Vegasmoon

The morning after the wedding, we flew to Las Vegas for a few days of decompression. We had a European honeymoon planned for October, but we needed a few days to rest and unwind after all the (wonderful) stress of the wedding. A good friend had graciously offered us their timeshare, which was in a nice Hilton property attached to the Flamingo. All we had to do to get to the Strip from our room was take the elevator to the lobby, walk outside past the Flamingo pool, through the Flamingo, and out onto the crazy streets. The room was really warm, even after we asked to switch rooms because of the heat, but it was a large space with a kitchen and living room with a great view of the pool shenanigans going on below us.

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Food was the main event in Vegas, as we’d both been on diets leading up to the wedding. I’d been exercising a LOT, too, so three days of eating, sleeping, and gambling with my new husband was just what the doctor ordered. Since I planned most of the wedding, Barry took on planning the Vegasmoon, and he made everything a surprise. Between all the stress and makeup, I woke the morning after the wedding to puffy, allergic eyes, which you can see in every dang picture. Despite that, I kept up the dresses and jewelry, and Barry brought nice outfits, and we had fun wearing clothes out of our ordinary.

Our first meal was the Wynn buffet. My grandmother, a Vegas expert, introduced me to it. She and my Uncle Boyd and I ate there years ago when I joined them there after a shoot I had in Vegas. It was my first Vegas buffet, and the Kobe meatballs and gold-leaf desserts won me over. Barry had said while we were starving ourselves that the first thing he was going to eat in Vegas was an entire plate of cocktail shrimp, and at Wynn, he made that happen. I have to say, the buffet there has gone downhill a bit since my first trip, and although the mountain of cheese and olives was still awesome, the rest was just adequate. Still really interesting, though – Kobe meatloaf, tequila and mint watermelon cubes, excellent Asian-stir-fry green beans, and braised short ribs. I hadn’t eaten that much in at least 6 months, and I was full until the next afternoon.

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That afternoon, we went to see “The Hangover 3,” complete with movie popcorn, my first in 6 months. You might think we’d want to see a romantic movie on our Vegasmoon, but due to “The Hangover” being the movie we watched the night we first kissed, all the Hangover movies kind of have a special place in our hearts (despite them all being ridiculous) – and hey, they do take place in Vegas. It was a nice brain break after all the wedding intensity. I was full, but the popcorn was awesome!

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Day #2 brought one of my Vegas favorites for breakfast, La Creperie at Paris. I had a walnut pear crepe, and Barry had one with about 20 cheeses. Before the evening’s entertainment, we stopped at a Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill while walking though the MGM casino. It wasn’t planned, but I’m so glad we found it. It was a beautiful little open restaurant where Barry had an excellent lasagna, and I had the first burger I’d had in half a year.

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Barry’s surprise for the evening was a magic show, which I’ve never seen in all my trips to Vegas. The trip out to the Riviera’s Starlite Theater was quite a hike, though, at least in a dress after the most exhausting event of my life. It was worth it, though, to see a really talented magician in such a small space – German Jan Rouven’s “Illusions.” The older theater was small, and the seats were arranged like a comedy club, with a small bar in a back room. What gave him credibility in my eyes was that one of his illusions is based on the classic Siegfried & Roy prop where the woman enters the box, which is then run through with swords. It was a gift from the magic duo after their retirement from show business. He is young, energetic, and witty, which made the show really fun. Barry had a girly drink, and I had a beer, which made me giggle.

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There were two grand meals in Vegas that are a tie for best of the trip. One of them was dinner at Todd English’s Olives at Bellagio. Barry made us a reservation, and thank goodness he did, because it was an Olympic event to get into this place without one. We weren’t very hungry when dinner rolled around because our stomachs weren’t used to such decadence and abundance – if there’s one thing I viscerally remember about our Vegasmoon, it was feeling FULL the whole time. We decided to gamble in the most beautiful casino of them all for about an hour and then get to dinner, so we had to wait about 30 minutes once we got there. Watching people walk up expecting to be seated and being told no was very entertaining. One beautiful woman wasn’t having it, and she pestered the hostesses the whole time we waited, and we ended up being seated next to her party out on the patio. We were seated up against the outer wall, overlooking the beautiful Bellagio fountains. I’ve been to Vegas several time but had never seen the fountain show due to high winds or just being there at the wrong time. Our amazing dinner took at least two hours, and we got to hear and see the fountains dance over and over and over. It’s not just one program – it’s different music and choreography every 20 minutes. I remember the Pink Panther song, Michael Jackson, and Celine Dion, among others. Barry had a sidecar, and I had champagne while we watched the show, and it was such a wonderful evening. We were so close to the water that we could feel the spray of the cascading jets as they crashed down in synch with the music. Bellagio is across the street from Paris, so we sat and drank in the sparkling Eiffel Tower and hot air balloon, the pedestrians passing under the olive and cypress trees lining the street across the fountain from us, and the beautiful skyline.

