SEA - LAS Having decided to take on a travel writing project in Vegas, we were eager to get rolling early Friday morning. We had the typical, mostly pleasant experience on Alaska Airlines flight 602 - non-stop from Seattle. We actually gave in to extreme hunger and ordered some food-for-pay. Surprisingly, it wasn't bad; it was actually pretty good. Their revamped food offerings, along with WiFi on the plane, is certainly improving the experience. Best of all, we were able to snag row 6 (bulk head) , which is a rare, welcome treat these days. Other than one militaristic flight attendant, our journey was off to a nice start.
Help, I think I'm evaporating.
There's something very pleasing about leaving mild Seattle in, say, December and landing in the warm hug that is Las Vegas. You get just the right amount of heat to jolt you out of your Pacific Northwest chill. However, arriving in Las Vegas in August is a much different story. After making our way through the bustle at the airport (yes, it appears to be somewhat busy here) and stepping outside, our calves immediately started to burn. That's what happens when you land in a city that's hitting temperatures well over 100. It hurts. Who can live like this?
The severe blast of heat immediately reminded us of the capstone event of our across-the-USA road trip in 2008. It was June, and we had just spent several days as grubby campers in the Grand Canyon. We figured we'd splash out at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale. Well, there wasn't much splashing out; there was - on the other hand - a lot of staying in the room. Granted, that's not a bad thing (especially at a Four Seasons), but we would have liked to have hung out at the pool. People laughed heartily at us, Arizona novices that we were, letting us know that even swimming pools are often too warm to get into in June. Go figure.
Comfortably cooling down in our cab, we were then on our way to our home base for a couple of days, Aria Las Vegas. Thankfully, unlike the last time we were here, we had a cab driver who didn't take us on the scam-ridden "this is the fastest way to your hotel" tour of Vegas. Cab ride cost = $15.
We're not camping anymore.
As everyone says on every forum and in every review, Aria smells like vanilla. It's the first thing we notice. There are worse things, but it does bring to mind that you might be walking into your mother's house (if your lucky enough to have a mom that bakes). Anyhow, the space that greets us is bright and cool - lots of stone, big windows and a huge piece of long, golden art that looks like it was made just for the area. The vibe is inviting, with Michael Jackson music being piped in, and everything looks upscale and spotless. Clearly, this is not our 2010 camping road trip. We need to bring our "A" game and draw from the other side of our multiple personality travelers' toolkit.
Specifically, we have to gear up for the always dreaded "I know it's only 10:30, but I'm here to check in." moment. Instead of getting the early morning check in "chill," we were touched-base with - twice - while in line. Once by a representative, telling us what to expect and once by a manager who said she was "just making sure everything was ok." I know. We couldn't believe it either.
Our check in representative was equally friendly and diligent. In a nice touch - and an effort to ensure we were "heard" - he took the time to review the details of our reservation before sending us off to our room with - get this - two nearly ten page "pocket guides" to Aria. This place is a city.
We're early adopters.
We sort of knew what to expect upon walking into our room. People have written a lot about how, upon opening the door, the curtains automatically open, music turns on - the whole sha-bang. Now, we are pretty much early adopters as far as some tech goes; for instance, we stood in line on the day Apple unleashed the iPad. Having said that though, Aria's in room tech is a bit over the top. We loved most of it, to be sure. The ability to control everything - the music, the curtains, etc. - from the bedside device or the television, is great. However, and I'm going to make us sound a bit like old farts here, it gets a little confusing. For example, we've both been hitting the "goodnight" switch by accident when attempting to turn out a light. Hitting this button shuts down everything in the room. Not cool if the other person is in the shower.
On the other hand - and in contrast to a lot of the "cool" vibe elsewhere in the hotel - we find the room to be ultra warm. The bed is stellar with mounds of pillows and first-rate linens. Just what you want to see at a luxury hotel. Similarly, the chairs are thoughtfully upholstered and the dark wood furnishings are sleek and modern. There's even a shelf with three pieces of art on it. How about that!
The bathroom is huge. Equipped with a double vanity and the strangest wet room we've ever seen. It's a two piece shower/bath enclosed in the same glassed-off cube. We'll have to post a picture.
And now, a moment of guilt.
The senses get bombarded here in las Vegas. You have before you: every restaurant/cuisine imaginable, myriad shopping outlets, entertainment galore. It doesn't stop.
Always trying to hold on to a "giving back" mindset, Vegas can make us feel like the devils on our left shoulders are making us cheat on the angels on our right shoulders. Excess is part of the experience, and it's everywhere. Because we want to be mindful of living deliberately, we try to keep things in check (at least a bit!). The food thing is especially tough for us now because we love it and - since the CARE conference in May - we are on fire about the fact that 1 in 6 of the world's citizens are chronically hungry. In the land of free drinks and unlimited food buffets, that's a tough pill to swallow.
That schpeel is inserted to point out that we're not anti-abundace at all. It's more about remaining aware that - as citizens of the world - we're all connected, and we want everyone to have access to the same opportunities that we do.
We cut our way through the bachelor partyers and the porn-pushers in order to make our way to the closest grocery store we can find, Whole Foods. We grab healthy stuff - a salad and a veggie sandwich - for dinner and some snacks for the room knowing that it may very well be our last chance to play the mindful card for a few days. We'll see.