Saturday, November 13, 2010

Link to site: Las Vegas History - check it out!

I was looking through my list of blogs and websites and found that I have NOT previously included my friend John's fantastic site on Las Vegas history, so here it is:

It is a very comprehensive site full of TONS of photos and historical information. Be sure you set aside time to peruse the site or be prepared to come back to it over and over again; it is chock-full of wonderful Vegas stuff, and I STILL haven't been through all of it.

John is a fantastic photographer and avid traveler, and he is a fellow Vegas fanatic to boot. I can only imagine how many times he'd visit Vegas if he lived in the U.S. instead of Great Britain!

Trip report: April 22-25, 2010 at Harrah's

It was brought to my attention (by my mother) that I hadn't added my April trip report to my blog. Silly me! I previously posted it on the LasVegas4Ever message board, but here it is in its entirety.

Thursday, April 22nd
When I landed in Vegas at 2:15 on Thursday, it was wet and COLD! We actually arrived 15 minutes early (thanks to a tail wind), and the taxi line only took about 10 minutes to get through, thankfully. I arrived at Harrah’s and found a short queue for check in, but I was still in my Mardi Gras tower room (Strip view room #1670) by 3:00 p.m. Not bad at all.

I’ll admit that I was still a little worried about carrying my big ol’ camera around during the entire trip, but I had outfitted my camera bag as a makeshift purse so that I didn’t have to carry two separate bags everywhere I went. I also made sure to pack a small purse in my suitcase so that I could move things over and just take what I needed when I intended on staying around Harrah’s for late night (or early morning) gambling.

After unpacking and making calls home to check on my family, I texted Claire to see if she still wanted to meet for drinks at Zefferino’s in the Venetian. If you’ve never been to Zefferino’s, it’s easy to miss on a casual walk through the Grand Canal Shops. It has an unassuming entrance near the front of the shops and doesn’t stand out at all. Our ultimate goal was to get a first-hand look at the “best bathroom in Vegas” and take some photos of our own to share with the board. We met and enjoyed a long chat over a glass of Zin in the downstairs bar area (thanks again for buying, Claire!) before making our way up to the super-secret bathroom located on the second floor in the back of the restaurant.

We disregarded the sign stating that no photos were allowed without management approval and took several. I must say that it is a very small bathroom, but I do like the fact that each individual stall has its own sink and mirror, and they even have mouthwash and lotion for their guests. The small size of the individual stalls made it somewhat difficult to take photos, but we did our best. Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with the “best bathroom”, and I think the bathrooms at Palazzo, Wynn, Encore, or even Paris are just as pretty in their own way. Sure, they don’t have sinks in every stall, but they all have their charm.

Now that we had successfully completed our mission, we parted ways until the Mega Meet. Claire’s sister-in-law had just landed, and I was eager to get some gambling in since I’d missed out on my March trip.

I played for a while in the Venetian, finding both the Gold Fish 2 and Gold Fish 3 slots in the casino. I found that I was not at all impressed with either of these new slots and really enjoy the original Gold Fish slots much, much more. At least I can say I gave them a try. I found myself missing the fish food bonus most of all, and I feel like the 3-D effect on the reel slots made my eyes cross. I guess that’s why I don’t like the updated Wizard Of Oz (WOZ) slots, either – give me the original LED screens and I’m a happy camper.

My camera and I made our way over to The Mirage to take some photos, and the casino was really packed. I was surprised it was so crowded for a Thursday, and eventually decided to head over to my old stomping grounds at Imperial Palace based on the great gambling luck I’d read about in some recent LV4E trip reports.

As usual, not much has changed inside the IP casino, and I often wonder what changes HET might have in store for it in the future. I like the addition of Hash House a Go-Go (I had a great breakfast there in March and look forward to going back on a future trip), but HET really hasn’t done anything of note to the casino itself other than change out the carpet. Nonetheless, it was just as crowded as it ever was before, and everyone seemed to be having a great time wherever I went. I managed to get sucked into some Quick Hits slots and had a good, long run on WOZ and Monopoly that kept me occupied for almost three hours.

