The problem with writing a blog is that –perhaps contrary to what you may think– this is a whole lot of the trivial fluff of my life. It’s the fun stuff. It’s what I write about to remember and feel warm-fuzzies all about. So, when something big or crazy happens outside the scope of that narrow little focus of topics falling neatly into the category of light-and-interesting… well, sometimes you just don’t feel like writing much. Like recently. I’ve not been in a very light-and-interesting mood. It happens. So, I’ve not written much. Life will go on. Words will flow. But sometimes you just don’t have it in you.
Four AM home-time comes early no matter what you are planning on doing with that extra two-or-so hours. We used it to scramble out of the house and make our way uneventfully to the airport parking, catch the shuttle, check in to our flight, stumble through security and customs and get aboard our direct-to-Vegas flight. We usually check-in early over the net but — oops! — forgot, so Karin and I ended up not sitting together. The odd thing was — and I’d off-hand made a joke about this as we were boarding — was that (while she got a cozy aisle seat a few rows back) I got rammed into a middle seat, the window occupied by a guy in his sixties, the aisle by a woman in her sixties: I didn’t realize the two were married because they didn’t say a word to each other the whole way, until we were taxiing to the gate after landing.
The rest of the adventure that brought us to the hotel was uneventful: collecting our luggage and taking the shuttle over to Treasure Island on the Las Vegas strip. We’d paid a minor little fee for a “room with a view” and having got there right early in the morning and a few minutes after check-in opened we got that plus another upgrade: a wrap-around room at the end of one of the towers with two windows and two strip-views.
An Afternoon in Vegas-Style
Today was my day to let a little bit loose. The half-marathon I came to Las Vegas to run isn’t until Sunday — two days off — and Saturday is my take-it-easy, don’t over-do it day. Friday: well, there was some fun to be had as well as some things to get done.
When we’d checked in they gave us a couple free weekday vouchers for the buffet. And why turn down a free meal? So, lunch was on TI and (it being an hour difference time-wise) we got in the buffet line around eleven AM and scored a filling (but not quite as gluttonous as one might image when I mention Vegas buffet) lunch. They had a decent variety of sushi and Asian-style salads. I nabbed some really spice kimchi, and also went back for a small helping of cornbread, beans and fall-off-the-bone ribs. Dessert was decadent and my eyes were feeling a little large at the display of sugar and chocolate.
After lunch we figured we had better get some of the race details out of the way. We crossed the road and stumbled through the maze of shops and casinos in the Venetian hotel, making our way to the Sands convention centre tucked in behind it. This larger-than-I’ve-ever-seen (and I’ve been to a lot of convention centres in my time) centre was home to the check-in, swag collection, merch-shop, and running trade show: we hit them all. I grabbed my number and my shirt and a goodie back stuffed with some little trinkets. Then Karin (twist my rubber arm) talked me into buying some logo-wear running-wear — I got a Vegas half marathon finisher shirt, and a pair of running socks with the series logo on them. She also bought me a really cool shirt that (technically is a secret because it’s my Christmas present!)
The whole wander through the expo took a solid hour and a half and by the time we were done we were so loaded down with swag we thought we’d better swing by the hotel to drop it off. That turned into a let’s just rest our feet for a few minutes which promptly turned into a mid-afternoon nap.
The plan was to get moving again around three and make our way down to the area where we were off to see a show. The MGM Grand is not quite visible from our hotel room, but I could roughly point to where we needed to go. Visually, it’s a eight-or-so block walk. Realistically, it’s an hour-long stroll through the chaos of the Las Vegas Strip. And we wanted to do some sight-seeing on the way, and maybe grab a meal in there, too.
Karin had here heart set on (yes, it’s true) another buffet. This time she was planning on hitting up a sushi and seafood buffet tucked into the back of the Planet Hollywood hotel. It took us an hour of meandering strolling to get there… but to no avail. The lunch hours closed the place down at 2:30 and supper wasn’t to start again until 5:30. It was just after four. And we started doing some mental maths and deduced the timing was not in our favour with a seven o’clock show on the agenda.
