Vegas Birthday trip report + Idol review
The girl knows how to have fun
I decided several years ago, that I will
never work on my Birthday again (unless it's a well-paid union acting gig.)
I will also have a massage, and Champagne. I'd
prefer to do it out of town as well.
Las Vegas has been the destination of choice for
many years, simply because it's close, (I can get there in 3.5 hours
because I am She Who Drives Like The Wind), there
are great deals to be had, amazing restaurants (did you know
there are more sommeliers in Vegas than anywhere
else in the country?), and IT'S FUN.
Last year was my GODDESS birthday, and I wanted
to do something different. We got six of us together and put
a deposit down on a gorgeous condo in Cabo San
Lucas for a week. All was well until the drug cartels blew up
the cop car in Zihuatanejo in the middle of the
day, killing four policemen. My friends all decided they didn't want
to die for me, and rightly so. We ended up canceling
and going to Vegas instead. Oh well.
We used to fly Southwest from Burbank to Vegas
when there were $19 one-way fares, but those days are gone,
and I now have a Prius. It's $35 round
We hit the road at 10:30am, and drive through
a cloud-free Mojave. I love the desert. The five minutes I lived in
New England, the desert was what I missed most,
second only to real Mexican food. (After all, I'm a native Californian,
and California, which everyone (who has any historical
factual knowledge) knows is Mexico - that is until the Europeans
and Americans stole it.)
We exit the 15 onto Tropicana and head up Las
Vegas Blvd. As we pass the MGM Grand, we notice a ton of people
dressed in costumes. From really bad homemade
Woody and Buzz Lightyear costumes to two Johhny Depp looking Pirates.
They're posing for photos with tourists for tips.
When did The Strip becomes Hollywood Blvd? (Apparently this started
a few months ago according to the locals.) Wacky.
City Center still isn't finished.
We pull in to the Paris at 2pm, after one bathroom
stop at the outlet mall just outside of Barstow.
(Why can't men make it more than an hour and
a half without having to pee?)
The reservation is for THREE FREE NIGHTS. I ask
the desk, "Do you have any wonderful upgrades for me since
I have to be old tomorrow?" She first offered
a suite for an extra $150 per night. No thanks. Then she offered either
a mini suite for $70 per night, or a room on
the remodeled floor for $40 per night. We asked about the remodel.
"Pillow-top mattress, flat screen tv, modern decor,"
(still small room.) Nope. I then asked about the mini-suite.
"Double the size of a normal room, wet bar, sitting
area, giant jacuzzi tub, no view." I asked if it was over some
weird construction, and was told no. THAT PLEASE.
I'd much rather not have a "view" room at the Paris,
since that would mean hearing the Bellagio fountains
for 12 hours a day. While gorgeous, I don't want to hear
the water cannons and Sarah Brightman singing
when I want to sleep.
We take the elevator up to the 23rd floor, and
our room is the first one down one of the hallways. That's a nice change
- not having to walk to the end of a corridor.
The room is large. The bathroom is almost the size of a regular hotel room,
and there is a large jacuzzi tub for two, and
separate shower. There is also a separate toilet room complete with bidet.
(Hilarity is always had when someone who has
never used one, attempts to see "what it's all about", and gets a face
of water.) The view faces northeast, so we can
see part of the runway at Maccarran, and the room will get very little
(heat), which is good news. It's also very quiet.
We unpack, and head down to my favorite Vegas
eatery, Mon Ami Gabi. There are many reasons I love this restaurant.
A patio that overlooks the Bellagio Fountains
(which we never sit on, since there is always a long wait, and it's full
who've mostly never been to Vegas before, plus
it's Vegas, so even if you sit on the no-smoking side, there are people
walking up and down the sidewalk and for some
reason people feel obligated to smoke cigars near and inside casinos.)
Superb food, wonderful staff, great ambiance,
and it's AFFORDABLE. No, seriously, it is. It's also owned by Lettuce
Entertain You, which gives you a free membership
card to earn frequent dining points at all of their restaurants (which
mostly in Chicago, but they have them all over
the country.) There are 5 Luttuce restaurants in Vegas, including Mon Ami,
Eiffel Tower, and Joe's Stone Crab. We earned
$30 in three days that we could apply to our bill, and they had sent us
each a $15 off birthday gift card which they
give out every year. FREE FOOD TOO!!
Mon Ami's menu is French cuisine that's not heavy
on the sauces. Lots of steaks, fresh fish, salads, etc... and a wine cart.
