Sunday 18 May 2014

Las Vegas: Day Five

Our last day was a lot more leisurely then usual, since we had a later flight time. We used up the rest of our food making breakfast/snacks, and checked out by 9:30am. We returned the car, and got checked in at the airport. The Air Canada line was crazy, as it always is in the US. All the American airlines have multiple desks and many agents, whereas there is always a limited number of AC staff. The airport was busy as it was a Sunday, so security took a while. But we had some time at the terminal to get lunch and last minute souvenirs.

Uncle Beau and Aunt Honey were on a different flight going home, and had a stop in Montreal. They boarded before us, so we said our goodbyes at the gate. Our flight was overbooked, so it was a bit delayed. They weren’t really announcing the boarding over the speaker, instead talking at the gate. I can’t say for sure why they were doing this, but its almost as if they wanted a few people to miss the flight so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the overbooking problem.

We boarded fairly quickly, and kept the same seating order as the first flight – Dad and Amanda. G on the two seats by the window, and Mom, Amanda. S and I in the middle row. Amanda and I hate flying, so we occupied ourselves by listening to music and at one point, taking photos of us with mom all bundled up!

The flight wasn’t bad, just a bit turbulent. I was annoyed, as they look off with one of the overhead bins open. Fortunately, the guy sitting there had long arms and was able to hold it shut. That can be super dangerous, as anything in it can be propelled throughout the cabin during take off. As I said in a previous post, AC Rouge is clearly the low budget airline.

The people beside us -- how do you even sleep like that?
We arrived back in Toronto after 7:00pm, and customs/baggage were fine. The only problem we encountered was when we were ready to go home. We had used a car company to get to the airport and home, but when we got to the booth they weren’t there. They had had our arrival time wrong, and through we corrected it when we left with the driver, it never made it into the office. So the car came for us at 6:00am, and then naturally left. We ended up jumping into a cab at the airport, but that delayed our arrival home a bit.

It was a wonderful trip, with awesome people, but it was nice to be home. I love Vegas, but its definitely a place that is best in small quantities. I do look forward to going back, and hope its with the same awesome group!

Saturday 17 May 2014

Las Vegas: Day Four

Our last day in Las Vegas started a bit earlier then I would have liked, as mom called my room at 7:00am wanting me to come down and save pool chairs with her. Since Uncle Beau, Aunt Honey, the Amanda’s and I had been up until 3:00am playing the game, 7:00am felt super early. The way in which my mom was talking, I expected the pool area to be packed. So when I got down there and saw only five other people, I was a bit annoyed. But I got a coffee from the café, and sat down with her and started to wake up.

Slowly the other ladies joined us – first Aunt Honey, then Amanda. G and finally Amanda. S. I will note that my mom called all of them as well – just not as early as me! We spent the day relaxing by the pool in the 97 degree temperature! It was lovely!  The pool was busier since it was a Saturday, and this time there were a number of children – some of which weren’t well supervised and kept playing with the fountains and spraying other people. We went up to the café and brought lunch down with us, and basically spent the entire morning/early afternoon sitting in the lounge chairs or in the pool. Most of us got a bit burnt but we were happy to finally have come colour!

Dad and Uncle Beau spent the morning at a casino and came back around 1:00pm. The entire trip they had talked about getting all seven of us to play blackjack together at a low-cost table. I was intrigued as I had only played once, and Amanda. G was interested in learning. But it wasn’t really high on our list of must-dos. However since they kept talking about it, it became obvious it was important to the guys, so we planned to do it that afternoon. We came up from the pool and got changed, and headed out.

Our first attempt was at the Westin, which is off the strip. It’s a very small casino/hotel and is smoke free. Since it is so small, there were only a few black jack tables open so there wasn’t room for all of us. Then we tried the Rivera – which is a very old casino, and pretty run down. It’s much different then the newer casinos in terms of crowd and atmosphere. We had the same problem of not having room, so we decided to try one more. Circus Circus was across the street, so we walked there. Dad talked to the pit boss, who agreed to open a table for us, on the condition that we all played.

My dad, Uncle Beau and Amanda. S were the only seasoned players. Aunt Honey and my Mom, knew how to play, and Amanda. G and I were the novices. Dad helped Amanda and I, and Uncle Beau offered assistance to Aunt Honey and my mom. We only planned to stay for a bit, but ended up being at the table for almost 3 hours! It was a lot of fun, and most of us either broke even or where up a little but by the end. The funniest moment of the night came when a dealer asked how we all knew each other. We explained most of us were family, and how we were all related. Then Amanda. G quipped that we just “randomly found Amanda. S and her cat in the house.” It embarrassed Amanda a bit, but was hilarious since its pretty close to the truth! 