I headed back over to Harrah’s with the intention of getting the $29.99 24-hour buffet pass, but the line to get into the Flavors buffet was HUGE! I have never seen a line so long in there, and I was not going to wait in it for anything. There was even a line of people waiting at the Diamond and Platinum entrance, which I’ve never seen at the buffet before. I walked to the sports pit to see about getting a sandwich from Pepper Rose Deli (I’ve had it on my list for a while) and found a sign saying it was closed. FYI, I checked back every day during my trip and found Pepper Rose was still closed. Is it closed permanently? I didn’t see anything that said it was, but I don’t know. I decided a quick meal at The CafĂ© would have to do, and clam chowder hit the spot. (I have checked back since then, and Pepper Rose Deli has been closed. Nothing has replaced it as of this date.)

I managed to keep myself up until midnight and just couldn’t stay awake any longer. I ended the day down $140, so apparently I gambled a bit more than I thought I did when I found open seats at some of my favorite old slots: Gold Fish, WOZ, Dancing Dolphins Super Jackpot Party, and Village People Jackpot Party. Time to go to bed.

Friday, April 23rd
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and was totally wide awake. No amount of covering my head with the blankets would convince me that it was still sleepy time. Well, it looks like I’ll be starting the day a lot sooner than I thought! I got up, got ready, and was out the door by 7:00 a.m. Camera bag in tow, I headed down the Strip towards Wynn, taking photos as I went.

I took quite a few photos while I was making my way down the Strip, but I still had to wait for the Wynn breakfast buffet to open at 8:00 a.m. I didn’t realize they opened so late (“late” is all relative, isn’t it?). I did pass a few minutes in line with some fellow Texans discussing the beautiful wildflowers and fantastic weather we’ve been having back home, and I found myself wishing they were my buffet neighbors when a completely different couple was seated next to me soon after.

To say that the woman was probably the bitchiest person I’ve ever been around would be an understatement. First I thought, “Maybe she’s not a morning person.” Then I thought, “She was apparently sent by the devil himself to drive her husband to an early grave.” She complained about the weather in Vegas (it was cool and sunny), the weather back home (I believe she was speaking of Hell), and the speed of the waitress taking their drink order (“Two Bloody Marys, but I’ll have mine when I get my second plate, no sooner” – really? The waitress now has to watch to see when you’ll be back with your second plate and time the drink accordingly?). Her request for “warm, not scalded” milk for her coffee and the look on her face when the waitress told her there was no way for her to warm any milk other than the scalded milk that came from the espresso machine bordered on deadly. She complained about people walking too close to their table, the fact that her watch battery seemed to be dying (probably out of self-defense), the distance from one end of the buffet to the other, and she had a continuous rant about every suggestion her husband made with regard to what she should try on the buffet and where they should go on vacation the next month.

They were entertaining in their own way, but only because I didn’t make eye contact. If I had, I believe I would’ve been petrified as if confronted by Medusa in her lair. I fully expected to see snakes peeking out from her collar at any moment. I had complete sympathy for the waitress and left her an extra-large tip because I couldn’t imagine having to deal with the woman for more than 10 minutes without wanting to shove something large down her throat to make her STOP BITCHING. I had comic relief from my husband in the form of back-and-forth text messages, and his response to my belief that the woman probably carried her spouse’s private parts in her purse for safekeeping almost made me laugh out loud (and I surely would’ve been killed at that point). Thankfully, they left before I did and I was allowed to finish my breakfast in peace.

I just want to say here that I told the waitress afterwards that “good customer service” begins with a “good customer”. I think that’s very true, and I could see she was very glad to be rid of the annoying woman. I also believe I had a vision of what Hell could be like. I don’t want to go there.

