ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Big Night at the Bellagio

There’s nothing quite like the Bellagio. She stands back from the hustle and bustle of the Strip, protected by the waving arms of her fountains. When you step into her looby, which by the way, is free of gaming tables, the Chihullys on the ceiling let you know you’ve enter the Queen of the Strip.

We were in a bit of a hurry, not only to make it in time for the Cirque du Soleil show, but we had friends who’d arrived in Las Vegas for a trip of their own and had tickets to O at the same time we did. We made our way to the theater and by luck ran right into them. The show was starting in minutes and Kathi needed to potty, so we hugged and promised to meet up after the show.

Café Gelato

This should have been a signal to slow down, right. We were at the theater and the doors were open. We should go claim our seats, right? Au contrare!! I had earned a bogo award from My Vegas Slots for Cafe Gelato. That’s one award Bill wasn’t going to go unredeemed!

So we hustled off down the cavernous halls of the Bellagio to find Café Gelato. It was a beautiful place in the style of an old fashioned ice cream shop. They weren’t overrun with patrons, but it wasn’t exactly empty, either. I stood on one foot and then the other, wishing the dipper lady would dip a little faster. Our turn came and she dipped us servings of stracciatella. I’m not big on gelato, so Bill laid claim to both servings. I did have a few bites and they were wondrous.

It was past time to hoof it back to the theater. We zoomed into our seats and finished up our gelatos. The Main Event was about to begin.

O by Cirque du Soleil

If you’ve never gone to a Cirque du Soleil show, then you are missing out on a treat. They do not begin with the curtain going up. Instead you notice strange creatures wandering throughout the auditorium. Some interact with the audience. Others act out little vignettes with fellow cast members.

Eventually work their way to the stage where more of the cast file out across the apron. Suddenly, you realize the lights have gone all the way down and you realize the show actually began when the first cast member appeared in the audience.

Once, during a show in Dallas, Bill was drawn out of audience onto the stage and coerced to ride a bike during the warm up, but this time we strategically chose to sit somewhere out of the limelight. We also knew better than to sit down front where we’d get wet.

There is usually a strange sort of plot that loosely weaves the activity together, but don’t expect to understand exactly what it is, because nary a word is spoken and odd things will occur on the stage. You’ll understand who the main character is, but you’ll also understand they are confused as you are.

If all that sounds a bit weird, don’t worry. You’ll spend the entire show so mesmerized by the acrobatic and aquatic antics of the strangely costumed players on the fantastical stage sets, that the plot doesn’t really matter. The earliest Cirque shows did not have water. They kept their audience agog with acrobatics and costuming. With O, they added the water element and it was so well received they’ve figured out ways to include it in shows, even when they don’t have access to the amazing stage at the Bellagio.

There’s no way to fully explain the drama added by the water element. One moment the stage is just that, a traditional stage with oddly costumed characters cavorting on it. Then in the blink of an eye, characters are diving into the water from great heights or the stage itself will tilt up and somehow the characters are fighting a battle all atilt. I’m always exhausted when it’s all over, but that never keeps us from enjoying the show, wherever we happen to go to it.

Our big night at the Bellagio wasn’t over with the curtain call. Come back next week for more fun at the amazing resort.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Las Vegas High Life

Travel There – Riding High on the High Roller

Without air and accommodations to pay for, our big spend for Vegas was O by Cirque du Soleil at Bellagio, but we had other things to do before the show!

First up, the High Roller! I’d felt so wise when I bought a Big Bus package with two days of Hop Off/Hop On, the Night Tour and the High Roller. Well, you know how the Hop On/Hop Off went and I was too exhausted to do the Night Tour, so I wasn’t expecting much from the High Roller. I figured it was money down the drain.

We were all gussied up for our evening at the Bellagio when we arrived at the High Roller ticket office. We were dismayed to find their lobby chock full of people, standing in a line that snaked back and forth for several layers. What was worse was that there was no short line for people like us who had already paid and just needed to pick their tickets. We had to stand in line FOREVER with people who just happened by – people and their 47 kids. This was the biggest crowd we’d seen so far in Sin City.

