LAS VEGAS: February 2006, part 2


Wednesday February 22 was another early day, dropping Wendy off at her conference before heading to Cravings, the buffet at the Mirage Hotel & Casino. I met “Big Al” on the tram. Al is an elderly gentleman who was a dealer for 25 years and now spends his time navigating his walker around the casino as a self-appointed goodwill ambassador. He showed me the shortcuts to getting to the buffet (not all of them were successful) before unceremoniously ditching me in line while he zipped in the VIP line. I greeted him inside the buffet and it was as if he’d never seen me before. Since I was in Vegas, I figured I had to eat at a buffet, and Cravings has been highly reviewed, though since I arrived while it was in ‘breakfast buffet’ mode, I felt like I didn’t get the full ‘buffet experience’. Still, my breakfast (pizza, Eggs Benedict, cottage cheese, cereal, juices, and more) was fresh, hot, and tasty and fueled me for a day of walking around the Strip and into most of the casinos, just for a visit.

Some observations about the Strip at Las Vegas… The older casinos have lower ceilings and are somewhat smokey, close places. The newer casinos do not have these issues. Everything in Las Vegas is huge. The scale is just incredible. Wendy’s convention — 12,000 veterinarians — was in one wing of the Mandalay Bay (along with a realtor’s convention (6,000 people) and a couple smaller (approximately 2,500 people each) conventions in the same wing!). Buildings in Las Vegas look close together, but they’re not — they’re just huge. It’s critical that you wear good walking shoes. I wore gym shoes and they were fine and comfortable for a week’s worth of walking. Vegas is clean, well-lit, and not at all seedy. I’m sure there are seedy spots, but we didn’t see any of them. To go to Vegas and do anything except fine dining or gambling is pretty affordable, and only tourists pay list price for anything. There are ALWAYS ways to get discounted or free tickets to anything.

So, I walked around Vegas a lot today, and found myself at Todd English‘s OLIVES at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino for lunch. I stopped there because as I was passing, I noticed that they offer a ‘Chestnut Apple Soup’, which I thought must be like the ‘Apple Chestnut Soup’ I make, and it was. Mine soup is better because I use heavy cream instead of milk in the restaurant version and top the soup with a spiced cream. The bread bowl served with a plate of olives (unpitted?!), tapenad, and herbs was very tasty. I paired the soup with a Caesar Salad for a nice light lunch before it was back out for more walking!

On Scott’s recommendation, I went to Harrah’s Casino Hotel to see if I could get into a daytime magic show. As it turns out, my timing was perfect. I arrived just in time to get tickets and go in to see Mac King’s Comedy Magic Show, and boy am I glad I did! He was funny and a talented magician. The 75-minute show was interactive with the audience and appropriate for all ages (which was good because there were a number of kids in the audience). After the show, Mac hung around and signed autographs and sold books & other merchandise.

For tonight’s dinner, please see this article.

The morning of Thursday, February 23 was in a slightly different format. Wendy drove in to the Strip by herself because Doug & Kelly were hanging out with me all day. Rather than getting up so early, I was able to sleep in for a couple more hours, which was very nice.

When we finally got going, it was to hustle down to the Strip to meet Wendy and Scott for lunch (Emily would stay home with Sarah). Doug, Kelly, and I made it to our meeting place (outside Lupo in Mandalay Bay) early enough that we decided that Doug & Kelly would secure seats at House of Blues (also in Mandalay Bay) while I waited for Scott and Wendy. Scott arrived at the meeting spot and I had time to walk him over to the restaurant and order our food before heading back to the meeting spot to pick up Wendy. Once we were all assembled, we enjoyed a big lunch of Po’ Boys, Cheeseburgers, Artichoke Dip, and more. The conversation was lively and continued even after Wendy had to get back to her conference. After lunch, Scott headed on his way and Doug, Kelly, and I shopped and walked around the Strip.

Around 5:00, we wandered back to our meeting spot to pick up Wendy and get changed into nicer clothes before heading out for dinner. Wendy & I wanted to take Doug & Kelly out for a nice meal to thank them for hosting us this week. Based on my previous experience, we decided to take them to Bouchon in the Venitian Hotel & Casino. Please see this article for dinner.

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