Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Vegas Trip Day 7, February 2010

March 29, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Because it was nearby and it was so tasty the day before, we ate at Hash House A Go Go for breakfast again. Tim had the salmon hash that I had yesterday. I had the basil, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato scramble. It was a smaller portion than the hash (or maybe my stomach is expanding), so I finished most of it.

Scramble from Hash House A Go Go

The service was horrendous. The waiter didn’t acknowledge us for several minutes, and then he forgot we existed after he dropped off the check. We were going to get change, but luckily we had enough to cover the bill and an appropriate (small) tip, so we took off. They’re damn lucky the food is so good (plus we had a great experience the day before, so that helped).

I walked down to the Forum Shops to purchase lip balm at Kiehl’s. I was planning to buy bacony chocolate things at Vosges, too. As I was deciding between the milk chocolate bacon bar, the dark chocolate bacon bar, the bacon chocolate chip pancake mix, and the bacon chocolate toffee (or all of the above), the girl behind the counter said she had to run downstairs for a few minutes and if we (there were two of us browsing) would mind leaving the store. I figured that was a sign to not buy anything, so I left. The hourglass on my Vegas time was running out, and I didn’t want to wait around.

Still feeling the sting from video poker the day before, I decided to go to the Fashion Show Mall instead of the casino. I found some great deals at ECCOCI, where everything in the upper level was 80% off. I found a cute vintage-inspired black dress and a sweater for less than $30 total.

As I walked back to our Palazzo room, I thought I’d give the gambling one more go. I played Wicked Riches, one of the new variations on The Wizard of Oz slots, and walked away with a tidy $60 profit.

Wicked Riches slots

We packed, checked out, and checked our bags, then did a little more gambling at Palazzo. I put $20 back into assorted penny slots (Star Wars Yoda, Star Wars R2-D2, Gold Fish, Wicked Riches, and Fireball).

We had a quick cocktail at Fusion, a rum mixology bar on the Palazzo casino floor.

Fusion Bar at Palazzo

I ordered the Pisco Punch and Tim had the Hemingway Daiquiri. Both were tasty and refreshing. (And the male bartender was easy on the eyes, too.)

Pisco Punch and Hemingway's Daiquiri

For lunch, we ate at First Food and Bar. My eyes immediately went to the Pumpkin Chai drink on their menu, but they were in the process of changing over from fall/winter to spring and had phased out some of the options. Instead, I got the Cotton Candy Kiss, which started out with some fruit juices and alcohol poured over a piece of cotton candy. I was expecting it to be really sweet, but it wasn’t overpoweringly sugary, which was nice.

Cotton Candy Kiss

I had a salad with bleu cheese, cashews, grapes, and endive, while Tim ordered the turkey club. We split a batch of parmesan fries. The food was very good, and the portions weren’t overwhelmingly large. We also had really good service, which helped. They sat us by the window overlooking TI and Venetian, and the waiter was really attentive but not hovering.

Gilley's Construction at TI

Our final drink on the Strip for this trip was at the champagne bar on the Palazzo casino floor. Tim had a Captain Morgan/diet Coke while I opted for one of their specialty drinks, the Flowery Eclipse. It contained champagne, St. Germain elderflower liqueur (one of my favorites), and lemon juice. It was sparkling, fruity, and refreshing.

Flowery Eclipse

We took a cab to the airport and stood in the check-in line for 45 minutes. It’s a good thing we tend to get there early. They only had one person working the Sun Country booth, but someone from Delta jumped in to help out. We were lucky enough to get the exit rows, considering that most of the people in line were on our flight.

We were both completely knackered by the time we got to the terminal. We sat at an empty gate for a while and didn’t want to move. We had sandwiches from Quizno’s to tide us over and boarded the plane.

We had an amazing view on takeoff. The plane was on a runway parallel to the Strip, so we zoomed past all the illuminated casinos. CityCenter looked especially impressive from the air. We took one last look at our happy place before the plane tilted toward home.

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Vegas Trip Day 6, February 2010

March 29, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We were excited to finally try Hash House A Go Go, as they had recently opened a location at Imperial Palace. (Also, NPH had eaten there with Jeff Probst over the weekend, so it had to be good, right?) There were signs everywhere in the casino, so we knew exactly how to get there by taking the escalators next to the Ginza bar.

