I spent last week in Las Vegas. I had forgotten how good a relaxing vacation can be for the soul. I know when most people think of Vegas they think of gambling, shows, crowds, nightclubs and late nights. Not relaxing. But my Las Vegas is different. A 5 star hotel with views of the mountains from a king size bed with really soft sheets and automatic curtains, spa treatments, really good food and drinks (lots of them). Plus plenty of down time.
My husband and I go to Las Vegas at least once a year but it’s not that I didn’t want to go somewhere new this trip. I’ve been dying to go to Buenos Aires. But this trip coincided with Easter weekend and Spring Breaks across the country, which made it prohibitively expensive to go anywhere else. But we got a great deal on the airfare and hotel and had no parental responsibilities. My kids were with their dad in NYC and my stepdaughter was hanging out with her recently unemployed mom, spending all sorts of quality time together.
And my husband desperately needed to get away. And I needed to go with him so the two of us could spend some good alone time. The recession has had an almost positive effect on his business, a restaurant that serves good food at good prices. He’s been busier than ever. But being the owner of what is arguably the most popular restaurant in town can wear you down. Especially when you factor in personnel issues (all restaurants have them) and patrons that do their very best to try your patience and to not give a shit about the fact that you and your employees are people too.
So off to Las Vegas we flew.
We started each day in the hotel gym with a long cardio workout followed by weight lifting where we took turns doing reps. It’s kind of cute to work out together like that. And nice to have the luxury of time, not trying to cram in a work out between work, kids and chores. After the work out, we would get coffee and fruit from the spa and sit and talk about everything from our meal the night before, our plans for the day and how we are going to save if not the entire world, then just the people in our world. After we agreed on all of that, we would go our separate ways to the gender-specific areas of the spa, strip down and go into the Jacuzzi, the eucalyptus steam room and the deluge. The deluge is like a giant waterfall that you sit under that pounds your shoulders, neck and wherever else you might want to have the experience.
From there, our days varied. I got a few spa treatments, including a hot stone massage and the incredibly indulgent Royal Honey and Milk Ritual complete with Fijian Honey, coconut milk and organic cane sugar. Then perhaps a walk on the strip, lunch, some in-room porn (I can tell I’m getting older because I have to wear my glasses to watch. Sorry, probably not a good visual) and a nap, though not necessarily in that order. Get dressed for dinner, have drinks and maybe an appetizer at our favorite bar (Stratta where you can have the insanely-delicious Bosco pizza: roasted mushroom puree, white truffle oil, robiola cheese) and then head off for an excellent dinner. In between, we played both the nickel video poker machines and the penny slots. I even found $80 on the floor of the casino which I turned in to the security officer. I was told that if nobody claimed it, Steve Wynn would donate it to his favorite charity. Hmmm.
This trip I wanted to try something new and go off the Strip for dinner. We got a recommendation from our Stratta bartender for what he said was the best Thai food in the country, Lotus of Siam. I looked the restaurant up on line (Chowhound.com, Eating Las Vegas) and it seemed that other people felt the same way. We took a 10 minute cab ride to a dingy strip mall whose other tenants included two gay nightclubs, a few wig shops, some Asian markets and, of course, a wedding chapel. We walked in to what looked like a diner but with the largest glassed-in wine cellar I’ve ever seen and, after a short period, were seated next to the two kids we had made friends with while we waited for our table. (Making friends with strangers is one of my husband’s best personality traits. See “Yet Another Reason Why I Love My Husband.”) And we were able to try their food and share some of ours with them. Our waiter, a Thai gentleman named Tony, recommended a nice Riesling (because it would go well with the spice) and some appetizers. That first night, we had Thai beef jerky, crispy rice with sour sausage, lime and green chilis and Northern Larb which was ground pork with thai spices. We also had the best fried rice (with crab) that I had ever had and I don’t even like fried rice. It was all amazing. After we finished the second bottle of wine, we told Tony that we wanted to come back the following night and he made a reservation for us.
When we walked through the door the next night, the host said, “You must be Mr. Fred. Please come to your special table.” And before we even sat down, Tony came over and said that he had already ordered us a special appetizer: fried catfish salad with julienned green apple, ginger, lime juice and chilis served over cabbage. One of the freshest tastes I have ever had. We progressed to a spicy grilled prawn dish that set our mouths on fire (because my husband had told Tony to up the spice level) and then a less-spicy Young Jack Fruit Curry. I had never had jackfruit before but it tasted like a sublime artichoke heart that had been simmered for hours in a curry base. We finished the evening off with another bottle of wine, some complimentary champagne, and a dessert plate of sticky rice, mango slices and coconut ice cream. And a promise to Tony that we would be back in August with some friends. After hugging Tony repeatedly, we walked out of there full and happy.
The next morning, we got up and packed for our flight home. Still full, still happy, well rested and relaxed. And my husband kept saying it was the best vacation he had ever been on. And that he wanted to plan our next vacation. And that he loved spending time with his wife. And that he adores his wife. And on and on. I’m not sure what put him over the top of the Joy Meter. Maybe the in room porn or Tony and the catfish salad, the amount of endorphins activated by our workouts or just all of the sex. Or maybe he met someone in the spa, while he sat naked in the eucalyptus steam room.
All I know is that we’ve been back a week and he’s still the happiest person in the world. An extremely sharp contrast to how he was before we left, when he was coming home from work every day mad at the world. Two days in to our return, I said to him, “I don’t even know you any more. You’re too happy.” So happy, in fact, that it started pissing me off. I mean, I had a great time too. And I love my husband and especially love it when he is happy and relaxed. But I returned home to loads of laundry, bills to pay, writing to do and the competing need to spend lots of time with my kids who I hadn’t been with for over a week. And the kids won out. They do every time. So I just couldn’t catch up. And it was stressing me out. Until now. Over the weekend, I finished unpacking and doing the laundry. Paid all of the bills. Spent lots of quality time with my kids. Even bought my son his belated birthday present (a new bike) and clothes to wear to a Black-Tie optional bar mitzvah next weekend. I also helped my daughter get organized for her three day Safety Patrol trip to WashingtonDC later this week.
And now, I’m not stressed. My husband is still happy. And I think I’ll try to make some Thai food for dinner tonight. On second thought, I’ll just get take-out. I’m not much of a cook, the kitchen will stay clean and I know the kids will love it. And I can use the extra time to start planning our next trip. Buenos Aires anyone?