Monday, August 29, 2011

A Timely Visit Report for a Change

We had an end of summer visit from my sister Lori and niece Mikayla.  She and Declan get along like a house on fire.  However, he doesn't trust her driving. 

Because Lori and Mikayla are from Canada, I had to keep them submerged for the duration of their visit to keep them from melting.

We emerged for a quick trip to the zoo. 

In other news, after two solid months of back-to-back bookings, our guest room is vacant again, so come on down for a visit, faithful readers.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Holiday holdover

 We had a great trip, and I will eventually get around to blogging some of the thousand pictures I took, but right now my sister is in town, and you all know how demanding she is, so no time for blogging now.  To tide you all over is here is a video of Declan in Italy.  He is very much the same guy in Italy as he is in America.  Here, he is in Pisa, inviting Shane to "play trade" which is his favourite game when he has something crappy and you have something that he covets. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Las Vegas/TCoNA Trip Report

Shane and I had an uber-fun trip to Las Vegas this month, leaving Declan behind with Shane's parents for four nights - the longest stretch yet.    We have gotten into the habit of going once a year or so for a quick break from everyday reality to the land where nothing sensible is happening, ever.   Love it there.  We started off this trip with a night at the Wynn.   The pool there is just about our favourite way to spend the day - reading by the pool with the occasional cocktail delivered right to our lounge chairs. That's pretty heavenly right there.  And there's this strange phenomenon that happens in Las Vegas, and nowhere else, where I feel like whenever I'm doing something that's not gambling- ie., lying by the pool, going to a show, doing some fine dining, I feel like I'm earning about $200/hour.  This really enhances my enjoyment of the holiday.  Like if I'm lying around at the pool getting paid $200/hr  to read trashy novels, how can I afford not to?    Sure, it's not particularly rational, but I don't go to Las Vegas for the reason.   

Another reason we like the Wynn is that they have some fine restaurants in there.  And since Steve Wynn has gone vegan, all the restaurants in his hotels have a full vegan menu.  See, vegan friends? There is still a little fun left in the world for you.  We opted for the decidedly non-vegan Bartolotta di Mare restaurant for dinner, and loved it. 

They fly in fish every day fresh from the Adriatic, and then roll a cart full of it over to your table for you to pick one out.   This has got to be the largest carbon footprint of any meal I've ever had. I'd feel bad about that, if it weren't just so darn tasty.  We opted for the tasting menu, and one thing that could only happen in Las Vegas, they bring the courses out like 5 at a time, which was weird.  They want you to clock out of your $200/hour job of eating dinner and get back out onto that casino floor. 

One of the neat things they had were live lagostinas- the only place in the US to get them.    Then there were 3 pasta courses, again all brought , and then a whole fish filleted table side.  This is the moment where I asked our waiter if he could put it back together cause I forgot to take a picture. 
Note that he's butchering the fish with spoons.  That's how yielding that fish was.  I can't remember what it was, but it was flat and flounderesque and darn tasty.

Then served up with fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes.  This was a stupendous meal, and it's really a crime against something that this place doesn't have a Michelin star.   Then we left and went and lost some money playing craps.  I love craps, even when I'm losing.  I like losing as a team.  

The next day we moved into phase 2 of our holiday weekend, and left the Wynn in favour of greener pastures downstrip at the Skylofts at the MGM Grand.  The Skylofts is a boutique hotel contained in the MGM that is very luxe and service-oriented.  They sent a Maybach to pick us up at the Wynn which wasn't really a big deal for me, because I've been in a Maybach lots of times.  If by Maybach you mean hatchback.  It was the definitively sweet ride, carrying a price tag of approximately 500k.  Ouch.   All we did the whole way was adjust our seat positions. 

You know the car is expensive when it has curtains.   As we arrived, we were greeted by a concierge who took us up to our loft for checkin. Along the way, we passed many hotel employees who all greeted us by name.  It was like FAO Schwartz just opened and we were the only ones there.  It was kind of disconcerting.  Once we were checked in, our concierge introduced us to our butler, who came with the loft.  I didn't really know what on earth I would do with a butler, but I soon got the hang of it.

 Basically, everything that I do for Declan on a day-to-day basis was done for me by the butler.  There was one assigned to us around the clock, and you could ring them up and say "I'm on my way back to our room, can you draw me a bath?" and then arrive to find a bath drawn in the infinity edge tub with a bunch of orchids floating on the water, and an assortment of salts and oils lined up at the ready.      This was such a treat to me,  I can't even tell you.  Moving forward, I'm thinking about becoming considerably more high-maintenance.

Another favourite butler service was random snack provision.    Without warning or provocation a little snack would appear at unpredictable intervals.

 But the best part of butler service is the suave and debonair way in which said butlers would always laugh at my jokes, and treat my every remark as delightfully insightful.  These guys were smooth, all day long.  When I told Butler Mike that we were in town for the Trivia Championships of North America, I observed that it was probably a much geekier activity than the typical Skyloft resident would engage in, and he ever-so-gently corrected me by saying "our patrons tend to be dynamic, successful people who are drawn to more intellectual pastimes."  It was the smoothest thing I've ever heard.  Butlers make everything better.

As for the TCoNA, it was the first year that this event has been held.  It was organized by Paul Bailey, who is the US coordinator for the World Quizzing Competiiton that Shane has been doing for the past couple of years. There were just shy of 100 registered participants, and all were top flight trivia mavens.  It was very stiff competition.  In the individual competition, Shane came in 5th, one spot ahead of Ken Jennings, if that gives you any idea of the caliber of the other players.  I didn't score high enough to make it onto the results page!   We also played Quiz Bowl, forming a team with random passerbys.  I loved our motley Quiz Bowl team.  We went 1 and 2. Our win was decisive and our losses were heartbreaking.  There was a Learned League Live event and a pub quiz, and you all know how I feel about a pub quiz.  After the official events were over, we had a little fete in our hotel room, and a game show broke out that lasted until 2AM.  That is an unusual Sunday evening for me.  It was such an enjoyable way to spend a weekend, to meet so many fun people who share our own dorky proclivities.   And when you gather together that many culturally hyper-literate people, the jokes get really, really funny.   

It was sad when the time came to climb back into the Maybach for the trip to the airport. It took the prospect of getting to see Declan after 4 days away to tear me away from that butler team.  I'm already looking forward to our return to TCoNA v.2 next year.