My TripAdvisor report on Vegas!

Tr. 11 days in Circus Circus and Las Vegas.

So, flying from Amsterdam to Vegas is always something of a haul. I never bother with the nonstop option as it costs in the region of a third extra, and that just seems stupid. So, the wife and I headed out in the morning, and flew into Houston, on what was supposed to be a Dreamliner 787 but instead turned out to be a 767 due to the grounding of the Dreamliners. So much for the luxury! However, I have to say, there was an excellent selection of films and TV programs available and the 11 hour flight just melted away.

Landing, however, did not go quite so smoothly. We came into Houston airport like a bat out of hell, smacked the tarmac like it’d just crayoned all over the nice new wallpaper, and then took to the sky again, following the same metaphor, like child services had been called in! The pilot, in his wisdom, neglected to speak until the plane has circled, and landed properly, much to the consternation of all of the passengers, who had been sat looking at one another, not panicking, but not exactly in the frame of mind to plan their next vacation either. Lufthansa/United Airlines, sort out your communication in these situations.

So, 6 hours in Houston and adrenaline pumping, we sat preparing for the flight into Vegas. In truth, it went quickly enough, and any trepidations about getting onto another flying sardine-can-of-a-death-trap-with-no-way-of-escape, were dispelled after a big jar of beer in a watering hole on the airport. Into Vegas we dropped, and caught the shuttle, ($8 each), to Circus Circus.

Now, we’ve stayed here before once, and the Stratosphere, and the Sahara, so we know the location, and we know that the place is absolutely nothing like some of the snobs portray it to be like on sites such as this. These are the people who won’t use the Deuce, claim walking from hotel to hotel is not doable and thus call a taxi, and are prepared to pay $200 for a meal. Each! In my book, that adds up to a serious case of fiscal insanity, and is neither something we can afford, nor something I would ever wish to want to afford. I like to know, absolutely, the value of the expenditure for things, so that such complacency can never rear its pernicious head in my world. I digress! Bad me! So… we arrive, and, there is no queue. None. Ziltch! Nada! It’s about 10pm, and we simply walked up and checked in. Within 15 mins of arriving at the hotel, we were in our room. Unheard of!

The room itself was pretty much exactly the same as the room we last stayed in, armed with a bath, (something we don’t have at home and so is viewed as a luxury by me), and a shower which worked fine. There was no smell (nor has there ever been in my experience, and I’m a nonsmoker) and although the room was slightly old looking, it did the trick. TV, one bed for dumping stuff on, one for dumping US on. Sorted.

Of course, there was the issue with the rat…

ccrat

So, settled, and unpacked, it was time to go grab a first drink, and we thought as the Queen Vic is across the road in Riviera, and I’m a Brit living in Holland, it was ideal to go get a pint of bitter, and a steak pie, something that just doesn’t exist in Holland. No such luck. The place was closed. Most miffed we grabbed a beer somewhere else and then decided to curl up for the night.

I’d love to be able to say we had a magnificent nights sleep, but, I can’t. It seemed next door had children, and they had an early flight out. 5am gave us the dulcet tones of crying young-uns, banging on walls, doors and anything else that amplified sound! “Oh no!”, thought I, “Not a horror story, not after I’ve espoused the virtues of stayig here so vociferously.”.Luckily as it turned out, it was only the first night, and probably actually helped us get over the jetlag. Every cloud, silver lining, etc etc.

So, today was all about getting the tickets we’d sorted online previously. Def Leppard at the Hard Rock, Raiding the Rock Vault, at LVH, and Drowning Pool at HR cafe on the strip. With the main Hard Rock Cafe being the most awkward to get to, and the LVH being right by CC we walked to the LVH first (Yes… we did the “w” word”) and then caught the Deuce to further down, and then walked to the HR Hotel.

Here we came to our first find of the trip. Gangnam Asian BBQ, which is just across from the Hard Rock Cafe (4480 Paradise Rd) and really isn’t something I would normally go for as I am not very experimental at all with food. However, I was hungry, and the wife would eat shoes if you put sauce on it and called it something complicated, so we plonked down. The concept is simple : Pick your meat, and they bring out a plate of it, and a grill that goes over burners built into your table, and you basically cook it yourself. Have a nosy at this to get the idea.

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It worked well for me, and I ambled away full, and having tried a new concept. I’d go back again. Next stop was the Hofbrauhaus, probably the closest thing to a Dutch pub you can find. Beer was great, the lass on the bar was talkative and fun, but, there was a guy in the toilets working, (why oh why do they think you require a guy to squirt your soap for you?) who enquired of me, “What happened to your face?”. Mmmm! Nice! I have Rosacea, albeit not that bad, but bad enough for me to be self conscious of it. This day, I actually thought it was behaving well. Bang goes my self confidence for a few hours. Not impressed. The rest of the day was taken up ambling about a bit and generally being grumpy. Such is life.

The next day (after a good nights sleep at CC) was taken up meeting a friend from Holland, starting in 9 Fine Irishmen and then progressing through Vegas like the proper tourists that we were. The one thing of note we did was munch through a Mandalay Bay lunch Buffet, which was excellent. Lots of meat, lots of sea food. Can’t fault it.

