Trip Report December 25 – 29, 2008
Plans for this trip came together in late October. I had wanted to book flights and hotel in late August. My wife didn’t feel we should make a trip this Christmas. After a short season of whining I gave it up. Then in late October, she suggests we go to Vegas after Christmas like it’s a new thought. I didn’t say a word. I just started looking for good rates!
Air fare from MFE to LAS was expensive on every carrier available when I begin my search. Even Allegiant, which began service to Vegas out of MFE last June, cost $169 per person going and $209 per person returning for the days we wanted to travel. Not good. I noticed they had a 2for1 sale on air fare with air/hotel combo packages. I played around with this notion on their website. Lo and behold, I found a deal for 4 nights at Paris and air fare for $343.00 per person. This was cheaper than the flights I wanted on the same days. I booked it that evening and sure enough the price jumped through the roof over the next few days. I had hoped to take advantage of free night offers from Green Valley Ranch and Sunset Station and Harrah’s for this trip, but abandoned that thinking after booking the air/hotel deal. We usually stay very cheap or for free in those places and rent a car. We also usually travel Southwest at $99.00 from SAT per person each way. Since the air/hotel was a bit more than we normally expect to pay and because we were staying pretty much mid-strip, we decided not to rent a car.
Sunday, December 25
After a very busy couple of days before Christmas we are headed towards the McAllen International Airport around 9:10pm for a 10:05pm departure. The airport is not more than 4 miles from our home. I drop my wife off near the departure sign expecting to find a spot in long term parking and be back in a few minutes. This is a small airport. Yes, a very small airport with just a few parking spaces. Long term parking is full. Short term is full. Overflow lot about ½ mile away is full. I finally park in the lot of La Plaza Mall located across the street from the airport.
By the time I get the car parked, we navigate check-in, and get through TSA the plane is already boarded. We’re some of the last folks on board. We are assigned seats in the exit isle. Row 25 seats E & F. Lots and lots of leg room. We like them so much we request the same seats on the return trip.
Flight left on time at 10:05pm (central). We arrived a few minutes early at 10:55 local time (pacific). Took the tram from Terminal D to the main terminal. The baggage claim area is easy to navigate. Last time we were here it was undergoing some remodeling. After waiting near the conveyor about 20 minutes we grabbed our bags and headed for the taxi line. Upon first glance I regretted getting in the taxi line. I was grumbling and complaining about the line which serpentines back and forth like a mini-maze. My wife tells me to put a sock in it. I’m thinking it is gonna take for ever. She says it isn’t. I know I’m right. This is going to be terrible. Nope, within five to seven minutes we traversed the serpentine and are hopping into the back of a cab headed to Paris. The folks in Vegas know how to move people in and out of their airport.
Cab ride from the airport was easy. Driver took the Svenson/Paradise to Koval route to get to the backside of Paris and around front to valet. $11.00 mas o menos and a $5.00 tip.
Check-in at Paris was a breeze. The Bellman took our bags. We went directly to the registration counter. The casino was relatively busy and there were lots of folks milling about; though, the registration area was largely vacant. There were just us and a few other folks checking in a little before mid-night. I asked how full the hotel was and was surprised to hear “near capacity.” I asked if there were any Suites Calais or Suites Le Mans available and if so what the price for upgrade might be. Jayna informed me that the Calais would go for an additional $135 per night and the Le Mans for $85. I balked and told her no thanks. She says, “It’s Christmas, you could be nice to me and I could be nice to you.” I asked her to explain. She was smiling, not speaking, just staring at me. I realized there was another employee passing by. When they passed she said she could upgrade us to a Suite Le Mans at no extra charge. I said, “Definitely!” I gave my new friend a nice tip and we looked for something to eat.
We settled at Paris’ version of the Las Vegas casino coffee shop, Le Café. Le Café is more expensive than most casino coffee shops with better quality food and more choices. She ordered some potato skins while I asked for a Caesars salad. We shared our grub and were quite satisfied. I think this racked up about $24 on our charges to the room. We decided to go see the room and get our bags delivered.
