roulette

Poolside

vegas052

That picture above was taken in 2005. It was a few weeks after my 25th birthday and a month before I was going to have surgery to repair the ligament in my ankle. (You can read more about that here: Why Wednesday – Why I Don’t Take Things for Granted.) My cousin Anna and I decided to go to Las Vegas. It was the first time either of us had ever been there and it was the beginning of a love of all things Vegas! As a side note, I’ve been to Vegas I think five times now, once with my friend Robyn and the other times with Michael.

When I got engaged last year my cousin Anna and I talked about going to Vegas for a girl’s trip. After most of the wedding plans were taken care of and I got my tax refund, we revisited the topic. We booked a weekend getaway for the beginning of May. I was craving sunshine, umbrella drinks, and girl time.

Robyn's Birthday

We booked a room in the Bally’s Hotel/Casino. In all the times I’ve been to Vegas I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen the Bally’s. I don’t know why, because it’s right in the middle of The Strip (great location!). This trip wasn’t a bachelorette party or anything. I didn’t want the other bridesmaids to feel obligated to spend a lot of money on something like that. Funny enough, after it was booked I found out my friend/coworker Debby was also going to be in Vegas during the same time! Small world.

IMG_0145
Anna and I got Vegas around 9:30am Friday (ugh that was early). It was too early to get our room so we dumped our suitcases at the hotel and decided to walk around The Strip. I forget just how much walking you do in Vegas! You really don’t need to exercise as long as you walk everywhere. I estimate that we did at least a minimum of 5 miles a day –not including the times we got lost inside casinos. 😉

IMG_0127

IMG_0162

The Vegas Strip is deceptive–you think “oh that casino isn’t too far, let’s walk!” And before you know it, it’s been an hour and you’re still not there yet. We left Bally’s and walked over to Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio and then ended up at The Venetian. I LOVE The Venetian and would love to stay there some day. We talked about doing the gondola ride (which wasn’t that expensive) but we decided not to. Some day I will do this. It looks so fun. It was around 82 degrees on Friday — gorgeous, sunny, with a nice breeze that made the heat tolerable.

IMG_0136

When Anna and I went to Vegas oh so many years ago I wanted a picture of myself with Elvis. I was on a mission–and strangely never fulfilled that wish. This time, I got my picture with TWO!! 😀 I love the street performers. They are so awesome. These two guys were sweethearts.


After walking around, gambling a little at The Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace, it had been about 6 hours and we could finally check in to our hotel room. We walked back to the hotel and got our room–which was super dumpy. We’d requested a non-smoking room and when we entered it was like a wall of cigarette smoke (yuck) and the A/C was pretty weak and I also spotted some holes (cigarette burns?) in the sheet on the bed. I called down and we got a different room and it was MUCH better. Smelled great, no holes in the sheets. 😛 Our new room was really nice; the bed was heavenly, the pillows were perfect, the bathroom was huge, the room was really quiet–never once heard revelers in the hallway. I would definitely stay at Bally’s again.

IMG_0228

Anna and I got in our swim suits, packed a bag for the pool and then stopped at the Tequila Bar in Bally’s for a snack. They have $2 Tacos and $2 Margarita for happy hour. The tacos were REALLY delicious! I was surprised at how great they were considering they were only $2 each. I got 2 tacos and Anna got 3 and then we went down to the pool. If you go and get the tacos, get the shredded beef. It was so flavorful and delicious.


The pool was amazing! It was hot and sunny but there were parts of the pool area that had some shade if you wanted it. There was a big pool and then tucked away in the back was a smaller pool. They had cabanas for rent that were covered and have misters on them. There was a DJ playing fun music and the party atmosphere made us giddy.

Anna got a strawberry and basil mojito. I got the coconut mojito. My drink was HEAVENLY (sadly, it was lacking an umbrella, but it was still great) but it was very expensive and lacking in alcohol. 😛 That’s the one thing that irritates me in Vegas–overpriced drinks that don’t even give you a teeny tiny buzz.

We lounged at the pool for about two hours and then decided to go back to the room, clean up and go out. We both wanted to see Fremont Street. Every time I go to Vegas I vow that I will go and never do. We finally did it! We got the 24 hour bus pass (I think it was like $8 or so) and took the bus to Fremont. It was a very crowded bus, took about 30 minutes to get there, but it was easy enough to figure out.


Fremont Street was really fun! I’m glad I finally checked it out. There were tons of people there, lots of street performers, and so many shiny, blinky lights! There was a huge arched screen over the whole street that showed little videos and stuff and there were ziplines above the crowd. We watched as people did the zipline just above our heads. It looked like fun! It was around 9:30pm at this time and we were both hungry.

