Tripping Down Memory Lane Spring Break Trip Report Part III

All good things and great vacations come to an end. Tripping Down Memory Lane Spring Break Trip Report Part III winds down our 2008 spring break trip to Las Vegas in getting back to Vegas basics style.

Filling In The Vegas Days and Nights: Hotels, Casinos & Restaurants 

Venetian ~

Spending the afternoon at Venetian surrounded by copies of and renditions of famous Italian works and decor was the plan for our Thursday afternoon. The machines, bonus rounds and green felt covered tables will take a backseat to sightseeing and lunch at Grand Lux Cafe at Venetian.

Venetian-domevia

I get into the theme of it all and appreciate it for what it is- a gorgeous imitation of inspired artistic works of architectural wonder.

Venetian-ceilingvia

People often comment negatively in regards to Grand Lux as a dining choice while in Las Vegas.  “It’s a chain. Why in the world are you eating at a chain restaurant?”

Grand-Lux-food

How do we love Grand Lux Cafe?   Let us deliciously count the ways:

The food is always excellent.  See images above.

The menu offers a wide variety of delicious something for everyone dishes.

The dining room design and decor is lovely.

The price is right.

If it ain’t broke…

I did not break with my dining at Grand Lux tradition ordering the seafood salad and a shared order of double-stuffed potato spring rolls. Dave ordered the fish and chips and gave it 4 forks out of a possible 5 review. The casino at Venetian was packed. I played $1 Top Dollar slots with no big wins. Dave didn’t fare too well at the tables so he was in hot pursuit of a $1 Double Top Dollar slot machine to play. We both love Top Dollar and Pinball.  I did not receive an ounce of respect, love or pay from the numerous Top Dollar or Pinball machines I played during this session.  I now fondly refer to them as “sucker machines” and Dave now fondly refers to me as a sore loser.  If it was in the cards for me to be a loser, at least the rocking band playing at La Scena (casino floor lounge that sadly is no more) was churning out some fantastic music.  Win, lose or draw I like to get my boogie on.  We have boogied to really fantastic lounge acts playing the casino lounges. That part of old Vegas is slowly going away too.  My parents tell of the now famous singers they saw years ago in Las Vegas when the entertainers were up and coming lounge acts.

Paris  ~

I got it together earlier than usual so we could be on our way to lunch at the Paris Le Village buffet.

Paris-Las-Vegas-Dining-Buffet-Le-Village-Buffet-1.jpg.stdimg.hd.xlLe Village Buffet at Paris

I knew I would want to play before lunch and also figured the line to be seated could be rather long on a Friday afternoon.  I could not squeak out a win, but left the casino floor for the buffet line even. That’s always a win in my book!  The lunch at Le Village was good, but this is a buffet that shines at breakfast. Dave pointed out the French onion soup and I informed him I had worked the French onion soup enough for a while. However, the crepe station did call out to me and I answered apple with raspberries, blueberries and crème fraîche, se il vous plaît.  5 forks out of 5 very French c’est si bon forks.

Paris-slotsvia

Moving Day: From Treasure Island to Rio We Go

I packed the room up with a cup of in-room brewed strong Louisiana coffee in hand. Traveling with a coffee pot isn’t for everyone, but we do it for two reasons.  In extremely short order after my eyes pop open in the morning and my feet hit the floor or carpet I need coffee- hot, fresh and Louisiana strong.  I also like to have a cup or two in the afternoons or early evening when we are relaxing in the room before dinner or a show or just regrouping.  The other reason is pure economics I swear we would go broke by the third day in town feeding our coffee fix.  A fellow Vegas travel nut cued me in on a coffee pot travel tip.

walgreens

There are several Walgreens and CVS locations up and down the Las Vegas Strip. Pop in a pick up a coffee maker and supplies and ignore the initial sticker shock investment.  It will pay for itself within the first day. If you don’t want to contend with packing it up and carting it home, simply leave it in the room. Easy peasy.  It is ridiculous what hotels charge for coffee ordered from room service or in the coffee shops, and speaking of coffee shops- coffee shops are quickly becoming an extinct dining option on the Strip.  I am not the biggest fan of the buffet, but for breakfast dining the beverage selection and cost included reasons this to be a reasonable option.  Dave went down to visit with the host with positive results. We checked out over the television and said goodbye to Treasure Island.

