Sunday, October 30, 2011

Restaurant Review: Les Artistes at Paris (CLOSED January 2012)

Les Artistes at Paris Hotel and Casino is probably not too long for this world.  It has been said that celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is going to put a signature restaurant of his own in the current spot (which is right next to the High Limit Slots), so check it out while you can.

When I made the reservation, the lady said the dress code was "casual", but I wasn’t comfortable with “casual” for a 4-star restaurant dinner, so I went with evening wear, instead.  There were people wearing shorts and people in full, formal evening wear, so I think anything fits the bill here.  

I ended up chickening out on the food photos because the lighting was very, very low, and I would’ve had to use a flash.  It felt too hoity-toity for flash photos, so you won't find any good pictures of the inside of the restaurant in this review, sorry.  

The walls of the restaurant are decorated with reproduction paintings and stained glass, and it’s really pretty inside, but very dark, too.  The main part of the restaurant is open to a second "floor", so you get the feeling you're in a much larger restaurant.  There are probably about 30 tables on the main floor, and there were never more than 10 tables filled during my visit.

Once seated, you're served a basket of assorted breads and fresh butter, which gives you plenty of time to ponder hard food choices.  They have quite a few appetizer options on their menu, and I had a very large gift certificate to use, so I wanted to make the most of my visit.  

For an appetizer, I chose the Garbage Salad - shrimp, salami, egg and olives on field greens with a light vinaigrette dressing.  Good, but definitely an unusual combination.  At least now I can said I tried it.

The waiter recommended the Chef’s Special for the main course: Filet Mignon and Scallops Au Gratin, served with garlic mashed potatoes and French string beans.  For whatever reason, he sold me on it, and I didn't have to worry about making a choice for myself.  I ordered the steak cooked medium, which turned out to be a little too pink for me, but it was a very good cut of meat.  The waiter offered to take it back for me, but I just ended up eating all the way around the outside where it was crispier.  Even the edges had a great flavor!  The scallops were buttery and the size of silver dollars, covered in delicious Parmesan cheese.  The green beans had crispy edges and were very fresh-tasting, which is just how I like them.  The potatoes were sinfully good in their garlic creaminess, and I used extra bread to make sure I got every last bite.  

Everything got washed down with a nice California Pinot Noir recommended by the waiter.  Even though I only ate about a third of the steak, it was still too much for one person to eat, and it was the beginning of my gross over-eating for the trip.  I didn't even order dessert, and I should have; I could have taken it up to my room and eaten it later.  The waiter also offered to choose a bottle of wine for me and open it (they can't let you take it closed), but I thought that'd be a little too much for me to finish off before I left.  

My total with tax was $95, and I left a generous tip in cash because I was using the gift certificate and felt more than a little guilty for it...why, I don't know.  I have guilt issues in strange situations.

It was a good experience overall, and I would give it a 7 out of 10 rating.  The atmosphere would be nice for a romantic meal as long as it's open, but I don't know how long that will be.

For reservations or to view their menu online:

The Super-Secret Trip Report, July 3-6, 2011

Monte Carlo statue after dark
Strip fireworks from the City Center pedestrian bridge

I may never eat again.

I WAY over-booked myself on meals, and I ended up canceling two of them because there was just too much to try.  I had spread them out over the days and figured I’d be able to do them all because there was plenty of time – and lots of walking – in between, but it was still JUST TOO MUCH.

Other than that, the weather was fantastic, I saw lots of new things, and I managed to miss the rain storms because I was…what else?  Eating!  HA! 

Remember that I do my trip reports day-by-day instead of by subject, so you might have to skim over some paragraphs to find what you want if you’re not into reading every single word I write (there are always lots of them).  On we go…

Sunday, July 3

My flight out was uneventful, which is always a good thing, and I managed to sit across from the most entertaining teen-age boy ever.  He drummed, shimmied, shook his head and mimed every song he listened to on his iPhone…all the way to Vegas.  I have a feeling that the man behind him wasn’t too keen on his music because he was experiencing it through the bouncing of his seat and tray table.  I found it amusing, though, and I made a game out of trying to figure out the songs he was listening to.

Once I landed, I found my bag was one of the first off the plane, and I headed to a non-existent cab line.  I don’t think I’ve ever walked right up for a cab before, and I thought it might be a good sign.  It was NOT.  I was about to have the most horrible cabbie experience I have ever had, and I will be more selective of my cab drivers in the future.  Read on for…

“The Cab Ride from HELL!”

This little man came running up to the officer directing us to the various cabs and exclaimed that he’d been passed over twice and had been waiting for a cab fare for over half an hour, and the officer said to me, “There you go – number one.”  So I followed the cabbie to his car, him pulling my suitcase and telling me how “terrible” it’d been with no fares for so long, and I was already thinking about how he was going to try to hit me up for a bigger tip from the beginning.  Not so.  Instead, he immediately asked me if I wanted to take the tunnel or surface roads (as we’re obviously headed for the tunnel already), and I said surface.  He said, “No, no – there is three accident on the streets.  You don’t want to go that way.  Highway is quicker.”  I reminded him that it was a holiday weekend, and I’d much rather take the surface streets because, even with accidents, there were side roads to take to get around them.  He told me that he would turn off the meter if it got too bad, but he assured me again there were no accidents on the freeway.

