Trip Start Nov 12, 2008
Trip End Nov 15, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Thursday, November 13, 2008

   It was an early morning this morning with my 4:35 wakeup - walked my dog and I headed to the airport.  Thankfully everything was on time (Southwest comes through again!) and I arrived in Vegas around 10:45.  My luggage was there as well, along with my friend Claudia who got in a little sooner than I did.  So we walked out to grab a taxi for the short trip to the hotel, and amazingly enough even with the "poor" economy there was a line of 200 people waiting for taxis.  Ouch.  In the end, it took about 35 minutes of standing in line before we got a cab.
   Luckily, our taxi driver had a good sense of humor and a lead foot - a couple jokes about George Bush (which were enjoyed by all three of us at W's expense . . .) and some information about what was going on in Vegas.  We passed the new huge high-rise condo and mall complex being built between the Monte Carlo and the Bellagio - seven or eight massive high rise buildings.  We got to the Strip and pulled a very abrupt "u"-ey, fully equipped with a fist-shake and a swear from our friendly neighborhood cabbie-comedian to some poor, innocent family from Cornville, Nebraska.
   We pulled in to the unloading area for the exquisitely named Bill's Gamblin' (that's correct no "g") Hall & Saloon. It is a very small hotel, but it is in a great location.  It really is placed perfectly for great access to both the north and south ends of the Strip - right across from Caesar's Palace & Bally's, and diagonally across from the Bellagio - it is prime real estate!  Check-in is a breeze and we get our room on the second floor.  For $50 the room is great!  There is a sweet view of Bally's and the Fountains at the Bellagio - we can hear them when they turn on.  
   Once we got settled, we decided to head out and see what we could find.  I had already made a reservation at a restaurant at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay so we headed south along the Strip.  We passed Bally's and Paris, then Planet Hollywood.  The worst thing about walking through the Strip is the people flicking their damn sex fliers at you - "DUDE - I DIDN'T TAKE ONE FROM THE OTHER THIRTY IDIOTS BEFORE YOU.  NOT GOING TO TAKE YOURS EITHER.  THANKS!!"  It was nice when we finally broke through the mob of people wearing "GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! 20 MINUTES" on their shirts.
   We walked past the New York, New York, and then my sister's favorite (not) casino, the Excalibur. She coined it "Disneyland on crack" and that is a very accurate assessment.  After getting harangued by someone demanding that I take my wife to a show for free (my wife? Claudia and I had a good laugh on that one) we walked to the Luxor.  Outside I found a perfectly placed spotlight to display my best side.  We continued through the Luxor to THEhotel, and found Mix, where we had that reservation for some well-deserved food!!
   There is a specific elevator that goes to Mix - on the 62nd floor.  It has one of the best views of the Las Vegas Strip, hands down.  So up we go in what feels like Willy Wonka's Glass Elevator to the top; it opens up into a foyer with a viewpoint to the right with plenty of room for watching the lights of Las Vegas.  This is part of the bar at Mix; definitely a cool place for a drink.  We are directed through the bar, past the kitchen and into the area where our host is waiting.  There is an elaborate and simply massive "chandelier" (I guess that is what I would call it) where there are blown glass "bubbles" hanging from the ceiling.  Didn't get a photo of that unfortunately . . . 
   Luckily we landed a table outside (yes outside on the 62nd floor) where the view was awesome.  The picture doesn't do it justice.  So now for the food - ah yes good memories.  We started out with a selection of homemade breads and rolls - ciabatta, baguettes, sun-dried tomato rolls, etc. and they were served with both butter and fresh peanut butter that they make at the restaurant.  Oh yes, delicious.  We ordered a great appetizer - potato gnocchi with pumpkin, bacon, and truffles in a tasty sauce.  The flavors really worked well together and filled your mouth with some great tastes and smells.  From there our main course came - I ordered the bison tenderloin while Claudia had the pork chops with fried grits sticks (MMM!).  As a side I got the best-ever macaroni & cheese, with ham and frugere cheese.  I had to eat most of that as Claudia ran out of gas - the West genes come through again as I plowed through the rest of the pasta.  I've found that it's always a great way to show off - eat an entire bowl of macaroni & cheese without pause . . . 
  The unfortunate thing is that I forgot I wanted dessert.  My brain said yes but my stomach said no, and with a great amount of willpower I said no.  I realized that after shoveling about a gallon of cheesy pasta into my face I would not make a pretty picture then pounding some sweet concoction down.  However, our waiter brings out some freshly baked madeleines with hazelnut dipping sauce, "courtesy of the chef".  A perfect ending to a delicious meal.  We headed back to the Great Glass Elevator, but thankfully it does not go through the roof to a space station.  With full stomachs we decided to walk some to work off the dinner, and we walked back up the Strip towards the hotel.
   As we approached Bill's from the south, we passed by the Bellagio fountains.  It's a wonderful scene even when they are not flowing, but luckily we timed it right and they started the show that happens every fifteen minutes.   This particular performance was done to "And All That Jazz" from the movie Chicago.  It was a good show and by the end there was quite a crowd of people staring at the fountains.  Thankfully there were no "naked lady card-flippers" around, they must only be allowed on the street corners; certainly not in front of the Bellagio.  We decided it was time to get to bed due to the very early morning (pick-up at 5:05am) tomorrow for the trip to the Grand Canyon.  Enjoy the small amount of pictures and be ready for a ton tomorrow!
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