Low Budget Review Guy on Las Vegas, Part 1

On October 12, 2010, in Travel, by admin

This was the 4th trip for  me to Vegas in the last 12 months.  I am still not tired of this fascinating city.  This was our annual fall trip we take with great friends Jay and Karen and marked the 7th ( 8th ?)year in a row.   We always stay in different hotels making each year a different experience.

This year we stayed a VDARA, one of the new hotels at City Center, a vast collection of hotels, shops, restaurants packed between Bellagio and Monte Carlo on the strip.  This is a completely non-smoking hotel, which was very much appreciated.  This hotel has only one restaurant, one main bar, (not counting the pool area) and no casino.  It is blissfully peaceful, serene, quiet.  The staff is attentive and responsive.  This is not a hotel for the budget traveler. There is an electric tram that connects it to several resorts.  The rooms are all suites, with a small, but efficient kitchen area, a living room area with couch, several chairs and large flat screen TV.  That area is separated from the bedroom and  bath, by the entertainment center holding the TV.  The king size bed was very comfortable.  The large bathroom had a tub and separate shower area.  The room had numerous electronic gadgets that were mostly wasted on us.   We never did figure how to get the nightstand lights to work.   The view from the huge windows was simply amazing.  We had an unusual north view from our 30th floor room.  We could see the mountains to the west, the Strip to the east and could see the pool area of Bellagio and had a 75% view of the Fountains at Bellagio.  Numerous times we just opened the shades to see the spectacular fountain show.  One night, Jay and Karen brought a bottle of wine and appetizers for happy hour and we set our chairs to look out our windows at the view.  That is the first time in all my 20+ years of Vegas I have ever done that.

The pool area is small, but very pleasant, and graceful.  The hotel is very much a modern-design lover’s place.  The sculptures, the layout, the fixtures, the carpet and flooring, the lighting, are all modern and impressive. The only negative grade VDARA gets is the bar.  Prices in Vegas are high, food and beverages, unnecessarily so.  Cocktails in Vegas start at $10, and go up from there.  Sometimes you can find a happy-hour with half-price or two for one, but at what they charge, the mark-up and profit-margin are huge.  VDARA charged $14 a drink.  For specialty cocktails to the house Chardonnay. Really?  $14 for a house Chardonnay?  Needless to say, one visit was more than enough.

As we arrived late in the morning, after checking in at the hotel, we went to lunch at Diablo’s, one of our new favorite hangouts in Vegas. It is perched right on the street, connected to the Monte Carlo.  This is a two-story open-air establishment with great views for people watching as they stroll up and down the Strip.  While their menu prices are high, you get a lot of food and they have outstanding Mango Margarita’s.  They also had a $5 margarita special going, so what can you do?  Ya gotta take advantage of it….After relaxing that afternoon, Saturday night brought us to our favorite Italian restaurant in Vegas—Pasta Mia.  Located in a strip center a few miles west of the strip past the Palms, this restaurant looks unimpressive from the outside, but a delight inside.  The cozy dining room with its white linen tablecloths, the pictures on the walls, the music on the sound system (Sinatra, Tony Bennett, etc) always makes us feel welcome.  The wait staff is impressive, knowledgeable and attentive.  But the food, well that is what we are there for.  Outstanding.  I had the best Chicken Marsala I have ever tasted.  Jay and Karen love the Gnocchi.  This is worth the trip off the strip. (See other recent posts about this restaurant)

Sunday morning, we walked over to the Bellagio to enjoy their fall decorations.  We then walked over to Paris and their French Bakery for some hot tea and a morning pastry, a pear muffin with walnuts. Delicious.  After playing some slots and getting my football bets down at the sportsbook, we met Jay and Karen for the day’s adventure.  After an early lunch stop at In-and-Out Burger, one of our Vegas traditions, we drove 45 min west to the small town of Pahrump to visit a winery we had seen advertised.  The beautiful buildings and grounds were well maintained.  The winery offered several free tastings as well as a more substantial tasting flight for $5.  We enthusiastically participated.  The wines were very nice and several bottles were purchased.  On the way back, we stopped in the little town of Blue Diamond, a quirky little place with a population of about 350, a library, two nice city parks, one general store, where we always stop and get snacks.  There was a house for sale, that we had seen on an earlier trip and was having an open house, so we stopped and checked it out.  Nice place, built in the 1940’s.  Large, shady, back yard with a pool.  Unfortunately, still had a California/Las Vegas price tag. (Editors Note:  We acknowledge that that prices in CA and LV have fallen dramatically, but this house just did not get it, it is an estate sale and the kids are trying to ring our the estate for every penny they can get….house has been for sale since April.) On the way out we saw 6-7 wild burros that like to hang out in Blue Diamond.  There is a spring in the town, so the animals like the availability of fresh water and greenery.  The burros are generally not shy around tourists and numerous pictures were taken up close and personal.

The rest of the trip will be recounted in Part 2, to be submitted later.

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