Oh, how wrong he was.  There were several accidents on the freeway, and tons of traffic coming in from California, and that would’ve been okay because he promised to turn off the meter if it was too bad, BUT NO!  It got worse.  I won’t go into details, but he proceeded to ask me questions (at first I thought he was just making small talk), then RANTED on whatever the subject was!  Over the next 30 minutes, he managed to insult San Antonio, Vegas, gamblers, every Vegas hotel I’ve ever stayed in, and then my daughter (I won’t even repeat it).  THAT was the last straw for me.  When I re-told the cab story to Terri and Diana, Diana said I should’ve waited until I got to the hotel, but I was NOT having any more of his shit.  I had sat quietly, with my arms crossed and looking out the window, for all that time, but when he picked his newest subject I asked him to please shut up.  Then he had the gall to ask me if he’d offended me!  Oh, HELL YES!  I let loose and told him exactly HOW he’d offended me, from beginning to end, and then he said, “Sorry, it is a language barrier, I think.”  I said I THINK NOT!  You asked questions and spoke very clearly when voicing your opinions, but you have stepped over the boundary now!

To wrap this up (it could go on forever), he apologized again and again, which I did not accept, he turned off the meter and high-tailed it (as best he could with the stand-still traffic on the highway) to the first exit and got me to Paris in under 10 minutes.  I was livid, and I had already told him I was going to report him to the Taxicab Authority, and he kept saying, “No, please, it is a language barrier.  Don’t report me.”  I told him TOO BAD, I was going to report him, anyway.  Then he came up with a new ploy as we were pulling into the Paris taxi stand: “You no pay.  I sorry, you no pay.”  I told him, “You’re damn right – I’m not paying you ANYTHING!”  The doorman opened my door, and I told him, “DO NOT let that man touch my bags!” and stood with my arms crossed while the cabbie pleaded again.  No good, Mr. Ass – you’re being reported for long-hauling and I’m detailing the insults, too.  I hope he loses his job.

Okay…I’m over it now.  I did fill out the form, and I wrote a letter to the Taxicab Authority, as well, since the form is supposed to be just for long-hauling.  But there was no way I was going to wait until I got to Paris to tell him I was pissed.  I was in the cab for 42 minutes!  No way I should have had to endure that.  I sincerely hope he was fired.

It took me a few minutes to calm down and gather myself, and the poor guy at check in probably thought I was crazy, but he was nice and understanding when I was fumbling through my wallet for everything, and he put me in room 2826 immediately.  It was only 1:30, but I was overjoyed I wouldn’t have to check my luggage and I could go chill in my room after that experience.

I don’t know if he meant to give me a renovated Red Room or not, but I was happy to have it.  What a pretty room!  I put away my stuff and took my photos, noting that my view was out the back toward Bally’s, which meant I’d get the sunrise.  Don’t forget the blackout curtains, Deann.

Bellagio was first on my list for the day.  I wanted to pay one last visit to the Fontana Bar before it closed for good on the 5th.  They had a sign up outside that said they were closed for a private function (boo, hiss) and the curtains were closed, but the bar top VP was still open on the right-hand side.  I was unable to go in and get any photos inside the bar and the view of the fountains - which sucks - but I also wasn’t going to start off playing $1 bar top VP to get a drink, either.  So I got a couple of photos and headed off.  (Note: When I went back on the 5th, the “closed for a private function” sign was still up and the curtains were still closed, but the bars were all cleaned off and there was no one sitting at the VP games.  Sad.)

I still think the Bellagio Conservatory needs to change up their displays.  Even though the different seasons’ exhibits are pretty, it’s the same stuff over and over and over now.  I’m all for recycling, but Bellagio has money; they need to get some new stuff.

Dinner was at Les Artistes restaurant in Paris.  When I made the reservation, the lady said it was casual, but I wasn’t comfortable with “casual” for a 4-star restaurant dinner, so I went with evening wear, instead.  I ended up chickening out on the food porn photos because the lighting was very, very low, and I would’ve had to use a flash and it felt too hoity-toity for flash photos.  The walls of the restaurant are decorated with reproduction paintings and stained glass, and it’s really pretty inside, but very dark, too.  They serve an assorted bread basket when you’re seated, which gives you time to make hard decisions.  I had the Garbage Salad as an appetizer, which has shrimp, salami and olives on field greens and is dressed with light vinaigrette.  The waiter recommended the Chef’s Special: Filet Mignon and Scallops Au Gratin, served with garlic mashed potatoes and French string beans.  I ordered the steak medium, which turned out to be a little too pink for me, but it was good.  The scallops were buttery, the green beans were crispy and the potatoes were sinfully good, and they all got washed down with a nice California Pinot Noir recommended by the waiter.  Even though I only ate about 1/3 of the steak, it was still too much for one person to eat, and it was the beginning of my gross over-eating for the trip.  Total with tax was $95 (comped), and I left a generous tip in cash.

