Saturday, July 11, 2015

Flying Solo on the Fourth of July

Flying Solo on the Fourth of July

This was my only solo trip for the year.  I am taking a total of four - yes, FOUR - trips this year, and that's a lot of trips for me, because one needs money for these trips, yes?  Luckily my boss is great and gives me the time off (without pay) if I don't have the time saved up and my trips runneth over into a workday, but he's also paid for two of my round-trip flights already, so I'm not going to complain about it when I have to possibly go for ONE day without pay in exchange for what is essentially a "free" trip to Vegas.  Free round-trip flights twice a year are fine with me and would cost me more than I would make in a day if I were at work, so I'll consider it a perk of my job and a good trade.

Friday, July 3rd

Because my boss scheduled the trip himself, he picked the early flights both ways; a 6:40 a.m. takeoff meant I had to be at the airport at 5:00 a.m.  That's a bit early, but it's going to Vegas, and OF COURSE I was awake, up, and ready to go before I was supposed to be, just like any other Vegas trip.

Landed even earlier than expected and ended up having to store my bags.  I had opted for early checkin at Flamingo if it was available, but even at 7:45 am there were no rooms to be had on Fourth of July weekend.  I tried to wait around for a little bit and played Zuma and Hot Hot Penny machines before giving up and putting my bags in storage.  I'd made a 9:30 reservation for breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi, and I figured my room could be ready by the time breakfast was over if I were lucky.

Walked to Paris and decided to redeem some of my Total Reward points on a $25 voucher for Mon Ami Gabi.  I am always happy to use my rewards when I have them.  I ended up with the cinnamon crepes, a side of applewood smoked bacon, coffee and a mimosa.  I LOVE their cinnamon crepes!  I think this is the third time I've had them.  I only finished one piece of bacon - WAY too salty!  After my voucher, I spent $14+tip.
With a little lemon compote on top, soooooo yummy! <3 font="">
Classic Gold Fish slots were in order before walking over to Planet Hollywood.  I always enjoy the original Gold Fish slots.  I seem to have some luck on them, and even if I don't win, I am able to play for quite awhile before I lose a buy-in, so that is always a "win" in my book.

Still no text from the Flamingo, so off to Planet Hollywood for some Lobstermania and Ellen slots.  The original Lobstermania slots are also getting harder and harder to find.  No luck on these at all.  Enjoyed playing Ellen again - I played the one with her "mystery gifts", not the dance party version.  I got to play for awhile before that lovely text stating my room was ready finally appeared.

This was shortly before noon, and there was a HUGE line for the regular checkin, and a shorter line for key pickup.  I was glad to be in the latter!  Another 20 minutes and I was up in my room, 22165.  The room itself was very nice and actually had an updated bathroom, unlike the bathrooms that mom, Hayley and I had to deal with in December, which were small and looked old.  The walk to get TO the room was forever long:  out the elevator, down one long hallway, a right turn, and almost at the end of another LONG hallway.  Good thing I like to walk!  The view overlooking the pool was nice, and no noise after 7 pm when the pools close for the evening.
Room 22165
I love the floor to ceiling windows in these rooms.

Nothing extraordinary, but better than last time.
It's a shower.  It works.  The water is hot.

Once settled, I crossed over the Strip and took the Bellagio tram down to Monte Carlo.  Walking through that casino to get to New York/New York, I noted that they have several VP machines near the front that actually have bench seats and charging docks for phones, etc.  Interesting.  This is the only place where I noticed them.  They might have been elsewhere, but this was the only place I saw them.

I headed to New York/New York first to play a little Titanic and Wonder Woman.  When mom and I were there in May, you couldn't find a seat at the Wonder Woman slots anywhere.  Now there seems to always be at least one open.  That theme song will get in your head and STAY there!  I had "Wonder Womaaaaaaaan!" in my head for most of the trip, even though I only played it once.  Played a long time, got a really nice bonus, switched to some Titanic slots, and finally decided to check out Tom's Urban for a drink and a snack.

