Vegas 2012 – Day 18 – Johnny Smalls & Bite

June 15th, 2012

Having asked my friends what they wanted bringing back from Vegas, this morning was spent shopping for various food items – maple syrup, sugar free maple syrup, twinkies, pop tarts in unusual flavours and Cheetos :)

All this food shopping had made us hungry and the closest place was Del Taco.

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We’re not sure why you’re given (extremely salty) chips with a mexican meal, but the rest of it was tasty.

After that we headed over to Gold Coast for their swipe to win offer and each got the lowest point prize, bah.

Then we headed over to the Stratosphere to buy tickets for the evenings show. An uneventful trip except for some walking in circles hunting down the box office, so it took a bit of time. We’d wanted to go ooo at the view too but it was quite expensive and we couldn’t find a 2 for 1 voucher quickly so that’s been added to the list for next trip :)

Oddly, we were hungry again! So we headed back to our hotel for some food. Our Groupon had included $40 food credit which meant we had to eat at one of their restaurants. We chose Johnny Smalls as it offered an interesting sounding tapas menu.

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You got to order two plates each from the menu at a time, as many times as you needed to be full :) This meant we got to try lots of things.

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Some were things we’d had before like corndogs.

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These deep fried green beans were new to us but very tasty! Not sure they still count as a good for you vegetable though!

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“Flatbreads” turned out to be pizzas (tasty but kinda filling when we wanted to be trying lots of different foods).

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Tasty meatballs :)

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Some sliders. This wasn’t the entirety of our food, because I didn’t manage to photograph all of it! But it gives some idea of the selection :) The food was all very tasty and freshly prepared – a buffet cooked to order and brought to your table! A fine way to try different things and eat a little too much :)

After eating we went back to our room for a bit to start sorting out some of the many bags we had. When in Michaels, Chris had bought some fabric paints and neon tape so we could make our suitcases unique. I spent a while making sure mine would be recognised :)

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For our evenings entertainment we went to Bite. A show promising topless vampires and rock music. There was good dancing, some impressive acrobatics, a bit of magic, and a flimsy storyline. It was a little odd sharing a booth table with two strangers! But the show was enjoyable and I got a strawberry daiquiri in a Stratosphere shaped glass :)

After the show we refilled my drink and headed over to Hooters for a bit more gambling :) We wanted to get a few more of the freebies :) We didn’t manage a huge amount though as I was rather tired and giggly and the money was vanishing a tad too quickly!

Vegas 2012 – Day 17 – Hooters & Criss Angel

June 15th, 2012

Today was our penultimate hotel switch. Time to check out of the Plaza and leave behind the pretty view of the Stratosphere.

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Whilst driving over to our next hotel we went past this and I managed to get a photo. It’s a McDonalds, but it doesn’t quite look like one!

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We had a Groupon for our last hotel in Vegas. To stay at the Hard Rock Hotel in their new all suite tower. We used the valet and had a bellman take our bags and then found the check in queue. We finally get to the front to be told that the new tower actually had its own checkin desk we could have used (if only it were signed or we’d psychically known!) but she checked us in anyway. Then we walked over to the tower and grumbled as it has a fancy smancy check in area with comfy seats! Dang!

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The suite was very nice. A lounge area with plenty of seating and back to back TVs plonked in the middle of the room to provide separation. The bed was huge and smooshy. The bathroom large with everything you’d expect :)

After we’d settled we decide it was time for some lunch. Being Wednesday and my following of Hooters online meant we had a magic word which could summon up 10 free chicken wings, so we headed over there. After nomming rather more than the free wings, and stealing another pen, we checked out the players club.

For those who aren’t familiar with Vegas, every chain of casinos has their own little club. You get a card which you put into the machine (or hand to a dealer at tables) every time you play and it tracks your play and you get rewards. Most of these clubs have new player offers :) The good ones give you your money back if you lose within 24 hours, and Hooters not only had that, but also cool free prizes for earning a number of points!