I decided to play at Paris and met a really nice lady from Nebraska named Lana.  We chatted for quite a long time while playing Gold Fish, and we even took the monorail down to MGM together (she was staying at Monte Carlo, and I was headed to that end of the Strip to visit some other casinos).  Nice lady.  I gave her the LV4E website address, so we might see her around here sometime.

I learned a lesson during that monorail trip: don’t wear new sandals!  I could already feel the blisters forming on my toes.  I knew I should’ve stopped in my room to change shoes!  Oh, well – too late now.  I said goodbye to Lana and wandered my way through MGM and NY/NY.  Not a darn thing held my attention for too long, and my feet did not want to make the trek down to Excalibur, Luxor and beyond, so it was a hobble over to Monte Carlo, instead.  I vowed last trip to head back there and do a little more gambling to stay on their radar, and I found a Cleopatra II machine that was very nice to me.

The walk down to Paris was painful.  I had totally forgotten about the fireworks when I heard them start to go off over Caesars Palace, but there was no way I was going to be able to rush.  I made it to the walkway between City Center and Planet Hollywood and stopped there to take some photos and shoot a couple of videos, but I couldn’t see the whole thing head-on, which was unfortunate.  I’m sure the pics and videos would’ve been even better if I’d been a little farther down the Strip.  The Strip traffic was extreme; I’m glad I wasn’t down there.

When the fireworks were finally done, I headed on to Paris and went to take off those damn shoes!  I resisted throwing them in the trash because they were too cute.  I think a lucky person will be getting them through Goodwill, though.  I changed into comfy clothes and went back down to gamble some more.

I had the unfortunate displeasure of sitting next to a really creepy guy at Lord of the Rings.  He was just…weird.  Not in an endearing geeky way, either; just creepy.  He finally weirded me out enough that I fled to the Gold Fish machines by Le Cabaret.

I saw an interesting show, although it wasn’t on Le Cabaret’s listing for the night: a cougar who just shouldn’t have been dancing.  There’s a time and a place for ‘sexy’ dancing, but it’s not in a bar where people can stop and watch, stare and point, and you’re literally IN the spotlight.  At first I thought she was imitating Criss Angel’s “show hands” and “interesting magician’s moves”, but then I realized she was just trying to mesmerize her prey.  It was kinda sad, really.  I finally got tired of the free show and went to bed.

Monday, July 4th

I woke up like I’d slept for 10 hours, refreshed and ready for the day.  A glance at the clock said it was 5:45 a.m.  Wow!  Three hours of sleep!  Awesome!  I was able to get some photos of a very pretty sunrise, though, so I think it was worth the early rising time.

It was a nice, quiet walk to the Venetian for the breakfast buffet I’d heard such good things about.  Me no likey too much.  There were very limited food choices for a buffet: waffles, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, cereal, bagels and toppings, hash browns, yogurt and fruit.  No Eggs Benedict?  How can you have a Vegas breakfast buffet with no Eggs Benedict?!?  No pancakes?  No casseroles?  I should’ve ordered off the menu, instead.  The price of the breakfast buffet includes coffee (too strong) and OJ (very good).  But $16.50+tax for their limited selection is not a good deal, IMO.  I won’t be doing that again.

I FINALLY got to play a couple of the different Alice in Wonderland machines in the Venetian and Palazzo, and I really liked them!  Probably because I kept getting different bonuses and was able to play, play, play…whatever.  I enjoyed the Mad Scatter and Flying Teacups bonuses (I think that’s what they’re called).  I have decided that Palazzo is the winner in Vegas when it comes to making a good cup of Bailey’s and Hot Chocolate.  THE best, hands down.  And the fact that they always serve it to me in an insulated travel cup?  Even better!  When I was taking photos around Palazzo, I made sure to stop and send a letter to the troops overseas before I headed on.  That was such a cool thing to do, and I felt even prouder to be doing it on July 4th.

Played at Wynn for a bit, but Steve just took my money and laughed, as usual.  TI kept calling me to sign up for their slot card, so I went.  I managed to turn my $10 free play into $30 on a Dragon’s Fire machine, so that’s a win for me.  Other than that particular machine I found nothing to hold me there, so I headed down to Caesars to find my lucky LOTR slots.

