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Trip Report: Las Vegas - Day 3

Hoover Dam, Boulder City, French bistros, and Mexicans handing out call girl cards. Viva Las Vegas.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted January 14, 2009 at 3:09 PM
Great. Wonderful. Fabulous. Another 7:30a wake-up call with the sun beaming on my face. I know it’s The City of Lights, but give me a break.

We were in a bit of a rush today, so we skipped the buffet and hit the MGM Signature’s café. For $12/person, we ate an excellent gourmet breakfast. That’s about as cheap as it gets for good food in Vegas.

Once again, we were leaving Sin City, this time to see something man-made but as impressive as Red Rock National Park: Hoover Dam, sort of a Mecca for an engineer (read: nerd) like myself.

From Las Vegas 2009

Once again, the hotel rented us a car and we drove through the mountains of Nevada for about an hour before reaching the site. My brother and I could barely contain ourselves, we were so cheery …

From Las Vegas 2009

Alright, I’m full of sh*t. We were a little cranky from the early wake-up call. I guess you could say we were dam tired.

I’ll move on before I lose all of my credibility. We took the cheaper of the two tours. It cost $11/person and was created for a general audience. The $30 tour was geared towards structural/civil engineers, so I probably would have enjoyed it thoroughly. Still, we saved $19 that could be spent on craps.

From Las Vegas 2009

The tour was pretty good. We got quite a heavy dose of history, including construction details, government involvement, worker conditions, and deaths. We also had a chance to see the pumps, generators, turbines, and other fluid-related aspects of the dam.

From Las Vegas 2009

There was a well-done exhibit after the tour with a walk-in generator, artifacts left behind from workers, and interactive display screens showing the inner workings of turbines.

From Las Vegas 2009

The Hoover Dam is quite the feat and I recommend it if you have a few days in Vegas. According to an article in Time, they expect the Colorado River to dry up in a matter of years, so see it while you can (and if you live in Vegas or L.A., consider buying some survival kits – that dam powers most of your city).

Despite whining about the early wake-up, we were happy we did, as the line of cars waiting to see the dam was at least two hours long when we left. On the way home we hit Boulder City, the town that built Hoover Dam. It’s been converted from a lodging district for dam workers into a cozy little village that’s nothing like Las Vegas. In fact, gambling is illegal in Boulder City. We wanted to get back to the hotel before rush hour, so we only stopped for a little while to enjoy the sites and grab some lunch. We ate at the Hoover Dam Hotel, a 75-year-old hotel with quaint bedrooms and tiny shops and museum exhibits.

From Las Vegas 2009

The boys all got Monte Cristo sandwiches with sweet potato fries while mom enjoyed a pulled-pork sandwich. The food was quite good and the surroundings were decidedly un-Vegas. It was a nice little stop, sort of like the town that time (and gamblers) forgot.

For the rest of the afternoon, we all took some much needed down-time in our hotel rooms. The hotel had finally found some adjacent rooms for us, so we all had some drinks, watched some HBO, and lounged around until 7:00p. God bless the HBO – we just got it in Canada, but it’s not quite the same.

From Las Vegas 2009

Nothing says “comfort” like a king-sized bed, HBO, and a Miller Genuine Draft. Tonight’s dinner was to be at Bouchon, a French bistro located at (get this) The Venetian hotel. France, Italy – it’s all the same.

From Las Vegas 2009

No trip is complete without a picture with a stereotype-casted employee. Bouchon was easily the best meal we had on the trip. It was secluded from the casino and maintained a certain casual elegance (unlike me).

From Las Vegas 2009

It was fine dining without the snootiness. They start you off with twisted bread and pistachios, but no bread plate. We had a fantastic waiter, Damian (kind of an ironic name considering his angelic nature), who had no problem with recommendations (I especially enjoyed the German beer he recommended to me that is only available in two other restaurants outside of Germany). We disposed of whatever dignity we had left and decided to slurp down some oysters.

From Las Vegas 2009

There were four varieties (we couldn’t choose, so the waiter made a custom sampler): two types from British Columbia, one from California, and one from Washington State. The B.C. oysters had the best flavor, but the Cali oysters had incredible texture, like eating delicious mercury. Mom was still full from lunch and stuck with the “Salade Maraichere au Chevre Chaud” (mixed greens with wine vinaigrette served with warm goat cheese – I know, I’m missing some accents on those words).

From Las Vegas 2009

The salad was light but also rich and creamy; a perfect starter. My entrée was the waiter-recommended “Epaule de Porc” (braised pork shoulder with glazed root vegetables, celeriac remoulade and pork jus).

From Las Vegas 2009

If I could make shoulders taste this good, I would have eaten mine a long time ago. Fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth, hole-in-your-wallet goodness. I forget what pops ordered, but junior got the “Steak Frites” (prime flatiron with Maître d' butter and French fries).

From Las Vegas 2009

The beef was fantastic, but the fries were fairly standard fare. We then capped off the meal with Crème Brulee (my dad says the best he’s had outside of Quebec City) and Bouchons (cork-shaped chocolates served with three varieties of ice cream).

From Las Vegas 2009

From Las Vegas 2009

The meal and restaurant, as a whole, were so fantastic that we decided to come back again the next night. We requested the same table and waiter.

Everyone was pretty exhausted, so we retired to our hotel … but not before my drink-induced gambling craving hit. I popped into Imperial Palace since our waiter recommended it as his favorite gambling spot. It was much more comfortable than some of the other hotels, with large open spaces and celebrity impersonator dealers. I lost more money, but thought it was worth it.

And what Vegas trip is complete without a collection of call girl cards handed to you by throngs of Mexicans. I have enough now to make a full deck.

Another great day of engineering feats, wandering the streets, delicious pan-seared meats, and girls who get paid to crawl under your sheets.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted January 15, 2009 at 2:37 PM
If you ever visit Vegas again, make sure to poke around outside the city. We had just as much fun there as on the Strip.

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