They also have a shellfish bar. The moment you
sit they bring you a baguette of warm French bread right out of the oven,
and a ramekin of sweet butter. We normally split
of bottle of Louis Latour Grand Ardeche Chardonnay (at $7 per glass,
$28 per bottle, it's one of the best bargains
on The Strip.) I have the special sandwich du jour which is like a grilled
with a rich French artisan cheese, black olive
tapenade, arugula, red onion, and roasted red pepper, served with their
amazing fries. They overhear we're there to celebrate
my birthday and bring over a profiterole with a candle on it.
A note about profiteroles - I'm not a big fan.
I love the fresh vanilla bean ice cream they serve inside it, and the rich
dark chocolate sauce they pour all over it, but
the baked ball of dough itself? Not so much. If I'm going to eat wheat,
then I want something far more yummy. However,
no complaining for me, it's free!
We gamble a little, mostly at a bar with video
poker so we can play longer and have access to water or more alcohol,
and it's fast and free. Then we head upstairs
to recharge for the evening.
My best friend, who has been calling me all week
to see what our plans are so she could send a bottle of champagne to us
at some point, calls to check on us. This is
the first trip in a while where the only plan we have is my 11am birthday
on Monday morning. No shows, no dinner reservations,
nothing. She and her husband usually come to Vegas for my birthday,
but this year everyone is broke from the continuing
aftershocks of the shitty Bush economy.
I answer the phone and she's somewhere loud.
ME: "You two are here aren't you?"
They're eating dinner at Zefferino's at The Venetian,
but agree to come over to see our mini-suite, then join us at Mon Ami
and have dessert while we have a little light
dinner. (It's a different menu at night, with more steaks.)
They love Mon Ami as well, and instead of dessert,
they order a cheese plate. I have the butter lettuce salad with honey
crisp apple, roasted beets, and goat cheese,
with a light lemon dressing. One of my favorite salads ever. Thinking about
their cheese tray I'm an idiot and also order
their baked cheese appetizer which is amazing in this tomato and herb sauce,
but a LOT OF FOOD. We split a bottle of Latour
Pinto Noir. Again, $7 per glass, $28 per bottle. Then it's on to real dessert.
(What? More food???) They split the Chocolate
Tarte which is one big pile of dark chocolate awesomeness, and we have
the Bananas Foster Crepe. mmmmm. They bring me
another profiterole with candle. Happy Birthday to me.
After dinner, our friends head to their hotel,
but I decide I want to do a little more gambling, since I've mostly been
to Clark County today, and need a little return
on my investment. I put a $20 in a $1 "Triple Double Wild Cherry" machine,
and in two rolls I have $256. Time for bed.
Monday, BIRTHDAY!!! My well-trained man brings
me a latte in bed and I have a nice hour of mindless channel surfing.
I then head down to the spa about 30min early
to go hang out in the steam room before a shower and my massage, which
outstanding as always. After massage, more steam,
then upstairs to shower and dress for lunch at - MON AMI!!! (Yes, this
meal #3 there. Hey, shut up. It's MY BIRTHDAY!!)
Our friends meet us there, and we get a nice table
in the conservatory. Today we have a bottle of champagne, and I start with
a plate of Washington State cold water oysters.
Yes, I know it's May, but they're AWESOME. Then the yummy sandwich
special again. One more bottle of champagne,
and oh look! A profiterole with a candle.
On to gambling, then we all go off for a quick
rest, and try to figure out what to do that evening. We surf the web looking
what new restaurants are over at City Center,
but there are no menus with prices and they all look as though they'd be
expensive. We decide on Todd English's Olives
at The Bellagio. We get there, and everyone is still a bit full from lunch,
though we're all tired of Mon Ami, Olives is
twice as much. We snack, and I'm the only one who orders a glass of wine.
It's a lovely Malbec for $12 per glass. They
had a Chianti Classico for $17 a glass, but when I can get 3 bottles for
at home, I just can't order it out of principal.
We split a Caesar, and the Veal Agnolotti Al Plin - slow braised osso buco,
fontina cheese agnolotti, truffle butter. My
friend has the Greek salad, and hr hubby has the Caesar, then she has Ricotta
& Black Olive Gnocchi - mascarpone créma,
yellow tomato ragu, basil oil, pecorino cracker. All food is absolutely
They brought me a Happy Birthday dessert bite
plate with three small yummy balls on it with a candle. Dark chocolate
coffee, Key Lime, and one that was very much
like a profiterole. Free birthday desserts = win.
Back to Paris for a little more gambling, then
Tuesday morning our friends head home, and we
decide to take a walk and check out Aria and City Center. Even though it's
across the street, it's a long walk. We get across
the sky bridge at Planet Hollywood, and cross over. Then we're forced through
a mall that is only one-quarter finished, with
only once side (the long way) open to foot traffic in order to finally
get to the casino,
which is at the far back of the eventual 3-resort,
3-residence, shopping complex. It's pretty, but dark, and soul-free. It's
everyone said Bellagio would be, but wasn't:
very few 25 cent machines, in fact, all the bars with video poker start
at $1. We didn't stay long.