Dirty Lord of the Rings!  Dirty Caesars Entertainment!  They have replaced most of the original Lord of the Rings slots with a newer version: The Two Towers.  As several fellow gamblers commented during my trip, the bonuses are not nearly as frequent as on the original version (the new version is at every CET property), so that was a bit of a downer for me.  AND Caesars moved their machines from the nice, quiet area near the entrance of the Forum Shops waaaaaaay over to the back near the buffet, Beijing Noodle #9 and the bus entrance.  It is very, very loud in that area.  I didn’t stay at those long.  I went back to the “old” area and played the usual Gold Fish and Hot Hot Penny machines, instead.  As my mom noted on her recent trip they have also taken out many of the VP machines in favor of more slot machines.  I don’t know if I like those changes or not.  Bad move, Caesars.

I managed to play around until lunch time and went back to Beijing Noodle #9.  I took lots of photos of the goldfish tanks, but I really wanted to take a picture of the hostess – she was dressed in a beautiful goldfish orange dress.  So pretty!  I had to wait about 5 minutes to be seated, and I chose the bar because I’d been watching the men making noodles through the window.  They were quick, flinging and flipping wads of dough into dozens of noodle strands in less than 2 minutes.  It was fascinating.  I wish I’d recorded a video instead of taking photos because they moved too fast to see the noodles.  I also watched another man making wontons from scratch.  Very, very quick work.  The restaurant was crowded and loud, so be prepared if you go for lunch.

Scallop & Enoki Soup and Pork & Shrimp Dumplings with a Pepsi were the order of the day – very good stuff.  My bill was $24.07 + tip.  The cute, young Chinese waiter switched back and forth between Chinese and English quickly when speaking to me and my bar mate (an older Chinese man), and he called me “Lady” every time he addressed me.  “Thank you, lady.”  “What will you have, lady?”  “Would you like a fork, lady?”  Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?  I declined the fork and opted to stab the dumplings when he wasn’t looking, by the way.  Saving face in a real Chinese restaurant…

When I finally waddled out of there, I headed over to Imperial Palace to pick up my ticket for Matsuri that afternoon.  I was a little too early, so I played a multi-screen Lobstermania machine near the box office.  Sixty cents to play all four screens isn’t too bad, and I was able to keep playing for quite a long time.  Between that and Jackpot Block Party I was very entertained in IP while waiting for the show.

Matsuri was a fantastic show!  I got a VIP ticket from for $35+tax, and my seat assignment was Table 15 Seat 6 – literally inches from the stage, right next to the stage stairs.  It might’ve been better to sit in the first row of booths (I waited too long to ask to be moved and the booths were filled), but it was a great, high-energy show.  If you don’t know anything about it, it’s a blend of Japanese traditional and American interests: Kabuki, martial arts, gymnastics, aerobatics, strength, fan dances, hula hoops, jump ropes and swings, among other things.  I’m still trying to figure out how the main female performer managed to switch – across the stage - from walking on 8” platform shoes to performing barefoot martial arts in less than a minute.  She was awesome.  There were elements of comedy throughout, and it’s energetic and funny and amazing all at the same time.  There was also talk of the show going on tour for awhile, but go see it if it's still available!

I decided to pick up some comfortable black sandals at Hamaguchi before I left Imperial Palace, and I was happy they accepted Total Rewards credits.  I did have to get a voucher from the cashier, but it was totally worth it to have comfy black sandals for the evening.

Luckily I had Claire text me clear walking directions from Paris to Aria, where I was staying for one night.  She thought I was kidding when I asked her for the easiest way to get from the Strip to the registration desk at Aria, but I was perfectly serious.  I already had blistered feet – I didn’t want to take extra steps if I didn’t have to.  Thank you, Claire, for being so awesome from afar!

I packed my overnight bag at Paris and headed out to the walkway in front of City Center.  A (somewhat) quick walk through Crystals and to the check in desk at Aria was fairly painless.  It was almost 6:30 p.m., but there were a few people in line.  Every one of them had issues with their reservations, I think.  Even so, I managed to get assigned a room quickly, and I was on my way to 18-210 in less than 10 minutes.  Figuring out the Aria hallways, though, is a challenge.  I just knew I’d get turned around somewhere, but I never got lost.

I LOVE the way the lights turn on, the music turns on, and the drapes automatically open the first time you walk into the room!  That was worth the $79/night price for the room alone!  I only wish it’d happen every time you walk in the room, but I can see where that’d be a problem if you’re staying with someone else.

Of course I had to take the prerequisite room photos and figure out all the little gadgets to control the room.  It was nice to see my name all over the place, too!  I was happier than my husband and Hayley when I texted them about the wonderful room and the EXTREMELY comfortable bed.  I don’t think they really cared I would be sleeping on a giant marshmallow.  I WANT ONE!  I want that to be our new bed.  I’m seriously thinking about it as a Christmas present for us this year.  We need a new mattress, anyway, so why not?  It made Bellagio’s mattress seem average by comparison (and it’s not).  The only problem I have with anything in the Aria room is the lack of bathroom counter space.  There are drawers and countertops everywhere else in the room, but there is a dinky 12” space between the two sinks, and the only plugs are BEHIND their amenities, which I knocked over four times before I finally moved them to the shower area.  I chilled in the room for a bit, playing with all the controls and taking a couple of sunset photos through the sheers (it was too bright otherwise) before I got dressed and headed down for my Free Play and a late dinner.

