The Las Vegas strip in the Rain. Viva Las Vegas!

Viva Las Vegas!

Pop Quiz: Alina’s plane to Las Vegas leaves at 7:30am. Val’s plane leaves at 8:40am. Who arrives at the airport first?

If you guessed Alina, you are sadly mistaken and do not know me at all…

The Las Vegas strip in the Rain. Viva Las Vegas!


Friday in Las Vegas

After arriving at the airport ridiculously early, going through Southwest’s new seating procedure (which is the most basic thing in the world, but, apparently, impossible for most others to understand), and sleeping through much of my flight, I arrived in the fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada to…rain? It rains in Vegas? Apparently Vegas doesn’t know this fact either because it seems to break when it rains: the escalators all stop working, the porn guys stop coming out, employees go outside to sweep the water from the streets…

I met up with John and Alina and headed to the hotel, the MGM Grand, where we checked in and waited in our room for Mike who was driving in now that he lives oh so close in California. Once he arrived we headed downstairs, found that the lions were not going to be out (I demand my money back), ate sandwiches at Tom Colicchio’s ‘Wichcraft (I had a yummy steak, egg, and oyster mushroom sandwich), and waited for Alina and Mike to get married. Joe’s plane hadn’t arrived yet, so she had to take what she could get…

Wedding chapel at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

Then it was on to gambling! Alina and I played penny slots while waiting for JoeJoe to arrive. Penny slots is one of those games that you just desperately want to lose but can’t. It takes forever to lose a dollar. Alina managed to only gamble $2 the entire weekend and retained every cent.

Joe came and he and the boys hit the tables. I played $20 at the roulette table but soon after everyone at the table left and it was just me. That makes for very boring gambling because it goes way to fast and there is no interaction. I was prepared to leave anyways, but played one more round and won $54. 🙂 My lucky number 13 and its corners helps me every time!

Gambling in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

I told Joe that I was up fifty and he thought “so what” because he assumed that when I said fifty that I meant cents. And he did an awesomely amusing double take when he saw that I had actual chips 🙂

After gambling a bit and drinking a bit we headed across the street (leaving MGM for the first time since arriving) to New York, New York. We settled on a dinner at a Mexican place: Gonzalez Y Gonzalez in the heart of NYC where I got a soso chimichanga. And then it was off to the show!

Seeing Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

We went to see Zumanity…the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil. We decided on the show because I had never seen Cirque du Soleil and Alina had seen many but not this one. It was kind of more a Cirque du Soleil burlesque show. While sitting and waiting for the show to begin, some of the actors started going around looking all hot and kind of flashing people and such and then there was a little pre performance.

I think my favorite act was the first one, which had two naked women swimming in a giant fishbowl. Yes, that was my favorite. The tricks they did though were phenomenal and really unique, like nothing I have ever seen. It was at the same time so graceful and dance like and, yes, a little erotic. It was beautiful though. The rest of the show was neat too. I am just glad I was not pulled up on stage though. It was more like a burlesque show than what I’d think a typical cirque show would be. It was mostly just individual acts mixed with comedic filler and singing. But it was very amazingly good and a fun show.

After the show we hit the streets and everyone made me get a giant margarita. I ordered a strawberry one and asked for it to be in a pink glass. If I was going to be forced into caring around and drinking a margarita as big as me, it was going to be pink damnit.

Drinking a giant margarita on the streets of Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

We walked the strip with drinks that trailed down to my knees. Surprisingly I was the only one who didn’t think it was a bad idea to sip the “free extra tequila shot” that they poured on top directly from the top of the drink. How am I the only one who can take her tequila straight???

