Sharon & I arrived at almost the exact time Lisa's flight from Oregon arrived, so we met up in baggage claim and then waited in a long-ass taxi line to get to our hotel. We were not staying on the Strip, since that (again) was not the purpose of this trip. And I'm glad. I would have hated being in a hotel that is a tourist attraction and constantly packed with mobs of people streaming through the lobby, casino, restaurants, bars, etc. The only reason to be in a hotel, IMO, is because you're staying there. Hotels are not a destination. They're a place to sleep. But then again, it sounds like I just don't "get" Vegas. And don't get me started on the nastiness of having to walk through smoke-filled casinos just to get to a restaurant. In a hotel I'm not even staying at. UGH.
Anyway, we dropped off our stuff at the Courtyard by Marriott at the Convention Center, then caught a cab to Mandalay Bay, where I had chosen The Burger Bar for dinner. It's actually in Mandalay Place, the "mall" between Mandalay Bay and the Luxor. Great choice. I had an awesome sampler plate of sliders, including a buffalo slider with caramelized onions that turned out to be my favorite. And an amazing strawberry shake. Yum. Afterwards, we walked up the Strip, gawked at the scantily-dressed and drunken people crowding the streets, joked about the people who must think being in Vegas is just like being in Paris, or Venice, or Rome, and eventually caught a cab back to the hotel.
Friday morning we decided to pick up a rental car, after spending more than $50 in three hours on Thursday night for cab fare. It turned out to be money very well spent. We picked up our car at the Riveria, where the nice Hertz woman upgraded us for free and waived the fee for us to return the car to the airport. She seemed surprised and excited for me when I told her it was my first trip to Vegas. Good thing I didn't also mention how much I was hating it there. ;) Then we were off to the Premium Outlets, arriving just before they opened at 10:00 and hitting Starbucks for a caffeine jump start to our power shopping day. Who knew we would be closing the place down 11 hours later at 9:00! For the record, that was not 11 hours of straight shopping. We did take a break for lunch in the food court and a late-afternoon Dairy Queen sweet treat to hold us over until dinner.
Dinner was on the way back to the hotel, an unassuming strip center Thai place called Lotus of Siam that was just off the strip. It turned out to be one of the best Thai meals I've ever had, and that includes the meals we had in Thailand last month. EXCELLENT. The three of us shared a generous cup of tom yum kai soup, a Thai salad, crab fried rice, pad thai, garlic squid, and musaman curry. We cleaned up surprisingly well -- the shopping must have really worked up an appetite. The food was all incredible, the service was a bit on the slow side, but the prices were very reasonable. In fact, we walked out with a total tab of less than what each of us spent the following night at Nobu. For much less food. That was ten times better.
Day One's shopping haul:
Saturday was another bright and early day. First stop, Zappo's shoe outlet. It turned out to be a total bust on shoes, but I found a great purple cocktail dress that I didn't need in the slightest. I reluctantly hung it back on its rack and said I'd come back for it if I was still thinking about it in the afternoon. From there, we headed to lunch and then the Las Vegas Outlet Center for more shopping. I was still thinking about the dress, so we stopped back by Zappo's, then back to the Premium Outlets for returns and more shopping. We rushed back to the hotel to change for dinner, then off to the Hard Rock for our 7:30 dinner reservation at Nobu.
We all wanted sushi, so I did my due diligence to find a great place for dinner. But as with nearly any place, you can ask 20 people for the best sushi place in Vegas, and you'll get 20 different recommendations. I figured we couldn't go wrong with Nobu. Our server tried to guide us to the hot and cold menu items, but we were really just interested in sushi rolls. In his defense, he did warn us that they were good but nothing special and that for the "Nobu experience," we should go with the hot and cold menus. We did order a couple of things off the cold menu, then mostly stuck with sushi rolls. And he was right. They were good, everything was very fresh, but they were nothing particularly special. And especially not for the cost.
Lisa & Sharon at Nobu:
Sushi rolls at Nobu:
We skipped dessert at Nobu and headed to the Fontana Bar at the Bellagio, where we were meeting up with other friends for drinks. We snagged a table on the outdoor patio, where we had a great view of the fountain show every 15 minutes on a gorgeous evening.
Julie & Glenda were ready to shut the bar down, and I was still disappointed from not getting dessert, so we left them at the bar and set off in search of something sweet. We were guided to Jean Phillippe Patisserie at the Bellagio, and I was rewarded with the best chocolate gelato shake I've ever had. It was TO DIE FOR. Sharon's Nutella and banana crepes were pretty damn good too, and I'm not even a fan of crepes. Stuffed and exhausted, we headed back to the hotel and hit the sack.
Chocolate fountain at Jean Phillippe:
Best. Chocolate. Shake. EVER.
Sunday morning was spent trying to cram ten times more stuff than we arrived with back into our suitcases. Lisa was modest with the purchases so she was fine. I did OK, if you count carrying a briefcase onto the plane stuffed with 8 pairs of shoes OK. Sharon's situation was rough. Her suitcase was full, she had my outside luggage pockets filled to the brim, and it was looking like her "carry on" was going to be a triple-lined paper shopping bag overflowing with about 50 pounds of clothes. After a mediocre breakfast/brunch at the Sidewalk Cafe at Bally's, we dropped off Lisa at the airport and bid her a safe flight home. Then Sharon & I headed back to the outlet stores one last time, where she bought an extra suitcase to haul all her crap home. We had a little bit of time to kill in the late afternoon and went back to the Burger Bar for more excellent sliders and shakes. Stuffed and broke, we finally headed home.