Tom's Urban is pretty new, and I like their eclectic menu.  I ended up with a drink called the Cactus Ass Kick: Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, hibiscus syrup, prickly pear, and lemonade are the ingredients.  It reminded me of a cross between a margarita and a mojito, without the ice.  Pretty good, but not really strong.  I sat on the terrace under the misters, people-watching for a long time.  I ordered the spicy edamame and the fried Brussels sprouts from their "Small Plates" menu.  The edamame were delicious, and I finished every last one of them. The Brussels sprouts were sautéed in a balsamic vinegar and had a good flavor, but at the bottom of the bowl they were really swimming in the vinegar and too sour and bitter for me.  My waitress, Jannifer (not Jennifer), was from England and so entertaining!  Such a sweetie - go and see her.  You won't be disappointed in her attention or her service.
Cactus Ass Kick deliciousness...
Cactus Ass Kick, fried Brussels sprouts, and yummy spicy edamame
I people-watched for a long time after I finished my snack and drink and ended up back in Monte Carlo.  None of the games appealed to me that weren't already taken, so I ended up taking the tram back to Aria, instead.  I hadn't been in there in a few trips.  I have a love/hate relationship with this casino, too; sometimes it's my friend, and sometimes it's not.  Today it was just an acquaintance.  I played the new Hangover community slots where you have to get three chips to qualify for the group bonus, which was fun, and I played for almost an hour on $20, which is not bad for Hangover slots of any kind, but in the end it took all my money.  I wandered around and couldn't find anything else to hold my attention, so I decided to walk on to Cosmopolitan, because they have True Blood slots.
Aria entrance from the tram
Aria lobby - origami cranes

It's nice to see Tony Parker outside of San Antonio.
Go Spurs Go!
Took the LONG walk to Cosmo that's even longer because of the DE-construction of the hotel in the middle of City Center, only to find out that both True Blood slots were out of order in Cosmo.  Booooo!  I think I walked the entire casino three times before I finally decided to play Michael Jackson slots up near the front, and then he just took all of my money with only three winning combinations.  That is CRAP.  

Caesars fountain at the corner.  I've always liked this view.

 I headed back to Flamingo to change clothes before heading to Bellagio.  I had a reservation at Lago at 8:45 p.m., but once I got into Bellagio, I was not feeling like anymore food.  The edamame were so good and filling that I didn't need anything else, so I just played around on Walking Dead (which I still can't look at but love to play) and watched a lady hit the big bonus for $620.  I got my own machine up to $112 before I decided I would brave the Conservatory crowds for some nighttime photos.
Flamingo fountain
THESE machines like me!
It. Was. CROWDED!  I have never seen so many people crammed into the Bellagio Conservatory!  It was quite a feat to take a photo without another person in it.  It took me almost an hour to make it through the whole exhibit and get my photos, which weren't very many, and even then I didn't take all the pics I wanted to because there were too many people in my way.  I decided to head back to the Walking Dead slots, and they tried to take all my money back (oooooh, no you don't!) before heading back to Flamingo for the night.

Hermes scarves in Bellagio.  Always so pretty! 

I found a seat in the Margaritaville casino at the original Hangover slots (which I love and am still totally addicted to) and played for two hours on $40 before I finally lost everything.  Walked around and around, looking for other things to play, and remembered that there's not a lot of stuff I like to play in Flamingo, even though I like their rooms.  Headed up a little after midnight down for the day.  I'd been up for almost 24 hours.  Rest needed.

Saturday, July 4th

Woke up before 7 a.m. - what a surprise!  I hardly ever sleep long in Vegas.  I think six hours of sleep is a lot for me when I'm there.  I got ready for the day and headed down to the casino.  Yep, even in the light of day I didn't find much I want to play.  Surprisingly, all the Hangover slots and Zuma were full this morning.  I tried Gremlins.  I didn't like the movie, and  I don't care for the slot machine, either.  I had a couple of bonuses, but really low returns and no excitement.  Not what I'm looking for in a slot machine, thanks.