 cokevia

Our host at the Rio met us at VIP-Diamond check in and assigned us a room in the Ipanema Tower.  The room reminded me of the suites at the Stardust we loved. These rooms impress me more in terms of size and layout vs decor. Various tell-tale signs give the age of the property away, but nothing we can’t live with for five nights.  We got our gambling on for about an hour, and finally I declared victory with a $$$ win on a five-line .25 3X  4X  5X machine in front of the performing stage. Cocktail service at Rio was fast and frequent. My server took my Coke order. “Is Pepsi okay?” My “not in this lifetime” answer produced a chuckle on his part. I changed my order to a Shirley Temple (I was on the hard stuff this afternoon) and returned to my play. In a flash he returns with his own version of comedy with a “You had the ice-cold Pepsi?”  I spun my seat around to find him standing there holding my ST with the biggest grin on his face.  We both laughed and he became my cheering section for a big win.  The time clock was ticking for me to be back to the room to get ready for Cher.  Time clocks can be a good thing or a very bad thing when gambling.  It was a good thing this go round and the $$$ win money made it to the room.

Cheesecake-Factory-Forum-Shopsvia

I covered the Cher experience in a previous installment. We hit The Cheesecake Factory in The Forum Shops for our post show dinner of a shared pepperoni pizza, strawberry shortcake and two glasses of Riesling. Very tasty.

strawberry-cheese-cake-grand-lux

Happy Birthday, Dave!  Shopping for birthday gifts and perhaps something new for both of us to wear to the birthday celebration dinner this evening is the plan, and Vegas knows shopping. Dave was a sport and kept me company while I spent the afternoon shopping at the Fashion Show Mall.  Starbucks supplied our very light lunch break of shared pastry and coffees- just a quick bite of something to keep a headache at bay.  Our plan for the birthday celebration evening was for a quiet and relaxing dinner at the Range Steakhouse at Harrah’s (presently Ruth’s Chris). We enjoyed dinner at The Range so much on our last trip.  We were seated by the window and with James as our waiter (requested). His personality and professionalism adds to the evening.  Dave started with the lobster bisque and I selected the blue cheese and fresh apple salad. For our entrees we both ordered the 12 oz. center cut pork chop and shared Yukon gold mashed potatoes.  The manager knew we were celebrating Dave’s birthday and sent over the most fantastic chocolate cake with strawberries and coffee for two.  The food presentation and preparation was done very well.  The service and the wait staff could not have been more professional or friendly, and it all equaled a memorable birthday meal in Vegas.

Rio

We were dressed and waiting in the Rio valet at 8:15 AM Wednesday. Trust me, I am not the up and dressed and ready to greet the day while on vacation kind of girl.  By the time of day and level of enthusiasm, Dave realized I was serious about this slot tournament. I grabbed the keys, gave the valet a good morning hello and it was touchdown Flamingo events area.

Flamingo-hotel-Vegas

The tournament was open to all Total Rewards card holders so Dave put down a few $20’s and we were registered for 10:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 12:30 PM, 1:00 PM, and finally 2:00 PM. Wow! That’s a lot of hope and fun packed into a late morning and early afternoon at the dirty bird, and you would think we had a snowball’s chance in the desert of winning. Goodness knows as many times as we entered we sure thought we did! We didn’t even come close to placing, but we had an absolute ball trying.

slot-32

The last day in Vegas gives me a pit in my stomach no words can describe. Staying busy cures it.  Gambling for this trip was officially over.  I had not been able to win enough to make it accumulate over what I started with, and the wins were too far apart from each other to save me.  I find it is easier to swallow if I quit without too much damage to the initial bankroll. The suggestion of In-N-Out Burger for lunch and a business mixed with pleasure venture was met with no complaints. We headed out to dine in style and visit a few design and antiques shops.

4950783496_cff6e4382c_bIn-N-Out Burger

We saw parts of Vegas new to us, and I lucked up on a few items I could easily pack. We grabbed a couple of coffees, parked and watched the airplanes landing and taking off from McCarran International.  I must admit after nine full days and nights in Vegas this was a nice change.  We caught a couple of afternoon fountain shows at Bellagio and it was Monte Carlo time.

bellagio-fountains

Dave and I discovered the Wizard of Oz penny slots complete with flying monkeys, the yellow brick road and the wizard himself.  The graphics and sound effects are amazing, and Oz turned out to be a magical place.  I put in a $5 voucher and cashed out with $$$ for a nice win.  The beautiful Glenda appeared to me in bonus round goodness resulting in the big hit.  I could become addicted to these machines with no problem.  There’s no place like home and Vegas on a sunny winning afternoon.

