Sunday, 30 July 2017

Vacation Blog VIII, Part IV....and what the Hell am I doing up at this hour???

3:45 AM - Um. What????????

Aye Carumba. This could put a kink or two into our plans today.

7:22 AM - After hours of tossing and turning I finally am giving up. Might as well get up and have some breakfast. I'm sure there will be a nap in my not-too-distant-future.

9:00 AM - Tracey is up, and I'm already on "second breakfast". She didn't sleep well either, waking up shortly after I did and not sleeping much after that. I'm not sure what time the crash is going to come today, but it's gonna come hard.

We have our day planned out so we are going to keep the morning part of it, and we have dinner and after-dinner plans that we will want to keep, so hopefully we are going to be able to get some sleep in the early afternoon.

1:00 PM -  Back in the room after completing one of our main tasks for the day: getting Tracey's iPhone fixed. Finally. I Googled "iPhone repair Las Vegas" and a Groupon came up, so we ended up getting her a new screen for way less than half what it would have cost back home. Of course, we took care of those savings pretty quickly......since it was going to be an hour and a half until it was ready, we went to a place called Total Wine.

You can imagine how much money we could spend in such a place. This place makes the Everything Wine stores back home look like kiddy playpens. Holy shit. We spent an hour in there just looking at the wine they had for sale, and that was only half of the store! The other half is comprised completely of spirits and other alcohol. If I lived here I'd have to just sign my paycheque over to them every two weeks. It's amazing.

We were actually quite disciplined and only picked up 3 bottles; mostly because we can't possibly get any more home on the plane, and then over the border. We could have bought 3 cases without even thinking hard.

Now....we nap!!

4:06 PM - Well, we are awake. Sort of. I'm not sure either of us managed a world-class nap, but there was some snoozing at least. Time to get back to our plans for the day.

Off to the Wynn, where we hit the buffet and we hit it hard. If this isn't the best Buffet in Vegas, it's in the top 3. I make the Prime Rib station my personal bitch.

After dinner, off to do a little shopping in the Wynn's high-end district and then over to the Canal shops in the Venetian/Palazzo. We are very disciplined and don't buy anything, and believe me it was not easy. There was a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes that would have definitely come home with us had they had Tracey's size.

After the shopping we head to our favorite wine bar, La Cave, only to find that it's packed and they won't be able to get us in until about 9:15. Considering that they close at 10, that's not much good to us, so instead we head to Parasol Down where I have a middling glass of Chardonnay and Tracey has a cocktail. We don't stay that long, due to the fact that we are getting tired AND are surrounded by smokers.....cigarettes and cigars all over the place. Yuck.

9:45 PM - Back to the room and I am going to finish up tonight's blog entry, take a sleeping pill and hopefully be unconscious until around Noon tomorrow. Tracey is going to have a bath, which might also end around Noon.

Tomorrow we are going to head to the Mirage to redeem all of our "My Vegas" rewards vouchers, and pick up our tickets for tomorrow night's show: Terry Fator! Between then and the 7:30 show time, we will just see where the day takes us. As long as we both get some sleep, it will be a much more productive day.

Pina Colada count stays at a pathetic 1, but tomorrow will change that at the Mirage. Still have not wagered a dime.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Vacation Blog VIII, Part III, let the vacation REALLLLLLY begin

I mean, it's already been terrific, but it's time to kick it up a notch..

7:30 AM - OK, I suppose that's a respectable time to get up. Better than yesterday at least.

9:00 AM - Hibernation ends at a pretty reasonable hour, again. Yay for Good Morning Bear!!!

9:30 AM - Down to the Paris buffet for some sustenance. Food is pretty good, as usual. This is a decent buffet, not up to the standards of the great Vegas buffets, but it's perfectly tasty. The highlight is made-to-order crepes...well, that's not much of a highlight for Tracey, of course, but it's pretty good for me. What is NOT good for me, though, is that the lineup for that station is 17 people deep. No exaggeration. I don't need a crepe that bad.