After breakfast, I walked to Encore to take more photos to add to my collection. I found a new Monopoly slot with a boardwalk theme, but I don’t remember what it was called. I really enjoyed it because it had some of the same random-type bonuses as my beloved Gold Fish that seemed to be triggered by absolutely nothing at all, and I spent the better part of an hour trying to figure it out before I cashed out my original $20 and headed out to the Strip via Wynn.

Claire and her SIL found me as I was walking out of Wynn - she identified me by my camera bag from behind, don’t you love that? I made Claire pose WITH her sister-in-law for a photo in front of the waterfall against her will (all part of my evil plan, hehehe) before we parted ways again.

I spent the next few hours walking from hotel/casino to hotel/casino, taking photos in Palazzo, Venetian, Caesars and Bellagio before finally finding my way into CityCenter by following the walkway to the tram but deciding instead to make the walk to Vdara myself. I took a couple of photos there before I headed out to the sunshine again (I was afraid of getting lost in Vdara and didn’t want to chance it) and I found the strange canoe sculpture everyone has talked about. It wasn’t quite as large as I thought it would be. Maybe it just looks bigger in photographs. Meh.

I followed the walkway to Aria and found that it is, indeed, extremely dark in that casino. It’s far darker than Caesars ever was before they renovated it. I continued my photo tour and marveled at the delicious-looking desserts in their shops, but I decided that all I really wanted to do was head over to PH to finally try the Spice Market Buffet and activate the $29.99 24-hour deal. My plan was almost foiled when I got lost in Crystals – I encountered no fewer than five dead ends while I was trying to make my way to the Strip, and I finally gave up my attempt to get out via Crystals and headed back to Aria by retracing my steps and following along the side of the building until I FINALLY saw the Strip. Joy!

My feet were killing me – I’d pretty much been walking almost non-stop since 7 a.m., and it was now after 2 p.m. I made the long trek all the way around CityCenter to get to the Planet Hollywood crossover and made my way into the buffet entrance. My intent was to just sample some unusual items on the buffet so I could say I’d finally tried it. I was pleased that there was no line, and the cashier said I could either get a wristband or just put the buffet info on my HET card and swipe it every time I wanted to use it during the 24-hour period. I chose the card option because I don’t really care for wristbands, and I just had to present my HET card and ID when I went for subsequent meals.

The Spice Market Buffet offers lunch until 3:30 p.m., and I was severely disappointed that most of the dishes were empty at 2:20. Really? The buffet wasn’t crowded, and they still had over an hour on the lunch menu. I went back and looked at a few of the options again a few minutes later, but the few people who were in the buffet had descended upon the food as soon as it was placed in the warmers and they were empty again. I ended up trying a shrimp and pasta dish (very good), buffalo shrimp (not very good), antipasti salad (okay) and had a freshly prepared Bananas Foster crepe for dessert (awesome!). I was suddenly glad I wasn’t paying $18.99 for their lunch. Harrah’s Flavors Buffet is still the best of the HET buffets I’ve tried.

I got a call from my friend Mike right before I got my dessert and found out that he was in PH at that very moment looking around and gambling. Great! I told him I’d give him a call when I was finished up and meet up with him.

I noticed something about PH when I was trying to find Mike in the casino: there’s no line of sight above the machines. You know how easy it is in most casinos to stand up from a slot machine – or stand in the aisle – and see across to another area of the casino when you’re looking for something or someone? You can’t do that in PH. It made it hard to find Mike, and the fact that there are four casino entrances from the mall didn’t make it any easier. Still, we finally met up by the Star Trek machines (I had to ask a slot attendant to find them for me) and had a nice little chat. Mike, I still envy your ability to drive to Vegas so easily. I would be there every other weekend if I could make the drive that quickly.

Mike and I finally headed over to Paris together. I wanted to get a present for Hayley, and he was done with his tour of PH. We chatted a little while longer and I was really starting to feel the effects of too much walking, not enough sleep and definitely not enough water. I fully intended to head back to Paris to meet up with Mike and Bonnie later that night, but I was in need of water and a nap first.

