SURPRISE! WE'RE IN VEGAS!
In mid-2004, Aunt Martha and Aunt Robin started trying to figure out how to celebrate Martha's birthday [Feb 20] (it was going to be a milestone birthday, and should be marked with some kind of event). They decided on Las Vegas. Then they started asking the rest of the family if we wanted to go along. We all played dumb, but by September 2004, we all had tickets to Vegas for President's Day Weekend 2005, and hotel rooms at Bally's. :) We set about planning the big surprise dinner on Friday night, and tickets for Cirque du Soleil's KA on Saturday night. Martha continued to ask us all if we could join in on the fun, but we were able to convince her that, much as we would like to, we could not get away.
Here's the Schedule:
Thursday Feb 17: The DC Fratkins arrive in Las Vegas around 10am. Robin & Martha arrive (separately) later. We make sure to be away from the lobby (which required some surreptitious sneaking around) and keep in touch with Robin via hushed cell phone conversations. We wandered around Vegas, visiting NY NY and Aladdin, just for fun. After a short nap, we 4 went to dinner at Rumjungle at Mandalay Bay - a Brazilian-style churrasqueria where they bring skewers of cooked meats and fish - 8 different kinds! - until you're completely stuffed! This restaurant is a Fratkin family favorite, as both Aunt Abbe and Jae & Teri rave about it. Now we know why (urp! I've never been so full in my life!).
Friday Feb 18: 4 Feldmans arrive from NJ. After a trip to the gym, and breakfast on the 22nd floor, Dad and I had to go to the business center to use the computer. Mom had gotten the day's itinerary from Robin, so we would know which of the Casinos to visit (and in which order), to minimize the chances of being seen. HOWEVER, the fact that Martha needed to go to the business center to send a fax was not on the list! She nearly caught us! Robin saw us sitting by the computers, and quickly turned Martha towards the desk to check in. We scurried out of there as quickly as possible. Phew! During the day, we visited Caesar's Palace (and happened to catch the "show" in the back of the Forum Shops that explains the disappearance of Atlantis...weird animatronics and fire spurts. You can skip it.) Dad stopped for lunch at the Stage Deli, so the rest of us went on to the Venetian and had lunch at the noodle restaurant. Mom had never seen the Grand Canal, so when Dad arrived, we went upstairs. If you've never seen it, it's pretty amazing. We had gelato in St. Marks' Square, watched the gondoliers guiding their boats down the canal, listened to the singing, and then went back to Bally's. (It was raining most of the day. blech.) Jae & Teri & Samantha arrived from San Diego around 4pm, so mom & I went off to play with the girl.
SURPRISE!!! 'Auntie M' (right) was in a state of shock.
We met up with Uncle Bob, Aunt Gloria, Michelle & Elissa and all took the monorail over to the Vegas Hilton together. We had arranged for Robin to take Martha over there to see the Star Trek Experience and have dinner at Quark's restaurant (where we actually had a reservation for 15!). So when we got off the tram, they were milling about in the Quark's gift shop. Robin's friends Olga and Gus had also come from NYC, and were waiting by the gift shop to meet us. We snuck in behind the aunties and yelled, "Surprise, Happy Birthday!" at the top of our lungs. Apparently, Martha didn't think we were yelling at her - she thought someone else was having a birthday in the restaurant. Then, she turned around and saw all of us. And nearly fainted. She was speechless for about 15 minutes, which is a long time in this family! We ate our Trekkie-themed food and were visited by a female Klingon and a Borg. We took the tram back to the hotel, and then the youngin's went off to gamble.
Saturday Feb 19: Breakfast on the 22nd floor again, after visiting the gym in the basement. (If you stay at Bally's, get the "Club 22" deal. And make them put you in the right tower!) Mom decided that this was the day to "kidnap" her granddaughter, so she went to pick up Samantha. Dad and I decided to take the Aunties with us to visit the Hoover Dam, which is about 30 minutes from Vegas. It was grayish outside and chilly, but it wasn't raining. Yet. The Hoover Dam is really cool. The Discovery tour takes you down 500 feet, and through a long dank tunnel, so you can see the turbines spinning, making electricity. There are all kinds of historical displays, and you can go up on top of the observation tower to see the full span of the Dam. [The underlying story of this trip will not be told here, so as not to embarrass my family or gross-out anyone reading this.]
Dinner on Saturday night was at Diego's Mexican restaurant in the MGM Grand. Jae & Teri had gone to the early show of KA, so we had Samantha with us. The theater for KA is in the MGM Grand, to make it easy to do the hand-off there before we went to the show. Samantha was very well behaved in the restaurant (the waiter assumed that I was her mom...) and enjoyed watching the giant video screens showing morphing pictures of fruits, vegetables and flowers. Fortunately, a lot of the graphics were in her favorite color, "yeyow." :) KA was an amazing show, even starting at 10:30pm. If you're a computer geek, you'll find some similarity between the theater design and the scenes (and music) from MYST. But the stage itself is the main star of the show.
Sunday Feb 20: We had brunch in one of the Paris hotel restaurants with Aunt Abbe and her friends,. who were in town for a veterinary conference. (Uncle Gary was in a seminar, we missed him!) After brunch, Aunt Abbe bought Samantha a purple poodle, which was immediately adopted, named 'Fifi', and held tightly for a long time. Mom and I took the rental car and found the outlet mall, while Bryan and Teri and Dad and the rest went off to gamble a bit more. We rested in the afternoon in Jae & Teri's suite (since we had to check out) and then we all went to dinner at Roy's. We all looooooved dinner at Roy's. We have decided that flying the red-eye back to DC is not our favorite thing to do -- although why is that so different from flying across the pond to London? -- so we'll probably do it differently next time.
PHOTOS: see this page.