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Entries in TRAVEL Nevada: Las Vegas (2)

Tuesday
Jan152013

What happens in Vegas...

"What happens in Vegas" doesn't necessarily have to stay in Vegas.  In fact, I'm going to share my recent jaunt that included: An incredibly delicious brunch in Paris - a steal of a haute hotel room - a walk down the isle - and a couple of other shenanigans.

...

Did you know, if you go to Vegas around Christmas time, that hotel rooms are incredibly affordable and restaurant/lounge reservations are a breeze to snag?  It's the low season and, in laymen's terms, all that really means is that you can't swim outdoors.  Now, while that may be a total bust to you sun goddesses, I can't imagine a more miserable situation than roasting in 115-degree dry, summer heat.  I'll take the winter, thank you very much.

One of my best friends from college, Erin, decided that she wanted to get married on the weekend before Christmas.  In Vegas.  With scheduled plans to visit my family in California for the holidays, Vegas was all too conveniently on my way.  While most of the guests had plans to stay at the Wynn, I chose The Four Seasons.  Why?  Because I had Lucy, my lil' pup, in tow.  And the Wynn is not dog-friendly.   And neither are too many other properties.

Lucy gets some fresh air on our way to JFK...and passed out like a log in-flight.The Four Seasons is connected-ish to Mandalay Bay which, aside from being inconvenient to most of the other casinos, is located alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way at the beginning of the Strip.  However, if it's tranquility (there is not a casino in the hotel), outstanding service, updated guest rooms, and a pet-friendly environment you're after, look no further than The Four Seasons

Looking up from the pool at The Four SeasonsSince checkin wasn't until 3pm, I began to panic.  What would I do with Lucy while I hosted Erin's bridesmaid's bruncheon at 10:30am?  Luckily, the hotel's concierge was quick to reassure me and arranged for a pet sitter to watch my lil' girl while I was entertaining.

I hosted Erin's bridesmaid's bruncheon at Mon Ami Gabi, a French brasserie, in the Paris Hotel.  This particular venue was chosen because: 

  • French food is romantic.  So is getting married.
  • It received very high rankings on Zagat.
  • They offer a $25, 2-course, prix-fixe menu.
  • Working with onsite event planner, Rebecca, was seamless.

In order to sass things up a bit, I quickly decorated the table with plastic "gems" (from Party City) and placed a salted-caramel macaron at each lady's coffee saucer (I purchased a dozen from Macaron Parlour here in NYC.  Transporting them was simple, as Macaron Parlour has indestructible packaging!).

Erin and, on her left, the maid of honor and, to her right, the flower girl.

Le menu

First course:  Fruit salad and fresh croissant

Second course:  Entree.  I chose the traditional Eggs Benedict.

After brunch, I went back to The Four Seasons to fetch Lucy and check in.  

I scored a room with two double beds and a killer view for only $179/night.  Beat that, bitches! 

The hotel gifted Lucy with an adorable stuffed animal that looked just like her!

The Four Seasons provided a doggie bed, a place mat topped with a food and water bowl, and homemade doggie treats!  FYI:  Those two green cups in the center of the mat were ones that I brought from home.

After relaxing for a few hours, it was already time to head to the Wynn for Erin's ceremony.

My sweet friend made the most beautiful bride.

Post nuptials, we clinked glasses of bubbly and enjoyed some outstanding hors d'oeuvre at the property's stunning Lakeside Restaurant.  

...

On Sunday, Lucy and I spent the day shopping at The Forum Shoppes and Barney's, where I did some serious retail damage on the sale racks.  Ultimately, with the dough that I saved on marked-down items, I caved and bought this lil' number:

For dinner, I met Erin and her husband for a 'meat and potatoes' fix at Gallagher's Steakhouse in New York, New York (...obviously not my choice of venue, since I live in "New York, New York"). 

For a night cap, we decided to grab another round at Bar at Times Square, where we caught an unbelievably entertaining "dueling pianos" performance...

...and the fans go wild!

"Ooooooooooooooooooooooooh oh!"

"We're half way theeeeeeeeeeeeeeere!"

"Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh oh!  Livin' on a praaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayer!" 