So I signed up and we headed over to some video poker machines to see how many points we could earn whilst losing the $100 they would give you back. Only, we didn’t lose! We did rather remarkably well and lost our whole afternoon to playing :) Turns out, I rather like Hooters. Not only do they have awesome chicken wings and pretty waitresses, they play good music :) So we were singing along whilst we played, quite content :)

When we realised it was time to go, we went and collected our loot so far :) Alas, they’d run out of blankets :( But it did mean Chris got a tshirt too, oh, and another voucher for free wings ;)

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We had no time for those, it was back to the hotel to get changed before heading out to our dinner reservations. We had a table booked at Origin India to have our only Indian food of the trip :)

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The place was very quiet so the waiters were a little hovery whilst we were trying to read the rather long menu! But once we’d ordered it was all relaxed and the food was very tasty :)

Our entertainment for the evening was Criss Angel. I’m not sure how much I should write here as its going to get very ranty! First up because the tickets have an original value marked on them which was half what we paid! Really shouldn’t pre-order Vegas show tickets unless you’re desperate for a specific performance!

We did at least get a free upgrade – the place was rather empty and they didn’t want everyone sitting at the back so we all got moved forward many rows. Then I took a sneaky photo of the stage as it looked pretty cool!

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The mechanical rabbits occasionally pulled a human head out of their hat. This was the kind of pretentious nonsense I was expecting. Criss Angel is known for levitating above the Luxor hotel, for walking on water, for doing rather over the top magic. This was also a Cirque show, which should have added to the pretentious nature. Even without watching any of the trailers I was expecting big. Acrobatics, awesome magic, music and entertainment.

I wish I could say I wasn’t disappointed. I really do. But it was terrible!

When he wasn’t shouting at us and complaining we weren’t clapping loud enough, he was showing video clips of the kind of magic we’d been expecting. The only magic he did was disappear himself, or his assistant, and then reappear himself or his assistant. Every time he picked up a piece of fabric you knew what to expect!

He did a piece with some birds, which had a little more of the pretentious theatre I was hoping for, but come on, it was birds! Surely one of the first things magicians learn!

He seemed to be impressed with himself for performing others tricks slightly faster or for using smoke instead of a curtain, but you know what? It’s still someone else’s trick!

There was nothing unique, nothing really wow worthy, and nothing I hadn’t seen done before and better! Even Rick Thomas with his afternoon tiger magic last year had presented these same tricks better, for a family show!

Oh and everyone left going “Wow! That was the best magic I’ve seen!” – then go watch more magic shows! Any one of the other Vegas shows would have shown you those tricks better, and included something unique. Nyargh!

Okay, I know Penn & Teller have spoilt me. Criss did cut a woman in half quite impressively if you didn’t know where to look to know how it was done. No, wait, all he did was stand at the front and shout whilst some freaky rabbits cut the woman in half. *sigh*

Needless to say, I was not impressed. We were both not impressed. We were both ranting rather a lot about how bad the show was and what a waste of our evening and money it was :(

Vegas 2012 – Day 16 – Pinball Museum

June 10th, 2012

Today started with a little bit of gambling to do a swipe to win offer which got me a fabulous purple swim bag with the Palms logo :) Then some lunch which was supposed to be at a proper Chinese restaurant but their lunch menu confused us so we ended up at Panda Express instead ;)

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Our plan for the day had included a whole lot of stuff. Foolishly, we started with the Pinball Museum and therefore lost the day!

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It is a great place filled with lots of machines of varying ages. Some of them are disappointingly mean and just drop the ball down the middle without giving you a chance.

The South Park machine on the other hand was a special UK machine with skill bumpers which meant in theory you shouldn’t lose the ball!

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There was a second set of buttons next to the flipper buttons which popped up bumpers to block the holes the ball usually escapes down. It meant that the game had a nice learning curve and you felt much more in control. It had great sound effects (mmm kay!) and kept us entertained for a very long time. Our $1 for 2 players lasted well over an hour!!

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So by the time we left there it was rather too late for all the other things we’d planned and we decided it was about time for dinner.

Trip Advisor gave us this evenings choice. If you look for the top restaurants in Vegas the first is seafood (which I don’t eat), the second is basically just a bar with a great view, and the third is where we went :) “Off the Strip – Just Real Food” is rather a long but descriptive name.