Hash House A Go Go Sign at Imperial Palace

Our waiter explained that everything was made fresh and came out as it was ready, so we wouldn’t be surprised if everything didn’t arrive at once. There wasn’t much of a gap between our orders, but it was good to know that in advance.

Although I was tempted by the 24 oz bud with a side of bacon, I had the salmon hash with chives and cream cheese. It was delicious, and the potatoes were slightly sweet, giving the dish an extra bit of flavor. Everything blended really well, and I will probably dream of that meal for months. Unfortunately, the platter was so huge that I could only finish about a third of it.

Salmon, Chive, and Cream Cheese Hash

Tim had one of the scrambles with eggs, avocado, bacon, and cheese, which was also tasty.

Scramble at Hash House A Go Go

We gave the video poker at Planet Hollywood one last run before they changed the pay tables. I played for a while, but the machines eventually ate my dollars.

To slow the losing, I decided to go on a little South Strip photo safari. I walked to the Tropicana, where there are renovations aplenty. Not too much to see yet and lots of boarded up walls everywhere, but it will be interesting to see what they do with the place.

Some random guy yelled “excuse me” as I was walking past and I made the mistake of turning around. He asked me what my name was, and I said “I do not understand” in French and walked away. He was too stunned to say anything, which was the plan.

Not wanting to run into Creepy Creeperson again, I made a hasty exit to New York New York, where I played some old school Price Is Right Cliffhanger slots. I also found the elusive Queen slots. I didn’t win anything, but the guy next to me walked off with about $80. He kept hitting bonuses within bonuses on top of bonuses the entire time I was playing.

Queen Slots at NYNY

I walked through Monte Carlo to catch the tram to CityCenter. They have made some nice improvements with some very modern restaurants along the side of the casino (particularly the steakhouse). I think this mix of old school/new school would work really well for Tropicana, although I hear they’re getting rid of a lot of the Tiffany glass.

Monte Carlo

I passed Rubio’s and Starbucks in the food court, and in case you need another Starbucks, there’s one past the Cupcakery on the way to the tram. I was still stuffed from breakfast, but I’ve heard good things about Rubio’s (like Chipotle but with more options like fish tacos and lobster and bacon) and the Cupcakery.

Word of warning: The tram from Monte Carlo is very high and might be daunting to people with a fear of heights.

I stopped at the Crystals and Aria and played The Monkees slots in the Aria casino. I hit a couple bonuses and cashed out even. They play an instrumental version of “Daydream Believer” in the background, and they play a vocal version (or a version of their theme song) when you hit the bonus. The bonus involves lots of free spins, and if you match enough symbols, you get to choose between two of the Monkees to determine if you get a certain amount of credits or a multiplier.

Monkees Slots at Aria

I was going to take the tram to Bellagio, but after I got into the car, they announced that it was out of service and that everyone should exit. I walked to Bellagio, and then Tim and I took the now-functional tram back to Aria for food at Todd English’s P.U.B., which I’ll cover in a separate entry because I have a lot to say about it.

We took the tram back to Bellagio and walked over to Caesars to search in vain for the Hangover slots. They might have just had them for a few months after the movie came out, as a limited licensing thing.

We were going to grab a drink at O’Shea’s, but there was no room at the bar, so we want to the Ginza bar at Imperial Palace for some Captain Morgan/diet Cokes.

After going up to our room to relax and change, we started our evening bar crawl at Sinatra. We each had a Sinatra Smash, and I learned that I need to add more vanilla simple syrup and more sweet and sour when I make them at home. I did have the Gentleman Jack, Creme de Cassis, and blackberry muddling part right, though.

Sinatra Smash x 2

We wanted to try additional drinks, so I had a pomegranate mojito and Tim had an Under the Tuscan Sun. Both were delicious.

Pomegranate Mojito and Under the Tuscan Sun

Our next stop was the Level 107 Lounge near the top of the Stratosphere. The seats with the Strip view were all taken, but we found seats where we could see Sam’s Town in the distance.

