Las Vegas Trip Nov 26 - Dec 4, 2009

This trip involves one night in Vegas, two nights in Death Valley, then five nights back in Vegas.

Thanksgiving Day -- Thursday Nov 26 - Stopped in the Continental Lounge for pre-flight drinks. Walked over to the gate, and boarded the plane. The funny thing that happened on the way out - we were seated next to a man that was talking about his dinner reservations that night. He was meeting a buddy, and heading over to Lotus of Siam that night for dinner. It was funny, because we had debated making reservations for this night at Lotus of Siam too. This is still on my next-time list.

We got off the plane about 4:30 PM, and the airport was EMPTY! I could not believe it. If you ever want a calm arrival - fly in on Thanksgiving afternoon. We immediately got on that monorail and made it to baggage claim. Empty again. Our bags arrived instantly, and were within the first 4 out.

Outside, we walked right onto the rental car shuttle - again NO line at all. Picked up the rental car - a Jeep Grand Cherokee (which I got an amazing rate of $198 for a week + 1 day from Dollar). Off we go to the Mirage, our home for one night.

Check in at the Mirage - NO LINE. I am just in shock at this point. I guess we picked the best time to arrive. We had a regular room reserved for a rate I got an offer for - $33/night. They did put us in a strip view room, so we could see the Volcano (which we never saw it going off). Unpacked and called the family to say Happy Thanksgiving (and ha-ha we are in Vegas and you are not). We went downstairs and played some blackjack, didn't win. Then we went over to TI to have dinner at Isla. Isla was good as always. Husband (D) had pork pipian. I had pulled pork tamales. We had margaritas. We eat here almost every time we are in Vegas. It is one of our favorites.

Friday, November 27 - We woke up early so we could head out to Death Valley. We stopped for breakfast at a place I read about in another trip report - Maple Tree. D had eggs Benedict and I had some standard breakfast plate (toast/eggs/potato). We both thought it was just OK - nothing great. We wouldn't go back - it wasn't bad, just nothing to go back for. The service was friendly, and there were a lot of regulars eating in there though. We wanted to stop by Target and pick up a few things, so we headed there next. Target was near the Bon Jour Euro Bakery, another place I had read about on a trip report. We stopped here to pick up a croissant and some coffees to take in the car for the drive. Wish we had eaten breakfast here. Everything looked awesome. The croissant, which we ate about 3 hours later, was very good. Coffee was good too. Next time, we'll try this for breakfast.

Friday / Sat we spent in Death Valley at the Furnace Creek Inn. Since this is a Las Vegas forum, I'll skip the details except for a few. Furnace Creek Inn is incredibly nice. I recommend it over Furnace Creek Ranch if the extra money doesn't bother you. We finally spent the extra money, and it was well worth it.

We had rain on and off most of the day on Saturday, and snow in the higher elevations. The employees at the Inn, and the park rangers were all very excited. So, it was interesting to see Death Valley when it rains!

Sunday, November 29 - we head back to Las Vegas. We stopped for brunch at Garduno's in the Palms. We like this for Sunday brunch. It is Mexican food, and you can also get more typical eggs, omelets, etc. They have all you can drink margaritas, but those are very sweet, and not too good. Food is good though. Next up is check in at the Flamingo. Even though we were early, we were able to get a room right away. We had a Go room reserved (50/night), and when we got to the room, we were surprised to find a fridge AND a coffee maker. Last year, we had a fridge, so maybe that is standard now even though the website doesn't mention it. The coffee maker was a nice bonus. Website doesn't mention coffee makers either, but it was there. Hopefully, this is a standard feature now.

We unpacked, and decided to head down to the end of the strip, and walk back up. We took the monorail to Sahara, and they had some promotion - $50 in chips for $40. So we did that, and played blackjack. We actually made about $70 each here, and then headed on back towards the Flamingo. We stopped in the Encore to check that out since it opened right after we were there last. It is indeed red as others have said. We walked over to the Venetian and had dinner in the Noodle Asia. D had BBQ pork and duck noodle soup. I had Dan Dan noodles. Both were good. This place is nice if you aren't real hungry, but want a quick decent meal. Stopped in at Harrah's to play a card game called Triple Shot - this is the only place I've ever seen this over the years. It's a pretty fun game.