I managed to turn my $50 FP into $60 cash on another Jackpot Block Party machine.  Then I turned that into $100 on a Monopoly Grand something-or-other machine (not Grand Hotel) and ticked off the lady next to me.  (“I played that machine for TWO HOURS and never hit ONE bonus.”)  I hit one on the first spin, hee hee!

Julian Serrano was the place for my late tapas dinner.  I made the reservation directly through the Aria website and I had a $50 food credit with my room reservation.  I decided to try a couple of tapas I’d seen on the menu at home:  White Ceviche (spicy, but just okay), Creamy Risotto (very good and filling) and Salmon Roulade (delicious!).  The salmon was my favorite dish – it was presented almost like a sushi roll, and the roulade mixture inside was very flavorful.  I didn’t leave a bite of it.  All in all it was a little over $38+tax (+cash tip) for my three tapas and an iced tea, so I didn’t even use my full food credit.  Aw.  I was too freakin’ full to eat another bite.

I played another half hour before the marshmallow bed started calling my name.  I couldn’t resist, and I set my cool bedside alarm to wake me up at 7 a.m. with the TV coming on and the blackout drapes opening.  Posh!

Tuesday, July 5th

I still managed to wake up a couple of minutes early so I could watch the drapes open!  Silly Deann!  Who sleeps in Vegas, anyway?

I made the executive decision (me, myself and I) to skip the Wicked Spoon Buffet that morning. Why?  I was still full from last night’s tapas, and I wasn’t interesting in walking over to Cosmopolitan and back to my room to pack up and go back to Paris…in any order.  So I took my time, checked out of Aria and took my bag back to Paris.  The maids were cleaning the room next to mine at Paris, so I just took the ‘Privacy’ sign off of my door and put a tip out before I left. 

I had a few rounds of Gold Fish and two mimosas to get me ready for the day.  I had an art museum, a photo gallery, a nice lunch at Bellagio and lots of walking on my list.  Off to Bellagio!

The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art was a bit of a disappointment for me.  I blame “Ocean’s Eleven”.  I was under the (wrong) impression that it was a big space, dimly lit, with lots of pretty stairs to go up to get in the door.  I say that because I was hoping to get a photo of those stairs.  (I found out after I returned that those stairs from the movie were actually removed a couple of years ago, and that is sad.)  Nope.  The location of the gallery NOW is almost at the end of a long hallway, behind a single door, and there are two security guards standing at opposite ends of the two rooms to watch you so you don’t touch one of the approximately 40 paintings and photographs they have displayed there.  I thought it’d be bigger, too!  That’s what I get for thinking.  Still, for $15, it was a nice enough way to spend an hour.  I did enjoy the art I saw for the most part.  There were a couple of odd paintings that I totally disliked, but that’s not unusual.  The display was titled “A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney”.  I love Monet, but there was only one of his paintings on display.  Bummer.

The Jeff Mitchum photo gallery is right next door to the art gallery, and I spent about the same amount of time in there for free.  No photos of the photos allowed, though.  I love looking at great photography and just admiring the work.  His photo of three camels on a desert sand dune with a pink and orange sunset behind them was my favorite.  The assistant running the shop offered to get me prices for some of his work, but I declined.  Like I could afford one of those huge prints!

Skipping breakfast made me want a little something, so I opted for a nice Tiramisu gelato from Café Gelato ($5 for a single scoop cup), which is on the other side of the art gallery entrance.  It’s also directly across from the entrance to the pool, so you can really people-watch if you’re in the mood.  I did watch security help a young girl and her friend.  One of the girls collapsed (too much sun?  it wasn’t hot), and they were waiting for someone from Bellagio to come and escort her to her room.  Poor thing.  Lots of people-watching and many slot machines later, it was time for my reservation at Olives.

We debated the dress code for Olives with my friends at LV4E, but let me tell you all I shouldn’t have been worried.  When I walked up to the hostess stand, a man walked past me who either A) obviously had money, or B) Olives just wasn’t that concerned about his appearance, because he looked like a hobo or a really badly dressed tourist.  His salt-and-pepper hair was sticking straight up all over, a la Albert Einstein, and he was wearing black and red basketball shorts with flames coming up the sides.  He also had on white socks – yes, SOCKS! – with his black flip flops.  Not sandals…flip flops.  With his sock toes spread around the thong part.  Socks and flip flops is one of my pet peeves.  At least his black t-shirt was normal.  The rest of his party was nicely dressed older people, so what was the deal with him?  Did they call him from the pool?  They appeared to be two couples, but I’m surprised his wife/girlfriend/significant other didn’t make him change.  So I needn’t have worried myself about the dress code there.