We started with the wings which were tasty :) Very different to the wings we’ve been enjoying at Hooters but yummy nonetheless.

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All main courses get served with a salad, so we nommed that down with rather a lot of the fresh bread they kept bringing us!

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Then the main courses and a realisation that we shouldn’t have eaten all the bread! There was way too much food. Very tasty and we ate rather too much!

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When we’d arrived we were asked if it was our first time. Trip Advisor reviews had mentioned that first timers were given a free piece of their homemade cheesecake. It magically arrived and amazingly got eaten despite our full bellies!

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Vegas 2012 – Day 15 – Popcorn & Drive in

June 10th, 2012

Today was a better day :) We started with a bit of a drive to go and find Popcorn Girl. Thanks to “Kid in a candy Store” on Food network we had seen this place with their many, many flavours of popcorn made fresh on site and just had to go try :)

They’re very friendly and want to give samples of the flavours so you can try to decide between them all. Every flavour we tried was delicious! They make some crazy bright candy flavoured popcorn :)

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Eventually we decided on these three – hot wings, Parmesan & garlic and white chocolate peppermint.

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Luckily they warned us about not leaving chocolate popcorn in the car so we just got a little bag :)

It was about lunch time so we headed over to Sweet Tomatoes for some vegetables :)

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Once our tummies were full we decided to go for a bit of a shop. We went to Luxor so I could buy a couple of tshirts, and to the sock shop in Mandalay Bay, and other random things. Finishing up with this…

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There’s an apple underneath all that chocolate which makes it a healthy choice, right? ;)

Continuing the shopping we headed over to the zombie apocalypse store but despite having a fab leaflet and outside we didn’t buy anything. I didn’t think we’d get home with any of the weaponry ;)

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Then we went to watch Sirens of TI stopping at Señor Frog for a frozen drink in a palm tree glass :) The show almost got called off because it was very windy, but they managed and it was rather fun :) There’s a good array of free shows in Vegas :)

After that we headed to the drive in to watch Snow White, stopping off at Dominos to grab a buffalo chicken pizza which was scrumptious!

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The drive in shows double features, but despite it being very windy out we couldn’t keep the car cool with the engine off :( So we didn’t stay for the second show instead opting to go back to our hotel to set up our diddy projector.

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We made our own private cinema and watched some TV whilst munching some of our tasty popcorn :)

Vegas 2012 – Day 14 – Only Food

June 6th, 2012

Today wasn’t a great day. We had a slow start. We couldn’t decide where to go or what to do, or even where to eat breakfast. It was soon coming up to lunch time and we decided to try out the Underworld Bar & Grill which we had a voucher for. Once we finally found the place, we discovered they only serve dinner, d’oh! So time for a rethink and off we went to Palms to have Mexican there, but they had a silly Sunday brunch buffet and we didn’t want a buffet. So we had to try and come up with another plan. Finally we ended up in TGI Friday’s and had some food.

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Then some playing with my macro lens – any ideas what this is?

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Whilst hunting for Underworld, we had found a Michael’s so we went for a wander round there as Chris had never been in one. Amusingly, despite being a craft store and therefore more my thing, I didn’t buy anything and yet Chris did ;)

Then we went over to Walmart for some supplies. We’d run out of water and coke and snacks! We had a very slow wander round, getting distracted by the board games section, and clothes, but eventually we had everything we needed (and more!) and joined a queue. The wrong queue. Oh my word, it took forever! The lady at the front had coupons. Only, not Walmart coupons. Adverts in various papers for other stores offers which Walmart foolishly guarantee they’ll match! So it took forever! The lady behind her wanted to use the same coupons. The poor checkout lady was so fed up she wanted her break and tried to tell us to go away, but we’d been standing through all this frustration too and weren’t joining another queue at this point. So we went through too, and finally escaped!

To improve the day, we went to Hooters :D I have been following them on Facebook since last year. I even won one of their random competitions and got a cool sticker and keyring through the post! :) We have been waiting to try their wings for a while, and finally we tried them!

