Sunday, 3 April 2016

Celebrating 5 Big Years of Marriage, Las Vegas 2016!

Last weekend Matthew and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in Las Vegas! It was the Easter long weekend so we didn't have to ask for time off work (we are a bit low of vacation time since we used it all in Australia recently).

So we set off on Thursday evening, pretty much straight from work. We got in at about 9:30ish, and headed straight for our hotel, the Monte Carlo. Matthew and I have made a pact to go to the real Monte Carlo, Monaco, for our 40th birthdays. But since that's almost a decade away, we thought it would be fun to hit up the Vegas version in advance.

On the Plaza

To our surprise, when we checked in (to the 30th floor! thank you, Matthew!) and started exploring around 10:30ish, there were not that many places to eat. It has been about 10 hours since lunch, so we were properly famished. Luckily we found this excellent ramen place which had the most amazing assortment of mushrooms. Very hearty, very filling. We ate and then collapsed in a heap from exhaustion.

View from our hotel room
Twilight view from our hotel room!
On Friday morning we had a very necessary sleep-in and then walked to Tableau, in the Wynn hotel, for our anniversary breakfast. Back in 2011, Matthew and I got married first thing in the morning, and Tableau was open for breakfast so we took the whole crew there for some brunch after the event. It was still lovely, although much busier that we remembered. It was Good Friday this time, so I suppose that accounted for it.
At Tableau, Wynn

To digest, and to enjoy the searing hot desert sun, we walked from the Wynn to the Stratosphere, past several vacant lots of tumbleweed and rusted steel. We also passed John's Pawn Shop (not famous, but very poetic) and a shuttered-by-law massage parlour. They were very authentic, which is the most neutral description I can think of.

At the Stratosphere, we had a beautiful view of the surrounding dessert and hills. In previous visits to Vegas we had never got up high, so this trip we made it a priority to seek high look-outs as often as possible. We grabbed a margarita and basked in a sunbeam at the top of the tower for about an hour, and then headed down to earth again. Because we had not planned further than this, we just set out for a bit of a walk North. An hour or two later we found ourselves on the edge of downtown. We passed the big famous pawn shop but there was a line-up and Matthew was a bit pawned out. So we went across the street to a sweet vintage furniture store instead. We nearly bough a neon sign. We nearly bought a brass daisy floor lamp. And a MCM credenza-dresser matching set. And a brass eagle objet. Argh it was so hard to resist. After a while we just wanted everything, indiscriminately.

View West from Stratosphere

Margaritas on the observation deck

Jet stream, overlooking the Strip
Since we were so close to town, and because we couldn't find a bus stop, we decided to continue walking to Freemont St. We were tickled at how many seedy, run-down old wedding chapels there were, and reflected glumly on how many bail bond places and lawyers offices we had walked past. There were too many, trust me. We arrived at the Golden Nugget around 3pm and chased down some all american junk food (mac n cheese, burgers) for lunch. We caught a bus back to the Strip, which drove passed the Las Vegas downtown detention centre. This is why there are so many bail bond and lawyers offices. My god, the detention centre was as big as a casino hotel. No joke. This place has it's own yelp reviews. For real.

We went to this amazing bar that Matthew remembered, in the Crystals mall. It is accurately named the Chandelier bar, as we were inside a giant chandelier. Later we went to the pizza place in the Monte Carlo for dinner. The front of the Monte Carlo is an open cobbled plaza with some restaurants, cafes, ice cream shop, etc, and you can sit outside in the warm desert air (away from the smokey casino air). It was perfect.
Inside the Chandelier bar
View from Monte Carlo Plaza

Matthew with our pretty impressive pizza; we could not get enough of the al fresco dining. It is rare in Vancouver.
On Saturday morning I convinced Matthew that we needed to do sunrise yoga on the plaza. This was the best idea ever. If you have even been awake before 8am in Las Vegas, you know that the sun is warm, the Strip is low on traffic, and there are lovely bird sounds (and you notice that there are actually trees everywhere!). We did an hour of very low-energy yoga, just as the sun was peeking over the Hard Rock Cafe across the road. Matthew surprised us all by being amazing at yoga! Advanced moves, no problem! While I was struggling to touch my own toes, Matthew was happily throwing his leg over his shoulder and contorting like an ancient mountain sage. Who knew!?

