Vegas, Grand Canyon, Crashed Laptops and more…

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A lot has happened since my last blog post … I jumped on a plane with my family and we flew out to Las Vegas to celebrate my wife’s birthday. Shortly after arriving I opened my laptop to be met with a blue screen terminal error meaning I couldn’t get my emails or online…it was as if someone was saying “take a break”…so I did!

Unfortunately while taking a break I went down with a heavy head cold … bloody airplanes! So I didn’t get to enjoy the 5 day break as much as I would have wanted…however, we did some neat things, had some great meals and met up with some friends who had flown out from the UK especially to see us, Las Vegas and Grand Canyon.

I haven’t been to Vegas for a few years so it was pretty amazing how things have changed. The Aladdin has gone to be replaced by Planet Hollywood and a new hotel, Aria, has come onto the scene…seems like the whole strip is slowly being updated for this century!

Unfortunately some of the seedier sides of Vegas still exist and the sooner they get those guys and gals off the street pushing their porn cards on the unsuspecting public the better everyone will be. I know the saying is “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” but these guys are nothing but an eyesore let alone the mess that is created by people dropping the cards on the floor.

So, the next question to ask is…”what’s this I hear about an economic downturn?” …judging from the amount of people around and the ongoing construction then it doesn’t seem to have made much difference as the place was absolutely heaving. Restaurants had 90 minute wait times and the casino’s seemed to be doing well. Sure, I understand the real estate market has bombed and I’m absolutely puzzled as to how all these shops stay open but something seems to keep attracting the masses to this market.

Coming from Orlando, we see Vegas as being a major competitor for travel business but my thoughts are that it is very much a different market …one geared for a shorter stay.

In Orlando, it’s pretty much impossible to get around all the theme parks in just 3 or 4 days, let alone enjoy some down time and all the other attractions we have but 4 days in Vegas is just about enough for most folks from what I understand by talking to some of them.

The restaurants are absolutely superb though and we dined at Mon Ami Gabi, The Eiffel Tower, P.F. Changs (twice), California Pizza Kitchen and a couple of other places as well. I do need to single out Mon Ami Gabi though…it’s simply one of my favorite restaurants for lunch in the world. Located at the front of the Paris hotel it’s a great venue for people watching while enjoying an extensive and fabulous meal. The steak frites are pretty much the best I’ve had anywhere including the real Paris.

So with that said, The Eiffel Tower restaurant was not up to it’s usual high standard. This was a special occasion for us as we were celebrating a milestone birthday for my wife but somehow the meal wasn’t quite up to the standard we’ve enjoyed there before. The food was good so don’t get me wrong but the standard of service was pretty poor and even though I’d paid for a couple of extra upgrades from their menu of services, I was left feeling disappointed. (Word of warning: watch out for the photographer…comes around and asks if you’d like a picture…he takes it and then shows you the digital image and asks if you’d like him to print it out… you say “yes”, he says “OK, I will add it to your tab”. I say “what’s the cost?”, he says “$25”, I say “well for that kind of money I’d like to see the print first”… he doesn’t say anything, just walks away with me assuming he’s going to oblige. I don’t see him again all night. No print, no charge. Crazy…because if I was in charge of that restaurant I’d be kicking his sorry butt up and down the strip for not closing the sale).

So with that going on another couple of things annoyed me. Firstly the lack of attention to detail…nothing major, just small things such as trying to give the wrong person the wrong dish… and then the fact they didn’t attempt to upsell us with the trip up the Eiffel Tower for the view of Vegas. (I doubt we’d have done it anyway because it was pretty windy but if we’d been asked, we may just have said “yes”….again another lost sale.

All in all, I just felt the restaurant and the restaurant staff have become complacent and with all the old and the new restaurants now springing up or being upgraded I just feel this place needs to up its game to keep its regular (OK….”regular” meaning 3 to 5 years since we last visited) patrons coming back. The Eiffel Tower restaurant is always on our list of “must do’s” when we visit but next time it might not feature so high as we really didn’t have such a memorable time as we might have done.

Vegas has so many great choices though and the hotels are simply outstanding. Normally, we’d stay in the Venetian but this time we tried a place that didn’t have a casino…Polo Towers. A simply great location and our three room suite was pretty good for the money we paid. OK, it wasn’t a 3 bedroom vacation home with a private swimming pool that we are used to renting for about the same price to our Orlando guests but it was the perfect match for our plans this time around.

A great location on the strip can save you being tired out come days end and having stayed at Circus Circus on our first ever trip, we quickly learned that we want to be more centrally located nowadays. Planet Hollywood was a 5 minute walk and the new Aria hotel was straight over the street.

Our location made it easy to see everything and even a trip to Mandalay Bay to see a performance of the Lion King was simple enough as we set off early enough to have a pleasurable stroll through New York, New York, Luxor and Excalibur on the way.

Hotels and casinos (even for non gamblers like our family) are what makes Vegas though. Some simply amazing hotels like The Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn, Bellagio and Caesars Palace all have some fabulous architecture, design and style as well as some of the greatest shopping experiences you’ll ever find. One example… a $750.00 cup cake made with Louis XIII de Remy Martin Cognac, Valrona Palmira single estate chocolate and vanilla caviar, topped with edible flakes of real gold!!

Another highlight of our trip was to be in town for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Plenty of green could be seen and an awful lot of people seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves with a Guinness or some other tipple as they listened to some of the performers that featured along the strip or in the hotels.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about our visit to Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam…

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