I did my shopping and headed back to Harrah’s. Boy…that was probably the longest walk of my Vegas vacation history. I felt wiped out! I had already felt a bit light-headed trying to find my way out of CityCenter, but now I was really not feeling well. I managed to make it back to the room and lay down with a washcloth across my face. I know I slept for a while, but I have no idea for how long. When I woke up, I decided to just head downstairs for a little local gambling at Harrah’s and not do any more long-distance walking for the time being.

Less than an hour later I was back up in the room, really not feeling up to walking anywhere too far away. Bonnie had already texted me from the airport in Detroit, but I wasn’t sure if I could make it back down to Paris. I decided to lounge about in the room for a while, and I ended up deciding not to make the trip back down to Paris because I still felt really light-headed. I texted Bonnie and told her I wouldn’t be making it over there, and I TOTALLY forgot about calling poor Mike back and letting him know I wouldn’t be coming. So sorry about that again, Mike! I didn’t even think of it until I saw a text from him the next morning. What a dope I am!

I did head down to the buffet for some soup and salad at 9:30 p.m. because I was determined to use my 24-hour buffet pass, and I just kept it simple. There was no line when I walked up, but the line quickly grew behind me as all the last-minute buffet goers headed in before it closed at 10 p.m.

After I ate I felt a little better, and I decided to walk around a bit to try and get some gambling in. I played here and there, finally finding an open seat at some new Jackpot Block Party machines before deciding I was done for the day. I was out by midnight after taking some medicine. Oy, what a day!

Saturday, April 24th
I have never slept so long in Vegas! I woke up at 7:30 a.m., and I was feeling better, but my throat was sore and my head was a little stuffy. What a great way to start the Mega Meet day. Still, it was fantastic to be feeling better, and I headed back down to the Flavors Buffet instead of heading to my intended target, Le Buffet at Paris. I wasn’t going to push it.

After a good breakfast and a bit of people-watching, I went to the Concierge and traded my coupon for a free ticket to Mac King into an actual ticket to Mac King. Finally! I’d been trying to see him for years! I headed over to Caesars at a very leisurely pace to take more photos, make a run on the Gold Fish machines there, and to do a little more shopping before it was time to head to the show.

I spent quite a while walking around Caesars, just enjoying the fact that I was upright and not feeling too bad. I still wasn’t 100%, but it was a big improvement on how I felt the night before, and I drank a lot of water as I walked.

I made it back to Harrah’s for Mac King’s 1 p.m. show, and I really enjoyed it. It’s not a big-time magic show by any means, but he gets the entire audience involved and it’s quite entertaining. My favorite parts were the “cloak of invisibility” and the goldfish trick. I can’t even begin to explain what either of those look like, but I laughed pretty hard throughout the entire show. I really wanted some Fig Newtons, too (inside joke for those who’ve seen Mac’s show). The show lasts about 1 ½ hours, and it’s a great afternoon diversion. As I left the show, I found I had a text from Doris (Mike’s wife) saying she hoped I felt better and to have fun at the Mega Meet. Sweet Doris! I wish she could’ve been there.

I made the decision to take my smaller purse and my camera to the Meet because I really didn’t want to carry too much stuff with me, and I was glad I did because I also chose to wear heels – something I never do in Vegas, but I was determined to wear heels to the meet because I didn’t have to walk too far. I dressed and traded out my bag and headed out to meet Bonnie and Jack at Harrah’s Registration.

Bonnie was waiting at Registration, looking as sparkly as ever, and Jack appeared soon after to take his “two dates” to the Meet. Jack made a couple of comments to the taxi driver about the route he was taking (do they honestly think that no one pays attention to the route?), and we had a pleasant ride over to the Palms.

