After our few days in San Diego, we shelled out $36 apiece for tickets (baggage was extra) to Las Vegas. I had been to Sin City five times before this last trip, but never at 21 years or older. I was more than ready to experience the Las Vegas they make movies about (although I was never too young to appreciate National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation: A large portion of my conversation is actually obscure quotes from this film).
After one of the bumpiest descents of my life ($36 tickets don’t cover shocks, apparently), we landed in the desert, and hopped a cab to the Mirage, where we were staying. Bring cash! Cab drivers here are happy to accept cards, but you’ll be shelling out a $3 service fee for the convenience.
Check-in was fairly quick, so we took our mini water bottles and walked about a mile up to our room. This is not a complaint: If you’re going to Vegas, get ready to walk. The best part of the Mirage is far and away the beds. I actually pulled the sheets off ours to look at the mattress (though they also have it on their web site), so I can furnish our home with this small piece of heaven.
We rested a little, but headed back out to the strip. This was our first Kodak moment.
This character cheekily interrupted my carefully composed landscape, but now I actually think it’s pretty perfect. Vegas is just like this: Huge, mostly beautiful, and a bit grimy.
After losing a bit of cash in a few slot machines (we’re not big gamblers: I like the machines that let you play little video games every so often!), we decided that we should eat. We did a bit of research via iPhone and settled on the Wicked Spoon buffet at the Cosmopolitan hotel. The Cosmopolitan is my new favorite. It’s swanky, modern, and cool. Here is the chandelier bar near the entrance. We tried to order the fire-breathing dragon per Alicia’s instructions, but sadly they no longer offer it. Doesn’t keep the place from looking enchanting, however.
We made our way to the buffet, another two-miler through the hotel. We were quickly seated at the buffet and began one of the most epic food journeys I’ve ever experienced. Lucky you, you get to come with me!
We started at the salad table, which, looking back, was high on both of our favorite’s list! The section was tended expertly by a team of chefs, swapping out bowls, refreshing plates, replacing tongs.
You’ll see a lovely mini wedge salad, a pasta salad, heirloom tomato salad, and my absolute favorite, the kale salad. It sounds uninspiring, but it was delicious. I think I actually love kale. Who knew? Time for the next trip.
At the bottom right, you’ll see a mini fryer basket (!) with fried chicken. Very good. At the bottom center you’ll notice a small segment of bone marrow. Never heard of that being on a buffet! It was buttery, and salty, and very good. At the top center you’ll see our favorite for the evening: macaroni and cheese made to order. You get to pick your cheeses and your toppings. We went with the gruyere (ALWAYS CHOOSE THE GRUYERE) and cheddar, and topped it with onions, ham, bacon, and mushrooms. The chef mixed the cheeses with alfredo sauce (are you dead yet?) in a sauce pan, and tossed everything together. It was decadent, outrageous, and the winner of the evening. I feel very “Midwestern” saying the mac ‘n’ cheese was the best, but IT WAS. I’m an unabashed fan.
The Asian-inspired section was neither of our favorites, but much of it did come in tiny little take-out boxes, which got points for being straight-up adorable. The dessert table was our last stop.
At the top you’ll see the molten chocolate cake, which was the second best. The two little square cakes are pistachio and fudge nightmares. Please skip them. Bottom left corner is some bundt cake that was essentially a teeny donut. More points for cute. In the center you’ll see my favorite, the stracciatella gelato. Yes! They had a gelato counter! I’ve been obsessed with gelato ever since we went to Italy (not a day went by without a trip to a counter). It’s not as good here, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t GREAT.
We fueled up with coffee and headed out for the evening. We hit it big at Harrah’s (okay, I won $30 on penny slots). The servers were the most attentive there, too: They kept our glasses full and our behinds planted in the slot machine seats.
We were out late, but we got up at 9 am to get down to the pool. It was going to be a strange day: We had arranged for a late check-out (translation: we paid an additional $30 for an additional 3 hours) and would have to be out of our room at 3 pm. Our flight, however, didn’t leave until that evening (technically Friday) at 12:35 am.
So anyway, we went to the pool! Since we hadn’t reached a beach in San Diego, and it wasn’t even warm enough there anyway, I was desperate for some pool time. It opened at 9 am, and we were down there no later than 9:30: most of the chairs were gone at this point. We snagged a few and settled in.
We did some top-notch people-watching, and I had a Miami Vice for breakfast (it’s VACATION). The pool here is lovely. The waterfalls provide relaxing ambient noise, and they don’t let the water get too warm. It’s beautifully landscaped, and there are plenty of servers milling about, ready to deliver to your pool chair any dish or frozen concoction you could imagine. It was just what I needed.
But alas! We had that pesky check-out time! We ran upstairs, cleaned up, packed up, and headed back out to the strip. It was a beautiful, hot day.
Paris isn’t my favorite hotel (what do you mean I’m not outside?), but it sure adds something to the Vegas skyline.
Here we are standing at the Bellagio, facing the strip. These are the famous dancing fountains. They are absolutely worth a viewing, or ten. I’ve seen them before, but I was surprised at how delightful I found them. They are beautiful. Better at night, surely, but still charming in the daylight. They play all kinds of music — classical, country, big band — but I was bummed to miss out on some Sinatra or Dean Martin.
We spent some time at several casinos that day. We also popped into Bellagio’s Botanical Gardens, which was totally worth it. I don’t have pictures, unfortunately, because the whole space is overwhelming. There is no way my puny little phone could do it justice. Go: The flowers and sculptures are whimsical, perfectly executed, and so cheerful.
We continued to wander, before settling into the Cosmopolitan again for more fun slot machines. We enjoyed a few drinks before heading back to the Mirage to collect our bags, and then to the airport for our late flight. Vegas was a whirlwind, which I’m sure is a common experience. I’d like to return for a few more nights: plan out more dinners, see a few shows, and spend a good several days baking by whatever pool is closest. You just need that sometimes.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Alexis, what did you eat that day!” We did indeed eat, but I’m leaving that restaurant out for good reason: food poisoning. Yes, I spent the whole, bumpy flight home as ill as I’ve ever been. And folks, in case you’ve ever doubted them, those air sick bags serve their purpose perfectly.
That’s all I’ll say about that! (Don’t worry: we’re better now!) We had considerable bumps in our traveling this go about the country, but that won’t stop us I’m sure. I don’t know where we’ll be headed next, but I promise you to still order and eat the most ridiculous thing on the menu, and report back. I’m committed!