Renewing Our Vows And Our Spirits

    Every five years my wife and I renew our vows. Even though we visit Las Vegas fairly frequently, we try and make these trips special, as they provide us with some of life’s most valuable possessions----memories.

    This trip was split between Orleans and Four Seasons. I know this would be a strange combination for many, but they are currently our two favorite Las Vegas hotels.

    Sunday March 24th

    We arrived in Las Vegas around noon, and at Orleans around 12:30pm. I was a little concerned about the crowds, as this was the last day of March Madness weekend. I was expecting long lines at the hotel and possibly even a wait for a room, which never happens to us in Las Vegas. But my fears were unfounded, as the line at check in was short and a room that met our specifications was available. We received room 21091, which for us is the standard Orleans room. We always stay on the 20th or 21st floor.

    The only change in the rooms at Orleans is a major one for me, but most others won’t care. They no longer provide the 8 channels from the race-book to the in room TVs! This means I can’t watch the horse races in my room.

    As usual we had no plans or reservations for the 1st day. So after watching the end of one of the games, we headed down to the race-book to grab a hot dog to tide us over until dinner. My wife loves the $1.50 hot dogs at the Orleans race-book, and it is her most frequent lunch when we are there.

    Since our last visit in October, Orleans has taken out our favorite VP carousel on the side of the lounge, and the last remaining 9/5 JOB machine. I was able to find one bank of 8/5 JOB pay-tables. So this trip would include more DW, which has been my wife’s preference the last couple of trips anyway.

    We spent a couple of hours playing at a $5 Pai Gow Poker table, both making a small profit. An interesting thing has happened at the casinos where we play most of our Pai Gow Poker. It used to be that Gold Coast always had a few $5 minimum tables but the minimum at Orleans was usually $10. But for some reason in the last year it has switched, and Orleans has a couple of $5 tables while Gold Coast has gone up to $10. Which means we play more at Orleans.

    We had an early dinner at Big Al’s Oyster Bar. We LOVE the clam chowder there. The problem is that it is so filling it causes us problems. Through the years I’ve tried every possible combination: Bowl of chowder with entrée, Cup of chowder with entrée, Appetizer and bowl of chowder, and our current choice salad and bowl of chowder. It doesn’t make any difference. No matter which choice we make, we just can’t finish it all. And if anything our appetites are getting smaller, as time goes by. The waitress suggested that next time we split a bowl of chowder with salads, and we may give that a try. Any way you choose to do it, I strongly recommend Big Al’s. 2 Garden Salads $9.98, 2 Boston Chowders $13.98, and 2 Iced Teas $4.98, Total $31.28.

    Then it was upstairs to recover from our gluttony and watch Once Upon a Time. We watch very few TV shows regularly, but this is one of them, and it gave us the chance to relax. We ended our night playing some JOB, DW and WOZ.

    My totals for the 1st day: JOB +$20, DW -$5, WOZ -$20, Pai Gow Poker +$36. Total: +$31.

    BTW: This happens every single trip. Gambling is not a very big part of our budget or expenses, so I really don’t care enough to keep track as I go along. I remember the 1st day, but don’t want to make the effort after that. So as usual these will be my only daily totals.

    Monday March 25th

    Breakfast this morning was at the Courtyard Café. The Courtyard Café is a dying breed in Las Vegas, an old-fashioned coffee shop with good food and great value. Maybe it’s just me, but I almost feel that I have to dress up to eat at one of the cafes in the Strip hotels, and bring my credit card to pay the bill. One of the really great things about this place is that they actually have enough employees to provide good service. In additions to our waitress we also have someone like Emma to take care of us, and it is appreciated. French Toast with Bacon $7.99, House Skillet $8.99, 2 Coffee $5.38. Total $22.36.

    It was a little too windy to swim today, but my wife still wanted to relax at the pool for a while. So I had the afternoon to play poker. Because I mostly play weekday afternoons, I often play in games with a lot of locals and this was no exception. I sat in a $4-$8 game with only one other player who wasn’t an Orleans regular. But it was a good game, and that’s all that matters. I did win one fairly large pot against 3 other players with a pair of 4’s, which I really wasn’t expecting.

    One interesting thing did happen at our table. Orleans had drawings in the poker room every couple of hours for $500. But in order to win the person whose name was drawn had to be present. So most of the time at least 5-6 names were announced before there was a winner. The two regulars sitting next to me had an arrangement, so when Dave won he gave the other $100 making both winners.