Over to Caesars Palace, and I finally played the Bejeweled slots back near the Bacchanal Buffet.  I'm not a fan of these, either.  For the minimum bet you get no real bonus extras, and I found myself wanted to move the gems with my own hands more than once.  I'm sure Bejeweled players everywhere have the same desire.  

Off to Payards Patisserie for breakfast.  I had a reservation in the sit-down part of their restaurant instead of at the counter service area; the entrance is around the corner from the counter service area.  The restaurant itself has a small dining area, which is very cozy, and not over-crowded.  I ordered the breakfast I'd read about and had been waiting for, and the waitress totally agreed with me:  Lobster Eggs Benedict.
It was SO good, it hurts to look at this photo right now. :)
Oh. My. God!  Best meal of the trip!  It was luscious.  It was decadent.  It was full of flavor.  The eggs were cooked over-medium instead of over-easy, a whole lobster tail in the serving, and everything is presented on a croissant instead of the traditional English muffin.  I have to say that I don't think this would be very good on an English muffin, but it was so absolutely delicious on a croissant. All that softness together, I guess.  Perfectly cooked, perfectly delicious!  Their coffee is really good, too.  I love the fact that they also offer everyone a coffee to go - why don't more restaurants do that?  The breakfast looks really big, but it's because the plate is not as large as a dinner plate, and the look is a bit deceiving.  I have a feeling my mom may want to partake of this one on a future trip, and I'll be happy to oblige her if she does!

After that deliciously over-the-top breakfast, I decided that a walk was in order.  I took a nice, long stroll around the Forum Shops - two laps, in fact - before the stores were even open.  I noted where Sushi Roku was located for my dinner reservation that evening, as well.

It was time for some 50-play poker.  I seem to play this when I want to really relax and slow play a bit, and 50-play poker does that for me (believe it or not).  The poker machines in the area between the entry to the Forum Shops and the food court are also pretty quiet, so I was able to grab a Bailey's and hot chocolate and play quietly for a long, long time.  I even called my mom while I was playing so she could feel like she was there.

I cashed out my original $20 and headed over the Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally's.  So many things are still not open.  I'm hoping they have a good fill-in of the empty shops over time.  There are some cute shops and some weird shops; my favorite is the shop with the Moroccan dishes and housewares.  Their prices were a little high, but certainly worth it for hand-made items if you want good quality stuff from Morocco.  I didn't purchase anything, but noted some things I'd like to get in the future.  Must give this one another visit.

Over to the Linq casino for some Gold Fish 3.  Not my favorite of the Gold Fish slots (the original is #1 in almost every case), but these are growing on me.  My only problem on this trip is that every time I played these particular machines at the Linq casino, which are close to the Carnaval Court entrance, it was SO HOT!  They either weren't turning the air up enough or the machines were just putting out way too much heat, but it was too hot to play for too long, day or night.  The only real benefit of these machines on this trip was that they were right next to an electrical plug, so I could charge my phone while I played.  It's the little things...

I tried the True Blood slots in the Linq with no hits whatsoever.  Anything I picked, I picked WRONG.  That drives me crazy.  I gave up after I lost my buy-in and headed to Harrah's.

My other addiction:  Phantom of the Opera.  But, like anything else, when it's nice to me, it's really nice and lets me play for a long time, but when it's mean, it's really mean and my money goes POOF!  I actually got to play a bit this time.

I headed back to Flamingo to grab my sweater before heading back down to Planet Hollywood.  I had a front row ticket to the Jeff Dunham show, so I wanted to get there in plenty of time to find the theater, because I had no idea where it was.  

After playing one round with Ellen because she didn't like me this time, I headed off to find the theater.  Good thing I did, because I "assumed" it was in the Miracle Mile Shops when it was NOT.  It is actually upstairs in the casino, directly above the Heart Bar area.  Checked out their gift shop, took a couple of photos, and stood in a really LONG line to get a drink before the show.  But I LOVED my seat!  I'm so glad my cousin, Donna, pointed out the tickets to me.  End seat on the front row for $85+tax was a great deal. 