10:45 AM - We are done, and packed, and ready to get our car from the Valet. We are going to do some shopping today (I realllllly need new shoes, since the ones I brought down fell apart (literally) at Sea-Tac, and I've been walking around on 1.5 shoes since we got here. First we are going to stop at our resort, and I'm sure it's too early to check in, but at least we can leave our bags there while we shop.

11:15 AM - We arrive at our resort, the Hilton something-or-other (it has changed names since we last stayed here 4-5 years ago and I really can't remember the name off the top of my head). It's at the North end of the Strip, almost as far as the Stratosphere, so maybe a bit less convenient than the one we stayed at last year, but it's beautiful. Upon entering the property, we are pleasantly greeted, asked our name, and whisked off to a desk away from the normal check in desk. I'm expecting this is so they can really nail us with the timeshare pitch, but no, they are just checking us in. As RCI members, they are taking extra special care of us. This is the opposite from the norm; generally since we are what is known as "exchangers" (ie this is not our home resort, and we exchanged our weeks at our home resort, through RCI, to get this one), we get the vibe that we are just a little less welcome than the guests who own timeshares at this resort. This is NOT the case today however, as they check us in quickly and they even have our room ready for us, more than 4 hours before actual check-in time. I believe that is a first.

The very lovely lady helping us out does give us the usual spiel about the property and resort and offers us a bunch of stuff to spend 60-90 minutes in a presentation, but when we decline she is pleasant and doesn't push. No pressure at all.

Oh, if this resort is so awesome, why haven't we stayed here in 4-5 years? Well, this is where being an "exchanger" is a problem; in order to keep lots of availability for their owners, they don't allow exchangers to come back to the property time and time again. It's called the "1-in-X" rule, where X is the number of years between the time you are allowed to return. This one has a 1-in-4 rule, so we can't come back here for 4 years. This is very common in the timeshare industry, and that is why we bounce around so much. The resort we stayed in last year has the same rule, so if we want to come back to Vegas for a week next year, we will have to find another resort or stay in a hotel.

12:00 PM - Up to the Outlet Mall where it is so incredibly hot that people are going up to cops, begging them to shoot them. 200 points to the first one who correctly identifies the movie that is from.....

We hit the Nike store, Calvin Klein, and a bunch of other stores, and are done in about an hour. And I mean done. Like D-O-N-E.

Back to the resort where we drop off our treasures and then head out to Target to pick up our supplies for the week. We get just enough stuff to ensure we'll be able to eat a few meals (most breakfasts) in the room. Given how much time we expect to spend at the resort pool, it just makes sense to eat here a little bit. Of course, there will be lots of great food consumed at buffets and restaurants as well.

This resort has a much better pool than the resort we stayed at last year. This one has one huge pool (opposed to 5-6 little pools), a restaurant/bar, and scantily clad waitress service. OK I don't really remember what they wear here, I'm just being optimistic....but there are definitely waitresses.

3:30 PM - Back with our groceries and we are unpacked, a half hour before we expected to even be able to check in. We hit the jackpot with this room too, as we happened to get one of the few suites with an in-suite laundry set. Nice bonus. If we are smart, we'll go home with mostly clean clothes, removing the need to do a bunch of laundry as soon as we get home.

Oh, and there is this thing.....

Tracey hopped in there a few minutes ago, and said "see you in a couple days". She's barely exaggerating. Bears really do love Jacuzzi tubs!! Our first appearance of "Giddy Bear" this trip.

4:45 PM - We never bothered to eat lunch so I'm now hungry, and I heat up some butterfly shrimp that we bought at Target. Tracey has a nice gluten free casserole awaiting her once the bath ends. IF the bath ends.

