Friday, January 31 (Lunar New Year): I arrived at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix at approximately 7:00 am with my mostly empty large suitcase in tow (when we were in Florida last year, Mom was trying to palm off a lot of stuff on us and we couldn't possibly cram it all in our cases there, so she had planned on shipping it -- but we realized it would be cheaper, flying Southwest, for her to bring it to Vegas and transfer it to my mostly empty suitcase and her duffel bag and I'd carry that home with me). I remembered everything I needed, handed off my bag to the skycap along with a few dollars tip and headed to Security. There was a pre-screener there looking at boarding passes, and she looked at mine and directed me into the left-hand line (several people had passed her to get into the right-hand line, and boy, I'll bet they'd be sorry if they realized what they passed up)... the left-hand lane was, apparently, a time capsule into the pre-9/11 world, where all I did was put my backpack (with electronics and lotion inside) on the roller, walked through the metal detector, picked up my bag, and walked to the gate. WOW. I don't know what I rated, but I liked it!
So now I had several hours, since security was nothing, and I was in a part of the terminal where there was pretty much nothing. I took the time to wander a little, checking out what few stores and restaurants have managed to bloom beyond security (like many airports, most of the good stuff at Sky Harbor is on the other side of security), and the only thing for breakfast was Starbucks, so I had a Chai tea latte and sausage sandwich -- I will say Starbucks breakfast sammichs are better than the pastries I've had there. And I do love Chai tea latte. So I settled in and tweeted a few things, played Tapped Out, and read until it was time to board. We got an announcement that our plane was a little late, so mostly I followed The Bloggess's harrowing tales of waiting at HER airport that same morning while we waited, and it only delayed us about ten minutes. I was still in Vegas before Mom. (This time of the year, the flight to Vegas takes ten minutes -- an hour and ten minutes coming back.) I picked up my bag and waited for her flight to come in. Once we got her bags, we caught a taxi and headed for MGM.
MGM Grand has become just another hotel -- there's nothing really special about it now, other than a lot of high-end restaurants and the CBS Store. All the classic Hollywood stuff is completely gone, and while there is still a touch of the Art Deco here and there, mostly it's pretty bland. The lions are gone, and they've replaced the lion habitat with a sports bar. Yippee.
We went and found the line for getting our VIP tickets for the Super Bowl party... and waited in line. And waited in line... and waited... and waited... and waited (for a little more than an hour). This was seriously the worst-handled big weekend I've ever seen. Last year and the year before, they simply had our tickets waiting for us when we checked into our rooms. JEEZ.
Afterward, we went to see if the Pearl was open -- every single time we've been here, this Chinese restaurant has been closed for one reason or another, but this time it was OPEN, and serving Dim Sum! Somewhat differently from what I'm used to - they had a list, like a Sushi place, where you checked what you wanted. I had to guess with some of them, and alas, they were out of the baked buns, but I introduced Mom to Dim Sum and she liked most of it, but not the sesame balls. I selflessly ate hers.
So after that, we did the usual wandering, taking the monorail down to the Bellagio and doing a lot of walking. There has been progress made on the strange thing we saw the last time we were here... and it looks like Vegas is getting something like the London Eye!
No clue what it is or what hotel (if any) it belongs to -- it's not finished or open yet. We'll have to see... It's behind the Flamingo, the construction on what was the Barbary Coast, and The Quad (formerly Imperial Palace), so it could belong to any of them.
They've also torn out the entire front of Bally's, in prep for another shopping area. Might make the walk from the Monorail station to the Strip a little less onerous.
The Bellagio's atrium done up for the Year of the Horse:
There was a LOT of money in the incense jar (including a $100 bill). Prosperity for the coming year! I took a lot of pictures of the horses on the mountain.
We went over to the Aria and bought tickets for their new Circe show, then made it back to the hotel. We were actually in bed at a reasonable hour. Mom is finally starting to slow down! I can almost keep up with her!
Saturday, February 1: Got up early, went down and found Mom (who is already up well before the sun... well, she was still on Florida time), then we went to the gym, shared a big gooey cheese danish purchased at the new "Corner Pastry" shop just off the lobby (a change I favor at MGM -- this is a really NICE little cupcake/pastry shop!), then did mom-things for most of the morning, which was mostly gambling. As the afternoon waned, we headed out again for the Aria.
The Aria buffet was ASTOUNDING. It was probably the most expensive buffet on the Strip (topping even MGM), but WOW, the food! Real sushi, including nigiri - Indian cuisine, including lamb - actual goat curry at the Mediterranean station - King crab legs - dim sum, noodles, kung pao, and nearly every other Chinese-style cuisine you could think of - pasta bar - carving station - and, to top it all off, for another 12 bucks, all you can drink beer & wine, too!!! Holy moly! I couldn't even eat enough to try everything (and I was good and avoided the bread entirely), but while their unagi was a little rubbery (was sad), the salmon and tuna nigiri was delicious.
And then we went to check out the gift shop and I discovered this new shop was STEAM PUNK! I didn't realize that. The shirts and bags were just lovely, although Mom didn't understand the attraction of the top-hatted silhouette on a bed of roses... (Although, looking through the images online, I think there was something missing from the performance we saw, and that was the top-hatted LEADING CHARACTER, who never seemed to appear. I freely admit I was so tired I dozed off a couple of times, but I NEVER saw him, and looking through the images on Google, he's all over the place, not just on the cool merchandise. WTF?) But there is a mad scientist, a "Fallen London" vibe, and honestly, it was TOTALLY cool. (Far, FAR superior to the closed "Elvis" show that was here... seriously, and I'm an Elvis fan.)
By the time we got back to the hotel, I was feeling like I was getting sick again, and I hit the bed and slept HARD -- apparently, Mom DID come back to check on me, several times, and I slept through it!
Sunday, Groundhog Day (Superbowl Sunday!): Once I finally got up, we decided to go outside of the hotel to find breakfast; Mom considered Denny's, thinking she'd like to have a simple, cheap breakfast, but when we got to the Denny's, it seemed like the entire Strip was thinking the same thing. So we continued on, and came to the Hard Rock Cafe, which had their breakfast menu up. What the heck? We found that the Hard Rock is only a little more expensive than Denny's, the food is WAY better, and I was able to have a Mimosa, too. Although I managed to hide a laugh when Mom ordered rye toast and the girl gave us a confused look and asked, "Is that anything like Panini?" She was a good waitress, so I'm glad I didn't laugh at her -- and heck, the panini really was good. It was a really nommy breakfast.
Then we bided our time until the Superbowl. As many know now, it was... a game. But the food was plentiful and very good, we had a nice table, a good view, and a lot of beer.
Then some more gambling, another sleep, and home. We got to the airport WAY early, since Mom's plane was about an hour before mine, but I shopping some, read some, and finally got on the plane to come home.
Happy New Year, y'all.