We end up back at Mon Ami for wonderful, reasonably
priced food. More oysters for me, chardonnay, and the butter lettuce
and beet salad. My man has a cheeseburger, that
I eat half of. Another profiterole with candle ends up in front of me.
We head to the main bar at Ballys and play video
poker for a few hours, then head to the pool around 5pm.
It's a warm, lovely afternoon but not hot, so
it's very relaxing in the shade.
Back upstairs to relax before we head back for
more gambling and eventual dinner at..... Mon Ami. (Hey, we have earned
free money there!) I manage to hit a nice $100
payout on a penny Money Storm machine on the way. We split a bottle of
the Latour Pinot, and I have MORE OYSTERS, my
regular salad and a whole cheeseburger since I will be starving myself
for all eternity (at least until Thanksgiving),
starting the next day. We pass on dessert, but somehow another profiterole
candle magically appears in front of me.
Wednesday morning we hit the road at 10am, and
make Burbank by 1:30pm. Easy. But I'm hungry, and sadly, there is nothing
remotely like Mon Ami Gabi here. There used to
be French 75, but the owners got greedy, fired the jazz trio, installed
and tried to turn a lovely French bistro with
a following into a sports bar. When that failed, they changed the concept
to a high-end
cajun restaurant. Unfortunately a few blocks
away is a much better, less expensive cajun restaurant with a New Orleans
makes the best gumbo this side of Metairie. They
closed two months later.
Thanks be to the TIVO.
So glad I didn't waste any valuable gambling
time watching this hideously boring episode in Vegas where
I'd also have to sit through commercials. The
entire hour was one big KISS LEE'S ASS Manipulation Fest.
Seriously. It was the worst top-three show in
the five years I've been watching.
They take each contestant to their home town and
do a photo-op in front of an AT&T store. WTF? It was strip-mall hell.
There is apparently no AT&T store in Lee's
hometown, so we got footage of him in his own private jet instead.
More not-so subtle LOOK LEE IS A ROCK STAR beaten
into our heads programming.
Casey picks the 2nd most boring song in history
and slows it down. The judges do everything but escort him offstage.
He's very pretty, has a voice and can play guitar
really well. He will have a career when he's actually allowed to sing
and record his own songs. At this point, Idol
is probably the worst thing for him.
Crystal picks Come to My Window. I would have
preferred her to do some Joplin, but maybe she's saving that for the final.
The sound mixer needs to be shot. The instruments
should NEVER over power the vocals. They know how she sings by now.
She does very nice soft moments, and she belts.
There are level adjusters on that board, Sparky - USE THEM. Your job is
to program the board for the entire number and
go have a smoke. You had a rehearsal, REMEMBER??
Lee picks some Lynard Skynyrd song and it's ok.
The judges see Jesus return to earth. It's almost embarrassing. I remember
from last year when they were prematurely crowning
Adam Lambert and packing Chris Allen's bags. That didn't work out so
well for them. Could Lee beat Crystal? Sure,
anything is possible, but the over-praise is ridiculous, especially how
all so put off by the bagpipe a few weeks ago,
which I loved.
Randy and Kara pick the most boring song on earth
for Casey J and his journey under the bus is complete.
He slows it down too, attempting to do ANYTHING
with it, and the biggest moment is a guitar solo.
Simon is the only one who holds them responsible
for giving Casey nothing beyond five seconds of guitar.
Still, he's gracious when he should be fuming.
I hope his bank account has the last laugh eventually.
Ellen picks Maybe I'm Amazed so she can fantasize
about Crystal being a lesbian. Why didn't she just pick Bad to the Bone
if she wanted Crystal to sing about women? And
is there some rule about not being able to gender change McCartney lyrics?
Maybe I'm a gal, maybe I'm a lonely gal....
...Baby I'm a gal, and maybe you're the only
who could ever help me....
I wonder why she didn't do that? It scans for
timing just fine.
Crystal nails it, but because she not a 25 year
old Paul McCartney, it's only good in the eyes of the judges.
Simon has picked Hallelujah for Lee. How many
times have we heard this song on this show, this season?
(I think this is the third.) Lee chooses to do
the Leonard Cohen version instead of the Jeff Buckley (much better) version.
It allows for a choir to come out and back him,
thus creating the one LOUD moment of the night, and the judges see the
face of God. I have no idea why. It was nice,
but it was nothing special. It was loud, but emotion free. Even if it had
the entire night low-key, Lee would have been
better served by doing the Buckley version with just an acoustic guitar.
I wonder if the final week will be just as boring?
Or if we'll finally get a watch-again moment or two?
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