I was not happy and my expectations were not being met. We’d allowed what should have been plenty of time with a will-call receipt, but the cookie was not crumbling our way. I was anxious as we creeped along towards the cashiers, hoping our package deal wasn’t going to ruin our big night out. We got our admission passes at the last possible moment, just before we had to walk away, and the wheel was about to turn, so we hotfooted it up the stairs and into our High Roller gondola.

Now truth be told, I would never have signed up for the High Roller on my own, but it was part of the package and I thought Bill might like it. Being somewhat acrophobic I don’t go around looking for high wire experiences, so with the exception of the Texas Star at the State Fair of Texas, I haven’t been on any of these new fangled Ferris wheels which are popping up all over the place.

I edged to the middle of the gondola, found a place to perch and held on for dear life. Bill, of course, stood with his nose inches from the glass. Despite my fears it was quite a lovely experience. Thank goodness we’d scored a gondola without any rowdy kids, so it was actually serene as we were pulled up into the sky.

We’d come at twilight, when the lights of the big city had just begun to twinkle, but there was still a little light in the sky. When the ride was over, it was full dark. We’d timed it just right.

As soon as we hit the ground, the serenity disappeared. It was almost time for O! I trotted across the Linq and down the Strip as fast as my kitten-heled black peau de soie slides would allow.

Come back next week for our Big Night at the Bellagio!

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Shades of Amsterdam

Travel There – Jane Faces the Kiosk and Loses

With the RTC discount card firmly in hand, our next hurdle was buying the three day pass we’d need to get around Vegas. The human who issued our senior discount card could not sell us tickets for the buses. We had to go outside and face the human-less kiosk. I am intimidated by kiosks. With humans, you can say oops, but kiosks don’t care.

Sometimes I do fine with the kiosks, like getting food coupons at the State Fair of Texas or when we bought subway tickets in Vienna. I was a total champ, but there will always be Amsterdam. That’s when Bill and I were nearly defeated by a phone with more slots than your average casino. To this day, I am convinced the hand of God reached down and saved us, because after trying our luck with various phones and various slots we were suddenly connected and I’m not sure why.

There have been other kiosks which won the battle – like the day we headed to Portland and ended up in Denver. It was the weather, not the kiosk, but the argument we had in the terminal was all about the kiosk.

And how about the first time I tried to tackle the Southwest kiosk. We ended up with boarding passes, but no luggage tags. An exasperated Southwest employee treated us like a couple of senior citizens who didn’t know the difference in dial-up and broadband. I like Medicare and senior discounts, but I’m not senile, yet. You can call me “ma’am” or even “honey” (which seems to be Millennial for old person) but don’t treat me as if I take my brains out and play with them.

As we trudged out to the RTC kiosk with our senior discount ID’s, I felt as if we were headed to a firing squad playing a game Russian Roulette for bus tickets. Would we get our tickets or be sent back to Dallas?

Pushing the Buttons for Tickets

I still can’t explain what happened, but suddenly, I was holding not one, not two, but three bus passes and each pass was for three days. Drat that kiosk!

I looked at Bill and he was as clueless as I was. He’d stood there coaching me through the transaction and he didn’t know how we’d ended up with three tickets either. We shrugged our shoulders and headed back into the Transit Station.

I reminded the attendant I hadn’t wanted to face down the kiosk in the first place and she was sympathetic, probably because she had those senior citizen prejudices, but there was nothing she could do for us, except give us a telephone number. Isn’t that always the case these days? You’re standing in the bank, looking at one of their employees, who hands you a phone number to call to deal with your issue.

Apparently, I’m the only idiot who’s ever had this problem, because the first few people we talked to didn’t know what to do about us. Eventually, we were transferred to a lady who could help, but even then, we had to read some number off the extra ticket and that was more difficult than you might imagine. The senior citizen thing kicked in, because Bill couldn’t see the number with any of the glasses we had with us.

Now, the extra ticket only cost us $10, but the whole reason we’d gone through this exercise in the first place was to save a little money and that $10 would have rendered our efforts useless, so we stood around in the Transit Station working out our refund.

