Honeymoon Day 7

I woke up and went online to check in with Delta and confirm our seating and to acquire our boarding passes.  I received notification that one of our flights had been oversold.  Given how wiped out we were, we decided to breakfast, check out of the hotel close to 11, and then just go to the airport a full 11 hours before our flight.  We decided this for a couple of reasons:  1) Given that our flight was oversold, we thought that Delta might appreciate volunteers and that they might get us home EARLIER than we had planned, and 2) the Las Vegas airport is a veritable castle of entertainment in its own right, and we could easily kill the time exploring if we wanted.

The place was JAMMED!  All of the check-in counters for all airlines had incredibly long lines.  Thankfully we had no baggage to check so we side-stepped all of that.  We found out later that all those people were victims of the week’s horrible weather, which had closed airports and cancelled connecting flights all over the place.  They were just now finally getting to go wherever it was they were going. 

We also found out that you can only volunteer to abandon an oversold flight when the airline calls for volunteers, which only happens when they realize that they don’t have enough room for everyone on the plane.  Oh well.  We explored, watched some Star Trek, ate, and caught our original flight.

A note about what I’ll call "pseudo-checking" your luggage.  You’re allowed two carry-on items on most airlines.  However, if the plane you’re taking is one of the smaller models, the overhead compartments of and into which one of your bags will not fit, you can tag your bag at the gate and leave it at the end of the breezeway and they will stick it in the belly of the plane for you and remove it at the end of that flight, putting it back on the breezeway for you.  I did that last month on the trip to Arkansas, and I did that on the trip to Vegas.  There were no problems.  The plane we were taking from Vegas to Detroit was large-ish, but they were making please at the gate to have people put as much stuff as possible under the seat in front of them.  (They’ve done this to themselves, and I’m not sure they even realize it.  They now charge a small fortune to check baggage, so it’s no wonder people are cramming as much as they can into carry-on items!)  So I figured I’d be noble and magnanimous and volunteer to pseudo-check my larger bag.  Apparently, when you do this on a big plane it’s the same as if you had formally "checked" that bag.  She asked what our final destination was, and I didn’t say Syracuse.  I told her, "I want this bag back in Detroit," thinking I was telling her I wanted it back on the breezeway along with the walkers and baby strollers that eventually would appear there.  Alas, they put it in with all the other checked baggage, and we had to exit security at Detroit, fetch the damn bag, and re-enter security.  *sigh*

Other than that annoyance, the trip home was uneventful.  Taking the overnight flight with "poor" sleep was a great cure for jet lag.  Sleep came very easily last night and I write this from work this morning feeling mostly refreshed, my body not at all "confused" as it was that first morning in Vegas. 

I have some comments about the "Vegas Experience", but I’ll save them for a later post.

Honeymoon Days 5 & 6

Day 5

Amanda’s stomach wasn’t feeling the greatest this morning.  I ran across the street to McDonald’s to grab breakfast for me, coffee for her, and returned where we relaxed and watched videos on the computer.  I left her to play in the 10:00 daily poker tournament.  I again did not place well, but I played well and had fun.  By the time I got back, Amanda was feeling better and we went out. 

We booked tickets for the DInner and Tournament at Excalibur.  We then boarded the "Deuce", which is a public bus that does nothing but go up and down the Strip all day.  We rode it up to downtown and looked around Fremont Street.  Compared to where we are staying and have spent most of our time, this section of Las Vegas seems very, very…"tired".  While there’s a lot to see, it’s not nearly as well kept up as the lower strip.  I would not feel comfortable walking there at night. 

We made it back down to the south end of the strip in plenty of time for the dinner and tournament.  I was less-than-enchanted by the nickel-and-diming that went on (I’ll write more about that in a later post), but the entertainment was awesome.  Real horses and riders having an extremely well-rehearsed and well-choreographed "tournament" right in front of us.  There was not a bad seat in the house.  I dare say it was one of the highlights of our trip!