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The pre-meal bread at Olives comes with a trio of olives and tapenade, and they were excellent.  I had a big steak  on a bed of roasted potatoes, topped with sauteed portabellos, a balsamic glaze, and a watercress salad. Barry’s entree was epic: a steak on a bed of mashed potatoes and tempura asparagus, served with a crab cake and frisee salad. We also got a lobster mac and cheese!! What? I lost 14 pounds and was hungry! I was completely stuffed and tried to talk Barry out of dessert, but if you’ve met him, you know that’s a losing proposition, especially when you’re on your honeymoon at a famous chef’s restaurant. I’m glad he ordered it, though, because it was unique: s’mores panna cotta with housemade marshmallows and chocolate-dipped ginger cookies. YUM.

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The next “morning” (time really is different in Vegas…), we decided to give the Flamingo pool a try. Apparently, so did everyone else in town. It was so crowded that we couldn’t find a single lounge chair on which to leave our things, so I asked a random guy if he wouldn’t mind us leaving our towels under the edge of his. The pool had waterfalls and caves, and we spent about an hour in it soaking up a little sun. The drinks were ridiculously expensive, and the sun was hot, so we headed back to the room after just a little while. It looked more fun from our hotel room window that it really was.

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The other grand meal was the Bacchanal buffet at Caesar’s. Oh. My. Goodness. Please eat here if you find yourself in Vegas – you will be so happy you did. This buffet is huge, with an entire room for Asian food. We spent several hours here, eating in slow courses, in order to do it justice. When you pay, they give you grippy, rubber finger protectors so you can comfortably pick up the dishes. Being a huge buffet, the portions are small to promote experimentation and less waste, and many come in their own adorable ramekins, small bowls, and shot glasses. There was so much amazing food here, but the highlights included the best brisket I’ve ever had (and this Texan has sampled a LOT of brisket) and an amazing Asian baked fish (and I don’t really like fish). Barry found cake pops, but my dessert was a trip to the chips and salsa bar.

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We were blessed with an incredible number of wedding presents, some of which was cash, and we took some of that cash with us to Vegas. We really didn’t end up losing very much, considering we were there for three days, and the greatest fun would be when we’d start the day and Barry would hand me a $100 bill. When we go to the Native American casinos in Oklahoma, $40 is big money for me, so starting the day with $100 was grand, extravagant fun. We did a LOT of walking in between giant, extravagant meals, and we gambled at dozens of casinos: Paris, MGM, Planet Hollywood, Caesar’s, Treasure Island, Bellagio, the Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn, and many others we passed through on our way to somewhere else. We wandered the indoor malls and enjoyed the sights. We stuck to the strip and didn’t make it downtown on this trip. Mainly, we played slot machines (well, I did, and Barry followed me around and played the Superman and Ghostbuster machines when he found them), but Barry entered a poker tournament at MGM and played for a couple of hours while I wandered around the machines. I think my favorite night was at the Mirage, my grandmother’s favorite casino, where he played for hours on Ghostbusters on the same $20, and I won a bit on a few different machines. Mimi gave us good luck there!

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Our last dinner was at Carnevino, the Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich meat and wine restaurant at the Venetian/Palazzo. If you can get over the fact that it is going to be wildly unhealthy, you will enjoy an extremely memorable meal. Every waiter is pretty much a sommelier, and ours talked to us about the different wines and drinks for each of the meaty selections. We ate relatively early in order to get to a show, so the tables were full of business people there for conventions. I had prosecco, and we got a spago with lamb ragu pasta course, which was excellent. The steak knives at Carnevino don’t have ridged blades – they are smooth, sharp enough to hold their own. I got buffalo, and Barry got steak – both were top-notch. The waiter’s assistant brought Barry’s mascarpone and guanciale mashed potatoes to the table with a poached on top, which he broke in front of us and stirred in. The dessert was a sampler, with pistachio gelato, cannoli, raspberry cheesecake, bread pudding, and a chocolate and peanut butter torte. It was such an amazing meal, and I think if we had ‘t been so FULL toward the end of the trip, it would have been even better. I’ve been wanting to eat at Carnevino since my first trip to Vegas, and my awesome new husband made it happen!

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After dinner, we went to see “Mystere,” the original Cirque du Soleil show at TI, formerly Treasure Island. We made it in the nick of time, rushing in the doors as the ushers closed them behind us. Before the show, an entertainer ends up spilling popcorn on someone in the audience during a joke, which ended up being Barry and the guy next to us. It happened as I was rushing in from the bathroom, so I came in to find Barry with big eyes, brushing popcorn off of his suit jacket! The show was incredible – very impressive music and acrobatic feats in a huge, beautiful theater. The casino was fun, too, and it treated us well.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our little Vegasmoon and didn’t want to come home and go back to work, but alas, it had to end sometime. Coming home to my new home with my new husband helped, though…plus, we had a European trip to plan!

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