While Giddy Bear enjoys her bath and I am typing up this blog entry, we are enjoying a nice bottle of Gray Monk Kerner which came down in our luggage with us. I figured it would be the perfect bottle of wine for just this occasion, and getting a bottle on the plane is never an issue with the travel wine bag we bought. It really works. We also picked up 3-4 decent bottles at Target...they don't have great wine, but they have some pretty good cheap stuff. One of the bottles was $9! Dean bought $9 wine!! Inconceivable. To be honest, though, we bought the same bottle last year and it's terrific for the price. It is always listed as a "best buy" in various wine magazines. I've seen it receive scores of 88 or 89 points from various reputable wine critics. It's a steal.

5:15 PM - Tracey has been in the bathtub for 40 minutes and the tub is about 1/10th filled. The water pressure is so low there must be something wrong. Time to call the front desk.

5:35 PM - Problem solved. Technician came up, removed something, and the water came rushing out. Excellent service and Giddy Bear is happy again! No word of a lie, she is actually chuckling from the tub as I type this :)

Into bottle #2 tonight, a terrific Chardonnay from Hartford Family Winery. This is actually the wine that made us notice this winery, and we love them. In fact, we love them so much that on Friday, the day we were on our way to Las Vegas, we placed an order with them for a case of their wine to be shipped to our package receiving place in Sumas to come back across the border with us. We were in Bellagio the other day and what did we see? This Chardonnay, which would I describe it....sort of their generic wine? It's listed as "Russian River Valley" and you can't even buy it from the winery, this is one that they ship to restaurants and retail stores....but the wine is terrific. It's a far cry below the quality of the stuff we are picking up on the way home, but still of a very high quality. This is one of our favorite wineries and we actually just joined their wine club the other day. Fantastic.

8:00 PM - After a long bath and some food, we head down to the pool to relax a bit, and relax we did. It was so magnificent, in fact, that we now have to rearrange our entire schedule to ensure that we have time to spend at this pool in the evening as much as possible. It was the perfect temperature. Sure, a few more kids than we expected at this time of night, but whatever. I guess they are on vacation too. Vacation from what, I wonder? Vacation from their everyday stressful lives of doing nothing and sucking off the government teet?? Oh well, they weren't overly intrusive, and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening. Oh, and they do have an "adults only" section with some chairs to relax on and a fantastic, huge hot tub. Wonderful.

9:29 PM - Back in the room to watch a little telly and wind down for the evening. It has been such a great day and we have 5 more of them ahead of us before we fly home on Friday.

Pina Colada count still sits at 1, but that will at least double tomorrow, I guarantee it. Still have not wagered a dollar. That probably will change at some point this trip, but not likely tomorrow.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Vacation Blog VIII, Part II, as we attempt to do almost nothing in an entire day.

5:51 AM - Aw seriously? I'M ON FUCKING VACATION!! I can't even sleep until 6 AM??? Really? REALLY?

6:10 AM - Really.

6:15 AM - Well as long as I'm awake, I might as well get out of bed and go sit in the bathtub or something.....I know better than to turn on the computer or anything that might wake the wife at this time of the morning on vacation. That would bring on a version of Grumpy Bear that I just cannot handle today.

8:00 AM - I am enjoying a perfectly nice bath, reading some fine magazines, when I hear stirring in the wilderness. This is early for hibernation to end, but it's true! The wife is awake and is going to stay awake, so we can go for an early breakfast. This might be the earliest non-forced breakfast we have ever had.

9:15 AM - Across the street in the Bellagio Café, where we order basically the exact same thing we have every time we come here; I have the Café Benedict, Tracey has the Applewood Smoked Bacon Omelette, and we leave with our bellies very full and very satisfied. Best casual breakfast spot in this city, for sure.

10:05 AM - We are in our Cabana for our pool day, and the first frosty beverages have been ordered. The Pina Colada count has begun.

10:15 AM - Jesus, it's hot.

10:30 AM - Our day takes on an interesting pattern.

Into the pool. Wow, it's beautiful in here.

