Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Well, last week, we were back in Las Vegas for an early birthday celebration for me.

I hadn't planned on going to Las Vegas this year, but when I got an offer from the Bellagio to stay two nights and get a third free, at rates lower than I've ever seen at the Bellagio, how could I pass it up? Of course, the room costs are only the beginning, but for the most part, we remained budget minded throughout our stay.

Taking an early morning fight, we were at the hotel shortly after 9 a.m.

No rooms were yet available, so we looked around the Bellagio's public areas, starting in the lobby where the ceiling of Chihuly glass flower sculptures always captures my attention.

From there, we headed to the Botanical Gardens & Conservatory. This year's summer exhibit has a ferris wheel, giant poppies, and aviary, and lots of balloons. Just about everything is made of flowers...the giant lady bugs and frog out of flowers especially intrigued me. Of course, Fourth of July influences the summer would you like to meet a giant red white and blue snail in your garden or perhaps, a red lady bug flanked by beds of blue and white flowers?

The birds, in a special glass structure are real, not floral, but have such amazing colors that it is hard to believe that nature can create such colorful creatures.

We were here so early that the crew of horticulturists were still doing their daily replacement of any wilted flowers on the exhibit.

Our next stop was a new exhibit by Richard MacDonald in the newly-renovated lobby of the theatre where O is performed. MacDonald studies Cirque du Soleil performers in motion and creates realistic sculptures and drawings of them. All the works in this exhibit are for sale.

After looking at a few of the Bellagio's shops, we headed out for lunch at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville in the Flamingo Hotel.

Jim had the Cheeseburger in Paradise (burger, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, and tomato).

I had a variation on it, a Turkey Burger (with Provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, and garlic herb mayo).

To drink? What else than a Landshark Lager, Jimmy's own beer.

Margaritaville is a lively and fun place. Even the Ladies' Room door shows Jimmy Buffett's playful spirit.

The Flamingo Hotel, one of the Strip's oldest remaining hotels. It was the famed Bugsy Siegal who ran the mob's gambling syndicate from the Flamingo. How much of it, other than the site, remains today, I do not know.

Before returning to the hotel, we checked out the City Center project which is under construction next to the Bellagio. City Center is one of the world's largest sustainable developments. Two of its hotels are scheduled to open later this year.

This enormous, hotel, retail, office, and condo project is coming along. Two of the hotels...the Mandarin and the Aria...are scheduled to open before the end of this year.

After checking into our room, we spent some time at the pool before getting ready for dinner.

Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris hotel has become our Las Vegas favorite.

This very French brasserie makes us feel like we are in Paris. The food is oh so French, the service excellent, and the prices moderate by Las Vegas standards for a restaurant as nice as this one. I like that Mon Ami Gabi's dining rooms remain quiet, even when full...good acoustics and tables with some distance between them.

We were first treated to a complimentary amuse bûche of a molded carrot salad to accompany a loaf of warm crusty bread.

To start, we shared the Endive & Blue Cheese Salad which was further garnished with watercress and melon.

Jim's main course was the Roast Chicken, prepared with mushrooms, bacon, and pearl onions (grandmère style).

The only place I find Skate on a menu is in France and in a few American French restaurants. If it is on the menu, I cannot pass it up. So, for me, it was the Skate, served with caper lemon butter and accompanied by Crispy Garlic Chips (very garlicky), a fresh salad of julienned vegetables.

We ended this wonderful meal by sharing the fresh Berry Crisp.

From the dining room, we could see the Bellagio Fountains that "dance" to lights and music every 15 minutes, starting at 8 p.m.

After dinner, we crossed the street to return "home" and watched a few more shows of the dancing waters.

Of course, Paris and Planet Hollywood, both across the street from the Bellagio, were illuminated in all their glory.

A perfect first day in Las Vegas!

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