 

I don't know who that woman was, but what a total bad ass for rocking out like "no one was watching!" 

On Christmas Eve, Lucy and I bid Vegas adieu and caught a 1pm flight to San Diego. 

 

Do you have any favorite Las Vegas venues or money-saving tips? 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
May292012

48-hours in Sin City: Tips, Opinions, eats/drinks, and photos

After a whirlwind 48+ hours in Las Vegas, I thought that it would be fun and crucial to share some of my favorite tips, observations, experiences, and photos with you.  Enjoy!

1)  Flying Delta?  Not checking your luggage?  If you're checking in to your flight online, I highly recommend paying the extra $19 to a) upgrade to 'Zone 1' boarding, and b) have access to WiFi.  Not only will you get to board the plane first (behind old people, folks w/ children, etc. and First Class) but, because you're one of the first passengers, overhead storage bins will be virtually empty!  And, if you've never experienced it, WiFi at 35,000 feet is beyond cool and makes the dreaded flight time breeze by.  

2)  The taxi line at McCarren International Airport is as long and tangled as an accordion.  If you have no time to spare and/or plenty of money to burn, then do yourself - and your blood pressure - a favor and hire a private car to come and fetch you upon arrival. 

3)  And, speaking of taxis, make sure to have cash on-hand for payment.  While some vehicles now accept credit cards, you will be charged a hefty $3 fee just for swiping your plastic.  No thanks!

4)  Hate smoke?  Well, you're out of luck - because cigarette puffing is EVERYWHERE in Las Vegas.  Either deal with it or choose a different destination.  Seriously. 

5)  Guys:  If you DO NOT want to get laid, then make sure to wear jean shorts AND mandals.  At the same time. 

6)  If you need even more proof that the Kardashian's have taken over the world, then head over to The Mirage for confirmation.  Sigh.  Eye roll.  Gag.

7)  Curious to see the grand canal and the shops at The Venetian?  Fine, take a peak at the charming gondoliers - snap a photo or two - then do a pivot and get the hell out of there.  If you're not in to shit-shows and gnarly crowds, I highly recommend The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace.   

8)  And, while we're on the topic of shopping:  If you absolutely DO NOT want to receive good service whilst shopping - especially at high-end indoor malls - then make sure and come dressed like this:

9)  If you think that 'people watching' in NYC or Venice Beach is outrageous, you ain't seen NOTHIN' yet.  Vegas, hands down, takes the blue ribbon for 'best people watching.'  Of all time.

10)  Ladies, a word of advice:  You may want to reconsider traveling to Vegas with your man.  Trust me, no matter how amazing you think you look - there is another chick(s) who's 100x hotter.  And, believe me, he will *not* be able to stop staring.  I couldn't, either.

11)  In some aspects, Las Vegas seems like a mini-Manhattan.  There are so many NYC outposts of restaurants, bars, and boutiques.  Some examples include:  Scoop, Intermix, Tao, 1Oak, Max Brenner, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill...

12)  And, just like NYC, many restaurants in Las Vegas are outrageously expensive.  Actually, the prices in Vegas are even *more* offensive.  Be very mindful of food/drink menus and order wisely.  Mom, my Vegas travel buddy, and I would typically order a couple of appetizers and split one entree.  It was a great system that saved us both cash and calories!

13)  And speaking of restaurants

~ We enjoyed lunch at Stripburger, which is located on the outside of the Fashion Show Mall complex, and across the street from the Wynn.  How can you go wrong with outdoor seating - great cocktails - burgers cooked to your liking - fantastic fries, onion rings, fried pickles - and all of the ranch dressing that your heart desires?  

~ For dinner, we headed to Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico's Steakhouse, located within the brutally annoying/overwhelming/panic attack-inducing Grand Canal Shoppes at The VenetianMom said it best, "This entire hotel complex looks as though its architects and interior designers had high hopes, but ran out of money towards the end of construction."  The same observation could be said of the restaurant:  While you gaze up at beautifully vaulted, arched ceilings, the column to your left is squared-off sheetrock.  Blech.

