Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reflections of Las Vegas...

I might still be asleep as I type this. I feel sort of like I'm in a haze, as though I never really woke up. I mean, technically, I know I have to be awake since I drove to work but since so many of us manage to often get from point A to point B without really knowing how as we drive, it's not unusual to completely zone out on the way.

I hate feeling this groggy. It's mornings like this where staying in bed seems so appealing. It's been cooler this week and the night air is managing to make for good sleeping weather. Of course, it might be the fact that I missed a full night's sleep on Saturday and I'm still catching up. That's what I get for going to Las Vegas.

The thing with Vegas is that it's easy to not sleep there. The Strip is intended for all-nighters, people stumbling from casino to casino, drinks in hand. It's a place for club-goers, the women dressed up in clothes that look like they came from Frederick's of Hollywood, the men trying to look spiffy in suits but somehow looking a little too much like used-car salesmen. Don't get me wrong, there is some elegance in Las Vegas, I just didn't see much of it.

I know that when you go to a club as a female, you're supposed to dress trendily, show some of your skin. It's what you do. That's why most club dresses are short enough that you can almost see the wearer's underwear. Me, personally...I've never been a fan of clubbing. I don't like that intense pulse of the music in the thick air where you have to yell to make yourself heard. Clubs are places to go and dance, to meet people.

I prefer concerts where there's room to move. You go there for the music; it's not just the background. You can also dress low-key and no one cares because they're there for the music too.

But clubs are a different story. Vegas is full of them. Most of the high-end ones are in the glitzy casinos like Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, Mandalay Bay and The Wynn. These are the places you hear about in the media where the likes of Lindsay Lohan and other burned-out young Hollywood goes to party. I'm sure there's a point but it's not something I care enough about to explore. I do enjoy watching the people dress up, however.

My trip to Vegas was a whirlwind. I did manage to do a 'restaurant tour' though. Or, perhaps I should say a, um, 'Window-Shopping Restaurant Tour.' At the indulgence of my good friend, I got to peer in the windows of the restaurants of Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Kerry Simon and Todd English. I did, however, get to sample the wares of Francois Payard, one of the world's best pastry chefs.

I have to say, there's a reason Francois Payard is considered one of the best pastry chefs. We sampled a couple of croissants while we were there and I got a truffle to take home with me. The truffle? Best I ever had. It wasn't too rich, it was just perfect. I'm spoiled now: No truffle will ever taste the same.

While we didn't eat at any of the restaurants on my tour, we did eat at Le Villages Buffet in the Paris Casino. This is by far my favourite. It has stations set up to represent the regions of France and it has a champagne brunch on the weekends. When I go there, my favourite thing is the crusty baguette pieces, the cheeses, smoked salmon and the accompaniments like cornichons, olives, and capers. That's usually my first plate. The second plate is usually experimental. This time, I finally tried ratatouille. I had to get over the prejudice I had because of the silly rat movie. I have to confess, it was delicious. As long as I don't find out a rat is cooking it, I have a feeling it could become a favourite. I also tried some other things I normally don't eat, things that were decidedly French. Overall, if you're going to Vegas, it's a splurge to go there but, really, for $24, champagne and beverages inclusive, it's pretty good for all-you-can-eat at a buffet.

We also managed to eat at what is considered to be one of the best Thai restaurants in the States: Lotus of Siam. It really was the best Thai I ever had. I'm a huge fan of Tom Yum Kai, the spicy-sweet chicken soup with lemongrass and other Thai flavours and I have to say, theirs was the best. Same goes for the pad-see-ew that we ordered. I prefer that to Pad Thai. We also tried curry.

By the time we left, we were so stuffed full, it was ridiculous. We ended up heading to a part of Vegas I'd never seen before: The Fremont Street Experience.

I have to say the 'Experience' itself was a wee bit lame. I think a few years ago, it would have been cooler. Essentially, it's a canopy where they do light shows to music. Back before it was videos playing, it probably was something to see. As it stands now, you're basically just watching a video above your head. Sort of like an uncomfortable IMAX experience.

Still, the street itself is something to behold. It's Vegas at it's tired best. The glitz and high-end glamour of the Strip hasn't spread here. Instead, it's old-school Vegas with worn-down casinos and neon lights that sing a song of the days of the Rat Pack. There are tourist stores galore here. The casinos like The Golden Nugget are old and tired. Some of them even still use coins and buckets to catch them. Most of the newer casinos are all digital and give out a redemption ticket instead of coins.

You can still get yard-long drinks here but they're a little pricier than on the strip. There are less young people stumbling along, trying to remember where they're staying because they're lost in the fuzzy world of being drunk. It's an older crowd down on Fremont Street, a little more local and a little less frenetic. It's a fun place to go if you want a break from the intensity of the Strip. I'm glad I went. Not only did I see a new part of Vegas but I got to put nickels into a slot machine. I hate nickels.

The highlight of my trip was, of course, the Green Day concert. For those that know me, you know I'm a huge fan of the band. I've seen them several times in concert and I've never ever been disappointed. This is a band that knows how to engage an audience. They call kids up to sing and they pull a guitarist out of the audience to play with them. It's fun to watch someone's dreams come true. This was one of the best shows I've seen them do; they played many old hits as well as new. It gave my trip to Vegas a focus, a memory that I'll keep with me for life.

This weekend, I'm not doing anything as fancy as going to Vegas. In fact, for a long time, I hope not to do anything that fancy. While it was a great time, it was also exhausting. I need to be a homebody for a while, spend some time with my new house, figuring out what I can afford to do and what I want to focus on in the future. I need to have life calm down for a while now, no more Comic-Con, no more Vegas, no more adventures for a while.

Of course, I do have to go to the DMV this weekend. That's always an adventure. Better catch on sleep first though.

Happy Thursday.

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