The Room. 1175P has a single door, marbled entry way. The entry way opens into a large bedroom and living room space. There is a window directly ahead. The view from this room is of a roof top and part of the back of Bally’s, with bits and pieces of Flaming-O, Imperial Palace, Harrah’s in the background. In other words, the view was ugly. This did not bother us. The clerk had already informed us about the view. Before you get to the window, along the wall is an armoire with a TV and several large storage drawers. Beyond that is a desk containing a fax machine, telephone, lamp and high speed internet connection is close by. The wall facing the armoire is at an angle moving from the window to the bathroom wall. This creates a very open space with a coffee table, comfortable chairs on one side and a sofa with an end table up against the wall on the other. Adjacent to the sofa along the angled wall is a king sized bed with a bed stand on each side. The bed is somewhat across from the armoire/TV. Because of the angle you are a long way from the TV and at an odd angle. The stand for the TV pulls out and rotates so this really isn’t a big problem. The wall adjacent to the right side of the bed has an entry door to the bathroom/vanity. I like the suites in this hotel for this reason – great bathrooms. The bathroom area has its own entry way. The bathroom is to the left and a vanity area and large closet (with a safe) to the right. The bathroom has a large oval Jacuzzi tub, good sized glassed in shower, and a water closet which has a bidet and a commode. I was in the Jacuzzi tub 5 times during our trip. 4 of those times I had bubbles billowing out of the tub. The tub easily accommodated the two of us. We enjoyed our room and the Jacuzzi tub. I absconded with every bit of shampoo, shower/bath gel, skin cream, conditioner, mouth wash, shower cap and bar of soap I could get my hands on. No kidding, I brought home a full bag of goodies. They don’t give you little slivers of cheap soap and dinky bottles of bad shampoo/conditioner at Paris. The shampoo and the soap at the Paris is good stuff. My wife says the conditioner and skin cream isn’t too shabby either. Well, guests in our home will have a nice basket of goodies to choose from in the guest bathroom!
After the bellman delivered the bags we headed for the casino. The place was fairly busy. Last time we arrived in Vegas on Christmas night the town seemed less busy. Harrah’s ownership is starting to show itself in the casino at Paris. There is a pit of Single Deck Black Jack paying 6:5. Several tables offering games based on Texas Hold-Em. The Black Jack tables with fairly decent rules had eight-deck shoes and $25 minimums during our stay. Tables with $5 and $10 mins were available in the early morning with the sucky 6:5 payoff for a BJ. We spent a little time playing some Video Poker on a multi-game machine with a decent pay table. Sometime around 2:00am Vegas time we head for the room. I had been awake going on 22 hrs at this point. I never did fully recover from this tiredness, ‘cause I just don’t seem to sleep a whole lot when I’m in Vegas! After a soak in the Jacuzzi tub we fall asleep in a very fine bed.
Monday, December 26
As usual, I am awake by 6:00am local time ‘cause back home it is 8:00. She sleeps a bit longer. I take a fine Jacuzzi bubble bath and read What’s On while soaking. She gets up and orders some breakfast from room service. Omelets, hash browns, coffee, orange juice and a basket of baked goods get us ready for the day. We lounge for awhile then head for the casino. This joint is crowded. Short session of VP nets a small win. We sight see around the Paris then make our way to a bus stand. Soon thereafter, we jump on The Deuce and purchase two 24 hour tickets. The strip is relatively traffic free and the trip down to the Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge doesn’t take long.
I get a call on my cell just as we are getting off The Deuce. It is HurricaneMikey. He wonders if we are still going to meet up at Peppermill. Very soon after, like two minutes later, we find him at the bar in the Fireside Lounge having a drink and visiting with his friend Krista – his Monday Morning Bartender. Krista is a fine bartender and a hottie to boot. No wonder Mikey enjoys his Mondays at Peppermill. My wife orders a coffee with Bailey’s and I get a Bloody Mary. The drinks are good. Less than half-way through the drink I’m buzzed. We visit and play some VP. We head to the dining room for some food. Mikey orders his usual Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs, I get an Asian Chicken Salad and my wife has a half sandwich and salad. The food is way good and they give you way too much food.
The Peppermill has been on my list of things to do in Vegas for several years. I’m glad I finally made it. We’ll probably eat there again. Lots of old time Vegas vibe going on, good food and not too expensive.