Vegas-sunrise

The Friday going home wake up call came at 5:30 AM with coffee shortly after. We checked out of Rio and at the car rental return by 9:15 AM.  We were through security and to Continental gate D 20 with fifty minutes to spare.  I took in the final sights of the Strip from my window seat on the airplane.  I settled in for the three-hour flight with good tunes, better memories and big plans for our next trip.  Getting home to a full house of family and friends on Hurricane Gustav alert and all he dumped on Central Louisiana naturally put priorities where they should be. Normalcy is back in our reach and has allowed me to share with you my trip report.  The overall casual tone was the right way to go for us this Vegas trip.  It was easy on the schedule, expectations and the wallet. I wasted no time bringing to Dave’s attention with all the money saved this trip it would be stupid not to book another trip out to our desert oasis within the next six months.  My logic has him thinking about it.  Then again, my logic always has me thinking about Vegas.

Thanks to all who have stayed with the reading.

 

images: The Cheesecake Factory, Grand Lux Cafe, Rio All-Suite Hotel, Google

Tripping Down Memory Lane Spring Break Trip Report Part II

There is no match for seeing a production show, concert or headliner in Las Vegas.  There’s a reason why Las Vegas is known as the entertainment capital of the world.  Over the years, we have been fortunate enough to have seen some of the best entertainers in the world perform on the stages of the infamous Las Vegas showrooms.  Our entertainment selections for this trip fit the playbill, mixed the old with the new, paid tribute to a legendary group of lads, had us hearing voices, and rocked our Friday night in Vegas world.

Cher at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace

Cher-Caesars-PalaceCher at Caesars Palace~ then and now

The backstory:

My first time to see Cher live was in 1980.  It was my first trip to Las Vegas, Caesars Palace and the infamous Circus Maximus showroom.  Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world for a reason, and the best of the best performers and entertainers play Caesars for the same reason- it is the gold standard.  The stages of the Vegas showrooms invented the celebrity A game of which Cher is a master player. This engagement at Caesars Palace was a production extravaganza of Cher’s Take Me Home tour.  I was a wide eyed kid in the Vegas candy store on a sugar high of glamour, glitz, feathers, sequins, female impersonators and Bob Mackie creations custom made for a Vegas state of mind. It was gloriously flashy, dramatic with a capital D and exquisitely orchestrated by the incomparable entertaining brilliance that is Cher.

take-me-home-Cher

I saw Cher again at Caesars Palace in the Circus Maximus showroom the next year with the same enthusiasm and a new Cher convert, my brother. Cher’s “surprise guests” Bette Midler and Diana Ross completely fooled my brother.  My mother and I knew the ladies were in fact female impersonators and informed my brother of it, but he was totally convinced we were out of our minds.  He was amazed at their physical and theatrical likeness, and when he thought about it for awhile he again wasn’t quite convinced.  Fast forward twenty seven years to a new entertainment venue at Caesars (my third time to The Colosseum aka the house of Celine, Dave’s first) and a curiosity to see if lightening would strike thrice. Dave and I were through the security monitors (another new aspect of Vegas) and seated quickly in our seats on the first mezzanine. Cher and company delivered like Domino’s!  When she performed a medley of her greatest hits from her 1970s discography, the ones that in 1980 and 1981 were relatively new hits, Cher turned back time.  Dave loved every minute of the show, lightening bolts and all.  This was a great way to spend an evening in Vegas.

Mama Mia at Mandalay Bay

¥ Kept the memories, lost the program.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!

We Saturday night in Vegas different from most. The circus arena on steroids atmosphere of a Vegas Saturday night can be too much at times. It’s become the norm for us to see the 6:00 p.m. performance of Mama Mia at Mandalay Bay and have a late gourmet supper at In-N-Out. Stick with us, kids and we’ll take you to the best burger joint in Vegas! This is our ninth time to see Mama Mia, and while I like Mama Mia, Dave loves Mama Mia. For this trip we had front row seats A 16 and A 17.  The lobby of the Mandalay Bay Theatre (presently the Michael Jackson ONE theatre) has an Art-Deco style reminiscent of vintage movie houses.

