Las Vegas, Here We Come

We got up on Wednesday and had some breakfast. There are no pictures, so I can’t tell you if what we had or where we had it. We checked out of our overpriced, postage stamp sized room at the Hyattand went to the airport. We returned the car. Enterprise has a slick system. You drive up with your rental car. They check you in right there and you are done. No lines to wait in after returning the car.

We checked in with Southwest so we could drop our bags. Then we made our way to our gate and were on our way to Las Vegas. When we arrived we got our bags and called an Uber. It’s a quick drive to the Mandarin Oriental. I don’t like to stay in hotels where I have to go through or by a casino. I get way overstimulated and then I get cranky because of all the disgusting cigarette smoke. The Mandarin has awesome rooms and stellar service and such a calming atmosphere. It is expensive but worth it. What can I say? I am a hotel diva.

After checking in we took our bags to our room. We were starving. It’s possible that we only had coffee, tea and pastry for breakfast. We decided to have lunch at MOzen Bistro, one of the restaurants at the Mandarin. The capital O is not a typo. That is the way they spell it. It was quite a good lunch and great service to match.

I think I had some chicken. It was a pretty large serving for lunch.

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Zung had a Bento Box. And I see wine in this picture, which is no big surprise.

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I’m not sure what we did after lunch. I think we might have done some shopping. We came back to the hotel so Zung could get a nap before dinner.

The Mandarin has a Moët vending machine in the lobby. For $25 they will give you a special coin for the machine. They also give you a sipper attachment. I have always wanted to get some champagne from this vending machine because it is such a fun idea.

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We went up to our room where a surprise cupcake awaited us. When we had checked in they asked if we were celebrating anything and I said my birthday, which is in about a week. So I had bubbles and a cupcake. This trip was definitely looking up.

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Zung took a nap and I caught up on Facebook and took a nap also. The Mandarin has nice, comfortable beds and this encourages sleeping!

When we both were awake we got ready for dinner, which was going to be at a restaurant at the Crystal shopping mall nearby. It’s the one that has all the designer shops, which are fun to look at but out of my price range. Well, except for the shoes. But you know that.

We headed over for dinner. The restaurant was open to the shopping mall. I was way overdressed for it, but remember, I had planned to be dressing for Napa. I probably would have been overdressed for most restaurants in Napa too, but I don’t care. I dress to make myself happy and don’t care how other people are dressed. Within reason. I don’t want to be wearing an evening gown where everyone else is wearing jeans. Unless it’s Frasca because almost everyone wears jeans there. And it would be a toned down evening gown. Not one with a lot of beading or sequins. Maybe some sequins though.

But I digress. I have a digressing habit.

We weren’t wowed by the food at the restaurant, Mastro’s. It billed itself as a steak and seafood restaurant. Nothing was bad, and nothing was really good. In all fairness, last night’s dinner was so amazing, most meals would pale in comparison.

This was also one of those restaurants that tries to make up for quality with quantity.

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Travel days are always tiring, so we went back to our room to finish the wine and so I could soak in the awesom tub.

Tomorrow we were going to our friend’s, Chris and Nita, for breakfast. Chris and I went to high school together. However we get along better now than we did then. We always look forward to seeing them.

We reconnected on Facebook. Gotta love Facebook!

 

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Day 2 of the Change of Plans Vacation

I didn’t take any notes during this trip, so everything is from memory.  And pictures. Thank goodness for pictures.

Thank goodness for Yelp. I don’t know what I did before I discovered Yelp. Mostly I use it for restaurants, although I have used it for other things too. I try to leave reviews too. Gotta give back.

On a trip that is not in your regular neighborhood, it’s really a valuable tool.

So, I checked my trusty Yelp and found a place for breakfast that we could walk to. It was a crepe place. Their system was a little confusing. There was a line, so we got in that. We could see them bring food out to the tables. But it appeared that the vast majority of the tables had  numbers, both occupied tables and vacant tables. When it was our turn to order she asked what table number we had. They wanted you to claim a table and then tell them what it was when you ordered. Zung went and got a table and I ordered.

Zung got his coffee. And…

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Why look at that! I appear to have a mimosa. Now this is what I call a vacation. This is my first mimosa of the vacation. Unless I had one yesterday at lunch. And if I did, I can’t remember it now.

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The crepes were good. Worth the wait and it’s always nice to have something different.

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This one must be Zung’s because it has lot’s of vegetables in it.

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After breakfast we went back to the hotel and Zung called Southwest to change our flights, and I booked us for the Mandarin Oriental in Vegas. I also sent a message to our friend Chris, who lives with his wife in Las Vegas, to see if they were available to get together.

