Just a little blog about me and mine.

Vacation Planning April 23, 2009

Filed under: travel,Uncategorized — Katie @ 2:01 pm

Our vacation is getting closer and closer, and while I wait impatiently for it, I’ve been looking up things to do while we are there. PL and I did have a discussion that we might intentionally leave our computers behind and have a no email or facebook vacation–which actually sounds lovely. The only snag is that Emory parking registration takes place at 7am one day we’ll be there (which of course is like 4 or 5 am local time in Las Vegas and we aren’t sure the hotel has free wi-fi even though it’s super fancy). This important task might get assigned to my dad, since he did such as good job getting online and getting us Peachtree Road Race numbers when we couldn’t be at a computer that day.

Most people in my close group of friends haven’t been to Las Vegas, so I don’t think they know much about it other than the gambling parts. If gambling was all you could do there, PL and I probably wouldn’t be going back. We did do some gambling on our visit, but it doesn’t seem all that fun to me to pay $5 to play roulette and then lose that $5 in just a few seconds. The same goes for Blackjack–most tables have a $5 minimum bet, fancier places have a $10 minimum, and that’s just for a single hand. What we did last time is just have a certain amount of money we were willing to spend for the entertainment value–maybe $50 each–and then when it was gone that was it. We had fun playing the games (treating them more like arcade games where you pay just to enjoy them and don’t expect to come home richer), but then didn’t lose tons of money in an attempt to win back what we lost. We did play some of the slot machines and video black jack things (since most of those are 1 cent, 5 cents, 25 cents and a a dollar to play), and didn’t really win much but had fun with it. Our one big mistake is that we didn’t take the cocktail waitresses up on their offer of free drinks. That was stupid! They just walk around and give you alcohol for free, but I’m sure they don’t lose any money doing that since you get competitive and lack good judgement when you’re drinking.

As a side note before I mention some of the attractions we hope to see, I want to describe the overall vibe of Las Vegas a bit. It’s kind of a strange vibe, but I never felt out of place. There are older, retired people who hang out at slot machines and smoke–oh, I forgot that some casinos are smoky which is nasty, but most were ok. There are young, single guys who are just not as cool as they think they are. There are white, straight couples who wear American flag t-shirts. There are foreigners who seem to be spending lots of money. There are couples way too dressed up, even in the middle of the day. There’s a lot of families too, which even though there are plenty of family friendly things, most of the kids I saw were either pre or post-meltdown. I’m a world-class people watcher so it was fun for me. When I’m some place like New York I feel very un-cool and for some reason–even though no one notices me–I want to not look like a tourist. In Las Vegas, everyone is a tourist, and I’d never be so tacky as to be from the midwest and wear a fanny pack, so I’m quite hip.

But here are some of the fun, somewhat bizarre, truly amazing and otherwise really cool things we hope to see and do. Today I’ll list a few attractions we saw last time and hope to repeat. Later I’ll post some of the new things we hope to see and do.

Fountains at the Bellagio
Probably my favorite thing in Las Vegas. (Think those diet coke bottles with mentos times like a billion, and a lot more class). Every 30 minutes between 3 and 7 p.m., and every 15 minutes until midnight a huge body of water comes alive with a choreographed foundation show set to different kids of music (mostly classical but also some show tunes and popular hits). It takes up a giant city block, so there is plenty of space to find a good spot to watch it, but the best view might be across the street, on top of the …

Eiffel Tower at Paris


This is an exact 1/2 replica of the Eiffel tower, and for a small fee you can go up to the top. It’s a great view of the city lights as well as the surrounding landscape. Prior to going to Las Vegas, I had never seen the wide open desert before (I had been to El Paso/Juarez so it was similar but not as scenic), I got to experience a little landscape that’s different from the Southeast. So I really enjoyed the flight into the city and some of these high-up views of the surrounding mountains and desert. There’s also a restaurant up here, but I’m fairly sure it costs more than we’d ever pay for a meal.

Volcano at The Mirage

Every hour on the hour during the evening, a giant “volcano” erupts in front of The Mirage hotel. It’s not mind-blowing even with the water, fire and music, but it’s fun to watch (and free), so it’s worth trying to be in that part of town some point in the evening to see it.

Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio

There are free seasonal exhibits at the Bellagio, and like everything else in Vegas, it is done on a huge scale. When we went to Las Vegas the first time it was in December, and the Conservatory was decorated for Christmas and it was very pretty. It’s all plant based, so there are lots of very interesting plants, but also all props are done Rose Bowl Parade style with everything being plants, seeds and flowers. I’m not sure if we’ll be there for the Spring or Summer exhibit, but either way it will definitely be something we check out.


Vacation Countdown Begins April 2, 2009

Filed under: family,travel — Katie @ 10:02 am

I hinted in an earlier post that PL and I would be going on a vacation soon (May 10-15 to be exact)! We really need one. I’m in a funk at work and still not recovered from some huge projects. PL spends all of her time studying and still has to get through finals. We’ve been doing ok budget-wise (also translated into too busy to go anywhere or buy anything, but I highly recommend it as a good strategy for saving money) and PL is also going to get a scholarship this summer to help support her in her unpaid saving the world internship. So, we felt like we could afford to take a good vacation rather than going away for  a weekend away somewhere closer to home. One weekend would be better than nothing, but we both feel like we need to go further away and just hang out together.

