Sunday, June 26, 2011

Everything You Wanted to Know about Downtown Vegas..But Were Afraid to Ask

Vegas. Why? I needed a quick and cheap getaway with Pam. We decided to do Vegas because it's a cheap and silly place for a girl trip, and as an added bonus, our friend Jimmie was working out there this summer and we could hang out with him. Done. I'm so over the Strip and the large resorts that require a map to find your room. Miss Pamela and I took a gamble as would only be appropriate...on The Gold Spike. The Spike is a block off Fremont Street, newly renovated and very small. THE GOOD: $25 a night (that includes $7 mandatory 'resort fee') That's right, I said $25 a night. Not per person...per room! The rooms were newly renovated and very clean. Comfy beds, plasma tv. No frills - no frig, no safe, no hair dryer, no iron etc, but if you know that and pack accordingly, it's no problem. The staff was super friendly and helpful. A/C went out in the middle of the night and after waking up long enough to put a piece of ice in my mouth from a cup on my nightstand and falling back asleep over and over again, we finally called maintenence. Up in a flash and fixed. It went out again later that afternoon, and we were given a new room within five minutes. Bartenders, Joe and Chris were great, Security guards watched over us when the bar got scary. Big security guard, Tyrone even let me feel of his bicep. THAT'S service. Security Guard:

The cocktail waitresses/dealers in casinos on the Strip dress in keeping with the casino theme, like the ones at Caesar's wear short sexy little togas. At the Spike, I think the dress code is 'the tiniest pieces of Spandex clothing you own and the highest heels'. All of the girls were meth addict skinny, but they were very nice. Downtown casinos have better odds (as usual this is based on my experience and I have no scientific evidence, but it's my blog so what the hell) and the food is cheap. Downtown is where you can still get a Vegas legendary $5.99 Prime Rib dinner and a 99 cent Shrimp Cocktail. The Gold Spike pool was nice. Not too big, but it wasn't crowded at all. Lounge chairs, towels provided and thankfully no loud booming music. I need a break from the 'gambient' noise now and again. The diner at The Spike was good. Incredible 4 cheese grilled cheese sandwich and fries. $3.50. Less walking. Okay, sure, we had our own personal driver and laughed at the hoards of people walking up and down the Strip as we zoomed past in air conditioned comfort, but when you are staying downtown, it doesn't take an hour to walk next door like on the Strip.

"Hurry, squirt the hand santizer around us in a circle. It's like holy water to the crack whore zombies!"- Jimmie, when we noticed that the bar was full of crack whore zombies and our pregnant waitress just sat down for her smoke break.  

You won 200 nickels! That's like....ten thousand dollars. And fifty cents."- Pam

 "You like theeees drink. Is berrynice!" - Cute little Polish cocktail waitress at Mermaid casino describing the shots she just brought us. I think they were vodka and Benedryl.

THE BAD AND THE UGLY: Honestly, the bar got a little scary at night if you looked around. One night at about 1:00 am, we noticed the bar was full of working girls and zombie like people singing bad, really really bad karaoke. We also noticed that the security guards were either sitting with us or right beside us whenever we were at the bar, so it was fine. No one bothered us, no one acted badly. It was a pretty good freak show, which is part of downtown's charm. And staying at The Spike made me feel a little bit like a bad ass., we're back to 'good'. The elevator smelled like a meth addict. And it was slow. Not a good combination.

 "I could see myself spending a fortune just to amuse you"- Jimmie  

Pam: "Call Room Service for coffee" Me: "There's no Room Service at the Spike. We don't even have a refrigerator" "Always wash your hands after you go to the bathroom and you HAVE to eat at Ellis Island! They have the best Prime Rib and mozzerella sticks THIS BIG!!!" - overenthused drunk man who talked with us for several minutes about these two things.

Jimmie acted as our driver, bodyguard and 'Julie, your ship's cruise director'. We got to use his employee discount to see a show - Absinthe at Caesar's, which was fabulous fun! He took us to a crazy good restaurant called 'Sammy's LA Pastrami and Burgers' The entire place was about the size of my kitchen. Their menu includes "The Big Ass Bacon Cheeseburger" - 1/2 pound of meat, 12 pieces of bacon and 1/4 pound of cheddar cheese. Also on the menu is the mind blowing "The Three Squares Fry" - 1 pound of french fries with a 1/2 pound each of pastrami, rib eye steak, chili, and topped with cheddar cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, 1/3 pound of bacon and three fried eggs. Seriously! "You've won a new carrrr!" - Pam, upon discovering that she has a game show host voice talent We went to the coolest bar (way off the Strip) but I was told not to disclose the location. ;) Jimmie introduced us at one point to a lady as 'his goddesses' and I'm fairly sure she believed him. It is Vegas, after all.

