Eating and Drinking our way through the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Savor Tucson!

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We are still getting familiar with all the cool happenings that Tucson has to offer. One that came up on our radar was the Savor Southern Tucson Food and Wine Festival  for charity, which was held last Saturday.

We really had no idea what we were getting into, it just looked like a lot of fun, food and a beautiful setting, as it was held at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. We have been to the gardens before and knew it was spectacular.

So we called UBER and set out on a fabulous 77°F day for four hours of indulgence! When the guests first arrived, we were all given complementary wine glasses, always a good sign.

There is no way to cover all that we experienced, so I am going to highlight our favs. The categories are: Bread, Sweets, Savory and Spirits!

Our first winner was Beyond Bread which is pictured above. In addition to showcasing bread letters, which were huge by the way, they sampled their creole shrimp salad and King Cake, in honor of Mardi Gras.

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The creole shrimp salad was good, but look at that perfect baguette!

Toward the end of the day, I went back and sampled the King Cake and it was tasty too.

Moving right along, we went into Nothing Bundt Cakes. We may have made a technical error here! While we were tempted, we decided we should eat something closer to a lunch meal before indulging. Turns out we missed some rather impressive flavors, as others told us later.

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We did loop back toward the end and we each sampled a different flavor, and wow! Not only are the cakes fantastic, but that butter cream cheese frosting was to die for!! I will have to find this store soon!

True to our first mantra of “eat lunch first” we hit a couple other stands. All the while, remember we are sipping libations! Wine, Moscow mules, margaritas and sangria for me. Any beer, whiskey and red wine for the hubby!

The Omni Chef from The Omni Tucson National Resort was our next stop. The line was longer, which we took to be sign of great things to come. We were right!

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Their beef tenderloin with roasted red pepper coulis crostini. I could have had 20 of these!

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This is their layered flan, several different layers. I don’t remember all of them but there is one with mint and strawberry and topped with chocolate pearls. I had two of these 🙂

They were delicious but small bites, so we needed to keep going to get our $75 dollars worth! It does get a little murky from here, so I don’t remember all the restaurants as I have now found the sangria stand! But I can tell you that all of this was delicious.

Top left; barbecue goat with spicy red pepper slaw, top right; the best barbecue pork ever! middle right: Frederico, that is what the server called him! Bottom image: a little cannoli that was really good! I say that with surprise because I am not usually a cannoli fan. I think the fact that it was just two bites and not a ton of cream filling was a huge plus for me.

We are now about 2 hours into the event and getting full! We decided to actually look around at the Botanical displays, and chat with people at the event.

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A portion of the herb garden

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As we were taking in the sights, we stumbled (me, literally) into the Spirits section. My hubby tasted a lot whiskey! And, we both went for the Tequila experience.

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3 Amigos Tequila had three offerings complete with pairings! I have no idea which I had, but all three were awesome 🙂

We decided to take a seat and do some people watching while the glow of my tequila experience wore off! Along the way, I found another special dessert.

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This was a deconstructed lemon bar. Shortbread crumbs on the bottom, lemon curd filling and lime caviar made through a molecular gastronomy process. The chef showed me how it was done and the equipment used, which was fun for this molecular biologist.

It was gooood, and I wanted another, but he ran out well before the event ended! I am  not surprised.

We continued to look for a seat and took a few photos along the way.

Lots of people watching and fun conversations! Everyone was pretty chatty at this point.

 

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Several people we met told us that this is the best food and wine event in Tucson, I think it will be hard to beat. The food, the people and the weather were all perfect!

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We were also told it would take 3 to 4 hours to recover from this event. Um, ya, that was about right for me!

Who wants to go with us next year?! 🙂

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Yoga Retreat, One More Time

Last January I let my hubby talk me into attending a yoga retreat. He is a big yogi and his instructor told him about a retreat she was holding just north of Manzanillo. I was skeptical. I don’t love Mexican food, we had been to Mexico many times and it was always way too hot for me and I only do yoga when I can’t rock climb or run. So, how much fun could I possibly have?

