2017’s September Road Trip: Part Two

So, initially, when I started this story (on the trip itself), I figured I’d have three posts – the previous one, one on Santa Cruz/Monterey, and then one on Las Vegas. However, I didn’t take nearly as many pictures in Las Vegas as I thought I would … so we’re wrapping this up in one longer tale. Good? Good.

Friday, September 8:

Friday morning, we woke up, ate breakfast at our hotel, and then drove the few hours from Sacramento to Santa Cruz. We didn’t stop driving until we hit San Jose, when I needed to fill up my tank. I don’t know where we stopped, exactly, but it was not the nicest area and the people driving around seemed batshit crazy … so we snagged a less-than-ideal lunch in Wienerschnitzel (mmm, corn dogs) and got back on the road.

We checked into our hotel, the Ocean Pacific Lodge, which we thought was maybe a few blocks from the race? Well, it was a few blocks from the race start, but literally across the street from transition. Like I could see the bike area from our room window. We wanted to check in for the race right away, so we went ahead and did that, as well as bought a few race items.

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Hotel. Transition would be to the left.

After a short ride to test out the bikes and a shower, we headed out for some dinner. Since lunch was so greasy, we decided on some nice sushi for dinner at I Love Sushi, which hit the spot.

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The Friends Roll, one of the ones we got.

Bellies full of delicious sushi, we walked around a bit to explore.

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Because a.) why not; and b.) he calls me his siren.

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Rides wouldn’t be going until the weekend.

Saturday, September 9:

We woke up fairly early Saturday morning as we had to drive back into San Jose to find a Chick-fil-a so as to get sandwiches for bike food (we eat pickle juice-soaked chicken patties on the bike. don’t ask …) as well as a few extra chicken egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches so as to eat something for breakfast the next day. We also hit up a Target for some bottled water to prep our race bottles with.

Back in Santa Cruz, we dropped our bikes off and went for a short run to shake out our legs, stopping by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, because why not.

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Inside.

It was super simple. Not sure if I’d recommend it.

Post-run, we showered and then went off to drive a bit more of the bike course, grabbing lunch along the way in Davenport, Calif.

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Whale City, our stop.

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I had the North Coast Chicken Sandwich – grilled chicken breast topped with sauteed leeks and mushrooms on a fresh bakery roll. It wasn’t too shabby.

Drove back to the hotel to prep everything for the next day and to just relax. We left around 5ish to get our nails done at The Nail Club (no website; not the best mani/pedi I’ve had, but totally not the worst) before grabbing our typical breakfast-for-dinner at the Santa Cruz Diner. Fantastic meal except for the bacon. Mediocre bacon. Sad, sad day.

Sunday, September 10:

… was race day, so the vast, vast majority of the day was spent doing that.

We did grab dinner at the Seabright Brewery, which was a letdown. I think we just need to realize that neither of us particularly like the food at brewpubs. I might have had the worst fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life. Pretty terrible.

Monday, September 11:

We woke up, packed up the car, checked out, and headed toward Monterey so we could hit up the Aquarium.

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Roadside fruit/vegetable stand we stopped at. You can sorta see B inside. Some of the best strawberries I’ve ever had in my life.

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Monterey.

We hadn’t been to the Aquarium since our engagement trip back in 2009, so it was nice to revisit.

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Super friendly bat ray we were petting.

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Cuddling up in a giant clam. We have a similar picture from ’09.

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Jellyfish.

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Gorgeous sign in the cafe area.

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Cute little crab.

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B outside.

We ate lunch at the restaurant inside the aquarium, which was actually really tasty. I had mussels while B had a much better fish and chips.

Post-food, we spent a bit of time wandering Cannery Row.

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Pier.

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Kidlets looking out over the water.

We also got a bit of a treat at Ghiradelli.

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Brownie Sundae. *drool*

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B with his hot fudge sundae.

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Spotted this on the way back to the car. Oh Monterey and John Steinbeck …

We took ourselves and our stuffed bellies back on the road. Our original plan was to drive to L.A. to stay at B’s crash pad for the night … but he forgot the keys back at home. So, we decided to give ourselves an easier drive to Las Vegas the next day and made Bakersfield our stop. It was better than Wendover, let’s just say that. It had a Hooters near our hotel, though, and wings and salad made for a great dinner.