Jeff's new show is called "Not Playing With A Full Deck", and he is calling it a 'rehearsal' for the new special he's recording in LA in August.  Funny stuff.  Lots of physical comedy involving both Little Jeff and Peanut on the floor right in front of me that I wasn't expecting.  My face hurt from laughing, so I think I definitely got my money's worth.

The show lasting two hours put me in a bind to get to my dinner reservation back at Caesars Palace, however.  Trying to get OUT of the theater was a pain.  The down escalator was not working, both banks of elevators (North and South) were extremely slow, and I ended up hauling my ass down the escalator through the crush of people and ultimately down the Strip to get to Sushi Roku at 7:30.  Whew!  Just made it!
Sushi Roku table view

Sushi Roku is on the third floor at the front of the Forum Shops, overlooking the North end of the Strip.  I was given a table facing that direction, and was quite pleased with it.  My only problem with the restaurant was the noise level; it was really, REALLY noisy the entire time I was there.  Good music in the background, but you could hardly ever hear it for the noise of the patrons in the restaurant.

I had a $20 certificate from OpenTable to offset my bill, and I started with a drink called the "Tokyo Cooler" - infused Svedka Vodka, fresh lemon sour, champagne, and fresh berries.  Really, really good and smooth.  My favorite drink of the trip.
Tokyo Cooler: it goes down smoothly!
I ordered edamame for an appetizer, and once again chowed down completely on them while I took in the view.  Not as spicy as the edamame I had at Tom's Urban, but really nice and fresh and crispy.  I really like it when they are NOT overcooked and come out of the shell perfectly every time.

My Tokyo Cooler, the edamame, and my Crab Dynamite.
The sushi looks bigger in the photo; perspective.
Spicy Scallop Roll
My waiter looked like a younger version of Roger Federer; so much so that I did a double-take the first time he walked up to my table.  He was from Spain and not Switzerland, however, and had an interesting name: Ragael.  He recommended two courses of sushi, ordering one before the other, so that I could enjoy myself and relax while I dined.  I started with a Crab Dynamite roll, which was nice and spicy, and then ordered a Spicy Scallop roll, which was even spicier.  Smaller portions for sure in this restaurant - six pieces in each roll, and overall a bit on the small side, so I should have opted for dessert, as well.  Dessert would have allowed me to stay a little longer, and I would have had a PERFECT view of the fireworks from my table.  The head waiter even walked around asking the diners if they minded the windows being opened during the fireworks display, and that should have been my real clue that the show would be very close by.  But, alas, I was a complete dumb ass and decided to head down to the Strip to find a "good" spot.  
Women's restroom door in Sushi Roku
There were none.  Anywhere.  So, I stood with the crush of people in front of Harrah's and couldn't even get a decent view of the front of Caesars.  *Sigh*  Lesson learned.  If I go to Vegas for July 4th again, I will get a reservation at Sushi Roku for about half an hour later and stay for that dang dessert!

After the fireworks that I couldn't see, I went to try the True Blood machines at the Linq again.  Apparently I was not aware of the boycott they had against me, because there was still no love and no money to be had from them.  At all.  Gold Fish 3 again.  Bleh!

I decided to head back to Flamingo.  Not a very long walk from the Linq at all, usually.  HOWEVER...the massive crush of people walking between the Linq to WHEREVER they were going was INSANE!  I have never been in such a crush of people before, ever!  I did not like it.  It took me almost half an hour to walk from the entrance of the Linq casino to the entrance of the Flamingo casino next door, and I even cheated and went through one of the Margaritaville casino doors!  That walk should take less than 2 minutes on any given day.  

If I ever go to Vegas over July 4th weekend again, I will also remember to stay in the casino I'm already in and gamble for awhile after the fireworks are done.  Me no likey!
Because of the crush of the people out on the Strip and the rest of them IN the Flamingo casino, there were absolutely no seats to be found even at any of the half-decent slot machines.  I was starting to become discouraged, and even debated if I should try to go somewhere else or just go upstairs.  I didn't want to go back into the Strip crowd, and it was too early to go to bed, so I walked hither and yon through the casino a few times before I finally found ONE open multi-game VP machine by the sports book.  Yay!  