    The two of them decided that they would tell a friend of theirs, who had played earlier but then left for lunch, that his name had been called, and that when he wasn’t here to collect, Dave’s name had been called instead, making him the winner. To make their story believable they recruited the other non-regular at the table to back them up.

    When John returned, they told him what happened, but he didn’t believe them. That is, he didn’t believe it until the stranger verified the story. Then we had 10-15 minutes of banter while the rest of us tried not to laugh or give it away. When Dave finally relented and told him they were just joking, John wasn’t sure what to believe and had to be convinced again. It certainly did liven up the game. I played for almost 3 hours before chasing a losing hand and realizing it was time to leave while still $160 ahead.
    As I head back to the room I stop and slide my BConnected card through one of the kiosks to find that I have earned FREE COOKWARE! I didn’t know Orleans was giving away free crap, and for only 400 points. So naturally I raced over to pick up my skillet and griddle before they ran out. I went up to the room to show my wife the treasure I’d earned, and to let her know that she could probably pick up another set.

    Her reaction: No Thanks. They take up too much room to bring home. “We always bring these things home saying we will give them away, and end up being stuck with them.” I must admit that normally she’s right, but not this time. Wait until my Mom sees her Christmas present.

    Tonight was our night for Gold Coast, so we took the shuttle over. Walking the floor there I noticed that many of the JOB machines on the main level have been downgraded to 9/5 at the quarter level, while still 9/6 at 50 cents. There is only one carousel of full pay upstairs instead of the two banks of machines previously. We played upstairs for a while, where my wife made a profit, while I took a $20 loss.

    Dinner was at Ping Pang Pong, which was surprisingly quiet so there was no wait for a table. Dinner here was a treat, as always. We sometimes forget that because PPP is in a casino, people might wander in who don’t normally frequent Chinese restaurants. One such group of 5 sat near us. They ordered 3 plates of Fried Rice and some Pork Chops. I’m sure they had no idea how much rice this would be after seeing the looks on their faces when the food arrived. Another party of 6 was seated near us that also didn’t know what to order, but they at least let the waiter make recommendations. It made me think about the days when Chinese restaurants used to offer family meals with different items based on the number of diners. “With six you get Egg-roll” Maybe they should consider this for larger parties.
    Ping Pang Pong is as close to a must-go restaurant as we have in Las Vegas, and I highly recommend it. San Pan Tiger Prawns $13.95, Fresh Sauteed Greens $8.95, BF Satay Flat Hong Kong Style $9.95, Cup Jasmine Rice $0.50, Hot Tea included. Total $36.05.

    We then played my wife’s favorite machines, WOZ and WOF along with some more VP. Gold Coast has the machines she enjoys, and she has always had good luck there.

    Back to Orleans for some DW, where she hit a couple of Royals. Earlier that day I had hit 4 deuces, so we both ended the day on the plus side.

    Tuesday March 26th

    I LOVE Tuesday at Orleans! Yes there are $4 movies, 2-1 buffets, and extra points for those over 50. But most importantly the property is filled with the music I love. The atmosphere of the casino and the pool is transformed into a place where I want to spend my time. But unfortunately today is moving day.

    I got up early to put a few extra points on my card and of course to enjoy the music. It never ceases to amaze me how someone like myself, who often can’t recall what he had for dinner or what clothes he wore the day before, can remember all the words to a 40 year old song. Not only that, but I actually have the ability to sing along and play video poker at the same time. It must be quite a sight. Lol

    We left the Orleans and checked into the very different world of Four Seasons around noon. I had booked an Executive Suite but we were upgraded to a One Bedroom Strip View Suite. Although I would have been perfectly content with the smaller suite, I expected the upgrade. Partly because it was our anniversary, but mostly because there are only 11 Executive Suites in the hotel and there was a good chance they would over-book.

    As you enter the suite there is a coat closet on the left, followed by a large half-bath. Married men will instantly recognize this as “His Bathroom.” The living room was approximately 20x24, with a 7ft sofa against the wall, a couple of end tables, a glass coffee table, and two large chairs. Against the other wall is a bureau holding a 55’ plasma TV. The rear wall is, of course, floor to ceiling windows. In the corner is a glass desk with chairs on each side, and a view out the windows. The décor was brown/beige and comforting.
    The large bedroom is on the right. A king bed with small chests on each side with two large drawers, and a divan at the foot of the bed. There is a chest of drawers with a 46” plasma TV. In front of the floor to ceiling windows are two large high-backed lounging chairs with an ottoman and a small table. A large amount of closets space, with two full closets, plus a smaller one, which holds the safe and has shelving.