Tuesday, September 12:

We took a somewhat leisurely morning in Bakersfield, hopping on the hotel treadmills for a tiny bit and eating breakfast before getting back on the road. The drive from Bakersfield to Las Vegas wasn’t one of the more exciting ones I’ve ever experienced, but it wasn’t Utah, so there’s that.

We got to Las Vegas, I dropped B off to check in to the Bellagio while I parked the car (and got the greatest garage parking spot ever so we just decided to stay in it for the entire stint). I met him inside and then we went to get the rest of our stuff and get settled. As soon as the bags were in the room, we went right back out to snag the In-N-Out burger we’d been wanting since the moment the race ended for lunch. It was delicious and totally hit the spot.

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View from the room.

The rest of the evening (since we ate lunch pretty late) was spent mostly relaxing with a little bit of gambling. I had a pretty good night at the slots, actually winning for a change. We did eventually wander back out for a bit more food, which we got at PBR Rockbar. We got a spinach/artichoke dip (meh) and some of the best potato skins I’ve had in a really long time.

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Food consumed, back to the Bellagio for a bit more gambling and watching the fountains from the privacy of our own room.

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Dinosaurs watching out the window.

Wednesday, September 13:

We had maybe thought about waking up early to go ride our bikes in Red Rock Canyon on this day … but that didn’t happen. Instead, the day went a bit more like this:
– Starbucks for coffee.
– Room to change.
– Bellagio Pool Cafe for brunch.
– Bellagio Pool for a few hours, sitting out and playing some cards.
– Room to change and … other things.
– Out and about toward the south end of the Strip, grabbing snacks and booze along the way.
– MGM Grand to play the Sigma Derby horses for a couple hours (and drink).
– Back to the room, grabbing a few more snacks in the process.
– Room for … things.
– Eventually back out to Mon Ami Gabi for a loose dinner, more hooch, and profiteroles.
– Room for the night.

Thursday, September 14:

We weren’t in as rough of shape as we might have feared the next morning – luckily we spaced out the drinking enough. Woo! (we don’t drink much usually. the previous day was abnormal for us.) We were, however, thankful that we had our free breakfast buffet that we were using that day. Oh beautiful delicious salad. I may have been on vacation but I can’t go that long without you anymore.

Post-breakfast, we wandered the other way up the Strip, stopping in the Venetian for coffee at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Post-coffee, it was window shopping time! The Venetian shops are great for that, clearly, as well as they are for loose food (the Lobster Me lobster roll isn’t doing it for me anymore, though, so sad day). We did the same thing over at the Forum Shops over at Caesars, and eventually ended up back at the Bellagio. Where I got myself a crepe at Jean-Philippe Patisserie.

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Nutella crepe, obvs.

A little more gambling was also done before we got ourselves our second In-N-Out of the trip, because it sounded delicious and we were on vacation, damnit!.

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We also decided to do something new in the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM.

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No, seriously.

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Ain’t technology grand?

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Actual cupcake? Frosting was better than the cake; cake was a bit dry, actually; and too many sprinkles. I know, I know. I wish I had known about the seasonal pumpkin cupcake on the ATM, as I totally would have gotten that instead.

Friday, September 15:

The greatest thing about driving to and from Las Vegas is that you don’t have to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to try to catch a flight out so you can actually have a leisurely breakfast. Whaaaa?

So since we weren’t originally planning on driving straight through back home, we had a nice meal at the Cafe Bellagio and were able to see them putting together the Conservatory (which was actually closed for the duration of our stay. womp womp.).

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Peacock!

We checked out and hit the road. We were thinking of hitting up some national parks in Utah on the way … but we couldn’t figure out which park and how to make the timing work and a place to stay … so we just decided to press on through the whole way. Which was mostly fine, except for the lightning that either hit the car or right next to it just outside of Rifle, Colo. Eek.

All in all, though, it was another great road trip adventure!

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Vegas: June 2016

With this being the double-Ironman year, we weren’t sure we’d be able to get to Vegas much, if at all, this year. Luckily, we were able to swing a super quick trip in late June. We headed to one of my cousins’ wedding in Indianapolis and then jumped a plane (after a lengthy delay in O’Hare …) to Las Vegas. The delay meant we got to the Bellagio around 2 or 3 in the morning – not ideal. We convinced the front desk to give us a room that we would happily vacate for our regular reservation the next day just so we could get some glorious sleep.

