Posts Tagged ‘bellagio’

Lowered Heart Rate

May 9th, 2009

May 9th

varenna_smToday we went over to a neighboring town called Varenna.  It was a beautiful town, but much more traffic and busyness than Bellagio  We went walking to explore the town, with an ultimate desired destination of a little beach or swimming.  Although I already had stuck my hand into Lake Como, I kinda wanted to actually put my legs and/or body in.  Spoiler alert:  I would be denied.

I had read about a couple of swimming locations in my Rick Steeves book.  We set off in one direction and we walked miles.  We saw a great bit of the town, and even a town next door.  It was very pretty.  Everywhere you walk, I would look to my side, and there would be very serene views of water, mountains ,and snow capped peaks.  The book said that Lake Como would lower your heart rate and, I must say it is true.  It is very peaceful and serene, and very majestic and pretty.

We walked for a long ways, and took lots of pictures.  We also saw a beautiful rushing river/waterfall coming down the side of the hill towards the lake.
We turned around and made our way back.  We found the first beach the book had mentioned, a little 10×10 rocky patch.  We decided to keep walking for the other one, but not before stopping for lunch.

pizzavarenna_smWe stopped at a little pizzeria, and ordered their 10E lunch special of a pizza and a salad and some frizzante water.  I was a little disappointed that the pizza wasn’t exactly like I remembered.  However, the pizza I ate before, was from southern Italy and perhaps it was just a difference of locale. 

Although, my disappointment (too strong a word), was tempered because it was very good and delicious.  It was an enjoyable lunch, just outside the main town square, near the picturesque old church where weddings were taking place.

After lunch we made it to the other Lido, which was just a big cement slab where you could rent chairs.  Even though it was overcast, we still stripped down to our bathing suits (I thought these were European style) and took in whatever sun we could on  our white bodies.  Well, white except for our noses which burnt a little in the sun on our 2 hour boat ride yesterday.  We ate some gelato and took the ferry back to our town.


pescallostairs_smWe soon travelled back to Bellagio, made our way to our hotel and rested. 
We have a great view out our hotel window of a really peaceful lake. Our hotel is about a 10 minute walk up and down steep stairs before you get into Bellagio.  We are in a town called Pescallo and it is a nice place away from the center of town, therefore we have a room with a lake view on the back side of the peninsula.  It is family run and they are really sweet people.giantolive_sm

After a little siesta, we headed back towards Bellagio and found our way to an underground-esque wine bar and appetizer restaurant.  We had a glass of wine, some lasagna, and Lisa ate some giant olives.

The Man With The Rubber Glove Was Surprisingly Gentle

May 8th, 2009

May 8th


Met up with Lisa at the Saronno train station.  I was a little worried about meeting at a random trains top since we didn’t really know how big or small the station was.

As it ended up, she was waiting at one end of the train station for 90 minutes and I was at another end for 45 min before our paths crossed.  Though, it went surprisngly smooth.

wine_smWe took the train 40 minute’s to Lake Como.  Then we caught a boat that took us slowly town to town for 2 hours before we reached Bellagio.  The lake is really peaceful and beautiful.

We walked around all day, burnt our noses in the sun.

Then we had a really pleasant dinner on the waterfront:  a half bottle of Montepulciano wine, risotto with perch fillets, minestrone soup, beef filet and tagliatelle with meat sauce.  The risotto and the pasta were extremely delicious and the wine was very tasty.

A wonderful day.

Earth To Italy

April 27th, 2009

So I have been planning a trip to Italy to travel around as well as to visit my parents.  Finding hotels has not been an easy process.  For instance, during my time in Rome, there will be a sporting event that could equate to our Super Bowl. Google Earth has this great feature where you can turn on icons to represent lodging.  But even with that great tool, almost every place I searched for in Rome ended up being unavailable.  Eventually I found a place through  

I figured out general locations where I wanted to be situated in each city.  Then, when looking for a room, often the hotel would claim that they are near that location.  But Google Earth has been a great tool in this.  I would merely punch in the address of the hotel, and it would show me exactly where it was in relation to where I wanted to be.  You would be surprised at how many hotels claimed to be near the Duomo in Florence, only to be not so close.