This photo of Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Before the show began we visited with two of the nicest ladies from Salt Lake City seated to our left and a local mom and her six year old daughter seated to our right.  Meeting new people continues to be a part of the Vegas experience that pleases. Dave and I both agreed this particular performance was one of the best yet.  It doesn’t take but a tweak here and a small change there to step up a performance. As it is with interior design and home decor, placing a new spin on an oldie but a goodie helps to keep things fresh and relevant.

ABBA_-_TopPop_1974_5ABBA

We lip synced and kept time to the music throughout the entire show, and the Dancing Queens that we are surfaced during the finale.  Along with most of the audience we were up out of our seats and dancing with the cast members to the feel good gotta love it songs of ABBA.  If this is in fact our last time to see the show in Vegas it made for a great memory.   It was indeed our last time to see Mama Mia! in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay.

Danny Gans at Mirage

danny_gans_theater

In all the time we have been going to Vegas this would be our first time seeing Danny Gans (October 25, 1956 – May 1, 2009).  I purchase discount entertainment vouchers and restaurant coupons to use on our trips, and one of the best outlets is the radio shopping show from local Las Vegas radio station, KSHP.  I stream the show via the internet, purchase the vouchers and have the show mail them out to me.  This particular trip the station was running a promo on one of their afternoon shows.  I answered a trivia question correctly and scored two tickets seventh row center section to Danny Gans at the Mirage.  The theatre was full to capacity, the vibe of the room and the audience was high energy and the laugh-o-meter was set to hilarious.  We loved the band and the live music, and Danny Gans’ impression of Johnny Carson and his The Twelve Days of Christmas skit was fantastic.  He sang Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” and while his performance was good his band’s performance was great.  I have to admit only a small percentage of the audience seemed to be familiar with Creed, but those that were gave him a standing ovation.

Mirage-volcano-eruption

We left the theatre thoroughly entertained and ready to put the hurt on the Mirage in the gambling department.  The Mirage was well armed for battle against us giving me the honor of being seven for seven in the “I can’t win a damn thing in this casino” category.  Amazing how the Vegas night air and a volcano eruption can make things all better.

Fab Four Live (presently B- A Tribute to the Beatles)

beatles-tribute

The Places In The Home gang loves this Beatles tribute show.  We’ve seen this late afternoon show nineteen times based on the following criteria: the price is right, the 5:30 PM showtime is perfect and the entire performance is live.  This is a fun show with lots of audience interaction. The four gentlemen who recreate musical magic bring the voices and songs of The Beatles to life with spot on accuracy, and did I mention the entire performance is live and very well done. The set list covers the hits of the Beatlemania, the band’s US invasion, Sgt. Pepper (see photos) and the Abbey Road phenomenon.  Howard Arthur’s performance as John Lennon is amazing.

Fab-Four

Sheryl Crow, James Blunt and Toots at Planet Hollywood: 

It Was Just One of Those Vegas Nights 

Sheryl-Crow-concert

Toots is a Jamaican performer Sheryl Crow discovered and invited to tour with him. We had never heard of him so going in we had no opinion one way or another.  Toots and band put on a great opening show incorporating the audience in the fun with sing-a-longs.  The sweet soulful reggae spin he put on John Denver’s classic hit, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was worth the price of admission. This sing-a-long finale ended his set on a high note, and the good mood kept concert goers happy as the crews were breaking down his set and getting James Blunt and Company in set up.  More concert goers started to trickle into the theatre signaling the people watching part of my brain to get busy taking it all in. People, clothes, conversations, pairings- it all fascinates me.  We humans are an interesting people.  It was hard not to notice the large cameras, cranes, booms and cables being set up in and around the theatre.  I commented to Dave it appeared some type of filming would be taking place during the evening.  We learned the filming was for a feature showcase for A&E’S Private Sessions.

sc-share-newSheryl Crow ~ Feels Like Home Cover.  How’s that for staying on the all things that make a home topic?