    The bathroom was a disappointment. It had a decent size vanity, but only one sink, and no drawers or shelves. It has a large mirror with TV built in. There is a large shower----but no bathtub! I don’t think I’ve ever been in a real suite that didn’t have a tub before.

    The suite is about 1100 sq ft., which is pretty standard for full-size 1 BR suites in Las Vegas. Of course the strip view was spectacular. But even then the suite didn’t provide the WOW that some are looking for. It did however provide AH, which is probably the type of reaction Four Seasons is seeking.

    After settling in we went down to Mandalay Bay to check out the casino. We knew there wouldn’t be much for us to play in this casino. I found 2 quarter JOB machines with an 8/5 pay-table, and one old-fashioned quarter Double Diamond machine that my wife likes. I also walked over to Luxor. Where I found a bank of 9/5 JOB Progressive quarter machines, and the WOZ machines she enjoys.

    Without many options, my wife finally decided to give the large Craps machine a try. And she fell in love. I was really surprised that she didn’t try these machines our last couple of trips, because they seem perfect for her. She never cared about rolling the dice anyway. But she can play craps without having to stand and sometimes fight for position, she doesn’t have to reach around people to place bets, and the minimum is $3. We played for a little over 30 minutes. She made a profit of $25, and was hooked.

    Up to the suite to relax and get ready for a big evening. The hotel had sent up a chocolate cake/torte, incredibly rich and decadent. We finished about a 3rd of it, which was just perfect as we skipped lunch.
    Tuesday night in Vegas for us means Trivia Night at McMullan’s Irish Pub. The last couple of years we have been inviting friends from TA to join us. Trivia starts around 8pm, and we were planning to get there around 7:15 to secure seating. About 6:30 I go onto McMullan’s Facebook page to check out the secret question.
    And I find a Warning: Due to the soccer match tonight seating for Trivia will be extremely limited. So we strongly suggest arriving early.

    I hadn’t realized there was a US-Mexico soccer match tonight, but we know how crazy McMullan’s gets over soccer. And we needed seating for as many as 12 tonight! So we raced downstairs and asked if the house car was available. Fortunately it was, and so now we’ve had the chance to show the drivers at both Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons where McMullans is. Neither had been there before, as it probably isn’t popular with their guests.

    We get there an hour early and the place is already mobbed. I speak to the manager who asks “How Many?” I reply: “We are expecting 10-12.” He laughs and says “Not a chance.” “I’m moving people around and I will try and get you a table for 6.” Ten minutes later we have secured a table for 6 in one of the private alcoves. Now we have to try and hold it.

    The place is mobbed and you can barely walk through the crowd, now we have to hope others will find us. Walkerinin does, giving us an ally in helping us hold our prized turf. I try walking around with a Trip Advisor sign, but can’t find anyone else. My wife then goes outside with the sign. In the meantime others come by to borrow unused chairs, or even try and make a swap for our room if enough people don’t show up. We manage to fend them off.

    Around 7:30 there are no seats anywhere, and people are lined up outside hoping others might leave. My wife is outside holding her sign. A couple walks up to her and she asks “Are you from Trip Advisor?” They ask what she means, and she explains we are waiting for friends to join us from TA. “Do you have seats?”
    “We have a table.”
    “Can we join Trip Advisor?”

    Fortunately Fl_Mermaid and YourStarla show up with a couple of friends who live in Las Vegas, and our private room doesn’t look so empty. B26Marauder showed up a few minutes later and our team was complete. 8 is the maximum number of members allowed per team, so this was perfect.

    I can’t tell you how impressive these people were as a team. They actually play to win! And we were competitive, putting a scare into some of the local regulars. But we still had fun. We’re in Vegas, meeting new friends, swapping a few stories, and showing off our useless knowledge. What a great way to spend an evening. Amongst my favorite Vegas memories will now forever be watching the ladies sing along to all the Gay Guy songs, after getting all 10 songs right.

    We weren’t as much help as normal, but everyone contributed. And in case I didn’t mention it, these people knew their trivia. We really had fun watching our score add up. Going into the last round we were in 3rd place, only a few points behind. Unfortunately we didn’t do as well the last round, which was for double points. But we still finished 7th out of 36 teams, with 59 points. A fine showing!

    There was only one disappointment to my evening. Around 9:30 I ordered 3 Sticky Toffee Puddings to share with my friends. Only to find they had just run out. It didn’t occur to me that the mob would scarf up my dessert. Now EVERYONE has to come back just to give it a try.

