West Coast Trip 2016 Pt. 2 – Las Vegas

25 Jan

vegasfrontI had a few goals in taking Caitlin to Vegas for her first time. I wanted us to stay in a nice, clean hotel. I wanted to keep her away from the seedy areas of Vegas where guys hand out cards for prostitutes*. I wanted to eat and drink well and see a couple shows**. I wanted to make some $$ and have fun doing it. I’m happy to report we accomplished all this in our three days in Vegas.

*Like…business cards? I hope it’s that and not “drink ticket”-style:(

**He wanted ME to see a couple shows, while he gambled — which I was totally fine with.

We landed in Vegas and hopped in a cab for Vdara. Oh, first, I bought a couple mini bottles of champagne and long island iced teas from the duty free shop while Caitlin waited for our bags. They sent us up to the 53rd floor with a Bellagio fountain view* and Caitlin remarked for the first of several times that trip on how wonderful the Vdara lobby smelled and how she wished they made a candle of it**. We had three and a half hours until Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles Love show. Just enough time for Caitlin to take a long bath*** and get ready and for me to place a bet on the college football championship and take a seat at the poker table.  

*Our check-in girl was SO sweet. When she found out it was my first time in Vegas and that we really wanted to see the Bellagio fountain, she said, “Gotta make a good first impression!” and booked us the most beautiful room I think I’ve ever stayed in, seriously.

**Honestly bless Zack for not telling me to shut up about it already because I literally said “omg it smells so GOOD” every. single. time. we entered the lobby. It was involuntary, it just actually smelled that good that I couldn’t help but say it.

***Vdara had deep, long bathtubs, so I was thrilled that Zack insisted I bring along some of my Lush goodies. I made the rookie mistake of making the tub WAY too hot, but it was still luxurious and perfect and amazing.

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I made a $40 bet on the under in college football championship game and watched that as I played some poker. I bought in for $300 and was soon down to $85. I went all-in with a 6-9 to make a little money, tripled up with an AJ hitting a jack and won a huge hand on the last hand I played to walk away up $145. We didn’t have TONS of time before the Love show by the time I was ready, so we had to eat at the closest restaurant to the venue, which was a California Pizza Kitchen. Not the most exotic, but it did the job and the other patrons eyeballed me as I sat in my fancy jumpsuit and fur, gobbling down cheese pizza as fast as I could stand. It wasn’t the fancy meal we had in mind, but it did the job and we watched the sports book erupt around us as my under was a loser, but I was happy to be up $100 going into the show.

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When we got into the Cirque venue, we found our seats and surveyed the place. The stage and room were set up very oddly — it felt a bit like sitting in the middle of a 3D puzzle that someone had tossed aside so it was all askew. There were some screens up at different angles, which made me nervous at first because I feared it meant our view wouldn’t be as good, but I had nothing to worry about. As with every Cirque show, the “clowns” of the show came out early, messing around with audience members and setting the mood for the show. This time, the clowns were more of the main characters — four lads (done purposefully, I’m sure) all with various storylines. My favorite was a guy who looked a bit Paul Dano-esque, in a wool hat with a bouquet of yellow flowers, looking for love throughout the show. I saw this show at my bachelor party back in February, but was so drunk it was all new to me, even the clowns.

We went into this show with pretty high expectations. I thought for sure it’d make me so emotional that I’d cry, and Zack (sort of) remembered it to be awesome* the last time he attended on his bachelor party. The best aspect of the show, by far, was the music — it’s not live as with most Cirque shows, but it also wasn’t just the team playing the CD in the back, either. They had amazing sound editing**, reimagining songs and giving them heavy beats that really grabbed at you in a physical way. My biggest complaint with this show is that it kind of gets away from what is so great about Cirque — they’re acrobats and gymnasts, doing daring feats that seize the imagination. This show featured way more choreographed dancing than I’ve ever seen in a Cirque show, and I’m not sure if they are actually using professional dancers. It wasn’t bad dancing, by any means — but it wasn’t Fosse-level, or even Beyonce-backup-dancers-level. I think that’s what drew me out of the show more than anything. That said, it was still delightful and something I’d love to see again with my mom or dad*** because I think either would appreciate it. The most exciting act was when some dudes wearing rollerblades went flying up giant walls, dodging each other as they did cool tricks. I was literally on the edge of my seat for that. Plus I will never dislike anything that features “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” AND “Day in the Life.”