Millers in Town Square deserves a mention as we passed through it for some food and drinks. Nice ambience and convivial enough. They even went out of their way to find us the Scotland football game. They didn’t actually find it, but they tried, which was nice. Instead we ended up with a Columbian game, which, while not the same, was at least being played with a ball that is spherical.

Drowning Pool called. The Hard Rock cafe on the strip is actually pretty cool. We sat and had a bucket of beer before heading into the concert venue. The view as the sun went down was lovely. 

hrview

However, upon getting into the queue for entering the venue part, I was stopped. I had with me a Motorhead bag, drawstring type, that had my spare jumper in and a camera, due to the temps dropping in late march considerably in the evening. My wife, had a similar bag, if a little larger, and was allowed inside no problem. “I don’t like that bag”, exclaims the man supervising the security people. “Don’t like it at all!”. “It’s a Motorhead bag!”, says I, “What’s not to like?”. Upon instruction it was searched, to find, oh, my jumper and a camera. “Not happy about it!” exclaims the man again. “You let my wife through with a bigger bag no problem, and I’ve travelled 9,000 miles for you to discriminate against a bag that is orientated around a band that helped set the foundations of the music you are claiming to be supporting?”. Eventually the guy gave in, and, I have to say, the venue was excellent. Drowning Pool are suited to such a venue, small, personal, and acoustically very good. Crisp is probably the right word. Afterwards the band came out and had pics taken with us all, the wife ending up hugging the guitarist. A good time was had by all but it would be remiss of me to not mention the stroppiness of the guy on the door. Had I not already paid, and my wife not already gone in, I probably would’ve told them to shove their venue where the sun doesn’t shine. Politeness and explanations of actions cost nothing.

Next day was something of a quiet one, the only thing of note was a visit to the pool, which was busy, and Monte Carlo Buffet, which was ok. Nothing thrilling all ways round,

Then came my birthday. For that, we’d decided to go see Raiding the Rock Vault, but first, we were going to do some shooting at the firing range at Discount Firearms. Having seen an advert for a pink guns breast cancer awareness package, my good lady was really up for it. Having woken up early, we walked the mile or so distance from CC, even though there was a free shuttle service, simply because it was a nice day. Upon arrival, we were excellently instructed on etiquette, dos and don’ts, etc by a guy who made us feel both welcome, safe, and supervised. For the next hour, the wife and I proceeded to have huge amounts of fun, chatting, and shooting, and generally enjoying the whole experience. The wife, it has to be said, managed 45 out of 50 in the bullseye, and one of the ones that “missed”, was very disconcertingly, right in the throat!

RiflePuss

As starts to birthdays go, this one was brilliant.

RifleAli

After shooting, we decided to utilise the free shuttle and headed down to Town Square again for some food and drinks in Yard House, and then head back up to CC to drop off accumulated shirts from the firing range and bag and camera so as to avoid any grief at Raiding the Rock Vault. The Deuce stop being outside CC is such a boon. $21 for a 3 day unlimited pass, and boy did we get our $s worth out of it. I was actually really looking forward to the show as I knew all the artists involved and the bands that they had belonged to/ still do belong to. Unfortunately it simply did not live up to expectations.

Lets be clear, the musicians are excellent, but the ushers to your seats were rude to both us, and the other people coming in, and then to us ABOUT the other people coming in! The venue was only half full, and, everyone stayed sat down! Not to mention the featured singer (ex Deep Purple/Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner) only sang 2 songs. In a set over 2 hours long. There simply was no atmosphere, and we’d paid over 3x the amount to see them as we’d paid for Drowning Pool, and in point of fact, our Def Leppard tickets were also cheaper! It really is a shame because in the right venue, or with the right support in terms of audience, and with a change of staff, it has the makings of a great show. It just, well, wasn’t.

Somewhere along the way I have forgotten to mention Todd English. We were passing by Aria and wound up inside Todd English, where y wife had her first every Bloody Mary! She was impressed. The staff were cool and chatty, and amazed at the lady having never encountered a Bloody Mary before. Also, I somehow have neglected to mention Ping Pang Pong, which we took time out to hunt down. The food? Excellent! Price? Excellent! And.. there was no wait to be seated or indeed for the food. Both of these venues I would recommend heartilly!

The 26th was earmarked as TA quiz night at McMullans. It was also Scotlands qualifier again in the football, so, off to the Queen Vic we trotted. Sitting waiting for the game, 3 scotsmen appeared and plonked down, adding to the atmosphere nicely. Turns out one of them had seen my recommendation to come to the QV as they would be showing the game! Nice to know that the info given out on here is used positively! What was supposed to be 2 hours, turned into 5, and a steak pie dinner! The early morning drinks took their toll on my good lady and she was not best impressed at having to head down to McMullans, but, we’d actually arranged to come back to the Queen Vic to meet the chaps from earlier to go down there with us. They never showed up, which, to be fair, suited us nicely as we were not really up for it. As it happens I read the place was so rammed we’d’ve not got in in time anyway. Serendipity and beer are a great combination!