The answer: So Much!!

Our goal last year was to meet fun people and do some yoga. We greatly exceeded those expectations, so much so that we signed up to go again this year. We even hosted a reunion last summer at our house. My blog posts from last time Good Morning from Manzanillo!, Exploring Bara de NavidadHappy Hour,Snorkeling and Lunch in Santiago Bay! and Our Yoga Retreat Wrap Up! are full of pictures and images that we were privy to this time around as well. So, for this year’s post, I tried to focus more on what was different.

Bill and Susan, our hosts, were once again, fabulous! They made most of our meals and they both are great cooks! Additionally, they would take us to places that no other tourists go-we had day trips to Colima and Comala and they chose restaurants that the locals frequent. They are a big reason why we chose to repeat this experience. Of course Lisa, our yoga teacher, was another big draw to the event! Once again we met wonderful people and had even more adventures. We did repeat the snorkeling trip but otherwise the experience was unique.

We began each day with meditation at the nearby beach then morning yoga, at Bill and Susan’s home. Look at these views!

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The infinity pool at the lower house

 

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View from the lower house

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Another angle from the lower house

We did all our yoga at the upper house, under the palapa. You can see the pool at the upper house as well

We had morning and evening yoga sessions. This year Lisa challenged us with partner yoga poses. She would give us a pose and then we had to interpret that pose in a creative way. For example, Dennis and I did a “moon pose” on the beach.

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And, Janet and Annie did this interpretation of the fish pose, in the pool

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So these were more creative poses than the traditional forms. It was fun to see what everyone would come up with for their assignment.

In between all the yoga were the adventures. Snorkeling, hiking, museum visits and lots of shopping.

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And the food! Oh my god, did we eat!! If Bill and Susan weren’t cooking then we were at some amazing restaurants! I have a few images, many of which were on Instagram, of some of the cuisine we were fortunate to enjoy.

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Breakfast was wonderful! Bill’s granola and yogurt, with local fruit was a fan favorite. And with this sunrise, hard to beat!

 

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Bill and Susan always served dessert-This is a Poncho Villa. Amazing!

 

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Lunch in Colima, these crepes could have been from Paris

 

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Bill and Susan selected this restaurant near Colima. So glad they did!

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Many of you know about my coffee “issues”, This Sunday brunch spot, Los Portales de Suchitlan, was a true highlight. A young girl served as our translator as this was a local place, no tourists around!

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And then this…A Swiss restaurant (?) in Comala, Mexico! Piccolo Suizo was spectacular!

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You can see why we are trying to eat lighter after coming back to Tucson! We ate constantly on this retreat, and it was worth it! So good 🙂

We had another wonderful experience this year, just like last time. One of the tasks I undertook was to organize a slide show for the final night, I was the only one who brought a computer (what a nerd, right?). I took the partner poses and some fun images of our experience to attempt to capture the feel of the week. It is short, only 2.5 minutes and our yogi buddies wanted to see it again. I thought I would post it here for anyone who wants to see a few more images.

 

So what is next for Dennis and I? We need to spend some time on the homes for now, no trips planned right now, but you never know!

Road Trip, First Stop: Eugene, Oregon

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We are heading back to Tucson for a month of sun and our next half marathon. This time we are driving down with a very full car. Our goal is to bring a few things, ok a lot of things, from our house in Washington and we want to have our own car while we are in Arizona.

You might be wondering why we stopped in Oregon on the first leg of the drive, since Eugene is only about 5 hours from Redmond, Washington. This is a legitimate question as we have 20 more hours to go! We stayed overnight in Eugene because my husband has a presentation at the local office this morning.

We have never been to Eugene before. We have spent a lot of time in Portland over the years. Our daughter was a competitive gymnast and son was a competitive rock climber, so they both had many meets or competitions all around Oregon. Eugene is beautiful! Perhaps it is just the fact that our hotel is along the Willamette River, or that fall leaves make every place pretty. Either way, we are impressed!