About ten hands in I hit four 2's (no kicker), and cashed out that ticket so that I wouldn't put it all back into the same machine.  I noticed another machine at the end of the row had opened up and put another $20 in there.  Not too much time had passed before I was DEALT a straight flush.  Love it!  Cashed that out, too, and moved to another one that opened up.  Four 9's.  Yay!  Put that ticket aside, too.  I tried one more machine that I ended up playing for another hour or so, up and down, before I finally ran it out and decided to call it a night.  I was still down for the day and the trip, but it wasn't too bad.

Sunday, July 5th

I woke up to a really cloudy Sunday in Vegas - the kind of clouds that look like rain.  I guessed I wasn't going to have my morning at the pool, after all.  I took my time getting ready and decided I would walk down to Encore and then make my way slowly back up the Strip.  It was sprinkling when I walked out of Flamingo, and I decided to give ONE MORE CHANCE to True Blood at the Linq.  WHY do I do this to myself?  No love, no love, no love!  

A few more sprinkles on and off as I walked down the Strip.  Darker clouds to the left and right of me.  When I got to Encore, I decided to have breakfast at Society Cafe', which I really enjoy, instead of waiting for an early lunch at Wazuzu.  Shame on me, I should have waited an hour, because I SO wanted to try Wazuzu!  Not that my breakfast at Society Cafe' wasn't good, because it was.  I opted for the Blue Crab Cake Benedict I had on my first visit, along with juice, coffee, and a Sunday newspaper.  The eggs were a little underdone for my taste, even for over-easy.  The crab cakes themselves were delicious, as was the asparagus, the Béchamel sauce, and the potatoes served on the side.  It was a nice, leisurely breakfast either way.  Not sure I'd order it a third time, though.  I really enjoyed the huckleberry souffle' pancakes I had last time with mom; I should have ordered those again.
Blue Crab Cake Benedict with fried potatoes.
Once again, I found a Gold Fish 3 slot at Encore that let me play for awhile.  I've discovered that the bonus I most like on the original machine is the one I like the least on this one.  Goldie's bonus hardly ever gives any good $$$ on the newer version.

On to the Wynn.   The new Hangover slots there are NOT connected to a community game, and this makes them boring.  No chips for the "Best Friends" bonus.  Blah!  I won't be playing that one anymore unless it's connected to the community game.  Played more Titanic there.  I AM the King of the World!

At Palazzo, the ladies had changed their dresses from Spring to Summer.  Very nice, vibrant colors in the atrium and the lobby.  I fully expected to see some sort of patriotic display for July 4th, but there was nothing.  I was a bit disappointed in that.

While walking around there, I found the one and only Dukes of Hazzard machine of the trip and decided to try that.  This is a pretty boring machine, even with the bonuses.  Oh, well - it's done now.  Another machine I played and won't be trying again.  Nothing else really appealed to me in Palazzo, so I moved on to Venetian.

I found the only penny Ruby Slippers machines of the trip at Venetian.  I'd found the nickel version in New York/New York, but most of these had been taken out everywhere I looked.  Perhaps I should be glad they're gone; they were mean to me, too.  But guess what I found!  More Titanic slots!   Yaaaaaaay!  I played for a long time and enjoyed myself before taking another stroll through the Grand Canal Shops.

When I walked out of Venetian, it was raining.  Not just a little mist, but big, fat drops.  Interesting.  Okay, time to walk a little faster.  On to Harrah's.  A little more Phantom of the Opera, but only one bonus I crapped out on.  Another stop at the Linq - I skipped True Blood this time.  Dirty bastards.  I decided to try the Hangover slots there, and learned that they hated me, as well.  *Sigh*  Gold Fish 3?  They hated me, too, especially the green fish.  Just like the original version.  Waaaaaah!