We opted to head down and clear one particular off our checklist that might prove to mess around with our evening plans if we didn’t time things just right: picking up our show tickets. And what happened next I’ll just add is a fine testament to customer service and the overall experience of our day here.
We got to the MGM Grand and followed the signs to the Cirque du Soleil box office. Months back the race organizers had sent out a “special offer for runners” to pick up half-price tickets to one or more of three Cirque du Soleil shows (there are six playing here in Vegas right now). We opted to drop some cash, make for a long and tiring day all-in, and nab some tickets to KA. I had bought the tickets, printed off the confirmation, and stuck in with the rest of the paperwork. Arriving at the box office we (again) stood in line and waited to pick up our tix. I showed my ID, she fumbled with the computer, and then let out a kind-of “uh-oh!” sigh and asked to see our confirmation again. I slid the paper back to here and she pointed with her pen to the date: two tickets for KA on November 29, 2012. We were there precisely one day late. Our tickets had been for the previous night. The look of shock and dumbfounded horror on our faces must have been unabashedly sympathetic because the woman took our paper again and said “just let me check something” as she disappeared into some back room. We stood there mostly dumbstruck and speechless, shaking our heads in disbelief for at least five minutes wondering what we were going to do and even debating about how much we would pay if offered a swap for tonight. But — and as I said, I can’t even begin to extol virtue upon Vegas hospitality enough here — the woman emerged and handed us a pair of tickets with (actually) slightly upgraded seats and with a wry smile simply said “enjoy your show.”
We went for dinner after that, and Karin still chuckling in bewildered amusement at our good fortune, had to explain to the waiter what had just happened.
Dinner was at Wolfgang Puck in the MGM Grand, a terrace-style restaurant in the middle of the noise and bustle of the casino. We had an awesome waiter and an awesome meal. Karin order some kind of flash-fried sea bass. And I though I was getting something reasonable when I ordered the steamed mussels, but the skillet heaped with enough seafood to feed our whole family arrived, and that was only part of it. I would guess there were over a hundred mussels, perfectly steamed and drizzled in a tasty red sauce with bits of chorizo sausage thrown in the mix. It came with a whole heap of fries (yeah, don’t ask… I don’t get it either) and a kind of bruchetta-thing. I got it down to under ten mussels (though I didn’t each much of the bread or fries) with Karin’s help, and against our better judgement the waiter convinced us to try a slice of decadent pumpkin pie for a dessert. I won’t bore readers with details of the bill, nor remind myself here of the same.
By this time we had about forty-five minutes until our show started. Some would say we were about twenty-three hours and fifteen minutes late, but again: amazing customer service. We wandered. We hit the M&M World store just outside where Karin stocked up on sugar and chocolate. And we wandered some more. It doesn’t take long to kill forty-five minutes in Vegas.
The show was amazing. I think of the four Cirque du Soleil shows I’ve seen it is easily my favourite. The theme is a blend of Asian-influence and steampunk, and it tells the very loose story of (completely my interpretation) a pair of royal (?) kids who are separated during an invasion by some army and the following escape and struggles to be reunited. Again: completely my interpretation and it is a wordless circus we’re talking about so I may be completely off-base. The whole thing is centered around this pair of massive moving stages. And to call one of them simply a “moving stage” is an injustice and an understatement. The stage appears from no where, hidden out of sight a fifty-by-one-hundred foot monster that first appears as a mock-sail barge rocking and tilting and rotating three-hundred and sixty degrees seeming to float in the air over the pit. Sometimes the stage is flat and used as a standard kind of stage, and then before your eyes it will tilt ninety degrees and become a wall or a cliff or a hill-side. And all around the cast of fifty (give or take) bounds effortlessly around this moving canvas, swinging, jumping, leaping, and then falling into the pit below in gut-wrenching acts of acrobatics, all the while arrows and fire and various apparatus and more fire fill the scene. It was two hours of spell-binding fun.
It took us an hour and a half to walk back down the strip to our hotel, walking through the lights and the shops and the masses of people. We timed our walk past the Bellagio fountain perfectly and saw the show light up the night for three quick minutes of water and light. We tried our best to take a crack at one of those giant margaritas but even the two of us sharing failed epically. And, wandering back to our hotel room, we crashed.