The Most Fun We Had in Vegas

I told you at the beginning of this trip that Vegas wasn’t my kind of town, but let me illustrate for you just how much it wasn’t my cup of tea. Looking back, this adventure to the Bonneville Transit Center was my favorite part of the trip. There was an element of discovery. Bill and I laughed together about several of our other travel challenges, from evil kiosks to running out of gas coming back from Temple. We were having good old fashioned fun and for the most part, the rest of the trip was tinged with disappointments and Covid-related challenges, not fun.

Come back next week and we’ll start using the coupons I’d earned playing the My Vegas Slots app.

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Transit Adventure

Travel There – Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada

Bill and I usually get a rental car when we travel by plane. We like to avoid the hassles and constraints of public transportation, but what the heck are you going to do with a car on The Vegas Strip, except pay very expensive parking fees. So, I did a little research.

There’s a monorail and we’d used it extensively when we’d stayed at the Sahara attending a conference which was in the Venetian. It did a great job of getting us around then, but for the itinerary I’d put together, it wasn’t going to do us much good this time.

I looked into the Big Bus Tours which were so convenient and useful when I’d visited Chicago. More about them later, but for a tourist getting around Vegas, nothing seemed as convenient as the Deuce on the Strip! And guess what else!! I discovered Bill and I qualified for the senior discount. All we had to do was get to the Bonneville Transit Center and get a free Reduced Fare ID.

Once Bill had gotten in his nap and I’d moved into our room, we were ready to go see Vegas. First on our list was our senior discount!

From Paris to the Bonneville Transit Center

I am a timid user of public transportation. I always have visions of missing my stop and being forced to disembark in a ghetto, where I get mugged and perhaps caught in a drive-by shooting. I don’t know if Las Vegas has a ghetto or not, but I had a good map of the the routes in my hand and I was tackling the public transportation system with my handsome husband.

Another of my fears of public transportation is having the right thing to pay for my ride or coming to a point where I have to pay more and I don’t have cash or any form of payment they will accept. Irrational, of course, most fears are, but the ticket we got to take us to the Transit Center was good for two hours, certainly we could find it in that time without paying more – even if I had to get off and try again in another direction. And besides the street-side kiosks took credit cards.

Riding along in the Deuce, we craned our necks to see the sites along the like other tourists. After passing The Strat, we knew we were at the end of The Strip and that our destination was just a few stops away. Thanks to Bill we did get off at the right place. Dodging the busses to get to the building was dicey, but we made it.

Inside the station, they actually knew what we were talking about, which is always a plus. Often in my research I find something that no one but me knows about or they just did away with it a week ago, but not this time. We had our pictures taken and were issued with an ID card which would provide reduced fares until 12/13/2026.

If you are only going to be in Vegas for a couple of days, this is probably not worth the effort, but we used the heck out of the passes, so we thought it was great. If you’re one of those people who go all the time or you are staying for more than a couple of days, why wouldn’t you get it, if you qualify.

Now you’d think this was the end of this story and we’d move on to our next Vegas adventure, but not all my fears of public transportation are unfounded. Come back next week and see what happened next.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Our $22.50 Coffee Break

Photo by Quang Anh Ha Nguyen on Pexels.com

Travel There – Let the Las Vegas Sticker Shock Begin

Coffee is a very important substance in Bill’s life. I’ve found there are two kinds of coffee drinkers – the ones who just want coffee whatever form it comes in and then there are coffee drinkers like Bill. Of course, there is a particular strength of coffee he prefers and it must be hot, very, very, very hot. At home he actually heats his coffee in the microwave halfway through the cup to keep it hot.

But there’s more. He wants to purchase his coffee with minimal hassle, he wants a good pastry selection, he wants access to a variety of coffee accoutrements to doctor it to his flavor and there should be somewhere nice to sit and enjoy the coffee once he’s got it just like he wanted. Oh and by the way, the coffee should not cost an arm and a leg.

