#vegasbuffettrail2015: Checking off my Bucket List

Vegas. Sin city, or what I would like to call “sinful eating”. Since I live a 4 hour drive away from Las Vegas, I have a hunch that I will be in this city more than I ever expected, so with this, I have created a new item on my bucket list: To eat at every buffet on the Las Vegas Strip.

Last week, I had the opportunity to get in as many buffets as I could within four days, and with already having one on my list from my first Vegas visit (thank you, The Wynn Hotel), I was feeling pretty confident that I would make a dent on The Strip. Well, needless to say I tried, and failed miserably, to eat buffets during both lunch and dinner, and decided on day one to settle for buffets being dinner only.

Through Vegas streets and frigid desert nights, I conquered four buffets during my trip. Below are my current rankings of all the buffets I have been to thus far, and hopefuls for next time.


5.) Flamingo Hotel: Paradise Garden Buffet

Scenic view at the buffe

Scenic view at the buffet

This hotel gave me all the feels as it was the first one I recognized from the Griswold’s vacation movie and knowing that it is the oldest hotel on the Strip (developed by the mafia, no less) made it even better. The Paradise Garden offered scenic views of flamingos and incredibly large fish swimming outside near the pools, and a good amount of food options. One plus was that it provided wine or sangria with the meal, which no other buffet did (kudos, Flamingo), which was a great start to my buffet trail journey. The food selection was standard to any other buffet I have visited, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there just weren’t any surprises. Overall, I left happy and full, and fell asleep at 7 o’clock.

4:) Paris Hotel: Le Village Buffet

Looks just like the Eiffel Tower, doesn't it?

Looks just like the Eiffel Tower, doesn’t it?

The theme of this buffet was cheese. So much delicious cheese I could have cuddled with it all night. And when I say cheese, I mean cheese in all variations. I had a delicious cheese tray variety as an appetizer, a cheese entrée, and the winning prize of it all: the cheesecake. As a new member of the cheesecake club, I was hesitant to try the dessert, but it was so pretty on display, I couldn’t let it out of my sight. I ended up eating four of those mini cheesecakes with raspberry on top. I was in cheese heaven from beginning to end, which is fitting considering France is well-known for its abundance in cheese. The buffet was very french cuisine, meaning fancy with minimal options, but fancy nonetheless. I did not try the duck, but it did look good. After a few trips down the buffet line, I had sampled everything I wanted, and just went back to the cheesecake.

3.) Planet Hollywood: Spice Market Buffet

This buffet was my lunch attempt, and why I had to decide on only doing buffets for dinner. I left so full, I don’t know if I even ate dinner that night (…just kidding. I ate at the reception I attended. But it was a very small meal). I was really impressed with all of the options they had, including the Middle Eastern section of the buffet. I had delicious humus and chicken curry that could have been its own meal, but of course I had to see what was going on elsewhere. This buffet was the first I went to that had a decent salad bar, which people who know me know I appreciate a good salad bar. I had a wedge salad that I had to do a lot of picking to get around the tomatoes, but it was still really good. The only reason why this buffet couldn’t crack the top two spots is because the food options were there, they just weren’t explosive enough to leave me daydreaming.

2.) The Wynn: The Buffet

Cue the beginnings of daydreaming. The Buffet (bonus points for The Wynn for keeping it simple with the name) was my very first buffet experience in Vegas, and I am glad it was. It set the expectations high for any other buffet to come after because of its amazing decor and spaced out range of food, but also because of its dessert room. Yes, I said dessert room. It is a literal room! You walk in and there are trays upon trays of options, including the love of my life: tiramisu. I remember eating so much I looked forward to walking down the Strip back to our hotel. I remember leaving Vegas craving the food from The Buffet, and thinking at that point in time I would never return, that I was glad that was the buffet I chose to go to.

1.) Cosmopolitan: The Wicked Spoon

And then there was The Wicked Spoon. I never knew love until this place. I always knew I liked the Cosmopolitan. I like the layout of the hotel and this was the only place I actually won money in (only $10 but a win is a win), but I did not expect their buffet to be THAT good. To be honest, the original plan was to eat at the Bellagio buffet on our last night in Vegas. Fortunately for us, the line for the Bellagio buffet was the largest I have ever seen for food, so we went to the next one on the list. I am so happy that this was my last buffet in Vegas for this trip. There were so many food options and they were not just any old standard buffet food. There was ratatouille and spicy mac and cheese. There was Steak and the true love all, this pan smeared salmon with leeks and deliciousness all packed in one plate. I tried everything at this buffet from the cute wedge salad to some siracha honey hot wings, but I kept coming back to that salmon. At buffets, I try not to return to the same meal more than twice, but that salmon just wouldn’t keep eying me as I passed the other food choices. The waiter we had even called me out on it, betting that I would grab another plate of it on top of my dessert. There was no need. I had to say goodbye at the fourth plate and move on to dessert. The cheesecake they had here, a dulce de leche style, was pretty amazing too. Not as amazing as the Paris cheesecake, but I was so happy about everything else, it made this cheesecake just as good. The icing on the cake for this buffet was that it has to be the only buffet on The Strip to serve Coca-Cola products. That should be enough to sell you right now. I am not a Pepsi person, but every buffet I went to before Wicked Spoon, I had to suck it up and order a Pepsi. I am still reliving this delicious buffet and hope to return to it again.. and again.