Sleep … was had. So was some pampering at the spa (new thing for us). I didn’t get pictures from the spa because they’re kind of not allowed, but … why have I never done a spa in Vegas before? So awesome. We got massages, hung out in the saunas/steam rooms/hot tubs … pure bliss. Totally going to be a thing for us from now on. We did a little gambling, a little eating, a little window-shopping, a little pool time, a little walking around … it was a good mini vacation.

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I talked Brandon into going to Madame Tussaud’s while we were waiting for our actual room to be ready. I hadn’t been since I went to the London location way back in … 1998? and Brandon had never been. Since, you know, Vegas, here’s a picture with him and the two “Ocean’s Eleven” stars.

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Because The Rock.

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Boxing fan had to get in on this.

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With Grumpy Cat (a.k.a. Tardar Sauce).

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I don’t remember why there was a cop car in Madame Tussaud’s (something to do with “The Hangover,” maybe?), but I had to get a picture in it.

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With margaritas at Margaritaville.

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Ocean display back at the Bellagio Conservatory!

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Chilling at the pool.

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Living the life.

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The new park outside of Monte Carlo/New York New York.

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Awesome sugar/chocolate display outside Jean-Philippe Patisserie in Aria.

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So the secret pizza place inside the Cosmopolitan? Exists. The pizza is no T. Anthony’s, but it’s good. And awesome. And no, it doesn’t actually have a name, nor am I going to reveal its actual location. But it’s easily found, if you know where to look.

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Fishy display at night!

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View from our room.

#VegasSeason

The Las Vegas tourism department bills the summer as #VegasSeason. This is ostensibly to get people to travel there despite the fact the days get into the low-100s. Yes, it gets hot.

After our trip last November, we weren’t planning on heading back for almost a year until October 2015, when we race Ironman 70.3 Silverman. Plans changed, however, when the stupid Bellagio decided to sucker me in with a harmless tweet. I am a sucker for aquarium/fishy type things. (see: blog theme) We decided to call and see how long the exhibition was going on – until September, they said. So if I wanted to see it, I had to go out before our race.

As luck/fate would have it … we got a few days off together (the few days after the concert in the previous post, actually), so we said “screw it” and decided to go.

We went out early Wednesday morning, stayed the night, and left late-ish Thursday afternoon. We also tried out a new MLife property – the Mirage.

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Next to a siren statue in the lobby.

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Anchor Bar, the official buffalo wing inventors, now have an outpost in the Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian. As it was National Buffalo Wing day, Brandon got them for lunch.

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Flamingos at the Flamingo.

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Happy to be in the Bellagio Conservatory with aaaallllll the fishies.

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View from our room at the Mirage.

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Thai shrine thingy outside Caesars by Serendipity.

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Poolside.

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I’d say working on our tans, but we prefer our paleness, so just hanging out?

November Vegas Trip: Part Three

Saturday began early-ish. We woke up and went for a quick run to shake out the legs. It was only at 9 or 10 in the morning, but for Las Vegas on a Saturday morning? That’s early. The strip was quiet, and you get to see the “behind the scenes stuff.”

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(Case in point – maintenance being done on the Bellagio fountains.)

After the run, it was off to the Bellagio buffet for breakfast/brunch and then to the Pinball Hall of Fame/Museum which was very cool and highly recommended.

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Walked in, saw this game, threw some quarters in … that was a good 10 minutes of entertainment.

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So many machines!

There were also quite a few very cool retro hockey games. I played them all.

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From the 1930s.

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This was a hybrid between air hockey and bubble hockey.

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After the Pinball Museum, it was off to Mandalay Bay and the Shark Reef Aquarium. It … was okay. By general rule, you typically want to avoid aquariums in land-locked states, and Shark Reef proved the rule to be true. Still, we got to play with sting rays, so that made the visit worth it for us.

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Entrance.

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Brandon in the shark tank (he’s a nerd and likes the CNBC show).

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Splashy the Ray. He was awesome.

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Our friend, a fan of obscure Russian historical figures, in front of the statue of Lenin outside Red Square restaurant in Mandalay Bay.

After Shark Reef, we wandered around shopping a bit and then got ready for our second nightclub of the trip – Marquee at the Cosmopolitan.