I’d made my reservation on the Bellagio website, and it allowed me to ask for patio seating.  The hostess noted it and led me out to a table at the front of the patio, overlooking the fountains and Paris.  It was a pretty day: cloudy and cool with a few sprinkles in the area.  They serve a delicious olive tapenade with a basket of assorted breads, and I took my time looking over the menu.  I should’ve saved myself and had a salad, but their Ricotta Ravioli was calling my name.  It was pretty good, with a very tomato-y sauce and small pieces of Italian sausage throughout, but it was too much again.  All in all, I enjoyed my meal and my view, and it was one of the few I paid for. ($26+tax and tip, including tea)

DISLIKE here:  I have several smokers in my family, and I have no problem with them lighting up after a meal if they ask first or even just direct it away from me.  Really, I don’t.  HOWEVER…if there are only four tables occupied on the patio, all the people are seated close together, and you come in and intend to smoke - from the beginning – wouldn’t you be courteous and ask if anyone minded if you smoked, or move to one of the other tables a little farther away?  I had just started eating when another couple came in and sat right beside me.  They both smoked from the beginning, holding their cigarettes up and away from their faces.  How nice of them!  It was blowing right in mine.  I asked the waitress if she minded if I moved back a little, and she looked over and saw why I wanted to move and got me to another table a little farther back.  These people had the audacity to look at me like I was the one who offended them!  C’mon, people!  I don’t mind smoke, but don’t force me to smoke with you.  I fully expect it in a casino, but how ‘bout a little courtesy?

I made my way back to Paris through Bill’s.  Big Elvis was just starting his first set, and I only stayed for two songs.  The entire casino was crowded, and I couldn’t find an open seat at any good games.  The lounge was completely crowded as I’d expected, but there was no place to sit and enjoy the show.  I headed back to Paris to change for the evening.

I decided to walk down to Harrah’s for some gambling.  No matter what anyone else says, I enjoy the casino, the assortment of games, and the atmosphere in Harrah’s.  I have never been able to do anything good at Paris for more than a few minutes at a time and, although I love the rooms there, it’s not enough to keep me coming back to stay if I don’t have a comp there, and I usually don’t.

As usual, I played Gold Fish and Lord of the Rings.  I watched a couple of ladies play The Hangover slots, but they are a $2 minimum bet (and I could never find an open seat, anyway).  At Lord of the Rings I sat next to a guy who was extremely negative about his play, even with his bonus wins exceeding $160 EVERY TIME.  He was betting max bet ($4) and he hit bonuses frequently, but he was never happy.  I personally was happy when he finally got down to $100 and left – too much negative karma.  In the end I played about 4 hours on the same machine and the same $20 (after losing elsewhere in the casino, though), so I was a happy camper.

I headed to the Venetian to get some good photos of the sunset – lots of clouds on the horizon, and the statues look even better when they’re backed by pretty, colorful clouds.  Everyone else was watching the volcano erupt and I was taking photos of the sunset.  Juxtaposition, anyone?

I played a slot machine in the Venetian called (I think) “Pirate’s Booty”.  It has different, minor progressives starting from $5-$50 and increasing from there.  If you get 5 of a kind, you win the progressive for that symbol.  I hit 5 pirates on the third spin and won $53, which ticked off the lady next to me, and she left.  Oh, well!  I found another Alice and Wonderland machine I hadn’t seen before and knocked around on that one while waiting for my reservation at First Food and Bar.

First Food and Bar is easy to get to from the Strip – it’s right inside the Venetian, easily accessible from the escalator beside Walgreen’s.  It was much easier to go that route instead of winding my way through the Venetian’s poker tournament.  TONS of people playing, standing around, trying to walk through…I was glad I’d found the other entrance by accident.  The Venetian is hard enough for me to find my way around in without tournaments.

I made my reservation through with the intention of having the Lobster Pot Pie, especially after seeing it in another trip report.  Sadly, it was not on the menu.  Could be that I had a late-night menu and it wasn’t available, I don’t know.  I ended up ordering Lobster Rolls, instead.  That was probably a better idea anyway, because I’m sure the Lobster Rolls were much smaller than the Lobster Pot Pie.  Either way, I have to say I was disappointed in them; they were not as good as the ones I’d had at Holsteins in Cosmopolitan back in March.  The pieces of lobster seemed too big for the small rolls, and their sauce just wasn’t as tasty.  I did like their complimentary warm pretzels and dips – they were yummy!

When the waitress came with the bill, I couldn’t find my credit card.  I could only remember paying with it at Olives earlier, and I thought I’d left it in the book on the table while I was chatting with the waitress.  My waitress took my other credit card and called Olives directly, but they had no record of it being left or turned in to security.  Well, I was walking in that direction to meet Terri and Evoni for drinks, anyway, so I’d stop by and check at Olives myself.  It was very nice of the waitress to call for me, though.

Then I opened my wallet to put my OTHER credit card back and caught a glimpse of blue behind my Total Rewards slot card.  Yep – my blue Total Rewards credit card was behind my Total Rewards slot card.  Apparently I assumed everything Total Rewards must go together.  I didn’t bother mentioning it to the waitress and slunk out before she could see my sheepish face.