Then we walked to the Museum of Modern Art. I am not a huge museum afficiando. As museums go, it was fine. We did see this on the way, and it looked like it should have been part of an art exhibit, but it was on some random street.

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It is in black and white because I used it for my Facebook black and white challenge. That is where you post a black and white picture once a day for seven days, and you don’t use any words to describe it. I can’t remember if you weren’t allowed to have any people in the picture. It was fun going through my pictures and trying to find ones that made a good black and white.

After the museum we went to Nieman’s for afternoon tea.

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I always get the champagne. Why, of course I do. Hey, I was supposed to be tasting wine all day, not looking at weird stuff that’s called art. Give me a break.

Afternoon tea at Neiman’s is always a treat. Today was no exception.

Zung went back to the hotel to take a nap. I went to DSW, because the Union Square DSW is epic. I found a pair of cute shoes. Well, of course I did.

I had made reservations for dinner at a place I had heard about several before. Nicholas said it was supposed to be good.

We took an Uber to the restaurant, Night Bird. It is described as a boutique restaurant. It was pretty small. There was a tasting menu, but they did make some alterations because of my food intolerance and preferences. I have a weird intolerance because I can’t consume milk or cream or soft cheese products like cream cheese, sour cream, etc. I can have butter and harder cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, etc. They wanted to give me something with mushrooms. I hate mushrooms. So they nixed the mushrooms.

I was starting to feel very high maintenance , and while I probably am, I try not to be obnoxious about it. They made me a really lovely dish and the whole meal was amazing. One of the best meals I’ve had in San Francisco, which is saying a lot because I’ve eaten in some pretty damn good restaurants in San Fran.

They did give us a menu, but they said it was sealed and we could open it or just see what was brought out. We chose to be surprised.

The joke on us was that we took it home to show Nicholas and I realized the menu was on the back, so we could have simply flipped it over to see it.

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Everything was so good and if you get the opportunity to eat here, go! I also want to mention the service because as far as we could tell, there was only one server for the entire restaurant and he did a phenomenal job.

Tomorrow we headed to Vegas. All in all, today had turned out pretty well.

 

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Our trip to Napa – that wasn’t

This is going to be the ultimate spontaneous trip report.

We decided that we were long overdue for a trip to Napa. Zung was going to be in northern Cali in October for racing. We decided this was a great time to make that trip. I would join him when the racing was over. I’d fly into San Fran and he’d pick me up and we’d drive to Napa, our second most favorite place in the world. Actually, I love Napa as much as I love Mexico. Although it did kick my ass when we were there last month.

On a side note, Zung was racing in the Western States NASA championships. He races his BMW M3 on a road course. That means there are lots of turns, as opposed to an oval. Not to brag, but he took first place.

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Monday arrived and I got up at o’dark o’clock and turned on the news, like I always do. I was getting ready when I heard something about a fire in the Napa valley. I only paid half attention to it. Okay, maybe it was a quarter of attention. You know how it goes “that’s not where I’m going.”

I got to the airport and got a message from a friend with a link to an article about the fires in Napa Valley. It was five miles from the town of Napa, which is where our hotel was. These were some big, nasty, take no prisoners fires. I sent Zung a text asking if he knew about the fires and suggesting that he should call the hotel,

Then I boarded the plane.

I chatted with my seat mate about where we were going in Cali and she shared that she was going to meet her nephew who was getting out of prison, which he had been in for second degree murder. Geez! How do you respond to that? I was glad when we landed,

Zung had not replied to my text, so I called him. He said that all the roads going to the Napa area were closed and the hotel was not checking people in. Although they had not been evacuated yet. He had gotten us a room for the night at the Grand Hyatt in Union Square. We’d stayed there before when we’d been in San Fran, visiting our son, Nicholas. It’s a great location when you want to visit San Fran. Which was NOT what we had planned.

We had to quickly come up with a Plan B.

He picked me up and we drove to the hotel and checked in. It was crowded! The lady who checked us in said that a lot of the people had been evacuated from the Napa Valley hotels. She kindly asked if we wanted to book a room for the following night, since they only had 2 left. It was available for the bargain price of $719. No refunds. The first night was $500.

This was killing me because the hotel in Napa had been paid for with credit card points. We didn’t see any alternative though.

We finished checking in.

In the elevator, I could smell the smoke from the fires.

We took our luggage to our room and then went downstairs to the restaurant for lunch.

I didn’t want to stay in San Fran. Been there. Done that. Don’t like this city. It’s too big, too crowded and not enough sunshine.

I suggested that we drive to Las Vegas. I was thinking it was a 4 hour drive, like it is from LA. Wrong!