I’ve mentioned the predominance of slot machines and gaming tables in the lobby. There’s a lovely lobby bar, a full service restaurant, a pretty no-frills coffee shop and a stand-up coffee bar. And that’s it. No cozy sofas or easy chairs. No café tables. In fact, unless you want to play the slots, there is nowhere to just sit down and people watch.

Now Bill’s plan was pretty good. He’d scoped out both the coffee shop and the stand-up coffee bar and ascertained that both pastry choices and coffee beans were better at the stand-up option. His plan was to get his coffee and enjoy it in the Lobby Bar. What his plan did not take into consideration was the chains across the entry to the bar with the notice that only bar patrons were welcome there.

Now, I tried to point this out to Bill as we stood in line for our coffee, hot chocolate and brioche, but he wasn’t feeling very chatty. I got it. He’d been up and on the run since 5:30. He deserved to be left alone to enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee without his wife blabbering away about the attractions she wanted to see. Only I wasn’t trying to talk about what’s next. I was trying to keep him from making a tactical mistake.

So, when he got to the bar and encountered the chain across the entrance, he was not happy. Then, depending on his charm to get him what he wants, the way it usually does, he was irate at being turned away. He ended up drinking his very expensive coffee in the very boring coffee shop whose lights were too bright and whose décor was virtually non-existent – just white everything and no reprieve.

That he had paid $22.50 and the coffee was only mediocre didn’t help one bit. To be honest, the brioche wasn’t much either. The hot chocolate was fine, but in truth I would have preferred to have a Diet Dr Pepper. That wasn’t anymore of a choice to me than a seat in the lobby bar was to Bill.

So, trying to make the best of things, we did a little exploring. We found the spa and Bill discovered he could get free bottles of water there, which was the brightest spot we’d had in this vacation, so far. We found the very elegant wedding chapel, with multiple wedding venues. And we discovered the CLOSED pool area. There wasn’t even a hot tub we could access. I wasn’t feeling very good about our Vegas vacation at this point.

Back in our room we had business calls to field. Entrepreneurship has it’s drawbacks. Once everything was settled, I went about unpacking and getting us moved into the room. Bill took a nap. We’d been in Vegas for 3.5 hours when I sat down with my travel journal to record my impressions up to that point, then I took out one of the books I’d brought with me and waited for Bill to wake up.

Come back next week and enjoy the adventure we got into next!

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Vegas, Here We Come

Travel There – Getting There Is Not Half the Fun

There was a time when flying Southwest was a blast, but that was a long time ago. They’ve “improved” things since then. By flying Southwest you were doing a very Dallas thing and you were rooting for the underdog, both of which I loved. Now, it’s just another airline and the whole “no assigned seat” thing, which used to be sort of fun, has morphed into an absolute pain in the neck. The only thing Southwest has going for it, as far as we’re concerned, is that Love Field is a lot closer to Heath than DFW.

Thankfully, this was an easy trip. Early, but somehow they all seem to be. We sort of miscalculated the time, but it worked out ok, because we were able to walk from the car onto the plane with virtually no stops. At the Las Vegas end, the package we won included transfers, so with minimal hassle we were dropped off at the Paris resort to begin our vacation.

Welcome to Paris!

Though we were not guaranteed to have any particular resort in Vegas, they said it would be on The Strip and they asked where we’d like to say. I said Paris, because I always thought that would be a cool place to stay.

I’d been to Vegas before, but never for pleasure. Once, when Bill and I were on the way to California, he stopped in for some stock traders event at the Flamingo and we stayed off The Strip. Another time we stayed in the Sahara, also for a stock trader’s event. That was a bad choice. Cheap and convenient, but way past it’s days of glory. The only other time I was there, Bill had been in Iraq and I went to a convention with my sister-in-law. We somehow managed to stay at the Luxor and that was very nice.

I’d visited the Paris on one of those trips and for some reason had been impressed by it. I also liked the picture of the rooms I looked at after I knew that’s where we had been booked. Arriving for our stay, I couldn’t imagine why I’d been so impressed with the Paris in my previous visit. In my memory, the lobby had been grander and not stuffed in every corner with slot machines and gaming tables. I guess they had “improved” it at some point. At least the registration area held on to its grandeur.