Before coming we had planned on seeing The Lion King, which is playing right here in our casino.  At this point in the trip, however, we have seen (and spent!) so much, it seems almost frivolous to do so.  We’re probably just going to relax tomorrow and keep things low-key.


Day 6

Low-key indeed.  We lounged around the hotel room for much of the morning.  I left in search of the concierge to make sure the hotel would let us check our bags after checkout tomorrow, as we have a very late flight and don’t want to be lugging them around all day.  I looked at the hotel’s gift shop and then went next door to the Luxor to play some cash poker.  I did well, leaving the table with $126 more than I started with.  On the way back to the room I shoved a little money into a slot machine in Mandalay Bay and made another $50.  Not bad!

Amanda and I walked over to the Hooters Hotel and Casino to have a late lunch/early dinner and to generally check the place out (as we’ve been doing with all the hotels).  They have a neat pool area with a large water fall! 

Tomorrow is checkout.  We’re ready to go home.  We have tentative plans to take a tour bus dedicated to sight seeing, and to stop and at least look around in the Venetian, currently the largest hotel in the world.

Honeymoon Day 4

Yesterday (Tuesday) we booked a tour to Hoover Dam for today.  The bus picked us up a little after 9 with only a minimal amount of confusion.  (Thankfully, we chose to give them my cell phone number.)  We made several more pickups and were delivered to the basement of Planet Hollywood where we disembarked, paid the balance of our tour fee, and boarded another motor coach.  Our tour guide, Steve, was incredibly well-versed in all things Vegas and the surrounding area.  Our trip was accompanied by a non-stop narrative about the history of Las Vegas and, as we approached it, Hoover Dam.

I have seen several documentaries on the building of Hoover Dam and knew everything they were telling us already.  But nothing can prepare you for the sheer enormity of the thing.  I mean, MY GOD, it’s HUGE!  We took the elevator down into one of the two turbine rooms.  It was amazing to see all the stuff I’d only seen on TV.  As we left the lower levels and were in the elevator, our tour guide (a man with quite a sense of humor) informed us of the following: "If you go out on top of the dam and look down, you’ll see the area you just left.  If you lean over a little more, you’ll RETURN TO the area you just left.  [laughter]  It happens more often than you think.  Usually to husbands."  Then he looks right at Amanda, who is standing next to him, and says, "Weren’t you here last year with another guy?"  The look on Amanda’s face was priceless.

We left the guided tour and walked across the top of the dam, taking lots of pictures.  It’s funny to me that if you decide to go to the top of the Empire State Building, there are all sorts of gates and fences to keep you from plunging to your doom.  But at Hoover Dam, there’s nothing more than a waist-high wall between you and certain death. 

The views of the dam and the gorge were impressive, but as we left the dam our bus stopped at the Lake Mead Overlook.  WOW.  The view there was incredible.  We had clear blue sky and practically no smog.  The view of the lake and the valley was stupendous.  I could have stood there for hours just soaking it all in. 

On the way back we stopped at the Ethel M (as in "M"ars) Chocolate Factory, grabbed a free sample, surveyed the botanical gardens (at a chocolate factory?) and got back on the bus for the hotel.  We rested up and decided to try and track down the "Deuce", a dirt-cheap public bus that runs up to downtown where we thought it would be nice to see the Fremont Street Experience.  Well, it was early evening and that thing was packing the riders in like sardines.  We decided not to pursue that line of entertainment and instead took the elevator to the top of Paris, Las Vegas’ Eiffel Tower.  The views were awesome!  When we got down we caught the fountain show at Bellagio across the street and then went in search of food.  We walked into several places, but ended up at a place called Battista’s Hole In The Wall Italian restaurant.  WOW.  This was my kind of place!  The originator (now dead) appeared to make a habit of keeping every knick-knack he ever came across, bringing it to his restaurant, and either displaying it in cases or nailing it to the wall and/or ceiling.  There were hats, little glass bottles, baskets of all sizes, fish nets, hundreds of celebrity photos, and even a boat.  As if all this ambience weren’t enough, a tiny 80 year-old man came around and serenaded us with an accordion. 

