Sambalatte: At Last, a Good Strip Coffeehouse

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Sambalatte

My kingdom for a good coffeehouse.

Hi, my name is Gray, and I love coffee. So much so, that I wrote a love poem about coffee in college for my poetry workshop. I read it during a poetry night at–where else? Our local coffeehouse. It was a big hit with the owners, as you can imagine.

I also love Las Vegas. You know this. But if there’s one thing the Las Vegas Strip has been missing in all the years I’ve been visiting, it’s a great coffeehouse. Coming from a city known for its great coffeehouses, I find this baffling. Doesn’t everyone love a good coffeehouse? Where else do you read the newspaper? Or meet friends? Or plot world domination?

Sambalatte

I couldn’t have said it better myself

Don’t get me wrong: I like Starbucks iced coffee very much. And I appreciate the fact that there’s a Starbucks every twenty feet in Vegas, so when I’m struck by sudden caffeine withdrawals, I can get a quick fix. But the atmosphere at most Starbucks shops leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s generally not a place I want to spend much time.

Most resort “coffee shops” are what I’d call a “restaurant” and the “cafes” are more like bakeries with limited seating. Coffee stands and shops tend to be crammed somewhere in a high-traffic spot just off a casino where peace and quiet–not to mention seating–is hard to come by.  It’s like they really don’t want customers hanging around too long. “Take your coffee and move along, bub.”

When I want to enjoy a good cup of coffee, I don’t want to drink it on the run; I want to linger over it. I want to sit somewhere with a little peace and quiet, where I’m not feeling rushed, where I can read or people-watch and savor the coffee flavors as they roll around my tongue. To me, that is the quintessential coffeehouse experience, and that’s something that has been sadly missing from my Vegas experience–until now. Continue reading

Vegas Scams and Safety Concerns

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Planet Hollywood

Where there is money changing hands, there are bound to be scams.

As a cautious person, I always try to learn the “dos and don’ts” of any new city I visit. When I first started visiting Las Vegas, I studied up on all the local tourist scams–things like long-hauling cabbies and pickpockets who worked the crowds gathered in front of the old Treasure Island pirate battle. I learned about how thieves use distraction on their victims (getting them to look one way while a partner swoops in from the other direction to cash out their slot ticket or snatch a purse or whatever), and about scammers who would tell you they’d been robbed and needed money for gas to get home. Things like that. (I have never personally experienced any of these scams except the long-hauling cabbie.)

Fast forward several years. I’ve become a pretty seasoned Las Vegas visitor. At this point, I know how Vegas works. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If something out of the ordinary happens, it automatically sends up red flags for me. I haven’t felt the need to keep updated on recent Vegas scams.

So I was surprised recently to read on the TripAdvisor Las Vegas forum about a strange incident experienced by a 50-ish woman (Shrinkgirl) who was exiting a restaurant at Ballys. Short story: A much younger man followed her through the casino, hitting on her very aggressively. (I recommend clicking on this link to read the full account.) Continue reading

A is for Announcements

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Las Vegas

I’m pretty sure I think about this city more than is healthy for me.

Pardon this detour from my regular post style, but I’ve got a couple of things I thought you might like to know about this week:

Announcement #1: T-Minus 2 Months!

Who’s going to be in Las Vegas the last week of January?

(waves frantically) Me! Me!

If you are, too, and would like to meet up, please let me know. If there’s enough interest, I’ll set up a semi-official VegasSolo meetup. Otherwise, I’ll just try to catch you individually here and there. I have already booked flights and hotel, so I am definitely committed to that week.

I’ve never been to Las Vegas that time of year before, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like. I know it’s not exactly pool weather, but it’s got to be slightly warmer and less snowy than Vermont. (Right?) One thing I’m definitely looking forward to is seeing the Chinese New Year display at the Bellagio Conservatory.

Carpet

Land of hideous carpet patterns, here I come!

And on a less celebratory note….

Announcement #2: My Clock is Broken

For the past four years, as you know, I’ve been publishing a blog post every Sunday like clockwork, except for the occasional week when I’m traveling or on a holiday. That’s about to change. It’s become crystal clear to me over the past year that writing a blog post every week is unsustainable for me. I think it’s a minor miracle I’ve managed to do it this long.

I live too far away from Vegas to travel there more frequently than I currently do (once every 8-12 months). And it’s exhausting trying to cram a bezillion new activities into a weeklong trip in order to have enough content to write about for the next 52 weeks. That’s not really my idea of a “vacation”.

But I’m not ready to stop blogging. I need the creative outlet, and I love sharing my passion for Las Vegas and for solo travel with other people. Like the rest of you Vegas fanatics, I probably spend way more time than is healthy thinking about that city. It’s just that I can’t maintain my current pace of writing.

So as a compromise, I’ve decided I’m going to scale back on my publishing schedule. From now on, I’ll only post when I have something to say. It may be weekly, every two weeks, or maybe even every three weeks. If this makes it hard for you to remember to come read my blog, I totally understand. You may want to subscribe to my posts by email and have them pushed to you when I do publish. (See the sign-up box in the sidebar on my website.) I will not spam you, I promise.

There are things I could do to keep the weekly publishing schedule even without visiting Vegas more often, but none of them would solve the biggest problem for me, which is my time. For the past 6 years (since I started my SoloFriendly blog), I’ve been working pretty much every day of the week: 5 at my day job plus weekends and some evenings on my blogs. I can’t keep doing that. Life is too short. . .and everyone deserves a life (or at least some down time) outside of work.

So maybe A is also for Apology. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who have come to look forward to my posts every week. But look at the bright side: If I’m not forcing myself to stick to a weekly publishing schedule, the quality of the posts I do publish should be more consistent. That’s an upside, right?

Thank you for understanding. And before I forget, Happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers!

Cornucopia

Bellagio Conservatory, Fall display 2013

Vegas Shorts

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Butterflies

A random photo for random reviews. How fitting.

You might think that I review in full everything that I see, do and experience in Las Vegas, but you’d be wrong. There are often times when I have every intention of writing a review about something when I return home, but by the time I get around to doing it and look at my notes, I realize I have almost nothing to say about it. Maybe just one thing about the experience really stood out. . .and you can’t exactly write an entire blog post with a couple of sentences, can you?

But then I thought, hey, people write whole books full of nothing but vignettes. Why couldn’t I pull together a collection of my one-off thoughts about some things and create a blog post out of it? It’ll be like an anthology of one-paragraph reviews. So, without further ado, here you go: A small collection of my shortest “reviews” ever:

Continue reading

HelloTel: Is This Really a Good Idea?

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Table

Do you sometimes wish you could order up a dinner date when you’re solo in Vegas?

Last month, a Vegas friend of mine on Twitter forwarded me a link to an article about a new social media app called HelloTel, which allows solo travelers to connect with other HelloTel users staying at the same hotel “for socializing”. Essentially, it works like this:

You create a profile in the app via Facebook–so you need to have a Facebook profile first. (The purpose for this seems to be to make sure people are being honest about who they say they are, though I’m skeptical that actually works; think about all the people who have created fake Facebook profiles to game the myVegas app.) Then when you check your presumably lonely little solo self into a hotel, you can check to see who else is staying at the same hotel (who is a member of the HelloTel community) and connect with them if you want to meet.

So what do I think about this app?

Continue reading