Vegas Part II

Link to Part I

On Friday night, we went to the Stratosphere for dinner, which might well be the single most expensive meal I have ever had. Gail and I got the “dinner for two“, which was one price for two appetizers, chateaubriand for two, and a dessert to split. We had a Caesar salad and the lobster bisque, both of which were excellent. Our chateaubriand was rarer than Gail likes, but Jeff and Kerri also got the dinner for two, and theirs was more well done than ours, so Jeff and I split the medium-rare one while the girls split the well-done one. The dessert was a Chocolate Stratosphere (see picture), which was basically a sculpture of the Stratosphere itself made out of chocolate on top of chocolate sauce, with vanilla sauce drizzled on top. Yum.

Our final bill only had three items on it:

Dinner for two: $170
Tea: $3.50
Tea: $3.50

The food was outstanding, and the view was pretty amazing as well. It’s a fair ways from the rest of the big hotels on the Strip though. We took the monorail to the northernmost stop and then walked about ten minutes to get there, but it certainly wasn’t the nicest part of town that we were walking through. I didn’t think it was that bad, but some of our group were downright frightened. It’s just too bad that they didn’t build the Stratosphere a little further south, so it was more in the middle of the Strip instead of way at the north end. The views of the Strip would have been even better.

After the Stratosphere, we visited Fremont Street, which Gail and I missed on our last trip. This is where the older casinos are, along with the famous neon sign with the cowboy. They’ve modernized it by adding this huge video display board that acts as a mile-long ceiling covering the entire street, and they have these cool video shows every hour or so. Apart from that, though, we didn’t find Fremont St. all that interesting. Just more casinos and hotels, none of which are as interesting (or anywhere near as big) as anything on the Strip.

On Saturday night, we took a shuttle bus from Paris over to the Rio, which is just off the strip. We had dinner at an Irish pub before taking in the Penn and Teller show. If you’ve never seen Penn & Teller and you like magic or comedy or both, I highly recommend it. They seem an unlikely pair – Penn is exceptionally tall (his Wikipedia entry says he’s 6′ 6″ but he said during the show that he was 6′ 7″) with a three-inch goatee (no moustache) and a long ponytail and never stops talking, while Teller is 5′ 9″ and clean-shaven with short hair and didn’t say a single word while on stage (we sat close to the stage and I did hear him talk to one of the audience members who was helping out). As magicians, they are two of the best, but they’re extremely funny as well. Unlike David Copperfield, who seems to want you to believe that what he’s doing is real magic, these guys will be the first to tell you that there is no magic – everything they’re doing is misdirection in one form or another. They stop short of telling you exactly how the tricks are done, but they do drop more hints than other magicians. At one point, Penn begins a trick by saying only “This next trick is done with a piece of thread” and then walking off-stage. Teller then appears to make a ball follow his hand around and jump on its own, but even “knowing” that a piece of thread is involved, we were still mystified as to how it worked. Another trick involved a light projecting a silhouette of a flower onto a piece of paper on an easel. Teller then took a knife and cut leaves and petals off of the silhouette, while the leaves and petals dropped off of the original flower. He then “cut” his hand and while no blood could be seen on his hand, the silhouette of his hand had blood dripping off of it. When he wiped his hand on the paper, bright red blood showed up on the paper while his hand was still undamaged.

Incidentally, if you get there early, check out the jazz duo opening the show. We were in the fourth row on the same side as them, and had a good view. Both the piano player and the stand-up bass player are excellent musicians, but the bass player seemed to be trying to hide his face (with the long goatee) from the audience. He was also exceptionally tall.

Sunday morning, Nicole and Steve took a cab to the airport to pick up two rental cars – both Dodge Chargers – and we drove out to Hoover Dam, about 45 minutes away (or, as it turns out, an hour and a half if you take the wrong highway). First off, I always thought that Chargers were so-called “muscle cars” but if that was a muscle car, then I’m the world’s foremost tech blogger. Maybe there’s a V8 version that’s more powerful, but the 6-cylinder models we got were pretty gutless – and that comes from someone who drives a Sunfire. The dam itself is pretty impressive, as is the way they constructed it. They had to dig four mile-long tunnels to divert the water from the river, then build the dam itself, then plug the tunnels. The tunnels took almost as long to build as the dam, and there’s enough concrete in the dam to pave Rhode Island. They poured concrete 24/7 for almost three years to build it. I could go on and on spouting off facts about the dam, but that’s all available online. Similar to the Grand Canyon, reading about it and seeing pictures of it are interesting enough, but you can’t really appreciate the size and scope of it until you actually see it. Suffice it to say that if you ever go there, the full tour is highly recommended.

A new City Centre complex is being built right on the Strip, between the Monte Carlo and the Bellagio, which consists of several hotels and (gasp!) casinos, as well as some buildings with apartments and condos (can you imagine living right on the Strip?) and even a grocery store. Right now the whole thing just looks like a big eyesore. There are a number of buildings all crammed together and they seem to employ different architectural styles (some buildings are, by design, not completely vertical), and the whole thing is just ugly. Hopefully, that’s just because of the construction and when they’re done it will be better, but I’m not hopeful.

Anyway, a good time was had by all in Sin City. Mental note: remember for the future that there’s no such thing as a “cheap trip to Vegas”.


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