Monday, June 21, 2010


Dianne and I have traveled to Las Vegas at least 40 times since 1987, and each time we do something different. One thing is certain--it's always hot in June. Although we are certainly not high rollers, we have learned how the system works. We were given a free hotel room for 3 nights at the Paris Hotel which features a 1/2 size replica of the Eiffel Tower out in front (about 400 feet high). Our room had a fine view of the Eiffel Tower and also the pool and the huge bright blue and red balloon.

Our meals this trip were extraordinary. Our first dinner was the Victorian Room at Bill's Gamblin' Hall (formerly the Barbary Coast) where I was comped a Chinese dinner of General Tso's chicken and egg drop soup. The meal was one of the best Chinese meals I've ever tasted. The portion was far more than I could eat.

The second night we had a 2 for 1 coupon worth $25 at the Border Grill in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The restaurant is famous for its owner, Susan Feniger, who won an award on the TV show Top Chef. We ordered the $42 prix fixe dinner which included a sampling of three appetizers--Kobe beef empanada with bean puree; a sweet corn tamale on a corn husk, and an outstanding guacamole. While we were waiting, they served us a plate of warm tortilla chips with 3 different salsa dips. My dinner was chicken enchiladas, bathed in a green pesto sauce. All this gourmet food was wonderful, but, once again, I couldn't finish it all. Important to me, the waiter kept filling my water glass. It's an expensive Mexican meal, but worth it, in my opinion. The only negative was that we ate outside in a shaded area area overlooking the pool. Even at 7 P.M., it's pretty hot in Las Vegas, and Dianne doesn't handle the heat well.

Our last night, we were comped another free dinner at Le Provencal, the French-Italian restaurant at the Paris Hotel where we each ordered the prix fixe $28 dinner which included wine. They started us off with warm French bread which we dipped in olive oil with a dollop of balsamic vinegar. For appetizers, the Tuscan bean soup and the Caesar salad were outstanding. For the main course, I had the salmon scampi (garlic sauce), and Dianne had capellini pomodoro. By that time, dessert was out of the question.

Other than eating, we had some other highlights of the trip for our bucket list.

1) The Gun Store. I've never considered this one before, but fell prey to the advertising signs on the cabs and the billboards. Essentially, at the Gun Store, you can rent a machine gun or almost any other type of weapon and fire them in their range. I had never fired a gun before, but there's always a first time. The Gun Store is a couple of miles East of the Strip on Tropicana Avenue, a major commercial street. Most of the weapons rent for about $25 for 10 shots. Machine guns are more. They also have package plans available, ranging up to $100 or more, including a ladies' plan for about $80. This includes the live ammo. You have a choice of targets on posters. I chose No. 7, which was Osama Bin Laden, the most popular target. You get to take the poster, full of bullet holes, home with you. Several other customers chose the same target. For liability reasons, the armed security guy stands behind you to make sure you don't get cute and point the gun the wrong way.

2) Pinball Hall of Fame. We drove another mile or so down Tropicana Avenue and passed the Pinball Hall of Fame. We visited there last year, but as we drove by, Dianne pointed out that it's now located in a new building. I made a U-turn and doubled back for a visit. Last year it was located in a run-down strip shopping center, but now it moved into a cinder block warehouse type building. We went inside and feasted our eyes on the approximately 200 vintage pinball machines arranged in 5 rows. The newer models go for 75 cents per game. I opted for the classic models from the early 1960's that I played in my college days. These cost a quarter each, although in college, they cost a nickel. A roll of quarters kept us amused for an hour or so.

3) Ethel M Chocolate Factory. We later visited the Ethel M Chocolate Factory in Henderson, NV, a suburb of Las Vegas. The factory wasn't operating that day because they ran out of a critical ingredient. However, you can do a free, self guided tour, so we didn't really miss out. The factory WAS open, and we saw the machinery and received free samples. The factory is owned by Mars Candy Co., and they make M & M's as well as many other popular candies. The gift shop was full of M & M's memorabilia.

4) The Price is Right. They do the TV show at Bally's auditorium and sell the tickets for $37 apiece. However, this is not the actual TV show, but they give away the same prizes. They call out audience members at random to come up and bid, just like on the TV show. The audience on that particular day was about 1000 people, and they call up about 50 for prizes. Dianne was fortunate enough to be called--to bid on a keyboard, which turned out to be worth about $180. You can't really prepare for the show because you don't know the quality of the item. In any event, Dianne overbid on the item and another person won. All Dianne got was a t-shirt. The show, which lasted about an hour and a half was entertaining and fun.

5) Gambling. As for gambling, we had our moments, but suffered minor losses. With the comps, we feel that we came out ahead. Dianne had more luck than I did on video poker. She hit 4 deuces on a deuces-wild video poker machine for 1000 quarters at Sam's Town. I love Sam's Town. It's a popular locals casino with a Wild West theme and good odds on their games. I recovered most of my losses playing craps at Sam's Town, Bally's and Paris. I never met a crap table I didn't like.

We missed out on two things that we'll have to see on our next trip. One was the Neon Museum which is the graveyard for old, historic casino signs. It is an outdoor museum at a secret location, now closed for renovations and won't open until September 1st. The other sight we missed was the Erotic Museum which we drove to on Wednesday, but the sign said it is open only on weekends. So now we have a reason to come back. What happens in Vegas...goes on my blog.




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