    We walked over to Orleans in order to catch a cab. We couldn’t find seats at a Pai Gow Poker table, so we played a little DW and called it a night.

    Wednesday March 27th

    We slept in until 10am this morning, but we still wanted to spend time at the Four Seasons pool. For us, this is what Vegas is all about; breakfast from Verandah while lounging at the pool, in our own little world. We stayed until 1pm and it was time to start our day.

    There was plenty of cake left, so with coffee that was lunch. We then walked over to Luxor to play some JOB. On her very 1st hand my wife is dealt 4 to the Royal. Take a breath, draw and NOTHING. Oh well, at least you had a draw. Three hands later she is dealt a straight flush. Maybe it will be one of those kind of days. We stick around long enough to find out the machine wasn’t going to keep spewing money, and leave with a profit.

    At Mandalay Bay we play her Craps Machine for a while, with her making a small profit, mostly on field bets. She knows the odds but likes the bet anyway. Lol. Then it’s upstairs to get ready for our ceremony.

    A little bit after 7pm we received a call informing us that our driver from Ambassador Limo is waiting. We’ve never used Ambassador before, they were chosen by the concierge. I have to admit that we were pleased with the choice. The driver was from Switzerland, very friendly and willing to talk.

    Our ceremony tonight was outside in a gazebo at Wedding Bells Chapel. I hadn’t heard much about this chapel before, and didn’t know anyone who had been there. But there are an awful lot of chapels in Las Vegas, no one could know them all.

    I asked the driver if he knew of this chapel. He replied that he hadn’t been there before, so he drove by this afternoon just to make sure he knew where it was. This impressed me. It’s exactly the kind of thing I would do, but certainly wouldn’t expect from others. He just made a friend, and earned a larger tip.

    We pull up, and the gazebo is not at the chapel. We have to walk through a lower income apartment complex with a number of buildings, around a gated pool, through a group of about 12 drinking beer outside one of the apartments, and into a middle courtyard where you couldn’t possibly miss a gazebo lit up by 100’s of lights. Tacky might not exactly be the right word, but garish would certainly fit.

    As we walk towards the gazebo we are intercepted by a man who asks if we need a ride to go get a license. We say it is not needed and he directs us to an office (apartment). Where we meet our photographer and Reverend Jeff! Reverend Jeff asks a few questions and explains what will happen in the ceremony. We let him know we are experienced, as we do this every 5 years, which he, like everyone else, thinks is cute. This will give him a new story to tell.

    In all fairness, he did a fine job with the ceremony. Although he had us repeat a lot more of our vows than I prefer. I really just want to say a few lines, get the “I DO” right, and let them handle the rest. But every ceremony is different.

    After that come the pictures in and around the gazebo. As we are having pictures taken, people are walking by on their way home. After all, it’s their apartment complex and we are just visitors. The photographer seemed somewhat professional, or at least maybe the nephew of a professional photographer. The pictures did come out fine, and my wife even purchased a few extra.

    While my wife is choosing photos they are packing up to call it a night. But a young couple walks in requesting a ceremony. Reverend Jeff then holds us up as a shining example, and uses us to keep them occupied as they set up for another ceremony. It kind of reminded me of the Justice of the Peace in the old movies, who will perform a wedding day or night if you have the $5.

    So we head back, around the corner and the group is still outside drinking. They offer congratulations. I let them know that we do this every 5 years, and I will inform them of the location of the next ceremony

    It was truly an “Only In Vegas” ceremony, and an experience we will always remember. But if anyone asks me about an evening wedding in a gazebo I will still be recommending Little Chapel of the Flowers.

    We have reservations at Andre’s, so we have the driver drop us off at Monte Carlo. This was our 1st visit to Andre’s, but 5 years ago when we last renewed our vows we had dinner after at Alize, so this seemed appropriate.

    We were given one of the two private tables in an alcove on the side. The meal was excellent. We both had Caesar Salads. I had the duck, which was outstanding and she had the Ribeye, which she enjoyed. For dessert I had the Crème Brulee and she had a Chocolate Souffle, which was incredible. I thought the time between courses was a little too long, but we weren’t really in any hurry. With the Travelzoo voucher I had previously purchased (saving $50) this was practically an economy meal with a balance due of $45.

    When we returned to our suite on the entryway table there was a bottle of champagne and a note from Reverend Jeff. He had forgotten to include this in our package, and so had it sent to our hotel.