We went back to the room and turned on the TV. The coverage of the fire was constant. It was so sad to see the devastation of a place we loved so much. If that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t get ahold of my brother, who lives with his kids in Santa Rosa. There had been 7 deaths there.

I finally heard from him the next day.

We booked dinner reservations on Nicholas’s recommendation. It was ok. Big and noisy. Mediocre service, better food. Not a place I would return to.

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We had to stay the two nights that we had paid for. After that, we were flying to Vegas.

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What I’ve Learned From My Trip to Napa – January 2018

Zung and I took Nicholas, our oldest son (31) to the Napa Valley right after New Year’s. It was a redo of our trip we were supposed to take there during the week of the fires. I am not going to do a full trip report of it. But I did learn a few things that I wanted to share
1. Don’t make early tasting appointments. That only works on the first day.
2. Drink water, drink water, drink water! Lots of water.
3. No more than two appointments a day. Even if I was able to do this in the past. This can decrease with age. And apparently has.
4. Eat breakfast, eat lunch, and eat at any winery that offers food.
5. There is an inverse proportion to how Disney-esque a winery is with how good the wine will be.
6. The drought is over. When it says it’s going to rain, it really is. Take an umbrella.
7. Be careful, there will be a hole in your pocket at the end of the day. The wines taste better at the end of the testing, when they ask if you want to buy anything.
8. Leave time for a nap at the end of the day.

 

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Time to Go Home

We wake up pretty early. It is our going home day. The going home day is always sad. There’s no denying it. So, I’m sad.

We go to breakfast. I’m not going to tell you where because if you don’t know that by now then you are definitely going to fail the quiz at the end. I’m just kidding. There is no quiz.

We sit in Azael’s section and he asks if I want Chillaquilles. Since it’s my last opportunity to have Grand Chillaquilles, which are the best, I say yes. However, today they are not the best, they are soggy and I don’t eat much. Azael notices and asks what’s wrong. When I tell him that they are soggy, he offers to have them remade, but I say no. It’s ok. I go get some fruit and say goodbye to Olivia.

It is getting cloudy. We walk back to room and pack. The heavens open up and it pours. The heavens are sad that we are leaving too.

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Eventually the sun comes out and we go out for a bit.  I have two mimosas. I go in the water, well, my feet go in the water. I say goodbye to the ocean and promise to be back soon.

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We go back to shower and get done with everything earlier than we expected to, so we call the bell boys and ask if they can come early. It’s just too sad waiting for them to come, knowing there is nothing we can do to prevent our vacation from ending.

The saddest moment is when I put my watch back on.

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I leave a tip for butlers. I always tip the butler who checks us in $20, but after that I only tip when they give us a golf cart ride somewhere. There are several that take care of us, and I’m never sure who did what. They really did a great job of helping to make Zung’s birthday celebration memorable and I want to acknowledge that.

We go to La Brisa for lunch. Then we make the sad walk to the lobby.

Lander and Rafael come out of one of the offices just as we are walking by. It was almost like they were watching a secret camera because they came out at exactly the right time. We tell them it was really an amazing visit and we look forward to the next one.

We go to the front desk and check out. Canada Tranfers came at 1:30 and left. I had requested they come at 2:30, so I call and he says he will be back.

We go to bar and drink champagne while we wait. Canada Transfers gets there about 25 minutes later. I show him email confirming 2:30. This is the only time that I have had any problems with them.

We get to the airport in plenty of time and check in. We go to our gate. However they have us get on a bus to go to the plane. They tell us to get on the bus in order because Southwest boards by boarding position and then you choose your seat. When we get to the plane I wait for the people who got on the bus in front of me to get off first. There is a stupid woman who asks me while I’m politely waiting, “are you going to go?” Apparently she wasn’t paying attention or was ignoring the instructions about getting on and off the bus. Whatever.

At the end of the flight, the flight attendants are told to take their seats early, then to take them immediately. That freaks me out a little. Thankfully the turbulence is not bad. Immigration goes really quick with the kiosk check in.

At the end of the day, or in this case, at the end of a vacation, Colorado is not a bad place to come home to.

I have been writing this blog for seven and a half years. I have always been wowed by the number of people that read it and that give me my rock star moments at the Grand. I am so happy that they tell me how helpful it was to their vacation decision and planning.

However,  I think it is time for me to take a bit of a sabbatical. At this point I have a solo trip I took in August that I took really good notes for. I also want to blog about our trip to Napa, that wasn’t because we arrived at the same time that those devastating fires did and how me punted. Finally, we have a mystery trip coming up next month. So, I am certain I will be back. I’m not even sure how long this sabbatical will be. I just know that I’m taking one. Until the next time, I hope you have a great start to 2018!

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