Out of the pool, into the sun. Wow, it's beautiful here.
(2 minutes later) Wow, it's getting warm
(2 minutes later) Holy SHIT it's hot out here

Into the pool. Wow, it's beautiful in here.

Repeat, about 15 times.

By the time it gets to around Noon, I am already done. It is 104 degrees today.

I brought my workout gear with me so I'm going to leave the pool and hit the (air conditioned) gym for a little workout.

Not so fast, by the time I get from the cabana to the door, I am exhausted, so I decide to go up for a little nappy-poo.

1:30 PM - As naps go, that was pretty unimpressive. Still, hopefully it will give me a jolt of energy to go back to the pool and continue enjoying our day.

There are two areas where Las Vegas really seems to be lagging behind the rest of the civilized world. One is gluten-free menu options; I'm sure we will talk about that a lot during this trip. The other one?


Jesus Christ, people are allowed TO SMOKE IN THE FUCKING POOL in this city. IN THE POOL.

Tracey is in the pool, sitting in a little nook, reading a book, when some carcinogenic whore comes and starts puffing her death stick just about 5 feet away from her, chasing her out of her comfortable spot. And later, the cabana next to us fills up with a bunch of these people who think it's just fine to smoke anywhere they fucking please, including right beside us. Seriously, this fucking city needs to get a clue and send these people back into their cars and their homes, which is the ONLY place smoking should be allowed anywhere in the world.

Anyhoo, back to our day. We order a nice little lunch from the pool café, and Tracey orders another drink. I am honestly too hot and dehydrated to have another drink now, so I actually have a Gatorade, which helps. We spend the next couple hours relaxing, mostly in the pool, and then we call it a day.

5:00 PM - Up to the room and Sleepy Bear lays down for a rest. It's already been a big day, and we have dinner plans at one of our favorite spots, Mon Ami Gabi!

6:00 PM - After a short appearance by Discombobulated Bear (after her alarm wakes her up), we are up and ready to go to dinner. We are not in a huge rush and are expecting a wait for the outdoor seating at Mon Ami Gabi so we walk around the shops between Paris and Bally's to see what's new. GAME CHANGED. The frozen daiquiri bar near Bally's NOW HAS PINA COLADAS!! They never used to have them. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

But not right now, we are on our way to dinner.

6:20 PM - We arrive at the restaurant and are delighted to find out they have one open table, saved just for us, of course. Dinner is just fantastic as it always is here, and they have a terrific gluten-free menu! A big plus. This is our first time to Vegas since Tracey has been trying to eat gluten-free so we are not sure what we are in for.

Before the meal, we always get a complimentary baguette.

It's good, but I mean, it's just a baguette, and it's no good to Tracey.

But they have thought of that too!

Anyone who asks can have warmed gluten free bread, served with a little bowl of olives (HEY! I didn't get any freaking olives!!!). Nice touch, and a sure sign that they are taking gluten-free seriously.

After perusing the wine menu, and deciding what we are going to have for dinner, we decide on a 2012 Sancerre.

Not a wine I was familiar with, but I figured the crisp flavors of this Sauvignon Blanc would go well with everything we were going to eat. I believe I may have broken my arm patting myself on the back during the meal, because I freaking nailed it.

Tracey starts off her meal with a bowl of cold cucumber soup, followed by a beautiful chicken dish served on a bed of ratatouille. I start with the always-fresh shrimp cocktail and follow that up with their special, grilled sea bass with polenta, corn and bacon. Freaking incredible, from start to finish.

Oh, and did I mention it went well with the wine???

After dinner we take a little walk down to Planet Hollywood to cruise their Miracle Mile shops. We walk into an art gallery and immediately see a painting we both fell in love with. The price tag, $3000, was just a touch out of our price range....had she said "$1K", I think we would have had a new piece of art.