While we eat, the three of us form a plan to visit the South Coast Casino which opened just 4 days earlier. Not only did we get to have a meal with Mikey at Peppermill, we also had the privilege of riding in the ‘ghetto sled’. That is his term for his vehicle. The so called ghetto sled is actually a fairly decent, green Lincoln. The ‘sled’ is not nearly the beast Mikey makes it out to be.
The Strip is getting more crowded, yet the ride south doesn’t take long. Soon we are parking in front of the new and shiny South Coast Casino. This is a big yellow and gold building which looks good out here on this rapidly developing part of the desert several miles south of Mandalay Bay. The inside of the joint reminded us of Orleans and Gold Coast. Maybe more like Gold Coast with a box shaped interior, lots of open space and good sight lines across most of the casino floor.
Mikey and I find a $10 min Pai Gow table where he attempts to teach me the basics. My wife finds a Black Jack table she likes. We play Pai Gow for an hour or so. I color up with $25 after buying in with $100. Yeah, that means a $75 loss. I believe Mikey colored up with a $60 win for this session. We look for the sports book. It is a big book with separate areas for sports and racing. The bar near the book is real fine. It reminds me of the Mardi Gras Bar at Orleans. I think this bar and adjacent seating area may be bigger? Lots and lots of wide screen TV’s surround the seating area. Mikey counted 26 TV’s. We had some drinks while enjoying a couple of cigars. My wife found us and reported that she’d made some money (+200) playing Black Jack at a $10 min table. We visited some more and then it was time for Mikey to start thinking about getting ready for work. He drove us back to Paris. The traffic on the strip was gruesome until we passed Harmon. We said our good-byes to Mikey and made some tentative plans to meet later in the week.
Paris is crowded and hoppin’ on this evening. We walk and gawk for a few minutes. We made a pit stop in the room and realize we’re hungry. All the restaurants we pass at Paris have long lines so we go to Bally’s. The Chang’s and Bally’s Steakhouse are busy, but don’t have long lines. We decide on the Steakhouse. This is our first time to eat there. Good service, good food and just a little expensive. We order the Prime Rib and ask them to split it for us. Our sides were brussels sprouts and garlic mashed taters. We shared a very nice Crème Brule for dessert. The rib was excellent. The potatoes and sprouts were tasty. Good meal which added somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 to our room charges.
Following dinner we attempted to do some gambling at Bally’s. Played a little VP, I think. We were tired and just didn’t have much enthusiasm. Soon, thereafter, we were in the room and taking a Jacuzzi bubble bath. Very nice. I think we were in bed and asleep before 11:00pm.
Tuesday, December 27
My beautiful wife ordered breakfast from room service again this am. Eggs over easy, hash browns, toast, some pastries from yesterday’s basket and we were set to go.
Room service at Paris is cordial and most often prompt. We’ve eaten 5-6 meals from room service during two stays there. The food is o.k. to good, nothing to get excited about. The prices for room service are high for the quality of food served. We enjoy the convenience. Surprisingly, we found the room service and food at Imperial Palace to be about the same quality and less expensive. Though, the menu at IP isn’t as adventurous.
We were out on the strip and on The Deuce headed north by 8:30am. We get off the bus near the Wynn and cross over to The New Frontier. We have never set foot in this joint. The casino was really quiet. This place felt a bit like the Westward Ho. We got the card then played some WOF. I actually made about $60 playing WOF. We both settled at a $5 min Black Jack table. After an hour or so we colored up. We each walked away up $50.
A short walk across the street and we are in the fabulous Wynn Las Vegas. We love spending time in this joint. The place looks good, smells good and most the people wandering around look good. We each played a hundy through a $ multigame VP machine. I was playing DDB. Had a couple of good runs but burned the $100 bill quickly. We spent some time just looking and exploring the casino. Then, we sat down at a bank of VP machines which had a decent pay tables and a progressive payout for the royal flush. I put another hundred dollar bill in and played at the .25 level. I played for a good while and kept bouncing around just over and under $100 in credits. Then I hit 4 Kings. Played that down. I had 73.25 in credits when I’m dealt 10, Q, K of Hearts. I wasn’t all that impressed. I’ve had three to the royal hundreds of times. I just figured I would never get a royal. I mean I’ve never even hit a royal playing the Hoyle games on my home computer. Anyway, I take notice of the hand and hold the three cards, hit the deal button. And, a message comes up on the screen. I figure it is the one that reminds you to play max coins. I see all red face cards across the screen. I know one of them has to be a Diamond. Then, I realize the message is telling me I’ve hit a Royal Flush. The Ace and Jack of Hearts had filled in! I sit there stunned. I say to my wife, “Oh, my gosh, look at this.” She asks what it pays and I point up to the big sign over the bank of machines and say “that much”. The progressive stopped at 1,251.00. I was surprised about how calm I felt. My first thought was – now I’m gonna have to file a W-2G. It seemed like a long time before a floor person showed up. They took my SS card, Driver’s license before disappearing for a few minutes then returned and had me sign the W-2G, reset the machine and put 12 crisp new $100 bills and some change in my hand. I was happy to hit a Royal. And, particularly happy to hit it at Wynn.