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They were GOOOOOOOOD! :D Oh so very tasty! :) They certainly lived up to the anticipation. Hot but not too spicy, and so very flavoursome :) We nommed through all of these mighty quickly :) I suspect we may go back again soon ;)

Unfortunately, it was extremely cold in their restaurant and I was freezing! So we didn’t stay for dessert. Instead we headed over to Luv It Frozen Custard for our desert :) A small window in a wall which serves fresh frozen custard :) Most tasty :)

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Vegas 2012 – Day 13 – Back to Vegas

June 6th, 2012

We had a fairly slow start to the morning whilst we packed up everything and eventually checked out of our hotel to head back to Vegas. There were a few things to do on the way, the first being in rather the opposite direction :) We had a massage class booked (to learn how to massage, not to receive one) in Beverly Hills. So more fighting with the traffic and then hunting for some lunch led us to Taco Bell. I love their array of sauces and the tasty foods :)

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Taco Bell is one of those places I just have to visit every time we come to the US :) I love the idea of Mexican fast food and it’s always so tasty :)

We had some time to waste before the class, and were still a little peckish, so we went hunting for donuts. Only, the closest place didn’t sell donuts, nope, it sold fonuts…

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These are baked, not fried! I’d like to say healthier, but given the fillings and toppings I’m not so sure ;) I had a salted caramel followed by a caramel apple which had chunks of apple in the donut – yum! :)

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No photos from the massage class I’m afraid. It was run by Berora and it was a very nice way to spend a couple of hours. The girls get to learn first, and then the process repeated by the guys. You work only on your partner so no need to worry about strangers hands in strange places!

Now that we were all relaxed, it was time to start the long drive. Not a very exciting drive, although we did stop in Baker to buy some Alien Fresh Jerky :) Resisted the temptation to buy this:

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Once we finally got to Vegas we checked into the Plaza. This hotel is downtown, not on the strip. We do have a rather nice view of the Stratosphere though :) We’re also above the Greyhound bus station!

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We finished the day with a trip to Tony Roma’s which was a little disappointing as despite checking the menu earlier online, it had changed, and the starter I wanted no longer existed :( Still, we had good food, tasty ribs, and left satisfied :)

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Vegas 2012 – Day 12 – Hydro Biking & Stinking Rose

June 5th, 2012

We had a fairly slow morning whilst we caught up on some computer based activities. Breakfast was a challenge as we had no forks for our cheesecake :( Chris went on a mission for coke and a spoon/fork but couldn’t find one, so I hacked up a plastic cup into something kind of usable…

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We eventually headed down to Long Beach stopping by In and Out burger for some lunch.

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They may not have the most inspiring menu (burger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger) but the food is good! :)

Once we’d eaten that we headed down to the docks to find the hydro bikes. We’d booked it with Groupon some time ago as it seemed suitably random and has good reviews. Basically, it’s a bicycle held between two canoes, and you pedal to propel yourself. Cycling on water!

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It was good fun although rather tiring! The little canal around Treasure Island was much easier pedalling than out in the water with other boats where there were more waves to contend with.

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The bikes are nice and stable and have a cubby hole for keeping things dry. I ended up with a wet foot from catching waves whilst pedalling but Chris didn’t seem to have that problem. We were glad it was quite a cool day as it would have been much harder work in heat!

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After hydro biking we went on a bit of a donut hunt. The closest place according to Google maps was closed :( So we decided to try a Yum Yum Donuts which we’d seen a few of in our travels. They cook the donuts fresh on site (now a requirement of our donuts!) and were very tasty :)

After a quick change it was time to head out again and up to Beverly Hills for our annual trip to the Stinking Rose :) This restaurant is known for garlic and lots of it! I’m not quite sure why the new vampire themed cocktail and steak menu – surely they’d repell vampires?!

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One tasty cocktail ordered, and then time for some garlic! We started with the Bagna Calda which is soft stewed garlic cloves to smoosh onto their freshly baked garlicy bread, with some raw garlic on top if you want ;)

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We were seated down “Garlic Lovers Lane” which is a series of little tents! A little odd but nicely intimate :)

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For a main course, I had ribs and Chris had a steak. All with plenty of garlic! It was, as always, very tasty and much enjoyed :)

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Amazingly, we squeezed in a little chocolatey dessert. No garlic for this course (though they do a garlic ice cream for those so inclined!)