After 5 hours in the car we were eager to stretch our legs. We started out for walk along the river path.

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It was a sunny day here, which makes everything better!

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I just love this bridge with the clouds behind it

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All of Oregon is biking and walking friendly. This is just one of many pathways used by numerous pedestrians 

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Near this bridge is McMenamins Restaurant. We had never heard of this chain before, but they are all over the Oregon area, there is even near us in Bothell, Washington which we will have to visit when we get back. This chain also includes hotels, breweries, and wineries as well as the restaurants. Ours was specifically McMenamins North Bank Restaurant. We weren’t sure what to expect but what a pleasant surprise!

It was set right on the shore of the Willamette River, with an incredible view! It must be truly stunning in the summer!

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We made it in time for happy hour, of course 🙂 So, I started with a blueberry infused vodka cocktail and the hubby went with a craft beer of some sort (mine was so tasty I forgot what he had!)

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We were starving, so I went with the goat cheese, pesto and sun dried tomato torta. This came with four perfectly toasted crostini and balsamic vinegar- I loved this!

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My entree was the salmon topped with coffee-bacon jam! Unique and delicious!

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By now we were getting quite full so I chose to drink my dessert! I had this seasonal pumpkin infused cocktail. It was like a pumpkin milkshake. Just amazing!

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We ended the evening strolling back along the river to our hotel. I took one last shot of the sunset. There were quite a few clouds, but it was pretty nonetheless!

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Today we have 10 hours in the car to Fresno California-wish us luck!

 

A Ferry Ride, A San Juan Cottage and an Amazing Dinner: Day 1

When people think of the Pacific Northwest they often conjure images of rain, coffee, the Space Needle and salmon flying through the air at Pike Place Market. All thoroughly acceptable iconic images that we deserve here in Seattle. But the true gem of Washington State is our ferry system and the many beautiful islands that we have spread around the Puget Sound. We patiently wait out the constant deluge from the clouds and near constant dark skies from October to May to get to the holy grail of summer. From June to (if we are lucky) the end of September the clouds part, the sun beams down and anyone with a dingy or inflatable tube hits the water.  We PNWs live for the promise of summer and then we take full advantage of the precious time we have until we all are forced back into Starbucks to wait out the winter.

My hubby and I have our wedding anniversary at the end of July and last year we went to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. We had such a great time that we did it again this year, and me with my camera in hand this time. We set out early Sunday morning which was quite foggy as we made our way to Anacortes to catch the ferry.

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This ferry was running on a different route nearby. The camera saw more than my eye did!

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Then the fog started to lift about half way through the hour long boat ride.

As expected there were many boats out on the water despite the early hour and foggy conditions. And the views from the our ferry deck were spectacular.

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He is covering the logo on his jacket but it looks like he is saying the pledge of allegiance with the wrong hand!

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Another ferry docked at nearby Lopez Island

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I have  no idea why these boats are single file, looks like a parade

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I wold love one of these homes on the beach!

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The fog has cleared and you can see the mountains in the distance

 

We were approaching Friday Harbor on the big Island, San Juan.

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More beautiful homes along the waterfront

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Approaching the Friday Harbor Marina

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The ferry dock is on the left of the marina in this shot

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These homes and condos are to the left of the ferry dock, on the opposite side of the marina

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We have arrived!

We were too early to go to our cottage and check in so we decided to mill around the waterfront for awhile. We began at the small park near the marina.

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I love this tree

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Really love it!

 

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This is the Pacific Northwest after all, we do lots of totem poles here!

We made our way down onto the dock where the boats are tied up for the day and there are a few places to buy snacks.

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All boats are great, but I have a preference for these older wooden sailboats.

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One can not stop at the marina and not look for the harbor seal at the Seafood store. She has been coming to this exact spot for 30 years and recently brought her young pup by for a snack. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the baby this time.

