Tag Archives: Hotels

Vienna Calling

I love vacations. Especially vacations that involve travelling to new places. What’s perhaps even better is looking back on vacations you’ve been on. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I’m looking back on things, my imagination makes them way better than they may have actually been. I’ll be looking at pictures, and even if I was outside freezing my ass off all day, I’ll be like ‘Isn’t the snow beautiful?’ Even if I spent half the evening arguing with my wife, I’ll be like ‘Wasn’t that an amazing buffet?’

Last Monday my wife and I were having lunch, (just before my ill-fated trip to Teavana which I blogged about last week) and reminiscing about our trip to Vienna, Austria. It was our honeymoon after all (mind you, we took a road trip to New York and Boston, post-wedding, pre-Austria, and while we had a blast, we decided it was NOT our honeymoon). Vienna is a bit sexier to talk about from a honeymoon perspective, and neither of us had ever been there. In fact, we hadn’t been to Europe together at all. We decided to do it as a little mini-trip for 4 days. Loyal readers, let me assure you that this is the dumbest possible idea, and you should never try it yourself. It’s totally not worth the airfare or jet lag to only stay for 4 days. I thought there were a few things about Vienna that I’d like to share with you. Not that I want to turn this into a travel blog or anything, but I don’t have anything that I’m really fired up about right now.

– When we got to the airport after flying overnight on Austrian Airlines (which we liked), we had to go through customs. The customs officer looked at our passports, looked at us and said ‘have a good day’. I’m so used to going to the States and feeling like I’m one shifty look away from being strip searched. They didn’t even ask us any questions in Austria. Nice.

– The hotel we stayed at was a boutique hotel that we got a great deal on since we were travelling in their ‘off season’ for tourism. It would have been crazy expensive. We took a cab there from a train station. When we told the cab driver where we were staying, he practically BEGGED us to let him take us somewhere else. We didn’t let him since it was already paid for, but we were curious to know why. In his opinion, and the opinions of a lot of the locals, this hotel was an abomination, and he was just doing his part to try to steer business away from them. Here’s the thing….. it was the most gorgeous hotel that I’ve ever stayed at. What’s interesting to me is the difference in attitude towards old vs new that Europeans have as opposed to North Americans. I don’t mean to paint everyone with the same brush here, but Vienna is a city very rich in history, and architecture that is centuries old. Their idea of new, is restoring something old, and I get that. In North America we level old buildings to build new buildings all the time. There are some places that are well restored and historical, but they’re few and far between. I get that too. I just found it interesting that a new hotel with a fairly artistic design could be so offensive to someone. Pictures don’t do it justice, but I’ll include a couple.

Outside of the hotel at night.

Outside of the hotel at night.

Simple, yet modern and elegant.

Simple, yet modern and elegant.

From an inside lounge area at night looking out to the city.

From an inside lounge area at night looking out to the city.

– Something Vienna is definitely known for is the coffee shops. For every Tim Horton’s in Canada or Dunkin Donuts in the States, Europe seems to have a ‘one of a kind’, amazing coffee shop with incredible baked goodies. You almost can’t throw a baseball in Vienna without hitting three of them. There were no drive-thru shops that I could see either. The emphasis seems to be ‘come in and sit down… enjoy your coffee and cigarette, and leave when you’re ready’. A way different lifestyle than ‘hurry the fuck up, I’m late for work’. One I could get used to perhaps.

– Final thought was I wonder if I’ll hear any Falco on the radio. As a nerd for 80’s music trivia, I of course remember the Austrian pop star who’s most famous hit was ‘Rock Me Amadeus’, and his follow-up single ‘Vienna Calling’ (which I borrowed for this blog title… did anyone get that?) seemed to be the song that was going through my head for 4 days while in the city. Falco is the biggest international pop star to ever come out of Austria, and if you’re curious, I DID actually hear a Falco song on the radio while I was there. I was sad to learn that he had died in a car crash in 1998. R.I.P. Falco!!!!

Vegas Baby!!

There are a lot of misconceptions about Las Vegas….. Some of which are true!

I have an unexplainable love for Las Vegas.  Let me explain.  I just got back from my 5th trip there.  I was there for a week.  The cab driver on the way back to the airport said ‘whoa, a week is a long time to be in Vegas’.  Maybe if you don’t pace yourself.  I could stay for 2 or 3 weeks.  I love it.  When I say I’ve been there 5 times, it may or may not sound like a lot to you, but it wasn’t like I spread those visits out over my entire life.  They’ve all been in the last 5 years or so.  After I first went, I’ve used any excuse to go.  ‘Engagement Trip’, ‘Bachelor Party’, ‘Babymoon’.  I would consider the following reasonable excuses as well….. ‘March Madness’, ‘Any other type of general madness’, ‘extra vacation days’, ‘good report card’, ‘bad report card’, ‘boredom’, ‘intense desire for a prime rib dinner that costs less than $10’……. I could go on and on.  Perhaps I will……’tax refund’, ‘tax evasion’, ‘spending your kids education fund after they pissed you off’, ‘to watch in disgust as the Miami Heat win the NBA finals’…. these and many more are all acceptable answers.