*I would have given this show an A+++ the first time I saw it, though now I’m realizing a lot of that was how drunk I was.

**The music is the star here. The mix is incredible and the in-studio banter between the Beatles really does it for me.

***I’d see it with my dad too if we ever go to Vegas together again. But I’d want to have a few drinks in me. It was a B- for me this time around for the reasons Caitlin mentioned.

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After Beatles-ing, I ooh’d and aah’d over multiple items from the gift shop, but we settled on some professional photos taken of us before the show, which I think was the right move. Then we headed to Aria so Zack could try his luck at the Blackjack table while I watched. He did OK* at Blackjack, but the biggest win was from what became our old standby, the Friends slot machine.

*I’d say more than just OK. I put in $100 and walked away with $210 in like 20 minutes. I’ll take that every time.

I can’t say enough about Friends slots. Usually playing slots just feels like you’re giving your money to a machine to confuse you, but Friends made me feel right at home. Love that Thanksgiving bonus.

The next day, Zack gambled while I watched the Price is Right and spent WAY too much money on Starbucks* breakfast. Then, I booked myself a spa treatment at the Vdara spa on the 2nd floor of our hotel. I gave myself the works — the “ESPA Escape,” which included exfoliation, a mud wrap, a scalp massage with a hair mask, and an aromatherapy massage. I’d done a few massages at this point with Zack, but hadn’t done one by myself in a while.

*It’s ridiculous how expensive the Starbucks in the lobby of Vdara is. Every drink is 75% more than at a normal already overpriced Starbucks. 

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Before Caitlin headed to the spa, I cashed out of the poker game up a bit and we met up for an Aria Buffet we had comped. I ate a ridiculous amount, with two and a half plates of chinese food and crab legs and carving station meats and sushi and just way too much food in general. Caitlin had a far more sensible amount of food and salad and we tried a couple flavors of ice cream*. I went back to the room to relax before more gambling and she went to the spa.

*Dessert buffets were the single most disappointing things about Vegas. The desserts are poop. Don’t be fooled by them. I regularly ate a bite out of any given thing and then pushed it away, opting for a late-night Nestle Tollhouse ice cream cookie sandwich instead.

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The spa itself was gorgeous, with tons of amenities — showers and makeup stations and a hot tub thing and hot stone lounge chairs and a steam room, oh my! I always feel a bit awkward at first, worrying that I’ll have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the proceedings, but this time I changed into my robe and relaxed on the hot stone lounge chair by the hot tub, closing my eyes till they called me back. Once I went back, the first difference I noted from other spa places I’d been to was that my masseuse was talking to me VERY loudly. Travassa and milk + honey had whispering policies, so I just assumed this was a spa thing — made sense for relaxing — but I kinda liked the spunk of my masseuse.

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While Caitlin was getting her spa on, I was grinding out poker hands with a bunch of old guys. I was up over $200 in the pic above and had a solid day at the table.

First thing she did was have me pick out the various scents and things I was going to use, and I did settle on a mud wrap rather than an aloe thing she offered. First, I got brushed with what looked and felt like a horse brush — a round thing with really stiff bristles. It kinda hurt, but in that “bye bye dead skin” kind of way so I was OK with it. Then I got some exfoliation business rubbed on my legs and arms, and that smelled good and reminded me of St. Ives so I was cool with that. Then came the mud. It wasn’t brown, as I assumed it would be — it was kinda dark green for some unknown reason. As the mud was applied and it started to harden, it felt like a shell around me, and that coupled with the fact that I was then wrapped in plastic and tucked in tight under some blankets caused me to have a panic attack. A panic attack. At a spa. I was super embarrassed but the masseuse could tell right away something was wrong. She asked, “Are you claustrophobic?” and I said, “Not normally but I’m feeling it right now.” She helped loosen up my arms a bit, and that helped for a while, but then I was still kinda anxious so I asked to have my eye mask removed, even though that’s usually one of my favorite parts of the experience. The masseuse was super friendly about everything, and we swapped stories about our horror of the dentist’s chair and other scary things. I was mostly OK after that — once my scalp massage was done, the masseuse had me hop in the shower and rinse off before my final massage, and then during the massage I kind of had another panic attack when I tried the eye mask again and it ended up being a bad idea after all. I smelled great after the thing was over, but the massage itself hurt me — I think potentially because I was so tense and jumpy and moving around during the whole thing. I was really bummed that I couldn’t enjoy the experience the way I was used to doing.

