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A Magical Weekend in Las Vegas [The Occasional Gutenplan]

I must first start with a sincere thank you.  Thank you Ellen DeGeneres.

About 6 months ago I was lucky enough to be in the studio audience for one of the fantastic Ellen’s Twelve Days of Giveaways show.  If you’re not familiar — it’s basically Oprah’s favorite things — spaced out over 12 days and with Ellen instead of Oprah.  The taping was fun and I walked away with a new navigation system for my car, a nice gift card for Starbucks (mission accomplished — I now enjoy Starbucks!), a very expensive vacuum cleaner and a few other things… but the big prize was an all-expense-(save airfare)-paid trip to Vegas.

I like Vegas.  I go two or three times a year, usually for a night or two and play it on the cheap.  A free room and a discounted buffet are all I need.  I love fine food but I usually go, see a show, have a decent dinner and write about it for some online publication.  I have never “done” Vegas… until now.

The ride to Vegas was the usual mix of “that person is going way to fast” and “Ugh- why are there two trucks next to each other” to “I thought it was only 3 hours.”  After a plethora of show tunes and complaints from my BFF who joined me (she does not like show tunes as much as I do) we arrived in Vegas!

Our first stop was check in at the brand new Cosmopolitan Hotel.  As the only hotel in Vegas with balconies I was going to do whatever I could to make sure I got a room with one of the coveted Bellagio Strip views.  After a very long check in (about 30 minutes) we were told that we had been upgraded to a one bedroom suite with a strip view.

The rooms at the Cosmopolitan are compatible to the other Vegas high end rooms but the views… oh the views.  On my balcony you could see the fountains of the Bellagio dancing, the mountains in the distance and the entire Las Vegas Strip glowing.  The only odd feature — which didn’t really bother me and my BFF — was that the shower and soaking tub had glass walls,which looked directly into the room!  Not such a bad thing if you’re with a lover- but with a friend, it’s a little weird.

After exploring the room it was off to dinner.  China Poblano is a unique mix of Chinese food and Mexican Food.  Not combining the dishes but a menu that has half Chinese and half Mexican.  I was a bit uncomfortable with the notion of sharing the two but just about everything that came out was fantastic.  From the margarita with sea salt foam to the black garlic shrimp – the meal was unique, tasty and served in a very relaxed atmosphere that somehow retained an air of sophistication.  The best part of the meal?  The end when the check came and I realized that the two hundred dollars that the dinner cost was on Ellen… With a toast to Ellen it was time for my first magic show.

I love magic.  In addition to being a professional magician, I am also a lover of magic.  I love to watch it, perform it, study it and enjoy it.  I love the cheese, the surprise, the suspense and the excitement of seeing something that I can’t do.

Before I left for Vegas I called Copperfield’s Assistant to request two tickets. (Ellen might have given me a great weekend but she didn’t include any entertainment). David Copperfield might be the most famous magician in the world.  Everyone knows his name and either loves or hates him. Either way, there is no denying that he is the master of illusion.  The seats were amazing- front row, center. If I reached up during the show I surely could have gotten to know Copperfield very well.  The show was cheesy, yes, but it was fun.  I had seen him about ten years ago in Pittsburgh and even though the jokes were old and at times he was phoning it in, I was still engrossed and amazed.  It is hard to do a show every night, by yourself, for over ten years – and Copperfield continues to entertain, amaze and mystify.

After the show it was the usual walk around Vegas, with a stop in a casino here and casino there. But it was weird, I didn’t have the desire to run around and party but rather fill up the soaking tub that overlooked the strip and relax in the room.  Maybe I’m getting older, maybe I’ve just done Vegas enough, but I didn’t feel the need to go crazy – and I’m okay (really happy in fact) not to feel that need.

The next morning (Saturday) was the day I was going to do Vegas right.  Waking up refreshed was a change from my past trips to Vegas but it was a great change.  I hung out by the pool, reading my book and sipping on a Bloody Mary (I had to pay out of pocket for my drink by the pool, but it was yummy).  After a little relaxation it was time for lunch.

Comme Ca, the popular Los Angeles restaurant was the location for my lunch on Saturday.  Everything was done to perfection and looked as good as it tasted.  We dined on the balcony and even though the wind kept blowing everything around, it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.  Vegas can be really enjoyable if you just slow down and enjoy the luxury of it all.

Saturday afternoon was the highlight of my trip – an afternoon at the spa.  The spa at the Cosmopolitan is not huge but it is relaxing.  I steamed, sat in the hot tub and drank spa water.  Again, thank you Ellen – the 80 minute massage was wonderful — even more so because it was free.

But all wonderful things have to end at some point.  After mymassage I decided to relax in the spa a bit more, a steam and a soak if you will.  I tend to say hello to people as they join me in the steam room but I think the large, hairy guy that came in thought I was saying more than hello.  As I moved from steam room to whirlpool to relaxation room this big bear of a man followed me.  And than came the part I knew would come – “Would you like to show me your room” he asked.  NO!  Well, I was nice about it but seriously- I did not come to the spa for this and I have to say, it kind of ruined it for me.  But onward and upward… it was soon time for more dinner and more magic!

DOCG was our last meal in the package and it was awesome.  We ordered an entire cow, it’s child and it’s friend from the sea (a huge steak, a veal chop and a lobster).  We were the table of two that people would walk by and go “I want that!”  The lady sitting next to us kept commenting on our food. And it was weird because I could hear her, I could see her but she was not talking to u -s- just about our food.  Some people are really special!  Anyway the food was great, it really was. We were also treated to a lovely sample of the different desserts they serve, and each was amazing.  I love it when a restaurant serves good food and good dessert.  DOCG is fantastic and I recommend it to anyone looking for a great meal in Vegas.

Through my magic connections I scored two tickets to Penn and Teller.  These two stalwarts of the magic world are the exact opposite of Copperfield.  Political, energetic, the non-magician magicians.  As a magic show it was good nearing very good.  As a theatrical experience it was very good.  Without talking Teller exudes a Chaplin-like essence that you have no choice but to love and Penn, despite his personality is likeable in the role he has created for himself.  The show seemed fresh and they seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience was enjoying them.

After dinner I decided that I wanted to enjoy Vegas a bit more… and after a few drinks the sun was coming up.  Well, that’s how I remember it.  I still had money in my pocket, I was still happy to be there, but I have very little memory of the rest of that night other than my friend asking me “what is that” and it being the sun coming up.

The drive back was like the drive in: longer than I remember and it included as always a lovely visit to Primm Valley!

Vegas is fun. Vegas is glamorous.  Vegas is a great place to spend a weekend with your best friend.  And Vegas is amazing when Ellen DeGeneres and her staff make it possible to enjoy it in a way that I would not be able to afford – or be willing to spend.  Thank you Ellen and team – you gave me the gift of an amazing trip!