Park MGM Experience

I have been to Vegas twice this year. Twice I have stayed at the Park MGM.  And twice I have been very happy with the experience .

I went to Vegas in May for the U2 concert. The concert was taking place at the T-Mobile Arena which happens to be right next-door to Park MGM. Literally, a two minute walk from the hotel lobby to the line up to enter the arena.

So, do take note if you’re heading to a hockey game or concert at the T-Mobile arena, the Park MGM is ideal.

From TMobile Arena balcony lounge, looking towards the ParK MGM Hotel & the Park Theatre. (Where Aerosmith, Cher, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars have residency.)

But what is the hotel like?  I really like it. It is modest by my measure of Vegas hotels. It is the old Monte Carlo, but completely redone and rebranded as Park MGM. The rooms are fairly basic (no mini fridge)  but they are modern, the bathroom showers are perfect and they’re nicely decorated.

Think of it as a little sister to Bellagio. It is part of the same hotel chain and even connected by a free tram.  By my estimate it’s 1/5 of the size of Bellagio.  It’s pretty hard to get lost at Park MGM. That’s a good thing.

While the hotel doesn’t have a vast selection of restaurants, the courtyard of the arena does. So all you have to do is walk outside the hotel and you have plenty of choices. Also across the courtyard is the NYNY Hotel & Casino which offers a little more action.

The second best asset of Park MGM is the pool area. There are 3 separate pools, lots of great loungers, the poolside food is excellent and there’s plenty of sun.

The 3rd best feature of the Park MGM is the price. It typically falls in the bottom 1/3 of Vegas Strip hotels, depending on events and time of year. Regardless, of whether it costs $50 or $129 per night,  it will be comparatively less then other hotels of equal quality. Based on this I find it is excellent VALUE.

**not a paid endorsement. I’m in no way affiliated with the hotel or MGM chain. I’m just a frequent Vegas visitor with high regard for this renovated hotel. I hope you find benefit in my review.

 

 

Two areas that could really use your tourism dollars

When we see natural disasters occurring, we often feel helpless.

Take for example the wildfires in British Columbia this summer, or hurricane Maria  that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

What can we do?

Once the immediate threat has passed and the community has had a chance to rally and recover one of the things we as outsiders can do to help, is visit.  An injection of new money helps to sustain jobs and provide businesses with the chance to rebuild.

Tourism Victoria is going through a re-branding process. Their new slogan “Oceans apart from Ordinary” focuses on their natural assets.

Victoria is a very convenient WestJet flight from Brandon. On sale you’ll find flights under $400. The same can be said about numerous British Columbia cities.

Puerto Rico requires more than a weekend holiday and might be best used as a cruise port right now. Sale flights can often be found from Winnipeg at that $500 mark. Popular cruise lines that are using Puerto Rico in the fall of 2018 include Royal Caribbean, Disney and Carnival.

 

 

Cooking School in Italy

While on vacation, we signed up for a day session at a cooking school in Italy. It was actually as indulgent as it sounds!

Even though I personally do own a restaurant and cook about 60 hours a week, it was my choice to sign up for this whilst on vacation.

The thought of learning to make pasta and sauce from scratch, in Italy sounded like an authentic and dream-come-true experience. I was right.

It took place in a state-of-the-art kitchen, with two professional instructors. There were overhead cameras at the teacher’s station and big screen TVs for us to watch them on. This enabled us to see the techniques from all angles.

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It seemed like a televised cooking show. Like something you’d see on a Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart episode.

At the end of the day we sat with our classmates for dinner and shared a bottle of wine. A certificate, the recipes and apron were ours to take home. Everyone was all smiles.

I haven’t actually made pasta for my family since the trip, but I have gotten really good at sliding the story into casual conversation. I just love saying “when I was at cooking school in Italy, we…”

I can be a bit of a joker, but in all seriousness, I really treasure having had this experience and I would highly recommend taking a class or pursuing your hobby while on vacation. A fresh perspective and the chance to do something ‘just for fun’ is such a memorable way to spend  a day.

Better stories start with travel. 

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Left turn at Livorno

I was thinking about road trips yesterday and thinking about planning a little something. Then, I was suddenly reminded of my last wrong detour.

Livorno, Italy.

See, I had this idea that, according to the map, we could just take the train (for about 3 Euros and twenty minutes) from Pisa to Livorno and see the coast. It appeared to me… that we were just “that close” to the sea, and coastal greatness.

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“Coastal greatness” was not immediately apparent when we stepped out of the train station. There were beautiful palm trees, but not much else that made a couple of Canadian gals wanted to hang around. The industrial area and a lack of tourist information or people willing/able to speak english to help us out, had me second guessing my “see the coast” plan.

Then, we saw this sign. Didn’t feel like a good sign.

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However, it was daylight, and we were up for adventure, we decided to venture forth and take a quick glance around town, on foot.

We discovered casinos, and casino-like places where one could gamble among a few lovely palm trees. Thinking maybe this could turn out to be a lucky detour, I put a 2Euro coin in a slot machine. Nope… not a winner. That was enough of a sign. We bought our train tickets back to Florence and grabbed snacks for the road.

At the snack shack, I gambled on a little green jar of pear juice. An Italian specialty, it said. Loved it! That juice was amazing. Definitely memorable. Thank you Livorno.

There are no wrong turns. Just experiences.

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Just a lovely bit of architecture on our walkabout

Better stories start with travel. 

My Ski Correspondent

When you see a fabulous deal, you have to jump on it, if you possibly can. The under $200 flights to Kelowna were too good to pass up. And while I absolutely couldn’t get the time off work at spring break, my son could. (He has a fabulous boss!)

So, he went snowboarding in the mountains of British Columbia.

In an effort to include me (and the readers of SheTalksTravel.com), he’s shared some fun helmet-cam GoPro video that he shot.

He followed his friend down the mountain at Silver Star Ski Resort in Vernon. Not bad for a couple of novice snowboarders, and a helmet cam.

Thanks boys!

This clip is a little longer and shows more of the scenery at Silver Star Mountain Resort. It was taken by my older son, on a snowboard, as my youngest skis and blazes the trail.

Absolutely a fabulous hill. Great for the novice skier and beyond. Really great conditions for end of March. Top marks to Silver Star Mountain Resort, from my correspondent!

Ps. I will follow up soon with recommendations for hotels in the area and a few more of the fun photos he took. 

Moved to Tears in Italy

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Florence, Italy

 

I was standing in this central square, near the Uffizi Gallery and across from the Savoy Hotel. It was mid day, and the area was bustling with tourists.

There were three artists painting watercolour canvases at the side of the plaza. Their art was lovely, very simple and classic. Italian scenes… like couples dancing, narrow roads and pastel coloured buildings, girls on red Vespa scooters. That type of thing.

Across the way I was an old woman, with a kerchief on her head, selling brightly coloured balloons. A man on a bike, with a basket carrier, road by whilst smoking a cigarette. A young couple was kissing near a statue and posing for selfies.

Children were screaming and giggling as they rode the gold and gilded carousel.

A loudspeaker amplified the voice of a woman singing Opera in Italian. Her voice was incredible. Though I didn’t have a hot clue what she was singing, I felt overwhelmed.

I tried to focus on the paintings, but suddenly tears were streaming down my face. The passionate voice booming through the cobblestone plaza had reached into my heart and somehow, moved me to tears. It was quite the thing.

I pulled down my sunglasses and wiped my cheeks. Breathed in for fresh air and took a little walk. It was a moment. I was IN the moment. And isn’t that just one of the very best things you can say about a vacation…. I was present in the moment.

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The carousel was the most exquisite I’d ever seen.