Archive for March, 2006

Vegas Day 1

March 25th, 2006 Comments off

I took four days off work last week and headed out to Vegas. I hadn’t been there before, neither had Ross. It was quite the experience for both of us.

My overall impression was exactly what I expected it to be. I will definitely go back, but I’m in no hurry to do so. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it or found it boring, I just dislike cigarette smoke. I can’t stand it. If there is one thing that stood out about every single place I went there, it was the smoke. I fully expected it to be that way, and there’s nothing you can do to prepare for it or lessen the impact. I’d go to bed at night and my whole body would reek of smoke. My suitcase smelled like smoke and all I did was keep my dirty clothes in it. That part was miserable.

The other stand-out thing from my trip was all the walking. Again, I knew going into it that I’d be walking a lot. I always had this loomingly large idea of the strip in my head. Seeing it in person proved that quickly. We stayed at the Luxor, which is on the far end of the strip. It’s part of the MGM Grand juggernaut hotel group. It had nice amenities and the rooms were OK overall. There just wasn’t much about it that made it worthwhile to stay at all day. All the exciting hotels were down the street, towards the middle of the strip. And even half way down the strip is a decent walk.

We flew out of Milwaukee because of the price of tickets. They were something around $240ish each. I have a fetish for flying Northwest, and rightly so. I was upgraded on all four segments of the trip. Ross likes that. I’ve gotten to the point where if I don’t fly first class I feel let down. NW is lucky they didn’t let me down.

Mitchell Field is an interesting airport to depart from for me. I fly so much now that I get to see how different airports across the country handle different things. The layout of the check in area, baggage handling, security layout, etc. Flying through MKE is my chance to see how my hometown does travel. The first class line was empty and unattended, so I asked the agent at the line next to me if she was working the first class line. She said she was, but looked very annoyed. All I did was ask a question, whatever. She got me checked in and then neglected to put my priority tag on my luggage. She wasn’t happy I pointed this out. She helped R check in as well, and was just as “pleased” to do so. Towards the end of my encounter with her she had lightened up a bit and wished us both good luck. It didn’t help.

Security was completely empty. The officers looked excited to actually have passengers coming through. The conveyor belt guy had to go through R’s backpack for some reason. They completely missed the pair of scissors that was in there. Seriously, there was. I don’t feel like putting forth the effort to check policy on scissors, but I’m sure having those wasn’t kosher. The guy was nice about the search. He even offered to take the cookies in R’s bag from him. Nice guy, but wasn’t quite up to snuff on his searching ability.

The agent had said the Worldclub was closing at 7:00. We had checked in at 6:50. We stopped at the Worldclub anyway, just to see. It turns out they were closing at 7:30, which was perfect as that was the time our flight began boarding. We each had a drink and headed to the gate.

The gate area was loaded with people from our flight, as it was the last one out for the night. A group of Franklin HS’ers were there, as well as a lady who was picking her nose. I snapped a few pics of her rolling her booger between her fingers. Seriously, she did. The flight itself was mostly uneventful. The first class attendant was really nice and kept getting me more booze. I didn’t really need it, but she got it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t drink it, either. I didn’t want her to crack open a new bottle of wine, but she said someone behind me offered to finish the other half if I had some. I couldn’t say no. For the first time, I was served real snacks on a NW flight. A selection of cookies, chips and granola bars were offered. I accidentally took lemon cookies which I thought were lemon drops. I don’t do lemon cookies.

Landing was an amazing experience. We were seated on the left hand side of the plane and our approach took us right past the strip at night. The lights, buildings and general atmosphere was awesome to see from the air. It definitely served as a teaser of things to come. We landed on time and hit the ground running to beat some of the others from the flight to baggage claim. LAS has a tram that runs from the outlying terminals to the main one. We were one of the first people there, however by the time it arrived there were plenty of people there. The first thing that I noticed at the airport were the slot machines all over the place. I’m not sure who operates them or who recieves the profits, but they’re right in your face when you hit the ground. I didn’t bother touching them.

Baggage was supposed to be turning on the first carousel we stopped at, but after waiting for ten minutes it switched to another one, unannounced. This wouldn’t have been a big deal had there not been 150 people standing around the one we were at waiting for bags. By the time we got to the second carousel it was packed. Our bags came out after another 10 minutes and we proceeded to the line for cabs.

The cab line was deceptively long. Luckily, it moved quickly. Of course, people found it necessary to smoke in line. Something about the stress of waiting for a cab. The line probably took 20 minutes to wind through, which is a hassle when you’re toting a large suitcase behind you. Our cabbie whisked us away to the hotel via the 15. R later told me we were most likely getting ripped off if the cabbie took this route. It might seem quicker but the distance is longer so they get paid more. Had I known that I would have tipped less. Oh well.

The Luxor is a large pyramid structure poking out of the strip. A large, extremely bright light shines from its center. We could see it as we approached. After paying the cabbie we walked into the lobby area to check in. They somehow pipe the smell of mint into the lobby area, it stood out every time I passed through it.

The check in line took 2-3 minutes to get through and the check in process itself took a bit more. They didn’t have the room type I had reserved so the agent was trying to offer something else instead. I was hoping for an upgrade to a whirlpool suite. I figured she was bargaining so I might as well try to get the best possible room. After talking to her manager, I was shot down. I’d have to deal with a room on the 5th floor and a $20 discount for the night. I don’t mind discounts.

The elevator situation is quite the fiasco. The building itself is 25 storeys tall. One would assume he could use any elevator around to get to his room. That’s not the case. I knew they had special “inclinators” there, due to the pyramidal shape and location of the elevator shafts along the outside perimeter. They actually go up the building on a diagonal. It turns out that the first five floors can only be accessed by regular elevators, in a different area than the inclinators. We found out the hard way and eventually got to our room.

Sure, we were exhausted and wanted to get to sleep. Sure the earlier we went to bed the earlier we could get up and do things. But, it was just too tempting to wander around our hotel and the adjacent ones to see what the future wold bring us. We headed over to Mandalay Bay, which is one hotel down from ours and attached via a walkway. There was a noticeable difference in decor and amenities between the two hotels. Upscale shops lined the walkway, which eventually dumped us out to, where else, their casino.

My main interest in Vegas had switched from gambling to dining a while ago. Over the past decade or so, Vegas has become a dining destination like no other. We’re not talking Olive Garden and TGI Fridays, but Robuchon and Nobu. I hadn’t studied the exact locations of any of the restaurants, but I found my way over to Aureole and Red Square at MB. Seeing them was the first indication that everything I had read about Vegas was true and that good eats had the importance in Vegas that all the guide books told me it did.

We snapped a few pictures of our surroundings and hopped on the little tram that operates between MB, Luxor and the Excalibur to get back. After R partook in his customary watching of local TV, we were sleeping.

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