May 142014
 

Saturday morning I woke up about 7:30am. I got a good solid 6 hours of sleep and apparently that’s all I needed!  Anna was still asleep so I got dressed and went down to the gym. The Bally’s gym was SO NICE! One of the best hotel gyms I’ve used (The Monte Carlo being my other favorite). They had half a dozen treadmills, about 7 ellipticals, some stair-masters, exercise bikes and TONS of weight machines and free weights.

I was one of three people in the gym that early. My friend Debby and the people she went to Vegas with were on their way to Red Rock Canyon for a hike (which sounded awesome to me). I warmed up on the elliptical, did some body weight exercises (burpees, jumping jacks, crunches, etc) went through the weight machines, did some free weight stuff and finished up with a half mile run on the treadmill.

My legs were tired from all the walking we did on Friday. I knew I should take it easy with the lower body cardio because we were going to do even more walking on Saturday. I got a fantastic workout in, burned some calories and then checked out the spa that guests could use. They had a body temperature hot tub, a hot hot tub, a dry sauna, a steam room with eucalyptus and then your typical spa services. The men’s and women’s spas were separate and there were a bunch of ladies in there waiting for massages. I told Anna that we should make good use of it (especially since we were paying $20 per night for the “resort fee” to use it) but sadly we ran out of time and didn’t get to it.


I got cleaned up and then Anna and I went out in search of breakfast. I was staving! We walked over to Paris (which is right next to Bally’s) and the fancy Parisian outdoor cafe was packed! The line just to get to the hostess to get on a wait list was at least 20 people deep. We decided to keep walking. Next door was something called The Sugar Factory and they also had a huge outdoor patio.

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While we waited we sat at their bar and got some coffee and Bloody Mary’s. :D Their coffee was AMAZING!!! The best coffee I’ve ever had. We asked the bartender, waiter, waitress and no one seemed to know what brand of coffee they served. I was disappointed because I totally would have bought some if I knew what it was! Their Bloody Mary’s were fantastically spicy. They used a spicy infused vodka in the bloody mix. The salt was huge, flavorful crystals that clung to the glass, there was a hint of lime and cucumber in the drink and there was a cucumber and olive garnish. So tasty.

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It took about 20 minutes and then we got our table outside. There was a gorgeous breeze and it was about 70 degrees so far. We were across the street from the Bellagio. It was a peaceful, relaxing time as we lounged on the patio. It was hard to decide what to get. I REALLY wanted the carrot cake pancakes but I knew the cream cheese frosting would just be too much sugar first thing in the morning. The blueberry pancakes sounded great and let’s be honest, so did the Fat Elvis Waffle (ok not really).


I decided to go for the croissant sandwich. It was ham and cheese and came with crispy potatoes (that were exceptional). The sandwich was big and honestly half would have been the perfect portion. The croissant was heavenly–flaky, buttery and perfect. Dang, I want another!

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After breakfast we walked over to the Bellagio and caught the bus to Mandalay Bay. We walked around the gardens, checked out their AMAZING pool (it was packed!) that had a lazy floating river, and then went to see the Shark Aquarium (which was kind of expensive so we skipped it). Then we saw MICHAEL JACKSON!! Woot!!! The street performer was great! He sounded, looked and danced just like the real thing. It was great getting a picture!

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We meandered down to The Luxor and then decided to take a gambling resting break in New York New York. Our feet, legs and calves were aching. I could have used a massage. :)

We decided to hop on the bus back to Bally’s (our poor feet). Thankfully our bus pass was still valid! I have to admit, we stopped for more $2 tacos at Bally’s (they were that good) and then went down to the pool. We stayed out fairly long and the sun was hot hot hot! It was around 88 degrees on Saturday. It felt like heaven. For months I’ve been craving that exact thing–sitting poolside in the sun with a cool drink and a book.

After the pool we got cleaned up and dolled up and we were ready for the night! First we did some gambling at the Bellagio and got lucky! It was nice! We had an hour to kill before meeting up with my friend Debby and her party at Excalibur for Thunder From Down Under!! Debby goes every single time she’s in Vegas and talks about it all the time so I said, sure why not? It could be fun. We liked the movie Magic Mike. :D

It was a huge auditorium packed full of women of all ages. There were a ton of brides-to-be with the veil and tiaras. There were a bunch of girls there for birthdays. There was this one girl that was called onto the stage because it was her 21st birthday and her mom had brought her! Awesome! Debby and her family were sitting over on the other side of the room and Anna and I were at a table with a bunch of adorable little old ladies that were doing Jello Shots. LOL!!! My friend Debby:

Hell ya we did Jello Shots! It’s been like 10 years since I had them. Haha! So the show…It was totally awesome. It was worth the money for the ticket and the guys definitely looked great–just like the photos. Afterward we could get pictures with the guys. :D We all got a free pass to a nightclub in the Luxor and free drinks til midnight but the line to get in was kind of long and I was starting to get tired (and blisters on my feet). Debby and her people ended up dancing til 2am! Anna and I walked back to our hotel, enjoying the nightly sights on the way.


Why I decided to book us a flight so freaking early on Sunday morning is beyond me. UGH. Coffee was needed. We had a few minutes to hit the tables before leaving and we both left winners! I got a hit on #29 and won $35 buckaroos. I was happy to leave after winning. Debby had rented a car (a bright blue mustang convertible) and she kindly offered to take us to the airport. It was so AWESOME riding through Vegas in a convertible! One of the highlights for sure.

Our flight was super turbulent — like the first hour of the flight I felt like I was going to barf and then die–and that sucked. The winds had started late Saturday night and Sunday was just as windy. I guess that was the cause of the turbulence. Dang it was not comfortable and I spent most of Sunday feeling nauseated. I was glad to be home and on LAND. Bella gave me lots of kisses, Fat Kitty gave me lots of love nibbles and it was so good to see Michael again.

I had a fantastic weekend. Everything was great and it was SO good to spend time with Anna. We were travel buddies for a really long time and then she moved to Morocco for the Peace Corp and was gone for about 4 or 5 years. We were still in sporadic contact (email and phone calls) but not seeing her for a long time made us drift apart a bit. It was nice to reconnect. And lay by the pool. And drink some umbrella drinks. :D

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May 122014
 

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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.

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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.

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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. ;)

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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.

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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!! :D 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. :P 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.

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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. :P 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?! :)

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