Sunday, September 20, 2009

A surprise getaway!

Things have been a little on the boring side for me lately. Summer came and went and I feel like all we did all summer was work, still trying to get back on track from my year-long lay off. This is the first year since 2004 that we haven't made at least one little trip to Las Vegas. In fact, we hadn't gone anywhere this year, which I realize is probably common for people given the present economy.

The Thursday before last, my neighbor came knocking on my door, all excited and "needing" to buy a pair of earrings to match an outfit for a surprise birthday trip. Her husband had just handed her a list of things to pack for their next morning flight and he told her that he had arranged for her to be off work for a long weekend. Everyone in her office was in on it. He didn't tell her where he was taking her. So, she did her shopping and went back home.

I went upstairs to tell my husband about what her husband had set up and he got a really strange exasperated look on his face, saying, "he did? Are you kidding me?!?" Why would I kid about that, right? Then he says to me, "honey, we're going away on a surprise trip for your birthday next Wednesday." You can imagine my shock. It was also pretty funny. He said he had to tell me so it wouldn't look like he was copying our neighbor. lol He didn't tell me where we were headed either.

Long story short, we ended up making an 8 hour drive down to Tunica, MS, which is maybe 30 minutes or so south of Memphis, TN. As usual, we got off to a late start, leaving around 10:30 am, then we ran into construction 3 or 4 times around Louisville, KY. By the time we got into Nashville, TN, it was raining buckets, there was an accident and it was getting into rush hour. Thankfully, we made it through all of that without adding too much time to our travel and we arrived at the Horseshoe Casino Hotel around 6:30 pm local time.

We valet parked the car, got our luggage checked and checked into our room in no time at all. The bellman was an older gentleman, who actually walked us up to our room with our luggage. Everyone was incredibly nice and made us feel very welcome. Our room was nice, nothing too fancy, but nice. It was immaculate! (It was one of the more comfy nights' sleep away from home too, with the pillow-top mattress on the bed. Good pillows too, which seem hard to find in hotels.) We got freshened up and decided to head downstairs to check out the buffet. Turns out Horseshoe is very much into comping food for their guests. If you sign up for a Total Rewards card (which you can use to accrue comps at any Harrah's property across the country) and play anything for a half hour, you get a free buffet. We were reading that on the sign near the buffet and trying to decide if we wanted to wait a half hour to eat when we were approached by a man who wanted to sell us a comp for two free buffets for $20 (I think it turns out to be around $36 if you actually pay for two). We took him up on it and enjoyed a discounted dinner! Their dinner buffet was okay, no Bellagio, but then, neither of us like any seafood and there was plenty of fish, shrimp and of course, crawfish! Ick.

After dinner, we played some craps at the Horseshoe and then we walked next door to the Gold Strike to check that out. My husband played craps there for a little bit and then we walked back next door. There aren't any shows or anything down there like there are in Vegas. They'll have a band or singer on tour here or there at a couple of the casinos, but nothing that plays nightly like Cirque du Soleil, etc. They did have local bands on stage at both of those places which was fun. They were playing older covers and added a fun energy to the casinos. All the dealers were very friendly and engaging our entire trip. In fact everyone we encountered working down there was friendly. It was really nice.

Thursday morning we headed to the buffet for breakfast, and using our comps we ate free. Breakfast was great. Waffles and omelets made to order, fresh fruit, bacon, grits, biscuits & gravy and of course fried catfish and chicken fried something too. After breakfast, we decided to walk over and check out the Sheraton, which was a little dead, so we headed back over to the Horseshoe to play some black jack and then to the poker room. We played there into the lunch hour at which time I headed to the front desk of the poker room and got more comps for the Ace High Snack Bar. I got the BLT and waffle fries and my husband got a Philly cheesesteak. Everything was awesome there! Very tasty. We went back to the Horseshoe and played poker more until my set of aces got cracked by a flush on the turn, busting me out. Luckily, my husband had made a tidy profit, so we headed up to the room to change for my birthday dinner at the Fairbanks Steakhouse at the Hollywood Casino.

Dinner at the Fairbanks was phenomenal! Service was outstanding, complete with a MaƮtre d'. Adrian and Luke, our servers took great care of us... our water glasses were never empty and we were entertained as well with lively conversation. I had the small filet and my husband had the Chicken a la Fairbanks. Both were very tasty, as was the key lime pie and chocolate gateau, a rich chocolate cake with Grand Marnier and raspberry sauce. After dinner, we waddled down to the casino to play a little more.

From Hollywood, as is our tradition, we checked out all the other casinos in the area... Resorts, Sam's Town, Fitzgerald's, Bally's and finally Harrah's, which was by far the most swanky and upscale casino in the area. It reminds me of Planet Hollywood in Vegas, or MGM Grand Detroit. Very nice. It was getting late by then, so we stopped at the Dunkin' Donuts in Harrah's for a snack and then headed home to the Horseshoe to rest up for the drive home the next day.

The next morning we had another comped buffet breakfast, packed up and headed for home. Unfortunately, we left even later to go back and again hit some really heavy rain around Nashville. They were really getting pounded by the rain down there! But, we made it home just fine. We would definitely head back down there sometime in the future! It was really fun.

This little guy was on the side of the building at Bally's, enjoying the light rain with a few of his buddies. I couldn't resist snapping pics of them. They were so cute!


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