Saturday, July 5, 2008

What's in your back yard?

After my weekend vacation at Esalen, I was emboldened to try a weekend in Las Vegas for my next relaxation experience. This time I invited some friends to go along. Most of them are students so it was like a flashback to an earlier eon for me. No one even thought of catching a morning flight. They spent weeks combing the internet for value tickets. There was much sharing of rooms and sleeping on floors. Everyone got excited about eating at buffets. It was very cute. They were all very earnest and spent the night before the flight studying for Las Vegas by playing poker.

I had received an invite to Girls Night (different group of friends) some time back. Since the flight was in the afternoon, I could party with the girls the night before. Oh my! And I thought I mixed a strong drink! It was a merry guy-free evening spent discussing the merits of Sex and the City, the state of the economy, the hotels and shops in Las Vegas and shoes. Yes, Carrie Bradshaw has hit the nail on the head. Shoes are a staple item in a woman's life. I mourned my various foot ailments, from baby bunions to Morton's neuroma to plantar fasciitis which confines me to sensible shoes probably for the rest of my life.

We munched on delicious food, some homemade, some take-out (yes! chinese), all good for your diet, which beneficial effect, we promptly negated by washing it down with what tasted like 100 proof alcohol. Possibly higher. I'm glad a cop didn't walk by with a breathalyzer. I doubt the fumes in the room could have passed let alone me. I received awesome advice about what to do in Las Vegas, which hotels to check out, the gambling and, oh baby!, the shopping!

After hanging out for as long as we could all stand to do so to let the alcohol dissipate, I headed on home. I think it was about 2 AM. I'm a bit fuzzy about that. Maybe the alcohol dissipation wasn't as complete as I'd hoped. I reached home and stared at my empty suitcase. Time to pack! Fancy clothes for partying, swimsuits for frolicking, comfy clothes for flying around on planes. Don't forget the shoes. And the underwear...

I managed to toss all the necessaries into the suitcase and hit the sack at 3 AM. Time to get up bright and early at 7:00 AM. I needed to meet some friends and get to the airport in time! Since we were all a bunch of $$-saving students or, in my case, a tree-hugging, greenhouse gas conserving, why-pay-$12-for-gas-plus-$10-a-day=$30-for-parking-when-you-can-pay-$3.00-for-mass-transit liberal, we took the train to the airport. Unfortunately, this does mean, it takes twice as long to get to the airport. Mumble-mumble. Could have slept to 8 AM.

Getting to the airport went off without a hitch. We arrived promptly with plenty of time for lunch. Yum. Lots of acid in the coffee to cut through the grease. These guys sure know how to pair a drink with food.

All was well until we got to the gate. My cell phone was going nuts. Beep. The flight is delayed 5 minutes. Beep. Make that 6 minutes. Beep, beep, no 7 minutes. beep, beep, beep, how about 5 minutes, aggh, no, 15 mins. The worst part was without an internet connection, I couldn't figure out how to turn off the notification system. The group wasn't all booked on the same flight, so we had time to call each other and check up on our flights. In the end, all our flights were pretty much synchronized and we ended up in Las Vegas within 15 minutes instead of 1 hour apart.

We hopped a shuttle to the hotel, the new Hilton Grand Resorts on the Strip. Yes, this was a time-share deal, but that is a different story. It wasn't too long to the Hilton and we checked in and checked out the rooms. It was a 2-bedroom suite with 2 baths and a full kitchen with granite counter-tops, appliances, plus a few niceties like a washer & dryer, TVs hooked up to, well, something in every room. This place was nicer than my place by a mile. Except for the view. I gotta admit, I've got a grand view of the parking lot at my place but staring at a construction site is dismal. Plus, I usually think of the Hilton as reasonably restrained in decor but the Hilton logo or statuary or whatever that monstrosity was in Las Vegas was pretty tacky even by Las Vegas standards. It's time they renovated that casino. A short tour of the rest of the resort (not the hotel or casino) left us with a long list of things to try out the next day.

Since we were all wiped out by a long night's partying, we prepared ourselves for more partying by refreshing ourselves by using the luxurious baths and getting dressed up for a meal at a nice restaurant. The Strip in Las Vegas is marvelously simple, it's pretty much one long street and it's hard to get lost. Even with the 4 foot tall Margaritas for $20. I gotta admit my liver felt, um, satiated after the night before and I decided to drink diet Coke. It was clearly going to be a long night. We taxied down the Strip to the Venetian where I got my first impression of ... Venice??? The ceiling was painted and was supposed to look like the sky. There was a pool with fake thunder and rain every half hour. There were canals and gondolas with lovers. No one sang. Thank goodness. Well..., OK. We sang. But that was later. Much later.

It was quite a wait to get into the restaurant and well past 8 PM when we got around to the food. I was starting to fade but revived myself with more diet Coke. And many trips to the Ladies. After dinner, we headed off to the local shops.

I gotta admit, I wasn't too excited by the shops surrounding the canals and gondolas. I grew up in New York and with Fifth Ave. Window shopping is a blood sport there. And no, I usually don't buy the stuff. Maybe that's why I'm blase. But it was refreshing to accompany everyone else and listen to them oo... and ah... over some exotic merchandise. But sadly, the store with the Manolo Blahnik's was closed for the evening.

After strolling through the gauntlet of shops at the Venetian, we headed off to see the garden at the Bellagio. Holy smoke. Every plant groomed to within an inch of it's life. Fountains choreographed to music inside and out. Funky...ahh...artwork???!!! placed amongst the vegetation. Alright! A train set! Gnomes! Colored lights! Replicas of endangered birds. So rare that none of us had a clue about the species...

But the night called out to us and we had plenty to see. We went outside since it had cooled down to view the bright lights of the Strip.

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