The Strip was crowded again, even more so than it was on July 4th, and I made my way down to Bellagio in the sea of humanity.  I was just in time for a Bellagio fountain show, so I stayed on and enjoyed it with a nice French family, who were all trying to figure out why everyone was standing around and just looking at the water.  And I got to take another video!  I was “Proud To Be An American”, just like the show.

After that it was on to Cosmopolitan to meet Terri and Diana at the Chandelier Bar.  I came upon a woman playing slots with her two miniature Yorkies in her lap while waiting for the ladies, but Terri didn’t find it at all unusual when I showed her.  I had to sneak a photo, though.  Terri had me make an offering to the Buddhas by the guest elevators for luck, but it didn’t take (sorry, Terri), and we ended up at Holsteins for some alcoholic milkshakes.  Yay, America!  Diana had the Grasshopper something-or-other, and I had the Drunken Monkey, which wasn’t very drunken.  Diana’s was much better.  Terri played chaperone and drank her Diet Coke.  We had a lovely time chatting, and I shared my Cab Ride from Hell story with them, too.  They got the uncut version.  It was so great to see the two of them again.  They make me feel like I have extra family members in Vegas!  We managed to close down Holsteins at midnight.  Party animals!  Thank you, ladies, for buying my Drunken Monkey for me!  Mwah!

They wanted to do some serious gambling, but I was getting a bit tired and didn’t have the mental fortitude for cards when I should be packing, instead.  I bid them goodbye and headed back to Paris.

I fully intended to go to the room and pack, but Lord of the Rings was calling me as soon as I walked in the door.  I could not resist, and I found my seat from the first night open (when the creepy guy was sitting next to me, yuck!) and proceeded to play until 2:30 a.m.  Then I realized I had an 8 a.m. reservation for Mon Ami Gabi and figured I should pack and get some sleep.  See ya later, slots!

Wednesday, July 6th

I forgot to mention that I picked up a $30 voucher for Mon Ami Gabi earlier on Tuesday.  I was told that the vouchers are good for 72 hours, and any unused points go back on your card if you don’t use them all.  There is a date printed on them, so if you forget how long you have left, just look at the slip.

There were only a few people eating on the patio at 8 a.m., so I got a nice table next to the railing, looking out at the fountains.  I made this reservation through, too, and I was able to ask for patio seating when I made it.  They never questioned it and took me right out without asking a thing.  I tried the Café Gabi coffee drink based on my mom’s recommendation, but I didn’t care for it.  Café Gabi has Kahlua, Amaretto and Frangelica, but it’s just too strong and not enjoyable.  Plus it’s $8.95 a cup – wow!  Not a very big cup, either.

I ordered the Cinnamon Pancakes (crepes), which are filled with a lemon glace’ and whipped cream.  There are four – FOUR! – crepes with a fifth one across the top that’s covered in caramelized cinnamon and sugar and powdered sugar on top of that.  They were delicious!  I ordered a side of sausage to cut the sweetness, but I only managed to eat about half of the crepes and sausages before I was too full to go on.  With two glasses of OJ ($3.95 each), the bill came to $35.24 + tip.  No need to turn in the remaining voucher!  The waitress commented on how warm it was, but I explained it was cooler than it was in South Texas right now with all the nice rain Vegas was having.  It was an enjoyable breakfast for my last day.

When I left Mon Ami Gabi, I managed to find an open seat at The Hangover slots.  Yay!  Since it was my last day, I figure I’d try $20 just to see what it was like.  I managed to get ‘The Villa’ bonus and then proceeded to pick all the wrong stuff and ended up with a $5.30 bonus round.  Really?  The lady next to me got the same exact bonus round and ended up with $64.   $%@$ choices!  I hate them! They use the song “Right Round” as their background music, so it was entertaining, at least.  I lost my $20 and went up to pack, since I didn’t bother doing it the night before.

Since I’d totally forgotten to get an Identity Card at Cosmopolitan, it was the first order of business after checking my luggage.  I also got $10 in Free Play for signing up, so that was an added bonus.  I played a Monkees slot machine on my FP, but didn’t end up with any bonuses, even though I played for quite a while.  I also found some of the original Lord of the Rings machines in the back near the sports book.  Yay!  I was glad my sign in worked because I’d heard the Total Rewards sign in wouldn’t work at other properties, but then I remembered I’d set my profile up on Player’s Life first, so all my miles transferred over.  It was nice to see the original machines again.  Time to go take photos!

I headed back to Caesars to play more Gold Fish and Lord of the Rings slots.  Again, the location of the machines was too loud, so I went back to Gold Fish.  I’m glad I did, too, because I ended up playing the same machine for about 3 hours, enjoying the company of a nice Asian man while we traded bonuses back and forth.  Goldie visited me several times, so I was happy.  I still hate picking things!