I saw that the FIFA women's soccer final was on, but there were no seats to be had in the Linq sports book.  Walked back over to Flamingo, and same thing there.  Fine.  Since ALL the slots apparently hated me at that moment, I decided I'd just go back up to my room for awhile.  I watched the second half of the game in my room, with the curtains open and reflections of the sunshine off of all the pretty clouds, then got ready to go for my final dinner of the trip.  (That was quick, huh?  They all are!)

Reservations at a place I've always wanted to try: Mesa Grill. I was seated in the dead-center of the restaurant, which is really pretty and dimly lit; not loud at all, considering it was pretty crowded.  I started with a white peach margarita.  Nice flavor, and actually strong.  I decided on the tiger shrimp roasted corn tamale as an appetizer.  That. Was. Delicious!  Best part of the meal.  The tamale itself was moist and had a great flavor, with a delicious sauce that the perfectly cooked and well-seasoned prawns sat on.  I could have licked the plate but didn't - too many witnesses.
Tiger Prawn corn tamale at Mesa Grill
I eeny-meeny-miney-moe'd over what to have as an entree, and my waiter couldn't help me make a decision.  He finally brought over another waiter, and I told that one I couldn't choose between the grilled rabbit and the blue corn crusted halibut.  He told me to go with the halibut.  I did, and it was really good, but it was a LOT of fish.  If there had been more sauce accompanying it, it would have been exceptional.  As it was, it was just too much fish.  Maybe I would have liked the rabbit better, but who knows?  Later that night, I wondered to myself why I didn't just get two appetizers and a dessert, since there were several appetizers that I really wanted to try.  I was so stuffed by my appetizer and entree that I didn't even want to think about dessert, and I believe everyone should have Bobby Flay's desserts.  Opportunity missed...
Blue corn crusted halibut-yummy tomato sauce!
After dinner, I took a nice stroll through the casino and Forum Shops, and over to the Mirage for some gambling.  Guess what I found there?  More Walking Dead slots!  Love the game because it gives me lots of play and good bonuses, but I just CANNOT watch the zombies.  I know, I know - why don't I play something else?  Well, if it stops letting me play and I find something else that does, I will.  Until then, I will look away when all the zombies are around.

I ended the night playing the newest version of the Lord of the Rings machines that I had already played in May - the one with the big wheel - and had a pretty good run on them.  In the end, I lost my buy-in and decided to head back to Flamingo to pack.  I was down about half of my bankroll for the trip, even with my nice wins.

My flight would be leaving at 6:20 a.m. on Monday morning, and I didn't want to stay up too late because I was going to work as soon as I got home.  Everything packed and ready to go, I set my alarm for 3:45 a.m. and tried to lay down around midnight for a little nap, but I couldn't make myself stay asleep - I was too worried I wouldn't get up and miss my flight.  I kept my eye on the clock, got up at 3:30 a.m., and got ready to go.  

Monday, July 6th

The airport - no, the security line - was very crowded for 4:45 a.m., much to my surprise.  Even so, it moved quickly.  I grabbed a Jamba Juice and waited for my plane to board.  Everything was on time, which was great.  Tried to sleep a bit on the plane, but the guy who took the middle seat beside me decided he had to type on his laptop with his elbows WAY, WAY OUT, and was actually touching my arm with his elbow while I was leaning against the window.  Really?  How can one be so ignorant of personal space?  We landed at 11:00 a.m. and I was at work by 11:35 a.m.  

Would I take those flights again?  If my boss pays for them - ABSOLUTELY!


Homeless people talking to themselves scare me.  I don't know why, but they really freak me out.

I need to learn to go with my first instinct.  When it comes to choosing a meal, or where to sit, what to play, whatever - I need to just do it.  Second-guessing myself leaves me wanting more.

Vegas during holiday weekends has been hit-or-miss.  My Memorial Day weekend trip with my mom was crowded but not horribly so, where July 4th weekend was crazy-packed everywhere I went.  We'll see how Labor Day weekend is - that's my next trip with mom.

On to the next!


  1. Great trip and very rich and vibrant photographs. Nice.

  2. As always, I enjoyed reading your TR. You take such good photographs!


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