viva las vegas

Last month Dave and I went to Las Vegas to celebrate our first anniversary (yay, us!). Dave, obviously if you know him, spends a lot of time in Vegas. But I haven’t been there since I was abuot nine years old, and I remember very little of that trip.

We had a beautiful room at the Bellagio and in many ways, that room (and the awesome room service breakfast) was my favorite part of the trip. We were upgraded to a fountain view room and it was a terrific view all around. The fountains play most of the day on a set schedule, set to music. It’s kind of neat. Like the long-gone and much lamented Kahunaville restaurant in the Walden Galleria Mall (Buffalo peeps will know what I mean), times a thousand. I tried taking video and kept having snafus, but this one’s not bad — you just see my finger over the lens for, like, half a second.

DSC02216The Bellagio is really pretty. There’s this neat conservatory they change with the seasons — it was set for Autumn when we were there. The lobby has this really neat chandelier sculpture, Fiori di Como, but Dale Chihuly. There’s also what is reportedly a very nice art gallery, but it was closed in preparation for an exhibit of Fabregé eggs. This was a little heartbreaking for me. I’ve got a thing for Fabregé eggs. Their history is fascinating, and since there are so few of them, and most in private collection, a traveling exhibit like this is a big deal. And I missed it by four days. Grrr.

DSC02221There are a lot of great restaurants in Vegas. We had a beautiful fancy wonderful dinner at Jasmine, also at the Bellagio. And I was tickled to learn that the burger place Dave took me to is Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar. I’ve watched enough Top Chef to be a big Hubert Keller fan.

I haven’t mentioned much about the casinos, which is because I don’t gamble or have any interest in gambling. I sat down at one slot machine just to try it, and then had to yell at Dave not to put $20 in it — what a waste! A dollar was more than enough. I found the whole thing kind of lackluster. The gambling areas of the casinos are a lot less nice than you see them on TV — they’re crowded. And SMOKY.

I used to smoke. I quit years ago. It was really, really, really hard to do, so anyone trying to quit and struggling has my sympathy, no question. But I kind of thought a lot of people had quit. I mean, I don’t see that many people smoking anymore, out and about. But apparently all the people that still smoke are in Las Vegas. All of them. And all of them smoking all the time. Everywhere. Casino, outside, inside, at the pool, in the halls, in the elevators, even. It’s kind of gross, to put it mildly. And the smell seeped everywhere, into hallways and under doors. I bought a big thing of Febreeze and sprayed our room with it a couple times a day.

We took the bus tour around the city, though, and got to see a bunch of the other hotels. The Venetian is nice but the gondoliers are really cheesy. Paris has a great breakfast buffet. I liked Circus Circus, which Dave tells me isn’t on many other people’s best-of-Vegas lists; I thought it seemed a little friendlier and not quite as avaricious as the other casinos.

Vegas was fun, and in my humble opinion I make a pretty cheap date there, since I don’t drink or gamble. I’d like to go back, but I don’t ever think the Strip will ever hold the same appeal for me as it does for others. I was just there for the food. And the fountains.

sea ya real soon

I cried when we left for our honeymoon (I hate leaving the cats). I cried when it was over. Apparently, I cry at endings and goodbyes of any kind. And ending our honeymoon was sad, because it was really wonderful.

IMG_0038I’ve never been on a cruise ship of any kind before, or been to the Caribbean, or even been to Florida. This trip would’ve been a big deal for all of those “firsts”, but this was the honeymoon we’d been planning for over a year, cruising on the Disney Fantasy to the Eastern Caribbean islands. Dave and I were so excited. We flew down the day before and stayed at the Hyatt at the Orlando Airport, which is weird but convenient. In the morning we took the Magical Express to the cruise terminal, and soon we were off.

My cousin Lori gave us Bride Minnie and Groom Mickey hats for a shower gift and we wore these on the first day of the cruise… and it felt like EVERYONE on the boat knew us, as a result. People were so nice and congratulated us all week long, and the crew, of course, made sure we got special treatment and enjoyed every minute of our honeymoon. And hey, a couple we met even got engaged on the cruise (congrats, Brittany & Doug!), so there must have been something romantic in the air all around.

DSCN5531Our stateroom was terrific. Pretty roomy for a cruise ship, comfortable, a veranda to look out, and a nice stateroom attendant to tidy everything up twice a day. I didn’t make a bed, do laundry, cook or wash a dish all week. It was so relaxing. And as for the food, the entire week was fine dining every night. Disney does something called rotational dining, so you eat in different onboard restaurants every night, but your servers go with you. Our servers were Sasa and Gede. Dave warned me that by the end of the week you feel sad having to leave them, and he’s right — I got all weepy. They take such good care of you and make it all a little home away from home. I’m never good with hotels — I get creeped out even in nice ones, thinking about all the people who’ve stayed there, some sad and alone, it gets me depressed. But the ship was warm and friendly and just like living in our own little floating neighborhood.

DCL1My favorite restaurant on the Fantasy is “Enchanted Garden”. Ever since we started planning the trip, I wanted to sit in one of the few banquette “teacups” in the front of the room. I assume these are usually reserved for VIPs or concierge-level guests, but Dave had put in a request for one since it was our honeymoon, and Disney accommodated us — so we got to sit in our “teacup” every time we dined there. So nice! I also liked “Royal Court”, and especially because our night there happened to coincide with the ship’s formal night. Any reason to wear my wedding tiara again is much appreciated.