We had plans to visit the Venetian, Palazzo and Wynn casinos that night. Since we stayed at the tables so long, we were only able to do Palazzo and Venetian, making it my 3rd trip where I missed out on seeing the Wynn! (It just means I will have to go back again soon!)

We parked at the Palazzo and walked through that hotel, which is also gorgeous! It leads into the Venetian, which was a great way for Amanda to see two more casinos. We posed for a few photos by the gardens and fountains, and stopped at a few of the stores. We were all gambled out, so we just walked through the casino without stopping. We made our way into the Venetian, which is my favorite casino in Vegas. It’s so extravagant, and stunning, with the gondola’s being rowed through the inside canals.  

We walked through the shops, and over the quaint little bridges. We ate dinner at this awesome place that was in the main square. It was an Italian restaurant that acted like an outdoor café. Since the square was covered, with the ceiling painted with blue skies and clouds, it felt almost like we were outside in Venice. The food was delicious and the atmosphere very relaxing.

It was late by the time we finished, so Dad and Uncle Beau went to get the car and Mom, Aunt Honey and the Amanda’s and I walked up to the hotel. We wanted Amanda. S to see the grand hallway, with the paintings on the ceilings. Every time I see it, I am overwhelmed by how beautiful it all is. Though my dad has timeshare there, I do hope one day to stay in that hotel, as I bet it would be amazing!

On the way back to get the car, my dad and uncle ran into the Canadian comic Gerry Dee. I was a bit jealous, as I think he’s hilarious. They spent a few minutes talking to him, and then came to get us. We went back to the hotel and spent time packing up and getting ready to leave in the morning.

Friday 16 May 2014

Las Vegas: Day Three

Due to our late evening the night before, most of us slept in later then initially planned. I was up before the Amanda’s, so I went across the hall to see what was going on. Our initial plan was to all go out for breakfast, and then have a few of us go to the gun range. No one was really hungry yet, so we changed it to the gun range and then breakfast. It ended up just being Amanda G, Uncle Beau, Mom and I going to the range. We were slow to get moving, and got a bit lost on the way so we got there later then we planned.

The place we decided on was the “Las Vegas Machine Gun Experience”. They had a wide range of packages, one of which was a package in support of breast cancer called ‘Shoot for the Cure’ where you got to shoot a .22LR Rifle and a .22LR pistol, and received a pink tee-shirt! (plus, 10.00 went to a breast cancer charity so it was for a good cause!) This package seemed perfect for Amanda and I who were a bit intimidated. Mom and Uncle Beau went with the Nines package, and that included a 9mm sub-machine gun, and a 9mm pistol, plus a tee-shirt.

When we first walked in I was overwhelmed. There were guns all along the wall, hunting equipment throughout the store, and a number of people coming in and out. I am not quite sure what I had expected, but this wasn’t it! The woman behind the counter was quick to sense my apprehension – and Amanda’s – and reassured us that it was perfectly safe, and that children under twelve shoot there all the time. Not to get all political, but I didn’t find that fact reassuring – I found it horrifying. In my opinion, there is a huge difference between some adults visiting the gun-range on a vacation, where they are trying something new for the first – and likely only time, and children under twelve handling guns and shooting targets. But that is just my opinion, and one that seems not to be shared by many.

We signed the waivers – which in themselves were a bit scary and then met our range officer Darius. He was fantastic – very funny but detailed in instructions and guidelines. We were taught the proper way to hold and handle the weapons, as well as the policies and procedures. After going over everything, he got us set-up in our protective ear and eye gear and led in inside.

Going in was terrifying! It was jam packed with people, and all you could hear was the loud pops of the various guns/machine guns being fired. There were shell casings everywhere – and as someone completely inexperienced with shooting, I hadn’t expected this. He led us over to the booth we were going to use, and I somehow ended up being the first person to go. I started with the pistol. I had some trouble holding it at first, but with the help of Darius, I got the hang of it. We all took turns, and the overall process took about an hour. Within about 15 minutes of getting there, the place emptied out and it became much quieter and calmer. I found myself relaxing more when it was just our group inside the range.

Amanda's face sums up how we felt going in!