Our dinner at Delmonico's Steakhouse was mediocre, at best.  Here are some of the key reasons that I would not return:

  • Mom's margarita was overly salty and sour (even for me, a salt/sour whore).  When we informed our server, he looked at us like we each had 10 heads.  While he did offer to have it remade, he sure as hell did not seem sympathetic or pleased.  We saw him take Mom's drink over to his manager and explain the situation with less-than-thrilled facial expressions and hand gestures.   
  • Drinks, round 2:  Our server got heated when, upon tasting the first bottle of red wine, I asked that we switch to something else (hey, it tasted carbonated and extremely sour). 
  • The iceberg lettuce leaves in the "Petite Iceberg Lettuce Wedges" salad were limp.
  • There was not enough burrata cheese in the "Vine Ripened Tomato Salad."  
  • Our filet was cooked "medium rare," instead of our requested "medium."  But, by this point in the meal, we were too exhausted to correct the order.

The one item on Delmonico's menu that I *would* return for?  The ridiculously rich, perfectly-scalloped and garlic-y "Potato Gratin" that arrived bubbling over the brim of a cast iron skillet.  I'm drooling just writing about it...

~ The award for 'worst service of the entire trip' goes to La Cave, a wine/tapas restaurant at the Wynn.  After returning to the hotel from our 7pm "The Beatles Love" performance, Mom and I were hungry.  We didn't want a full, elaborate meal; we were simply hoping to enjoy some heavy snacks and a great glass of wine.  

We arrived at La Cave at approximately 10:10pm, and were greeted by two hostesses.  "Hi.  Are you joining us for dinner or just drinks?"  Both.  "OK, we have a spot open at the bar.  You can squeeze in another chair, or we can seat you at a table.  But just an FYI:  We're closing our kitchen in 10-minutes, so we're having last-call."  How would *another* chair fit at the bar?  There's not enough room.  OK, we'll take a table, then.  "If you sit at the bar, then there isn't a 'last call,' you know."  Oh, so we can order food/drink at the bar w/out being rushed?  "No, you can only order food for another 10-minutes.  Even at the bar.  It's 'last call.'"  Huh?  I'm confused.  But you just said...never mind.  We'll take a table, please.  

The hostess seats us in front of an open terrace door, gushing the interior space with wind drafts.  I ask if we can, instead, be seated outdoors.  "There's not a table open."  The beotch was lying - I saw plenty of space out there - but I didn't have it in me to punch her in the face fight. 

Mom and I eventually moved ourselves to another table.  Since we ended up waiting for an unreasonable amount of time, I had to excuse myself and advise an employee that we'd like to see menus and, eventually, order food/drink.  We were served by a kind man who informed us that the kitchen did not close until 11pm.  Interesting point, since the HOstess lied to our faces and said that the "kitchen closes in 10-minutes (which would have been 10:20)."  

La Cave was a 'fail' on so many levels.  Our cheese platter was accompanied by crostini - Mom's wine was $17/glass - my margarita sucked - and the service was beyond heinous.   

14)  And speaking of the Wynn

Despite our shiteous experience at La Cave, Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed this gorgeous hotel.  Never, in my life, have I stayed in a more beautifully appointed and furnished room.  Every detail, down to the toiletry bottles being 'pop top' as opposed to 'screw top,' was incredibly well thought-out and delivered. 

Here are some of my favorite aspects of the hotel:

  • Our room was 640 square feet.  That's larger than my apartment in NYC!
    • *Our bathroom contained a separate tub and shower, plus 2 sinks!
    • *Lights and curtains were powered electronically, via a digital screen on the wall.
  • Unlike other hotels - especially other hotels in the immediate vicinity - every employee knew where each restaurant/shop/nightclub/pool was located on the property.  The staff was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly.
  • I never felt like I was at a Sandals resort or aboard a Carnival Cruise ship (while at the hotel):  You can use your imagination/make your own assessment of what I'm talking about...
  • The shops, while completely outrageous and extravagant, were fun to browse in and window-shop.

...

Mom and I had a fantastic "girl's weekend" in Vegas!  The people watching, weather, shopping, and hotel-hopping was priceless.  As was the 1x1 time that we got to spend together. 

I cannot wait to return to 'Sin City,' especially knowing all that I know now.  Do you have any tips or favorite experiences in Las Vegas?  Holla'!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle