Ciao, Las Vegas!

Hubs and I spent the last three days in Vegas, eating, people-watching, and shopping. This time around, we stayed at Vdara, which feels like it is a little ways from the strip, but it is actually behind the Bellagio. It’s a bit annoying to get to on foot, because you want to be able to cut through the Cosmopolitan; however, it’s not that simple.

Stepping back in time, when we arrived at the airport, we spent a painfully long time in the Thrifty car rental line. Clearly the rates through Thrifty are the best considering all the other car rental places had no lineups. The lady behind us spent the entire time complaining about how she waited an hour in the same line the last time she was in Vegas. I asked hubs if it was worth paying a little more next time, but he told me that the other rental companies charge hundreds more. The one great thing about having a car in Vegas is that parking is free, everywhere. But that’s not the reason we needed a car rental. Vegas was only our first stop.

As soon as we picked up our car, a “fake”, piece of junk jeep as hubs called it, we high-fived each other and hit the road. First stop, food. I was famished and dehydrated after the 4-5 hour flight. We decided to eat off the strip, and stopped at Bachi Burger. Since it was not too far from dinner hour, we decided to share food. We wanted to save room for the fancy dinner reservations I made for that same evening.

oxtail-fries

The Oxtail Chili Fries ($11) could have been really good if the sauce wasn’t so sweet.

banh-mi-burger

The Banh Mi Burger ($13) was really delicious. It’s made with Angus beef, pork, shrimp, lemongrass pork pate, fresh herbs, curry aioli pickled vegetables and Nuoc Mam sauce. I’d go back for that burger, or maybe to try another. They have many tasty sounding options. If you’re not in a burger mood, they are connected to the neighbouring ramen house.

After the late lunch, we checked into our hotel after circling around in our car and trying to find the public parking lots. We had to take the tram because of our luggage, but discovered it was quicker to get around without the tram provided you are luggage-free. Our 16th floor room was spacious, with a decent view of both the buildings and the pool below. It’s definitely not over-the-top large, like the room we had at the Palazzo, but I was just as happy. The reason we chose Vdara was because it was a 100% smoke-free hotel, and it did not host a casino. I know, I know. Many people like the convenience of having a casino on the main floor, but I am not a gambler, and the casinos tend to make me sick because of the cigarette smoke.

vdara-by-night

view-from-vdara

pool-view-from-vdara

Dinner was at Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian, owned by Emeril. I had made reservations in advance. We shared the lobster bisque ($16), the ahi tuna & salmon tartar ($19), bone-in ribeye steak ($55), and a side of creamed spinach ($12). It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t hail the steak to be the best I’ve ever had.

delmonico-ahi-salmon-tartar

delmonico-steak

We each had a glass of a 2006 cab blend that was really smooth, and likely the most expensive we’ve ever ordered ($25 per glass). The coffee/espresso were sub-par. The espresso I ordered turned out to be a $7 illy! Total disappointment.

Our time in Vegas was spent mainly walking around the strip and window shopping. As I’ve mentioned before, Vegas is the one place where you can walk into high-end shops in your shorts and flip flops and not be ridiculed. We wandered into the Chanel store and I tried on a pair of sunglasses from their Bijou collection. I fell in love, but hubs had to pry them out of my hands once he saw the price tag. I couldn’t believe it (well, I could) – $600! Hubs took me to Fashion Show, a “regular” mall on the strip, and he took me to the outlet mall. Both of these places offer much more affordable things. I managed to pick out some things I loved, like this cute boatneck Kate Spade dress with a pleat-flared skirt that made me think of Audrey Hepburn. I found it at the outlet store. The discovery of pockets was an added bonus. Hubs bought me a beautiful Cedar Street Maise handbag from Kate Spade as well.

Other places we dined at included:

  • Society Cafe at Encore
  • Hot n Juicy Crawfish, where you choose the type of seafood and spice level, and they cook them in bags and you eat straight out of bags. It’s a messy affair, but an interesting experience. We ordered 1lb of king crab ($26.99), which we agreed we could have forgone as it tasted like frozen legs, 1lb of crawfish ($10.99), which was good but the crawfish were small and the dish was very garlicky to me, 1lb of clams with the lemon pepper sauce ($9.99) and we both loved that the most, and we ordered an appetizer of soft shell crab ($13.99), which was good. It’s breaded and deep-fried. I should mention that this place does not take reservations, so be prepared to wait. We were originally told the wait would be 40 minutes, but I think we ended up being seated in 20 minutes because most people put their names down, but get tired of waiting and leave.This is me trying to clean off the garlic/shellfish scent from my arms and fingers.crawfish-dinner
  • Viva Las Arepas is a casual Venezuelan joint off the strip. I was curious because when I was studying Spanish, I had read an article about arepas. It’s like a stuffed pita, but saucier. It was a good place for a quick bite. I had the Pabellon ($7), which is stuffed with beef, black beans, plantain, and cheese.arepaHubs had the Asada with cheese and avocado ($6.99). It might not be the place to go if you are starving because portion sizes are better for a snack, unless you order some sides. We ended up ordering an empanada pollo, and a tequeno. Oh, the sugar cane lime drink ($2.75) was absolutely refreshing. I ended up paying the $1.50 for another refill. It’s a perfect hot-weather drink.
  • Lotus of Siam is also off the strip, but worth the drive. It’s a Northern Thai restaurant. From the exterior, it doesn’t look like much.lotus-of-siamAs per reviews I had read, and some recommendations from our server, we ordered the Nam Kao Tod ($8.95), which is a fried rice appetizer with sour pork. It’s really good, but spicy. We came to realize that the heat wasn’t from hot peppers so much as it was from the slivers of ginger. The other app we ordered was the Nam Prik Ong ($11.95). It’s a mild red chili dip with ground pork, surrounded by various vegetables. For the mains, we shared the Kang Ka Noon (Spicy jack fruit curry) with catfish ($10.95). This dish wasn’t that memorable. We loved the Panang ($24.95). It’s crispy duck topped with Thai style red cream curry sauce with cognag. We easily polished off this dish.

    Nam-Kao-Tod

    lotus-of-siam-dinner

    To finish off our meal, we ordered the coconut ice-cream ($4), which helped ease the burning from the Kang Ka Noon and Nam Kao Tod dishes. I’m glad I made a reservation in advance because the lineup was long. They will only hold your table for 5 minutes, so don’t be late!

Shopping and eating are our main reason for visiting Vegas, so we never spend more than 3-4 days in this excessive city. We had been here since May 9th. I had enough and was ready to get going. We packed up early this morning and hit the road. Goodbye Vegas, hello Utah! The drive, cutting through Arizona, took about 3 hours, but we passed the time by listening to the Serial podcast I had put onto the iPod. We became hooked on this true crime story about Adnan Syed.

We arrived in the small town of Springdale, UT in the early afternoon. We couldn’t check in at the Cliffrose Lodge yet, as they were still preparing our room, so we decided to do a hike in Zion National Park, which was conveniently located next to our hotel. This hike to Angel’s Landing was the hike hubs had his heart set on doing, after seeing pictures online and reading about it. I was a little bit fearful, based on what I saw and read, but I’m always up for a little bit of adventure. After stopping in at the visitor’s centre, hubs reassured me that if the final half mile proved to be too steep, we could turn around.

Luckily it is May, and it’s a cooler than usual year, making this hike easier on the body. I won’t sugar coat it – this is a technical hike and you really need to watch your footing. Although it is only 3.9 km long, it takes time. And you can’t just walk into the park and start hiking. You have to take a free shuttle to the Grotto point from the visitor centre. For those that are not interested in hiking, but want to see the park, the shuttle will take you around. I think a round trip ride could take about an hour as it does stop at various locations to drop off and pick up hikers. The shuttle runs about every 15 minutes. On this particular hike, some of the paths are very narrow ridges with steep drop offs. It’s an uphill climb, 5,790 feet (1,760 m) to be exact. There is one section that is made up of 21 steep switchbacks, taking you to Scout Lookout. This is the spot where you have to decide whether you are brave enough to reach Angel’s Landing, or if you prefer to turn around. This final half mile is incredibly steep, with chains to help you pull yourself up or maybe to grab on to so that you don’t slide off the ridge and to your death! The reward is an incredible view of into the canyon.

Coming down is also challenging. We took our time. Unlike hiking up to the Torres in Chile, I was so thankful that the terrain here are sticky rocks. It’s actually hard to slip on these rocks. During our descent, we did manage to witness the most amusing event, though hubs covered my eyes at one point and he refused to take a photo. There were two guys coming up. They didn’t see us. They had stripped down and were completely naked. Hubs said that all they had on was a sock to cover their penises. I only saw their white, bare asses. They had someone take their photo.

We managed to catch one of the last shuttles back to visitor’s centre. By the time we moved our stuff into our room, it was 8:30 pm. The friendly guest services rep at the front desk had recommended the Spotted Dog Cafe for dinner, but it was only open until 9:00. We did a rush change job, and drove down the street to the restaurant. They seated us. After a lamb shank dinner, we are back in our room. I’ve taken some photos of our room because I have never seen this design before. Have you?

cliffrose-inn

I’m exhausted. Need sleep.

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