I also noticed a couple to my left heavily making out. A girl in what I guess to be her mid 20’s and her mother are seated to my immediate left, and suffice it to say we are privy to this up close and way too personal floor show.  The mind doesn’t kick in quick enough with the stop looking command when it is stunned.  About the time I am turning away, busted! Make out man decides to strike up a conversation with me, the mom and her daughter.  He tells us they have been married twenty five years, are empty nesters, and just want to, how did he put it? He and his lady love just want to “be all over a good time.”  Is that what they call it now? Believe me, these two were all over something for sure.  Their show within the show picked up steam as the night went on, and by the end of the night it was a free for all with a few added cast members.  They were in ecstasy, if you get my drift.  To put the cherry on top of the cake, about every five minutes this guy would scream out Sheryl (Sh-air-real) in a sort of New York/New Orleans blended accent.  How many times do you think Dave had to hear me mimic this guy’s cry of Crow for the rest of our trip?  All in all an excellent evening that far exceeded my expectations in the very best way.  To date, this is the best time I have ever had at a concert in Vegas. We entered the venue at 7:10 p.m and walked out at 11:15 p.m rocked and ready for a Vegas Friday night turning into Saturday morning.

More Only in Vegas to come.

 

images: Biography, Caesars, VTheater, Sheryl Crow, Wikipedia

  

Pretty Up Your Travel Plans With Marriott Destinations Information

There’s no place like home, but there’s beautiful places and spaces that do a fabulous job of stylishly standing in.  For the holidays, memorable milestone days or discovering new highways and byways, the gift of travel travels well.

luggage tagsvia

 

Merriam-Webster gives more than one definition of the word vacation, but the general scenario we’re all looking for is:

Vacation:

1:  a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation

2:  a respite or a time of respite from something

world travelvia

 

One of the best and most memorable Christmas gifts I ever received was a trip to Las Vegas.  The window of time from “Hey baby, let’s go to Vegas” to “we would like to begin the boarding process” was super small. Fun in the desert sun details kept me searching, hopping and quite frankly, second-guessing if I had covered the travel information bases.  An informed traveler is a savings savvy traveler of time, money and second-guesses.

suitcasesvia

Where do you want to go on vacation?  Eight lovely words, don’t you think? Marriott does.  Marriott International is a leading hospitality company with over 3,800 properties in over 74 countries and territories around the world. Choosing the destination is only one part of the exploration equation.  You’ve got sights to see and places to go.  Hello, Marriott Destinations information for all things know where to go because being in the destination loop need not be an exhaustive exercise in travel what to dos.  If ringing in the New Year New York City style is on the travel agenda,  this New York City’s Five Boroughs infographic from the team at Marriott New York Hotels is a must read. 

Marriott NYC infographic

New York City’s Five Boroughs – An infographic by the team at Marriott New York Hotels

Bright neon lights of another city calling your name?  Even if you’re on a budget, Las Vegas can be a great destination for a fun, yet inexpensive getaway.  Here’s an example of valuable Welcome to Las Vegas info from the in the know folks at Marriott Las Vegas Hotels.  Planning your trip during the weekdays or the off-season time of July-August results in deals hotter than the desert temps.  Cha-ching!  That’s one way to win in Vegas.  The Las Vegas on a budget infographic gives the scoop on how to get the most out of your trip.

Marriott Destinations information

Las Vegas on a Budget – An infographic by the team at Marriott Las Vegas Hotels

 

From first hand travel experience, destination information saves valuable time (the most important travel commodity) and gives you the all important pre-trip info on the places high on your list of what to see and where to go.  Attention to detail is an important aspect of successful travel plans.  Travel in savvy style and pretty up your travel plans with Marriott Destinations information.

 

I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, however all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

 

Rivers Deep and Mountains High Vacation Memories: Sunny Las Vegas,Nevada and Snowy Gatlinburg,Tennessee

The calendar says January, but Louisiana did not get the memo.  As I write this it’s a dreary and cloudy day with drizzle in the air.  The temperature is registering a balmy, muggy and humid 68°.  By the time I post it may possibly be 36°.

I popped over to weather.com to verify the info, and the question on their homepage reads, “Where is winter?”

Well, it’s not in Louisiana, Jim Cantore!

I never know if it’s going to be allergy medicine and hot tea with lemon or iced tea with lemon and flip flops kind of day.  I like a climate that can make its mind up.

Las Vegas Temperature Paris

Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino

In an effort to convince my internal thermometer it is not loosing its mind, I’m going to take a couple of trips down vacation memories lane.

Come on, we’re going to fabulous and sunny Las Vegas, Nevada  and Gatlinburg, Tennessee via Places In The Home.

Bellagio fountains

Las Vegas, Nevada plays a big role in my family’s travel portfolio. We’ve been going out to our favorite desert oasis since the mid-’70s.