I once considered becoming a blogger (which I’ve done and you’re witnessing it), but my first idea was to be a travel blogger who specialized in Las Vegas.  Yes, I was willing to go exclusive with my blogs, and focus on one topic ALL the time.  Then I thought if my blog was popular and awesome (don’t steal this idea btw, because as I’m rethinking it, I might still do it), that the city of Las Vegas would hire me as part of their travel and tourism team.  Not to create brochures and pamphlets either, but to convince individuals one by one to go there (which I already spend at least half my time doing).  If you know me at all, we’ve had this conversation before, and if you haven’t gone, I’ve made you curious.

Having just landed from there a couple of days ago, here are some scattered thoughts/ideas/anecdotes inspired by Las Vegas.  I’m gonna have to go point form with this…..  It’s that random!

– Food.  Whether you are on a budget or you have money to burn, there is something there for you.  Every celebrity chef, and his brother have restaurants in Vegas.  It’s probably the most concentrated area in the world for fine dining (I’m making this up, it totally might not be).  There is amazing food there every direction you turn.  Flavours from all over the world!!  If that doesn’t interest you, there really are Prime Rib Dinners for less than $10.  I actually cracked my tooth on one a couple of years ago (but that had nothing to do with the quality of the meal, I’m just sayin’).  Some of my culinary highlights include the smoked salmon Eggs Benedict at Mon Ami Gabi inside the Paris Hotel.  The waiter that had a guacamole cart at the Mexican place at the MGM Grand (name anyone?), brought it over and made guacamole in front of us while carrying on a conversation.  Also at Paris in an Italian restaurant a few years ago, the waiters would sing an opera song every 15 minutes or so, then go back to waiting tables (I don’t know if that place is still there).  Who could forget $4.99 Steak & Eggs at Ellis Island (don’t know if they still do that or not, but go for the big portions, and great hash browns).

– Booze.  First thing you need to know is that you can drink on the streets.  This is important, because if you’re casino hopping, you don’t have to set your unfinished drink down to leave the hotel.  You just bring it with you and drink on the sidewalk without the shame of a paper bag.  There are intense sized slushy drinks that in some cases need a rope so you can carry it around your neck.  This is incredibly unrefined, and can lead to bad behaviour, but you can’t expect a bunch of drunks to behave themselves.  That’s just silly.  I’m a beer guy, and if you are too, then you’ll appreciate $2 Coronas and Heinekens all day at the Fremont Hotel.  The Yard House in Town Square has over 200 beers on tap (try the Belgian sampler which was the final nail in the coffin for me last Thursday).  If you’re really a beer guy, and don’t give a shit about anything else, the Freakin’ Frog near UNLV is the spot.  You’re cabbin’ it if you’re on the strip, but the selection is worth it.

– Comps.  Do yourself a favour and sign up for a loyalty program or 5 the minute you get to Vegas.  Every time you play cards or a slot machine or any other game, give them the card and let them track that shit.  If you sit at a table long enough, someone will bring you a free drink, but that’s negligible since you’re pouring your life savings into their pockets at a much faster rate than if you paid for your own booze, but……when you’ve gone there a few times like I have, they start contacting you, and offering free hotel stays.  As you become a Vegas addict, this comes in handy.  Now let me be clear……. I didn’t do this, so I’ve never been comped anything, but the story I’m about to tell you is true.  I won’t mention any names to protect the innocent, and so you won’t try to start hanging out with her for free hookups!!  My buddy’s girlfriend is a savvy Vegas veteran of the getting comped scene.  She’s forgotten more about getting comps than I will ever know.  The two of them arrived last Wednesday, and my wife and I met them at the Cosmopolitan after they arrived there from the airport (which was in a limo that the hotel sent btw).  We sat in the VIP check in room where they gave us Mimosas and apologized profusely about the wait (which really wasn’t that long, but it gave me a glimpse of how customer service could be if everyone thought you were rich).  Then they gave her $500 of comped chips to gamble with (which on her first spin at roulette became $950) and $500 food credit at the hotel which we turned into a fabulous couple of meals at the hotel restaurants.  This however, pales in comparison to the massive suite that they stayed in, with a corner balcony that over looked the strip, and particularly the Bellagio water fountains (not to mention the pissy little ‘off the strip’ hotel that I was staying in).  How did this happen???  She signed up for a card, and used it every time she went to Vegas.  The comps start out small, but this was her 11th trip there.  She had to gamble some to get it, but she’s no high roller.  Just a smart enough person (unlike myself) who takes advantage of a good loyalty program.  Remember, an empty hotel room doesn’t generate revenue for a hotel.  Comping the chips only costs them if the customer uses them to win money (which is usually not the case), and whatever the food and service cost is for $500 worth of food is nothing compared to what they’ll probably make off you if you go there with your friends regularly.  Look into it.  It’s awesome!

I haven’t even mentioned the bars, nightclubs, the women in their slutty outfits (even the ones who shouldn’t be wearing what they’re wearing for whatever reason….. I admire your courage), my beloved UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (who I’ve worked into back to back blogs), the Las Vegas 51s (AAA minor league affiliate of my beloved Toronto Blue Jays), the 24 hour buffet pass, the 24 hour bus, Red Rock, the energy sucking but loveable tackiness of Fremont Street, Microbreweries (did I mention being a beer guy?), wedding chapels, shopping (both outlet and boutique), concerts, Cirque du Soleil shows, magicians, comedians, hotel swimming pools, places to do stuff from golf to firing machine guns…….. man I wanna go back.

Pay me Las Vegas!!!