We checked out the new Planet Hollywood casino which replaced the Aladdin and looks like a crappy giant billboard from the outside. The way I see it there are two types of Vegas hotels: the shiny fancy pretty ones (see: Bellagio, Wynn) and the over-the-top themed ones (see: Excalibur, Treasure Island, New York, New York). This fit neither and wasn’t even Planet Hollywoodesque. It was just kind of there. Inside though it had one of the best redeeming qualities of any hotel on the strip. There were certain sections deemed “pleasure pits” that had go-go dancers in the gaming area. Now, I know you’re all thinking Val this is the second time you’ve said that the naked women are your favorite thing. But fear not my friends, what made these Pleasure Pits so awesome was that the game tables were PINK! 🙂

Gambling at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

After a bit of gaming and trying and failing to chug down the remaining margarita, we headed back to the MGM and called it our first night in Vegas.


Saturday in Las Vegas

Saturday we all dragged ourselves out of bed and headed downstairs to the Stage Deli for some yummy sandwiches. I had a brisket on sourdough and it was indeed yummy. Then we hit the strip again for a walking tour of the wondrous city. We stopped at Bellagio to check out the new garden setup…unfortunately it was still under construction. It was all decked out for Christmas with penguins and trees and reindeer. We went in search of a restaurant for dinner because I was determined to go to a fancyshamancy place and thought I knew just the one, so we found it and made reservations. John and Mike headed back to MGM to watch some sports so Alina and Joe and I went off to explore.

Glass flowers on the ceiling of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

Christmas penguins in the garden of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

We found the new Trump hotel, which is just a big golden phallus. We walked through Wynn because I think it’s pretty. They replaced the floating flower balls that usually hang from the sparkle trees with sparkle balls for the holiday. And they had PINK poinsettias 🙂 We went through the Venetian and watched the gondolas go by. We stopped at the creperie in Paris to share a crepe (delicious!)

The Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

After our snack we headed back to MGM for sports and gambling then back to the Bellagio for dinner. We ate at Todd English’s Olives because all I really wanted to do in Vegas was eat at a celebrity chef’s restaurant. We had an amazing view with the Eiffel Tower right out the window and the spectacular fountains going off right outside.

View of the Paris Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

At Olives they start you off with some olives and two different olive spreads. I’m not a big fan of olives but the spreads were just very salty and I like salt. I decided that if I was going to do this, might as well do it right, so I ordered myself a $42 kobe hanger steak with foie gras mushroom sauce, polenta, and a crispy mushroom frisee salad. It was the most delectable steak I’ve ever had. The mushrooms in the salad were breaded with a crunchy texture and the steak was so tender and the sauce was thick and delicious. Mmmmm. Sorry, I was not able to get a good picture (there is still one crappy one).

Kobe hanger steak with foie gras mushroom sauce, polenta, and a crispy mushroom frisee salad at Todd English's Olives in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

I also shared a bottle of Syrah with Joe and Alina and it was tasty as well.

The waiter asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu and almost thought we said “No” so we had to yell at him…as I said, if I’m going all out, I’m going all out. I split two desserts with Alina and Joe: a creme brulee and a chocolate volcano cake with a hot fudgy center. Drool.

Creme brulee and a chocolate volcano cake at Todd English's Olives in Las Vegas.

After paying my $80 tab Alina and I headed off to the Rio for show #2: Penn & Teller. Damn you people because now when I saw them all I could think of was KennyK and ScottyMcHotty and how they would look awesome if they went as them for Halloween. 🙁

Penn & Teller in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

The show rocked. Especially when they showed you how they did the tricks. Like they did that cup thing where the balls magically appear under the cups…and then they did it again using clear plastic cups. Of course, even though they explained it it still made no sense and they still kind of magically appeared 🙂

They did a knife trick where they brought someone in from the audience blindfolded them and pretended to throw knives at them. They actually did this same trick at cirque as well. So, even if I knew it was a trick, I still could imagine that if I was brought on stage I would be crying and screaming so loudly they’d hear me three casinos over.

I think the best quote of the night though was just before juggling broken bottles Penn, explaining on the level of injury it might cause said “I won’t be rushed to the hospital or anything. I’m not Roy.”