Zip Line Worker about to push me off a five story platform: "Are you ready?!" Me: "I think so." Zip Line Worker: "When someone asks if you're ready you answer - I was born ready! Now...are you ready?!" Me: "I think so." On our last night we rode a zip line down Fremont Street. The video below isn't mine, but it is the same experience that we had. Sailing through the air beneath the Fremont canopy and over the crowds was fantastic!! I was a little nervous at first, but knew that like many things in life, it would be fun once I made the jump. It was!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Instant Manicure. Beauty Problem Solved!

THE PROBLEM: I got rid of my acrylic nails because I was tired of the maintenance and cost. I still love to get manicures and pedicures, but have cut down on that drastically in a random attempt to save money. I don't mind painting my own nails and in fact, prefer my nails short and polished with a natural/pale pinky color in the summer. I think it looks neat and classy and works well with my sexy savage tan :). But...(here's the problem) Polish chips off my fingernails at an alarmingly rapid rate (like the next day!) and I don't have the patience to wait for polish to dry. THE SOLUTION: Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat. About $9 at your local Ulta store. This stuff really works!!! It now takes me about five minutes to paint my nails, top them with this stuff and they are DRY. I mean dry. It also protects the polish and is much longer wearing than other top coats that I've tried. With a pale (read, forgiving of small chips) polish, I can go for four or five days between polishes. PLUS, with an investment of five minutes, I don't mind doing it! Love, love, love this stuff!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Traveling Back in Time

Technologically speaking, I consider myself fairly up to date. I email, I blog (duh), I facebook, I text and use my iPhone for everything, but I am resisting the pull of the electronic reader. Oh, I certainly can see the attraction of the Nook or Kindle, the convenience, no more shoving four books in my suitcase for a week at the beach. I get that. You know what my problem is? I'll admit it...I am in love with the library. There, I've said it. I am in LOVE with the library. I can go online and place books on hold and when they are available, the library will text me! I can get free DVD rentals (three week rentals!) and although the DVD selection ain't no Netflix, it's a good Netflix backup and they have a lot of older movies that are fantastic. Do you remember Bookmobiles? I loved those. They brought the books...TO ME!! As a child, I was no stranger to the library. My Mother used to take us there and we'd be allowed to choose three books at a time. I think we usually did that in the summer. Probably my favorite perk of the library is the cost. It's absolutely free! I get the most amazing feeling when I walk out through those cool double doors, my arms full of new books and movies and I didn't spend a dime. And if I start to read a book and don't like it, I slide that baby right back into the chute, guilt-free. I gotta go read now. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fantastic and Fast Tortilla Soup

I made this in about an hour (simmering time included) and it was some of the best tortilla soup I've had anywhere. Not braggin...just fact. Yellow Bell Pepper - diced Medium White Onion - diced 3 T Garlic - minced 3 T Olive Oil Rotisserie Chicken (meat stripped off the bones and shredded/torn up) 2 - 32 oz cartons of low sodium Chicken Broth 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with jalapeno Juice of 2 limes 1/2 cup chopped Cilantro 2 pinches of Cloves Salt, Pepper, Cumin and Oregano to taste Toppings - Avocados Shredded Quesadilla or Monterrey Jack Cheese Store bought Tortilla strips or crunched up Tortilla Chips In a large pot, sautee the yellow pepper, onion and garlic in the olive oil. Sprinkle with a little cumin and oregano while they are cooking. After onion is soft, add the rest of the ingredients (except the toppings, of course). I used about 1 and a half of the cartons of broth. To serve, place about 1/2 of a diced avocado in a shallow bowl. Pour soup over avocado, top with shredded cheese and tortilla strips. :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Central Cali- May 2011 Part 2 -Hearst Castle, Wine Tasting, Antique Cars. The perfect day!