There was a lot to do on the ship. We saw characters — princesses, Donald, Mickey and Woody from Toy Story:


I hugged him and told him I’d seen all his movies.

We went to a drawing lesson, saw several live shows, went to the movies, watched football in the sports pub. Disney Cruise Line has the only fireworks at sea, and we had a great seat for the show on Pirate Night. Dave rode the Aquaduck:

and we did very little shopping, aside from a souvenir or two, but we had fun window-shopping in the stores. I did break my “no more stuffed animals” rule, but just this once. It was a special occasion, after all.

IMG_1946We spent a lot of time at the pool. The “Quiet Cove” adult pool was always heated and comfortable and never really too crowded; it’s empty in this picture but some days, especially the at-sea ones, were a lot busier, but it was always friendly and fun. I confess I may have enjoyed it more than some for another reason: the center area was 5 feet, 5 inches deep… too much for a lot of folks to linger in, but just fine for 5’10” me. Being tall sometimes helps.

IMG_1955We also very much enjoyed our stop at St. Thomas. We took an excursion on a catamaran sail to the aptly-named Honeymoon Beach on St. John, and it was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect and the sailing was every bit as fun as I hoped it would be. The beach was clean and blue and white. Dave snorkeled and I played in the waves until it was time to sail back to the ship. Beautiful day.

All in all it was everything we could have possibly wished for in a honeymoon. At the end of the week, I was thrilled to be going back home to my kitties, but sadder than I could have imagined to say goodbye to our new floating home. Mickey doesn’t say good-bye, though: he just says “Sea Ya Real Soon”, so that’s how we’ll leave it… until our next cruise, whenever that is. (Next time, Alaska!)

when you’re leaving on a jet plane

In the past three years, I’ve taken 27 round-trip flights, mostly from Buffalo to New York. Today will be #28.

I’ve got it down pretty well — checked luggage, small carry bag, book, kindle, phone. I park my car, take the shuttle, go through security, and hopefully it’s not too long to board. I like the window because it’s easier not to be bothered that way. When I get to JFK, my luggage usually beats me to the carousel.

936full-up-in-the-air-posterUnfortunately, not everyone else seems to have their ducks in a row.  In the spirit of the friendly skies, here are a few unsolicited tips from me, the frequent traveler next to you, that might make your next trip more pleasurable not just for you, but also (more importantly) for me.

1. If you’re not ready, don’t get in line. Don’t go up to the check-in desk if you don’t have everyone with you, if your husband is still getting the bags, if you don’t know where your ticket is in your purse. That mad dash you just made to get ahead of me in line so I can stand behind you and watch you dig for your license for five minutes? Classy.

2. Try to be prepared. Just try. I mean, airport security isn’t something new. We’ve been doing this for awhile. And when you’re waiting in line, at every airport I’ve been in, the TSA agents are saying over and over again that you need to take off your shoes, your belt, things out of your pockets, laptops out of their bags. Over and over. Even if you’ve never flown before, and you missed all the signs, and you made no attempts to find out what was expected of you ahead of time, could you just listen to them? And take your shoes off before you have to be reminded again, personally, while we all wait?

3. Check a bag or two. Honestly, they don’t lose luggage all that often. And last time I checked, you’re only supposed to have one carry-on. So I’m puzzled how it is that every time I fly, most people seem to have four or five pieces of luggage, each the size of a filing cabinet, with them as they board. Must you? Because there isn’t really room for all of that, and you slow us down trying to cram it into the overhead bin, eventually to be gate-checked anyhow… oh, wait. You’re trying to avoid bag fees. I get it. Okay, you’re a cheap bastard then.

4. Keep your kid happy. Look, I know travel is hard on parents, but you had the kid, not me. I don’t want to listen to him or her cry, whine and complain the entire time. That’s not unreasonable of me. It’s unreasonable of you to expect the little guy to be okay stuffed in that seat, sitting still, for hours. Hell, I get restless, and I’m an adult who has control over her own life, unlike this kid you told to sit still. So please see #2 above: be prepared. Think snacks. Think toys. Think bribery. Bring this shit with you, and give it to them when you get on the plane, so that they’re happy. If a new coloring book does it, we’re all happy. If it takes a $300 handheld electronic game to make your kid happy, well, you might be a little less happy, but that’s not my problem.

5. Quiet the heck down. During the flight, do not assume that the person in Row 25 wants to hear everything you’re saying from Row 3. I’m sure it’s a great story you’re sharing about that fab party you were at last night, but the guy in Row 25 wasn’t invited, and it’s sort of mean to rub that in, don’t you think?

Is this all too much to ask? Probably. Hope springs eternal, though. Go #28.

Going home

Every time I leave on a trip for Dave’s, I’m always surprised in the best way possible how nice it is. Not the seeing him part, of course. I’m never surprised by that. But let’s face it: even though I’m an old pro at traveling by now, it’s still a hassle. There’s the packing, the last-minute-item packing (contacts! phone charger!), figuring out however I’m getting to the airport, will the flight be on time, will I be sitting next to Beelezebub, will I spill Diet Coke all over the place, will they lose my luggage. Then there’s the commute back to the house, and finally, we’re there, hours of preparation, one 50-minute flight, and a couple more hours of travel later. So while I’m excited to go every time, I’m always anxious about the travel, and I hate to leave my kitties, and I hate to leave home. But every time I get there, every time we walk in the door, then I know I am home, again, and it’s wonderful.

(Except for the lack of kitties here, and that’s just for a little while longer.)