For my last meal of the trip – and one last little visit before I headed to the airport – I went to High Tea at the Petrossian Bar in Bellagio.  I’d made the reservation on my first day, and they only have room for about 6-8 people in the side area of the bar they serve High Tea in.  Luckily I was completely by myself; there were no other reservations at 2 p.m.  I didn’t feel bad about taking photos at all!

For High Tea, $35 gets you your selection of a nice pot of tea, two blueberry scones with clotted cream, jam, butter and honey, 3 pre-selected desserts and your choice of 4 sandwiches.  They have other teas that include champagne or different options for a higher price, but I kept it simple.  I chose four different sandwiches (you can keep them all the same if you wish): Chickpeas with red peppers and green olive mayo on spiced Panella bread (very good!), Alaskan King Crab with avocado on Brioche (my favorite!), Classic Egg Salad with Quail Egg on white bread (yummy!), and Smoked Turkey, Brie and black grapes on cranberry bread (good, but my least favorite).  My server said she liked the King Crab, Egg Salad and Salmon sandwiches the best, but I didn’t select the Salmon sandwich because it had caviar on it and I wasn’t sure how it’d taste on a sandwich.  It just sounds gross.

The desserts were very pretty, and very good:  a light fruit tart topped with kiwi, grape, melon, banana, apple, strawberry, raspberry and a piece of white chocolate (I don’t know how they got all that on the little tart), a white chocolate and passion fruit cream cheese cake (cheesecake) that tasted like coconut when you bit into it, and a cappuccino mousse in a chocolate cup decorated with the Bellagio “B” in gold.  The tea I chose was called “Relax”, and it contained mint leaves that really complimented the food.  The chef came by my table to talk to me for awhile – nice lady!  I spent about an hour at tea, enjoying my food and taking my time so I could people-watch into the casino.  There isn’t a quiet place to have tea, but it was nice to have something to look at.  All in all, it was just the right amount of food, and I wasn’t stuffed.  Good thing, because it was time for me to head back to Paris, do a little shopping, then get my bags and head for the airport.  Maybe a bit of Lord of the Rings before I leave, too…

I changed my mind when I saw the traffic on the Strip.  Bumper-to-bumper, tons of cars exiting Paris, too, so I decided to forgo the gambling and head to the airport.  I didn’t want a repeat cab ride, so I was determined to make sure I could get there in a timely manner, without the drama.  I totally forgot about shopping, too, until I was at the airport later.  I got a nice Indian man who was quiet and polite (thank you!), and I had a nice, safe ride to the airport that only cost $14.10.  He seemed surprised when I handed him $20 with my thanks.  After the Cab Ride from Hell, I was happy to tip almost $6 for peace, quiet and comfort.

DISLIKE:  Another thing I don’t like in Vegas – the lack of seats at the B gates.  They have so many gates crammed together with very little seating.  I ended up sitting down the hallway with a flight attendant (who managed to spill her water all over her lap, poor thing) before I finally went to my gate for boarding.  Good thing I did, too; they were boarding about 20 minutes early, so A22 came up quickly.  We were back in San Antonio almost 30 minutes ahead of schedule.


Women who have less than ‘A’ cup boobs still need to wear bras, especially if their itty bitty breasts sag like deflated balloons.  NOT attractive!

Wondering what holds up a strapless maxi dress on large-chested women.  Gravity is working against them, but they manage to stay up.  Interesting.

I saw lots of groups of teens on this trip.  I know there was a cheerleading competition during the weekend, but there were tons of teenagers that seemed to be traveling together, with no visible chaperones.  That was unusual.

I’m considering this my international trip: I had a French dinner, a Chinese lunch, saw a Japanese show, ate Spanish tapas, enjoyed an Italian lunch and a French breakfast, and ended it all with an English High Tea.  My American touch for the vacation was fireworks, lobster rolls and a milkshake. 

Things I didn’t do that were on my list:  Wicked Spoon Buffet; appetizers at Mesa Grill; visiting Excalibur, Luxor and Tropicana; and the Auto Collection at IP (I’ve seen it before, though).  Everything else was checked off and done to the best of my ability.  I can’t believe I didn’t have The Mirage on my list!  I didn’t even walk in there, and I like that casino.

Because I was always so full, I ended up only having a handful of free drinks while I was gambling:  White Zinfandel, Baileys & hot chocolate, 3 Pepsi’s and 2 mimosas at Paris; Bailey’s and hot chocolate at Palazzo; white wine at Aria; various bottles of water throughout the days so Mother Terri wouldn’t worry about me being dehydrated.  That’s it!

This trip report is now 15 ½ pages long, before the photos.  If you’ve managed to read to the end of it, CONGRATULATIONS!  It was quite an undertaking in limited time.  I don’t know when the next trip will be, as I’m currently looking for a job.  Until then I’ll just have to satisfy myself with great memories of a fantastic trip.

Viva Las Vegas!