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It really doesn’t get fresher than this! They sell amazing seafood and prepared meals as well

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This guy was staring me down!

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She showed up right on cue!

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Some kids bought her lunch!

By now, we were getting hungry too but dinner was not for awhile yet.

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There are many great places to get ice cream, but this is our favorite one. By the way, you rock climbers will love this shirt!

We wandered around a few more of our favorite stores, I do love this bookstore! And, marveled at the spectacular views until it was time to check in and get ready for our anniversary dinner.

This is the cottage that we have now stayed at twice. It is small, secluded and adorable. The view can’t be beat!

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I spent some time photographing the cottage and surrounding garden but I will save that for the day 2 post, as this one is long already! We got cleaned up and prepared to head to the other side of the island where the Duck Soup Inn is located.

Our dinner last year was delicious and this year did not disappoint! We had high expectations and were so happy we returned this year.

We started off with cocktails, I don’t remember what these are exactly but isn’t memory loss the sign of a good drink!

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We ordered two appetizers, the cured beef carpaccio with arugula pesto, parmesan, charred onion cream, toasted hazelnuts and berry gastrique

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And Wescott Bay smoked and baked oysters. Both were fantastic and I don’t like oysters! These were not raw, which helped me greatly, and were served with fig aioli, bread crumbs and parmesan.ds3

We both had the corn and spot prawn bisque, and loved it!

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My husband went with the Seared Weathervane Scallops-this was good! The shellfish was flavored by braising in pork belly and served with a summer succotash and red bell pepper sauce-yum!

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And I had the Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi-this was better! Really tasty! How can this be bad when it is served with cherry tomatoes, garlic, summer herbs, browned butter and Midnight Moon aged goat cheese?

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We finished off with more cocktails and a chocolate fudge sundae-yes, more ice cream! The dinner was outstanding and just the right amount of food. Their portions were perfect and we cleaned our plates.

It was a wonderful day and even better evening! Day 2 will have more pictures of the town and the property where we stayed! Thanks for reading this far.

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Poker, Pool Time and Pigging out in Las Vegas!

My husband and I recently joined three other couples for a long weekend in Las Vegas. The goals: gamble, eat good food and enjoy the warm weather for a few days. We exceeded all expectations and came home full, pink skinned and really tired! It was pretty much what one would expect of a group of empty nesters getting together and blowing off a little steam.

The four couples all had different arrival times and we arrived thursday evening.

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View from our plane

We flew in around 2pm and it was well over 90ºF. We made our way to the Aria Resort and Casino. We have stayed there several times and really like its location on the strip, the restaurants and the pools. I am partial to their fitness and spa center as well. I took a few pictures of the exterior of the Aria.

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This view is from one of the three pools,  looking back toward one of the towers

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This view is from one of the other pools

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This is the pool where we spent most of our time

 

My hubby wanted to head straight for the pool that first night, I had a hard time getting him to leave but we finally made our way to dinner.

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This was our only night that we dinned alone as our friends were still arriving from various destinations. We chose to dine at Bardot Brasserie. The food was French and delicious! bardot restaurant

We started off with the King Crab Crepe. A buckwheat crepe filled with trumpet mushrooms, sunny -side egg, and a Normandy cider beurre blanc. It was outstanding!

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My entree was the Salmon Aux Lentilles prepared with King salmon, beluga lentils with a smoked tomato vinaigrette. This trip was starting out on a great foot!

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The next day was Friday and that meant that my hubby was in a poker tournament all day. He plays the WSOP events in June and it is variable as to how long he will be in the casino. If all goes well he will start at 10am and play until 2am the next morning! Or he could be out in an hour! So, I decided to get a message at the Aria spa to help work on my back injury. So glad I did! My back did feel better from the masseuse and the jets in the hot tub. Meanwhile my husband played all day Friday, until he was out. Unfortunately, that turned out to be sooner rather than later!