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After a fairly early dinner we fought through the traffic back to our hotel to watch some TV whilst I made a new inside for Chris’ iPhone case to stop him complaining about it falling apart ;)

Vegas 2012 – Day 11 – Knotts Berry Farm

June 3rd, 2012

Today was a day of coaster based fun :) A nice early start with Poptarts for breakfast before walking over to Knotts Berry Farm. Amazingly the main gate is actually by the road, unlike many other theme parks, almost like they expect people to walk there! :)

We arrived just before they opened. We’d bought tickets online to save money and whilst the lady at the gate looked a little confused, her machine scanned the barcode from my phone screen with no problem and we were inside :) A short wait and then we were allowed into the park properly.

We noticed almost everyone went straight to Ghostrider, the huge wooden coaster which was closest to the entrance, so we walked on to the next big coaster – Pony Express. As the name suggests, rather than a normal coaster car, you sit atop plastic horses, in a leaning forward position held in strange ways! This was the only ride where glasses were not allowed, even with our funky straps. So Chris was rather blind for it (I had contacts) but seemed to enjoy it anyway and we went round twice in the front row before the crowd caught up and we had to move on :)

Next up was the mine train… If we’d seen the train before getting on we would probably have skipped it. It was actually a little driven train through areas with animatronic people mining. It was a little weird!

After that was Boomerang :) As the name suggests, this is a coaster which reverses rather than looping. It was good and fast :)

Random flower photo
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Boomerang
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Why have teacups when you can have hats?!
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At this point we discovered Xcelerator was closed :( But we have now discovered it has been closed a while and wont be open till later this month so we didn’t miss it specifically.

On to Montezuma’s Revenge, a Thunderlooper type of coaster hiding in amongst two larger ones. High speed loop forward and then reversed :)

We declared it lunch time so we could hopefully skip the queues. Their menu hurt our head and eventually we shared a chicken tenders combo and then got a souvenir Snoopy cup and paid $5 to have unlimited refills all day (which we made good use of!) and a churro each :)

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We went on Windseeker whilst letting our food settle which is a nice gentle rise to 301 feet and then a spin round to enjoy the view before a gentle drop :) Very nice and repeated later on too :)

Since we were near it, we then tried Jaguar which was a long but strangely slow coaster, very gentle and just kept going!

Then it was time for another good view as we went up Supreme Scream, which had both a fast ascent and descent, both very smooth.

Then time for Silver Bullet which was awesome! Long, smooth coaster with great twists and turns :)

Time for a bit of a break and wander through some shops on our way back to Ghostrider. This coaster was very, very long! It is also wooden and hence rather juddery and I came off feeling rather bashed and bruised! That said, it was a very impressive wooden coaster and good fun :)

Amazingly at this point it was still fairly early afternoon and we’d done all the big coasters! It was a lovely quiet day with a number of school trips there but very little queuing. It was great! Just how a weekday trip to a theme park should be :)

We wandered round some more, repeated Silver Bullet and Windseeker and once I eventually found a coin squishy machine with Snoopy, we declared it time to go home so we could get changed and go out for dinner before it got too late.

We’d decided to go to Cheesecake Factory, thinking we were headed to the super romantic one we went to last year. Alas, we were wrong. Still a lovely place but by the time we were seated (I think we got forgotten!) it was too cold to be outside by the dock and I requested we be reseated inside!

Eventually we got some very tasty food which I seemed to manage to eat all of :)

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We took our cheesecake back with us as we were too full to enjoy it there. Only realising after the 40 minute drive back that we had no fork! D’oh!