Level 107 Lounge at Stratosphere

Tim ordered a Lynchburg Lemonade and I had a Sunburn martini. Specialty cocktails ranged from $10 to $15, which I expected for the location. We followed those with Ketel One and soda. The waitress mentioned that their base vodka is Stoli, so even if you order the house vodka you’re getting decent stuff.

Sunburn martini and Lynchburg Lemonade

The view was outstanding, and it was a great place to play “spot the foobs” by looking over the railing at the revolving restaurant below.

The band was playing extended versions of Cyndi Lauper and Sade songs (by singing several verses twice). The female singer was on key, but had a nasal inflection to her voice that wasn’t pleasant. When they started with “Fields of Gold” by Sting, we knew it was time to get out of there.

We took a cab to Encore (in retrospect it would have been better to go to Wynn) and walked to Stripburger, where we each had a Southwest burger (chipotle mayo, bacon, and onion strings) and split an order of the pickle fries (which have more breading than a lot of other places). The night was starting to get chilly, but they had several heat lamps on so it was comfortable. I love that place.

It started to rain lightly as we meandered back to Palazzo. We walked around the casino and recorded some gambling bits for the podcast, and then went to bed.

Vegas Trip Day 5, February 2010

March 28, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Amazingly, after the previous night we were feeling no pain. We had another delicious breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi and sat on the sunny patio. It was warmed by heat lamps, making it quite pleasant. Without the lamps, it would have been a little chilly.

View from Mon Ami Gabi

View from Mon Ami Gabi

We checked out of Paris and into Palazzo, room 41810 with a view of TI and Trump.

View from Room 41810 at Palazzo

View from Room 41810 at Palazzo

We were just glad to have a room ready at that point, even if it wasn’t the Strip view we were expecting. (Technically, it’s still a Strip view, just the northern part instead of the southern part.) The desk clerk had been really friendly and welcoming, and it was a good way to kick off our inaugural visit to the property.

We wanted to have some appetizers before we met up with some people who listen to the show, so we went to Lagasse’s Stadium. We ordered onion rings along with pretzels and beer cheese sauce. We sat at the bar and the bartenders were very friendly, and service was fast. I should have specified “soda water” when I ordered my blueberry vodka and soda, because it came with Sprite. I took a few sips and thought, “hey, this is much sweeter than normal” but I felt I had already drank too much to send it back. The same thing happened to Tim when he ordered a vodka/soda too. The food was quite good, especially the pretzels and sauce.

We walked down to Bally’s. We noticed the deterioration around the columns near the front of Bally’s, and shook our heads. It can’t be that expensive to slap on some caulk and a fresh coat of paint, can it?

Deterioration at Bally's

We hung out with several people at the Tequila Bar and had a really good time. Sal had reserved two seats at the bar at the Diamond Lounge, so that was our next stop.

I started with Sal’s famous iced coffee.

Iced Coffee

He went on break, and G, his backup, made me a blue M&M martini (blue curaçao, creme de cacao, cream, amaretto).

Sal returned, and I had something really tasty that consisted of cranberry juice, mandarin vodka, peach schnapps, crown royal, 2 parts apple pucker, and 2 parts peach schnapps.

And an Old Fashioned with Makers Mark, properly muddled.

Old Fashioned and Layered Shot

Oh yeah, there were shots involved somewhere too. The night gets a little blurry here.

Cheers!

My last beverage of the evening was a Vegas Kiss (raspberry vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice).

Vegas Kiss

We thanked Sal, Michael, and the rest of the staff profusely, and stumbled on our way.

We walked all the way back to Palazzo, stopping in Casino Royale to record a bit for the show about their renovations. We needed some food before bed, so we had big bready portions at the Grand Lux Cafe.

Vegas Trip Day 4, February 2010

March 28, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nobody had strangled us during the night (and the hotel felt quite safe), so we woke up and had breakfast at Cafe Cortez. They had cheap food and fast service. We had two meals (eggs, meat, pancakes, potatoes, juice) for $10 with a coupon from the slot club.

The machines took back the $40 I won last night. Boo.

We took a taxi back to Paris, then we went back to Planet Hollywood for more gambling. This was a great idea because I made a $200 profit on my nickel deuces machine.

