packed our bags, and went to sleep.  We got up at 4 in the morning to catch a cab to the airport and fly back home.  We were happy to get out of Vegas.  It was a fun time, and I definitely think Vegas is a place that everyone should see at least once in their lives, but it’s not a place I’d want to go back to all the time.  It’s extremely crowded.  In fact, I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find such a densely-packed group of stupid, fat, slow-moving people in one place anywhere else.


One comment

  1. I am going to have to agree with your entire blog. I like the part at the end the most where people should visit in once in their lives but not a place where you would want to go all the time. Most tourist’s impression of Vegas, 1st time – most awesome thing ever, 2nd – it’s ok, 3rd+ – Why am I here again. That’s how Vegas is, crazy adventure but it can get old quickly.

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