We hit the gym and came back down to the plaza for a coffee and pastry in the sunshine. The rest of the day we spent walking up and down the Strip, including the Venetian Grand Canal Mall, and Cesars Palace Mall. I was grateful to spend some time indoors because I sunburnt my arm walking into town the day before, and also because it was not very warm weather, and I was only wearing a dress. We took a break from wander-shopping in the middle of the afternoon to eat nachos and margaritas at the fake Trevi Fountain. Matthew proposed to me at the real Trevi Fountain, so it was necessary for us to stop and take a selfie at this fake one. The real one has dress-up Romans with whom you can take a selfie, but the fake one has a margarita bar... take your pick.

View from the Venetian

Fake Trevi, Real Love
In the evening we went to a pretty gross buffet. On previous visits I had appreciated the buffet as our only source of fresh vegetables, and this held true. But beyond a plate full of fresh veggies, there was nothing much to tempt a sad vegetarian. I had more mac and cheese. Matthew had assorted roast meats. We went to a late Cirque do Soleil show, Zarkana, in Aria. It was pretty magical. We chose it because Matthew put in a preference for clowns. Zarkana had lots of sweet and hilarious clowns. Going to Cirque was definitely a highlight of the trip. It was mesmerising.

Cirque!!
On Sunday I came down with a chest infection, so after a long cup of tea in the sunshine on some very comfy outdoor couches, I retreated back to the hotel room and slept for the whole day. It was grim. Matthew went out for a beer and a bagel in the middle of the afternoon, and at about 7pm we dragged ourselves across the street to the Hard Rock Cafe (another necessary re-visit from our wedding trip back in 2011). We sussed out the ice-creamery for dessert (Matthew got horchata flavour - in true Vegas style, this and many other ice creams were seriously alcoholic). Then hit the hay for another 10 hours.
This was supposed to be an ice cream seflie, but we couldn't fit the creams in.

On Monday we slept in until the last possible moment, then checked out, and went for a very slow wander to Mirage for our second buffet adventure. Since I was gross and sick, I got a plate of fruit and some french toast. Matthew got one of everything, and two of all the desserts. It was a sight to behold. I don't know where he fit all those sweets. We rolled out and across the street to the Linq, and went on the High Roller. This did not exist when we were in Vegas last time. Matthew and I love ferris wheels. We try and go on them as we encounter them. Funnily enough we have visited Melbourne three times since we moved to Vancouver, and we have never been on the Southern Star. But we have been on the London Eye, and on a sweet one in Darling Harbour in Sydney, and a couple of other places. We were highly anticipating the High Roller - it is the tallest ferris wheel in the world! (at least until they build another one somewhere).



Clouds gathering!!!
High Roller selfie!
While we were lifted ever so slowly and gently into the air above the Strip, a storm gathered over Las Vegas. From the top of the ride, we saw a wind storm in the desert outside the city to the North East, but we had no idea that it would be coming right for us. I can imagine that there are other days in which you would get a better view, as Monday was very hazy and some mountain ranges were not visible at all. However we had a cabin almost all to ourselves (only one other couple), and in my fevered state some personal space was more important than a postcard view. When we got down, we went to a pub (called the Tilted Kilt, where the poor servers have to wear tartan bikinis) and 20 minutes later there was a fierce wind and rainstorm blowing people and signage all over the Strip. It was unreal. Very wild west.

We retreated to the Miracle Mile shops and I downed another half a litre of tea. I had lost my voice by this stage. And it was freezing. Matthew very chivalrously held me up as we walked slowly around the shops until it was a socially acceptable time to have dinner. We ate more pizza, and headed to the airport. Farewell, Las Vegas! Happy Anniversary, Matthew! Our flight was delayed by 45 minutes. We scraped into Vancouver, and home at 2:45am on Tuesday. Matthew very manfully got up and went to work for 4 consecutive days afterwards, while I stayed in bed coughing. Now I am on the mend, Matthew has succumbed. In sickness and in health, it is a privilege to be married to Matthew. We're not sorry we went to Vegas. It was worth it. And if you don't come back from Vegas utterly wrecked, then you're probably not doing it right anyway.
Where I spent the next four days.