Saturday, August 18, 2001

Paris, Las Vegas

One of the tricks of getting around in Las Vegas is knowing which casinos are owned by the same companies. See, there's not very efficient public transportation on the Strip. There's buses. There's a trolley system, which was hard to find and when Christina did find it, she said it took forever. But if you want modern mass transportation, you have to content yourself with going between casinos in the same "family."

Friday morning we got up finally hungry. We wanted to try one of the better buffets in town, so we decided to head to the Paris casino. The taxi line at the Excalibur looked way too long, so we crossed the street to the MGM Grand. Well, maybe that wasn't the most efficient choice. The MGM Grand is huge -- it's the biggest hotel in the world, and the casino itself is cavernous. After working our way to the back of the property, we waited for a few minutes in the baking heat for the tram to Bally's. After a short journey via the backs of the casino's, we arrived to Bally's, our destination. Sort of.

You see, instead of getting a permit to build a new casino for Paris, Bally's (well, actually the people who own the rights to the name "Bally's", but never mind because it only gets more confusing) got a permit to build Paris as an extension to Bally's. So wandering through the Bally's casino and asking three or four people for directions got us pointed in the direction of the Paris hall o' shops (with the appropriate French motif and a very similar fake sky to the Venetian). After a brief wait in line, and forking over $20/person, we were ready for the best food we'd have in Las Vegas.

Wow. Here's my recommendation. If you're ever in Vegas, go to the Paris buffet. But don't eat for 24 hours ahead of the time. Everything was delicious, but it was hard for me to stuff it all in my face. Especially by the time we got to dessert. I guess Paris suffers in some reviews compared to other buffets because of the lack of variety of the food (most of it is French-themed), but oh is it good. I was a little bit turned off by the sight of people lining up to pile 20 or so shrimps on their plate -- especially because they missed the scrumptious salmon right next to it. I can't praise this food enough.

After lunch, we headed back to Bally's, where we played the slots and video poker machines briefly. Christina inexplicably turned down an offer of a free drink, and then we were on our way back to Excalibur via the MGM Grand.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Bachelor Party

After lunch, we went over to Treasure Island to pick up Christina's Cirque du Soleil ticket. She was going to see "Mystere" that evening while I went out with the guys for Martin's bachelor party.

After that, we wandered over to the Venetian. The Venetian is really wild. First of all, it's one of the Strip's swankiest addresses. Second, the Venice theme is really done over the top. They have a canal. Indoors. On the second floor. We wandered around the canal and the impossibly expensive shops for a while, took a few pictures, and then headed back to the Excalibur.

Next on our agenda was the Excalibur's pool. It was, as pools go, not great. As things that are not pools go, it was pretty cool, since after all, it was a pool. But it never reached four feet in depth, and it was swarming with screaming kids. The slide was kind of cool, but the line was a bit long (and I was the oldest guy there w/o a kid in tow.)

By then, it seemed time to meet up with the guys for the bachelor party. I called Ben and arranged to meet them at the San Remo buffet. I still wasn't hungry after lunch. By the time I got there, they had finished their meal, and Martin was back at the craps table. Apparently I just missed him loudly proclaiming the beauty of ham. Then we met up, and Martin and Steve, not suprisingly, decided they were worn out and needed naps. George was going to play the nickel slots, and since I wanted to join him, I went over to join the San Remo slots club.

I guess it's a good idea to join the slots club, because if you play enough, you get free stuff. Also, if you play a table game, they use the card to record your complimentary stuff. The form asked a lot of nosy questions, like my phone number, but fortunately they didn't object when I left that blank. Unfortunately, when I got back, George had lost his $2 at the slots, so it was time to head to the Excalibur. (I never did make it back to the San Remo.)

There, I joined their club (and got Christina a card for good measure) before we headed to the tables. First up, George, Ben and I took a look at the craps table. I used my knowledge of probability to outline why certain bets that they were told were bad were, in fact, bad bets. Ben described craps as a fast paced game that could have you losing or winning money very quickly. Since I wasn't really interested in risking a whole lot of money, we headed to the blackjack tables instead.

I started with $100 and mostly took my cues from Ben as to when to hit or stand. Eventually I began to pick up on general rules, though I guess I really should study the strategy more carefully if I plan to play much in the future. The guy (pit boss?) came over and told us he couldn't comp us unless we bet $10/hand rather than the minimum $5/hand. I wasn't really interested in comps, but Ben and George upped to $10. The guy ended up mixing up my card with George's, which was pretty cool, except for the fact that I don't think he ended up trying to give George anything. Oh, well. Anyway, after a while I was up $80, and it was time to gather Martin, Steve and Paul for the serious part of the bachelor party festivities.

I guess I'm supposed to adhere to some sort of "code of silence" about the activities of the bachelor party. Just as well; I don't have much interesting to say. The evening ended for me when Paul and I, after playing pool for a while, couldn't find anybody else to meet back up with, and headed back to the hotel.