It probably didn’t help that our van dropped us off at some ignominious back door, instead of the glitzy art nouveau main entrance. We had to drag our luggage all the way across the casino to find registration. That did not jive exactly with the entry into our glamourous Las Vegas vacation I had imagined.

It was still morning when we arrived and let’s face it, unless you’re up for a buffet, there’s not much to do. Bill was not up for a buffet, so we paid $56 for early check-in and my disappointment continued. Shabby chic was once a decorating trend, but these sad, worn out furnishings didn’t qualify and the trend has passed. Our rooms was sort of like a furnished apartment in a college town, but the furnishing had happened decades before and since then everything in the room had been abused. Even the carpet looked as if it should have been replaced several years ago.

However, it was clean, so we counted our blessings and reminded ourselves it was free. Had it not been, we would have probably demanded a refund and moved over to the Bellagio. We also had what must be the worst view in the hotel. We could only see the roof of the casino and all the equipment on it. We closed the curtains and went in search of some coffee.

Come back next week and have coffee with us in the Paris lobby.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

My Vegas Slots

Travel There – and Get It for Free

Shortly after I won the trip to Vegas I was getting my hair done and Loree, the goddess of hair, who also happens to be my friend, told me she would also be heading to Vegas soon. So we compared notes.

Her travel secret is Facebook Groups. She travels a lot and wherever she’s going, she finds a FB group or two to follow. I confess to being a FB dinosaur. If doesn’t happen on my Newsfeed, then as far as I’m concerned, it didn’t happen at all.

It’s not that I haven’t tried out groups before, it’s that there was entirely too much useless chatter and I don’t know these people! I don’t know their priorities or their taste or their budget. Why would I follow their advice?

In fact, I don’t pay much attention to all that recommendation/review noise on the internet. Even if I know you, you’re not going to be able to influence me much. For instance a relative told me not to stay at the Mena House in Giza or go to Alexandria. This is someone who has been to Egypt many, many times. They should know right?

Was she ever wrong! My stay at the Mena House was one of my favorites – ever. And Alexandria? She was right that it is past its former glory, but it was still a fascinating place to visit and we had a blast. The Royal Jewelry Museum there is one of best I’ve seen and it’s in a beautiful old mansion. So, rather than take folks’ recommendation, I do a lot of my own research, but chances are I won’t be reading your online review.

However, Loree didn’t give me any reviews, she told me about an app – My Vegas Slots. I shouldn’t get started on apps, but we’re there. You can keep your apps. Give me a good old guide book with maps any day.

Every time I allow myself to depend on an app, it lets me down. I don’t even trust a GPS. Too many times a GPS has sent me in the wrong direction or just flaked out at critical moment or took me to a place that moved or closed. And that’s just the GPS. Almost every time I try to use a travel app to get around a destination, it’s a disaster. I don’t know if that’s the app’s fault or mine, but it doesn’t work for me.

However, the app Loree was talking about wasn’t really a travel app. It was a game that paid out in free Las Vegas stuff. We downloaded it while I was in the chair and I had hundreds of thousands of points before I left her shop.

A New Obsession

The next morning I sat at my desk and took inventory of the free stuff I could supposedly win on the app. It was good stuff! Free meals, free drinks and even rides on the monorail.

The next trick was redeeming my points. While you can start playing My Vegas Slots without giving them any information, if you want to redeem anything, you have to give them all the usual stuff that helps hackers get into your life. The app is sponsored by MGM Resorts and all you’re actually doing is signing up for their Rewards Program and you do it on their site, so I did it.

I redeemed some of my points and I was hooked. Because I am me, I went through the entire catalog of prizes and listed them on a sheet paper, in order of my interest in them along with the number of points they’d take. After that, every free moment of my time my face was glued to my phone, playing the stupid slots games.

And when I got to Vegas, I used the coupons I earned. A free drink here, a bogo buffet there and a free gelato at the Bellagio. Yes, My Vegas Slots is legit and if you get serious about collecting and using them, you can certainly be a winner in Las Vegas without even going to the tables.

Come back next week and lets head out!