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No big poker winnings this year! We met up with our friends and had dinner at Javier’s, a Mexican restaurant at Aria. This was my least favorite meal on our trip. It wasn’t bad, I had the callitos mazatlan which were pan seared scallops with a chipotle sauce and the ubiquitous rice and beans found at every Mexican restaurant. No pictures, it was a typical and well executed meal.

We spent the rest of the evening in a lounge listening to live music (very good live music) and having a few too many cocktails-we had a blast!

Saturday we all had some personal time until our dinner and show reservations that evening. I decided to head to my two favorite hotels on the strip. My husband and I took the Aria tram to the Bellagio. We have stayed there several times and love the interior of this casino.

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The tram cycles between the Aria, The shops at Crystals and the Bellagio

In just a few minutes we were at the Bellagio, me with my camera in hand. The Bellagio is bright, airy and colorful. It is impossible to capture any one image that will convey all the amazing scenery. I have highlighted a couple examples that really speak to me every time I visit.

 

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This is one of many domed skylights which allows light into the long corridors

 

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These gorgeous arrangements are on every table top as you weave your way through the walkways into the main buildiing 

 

One of my favorite shops of all time is Jean Philippe Patisserie and I visit every time I am in Vegas.

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This is where you will find the largest chocolate fountain in the world. It runs from floor to ceiling and has milk, dark and white chocolate pools

And, of course, there is the pastries!

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A truly stunning experience!

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The patisserie is close to the conservatory and botanical garden that showcases floral artwork. This season is dedicated to the Chinese new year. This is just a small fraction of what there was to see!

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The detail was amazing! As you leave the conservatory area you enter the main lobby of the Bellagio. The ceiling is covered with glass flowers made by Seattle’s own Dale Chihuly. Even though he is right here in my own backyard, I marvel at this ceiling every time I visit Vegas.

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We travelled down the long corridor to the exit of the Bellagio, on our way to the Paris Hotel and Casino. There were a few more beautiful ceiling elements along the way.

We exited the building and crossed the street. We entered Pairs hotel and immediately felt the ambiance change. Where Bellagio was bright and open, Paris was darker and had the feel of Europe in the middle ages. It was as if we were in underground Paris in the 1800s.

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It is like you are at an illegal club!

 

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The sky ceiling is similar to the one in Caesars Palace

 

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The building facades look so real

 

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This could be any shopping avenue in Paris

 

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The French have there own version of amazing pastries to choose from!

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This Chinese restaurant is stunning!

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They really captured that nighttime feel.

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This is my favorite Creperie, anywhere! I always have a crepe when visiting Vegas from this shop. Today the hubby and I split a Monte Cristo crepe. Ham, Swiss cheese with strawberry sauce, powdered sugar and basil. Just the perfect lunch!

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Then it was time to head back to the Aria and meet up with our friends. There were a few sights on the way back!

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Our dinner reservations that evening were at the steak house, Mastro’s Ocean Club at the shops at Crystals. This was a fantastic meal! The restaurant is in an old tree house that now sits at the heart of the mall. It is two stories and we were seated inside this structure. More importantly the food was killer! If you have never tried Wagyu beef (and you have an extra kidney to sell to afford it) I do recommend it!

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We throughly enjoyed this meal and then set out to see Zumanity, a Cirque du soliel show at New York, New York Hotel and Casino. If you like nude acrobats then you will love this show!

Sunday morning I got up early and ran 4 miles. It was hot (81°F at 6:15am), hard and full of stairs but I needed to work off some of the “fun” I had been consuming! Plus we are still half marathon training! The hubby said no to accompanying me and we all reconvened at the pool for our last day of mini vacation. I posted a picture on Instagram of my shoes taking a break by the pool. I caught my husband trying to steal one of the drinks.

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This trip was a bit of a whirlwind, looking back I did not get the right amount of sleep or eat as healthy as I would have liked, but we all need a crazy, fun break every once in a while!

Oh, and as for gambling

the only time i won

This was the best result I had the entire time!

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