After the show Alina called Joe who said they were headed to the Venetian. So off we went to the Venetian. When we got there, we saw that Joe had tried calling and that they went to O’Shea’s to play beer pong instead. Which was way closer to where we started. 🙁 Needless to say, we were pissed. Now I am definitely one to see both sides of most arguments. I agree that they did try to call us to tell us several times. I was pretty upset though that they did not do the polite thing of staying where they told us they’d be until either we arrived or they were able to get in touch with us. What fueled the fire even more was that minutes after we got to O’Shea’s, John announced that they were done there and we were heading to the Venetian…

So I was pretty pissed because I thought it was rude of them to not be where they said they’d be and to leave without actually getting in touch with us. But at the same time, I do understand that they (and by they I will mean Joe) at least tried to tell us. Alina on the other hand is a bit more stubborn than I am…and when you pair that with John, you’re not going anywhere for a while. They argued for a bit, resulting in this conversation between me and Mike as we sat there watching:

Mike: This will be a while. Let’s just go in the back and make out.
Me: OK!
Mike: After all, love solves everything.
Me: Wait wait wait. Don’t bring love into this.

We walked through the Venetian and the Wynne again…

John: Mike, look this is your first time in the Bellagio.
Me: Did you just say Bellagio?
John: No Val, this is the Venetian.
Me: Those two drunk are like if Bert and Ernie grew up and got wasted. Except slightly less gay.
Alina: Slightly.

Me: Mike, will you buy me that dress?
Mike: Only if you sleep with me.
Me: Yes! Totally worth it for three seconds of work.

That plus John’s drunken ramblings, John and Mike completely failing at picking up women, Mike’s trying to get me to make out with him the whole night, and John trying to throw me in the waterfall pretty much sums up our time there…

We cabbed it back to MGM where Alina retired and the rest of us gambled. I finally got to play the pony game I’d been dying to play. It’s this really old game from the 70s or something with a race track. There are five plastic ponies that race in a circle. Odds are given and you place quarter bets on the horses you think will come in first and second. It actually isn’t hard to win at because if you for the most part stick to 3-1 odds ones you’re most likely to win and will make your money back. I, however, managed to make $26 by betting on a horse combo with 104-1 odds!!! 🙂 I also like the machine because it is so old that it actually clinks out quarters 🙂

Sigma Derby plastic horse racing game at MGM in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

I decided then to walk away so that I’d finish with a profit of about $50 in all. Not bad for really only playing roulette once and the ponies once 🙂


Sunday in Las Vegas

Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel and headed to downtown Vegas to the Golden Gate for $6.95 prime rib and $1.99 shrimp cocktail. Mmmmm. Counter balances the $42 steak 🙂 John left earlier, so it was just Mike, Joe, Alina, and me.

Downtown Vegas is not nearly as fun during the day because none of the lights are on 🙁

Cheap lunch special in downtown Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

Back at MGM the boys wanted to watch the Bears game and Alina wanted to chill. So I headed to Bellagio myself to catch a “Oh, Holy Night” fountain show. The show was beautiful as always and amazing because there were a ton of tricks where the fountain reached heights well above the height of the hotel. Then I browsed through the garden that was now fully open, grabbed some Jean Philippe pastries, and headed out to catch another fountain show before going back to the hotel.

The Bellagio water fountain show in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

Alina and I got some Starbucks and ate the Jean Philippe tiramisu and pumpkin cheesecake, which each cost about as much as the prime rib I’d had for lunch 🙂 Then we joined the boys for the final ten minutes of the game to watch the Bears lose 🙁

Jean Philippe tiramisu and pumpkin cheesecake in Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!

Mike headed back home to California and Joe and Alina and I headed off to the airport. We sat around for a while because we ended up leaving even before the time I wanted to leave at 🙂 Then it was the plane ride home where Alina taught me the real rules of Sudoku which made the game so much easier to play (I thought you just went up and down/side to side, I didn’t realize the boxes counted too) and we snacked on snack packs.

And thus ended my fourth trip to Vegas in four years and the only time I have ever made any money gambling!

Can’t wait ’til next year!

More photos from Las Vegas:


Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

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