We played for another hour or so before deciding it was time to eat. The Buffet was way crowded. Terrace Pointe Café was not. We were seated quickly at the café. This place is nice. The hostesses, the wait staff - all the employees are pretty people. The service was excellent. The food was very good - not great. My wife had a crab cake appetizer while I consumed a bowl of Chicken Noodle soup with Matzo Ball. She had an entrée called Santa Clara Grilled Shrimp served on a bed of orzo. I had the Turkey burger with fries. It was all pretty good. They are fairly proud of their food ‘cause I think this lunch cost around $60. I was feeling real flush, so I didn’t mind.
Following lunch we milled about for a few minutes and decided we are tired. We made a plan to head over to Fashion Show Mall. Then, head back to Paris, take a nap and maybe make reservations for dinner. Once we arrived at Fashion Show our tiredness overcame any desire to window shop. So, whilst heading for a bus stop in front of the Fashion Show we spied the Tix4Tonight shop. Very quickly we were the proud owners of tickets for that evening’s Fab Four performance at the V Theatre. The Fab Four show begins at 6:00pm. It was 4:30 when we bought the tickets. We hopped on The Deuce and 45 minutes later we are having to walk very fast from IP to Paris then up to the room for a quick freshen-up and then quickly next door to the Aladdin. So, much for being tired and getting a nap. Riding the strip busses in the late afternoon and evening sucks. The bus is crowded. It stops at every stop and the traffic is horrendous. One can walk the strip faster than the bus can carry them. Or, maybe I just need to be more patient?
We arrive at the V Theatre in The Dessert Passage 15 minutes before show time. There is a huge line for the box office. You must give the box office your voucher from Tix4Tonight and they give you a ticket for the show. We go into the theatre about 6:03. I hand the maitre de a $10 bill with our tickets and she has us seated on the sixth row, not more than 15 feet from the stage. Soon after we are seated the lights dimmed and Mr. Ed Sullivan came out to introduce the young lads from Liverpool, England.
The show that evening was great. The music was awesome. Most of the guys look like the Beatle they portray. I thought the John fella did a superb job. If you get a chance to see this show – do it! The tickets at the half price joints run about $24.00. After tax, title and license, I think we paid $61.90 for the two of us. A great bargain for the quality of show.
Several moments into the show I felt as though I might start weeping. This emotion surprised me. I was an 11 year old when the Beatle’s made their big splash on American shores. I was loyal to the Beach Boys and boycotted their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was one lonely kid that evening. Couldn’t find anyone to hang with – my brother, all my sisters, all the kids in the neighborhood were glued to the TV. Within a few years – say by the time of Rubber Soul – I was a huge Beatle’s fan and thought that the Beach Boys were ‘bubble gum’. Ah, the important matters of my youth. I think my reaction to the music was that it took me back to my adolescence and the turmoil of the late 1960’s. The Beatle’s were such a pop band initially and then helped fuel the era of psychedelic anti-establishmentarianism which became all the rage. I guess, for me the transitions of the Beatle’s relate somehow to my own loss of naiveté. Anyway it was a great show and I recommend it.
After, leaving the V Theatre we found a Starbucks in the Aladdin casino. We each had a latte. She had something called ‘gingerbread latte’. Ugh, but she liked. She also had a tiramisu in a cup made of chocolate. We ate on the cup for several days.
I sat down at a bank of slot machines which had a SCION as the grand prize. I really like those weirdo vehicles. I played for a good while and didn’t win the SCION. But, I did win about $70 bucks playing the silly machines.