We waited near the Palms Registration, not knowing there was a VIP Registration nearby, and were soon joined by other members of the LV4E board. Our group was growing, and we were still looking for Steve, our suite host for the evening (he obviously gambles MUCH MORE than we do!). Luckily he found us and directed us to the VIP Registration area, where everyone else was already waiting. We made our way to the suite elevators as a very large group of chatterers, and you could feel the excitement beginning to build.

Steve, what a great suite you had! It was beautiful, and I think several of us could’ve lived in the bathroom for a few days. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I’ve posted photos, but they don’t do justice to the great view, great suite, and great people who attended the meet. It was so nice of your host to arrange everything for us, and thanks again to Steve, Terri, Michelle, Tania and V for all the work they did getting things together. It was very easy to move around and talk to people in smaller groups, and I tried to take as many photos of the meet itself and the slot pulls afterwards. I know I missed talking to several people, and I wish I’d taken fewer pictures and done more chatting, since that’s my real love.

Bonnie’s speech was awesome, the cake was delicious, there was too much food, too much wine, and not enough time to enjoy everything. Still, it was a good decision on Terri’s and Diana’s part to start the slot pulls early, because they did take a long time to finish. I don’t know how Diana managed to keep up her tweets during the meet, but she did, and I’m sure everyone following her posts was glad she was keeping them up to date on what we were doing. It was also great that Steve had his laptop up and running so that the whole LV4E board could be a part of the meet in some way – great idea!

Mike discovered that our view out the windows facing the Strip (with the Playboy Tower in view to the right) had a little surprise to it: those little “balconies” we saw on the top floors were not balconies at all, but were in fact pools that hung out into nothingness, giving the occupants a nice view of the entire surrounding Vegas cityscape. Very cool! That was the only time I wished I’d brought my zoom lens along to the meet.

When we finally left, Jack, Bonnie and I took a taxi back to Harrah’s. The look on the attendant’s face at the taxi stand was classic – Bonnie is tall to begin with, but to see her coming with a giant sombrero on her head must’ve been intimidating! I just followed along behind, listening to Jack laugh the whole way out at the picture Bonnie made, and we sent her on her way back to Paris in the taxi with all her goodies in tow. I still don’t know how she made it with all the crap she had to carry. Jack and Bonnie, I forgot to thank you both for paying for the taxi rides. You guys were too quick for me, and I wasn’t going to add my argument to yours.

Jack and I parted ways then; he went to find his buddy, and I went to change out of those damn heels! I was more than happy to dress comfortably and head back down for more gambling. I managed to find an open Gold Fish machine near the registration desk that was absolutely calling me. I wish I’d had my camera with me, because I got the best Kissing Fish bonus (Gold Fish players know what I mean) on my 35-cent spin and chose the oyster and got 40 credits for kissing. Well, Goldie proceeded to give out 5 kisses during that bonus, and I cashed out $152.14 from that one bonus round alone! I can only imagine what it would’ve been if I’d had more money in. That machine really was calling to me.

Sunday, April 25th
I woke up to a call from Bonnie. Wha? It’s not even 7:30! She was looking for our friend Lynn’s phone number, which I didn’t have. I suggested she call Terri or Diana, and reluctantly got up. My throat was still sore, but it was bearable. I didn’t care – I was headed to the Jasmine Brunch at Bellagio soon, and I wasn’t going to let a sore throat hold me back from my fun.

I packed up and went downstairs in search of Baileys and hot chocolate. It really is a great remedy for a sore throat, in case you’re wondering. The CW had never heard of it before. Strange - it’s the only thing I order at Harrah’s other than water because I like the Harrah’s version the best. Either she was new or I’d never encountered her before.

I had a couple of yummy drinks before I managed to find a Jackpot Block Party machine open. I actually made something happen on it, too. If you haven’t seen it, it’s yet another twist on the Jackpot Party machines. If you get the Jackpot Party bonus, you start out with one party. If you find a TNT plunger while you’re opening presents, you can open one, two or three additional parties. After that, any present you pick opens up the matching presents on all the active party screens, increasing your bonus exponentially. If you get a party pooper on the screen you select the present on, all your parties are ended automatically; if you reveal a party pooper on another party screen, only that party ends and your other parties continue. Plus, you have the chance to get a party saver for the party before it officially ends. I really liked it and hope to see more of them. They were very popular in Harrah’s.