Thanks for the shout out Cosmopolitan Hotel!

Thanks for the shout out Cosmopolitan Hotel!

So good...

So good…

I know there are still more buffets to tackle, so I do have some hopefuls I am looking forward to eating during my next visit: The Aria, Bellagio, and Caesar’s Palace are on that list. Until next time, happy Vegas Buffet Trail of 2015!

V

#TBT: Road Trip!

I am starting a new trend on my blog post: #TBT (Throwback Thursday in case you didn’t know) I will post past travel adventures that I have had and relive them while I’m stuck in grad school mode.

Before I took a hiatus from blogging, I accepted a position to work in Upstate New York over the summer. I was excited to explore the East Coast my way, and as a semi-adult. This was my first road trip experience where I was doing the navigating, which made me nervous but excited at the same time. My mom was my travel buddy, and together we mapped out the cities we wanted to see: St. Louis, DC, Philadelphia, and Rochester New York.

First Stop: KC to St. Louis
A quick 4hr drive, but we wanted to kick the trip off by saying goodbye to “Gateway to the West”. Fun fact: there are no bathrooms outside of the Arch park.. You either have to enter in to the Arch museum area or walk back toward downtown. The day we stopped, there was a line for the Arch that looked like it was never going to move and there was construction on the main street to get to downtown so we had to take a detour route that added another 10 minutes to our hurried pace of finding a bathroom. Thankfully we found one in a hotel and could go back and enjoy the beautiful view of the arch.

Meet me in St. Louis

Meet me in St. Louis

Second Stop: DC!
After a full day of driving and my fear driven attempts to drive through the West Virginia mountains at 1am (with no cell service!) we finally arrived to DC! Watching my mom get on her first subway train was the highlight of this trip. I was so thankful that I could share this experience with her, which is what I’ve always wanted to do – explore the world with my parents.

To say we conquered DC in a day is a complete overstatement. We didn’t get to explore all of the museums and take the touristy photo in front of the White House (we did see walk to see it though!), but we did get to explore the history that mattered most to my mom and I. We first got to see the home of Frederick Douglas, and learn more about his fight to end slavery for so many people in the south. From his house, there is an amazing view of the city, which is fitting to what Douglas wanted for our future.

Later that day, we stood on the steps of Lincoln Memorial and all I can remember is chills running down my body. To think that on those steps, people witnessed one of the greatest speeches in history, and here I was eating a taco on it. I hope Martin Luther King was proud of that delicious taco, because I sure was.

Another memorable moment was being able to get a behind the scenes tour by my step brother as he showed us what he does within the military and walked the grounds of the Arlington National Cemetery. We got to experience the changing of the guards for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as visit the burial site of John F. Kennedy and his family. At his site they have a thing where if you throw a type of coin on their grave, it is supposed to resemble how close you ever where to the President. A quarter represented the people who witnessed his assassination. It was crazy to see how many quarters there were.

In front of the Lincoln Monument

In front of the Lincoln Monument

Third Stop: Philly! (all about the food)
Being obsessed with food, my number one mission in Philadelphia was a Philly Cheesesteak. My mom and I had a strategy: Divide and conquer. My mom went to Pat’s and I went to Geno’s. To be honest, my vote would have to go to Pat’s just because I appreciate spice more, but both of them were delicious.

My second mission in Philly: to lick the Liberty Bell (HIMYM anyone?) Of course I didn’t get to lick it, but I was close! I loved visiting the old historic parts of Philadelphia and began to understand why it was called the “City of Brotherly Love” although I would argue there was sisterly love too. Fresh Prince of Bel Air song played in my head the entire time we were there.

Deliciousness. Enough said.

Deliciousness. Enough said.

Well. Almost

Well. Almost

Final Stop: Rochester NY & Niagara Falls
When we woke up ready to start our day in Rochester, we were welcomed with a Memorial Day parade that gave us a good feel of the people of Rochester. We also got to explore another home of Frederick Douglas on the way to my surprise stop.

I wanted to surprise my mom as a Mother’s Day gift to take a trip to Niagara Falls. I knew it was only an hour and a half away, and that she would appreciate it more than anything. I don’t think I’ve seen my mom smile as much as she did when we got to climb down to the rocks of one of the falls. We couldn’t stop laughing as we touched the cold rocks and watched our ponchos become soaked in falls water (the flip flops they gave you are amazing too!)

My first road trip experience was everything I could have hoped for, and being able to experience it with my mom made it even better.

Literally in the falls.. amazing

Literally in the falls.. amazing

Happy #TBT everyone!