For most of the year Las Vegas definitely lives up to its reputation as the great blow dryer in the desert.

We quickly acclimate to the temps and keep moving.

Dan TannaRobert Urich as the handsome and smooth private eye, Dan Tanna

We have great memories from over the years.

Remember this guy?

The year was 1979, and my mother was approached by Robert Urich, who starred as private eye Dan Tanna in the television series Vegas$.  

My parents were staying at the Desert Inn where the series location was set. Mr. Urich spotted my mother on the patio of the villa my parents were staying in, and he walked up to her, introduce himself, and invited her to be his guest on set for the day.  

Talk about a memory!

Robert-Urich-Desert-Inn

My lovely mother and Robert Urich on set together at the Desert Inn- 1979

We’ve seen the glitz and glamour of days past and the shorts and sandals scene of the current Vegas.

We have stayed in fabulous hotels, witnessed hotel implosions, and marveled at the reinvention of the strip.  We’ve seen fantastic entertainers and shows, attended prize fights, met many wonderful locals, and dined at gourmet restaurants, retro coffee shops and all night cafes.  

Caesars Palace Las Vegas

One of the best concerts we’ve ever seen was the Sheryl Crow and James Blunt concert at Planet Hollywood, August 2008.

I am listening to Spotify as I type this and guess what song is playing? “Favorite Mistake” by Sheryl Crow.

Love it!

Sheryl Crow

Seeing a Don Rickles performance in Vegas is classic.

Dave the Builder begs me not to put us on the first four rows.  He fears Mr. Rickles will choose him as subject matter.

The first time we saw his show was in 1990 downtown at the Golden Nugget. We were running late for the show which caused us to be seated in the very back of the showroom.  Dave could not contain his relief.

On our 2010 trip, Mr. Rickles was in town performing in the Orleans showroom.  I placed a lucky phone call to the showroom box office and scored second row seats dead in the center of the showroom.

Poor Dave, he was a nervous wreck until right before show time.

Thankfully,  two guys were seated directly in front of us which ran interference for us as comedy targets.

Did Rickles pick them out?

Picked them out and plucked their good-natured bones clean.

Don Rickles was a class act.

Don Rickles

Tipping our hats to The Hangover.

I took this photo of Treasure Island from the underground valet pick-up area at Palazzo after seeing Jersey Boys.

Treasure Island Las Vegas

Lunching at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Seafood.

I love the idea of a bread basket presentation.

bread basket
Dave the Builder ordered Joe’s famous scallops and roasted corn.

The reviews are in, Joe’s gets a rave!

Joe's scallops

I went with Joe’s classic filet and grilled tomato.

filet mignon

Scenes from Sunday brunch at Border Grill.

Carne asada quesadilla for me.

Border Grill Las Vegas

Fish tacos ensenada for Dave.

This dish rendered the man speechless, and that ain’t easy.

That’s a nice way of saying he did not utter one word during the meal.  He was busy stuffing his face with the best fish tacos he’s ever eaten.

fish tacos

Now we’re talking!

Two half slices of dessert heaven- pineapple upside-down cake and tres leches.

tres leches

The breakfast of neon champions!

Note to self: make it a point to find out who is responsible for coming up with the brilliant and convenient concept of room service and send them a thank you note.

room service

 

In and Out Burger

Without a doubt, The Beatles LOVE is one of the most entertaining and touching shows on the strip.

The musical tour of the Beatles biggest hits celebrated in Cirque du Soleil splendor is magical.

Mirage Hotel

The view of the mountains and the runways at McCarran Airport is as beautiful to me as the neon lights of the strip.

McCarran Airport

We are now leaving the 100+ temps of the desert for Winterfest in the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Wintertime in the Smokies guarantees brr it’s cold! fun at a relaxed pace.

Ober Gatlinburg

We spent an entire afternoon driving through Cades Cove.

Cades Cove

The deer and turkeys came out in record numbers and the cameras were in hand.

Smokey Mountains

wild turkey

These two very vocal and confrontational geese hang out in the parking lot at the Apple Barn Cider Mill.

These two stay busy greeting the visitors.

Apple Barn Mill

The roaring waters throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will command your attention.

Our tranquil home away from home.

Johnson's Inn

These signs line the road home to Tennessee.

For over forty years, as soon as we would spot a “See Rock City” sign we knew we were getting close to our grandparents house.