    Thursday March 28th

    Another day at the Four Seasons pool. The world is a wonderful place today. I try and talk my wife into leaving for a dip in the MB lazy river, but she’s not about to leave. They actually pay people to take care of you here. Why would anyone leave? But around 2:30 we finally do.

    Down to the casino, where I drop my wife off at her craps machine, so I can go place my only bet of the NCAA Tournament; Syracuse over Indiana. I walk over to join her and she’s at a machine with another couple and 2 single guys. Just like a real craps table, this is a friendly group rooting for each other.

    I have a $15 ticket in my pocket, so I sit down and join them. My wife takes her turn with the dice; point, seven out. Another guy shoots; 1 pass, and then point, seven out. The other wife shoots; point, seven out. Next it is her husband’s turn. She gets up announcing, “I’m going to the restroom. I only have $2 left. You better not lose it.” We all laugh. But I’m not much better off with $5 left.

    Of course you know what happens next. He starts with three 7’s, followed by an 11, a 2, and then finally a point. The next 3 passes take about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime she returns. So naturally a couple of minutes later he ends his roll. Her $2 turned into $52, and my $5 into $84. My wife’s turn, and once again it was point and out. We all knew it was time to leave, and we all left winners. My wife loves this game!

    My brother, his wife and daughter were in town so we had them up to share our champagne. This is when it is really nice to have a suite. Dinner tonight was at Charlie Palmer’s. This was our first visit to Charlie Palmer’s and I was looking forward to it, especially since the Cut of The week was lamb.

    I really wanted to like this restaurant. The service was good. We took 3 hours over dinner catching up, and were never rushed. My lamb was good, but the others weren’t impressed with their entrees. The Mahi Mahi was so so, and the two who had Filet Mignon were not impressed. The only entrée that drew raves was the King Salmon. So while we enjoyed our family meal, we will not be rushing back.

    Friday March 29th

    Breakfast was actually at Verandah this morning, instead of dining on the same food at the pool 15 feet away. It was 10am, and my wife decided on the buffet, which closes at 10:30. She takes what she wants and fills a plate, assuming nothing new will be put out. We spend an hour over breakfast and as we leave we see everything at the buffet has be replenished. So don’t believe them when Four Seasons they say the buffet closes early.

    We have an earlier flight home then normal, so after breakfast our stay was over and it was off to the airport.

    Random Thoughts, Opinions and Impressions

    The weather was all we could hope for. It really isn’t pool weather yet, but we did have a couple of days we could actually swim. I was disappointed that Monday wasn’t nicer so we could have rented a cabana, but having been in Vegas for our Anniversary a number of times, we knew what to expect.

    And of course every few years Easter intrudes on our celebration. So not only was Vegas crowded, but there were also more families. This doesn’t really bother us, but the fact that we avoid the tourist sights certainly helps.

    With every stay at Orleans we feel more comfortable and at home. It is so reassuring knowing where everything is, which direction to turn when getting off the elevator, and seeing familiar faces. We could have spent our whole trip there and my wife would have been happy. And it did seem a little silly to leave Tuesday, only to have to come back to McMullan’s a few hours later.

    I was honestly going to skip inviting others to McMullan’s this trip. When B26Marauder wrote in January asking me about it I put him off. It is kind of a hassle, and the purpose of this trip was really for us to spend time together, not with others. My wife knows how much I enjoy these evenings, and so talked me into it. And I’m glad she did, these nights are so much fun.

    Just like it is impossible to really explain Las Vegas to those who haven’t been there, I can’t describe what it is like to experience Four Seasons. It’s something everyone should try-----but only when they’re ready.

    Gambling: Last trip my wife developed an enjoyment for Deuces Wild, this trip it was the Craps Machine. There’s always something new in Vegas. Lol
    As usual gambling wasn’t a very big part of our budget. I left home with $1600 and came back with $1700. When you consider I must have used at least $300-$400 for tips and cab-fare I had a good trip gambling. But as usual it didn’t make much of a dent in our expenses.

    As you could see, we didn’t spend a lot of time on the Strip or seeing any sights. We just don’t need to do that anymore. We had a fantastic Strip view from our suite, but we don’t need or really even appreciate that either. Vegas is different for everyone. For us it is almost a haven, a place to renew both our vows and our spirits.

    Obviously this was a special trip for us, and in some ways a needed one. Our lives are even busier this year than normal, and so we don’t even have another trip scheduled. But we do know where we are going to be 5 years from now, In Las Vegas and together.

    Thanks for reading, and I hope you all find your own Las Vegas.