We debated attending the unveiling ceremony for the Vegas Walk of Fame inductions for Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, but I’m glad we did. We entered the Flamingo Ballroom, and just like El Cortez, we brought the average age of the room down by 20 years.

Several people spoke, including:

  • Bandleader Vinnie Falcone
  • Comedian Rich Little
  • Former showgirl, former owner of the Tropicana (and humanitarian, as I found out later) Cindy Doumani
  • Dean Martin’s Gold Diggers (I had wondered why there were several ladies up front in gold sparkly cardigans)
  • Actor Dennis Farina
  • Willie Rizzo (Jilly’s son)
  • Dennis Bono
  • Comedian Steve Rossi
  • Comedian Charlie Callas (via phone and somewhat incoherent; they had to cut him off)
  • Lena Prima (daughter of Louis, who sang a song arranged by her father)
  • Corinne Entratter (wife of George Sidney and Jack Trotter)
  • Deana Martin (Dean’s daughter, obviously)

It was a celebrity sighting and unintentional comedy extravaganza for us, yet it was still great to see the respect so many people (ourselves included) have for these two men and their accomplishments.

It was time for food, so we had lunch at Serendipity 3. The stripes on the walls gave my astigmatism fits, so I focused on the menu and the food instead. Also, the room is very loud, so this is not a good place to go if you are nursing a hangover.

The food, however, was divine. Tim had a Caesar salad with the largest croutons I’ve ever seen.

Caesar Salad at Serendipity3

I had The Summer Bries sandwich with turkey, apples, brie, and cranberry mayo on raisin pumpernickel, accompanied by sweet potato fries. The fries were just OK, but the sandwich made me exclaim in joy with each bite.

The Summer Bries at Serendipity3

We hadn’t gambled in a few hours, so we went back to Planet Hollywood for video poker, which we both played for a long time, making the most of the pay tables.

I thought to myself, “It’s National Margarita Day. How shall I celebrate?” A visit to the Diamond Lounge was in order. Sal tried to make up for the previous nights we had missed by giving us three nights’ worth of drinks in one. We started with a Golden Cadillac margarita, and ended chugging a Dr. Pepper beer (beer with a shot of root beer schnapps).

Golden Cadillac Margarita

Adios MF

Tasty Beverages

We almost had to get a wheelbarrow. But they kept bringing us beverages, and it would have been wrong not to drink them.

In our inebriated state, we recorded an audio tour of The Heart of a Woman exhibit at Paris. This picture pretty much sums it up. (See more at the official site, if you’re so inclined. I can’t decide if “Her Noble Steed” or “A Prescription for Love” is my favorite theme.)

We managed to play a few slots at Paris (and there might have been some dancing to a Lady GaGa song while playing Gems Wild Tiles). We desperately needed food, so we had appetizers at Planet Dailies next door, which turned out to be tasty and satisfying. We split the pork potstickers, the sliders, and the spinach dip. Not sure how we made it to our room, but we did.

Vegas Trip Day 3, February 2010

March 28, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where were we? Oh, yeah.

We slept in Sunday due to our late night/early morning. I think we went to bed around 4:00 a.m., but I was still happy thinking about the great time we had. I missed everybody already.

We wanted to eat somewhere close by, so we grabbed breakfast at the Cafe Ile St. Louis in Paris. The food was OK, but the service was quite slow. We probably won’t eat here again; there are so many other places I want to try for breakfast that are in the same price range and near the same location. It wasn’t horrible, just not outstanding enough to go back.

I played a lot of bonus poker at Planet Hollywood until it was time to go downtown for the El Cortez challenge. We checked into room 1012, which had a lovely view of a parking lot and an office building. It reminded us a lot of the old Barbary Coast rooms, especially the bathroom. It was small and plain, but clean.

Room 1012 at El Cortez

Room 1012 at El Cortez

Room 1012 at El Cortez

We were anxious to try the new Firefly location in the Plaza, so we went there for dinner. We sat in the domed area with a nice view of Fremont Street.