It was another beautiful day and we headed up North on Highway 1 right after breakfast. The weather changed her mind several times during our 30 minute drive, going from foggy to sunny and back again. By the time we reached Hearst Castle, she had decided upon sunny. When I think of Hearst Castle, the following words come to mind: Enchanting, Opulent, Decadent, Breathtaking. Condensed history of Hearst Castle- The Castle or 'The Ranch' as Hearst referred to it, is on a high hill overlooking the Pacific ocean near San Simeon. Construction was begun on this masterpiece in 1915 and was designed by architect Julia Morgan for gazillionaire William Randolph Hearst. Hearst is quoted as saying, "I would like to build something upon the hill at San Simeon. I get tired of going up there and camping in tents. I'm getting a little too old for that. I'd like to get something that would be a little more comfortable." The final result (three decades later!) was a compound of over 90,000 square feet and includes 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo. Zebras and other exotic animals still roam the grounds. Comfy? I'll say! Hearst's family had owned this property for a long time, but his Mother wouldn't allow him to build on it because "He'd get carried away." ha ha ha. The Neptune Pool is magnificent! An ancient Roman temple is part of the design, having been purchased, shipped to the states and reconstructed on site. (Seen behind me in the pic) These lights surround the compound. Hearst Castle is magnificent because it combines three amazing things. First - it's breathtaking setting. Lush green hills, a view of the blue ocean, and a climate that can't be beat. Secondly, the building and design is incredibly beautiful. Details? Unbelievable. Even the winding drive up to the castle was designed to tease you, with the castle peeking in and out of your view as you climb the hill. And the third element is the art. This place is stuffed full of priceless works of art. Everywhere you look, you will see ancient Greek vases, paintings by European masters, ancient Roman sculptures, Egyptian sarcophagi (the statuary and such adorn the gardens, as well), but some elements of the building itself are also ancient. A ceiling from an ancient Spanish castle that was purchased, dismanteled and shipped over, then fitted to a certain bedroom in the house. Hearst Castle employs ten people just to dust this place and they do it twice a day. I asked. A great place to throw a party, you are probably thinking. No kidding! Lavish parties thrown by William Randolph Hearst and his glamorous movie star mistress, Marion Davies (he and his first wife were separated but not divorced for some religious? reason and he lived publicly with Marion for about 30 years until his death). The guest lists included Charlie Chaplin, Carol Lombard, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Charles Lindberg, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope and Winston Churchill. Hearst was not a drinker and worried about Marion's drinking, so although wine and beer were served at the parties, hard liquor was frowned upon. It's said that most guests were on their best behavior until Hearst retired for the evening. Then the party really began. Look closely at the tree in the picture covered with tangerines. All over the property are trees covered in lemons, grapefruit, and tangerines. During Hearst's time, the property was nearly self sufficient, with extensive gardens, orchards and cattle. a sarcophagus is garden art Note the door to the bathroom. It's from an old castle. Nice, huh? A bedroom ceiling A porch off of one of the bedrooms. Look at the big lion paws table legs A dress from their period costume collection is laid out on the bed. Imagine that you are a guest at one of William Randolph Hearst's legendary parties and your assigned servant has laid this out for you. Can't get over the view The architectural detail is incredible The kitchen was big and beautiful and contained the 'latest' electric gadgets, like refrigerators! This is about 1/8 of the kitchen. Swoon!!! The indoor pool: Real gold leaf tiles! Next stop? Cambria. A cute little town near Heart Castle with shops, restaurants and wine tasting. We went to Moonstone Cellars and enjoyed a lovely afternoon of wine tasting and then had lunch before heading back to Morro Bay. Back at Morro Bay we did a little shopping, got a coffee and napped. When we were shopping I saw an old VW hippie van that was totally rusted out. A cute little dog was sitting in it, waiting for his person. There was a 'For Sale' sign on the van. I think I probably could've bought it for what was in my pocket at the time. A view of Morro Rock Gerald walking down the street in Cambria Every time a bell rings... Pirate Prom Pic Morro Bay was hosting an Antique Car Show and we caught the evening parade of cars. Everyone was having a blast and the cars were gorgeous. Candy colored Tbird line up We finished up the day with dinner at a dockside restaurant where seals played in the water right outside our window. The food was delicious and we had a view of Morro Rock. The couple next to us provided a fun conversation for us to creep on. He was REALLY trying overly hard to impress her and we got a kick out of that. For more info on Hearst Castle, read Marion Davies' biography -
The Times We Had.
She seems like she was a very sweet person and the tales of living at the Castle are extremely interesting. Did I mention before how much I love Central California?

My Jewelry on Etsy

My Blog

Some of these entries are vintage travel reports and have been restored from a lost blog. I hope you enjoy them.