We left there stuffed and resolved to walk all the way back to our hotel (at least a mile, maybe more) in order to burn off some of that dinner.  We made it back and fell asleep quickly.

Honeymoon In Vegas

I decided it would be a good idea to journal our daily adventures on our Honeymoon.  We’re in Las Vegas staying at Mandalay Bay.  Today I recorded days 1-3, and plan to author entries daily for the rest of the trip, though I might net have handy access with which to upload/post them.  In-room ‘net access is $15/24 hours!

Day 1:

We flew out of Syracuse mostly on-schedule.  The flight to Detroit was uneventful.

Detroit has this incredibly "psychedelic disco tunnel" running under the runway between the two main terminals.  It’s pretty amazing!

We got to Vegas early, actually.  We caught an airport shuttle to our hotel (Mandalay Bay), checked in with a desk clerk named Kyle who has obviously worked here for quite some time.  Watching him operate the keyboard of his computer was a "show" in and of itself! 

We spent the next couple of hours exploring the casino.  It was Sunday night on the off season, so we had no trouble getting around, even though most everything was closed.  The place is AMAZING.  "Huge" just doesn’t even begin to describe it.  We would soon learn that "Opulent" is the best word to describe damn near everything on the strip.  We found a burger bar in the "mall" section of our hotel and had dinner.

Jet lagged, we return to our room at about 9:00 local time, midnight our time, and crash/fall asleep within half an hour.

Day 2:

We awoke at about 5:00a and decided to explore the lower end of the strip on foot.  We had breakfast at McDonald’s across the street from the hotel.  We wandered through our hotel into the Luxor, which–along with Excalibur and MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay–are all owned by the same company.  The lobby of the Luxor is incredible!  I always thought the main pyramid would be full of rooms.  Turns out, the rooms are only along the edge.  The entire inside is hollow and houses the registration desk ,shops, a museum exhibit, bars, and all sorts of things.  The casino is in the basement.  We walked through Luxor, through Excalibur, and out onto the strip.  We wandered up the street making note of things we’d want to see later on when they were actually open; Bellagio fountains, the M&M store, Eiffel Tower at Paris, Las Vegas, etc. We got on the Monorail and took it all the way to the northern terminus and then rode it back down to the MGM Grand.  We crossed the street and caught the tram from Excalibur to Mandalay Bay, made our way back to our room, and had a bit of a rest.

While Amanda tried to nap, I registered with the Players Club and played a little bit of poker, registered for the 3:00 Hold ‘Em tournament, and returned to the room.  Amanda had been unable to sleep, so we went to the Shark Reef Aquarium and had lunch at the hotel’s buffet before my tournament.  I had fun, but did not do well in the tournament.  Amanda had a blast at the spa, getting an eyebrow waxing and a massage.  I joined her in our room where we enjoyed an evening in.

Day 3:

We awoke at a more reasonable hour today.  Lamenting the availability of "cheap eats" that many people seem to talk about, we looked more closely at a deal we had seen at Excalibur.  $30/person, all you can eat, all day long.  It was true!  We bought it, got our bracelets, and had breakfast.  Then we did some shopping and looking around on the lower strip, booked a tour to Hoover Dam for tomorrow, went back to Excalibur for a snack, and then back to our room. 

We took a nap, went for lunch, saw the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor, and then saw Avatar at the UA Theatre just up the street.  We went back to the Excalibur for a light dinner, and retired to our room to watch "Lost".

And now a word about what I have labelled "Tourist Whores".  Around nearly every corner, even at booths in and obviously sanctioned by the hotels, are these annoying creatures.  They are to be avoided at any cost.  You can tell when you are being approached by one of these beasts by the dripping politeness of their mating call: "Will you be in Las Vegas tomorrow?"  The best way to counter their "attack" is with a terse (even rude) "no".  DO NOT BREAK STRIDE.  If they sense weakness they WILL flock to your location and surround you, pelting you with offers of comped hotel rooms and "free" shows.  GET AWAY, get away FAST!