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It … was okay. I don’t like crowds and climbing several flights of stairs in six inch heels and yeah. Like at Tao, we didn’t stay long.

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After we left.

Sunday was a lazy morning sleeping in and then not a lot of wandering around – after all, we did have to race.

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Playing with my pre-race sandwich.

The race … was okay. If you’re really curious as to how it went, mosey on over to the triathlon blog.

Monday was taken pretty easy. Brandon and our friend Mike played poker while I wandered around a bit. The most excitement that day was going to see Zumanity at New York New York. THAT was a cool show. I hadn’t seen a Cirque du Soleil show in years and this was one was just as awesome as the last one I’d seen. Again, highly recommended.

Tuesday … out of town and back to reality.

November Vegas Trip: Part Two

Friday morning dawned and we were ready for another day of adventures – most of which I’ll put here, except for the Neon Museum, which deserves its own post.

The day, in photos.

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Blueberry Hill, a local diner chain we hit up for breakfast. Very good.

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Brandon looking down at his breakfast. You get a sense of the decor here, too.

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Nelson hates “Pawn Stars,” and therefore is cranky we’re driving past the pawn shop.

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Dinosaurs in a dinosaur footprint outside the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.

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Dinosaur sculpture.

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Buffalo. Pretty sure all the animals in this museum were real and taxidermied …

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Sting ray. We are the ray whisperers, it’s kind of awesome.

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“Carrying” “water” like an Egyptian. It’s heavy.

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Brandon made a design. He’s proud.

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Tribal hut.

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Picture taken for the Englestad name (also associated with Fighting Sioux hockey).

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T-Rexes and a sign about themselves.

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Nelson and the T-Rex.

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On a shell seat, in a submarine.

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Brandon in the sub.

From the LVNHM, we checked in to the Bellagio where we’d be staying most of our visit.

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Room at the Bellagio.

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View.

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Oh yeah, race expo.

After the expo, we took our realtor and local TV/radio personality Susie Wargin around to grab a bite and then help her get to a studio so she could do her radio show from Vegas (she was out running the full marathon). From there, it was off to the Neon Museum (next blog!) and after that, dinner at the Peppermill.

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Just like I remembered …

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Me at the Peppermill.
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Fountain view with the fountains going.

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Ceiling between Bally’s and Paris. Never knew this was there …

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Hey thanks, Planet Hollywood/Miracle Mile Shops!

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Bellagio conservatory.

We also went to Tao Nightclub that night, but no pictures. Honestly, it was kind of a disappointing experience …

Vegas, My Old Friend

Back in mid-May, Brandon and I decided to take another trip to Vegas. We’d been saving money since Christmas for a “Vegas Fund” so we could have a bit more fun and be able to gambleĀ a decent amount for a change (well, definitely for Brandon – he wanted a larger bankroll for craps). The timing worked best for both of us to do May, so May it was. It was also right before IM training officially kicked off so if we slacked a tad in our workouts, it didn’t matter too much.

The trip was fun, as always, but I feel it could have been more so. We stayed at the Luxor this time around, and in the pyramid for the first time ever – something I DON’T recommend. We’re either going to stay at Mandalay next time we go or somewhere completely new. Brandon did a lot better gambling than I did, even winning a poker tournament – I failed horribly at slots (although really, should I be surprised at this?) and only really accomplished a whole hell of a lot of walking around.

In any case, we saw some new things, saw some old things and decided that we’re probably not going there again until, hopefully, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and 1/2 in November 2014.

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Cool art installation in the new terminal at McCarran.

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The former Key Largo casino.

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Looking down the center of the pyramid.

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Outside the Mirage.

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My first time walking around Vegas with booze in my hands. I am SO not the typical visitor to this town …

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After running the strip, with my buffet at MORE at Luxor, free thanks to the wonderful facebook game that is MyVEGAS.

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World’s largest chocolate fountain at Jean-Philippe Patisserie in the Bellagio.

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Crepe, delicious crepe.

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So the … courtyard? … at the Shops at the Palazzo changes its theme regularly, kind of like the conservatory at the Bellagio. This time when we visited, it had this very cool blossom display. I fell in absolute love, thus the plethora of photos.

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Paris.

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Bellagio fountains.

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Mirage volcano show, a Vegas first for us.