Our trip west provides a special kind of relaxation (but no formal unions, thanks for asking).
By Hannah Wallace
Schedule, Day 2
?? Wake up.
?? Do stuff.
7:30 p.m., Bouchon.
10:30 p.m., O.
Schedule, Days 3, 4, 5
Waking up well rested, we begin day two at the Mirage’s “Carnegie Deli.” CCB decides breakfast should not be immune from Vegas indulgences and orders a 10 a.m. cheeseburger. I order matzo brei because I’m feeling adventurous. And, apparently, Jewish. Thing 2 cancels out my kosher with a side of bacon.
Shopping is the theme of our activities today, but halfway through the Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops, we run smack into a stand selling half-yard mixed drinks. After strolling wistfully by stores devoted entirely to Christian Dior, Armani, Versace and Louis Vuitton, we shell out $40 for a foot and a half of mai tai. Because, hey, I can get Gucci anywhere, right?
And, honestly, the drink wasn’t that expensive if you take into account that they mixed a darn strong mai tai. When you’re good to Vegas, Vegas is good to you.
Thing 2 and I give Thing 1’s stand-in a sip of mai tai.
Yeah, the whole Vegas vacation was set to the Chicago soundtrack in my head. Go figure.
And so we wander around the Strip again, through MGM Grand and New York New York for a Nathan’s hot dog, and back to Casino Royale for more margaritas and slots.
CCB and I in front of that affront to all New Yorkers, the New York, New York casino.
Thing 2’s got a flight to catch, leaving CCB and me to clean up for our vacation’s one and only scheduled evening: dinner reservations at 7:30 to Bouchon, a fancy restaurant we saw on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations show, followed by the 10:30 performance of Cirque’s O at the Bellagio.
Bouchon doesn’t disappoint. I’m drawn in by an appetizer of vichyssoise, and CCB splurges on a foie gras pâté that comes sealed with clarified butter. Hello taste buds; goodbye left ventricle. After wallowing in that catatonic gluttony, the entrées of steak and lamb were nearly superfluous.
As for O…meh. I really like Cirque shows, but after the initial fun of the water and the synchronized swimmers, it becomes less impressive, I think, that none of the acrobatic feats end with graceful landings. And nobody juggles anything. Still: We get a personal backstage tour, where we learn, among other things, that the O pool has 1.5 million gallons of water.
Which leads me to an observation that no one seems to find as fascinating as I do, but it’s my blog, so nyah: Las Vegas’ obsession with water is ubiquitous and, like, primeval: the performance centered on a giant pool, the Bellagio fountains, the over-the-top pools and the tropic-themed venues—Treasure Island, Margaritaville. It’s just fun, I guess, to think that in this country, at this point in history, we could still be guided by such a basic, primitive longing. Like if Sarasota, without agreement or official proclamation, erupted in artificially made igloos and icicles.
It took me a moment to realize, in fact, that we weren’t in Florida, and all the palm trees and island-y, watery foofaraw in Vegas are actually acting out a dream, instead of just reflecting reality.
But oh, the bounty of the sea was truly present in the form of the Gold Fish slot machines. I win $100 on a nickel machine at the Bellagio. As much fun as a video game, and (usually) more lucrative—like if the coins in Super Mario Bros. were real. The Gold Fish is our hands-down favorite for the rest of the week.
Breakfast poolside at the Mirage.
My hockey-bruised leg looks like a punching bag with a clotting disorder. Do I care? I’ll let my 32-oz bloody Mary answer for me: “No. No she does not.”
The next day we hit the pool first thing and eat Mirage-logoed waffles in a surprisingly chilly outdoor café, then lounge in the sunshine. (The frigid pool itself isn’t even an option.) Today is “Old Vegas” day, and we catch a cab into downtown, the city’s first hub, a giant covered sidewalk of kitschy old casinos where we can play cheap roulette, eat cheap hot dogs and pull the arm on nickel slots that require actual nickels. We head back to the Strip that evening, and—because it’s required, says CCB—gorge ourselves on a culinary mishmash at the Mirage buffet.
For the next two days, it’s more of the same. In Vegas, there are no schedules to keep, virtually no limits to when you can do whatever you want to do (especially if what you want to do is…wander around, drink and play slots). I found it soothing, abandoning my mother’s meticulous stage managing gene like that. Plus, Vegas is like television: There’s always something to look at, especially if you don’t feel like thinking.
Eventually, we arrive back in Tampa at midnight, exhausted, greeted at the airport by Coach Mr. Harrible. “All right, lemme see your hand,” he commands me first thing. Confused, I show it to him. “OK,” he says to my bare fingers. “They had a pool going.” I guess that he was looking for ink from being fingerprinted. “What, to see which of us would get arrested first?” I ask. “No,” he says. “We bet you’d come back married.”
Right, as if my father didn’t hate Vegas enough already. And what a wonderful way to spend our honeymoon, being bludgeoned by my parents. No thanks. When I plan a week of mindless, indulgent gluttony—not to mention gambling—“wedding vows” aren’t the first things that come to mind.