We had a few fun options on the table–Fort Lauderdale and LasVegas were both towards the top of the list since we’ve vacationed both places before and loved those cities. We also still want to go to San Fransisco, Portland, Chicago and Seattle but didn’t think it was the time of year to catch the best weather any of those places.  They are also more expensive plane tickets and/or hotels and we’re not sure what we would do with a full week there.  The quest for warm and sunny weather aside, Fort Lauderdale and LasVegas are places that are actually quite cheap vacations, even with a plane trip. Airfare is usually pretty cheap to those cities and you can also get really good deals on hotels.

Fort Lauderdale still has a lot of the older small motels from an earlier pre-high rise condo era, and it’s a city where those lodging options are cheap, clean and well-managed. We stayed in a lovely small town just outside of Fort Lauderdale after I turned in my Masters Thesis and we spent most of the week reading by the pool–after 3 years in grad school I actually got to read a novel!  Our last vacation was to another beach, albeit with PL’s parents, brother and nephew, and we spent most of that week reading, putting together puzzles, and swimming with the kid. It was great, but that beach literally had nothing to do and we learned that despite thinking that doing absolutely nothing all week seems appealing, we actually are the kind of vacationers that like some activities to keep us busy.

We decided we wanted this vacation to be a combination of doing some fun things and relaxing. So, we both overwhelmingly picked going back to Las Vegas. We went to Las Vegas for 4 days for PL’s 25th birthday and we loved it.


We don’t seem like Vegas people do we? But for whatever reason, we both love it. The fact that it’s not authentic (fake Paris, fake New York, fake Venice, etc…) is amusing but not bothersome. It’s a city that knows it’s pretty tacky and so totally over the top, so that makes it ok. And right next door to something really bright and neon is a super elegant and luxurious hotel, and that’s ok too.  I think the first time I saw all the way down the Strip at night I said something along the lines of, “It looks like Capitalism threw up.”  We’re not quite as wild as Vegas’ image suggests we should be to party there, but I kind of suspect nobody else really is either–it’s just nice to think that you are a laid-back and cool person who can walk around with foot-long margaritas in the middle of the day.


The hotels are really nice, at least ours certainly was, and they are so giant that they didn’t really feel crowded even though there were lots of people–anonymity without claustrophobia.   Hotels also slash prices drastically on weekdays–for example a room that costs $300 or more on a weekend will be much closer to $100 or even less during the week.   We stayed in the Luxor since we got an insanely cheap rate for a nice room that week.  Luxor is the Egyptian themed hotel (not really my thing but it wasn’t too overwhelming).   Part of the hotel is shaped like a pyramid and it’s slightly odd to ride at at a 45 degree angle on an elevator.  The hotel also has a Sphinx and a giant light bean coming out of the top, so it’s certainly easy to find your way home.  We did a little bit of gambling at our  casio and several others and spent time in several cool arcades–which we actually liked much more than the gambling.  Mostly we just had fun walking around and seeing the different attractions at the hotels, most of which are free.  There’s also an M&M’s store in Las Vegas which just might be the happiest place on earth. 


I also took us on a surprise day trip to the Grand Canyon for PL’s birthday. I was so nervous that PL would freak out over having to get on a tiny plane to get there and back,  but she wasn’t as afraid of heights or small planes as she claimed to be.  I’m such a good influence on her–she eats all sorts of vegetables she didn’t think she liked before we met, she will go up tall things now (except our roof), and somehow Emory Law has gotten her to eat shrimp on several occasions now…next up?  Liking beer?




I think the main drawback to Vegas is that restaurants are pretty pricey. There is a good range of reasonably priced places though, right in line with what we usually spend at home, but we don’t normally eat all 3 meals out each day at home. We normally try to save money on vacation by sharing entrees, taking leftovers with us and also getting a few groceries to be able to eat cereal and sandwiches for some meals. But in Vegas there are sometimes charges for extra plates to split meals, and no fridges in most of of the rooms for leftovers/groceries. That’s a lot of meals eaten at restaurants, and that’s never cheap.

We also really enjoyed our hotel, but it was pretty far at one end of the Strip and most of the cool stuff to see and do is in the middle.  We wanted to try a different hotel this time, since found that we spent a lot of time in our own hotel since there was so much to do right there.   One other hotel we particulary enjoyed visiting was the Paris hotel–complete with 1/2 replica Eiffel tower and 2/3 replica Arch de Triumph.  There were frequent cabaret acts all around the casino and lobby, and we just liked the overal look and feel of the place.  Paris also advertises extensively in LGBT publications, as does the rest of Vegas acutally,  so we wanted to support them.  It’s slightly more expensive than where we stayed last time, but still a good deal and also a much nicer hotel.

We’ve started to think of certain activities we want to make sure we do–some new things and some repeats of favorites (I could stand and watch the fountain shows at the Bellagio all day and night).  We travel really well together and like to plan a few activities in advance, but are also really flexible in deciding what we want to do each day.  Our only vacation problems involve me having low blood sugar and being disagreeable because we can’t decide where to eat.  As we make any firm plans, or maybe after the trip, I’ll write more about some of the fun activities we plan to do.