Once again we are back in the room before midnight. After a soak in the jacuzzi tub we were sleeping like babies whose mama had laced their milk with valium.
Wednesday, December 28
I am wide awake at just past 3:00am. I toss and turn for an hour before finally getting out of bed. I take a long bubble bath in the jacuzzi. I dress as quietly as possible, but still manage to wake and piss-off my wife. I was sitting in Le Café just after 5:00am ordering some Buttermilk pancakes, sausage, coffee and orange juice. The place was mostly empty. The casino was quiet. Though, there was a frequent cheer or groan coming from a far away Craps table. I enjoyed my breakfast. I could only finish half. So, I packaged the rest and took it to the room for my beloved. As I was about to enter the elevator some one whistles at me. No, it wasn’t an exotic stranger or a hooker, it was my wife. And, that is much better! She had come down to grab some coffee. We head back to the room.
Before 8:00am we were hanging out at Bellagio. We spent some time in the lobby lounging on a sofa and enjoying the Chihuly glass installation. Awesome. The conservatory was decked out in its Christmas theme. Beautiful. We then located the Jean Philippe Patisserie and the chocolate fountain. Kinda weird, but interesting, I guess. We bought our son a gift here. Some expensive little chocolate pellets to make hot chocolate.
We played some VP. Both of us were expecting to order some coffee with Bailey’s. We never even saw a cocktail waitress. We both sat down at a $10 min BJ table. I bought in for $200. She purchased $100 in Chips. Less than 50 minutes later my buy-in was toast. A whole series of 12-16 against dealer 10’s and face cards busted my chops. She colored up with a $100+ win. Oh, we did see one cocktail waitress after sitting at the BJ table for 20 minutes. I felt like I’d paid a handsome price for that coffee and Bailey’s!
From Bellagio we headed to Barbary Coast. She was getting hungry. The remains of my breakfast must not have been too satisfying. After getting new players cards we went to the Victorian Café. After a 10 minute wait we were seated in a booth. I wasn’t real hungry. She ordered Lox and Bagels. I ordered an additional bagel and we each had some orange juice. Good stuff. The lox was served with onion slices, tomato slices, and capers – nice presentation. She couldn’t finish all her lox even though I helped some. I wrapped the remainder in foil thinking I’d eat some later. Never happened.
We played some $ WOF and made a little money. We decided to go back to our room and nap. We napped for a short while. I called Olives at the Bellagio and made reservations for 5:30pm. We also made plans to meet HurricaneMikey at Napoleons Bar at Paris around 8:00pm.
We headed back over to Barbary Coast. She had a great run of cards playing Black Jack at a double-deck hand dealt game. She won $300 that afternoon. I was up a little early then almost lost my buy-in. I was down to $75 after having been up $200. I went all-in with the $75 and won. We both bet $15-$50 a hand for a couple of hours. I continued up and down eventually getting out with a $100 profit. I went to the sports book and made a $50 bet on Michigan to beat Nebraska. I needed the Wolverines to win by 11. That didn’t work out too well. That is what I get for betting against a Big 12 team. Hook-Em!
Shortly before 5:00pm we made our way to Bellagio. We both played some VP and I had a Maker’s Mark on the rocks and it was time for our dinner at Olives. We have enjoyed a meal here before. We liked it mucho. This time did not disappoint either.
The place has been remodeled since our last meal here. More wood and more elegant feel than the previous design. We enjoyed the breads and tray of olive stuff to spread on them. She ordered her favorite appetizer in the world – Tuna Tartar. I had the Boston Bibb salad with Maytag Blue Cheese dressing. Both were superb. For our main course we split the Grilled Sirloin. This was so much more than grilled sirloin. A big slab of sirloin (medium rare) atop a bed of spinach, grilled focaccia bread with parmesan cheese, finished off with a wonderful sauce of garlic and shataki mushrooms. It melted in our mouths!
We were so stuffed and satisfied that we did not attempt a dessert. This meal was a bargain at $98.00 excluding tip. Service was excellent and the hostess even gave us a business card for the chef. My wife wants to attempt the recipe for our main course at home. The hostess said, “shoot him an email and he’ll email you back.” Sure enough, my wife emailed him and he wrote back asking her to email a phone number and a time to call and he’d call about the recipe. She did and he called a day later. He gave her the recipe and instructions for preparation. He even told her to call if she needed any help and he’d be glad to walk her through the steps. I thought this was pretty cool.