Firefly at The Plaza

View from Firefly

I started with a Stoli martini with bleu cheese stuffed olives, and Tim had a caramel apple martini. They brought us a complimentary plate of bread and olives. Tim warned me that the olives still had pits. A few seconds later, we overheard a lady at the next table loudly complaining to anyone within earshot that she had just chipped her tooth on the olives, and she couldn’t afford the dental bill to repair it. The manager came over and offered to pay for her meal, but she was still really upset. I wasn’t really sure who was at fault there. The woman and her female companion left, and we focused on our food.

Appetizers at Firefly

We ordered smoked salmon toasts, stuffed dates, baked cheese, calamari, filet mignon sliders, and stuffed peppers. We would definitely order the stuffed dates, sliders, and peppers again. The dates were wrapped in bacon and stuffed with almonds and bleu cheese. The sliders were rich and delicious, and the red peppers were stuffed with cream cheese. A couple friends of ours had visited when the restaurant first opened and had a subpar service experience, but ours was good. They brought out a few courses at a time and were attentive.

We went into several downtown casinos and played random slots and video poker, winning a little and losing a little. The slot selection was average at best. We were hoping to discover a new game, or at the very least find the Queen slots at Main Street Station, which we did not.

We wandered about until 9 when The Griffin opened. I still don’t believe our bartender had a 17 year old kid; she looked way too young, like 25. She was really nice and made us delicious beverages. Tim had a hard Arnie Palmer with seagrams sweet tea vodka, a bloody Mary, and a chocolate martini. I had a Mandarin cosmo, a French martini, and a PB&J martini.

They had just instituted a policy that bartenders could no longer drink on the job, so the staff was adjusting. If I could take a shot every time I encountered someone difficult (especially in a customer service/bar environment), I’d miss that too.

We did a little gambling before we went to sleep, and I won $40 on video poker at El Cortez, so that was a good way to cap off the evening.

El Cortez Video Poker

Vegas Trip Day 2, February 2010

March 16, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My stomach was still a little sensitive from the night before, so I poked at my breakfast at Planet Dailies. Eggs and bacon and fruit were very helpful.

I lost a little bit on video poker and Gold Fish slots in Planet Hollywood, but played for a while, so at least the machines ate my money slowly.

We recorded an audio tour of the Crystals and Aria, and I took a lot of pictures. Most of them can be found here.

CityCenter

I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the place at first. It was nice and shiny and new, but I wasn’t instantly drawn in. I think I was overwhelmed by the size of the entire complex.

There were a lot of phallic symbols in The Crystals (the shopping area).

Phallic Wood Sculpture at The Crystals

Phallic Ice Sculptures at The Crystals

Oh, and we found out later that this was the completely underwhelming Pocket Park. We had walked right through it on our way to Aria from The Crystals.

Pocket Park at CityCenter

Exhausted from all the walking and recording, we grabbed a quick snack and beverage from the Diamond Lounge, then returned to Planet Hollywood for more gambling, where I came out even on video poker.

I took a short nap in the room, then we sought some light nourishment at Le Burger Brasserie. We ordered a couple Captain Morgan and diet Cokes, along with the loaded fries (like nachos but with fries instead of tortilla chips). The bartender (Daylan) was hilarious and entertaining. An example: “My brother could be a game show host. He gives away a car and a house every four to five years.”

Most of the casino bars were busy, so we wandered through the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood until we found a couple open stools at La Salsa Cantina. We ordered Cape Cods because we were a little afraid of tequila, knowing it could be a long evening of beverage-filled merriment (and it was).

We went up to our room to change, and Tim helped me keep track of time as I got ready (I was a little distracted by this point). We met Hunter and Brandie at Julian Serrano for dinner. The meal was delicious and the service was attentive. Afterward, we had drinks at the Mandarin Oriental bar with Hunter, Brandie, Steve, Chuckmonster, Miss Monkay, and two of Chuck’s friends.

The bar has an amazing view of the Strip. It has floor-to-ceiling windows, and the view is a little lower than some of the other bars, yet the location is close to the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard, so you feel like you’re in the center of everything. Cocktails were a little on the expensive side ($20 for their specialty drinks) but were expertly mixed, and the service was outstanding (as you would expect from Mandarin Oriental).

View from Mandarin Oriental Bar

We had a wonderful night and time flew by. Most people went their separate ways in the wee hours of the morning, but we went down to the View Bar in Aria to hang out with Chuck some more.