9:00 PM - Back to the room to unwind a bit and get a good night's sleep. This is our last night in Paris (WHAT? We just got here???), as tomorrow we move to our timeshare resort. Tracey calls down to the desk to find out details on late checkout, and they tell her that they can't actually tell us that until after midnight. OK, that is just weird. I guess we'll call in the morning.

Great day one!!

Pina Colada count: 1 (but Tracey says it counts extra because it was at 10 AM!)
Money gambled: $0

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Vacation Blog VIII, Part we go!!!

Prologue. Last night:

Holy shit. Our passports expired in May.

Oops. And we board a plane for Vegas in about 28 hours.

After a few moments of panic, we realize that we have previously traveled in the US without our passports; and most of them time when we have our passports, we don't need them anyway.

And, I've been across the border to pick up stuff at our US postal box many times since the passports expired, with no issues.

THANK CHRIST for Nexus is I all can say about that.

11:00 AM - Across the border in just a few minutes; no problems, no questions about the passports at all. One hurdle down. Very friendly border guard. Hey, they have a fucking tough job, no question about it, but it's nice when they can be efficient AND friendly.

2:15 PM - Hurdle two is easily defeated, as with our Nexus cards and TSAPreChek, we breeze through airport security. Didn't even get a full body pat-down, which is disappointing, but maybe I'll get lucky on the way home.

2:30 PM - After a quick bite at Burger King (seriously, Whoppers are SO GOOD....for the first half hour or so, until my body realizes what I just ate), off to the Alaska Air lounge to relax for a couple hours until our flight. Comfortable lounge, friendly staff, free booze (if that is your thing) and snacks. I will always fly First Class just for this perk. And power for my electronics...SO MANY OUTLETS. I currently have three devices charging and there is room for more.

3:30 PM - Well, I am going to have to leave the lounge for a few minutes to find some Band-Aids for my lovely wife, who I must now anoint "Ridiculous Bear", as she decided, while in Winners yesterday, that the day before a trip where she will be doing a tremendous amount of walking was a good time to buy a new pair of shoes. And, wait for it........she has blisters. I know, shocking.

She wanted me to point out that these shoes are INCREDIBLY comfortable everywhere except for the place that they have made her bleed her own blood. So there's that.

3:45 PM - Ridiculous Bear , sitting next to me while I am typing this, asks me if I am going to be doing a vacation blog this trip. So now, let me introduce you to "Unobservant Bear". I am definitely going to have a wild animal problem on this trip.

As a friend of mine once said, "It doesn't cost any more to pay attention". :)

5:30 PM - Comfortably in our seats as the plane takes off. Assuming no problems en route, we are scheduled to land about 15 minutes earlier than originally indicated.

We could have used some of the excess outlets from the lounge, though, as we are on a pretty old plane and there are no power outlets. Ah, who cares? It's a 2 hour-ish flight. Nothing is going to run out of power on this flight.

The meals we get on Alaska are always top-notch; this is probably my least favorite of all of the, but there isn't really anything wrong with it, it's just not to my taste. It consists of a perfectly tasty chicken breast, but it is served on a bed of cold couscous (ick), so that goes over to the wife. It also comes with a very nice bun and excellent salad so really, it's still a very good meal. I should probably stop my f'n whining. I'm in First Class on the way to Sin City!

8:00 PM - I am finally watching Slumdog Millionaire but I don't quite get finished before we land. Very uneventful flight, which of course is exactly the kind of flight you want.

9:00 PM - Dropping off our rental car at the valet and headed to Paris to check-in. They actually have advanced check-in now, which I took advantage of....BUT, it requires you to scan your ID at a kiosk (US DL or Passport) and since I can't produce either of those, we have to go stand in a pretty long line to check in. It is efficient, however, and we are up in the room in short order.

The view from our room isn't half bad.

10:00 PM - Contended Bear is already deep into the bathtub.

Time to wind down and hit the sack. Hopefully, a nice, restful evening.

Tomorrow: we POOL!!