V

Tough Choices: Saying ‘Until Tomorrow’ to International Travel

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one travel, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted
wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

                          -Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”

Having the ability to travel should never be taken for granted, but yet, I feel like sometimes it is. Take me for example. Whenever I daydream about traveling, I picture myself in a foreign country where I can’t speak the language, getting somewhat lost in the city center. I loved my experience traveling to Spain and Ireland, so I always want to relive those moments over and over again. Over the winter break, I dedicated my time to apply for summer internships across the US and various countries. All of the internship locations sounded appealing, but the international positions always connected to exotic imagery in my head. I wanted the internship location and position to bring me adventure, so when I got two offers from two different areas of the world, both jammed pack with adventure, I was stuck. Upstate New York and Bulgaria were fighting head to head in my mind in a travel sense, but I needed to be an adult and make a thoughtful decision. I knew Bulgaria would be an intense adventure that I could only imagine, but costly. I also knew that my excitement for the work I would be doing in New York state and a half-country road trip to get there brought the adventure I needed as well. Through my moment of indecisiveness and a little help from my best friends, I needed to make a decision.

Once I had made my decision, I thought declining Bulgaria would be easy. Just another box to check off my to-do list, but when I finished typing my email, I kept re-reading and double checking my words. I wanted this declining email to be perfect and wanted to somehow express how sorry I was that I couldn’t partake in an adventure to a country I’ve never visited. When I finally hit send, I felt a pinch in my stomach. It was almost like my inner wanderlust was inside of me, kicking and screaming in anger that I denied it of its thirst. I literally could feel myself trying to reassure it. Letting it know that my time in New York would include travel and new adventures.

I know I don’t have to be overseas to feed my cravings to travel. Taking a road trip to get to know my country sounds almost more nerve-racking than any new country I have ever visited. But that same nerve-racking energy that is bouncing in my mind is also the same energy that makes me more excited and happy with my decision.

Decisions don’t always come with the outcome you desired. Knowing this, and the path I chose, I can only wait for another decision to be made, another path to walk on…

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Erin Go Bragh: the Story of Withdrawal

My eyes are twitching and I’m feeling shaky and frustrated. All I can think about is what I want, but unfortunately cannot get to…

Withdrawal is not to be taken lightly. Especially since a year ago today I began an experience in Ireland that will never be forgotten and entirely missed. I spent 8 weeks in the city of Dublin with the hopes of gaining something more for myself. That was always my underlying mission for traveling; to discover something about myself that I didn’t know yet. Well now all I can say is thank you, Ireland.

The amount of fun I had, the people I met and the lessons I learned in Ireland could not add up to any college experience I had in the past four years.  To be honest, I didn’t expect to miss Ireland too much. The weather wasn’t all that great and I spent a lot of money. But then it hits me (and it hits me hard) when I see a menu that carries fish & chips or walk into a pub that is playing “Galway Girl”. I fight the urge not to break down and cry, because who does that over a country? Luckily, I am not alone in this “Ireland withdrawal”. The best friends I brought back are all missing it just as much as me, (maybe some more than others) and we do what we can to cope (drink Magners/Bulmers, visit every Irish pub in the Kansas City Metro Area, plan the next trip back, etc.). I know I am a lucky girl for getting to claim Ireland as my home for 8 weeks and I am thankful that I get to share the memories with such amazing friends.

Now I sit in my apartment and Facebook creep on my friends that are getting the opportunity to see such a beautiful country this summer. I have never felt so jealous in my entire life and really I shouldn’t be jealous. I should be happy that people are taking advantage of a great experience. I left Ireland with great friends, a lifetime supply of Irish Tea and memories that are priceless. What more could a girl want?

Cheers to the lucky ones that get to feel this feeling of withdrawal and wanderlust.  I am drinking a Bulmers for you all!

Erin Go Bragh!

A Traveler’s Guide to Homesickness: Music is the cure

Everyone goes through it. The feeling where you either want to be left alone or doing what makes you feel comfortable. Last night was one of those nights for me. I didn’t want to drink but I knew I wanted to get out and enjoy something different than a pub. Unfortunately, things did not work out in my favor and I could feel my homesickness kicking in. With a little help from my roomies and a doner kebab I decided to suck it up and see where the night took me.
The night took us to Temple Bar and my initial thought was “Been there, done that” But once we got to the front of the stage waiting for the next band, I tried to stay optimistic. Little did I know that once the band walked up on the stage, I would be on my feet the entire night singing classic songs to a Guinness World Record breaking guitarist.
Dave Browne was the guest guitarist of the night, coming into Temple after playing for 114 hours on guitar (World Record!) I couldn’t believe how insanely fast his fingers were going on an acoustic guitar, I couldn’t stop staring, wishing my hands could move that fast. I could feel my homesickness start to change when the band played “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac and then transcending to “Eye of the Tiger”. I couldn’t tell you how many greats they played, all I can tell you that my mood went from crappy to hyperactive.
I forgot how much music helps my mood and how I feel when I hear a song I love. I guess you forget those essentials when you travel and want to be free from what’s comfortable. My words of wisdom: only you yourself can cure homesickness. It’s something that everyone goes through and it’s always tough to admit you have it, but when it’s gone you have broken a barrier that doesn’t come back until you get homesick over your host country (which also happens) so what started as a contagious illness, ended with ears ringing and a smile on my face.
Thank you Temple Bar and Dave Browne for that.