View Bar at Aria

As we were leaving, Chuck was telling a great story about how someone (whose name rhymes with Schmoozehound) almost took out the railing at the View Bar, when he nonchalantly said, “Hey, there’s your boy.” And Neil Patrick Harris was walking by, and I almost passed out. Then, if that wasn’t cool enough, Christina Hendricks (best known as Joan from Mad Men) was with him. I might have followed them around the corner at a distance to verify. And it was. They are both incredibly good-looking people in person as well as on TV. (Want to see what they were wearing? Go here.)

We giddily said goodnight to Chuck, and all the way back from Aria to Paris, I asked Tim several times if that (and our whole evening) was real or a hallucination. The celebrity sighting was a very cool way to cap off an incredibly fun night.

Vegas Trip Day 1, February 2010

March 13, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

We each had a double Captain Morgan and diet Coke in the airport bar, and I was feeling mighty fine as we waited for the plane to arrive.

In the bar, we spotted a Canadian tuxedo with embroidered flowers on the jacket… on a guy. This would be the first of many Canadian tuxedo sightings on the trip. I’m not sure if this was a way of people showing they were in the Olympic spirit, or what.

Thanks to a very generous person, we were able to upgrade to first class where we enjoyed more beverages and a meal on the plane. Our flight attendant Sandy kept our drinks refreshed and even offered to pour Baileys on our cheesecake, which we gladly accepted.

As the plane descended into Vegas, I almost serenaded the rest of the plane with Vegas songs I had been listening to on my iPhone.

After a short wait for our luggage and a cab, we checked into room 3097P at Paris.

Paris room 3097P

The room was at the end of the hall and had a great view of the Bellagio fountains.

View from Paris room 3097P

We celebrated our arrival (again) with drinks in the Diamond Lounge. We chatted with Michael for a while and said hi to Freddie the bartender. Our strategy was to take it easy and only get vodka/sodas, but they kept bringing more as we finished half of each glass. Oops.

Fancy Light

In my first run at video poker at Planet Hollywood, I lost a few dollars but felt no pain (financial or otherwise). Hunter joined us for a while and we conversed with him briefly, planning to meet the next night for dinner.

We had a happy reunion with Earl of Sandwich before going to bed.

Proper Bidet Use

January 17, 2010

When you are visiting hotels in a country outside the U.S. (or U.S. hotels that have extra-large bathrooms or cater to foreign visitors), you might encounter a bidet.

A bidet is located in the bathroom and is typically used to freshen and cleanse your nether regions. (How you go about that is completely up to you.) You can also use it to have your own private fountain shows in your hotel room, with lights and music. My personal favorite is “Singin’ in the Rain,” just like the song in the Bellagio show.

bidet-1

When facing the bidet for the first time, it is important to notice the faucet setup. In most U.S. hotels, the lever for the hot water is on the left, and the lever for the cold water is on the right. Should you choose to face this direction on the bidet (and that is an option), you will have no problem confusing the two.

However, things get a little more tricky if you’re facing the other direction. If you face away from the faucet, you must remember that the levers are reversed. The hot water is now on your right and the cold water is on your left.

bidet-2

For the safety of your bits, do not forget this! If you mistakenly turn the hot water on high, you might end up with scalded parts, just like a dear friend of mine. He limped around for days, possibly weeks.

Vegas/Arizona Trip – October 2009, Day 6

October 31, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We had breakfast at the Mandalay Bay buffet. They had good bacon, along with tasty biscuits and gravy, but their fruit selection was sparse (where were the fresh berries?) and the fish was dry (except the lox in the eggs, which was good).

We checked out of our sweet suite, and went to the airport. Because we were flying to Arizona, we left out of the C gates. They looked old and in need of a makeover, although we saw two new things: the Sammy Hagar cantina and some eBay slots. I was surprised the Hagar cantina wasn’t in one of the newer gates, and I was surprised that the eBay slots were there because those are relatively new, but they might be on their way out now.

I put one last $20 through a video poker machine but lost it quickly.