Good memories.

See Rock City

Vacations serve a wonderful purpose, and our Las Vegas, Nevade and Gatlinburg, Tennessee vacations deliver fun.

A vacation, staycation, or getaway gives us a break from our normal routines and comfort zones, and gives us an opportunity to reconnect with each other while making lasting memories.

I heard a commercial for Pure Michigan that says, “When we get to a place where no one knows us, we become most ourselves.”

Beautifully stated.

Love your style!

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Onion Soup With A Pinch Of Paris, A Dash Of Cajun, And A Smidgen Of Canada

When it comes to selecting a French onion soup recipe,  I find I am beginning to feel like the character Albert in The Birdcage.

Nathan Lane

Albert, brilliantly played by Nathan Lane, convincingly explains his mispronunciation of Armand’s surname in a context I find myself relating to.  “Oh yes… Coldeman. The “d” is silent in America. It’s Cole D’Isle au Man, or Cole of the Isle of Man, in France, where Armand’s chateau is, Cold-e-man in Greece where Armand’s work is, and finally the vulgar Coleman in Florida where Armand’s home is, so actually, we don’t know where we are until we hear our last name pronounced! Ahahahahahahaaaaa!”

copper weathervanePolished Copper Weathervane

I feel his exaggerated pain, and let me tell you why.  We live in Louisiana where we are heavily influenced by Creole and Cajun French.  Our son attends university in Canada where we are influenced by Quebecois French.  Actually, we don’t know where we are until we taste the food,  the “who cares where we are as long as it is French”  food!  Ahahahahahahaaaaa!

French onion soup

Tonight’s menu will allow me to exercise my multilingual culinary skills.  You’re  definitely speaking my language when you’re  talking French Onion Soup.  I know where to go for the best French onion soup from coast to coast.  My son’s friend holds the title in Canada.  I have my own recipe met, mastered and magnifique.  Cafe Bellagio and Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas both serve a fantastic French onion soup.  I know the latter is a chain,  but one taste of the French onion soup and you’ll understand!  I would love to be on the Las Vegas strip right now watching the Fountains of Bellagio while enjoying French onion soup goodness.  Since I’m not, I’ll bring a pinch of Paris, a dash of Creole, and a smidgen of Canada to the Places In The Home family table.

French Onion Soup

Ingredients

2  Tablespoon butter

2  teaspoons olive oil

6  medium onions thinly sliced

1  teaspoon Creole seasoning

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 bay leaves

½ cup white white or sherry

2 quarts (8 cups) low sodium beef broth

French bread baguette

8 slices Gruyère cheese

Creole-seasoning

For Creole Seasoning

Ingredients

1/3  cup paprika

3 tablespoons dried oregano

3 tablespoons ground black pepper

2 tablespoons dried basil

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoons cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon granulated onion

4 teaspoons dried thyme

4 teaspoons granulated garlic

Directions

Heat butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven over a medium- high heat.  Add sliced onions and bay leaves to the pan, saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Sprinkle sugar and Creole seasoning over onions, stir to incorporate.

sliced-onion-rings

Cook onions and company for 30 minutes or until softened and reaching a caramelized stage.  Add sherry and bay leaves to onions.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.   Turn heat back up to medium-high and add beef broth.  Allowing broth to heat through, reduce to simmer, and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes in order for ingredients to marry and live happily ever after. Remove bay leaves.

beef-broth-onions

french-bread

Slice French bread baguette and place on a baking sheet.  Place under broiler until slices reach a light golden brown.

soup-crocks

Place crocks, ramekins, or oven proof bowls on a large cookie sheet.  Fill each with 1 cup soup.  Place one slice French bread in each bowl and top with 1 cheese slice.  Broil on high until cheese is melted and browned. Serves 8.

french-onion-soup

Directions for Creole Seasoning

In a medium bowl combine paprika, dried oregano, ground black pepper, dried basil, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, granulated onion, dried thyme and granulated garlic.  Stir to combine.  Can be stored in an airtight container for up to three months.

The Paris influence is this wonderful soup, and to that I say merci beaucoup.  The Creole influence is the addition of the Creole seasoning.  We put it on everything here in Louisiana.  Give a try, shâ.  The Canadian influence?  That’s the best part!  Our son is home to enjoy this dish with us tonight!

Bienvenue, Bon Appétit and C’est si bon!

Love your style!