After making my way up to $80 on my $20, I cashed out and headed back to the room to pack and check out before heading over to Bellagio for the breakfast meet and a quick meet up with another board friend, Tony. Unfortunately, Tony didn’t show, but the ladies began to appear for the meet and we were all chomping at the bit to get into the brunch when the doors opened at 11:00 a.m. There were 8 of us for the brunch meet: me, Bonnie, Michelle, Tania, Terri, Lynn, Lynn’s SIL Robbie, and Diana.

Thanks again to Diana for making the updated reservation at 11:00 a.m. and getting us seated near the window. What a beautiful view and what fantastic company we had! As soon as the doors opened and we headed down to our table near the fountains, they started their first fountain show of the day, and I got goose bumps. What a wonderful experience all around! We took lots of photos of the buffet before anyone got at it, and took lots of photos all around the restaurant, too. We managed to spend more than 2 ½ hours there, enjoying the conversation, the food and the atmosphere. Lucky Diana will be back next month. I would seriously go back next week if I could.

We had one of the girls (I don’t know if you’d call her a waitress) take a group photo of us before we left, and Bonnie got a beautiful little gift from the restaurant because we’d mentioned it was her birthday when we were seated. It was a great experience from beginning to end, and my part of the bill came to $83.00. It was definitely worth every penny. And having breakfast in Vegas with a nicer bunch of ladies in Vegas would be hard to do.

Terri and Tania, I’m glad you were both able to get up and out before the crack of noon to join us. Lynn, thank you again for the beautiful bracelet you gave me! I was right; Hayley was ready to steal it as soon as I mentioned Juicy, and she hadn’t even seen it yet.

We parted ways then, and I was off to take a few more photos before I headed back to Harrah’s for some last-minute gambling. I tried to get my Jackpot Block Party machine back (now it’s mine, ha ha!), but they were all full again. I did manage a bit of play on my favorite Quick Hits machine, but couldn’t get the 5 symbols to pop up so that I could win the minimum progressive bonus, so Harrah’s ended up taking back most of my Gold Fish and Jackpot Block Party winnings. Dang!

A few more Baileys and hot chocolates before I left, and a little more Gold Fish to boot, I headed for the airport around 5 p.m. to review my photos while I waited. I found I’d taken more than 350 photos over the past 4 days, but they definitely needed some sorting before I determined which ones would be used.

Well, that’s another trip down. I think I’ll be back in October, but have no definite plans yet. I know I won’t be carrying my camera around again, so it’ll be a lighter trip for sure.

Thanks again to Steve, Diana, Terri, Michelle, Lynn, Tania and Vlady for getting the suite, organizing the slot pulls, getting all the food and drinks together, and for taking care of Bonnie’s gifts. It was nice to be able to spend time in a relaxed environment where everyone could be heard. Steve, thank your host for us, too!

Final thoughts:
I think the porn slappers have re-located to a more center-Strip area for their annoying activities. I found most of them right outside of Harrah’s. And, is it just me, or is it as if they are only hanging around HET properties?

Other than the first day, the weather was a perfect mid-70’s in the day time, and lower 50’s to upper 40’s at night with sunny skies. Best dang Vegas weather!

The $29.99 24-hour buffet was a good deal, even as little as I used it. Three “meals” came out to $10 each, which is not a bad price for any quality Vegas buffet. I just wish I’d felt better and had been able to get to Paris for breakfast like I’d hoped.

I did not spend as much time gambling as I’d hoped because I got sick, and I wanted to make sure I took enough photos to satisfy my camera bug. I guess that just means I will HAVE TO take another trip!