We flew Southwest for the first time. We paid the extra $10 to get into the A group for boarding (so we didn’t have to arrive at the airport as early). My row was full, but after a man took the window seat in Tim’s row, he tried to look surly so nobody would sit next to him. The flight to Phoenix was short (only about an hour and 15 minutes).

We picked up our rental car at the airport and drove to our hotel in Glendale. The hotel was within walking distance of the University of Phoenix Stadium, which is why we chose that location.

We had dinner at Gordon Biersch Brewery. For an appetizer, we had pretzels with two kind of mustard sauce. We were very hungry, so the pretzels were extra good. I had a strawberry mint lemonade and some fish tacos, which were also good.

We went back to the hotel and napped for an hour before the show, then walked across the street to the venue.

University of Phoenix Stadium

I’d seen pictures of the stage, but couldn’t believe the size of it, even in person. It was almost as big as our suite at THEhotel.

University of Phoenix Stadium

Instead of trying to get close to the stage or the walkway, we hung back towards the center of the stadium. We sat down before the opening set because we were still pretty worn out from our Vegas adventure.

The Black Eyed Peas were the opening act, and they were an odd fit for U2, but by the end of the set, they really got the crowd into it.

They began with a futuristic green head declaring that this is “the E.N.D.” which is also the title of their latest album. Then they started with “Let’s Get It Started” (clever!). They used the giant video screen hanging from the spiderlike set, and they also had a laser show that projected onto the back wall of the arena.

Black Eyed Peas

Lasers

Fergie was wearing some sort of fur vest thing over a silvery dress. She performed “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” one of her solo hits, and let the audience do most of the singing.

Black Eyed Peas

Then the full band returned for “Where Is the Love?” and Will.i.am proclaimed his love of music, to which Tim responded, “If you love music so much, why are you doing this to it?” (He’s not a fan.)

Black Eyed Peas

The last song was “I’ve Got a Feeling,” which was the highlight of their set. The audience got really pumped up and was dancing and singing along.

Black Eyed Peas

I do have to say that I’m extremely disappointed that they didn’t do “My Humps,” because I was hoping to say that I had seen that song live. Another thing that stays on the bucket list, I suppose.

Between sets, we went to get some food from one of the vending areas in the concourse from the slowest booth in the world. (And the guy at the register had the nerve to ask for a tip! Not happening.)

We noticed people being let into the center part of the set (between the stage and the walkway) and we could have chosen to go in there, but we didn’t feel like being squished like sardines. It was kind of a weird way to see a show, because for the previous two shows, we’d been in the middle of the crowd, loudly singing and dancing along, and for this show we were observers more than participants. Not that it wasn’t a good show, but it was just a different experience.

U2 performed the standard setlist that they’d been playing throughout the tour, a mixture of classics and songs from the new album.

U2

The set really came to life for U2. They played “Space Oddity” before they came onstage, alluding to the giant spaceship-like thing they’d built to play on.

They had bridges from the main stage to a walkway, and the bridges moved from the sides of the stage to the center.

U2

U2

They lowered and raised the video screen, and even expanded it like an accordion during “The Unforgettable Fire.” One of the diamond-shaped pieces of the video screen was out, but it was still a magnificent piece of technology.

U2

They also used it to showcase their bobbing heads during a remix of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.” I wonder if this means they’ll be returning to a Zooropa-like sound on their next album?

U2

It was interesting how this contrasted with the Fountains of Wayne show we saw on our first night. That show was small and intimate, and there were no stage effects whatsoever. This show was all about the spectacle and the video screens, and the venue was enormous. U2 are still great performers and excellent songwriters, but this was just a different experience for me. It wasn’t as emotional, but it didn’t prevent me from appreciating what was before me.

Can’t Talk… Coming Down (Trip Follow-up)

March 21, 2009

People have been asking me if the beer was warm. I don’t remember it being warm. I just remember it being tasty and refreshing and good for the soul.

I wish we would have visited all the locations in Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” video, including the rooftop.

I’m seriously thinking of changing my demand for my 40th birthday from “we must be in Vegas” to “we must be in London.” I have a few years to think about it, though.

I apologize in advance if the rest of my blog posts aren’t as exciting as the ones for the London trip. Right now I’m thinking, “OK, so what do I write about now?” I’ll figure something out.