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I tried to keep myself entertained during the slow poker game by taking note of the interesting characters around me. There was an Australian guy who was aggressively mean but had a great accent and facial hair so I liked him. There were three old and older dudes I likened to The Mandelbaum’s on Seinfeld. And then there was this Oscar Issac look-a-like. OK he didn’t really look like him that much, but I was bored.

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After that, I got dressed up and Zack and I went down to the Vdara bar to try some cocktails there before heading over to the New York, New York hotel and casino so I could try a cocktail at the Hershey’s bar. This chocolate martini was a must for Caitlin before we got to Vegas. She also inspected every item in the Hershey’s world gift shop.IMG_0787 This was where we met our friend Fermin, a bartender at Hershey’s who helped us get a little silly while we swapped stories about what we’d do if we won the lottery. It was a blast, and a really lovely way to pass the time before we headed back to our old standby, Aria, for late night snacks. This bartender was just the best. We’d had a couple drinks before we got to him and he poured us a couple stronger ones and then gave me more of a cup full of Jameson than a shot and we were the chattiest bunch ever. He laid out his entire plan for how he’d build a compound of houses for his family in Colorado if he won the Powerball and we enjoyed dreaming with him.

On day 3, after having already enjoyed a buffet at Aria for a late lunch/early dinner the day before, we headed back there for a proper lunch before I took a bath, and then met Zack so he could walk me over to the venue for “O,” the other Cirque show I went to see alone. I am SO glad I chose to see “O.” This was the Cirque I was used to enjoying — breathtaking, gorgeous, rich with creativity. It was absolutely fantastic. I almost don’t want to share anything to give away the surprises, but I guess I’ll just say the story is about being swept up in the circus of life, and the various experiences that you get to have. There were beautiful costumes and gorgeous water dancing and dramatic high dives and flips and turns and A MAN ON FIRE — I highly recommend this show to anybody thinking about seeing Cirque in Vegas. I’m a little sad I saw the Beatles show instead of checking out this new one with Caitlin. It sounded really cool. I went back to the tables and played some more poker. I was up $400 on the trip at this point going into the final night.

After Cirque, we over-indulged in our third and final buffet at the Bellagio, and then wandered while we let our stomachs settle* before sitting at a couple slot machines — my first and only gambling venture of the trip.

*Three buffets in 28 hours was a mistake. A delicious mistake, but I’m eating a lot of raw carrots now to make up for it. 

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After going down $60 right away, I managed to come back and get ahead $20, at which point I decided my gambling days were over. It was fun and a little exciting, but I was definitely glad not to just lose money on chance. I was relieved to see Caitlin get a win at Friends slots after a weird slot machine took $15 from her pretty quickly. 

On our last morning I had my mind made up to get back to the tables for one last hurrah. But when I got down there, after spending $7 on a coffee at Starbucks, I couldn’t get into a poker game and just got a vibe of … if I sit down I’m going to lose everything. So I walked and put $100 down at a blackjack table. I pushed with a 19 and lost with a 20 against the dealer’s 6, decided losing $25 was enough and cashed out for the trip up $375.

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Overall, I’m not sure what I was fully expecting from Vegas, but I was really pleasantly surprised! The sparkling city in the middle of Nevada mountains treated me well (despite some panicking that occurred through no fault of Vegas’). I think Zack helped me do the town just right — I saw shows, relaxed, ate some good food and most of all, enjoyed the scenery. I’m looking forward to going back with Zack and seeing every Cirque production that Vegas has to offer.

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One Response to “West Coast Trip 2016 Pt. 2 – Las Vegas”

  1. tapeparade February 2, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    Caitlin, your drop earrings and also your green (green? yellow?) and white spotted dress are both beautiful!!! I love reading about your guys travels xxxx

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