The came the Def Leppard concert at Hard Rock Hotel, or more accurately, the Joint.

Lep2

Superb, is the only way to convey the sound in there. Def Lep were excellent, seats were too (and I can see why people would say all seats will be good seats) and the only thing I can really complain about is the fact that people stayed seated again throughout almost all the concert! IT’S A ROCK CONCERT!!! I just don’t get it. Anyway, they venue gets my approval, as does the performance. Having seen Sabbath, Deep Purple, Saxon, Metallica and Megadeth all in the space of a few months, this concert racked up nicely amongst them as just as good!

That’s the major events over and done with. There are a few other things I should throw in. The Ellis Island offer is, or at least was, still on at March 29th. I should add that the food was  good, but nothing spectacular, however the $10 of free slot play upon signing up turned into $70, and the beer there was very good, (I had the stout). We walked there and back and no one in any way shape or form molested us, and we didn’t die of exhaustion. Is it worth the effort? Probably not really, but it is another notch to tick off as a Vegas experience. We also did not die of food poisoning afterwards, but that of course might be linked to my hardy constitution developed as a student many years ago where I ate my own “cooking”. I should say that the appetiser, chilibean soup, was very good though.

We had a buffet in Mirage, which was good but nothing amazing, although they were playing KLF in the background, something only a child who grew up in the northish of England would probably chuckle at, especially in such auspicious settings. The buffet in Aria however, was something rather different. The food selection was good, and again found me hitting the seafood with gusto, followed by a meat run on general principle. The wife had fancy desserts and looked suitably guilty afterwards so I have to assume they were good! I did feel a little conspicuous in there, like it was too posh for me to be in, but hey, for all they knew i was a british footballer living it up with my exotic mistress!

Somewhere else in the trip we found our way into the 777 brewpub in Main Street Station and filled our faces with a bucket of 40 prawns (shrimp) and some chicken wings. Well drinks at $2.50 (for those who don’t know what a well drink is it appears to be a short + mixer.. eg rum and coke) and good food at decent prices. Can’t argue with that. We also ate in Tony Roma’s in Freemont hotel, which again was good value but, their lobster portion was not anything to write home about. It’s passable, but I’d not worry too much if I never made a reacquaintance with it.

The PBR Rockbar deserves a shout too. Buckets of Newcastle brown and a place to watch the world go by. The music was decent, and the servers actually left us alone without pestering us about if we wanted more, presumably working on the idea that we were adults and knew how to engage in acquiring more beer, having managed fine with the first bucket!

As a final mention, a big thanks goes out to the Levis store at north outlets. 2 pairs of 501s and 2 pairs of wife jeans, which at home here would cost at least $120-$150 per pair, cost $35 each. That’s a saving of about $400 (maybe more) just on jeans! That constitutes nearly 25% saving of our total costs for flights and accom, on things we’d’ve needed to have bought in Holland!!

Given the above math, the fact that we love coming to Vegas, and that we rarely gamble, it’s pretty much a guaranteed good time for us. This was our 4th trip in 5 years, and a good 90% of it was a success! Sun, good bands, great atmosphere, food and drinks that are simply beyond us/not available at home, and a bargin thrown in in terms of purchases and holiday price. Plus, this time, I have to admit, the idea of writing a report and posting it on here and involving a rat in Circus Circus, made me giggle from start to finish! Hopefully it made a few of you chuckle too.

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(this part is not in the original post on TA). So, we headed out of Vegas on the red eye, and made it into Chicago somewhere around 7am, to have a shufti around and about. The buildings are amazing. I had two things I wanted to do while there, touch Lake Michigan, and grab a Blues Brothers shirt! I managed both, so this boy was a happy bunny. We had plans to go up the John Hancock tower, but thought it opened at 10, so we dived into a coffee shop for breakfast, and then after wifi enabled us to find out where the hell we were, headed off to the Hancock building on the understanding that, the water was only just past there. As it happened, the building was open at 9! “Bonus”, we thought, and headed inside. 

Now I have to say, I never have a problem with heights, and have proven that at the Stratosphere, so, maybe I was just tired, but man, did my legs decide to go wobbly! Esther however, was fine, much to my annoyance so, I decided to stop being stupid and sort it out. Choosing to hold on to a thing that looked solid but turned out to be cardboard did nothing to help me! But, I shook myself and sorted myself out. The view, is pretty damned cool, it has to be said.

lakeMich

 Having spent an hour or so up at the top, it was off to the waterside, a swift hand dip into the the lake, and then the tiredness hit. I needed a rest, so we found ourselves a pub, and sat, filled our faces and had a beer. I was sooo close to going back to the airport, when i remembered, I need a Blues Brothers shirt! So… off we trotted to the one place we knew must have it. Chicago House of Blues! “On a mission from god”, spattered across the back, Jack and Elwood on the front. What more could I ask for? Happy, tired, and ready to go home, back to the airport we trundled.

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