Vegas… without being Vegas.
Following is the basic run down account of what can be told with regards to our recent decent upon Las Vegas:
Friday morning we met up with John and Mary at their place to pack the Suburban and head off for a fun weekend. After a quick breakfast at the Original Pancake House, we hit the road with the iPod blaring my “Driving” playlist.
The tone for the weekend was set within the first few miles. It’s always a gamble getting the four of us in a car together, especially for an extended drive. Nothing was sacred. And damn if my face wasn’t in pain from laughing so much and for so long. Thankfully the drive was quick, otherwise we may have killed each other from laughter induced asphyxiation.
We rolled into Vegas without issues and were able to get checked in relatively easily. We had enough time before dinner which allowed us to do everything we needed to at a very relaxed pace. No one felt rushed or like they were being held back by anyone.
We had reservations for dinner at 6.30pm, so we headed over to the Aladdin around 4.30pm to walk the shops before dinner time. Well… after trying to kill 2 hours in the shops, we finally gave up and checked to see if they could seat us earlier. And they could. So we were seated at around 6pm at a lovely table in the Commander’s Palace at the Aladdin.
Dinner was spectacular. The service was equally, if not a bit more exceptional than that which we have received at Club 33 in Disneyland. The food was on an equal level as well. Once seated, we were presented with the wine list, as well as the tasting menu in case we wanted to opt for the wine pairing over choosing our own bottle. Let me tell you what a difficult decision that was! Their wine list was fairly short for what I was expecting (it only ranged about 15 pages), yet the quality of the bottles presented were all second to none. After much deliberation, though, we all decided to go with the wine paring on the tasting menu and allow the chef to make the educated selections.
By the end of dinner it was obvious to everyone that -not- choosing the tasting menu would have been a grave mistake. It was an outstanding 7 course meal, each course paired with a glass of wine chosen specifically for the dish presented. Luckily, our sous chef signed a copy of the menu and had the waiter present it to us at the end of our feast, which will help me greatly in remembering exactly what it was we had. Not that I’d order any of the plates again intentionally, because in my experience, allowing the chef to decide via the tasting menu is the only way to dine.
After dinner (around 10pm by this point), we made our way back to the Luxor since the girls were a bit tipsy and over-stuffed with food. John and I left them back at the room and went off to wander through the casino and hotel proper. This is when we discovered our next intended destination, without even realizing it. As John and I stood above the entrance to the Mandalay Bay Casino talking at length about life and love, etc. we noted a very cool looking store which was closing up shop as we walked past. The shop, 55 Degrees Wine Design (site is currently unavailable), pretty much screamed for us to descend upon it the next day as we wasted time before the concert.
55 degrees Wine Design is a wine cellar and tasting bar boasting 2000 bottles in current inventory. It is the brain child of the chief sommelier from the Charlie Palmer restaurant Aureole located in Mandalay Bay. (Guess which restaurant we’re eating at next time we are in town?) So we sat at the bar at 55 degrees and chatted up the steward about the history of the place, her family, her training, etc. We had way too much fun there.
After leaving 55 degrees and walking through Mandalay Bay, it was time for me to take a nap while the other three walked out to the pool at the Luxor for a quick look around. Thank god too. Without a nap I wouldn’t have made it through the night. After my nap it was time to go to the MGM and have a quick bite to eat before the concert.
The entire purpose of this trip to Vegas was based on one thing: Rush
This tour is their 30th Anniversary tour and damn if they didn’t pull out the stops for it. They opened with a medley of too many songs to list from their entire discography, doing a sort of mini retrospective with an accompanying visual of animation from their album covers and liner notes coming to life on the screen behind them. The light show was astounding, and I was especially happy to see the return of lasers during a number of key songs like “2112 Overture”. Took me back to the day of the laser shows at the planetarium with music like Pink Floyd and The Cure backing up the lights… of course, the amount of reefer at the concert probably help take me back to those days too. Contact highs have a tendency to do that.
Rush played nearly all the songs I was hoping for sans two: Freewill and Closer to the Heart were sadly not on the set list for the evening. I was a tad bit disappointed, but not so much as to really warrant this mention of it. I figured I needed to find something bad about the concert so I don’t sound like the loving, “they can do no wrong” fanboy that I shared the concert with. No, John, this isn’t directed at you. It IS directed at the rest of the audience, however. Never before have I seen an audience so sadly stuck in late 1970’s early 80’s middle America. Mullets were in high attendance. And there aint nothing worse than a mullet on a fanboy. ::::shudder::::
I think what impressed me most while watching Rush play, was not only the fact that they played a FULL 3 hour set, but that they never seemed to slow down or get tired even though they were playing the most challenging rock songs ever written. Watching Alex and Getty jam on their fret-boards while Neil made drumming look both impossible and simple at the same time, really put their technical aptitude in perspective for me. I always new they were the best of the best, but actually seeing it live made it all real. Quite a humbling experience I’d say.
After the show, we made our way back to the Luxor, and I ended up crashing out with Jean while John and Mary stayed out to play. Turns out the met up with Greg and Vic who were staying at Mandalay Bay to see the Snoop Dogg show the same night.
Next thing I know, it’s 10.30am and checkout is in an hour. So we all rushed to get packed an out of the room so John could check out and we could all grab breakfast before heading home.
We finally got on the road about 1pm and made fabulous time on the way back. A few slow spots, but nothing that kept us from meeting the standard 4 hour trip time. Got back in to OC and stopped for some dinner at Pepe’s in Placentia/ Fullerton. MMMMm yum. Then back to John and Mary’s to pick up our car and home by 8pm. In bed at 9pm and slept well until the alarm rang at 4.30am. Damn that hurt. There really is nothing worse than waking up and going into start your work week after a FANTASTIC weekend in Vegas.