We ducked into the Golden Nugget–which was actually really pretty–and got dinner at The Cadillac Cantina. It was a cute place despite being a sports bar. Neither of us are tequila fans so Anna got a sangria and I got a glass of wine. Dinner was enchiladas and the food was better than I expected. It was upscale Mexican food that reminded me of some of the yuppie Mexican restaurants here in Portland. 🙂

The Golden Nugget is a pretty hotel and the pool looked fantastic! There were lounge chairs INSIDE the pool, there was a huge shark tank in the middle of the pool that had a slide/tube that you can go down that went inside the shark tank. There were also lots of cute lounges and fire pits. We walked around Fremont Street for a few hours and then took the bus back to the hotel. It was around 12:30am when we called it a night–a know, party animals, aren’t we?! 🙂

Cascade Head & A Room With A View

On my actual birthday, Sunday, we got up and went to breakfast first at The Wildflower Grill. Ironically it was on our list to good restaurants to try and we discovered that as part of the Groupon deal we got a voucher for breakfast there! It was pretty crowded when we got there but didn’t have to wait too long for a table. I was slightly disappointed that we got a table in the front restaurant as opposed to the enclosed patio overlooking the trees and a creek–but I was hungry and not gonna complain!

IMG_9391

I splurged and got the French Toast. Yes, it was as big as it looks in that picture. There were six slices of thick, airy, fluffy pieces of bread dusted with powdered sugar. I ate about three of them and called it good. Man was I stuffed! Totally worth the splurge, though. (I ended up skipping lunch, too.) The service was good even though they were all harried and busy and the prices were about average. Some dishes were on the high side ($15) but my French Toast was humongous and only $8. 

IMG_9399

After breakfast we went on a short hike at Cascade Head Trail. It was longer than what we wanted to do so we just did about 2.28 miles total. (We’d tried to go on a hike around Devil’s Lake but couldn’t find the trailhead so we tried plan B.)

IMG_9427

The trail was was pretty steep in the beginning and definitely got my heart pounding. We hiked through old growth forest on a very quiet, serene trail.

IMG_9404

IMG_9417

There were very old trees covered in dripping moss, ferns and mushrooms. The trail itself was very soft, covered in pine needles. We wandered around, winding through the woods and passed by several brooks. Bella did pretty well on the hike. Her paws seemed to be ok.

IMG_9410
IMG_9421

We didn’t see a single soul on the trail while we were out. It was kind of nice to just meander along in the woods. We stopped for water and then turned around to go back. It was still pretty steep up and down (how was it uphill both ways??) and honestly the last 1/2 mile or so was a little TOO steep for me and my creaky knees.

IMG_9423
It would have been nice to be able to do the whole hike because there’s supposed to be some amazing views of the ocean at the end but it just wasn’t gonna happen. Besides, we had some amazing ocean views from our hotel room. Like this one:

Robyn's Birthday

Hahaha! Anyways, a decent number for a short hike:

Robyn's Birthday

We went back to the beach and did another little short walk so Bella could get her sand-fix. She did the same thing she did the first day–rolling around like a crazy dog. After the beach we cleaned up and then went back to the casino to kill an hour or so before our dinner reservations. I got lucky again! I ended up quadrupling my money this time. Which was a super awesome birthday gift if I do say so myself….

Robyn's Birthday

Our dinner reservations were for the Inn at Spanish Head. The hotel is perched up on a cliffside overlooking the ocean and the restaurant is on the top floor. It had amazing views. We got lucky and got to see the last part of the sunset before it got too dark. Our table was nice and quiet, right next to a window. It was pretty early for dinner (like 5:30) but we were tired and hungry so we got there early. We shared the crab and artichoke dip appetizer. It was pretty good, but then I usually love any kind of dip. 😉

IMG_9455

I had the seared scallops with mashed potatoes and vegetables. A green salad came out first. The salad was really good–the greens were super fresh and delicious. I loved my scallops. They were cooked in a leek, pancetta, white cream sauce (so good) and had steamed broccolini with it. The mashed potatoes were just ok. I’ve definitely had better. They were pretty dry.

Robyn's Birthday

Michael got the steak and mashed potatoes. He loved his steak and the port sauce it had on it. Even though I don’t like mushrooms, I felt like the sauce needed them. So that was one thing they could have improved on. Overall we both enjoyed our dinners and thought it tasted good–even though it had room for improvement in some areas.

Robyn's Birthday

One thing that kind of irked me was the wine menu. The only wine they served by the glass was their own label–Spanish Head wine–I had a sample of two different kinds of their white wines and didn’t like either of them. They weren’t good and I was kind of annoyed that I couldn’t have a different label wine unless I ordered a bottle. So I had a vodka tonic instead.

Robyn's Birthday

I kind of wanted some key lime pie for dessert but neither of us had ANY room for more food. We went back to the room to chill out. Bella passed out on the bed between us, snoring. She was tuckered out from the hike and the beach! I’ve never seen her that tired before. Poor thing. She slept all night without making a peep. The next morning we went for one final walk on the beach.

IMG_9484
IMG_9500
Of course our last day there was the warmest (no jacket needed)! Our walk on the beach was a short one and I grabbed breakfast to go on our way out of town. We stopped at Pirate Coffee Company. What a cute place. I got an English Toffee latte (it was great) and probably the best bagel I’ve ever had (I think it was homemade). I also got a souvenir–a new food dish for Bella.

photo

It was such a good trip. I hadn’t realized just how desperately I had needed to get out of town and kind of decompress. It was amazing watching Bella experience the beach for the first time. I got some pretty cute video of her. I’m happy that she loved it and we’re going to try and go back again soon.