Vegas 2012 – Day 10 – More Travelling

June 1st, 2012

A very early start today as we have a busy day planned! Step one, checking out of Caesars, which was very easy as the TV checkout worked :) Then off to M for a Hash House breakfast (thanks to another Groupon) :)

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Now starts the long journey up to LA with a number of distractions along the way. First up, some geocaching. There are a number of trails to follow down dirt tracks out into the desert, so we chose one at random and off we went. This one was a little more enthusiastic than most and required us to actually walk away from the track a few hundred feet for each cache. Not quite what we were hoping for and we were glad when we found the end of the trail as I was beginning to fear sunburn! Geocaching results in a lot of photos like these…

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Look, we were out in the middle of nowhere:

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Surrounded by cacti:

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Now that I was fearing burning it was time to stay indoors. We drove up to Primm and then leapt inside their shopping mall of outlet shops and went a wandering. We bought random things like 3D jigsaws, kitchen gadgetry and shoelaces. Whilst Chris was eyeing up more shoes, I played with my camera…

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Who knows which brand of shoes he was looking at? :)

Then, the reason for all our dawdling ;) Time to get to Baker for some lunch :) We knew we needed a late lunch after all that breakfast, although 4pm is impressively late even for us! Time for some Mad Greek goodness :)

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A tasty gyro followed by some tasty pastries :) All very good :)

Then came the boring part of the drive where there was nowhere interesting to stop :( A couple of hours later we were at our new hotel :) A little place right next to Knotts Berry Farm – I can see coasters from the windows!

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Bet you can’t guess what tomorrows post will be about ;)

Vegas 2012 – Day 9 – Swimming & Shopping

June 1st, 2012

Today we got up bright and early to enjoy the pool :) Again, no photos as we took only ourselves and a room key! We had a nice swim and float around until we started getting too warm and worrying we might be burning.

Then it was off to Todd English PUB to meet with Eric for lunch. We worked with him on Poker Buddies and have been close to meeting a few times (actually at the same football game in Tampa but didn’t realise it till after!) Mostly I sat quietly whilst Chris and Eric talked app marketing and monetization ;)

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After we’d eaten we had a bit of a wander around. We went into the Cosmopolitan which has a big chandelier thing, and got a bit lost trying to get out again! Then we went to the Forum Shops in Caesars for an explore. We saw a lovely photography gallery – Peter Lik and a lovely art gallery – Vladimir Kush. Then we found ourselves in the Apple store, and buying things, oops! ;) I am now owner of an Olloclip which is a funky little piece of gadgetry containing three different lenses which clips onto the corner of your iPhone. I can now do macro, wide angle, and fish eye shots, all with my phone, hooray! :) Now you can expect slightly sillier photos from me ;)

The shopping centre has some odd escalators… they go round corners!!

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We had quite early dinner reservations, so we had to get back and get changed and then head out to Marrakech. Thanks to Groupon we had a 6 course meal booked with the promise of bellydancing whilst we ate :) The restaurant is well themed inside so you feel like you’re inside a tent. It is also very dark lit by some funky lanterns in the ceiling and candles on the tables.

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After we were seated we had our hands washed with rose water, which smells lovely! We were encouraged to eat with our fingers, which we did :) The first course was shrimp in a lemon and garlic sauce, served with lots of fresh bread. I’m not generally a fan of seafood, but this was very tasty :)

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Next up, a small bowl of soup was delivered to our hands (hence no photo!) It was a lentil soup which was very tasty, lots of flavour :) The third course was some homous, an egg plant dip, and some salad veggies to dunk. In this photo you can see my soup too.

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Fourth course was a beef kebab which was again delivered to our hands so I couldn’t take a photo. It was really tasty and all to soon our plates were clear and waiting for the next course :)

The fifth was probably the least tasty, it was chicken and vegetables with couscous. Unfortunately, the majority of the vegetable was cabbage, which Chris doesn’t really like and I’m not a huge fan of. It was nicely seasoned and the chicken was very soft, but the cabbage was a little overwhelming!

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The final course was dessert :) It was filo pastry filled with banana, chocolate and almonds, covered in icing sugar and cinnamon. I’m not usually a fan of warm banana but this was very good :D Amazingly, we cleared the plate, despite being very full! ;)

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There was some belly dancing whilst we ate which was fun to watch, though we were sat on the emptier side of the restaurant as there was a large party arriving (just as we finished thankfully) so she mostly danced too far away for us to see. The food was excellent and the service was great too :) Definitely somewhere to try if you’re in Vegas! :)

Having had such an early dinner we still had quite a lot of evening, so we headed over to the Orleans and saw Dark Shadows in their cinema. A very silly film with Johnny Depp as a vampire, obviously we enjoyed it :)