We met up with Mikey at Napoleons Bar. Napoleons is a classy joint with comfortable sofas and chairs. We had some drinks and the boys had a cigar. When the goofy dueling piano nonsense (surely Harrah’s influence) was about to begin she went up to bed. Mikey and I found a Pai Gow table with $15 minimum bet. We played for a couple of hours. Mikey had a pretty good run of cards. We were making the silly fortune side bet. He even made some money off that with three of a kinds and a straight. I did alright for awhile but had a truly run of horrendous cards. Mikey said one of my hands was absolutely the worst hand he’d ever seen dealt. I was exhausted and he was ahead so we got out when I lost my $100 buy in. Mikey was up around a hundy but lost a $30 bet and colored up with a tidy $65 win.
Even though this game gobbled up my money, I like it. Our table on this evening was entertaining. Several Asian folks playing some serious money. One young guy threw several thousand dollars on the table as he bought in. He bet a stack of black chips each hand. When he colored up he got some yellow chips. Another young guy named Andy was a riot. He was talking and goofing on everyone at the table and surrounding tables. He was betting wildly and drinking Apple Martinis. At one juncture he orders Appletinis for Mikey, the hot woman from New Mexico and himself and me. “Let’s all have an Apple Martini – I’ll buy,” was his pronouncement. The kind cocktail waitress followed his direction to a tee. I liked the first sip. I did finish the rest. But, I’m pretty sure that was my last apple martini. We said our good byes. Mikey headed for the parking garage to locate the ‘sled’.
When I got back to the room my wife was lounging, watching TV and nibbling on Crème Brule and some chocolate cake thing and sipping hot chocolate. Most decadent. I helped her finish off the Brule and had a soak in the jacuzzi. Again, we were asleep before midnight.
Thursday, December 29
Both of us were up and moving before 7:00am. Showers, packing and calling the Bell to pick up the bags didn’t take long. Our breakfast at Le Café was good. She ordered Eggs Benedict. I got The Leo – scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, a bagel/cream cheese and some hash browns. Coffee and orange juice rounded out this meal.
At check out we learned that three meals at Le café, one at Bally’s Steakhouse and several orders from room service racked up $281.00 in room charges. For me, this is living large.
Off we go to Barbary Coast. It is about 9:00 in the morning. We plan on playing Black Jack for the morning and noonish to go over to the Desert Passage at Aladdin so she can buy a gift or two for some folks back home. Eventually we had a fun time. I start off with a terrible streak of cards. When, someone gets a BJ I realize it is a crappy 6:5 table. The table was single-deck, hand dealt, $5 min bet. We left rather quickly and located a double deck hand dealt game with $10 min bet. I play up and down for more than two hours and finally color up with a $100 profit. My wife racked up another $200+ win.
Off to Desert Passage. She locates a couple of shops she’d seen earlier in the week. Some gifts are purchased. I was impressed with the prices in many of the shops. It is not Forum Shops or even Fashion Show. There were some nice shops with clothing and other stuff at reasonable prices. Desert Passage may be worth checking out if you like to shop while you are in Vegas.
We go back to Paris. We sit at a $25 min bet BJ table. I lose $440.00 in about 2 ½ hours betting $25 - $100 a hand. She plays about even betting in the same range. I hate leaving Vegas on a losing session. I haven’t had this experience on the previous three trips. Several Makers Marks on the rocks take some of the edge off.
After getting some sandwiches from J.J. Boulangerie (sp?) we hit the taxi stand and get our bags from the bell service; we are off to the airport. Check-in at the sky cab was quick. Security wasn’t too big of a hassle and soon we have trammed it down to D terminal to await our flight. The flight was delayed about 40 minutes. This gives us time to eat our late lunch. She goes in search of a lucky WOF machine. Put in $20 and came away with $90! Who says those airport slots don’t pay? Once we are loaded and on our way it was a brief 2 hour 40 minute ride to MFE. Our son had picked up my car earlier from the mall parking lot so we cabbed it to the house. We were unpacked and lounging in bed before 11:00pm. And, I’m already dreaming about our next trip to Vegas.