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Viva Lost Wages

21 November 2011

I just had to share some deets about the best vacation I’ve had in a while.  So I was invited on a spontaneous trip to Vegas this last weekend.  I love doing that kinda stuff, but I’m not the type to plan it.  So when an extrovert comes along and says “let’s go,” generally I go!  And despite my initial hesitation, I’m always happy I did.

We flew out of SFO on Virgin America.  I’d never flown this airline, and my was I impressed.  The primary lesson of the weekend: ask about upgrades.  We asked during check-in if there were any upgrades available, and just for asking (read: no charge!), they put us in whatever class is right below first.  That meant early boarding, more leg room, unlimited free drinks, and free movies and services on the LCD screens that adorn the back of every seat.  The inside of the plane looked more like a nightclub than a vehicle.  I got to watch X-Men: First Class while stretching out my legs and drinking free drinks.  I normally fly SWA because it’s cheap and easy, but this was a whole new world.  For any flight longer than an hour or two, I’m going Virgin from now on if it’s at all feasible.  The only downside of the flight was some severe turbulence, but hey I’m still here, aren’t I?

We stayed at The Wynn.  Did I mention upgrades?  We asked about upgrades while checking in and scored a relatively cheap (but not free) upgrade that turned our regular room into a Wynn Tower “Parlor Suite.”  This is a $650/night 1,200 sq. ft. space overlooking the pool and golf course that is far and away the nicest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in.  Nearly every surface covered in mirrors.  A giant living room, a gianter bedroom, and the most giantest bathroom you can imagine.  It seriously had three separate vanities, a big shower with a bench in it, a separate bathtub, a toilet, and a deep walk-in closet.  And it was nearly all marble.  Whatever I’ve said in the past about money can’t buy happiness, forget it, because money can rent that suite, and that suite equals happiness.

I hadn’t been to Vegas in several years (2007?), and I forget the opulence of that place.  It really is magnificent.  The whole city is lit up like a theme park, and it even feels that way when you’re walking around at night.  Like Disneyland or Great America, but on a civic scale.  Every surface in every room, hallway, casino floor, restaurant, elevator, and driveway is carefully designed down to the last detail.  There are no plain ceilings, only meticulously carves filigree with carefully placed lighting.  Every bathroom is clean.  The customer service is excellent everywhere.  And it makes sense, because they want you feeling comfortable and safe and important so that you stay longer and keep gambling your money away.  And there are people in the casino ALL day and night.  It never looks empty, not even in the wee hours.  It’s like there’s no night or day there.

The first night, we checked in and then went straight over to see The Blue Man Group.  Not my idea, and after a day of work, a flight, and a couple drinks, yes I admit I dozed a little.  But it was definitely worth seeing once.  Their backup band wore fluorescent paint under black lights… very “In Between Days.”  This was in The Venetian, and afterwards we stayed a while to gamble.  It was there that I first noticed the music plying throughout the casino was all new wave.  I was hearing Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, etc.  I later noticed this back at The Wynn and elsewhere too.  After giving it some thought, I figure what must be going on is that the generation that grew up in the 80’s are all old enough and have enough money to make up a large part of the tourist demographic there.  As the next generation ages, I’m sure we’ll start hearing… I dunno, Taylor Swift in there.  And even now, rest assured Vegas is still overflowing with douchey meatheads and hoochie women dressing ridiculously and being their version of “classy.”

The rest of the weekend, we all stayed up gambling and drinking and eating and dancing… till 5am both nights.  I gambled more than I have in the past, but didn’t lose my shirt.  I was careful.  The slots were good to me, and usually kept me playing for an hour or so anytime I fed in a $20.  Of course eventually, da gamblin’ mosheen takes it all.  Though on the giant Wheel Of Fortune machine (with real giant working wheel!), while playing in tandem we did get the highest value on the bonus (“boners”) wheel on a max bet, which paid a few hundred dollars — basically the best thing you can get on that machine short of the progressive grand prize, if it even had one?  Other machines included Tarzan, variations of fishing themes, and several movie slots… Star Trek, Batman / Dark Knight, Ghost Busters, and many others.  I tried a table game once (roulette) and it took $70 from me in only a few minutes.  I gave up on it very quickly.

Eating was another story.  We’d heard of The Wynn’s buffet restaurant called… well, “The Buffet.”  It was pricey, but worth it.  There’s a line out the door, but we learned that our “red card” room key also granted us special access all over the hotel, including being allowed to cut to the front of the line basically anywhere!  We went for brunch Saturday morning.  I’d never seen anything like it.  This buffet was simply huge.  We’re talking Asian, Mexican, Italian, Indian, Mediterranean, pizza, succotash, and a sweet pea truffle oil and Parmesan risotto that was incredible.  But I haven’t even mentioned the actual brunch part yet.  If anyone has ever thought of eating it for breakfast, they have it at The Buffet.  Pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, granola, gourmet cheeses, bagels, a salad bar, fruit of all kinds (grapefruit with brown sugar and mint!).  That’s just what I can remember now.  There were hundreds of dishes.  Still hungry?  Then head to the dessert section where it’s still all-you-can-eat… red velvet cupcakes, warm brownies, candied apples, tiramisu, rice crispy treats, bread pudding, key lime shots, cream puffs, ice cream, a made-to-order crepe station, and tons more I’m forgetting.  Even vegan cookies (which reminds me that vegan and vegetarian options were pointed out everywhere we ate… they really go the extra mile to serve)!  And then of course we went back Sunday morning for brunch again.  And when we couldn’t eat anymore, we relaxed outside in the Parasol Lounge by the Lake Of Dreams and watched the fountain.

Needless to say, I wanted to live in that suite and eat that brunch every day forever.  But all good things must come to an end.  The flight home had no upgrades available, so in-flight movies were a whopping $8!  I went without.  And as always, it’s a great moment to step off the plane when you’re back in the Bay Area and get that first breath of sweet air.  Though I would have liked to have spent another few weeks there to see everything we missed, I guess you need some “normal” life to keep perspective on just how amazing your vacation spot really is.  It makes the pampering all the more memorable.  And remember kids, ask for upgrades!  And it doesn’t hurt if you’re super cute and bat your eyelashes too.

“If you could beat the house, there wouldn’t be a house.”
— Maybelle Carter

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