Monday, Nov 30 - went to the gym in the morning. Flamingo has a good deal for the gym. It is $10 per day or else you can do 3 days for $25 or 5 for $40. We bought the 3 day pass. After our workout, we head back to the room to shower and get dressed, then decide to go for an early lunch (it's about 11:30 by now). We went to the Burger Brasserie in Paris. D had the lamb with Swiss and bacon. I had turkey with avocado. We split some fries. The burgers were really good, too big to finish. The small fries were more than we could eat too. They had some decent beers on tap. We went down towards the MGM today. We played Crazy 4 Poker at the MGM for a few hours, and went up and down. When walking down to the MGM, we saw an older couple (mid 70ish) dressed exactly alike. I mean exactly. They had on pale blue leisure suits (his and hers tailoring), white turtle necks, and gold chains. They both had on white shoes. Does anyone remember Ted the anchorman from the old Mary Tyler Moore show - this guy could have been Ted and his wife the female equivalent. Remember this couple - they'll be back later for a second appearance. We went over to the Mandalay Bay - didn't have any luck here. We decided to take a taxi over to Origin India for dinner. we'd eaten here before, and it was good. So, we hopped in a cab and off we went. D had the Tandoori grill plate. I had the Tandoori chicken with black lentils. Both were really good. They also make good cocktails here, with fresh juices and ginger, lychee, etc.

We walked over to Hard Rock after dinner, and played Three Card poker. D hit a straight flush right away, so that was a nice win. We took a cab back to the Flamingo and played on two side by side poker machines. We played Deuces wild super bonus deluxe (or something like that) - and kept hitting pretty decent hands. No huge payoffs, since it was deuces wild, but we did cash out about $75 up each. The cocktail waitress stopped by frequently.

Tuesday, Dec 1 - Hit the gym again this morning, then back to the room to get ready. We had a light breakfast at a place called Java Detour - it is in the Flamingo, near the spa. We had yogurt with strawberries and coffees. Today we decided would be downtown day. We took a cab to the Golden Nugget. We walked over to Binions and played Blackjack Switch. This is a pretty fun game, and we played for a few hours. We took our picture with the $1million. Lunch was at the 777 brewpub in Main Street Station. D had bbq ribs, and I had the grilled chicken with roasted red peppers sandwich. Of course, we had some of the beers. D had the sampler, and I had High Roller. Everything was good. We usually eat lunch here when we are downtown. We played some more at Main Street Station and also back at Binions. Neither one of us hit much; we'd just go down and up and come up a little behind all day. We took a cab back to the Flamingo where we put on warmer clothes, and dropped off our $1 million pictures from Binions. We walked down to Harrah's to eat dinner at the Pennazi restaurant, but it was closed on Tuesdays. So we tried a place in Harrah's called Ming's Table. D had salt & pepper pork. I had orange chicken. Food was just OK - not bad, not good. We would not eat here again. We played some pai gow at Harrah's and then wandered back down towards the Flamingo. We played on our Deuces Wild machines again - once more, we managed to win about $70 or so each - this was fine considering we'd been losing most all day. Cocktails were again plentiful at these machines. I was hungry since I picked at the mediocre dinner, so I went by a little pizza place in the back of Harrah's by the entrance to the pool area. I managed to get the last 2 slices of pizza before they closed, and we went back up and ate pizza and crashed.

Wednesday, Dec 2 - We woke up early today since we had an early night. Hit the gym again. We took the car out finally - the first time since getting back from Death Valley (don't want to worry about drinking and then having the car somewhere). We went over to Ellis Island and had breakfast. D had Italian sausage and eggs. I had chicken and eggs. Both were good. We took the car because we thought we would drive out the new M resort, but I discovered some of those promotional chips from Sahara still in my purse. So we dropped the car back off, and took the monorail over to the Hilton. We played there a bit, and walked back to the Sahara to finish playing those chips. We sat down at a blackjack table, and ordered some drinks. The table beside us had 2 drink holders at the far left side of the table. Our table did not have any. There was a lady sitting at 1st base at the table beside us, not drinking anything. Nobody else was at that table. I went over and took the drink holders and this lady started yelling 'those are my drink holders - what are you doing taking them?' and totally freaking out. I just put them back and walked back to my table (drink holders are really not worth this drama). I got back and the dealer said - that woman is in here all the time, and she is really strange. So anyway - we played for about 1 hour, and the crazy drink holder woman never even got a drink. Very strange. Walked down to Encore and stopped in and had a light snack. There was a bar called Lobby Café, and we had the mini grilled cheese trio and some martinis. The snack was basically 3 small paninis - one with cheddar, one with turkey and cheese, and one with ham and cheese. The sandwiches were quite small, but the perfect size for a snack to share without spoiling dinner. We played Texas Hold'Em in Wynn, but didn't win anything there. We went back to Harrah's for dinner at Pennazi. We had martinis to start, then a bottle of wine. D had cioppino, and I went pretty basic for me - fettuccine alfredo with chicken. For some reason - this sounded really good even though it is not something I would normally get. Good was good. Would not get the fettuccine alfredo again, as it was a bit plain and they have so many other good items on the menu. Back to the Flamingo for blackjack. We played at those pits in the front, with the skimpy dressed dealers. The first dealer we had was fun. But, we had a crazy guy at the table with us. He would double down on 12, 13, and 17 - pretty much anything. And it did not matter what the dealer had - she could have a 2 showing, or a 10. He basically just doubled down. He split 10s at one point, just playing really strange. BUT - he actually would win - and save the table. he'd double down on 17 and draw a 4. He's split 10s and draw two aces. Then the dealer took a break, and we got one that was waaaaayyyy too into herself. She was the relief dealer, and would go up behind the dealer she was relieving and kind of grind against her. You could tell the other dealers were annoyed by her. Our dealer rolled her eyes at her when she came by to relieve her. We tried to stay at the table, but she was pretty much ignoring the players. Double down guy left, and we left too. Back to the deuces wild machines and finally winning a small amount of money again.