Darius got a bit flirty with Amanda!
We all enjoyed the experience, but that’s exactly what it was – an experience. None of us developed a deep love of shooting, or plan to take this up as a hobby. Instead it was a something to try while on vacation. We did have fun, and I am glad I tried it, but it’s not something I plan to do again.

After we finished, we picked up the others and went to Caesar’s Palace. We spent a while wandering through the shops at the forum, and had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. It was too late for our initial plan of breakfast, so lunch worked well. Plus, Amanda. G had been dying to visit the Cheesecake Factory, and have the avocado egg rolls. Caesar’s Palace is one of my favorite casinos and I love the overall ambiance and décor. We wandered into a few of the stores, and went up and down the curved escalators. While they are pretty amazing, being on them ins a strange experience! I’m not used to curving around while going upwards!

We went back to the condo and Amanda. S, Mom and I went to the pool for a couple of hours. We ended up at the adult one, which wasn’t as relaxing at the day before. It was crowded, with a ton of rowdy 20 year olds spilling their drinks in the water. We decided that the next day we would ensure we got up early to get our seats at the family pool!

That night Honey, Amanda, Amanda and I had tickets for the Britney Spears concert! And we were all super excited. It was my second time seeing her – I had been to one of her concerts when I was in High School. It was Amanda. S’s second concert ever – and her first one had also been Britney Spears. Aunt Honey wasn’t sure initially if she was going to come, but I just got her ticket and made her- I think she’s glad I did, as she really enjoyed it.  

Dad and Uncle Beau dropped us off at New York, New York and we walked down the strip. Amanda had a chance to see NYNY, MGM, and more of the strip. We made a stop at the M&M store which is always fun, and had a blast taking some photos of us with the characters. As we walked down to Planet Hollywood where the concert was, two different men called out to Amanda. G calling her ‘white chocolate’. It was so random and hilarious, that for the rest of the trip we referred to her that way!

We got into the concert about 40 minutes before it started, and it was packed. There were so many women there dressed either like Britney from a video, or in extravagant outfits. All of us felt under dressed, and under made-up in comparison. We spent some time in the lounge looking at the costumes on display, and the merchandise for sale. I bought a shot glass, and Amanda. G got a hat. Aunt Honey and I both got glasses of pink champagne which were $20.00 each! Apparently, the Britney residence is bringing in a ton of money for PH – especially in drink sales.

The concert started right on time, and was amazing. I don’t think concert is the right word for it, as it is very much a Vegas show. The technology, the AV aspect, the special effects and props were all incredible. I believe that for most of it she lip synchs, but that doesn’t matter! The sound, the dancing, and just the overall experience was awesome. It was one of the best shows that I have ever seen, and it was fantastic! All of us were singing and dancing along and had a wonderful time.
One thing that made us laugh was the handful of bored husbands/boyfriends who sat the whole time playing with their phones! If I ever managed to get Brian to attend a Britney show with me, that would totally be him!  My only issue is the same one I always have at concerts – as someone who is by no means tall, when everyone stands up my vision becomes limited. Venues need to start elevating their stages more for us short attendees! But regardless it was a great experience, and one I highly recommend to people visiting Las Vegas.

After the concert Dad and Uncle Beau met us outside (it’s a miracle they found us in the swarm of thousands of Britney fans!). We wandered through Planet Hollywood, through the shops and walkway, and then drove over to the Bellagio. We wanted both Amanda’s to see this, hotel/casino, and it was one I am not even sure if I had been to before.

We walked through the gorgeous gardens beside the lobby, which are magical. All these gorgeous flowers, and large visual art pieces. My dad pointed out that this was where his friends had had wedding photos done, and I could definitely see the appeal. The colours and variety are just stunning! As we walked through the casino, the ceiling was just as amazing – with these umbrella's hanging down. Brian has always said Las Vegas is a place he has no interest in, but I find it a beautiful place. Everything is just so thought out, and well designed that it can be breath taking.

We made it outside just in time to see the fountain show, which was fun. It’s a very Las Vegas tourist experience that every visitor should have. We walked along the strip to get back to our car, and headed back to the condo. It was near midnight at this point, but the Amanda’s and I invited Aunt Honey and Uncle Beau back to our room to play Cards Against Humanity. We stayed up until almost 3:00am, eating snacks and playing the game in our PJ’s. It was a really fun way to end the day! I’d take that type of evening over some loud crazy bar/club any day!