Thursday, Dec 3 - Last full day, so we decided not to go to the gym. We went to Blueberry Hill for breakfast. we'd eaten here before, and it was really good. D had multi grain pancakes and I had chicken and waffles. The chicken was really peppery, and I am a pepper addict - so I liked it. We then hit the M Resort finally. I did not like the smell at all. I did like the place though. We played here for a while, and then decided to head back to the strip. We dropped off the car and walked over to Mon Ami Gabi in Paris for lunch. On the walk over, we saw the twin couple again. This time, they were wearing matching beige leisure suites, a red turtleneck, and the gold chain. I wonder whose idea the outfits are - his or hers? D had French Onion Soup and I had the croque-monsieur. We had a carafe of what they call Sangria (French Sangria) - and it was good too. After lunch, we decided to head over to Bellagio and hit the Fontana bar - another place we try to make it to. Of course the room was set up like a poker room (is it ever a bar anymore?) so we sat at the bar. Diane was working, and D ordered Aviations for us (he likes to play bartender at home with classic cocktails). This excited her as she had a special test coming up, and the Aviation was one of the drinks she was studying. She said she surprisingly had not made one before, so she was excited to make them. We had another round of drinks, and chatted with Diane about the upcoming test. Does anyone know how she did? After this, we hit Planet Hollywood, Bills, and Bally's. We weren't too hungry, so we walked back to the Burger Brasserie in Paris and had burgers for dinner. D had lamb, and I had turkey.

I've lost the notes I took after this - so that's about it!

Friday, Dec 4 - wake up and turn on the news and they are talking about snowstorms in Houston! That NEVER happens, so I called the airline to check on our flight. I was supposed to leave at 11. It was now scheduled for 1:30, but they said we needed to be at the airport in time for the 11 since it was a hold in Houston causing the delay, and they could release flights to come in at any time. So we pack and head to the airport. Surprise - we'd both been upgraded to first class. Yeah - since we didn't win anything in Vegas, I guess we won at the check in desk. Went to the airline lounge and had some drinks while we waited. They had the news on and sure enough - snow was falling in Houston. Since we'd now be back too late to pick up the dog before her kennel closed, we called our neighbor and he agreed to go pick up the dog at the boarding place and drop her off at our house (he had a key as he was getting the mail all week).

We finally made it home, and when we were on the way to the gates, we saw about 30 planes lined up for de-icing. Houston is just not geared up for any kind of snow, so I'm glad we were coming back instead of trying to leave.

Things I missed this time -
1. I never made it out to the Ethel M cactus garden to see the Christmas lights.
2. While I liked the lack of crowds, we never seemed to get a full table. I actually like to play at a full table when there is a good group of people having fun. We had at most 2 other people at the tables with us most of the time.
3. Winning - we never really won anything at all. I also did not see anyone else really winning anything.
4. NYNY - I missed going into this casino. We usually like to play pai gow here, but never made it in this time.
5. Lounge acts - seems there are fewer and fewer places with lounge acts. We tried to see the one at the Venetian, but it was not on when we were there.

As usual - the week just flew by, and I didn't get to do all we wanted to do. we'll be back next year! I hope you all have good luck on your next trips.