At this point I have everywhere booked, except for 3 nights – 2 of those nights are in the Cinque Terre.  Here are the screenshots from Google Earth and websites where appropriate.

Here is my itinerary:

  • May 7th leave San Diego
  • 8th land in Milan
  • 8-9 Lake Como
  • 10th Milan (I am hoping to  get tickets to the soccer game or the opera as a fallback)
  • 11-12 Venice
  • 13-14 Cinque Terre
  • 15, 16, 17, 18 Florence
  • 19, 20, 21, 22 Montalcino
  • 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 Rome
  • May 28th Fly home


Lake Como
La Pergola

La Pergola, Hotel and Restaurant, drawn from a sixteenth century-building, lies by the lake, in a most typical fishermen’s hamlet called Pescallo, right on a shore of the promontory of Bellagio, turning south-east and facing the Lecco branch of Lake Como. The House was drawn from a building dating back to 1500, and assigned to a convent in the past centuries. The centre of Bellagio is but 10 minutes’ walk, among the luxuriant olive trees and mediterranean vegetation spread out on the Spartivento Point.

La Pergola


Best Western Cristoforo Colombo
About a 15 minute walk from the train station and about a 15 minute walk from the Duomo.  Im desperately hoping to get tickets to the Juve v. Milan soccer game, but am considering the opera as a backup plan.


Hotel Ai Do Mori
They have a crappy website.  They need Gorirra.  But it is only about 10 meters from St. Mark’s Square.  

Venice Hotel


Cinque Terre
Ivo Camere
The apartment which is also in the center of the town is accessible via a characteristic “carugio” (small side street) and is steps away from the piazza and the sea. 



Brunelleschi Hotel 
Hotel Brunelleschi is located in the middle, pedestrian area of the historical center of Florence, just steps away from the Cathedral and the Signoria Square, from a part overlooking the Via Calzaiuoli.

Florence Hotel


With My Parents
Next time I get the address from my parents, I’ll take a Google Earth pic.



Private Apartment
its perfect location. From there the most important sights of the City can be reached with a short walk. You are just in the heart of the centre. 200 metres from Piazza Navona and Pantheon, 300 metres from Spanish Steps or Trevi Fountain and, in the opposite direction, just crossing the Tiber, you can reach Sant’Angelo Castel and St.Peter Cathedral (400 metres).

Rome Apartment

Roll The Dice, Feel The Fear In My Enemies Eyes

December 6th, 2008

I spent my 3rd straight thanksgiving in Las Vegas last week. I don’t know if I will do it again next year, but you never know. Although I had great fun, I missed spending time with loved ones. But you definetly cannot beat the deals in Vegas at Thanksgiving.

The trip began with a Coldplay concert in Anaheim at the pond (honda center). For a month or two leading up to this week, I watched ticket sales and craigslist listings. A week before the show, ticket master was sold out, creating less leverage for me.

I have found in this dwindling economy, that entertainment and concert tickets are not an easy sell. A lot of people are choosing to spend their extra cash in other areas of needs. I experienced this first hand back in July. I was stuck with an extra Coldplay ticket (coincidentally) for a concert in vegas (coincidentally). I tried to sell it for weeks. Eventually I had to lower the price below face value. Even then, I had people bailing out on me and not being interested. Finally, with about 20 minutes before the concert to spare, I was able to cut my losses and sell it for less then face value. I used to be a big proponent of buying extra concert tickets for the mere purpose of trying to sell them. I would stand in line at a Ticket Master outlet and usually be one of the first 5 in line. I would pounce on as many “best available” seats I could get my hands on, knowing that that U2 concert would sell out in less then 15 minutes. At that point the demand would be high. But since those days, concert ticket supply has definetly outgrown the consumer demand.

Craigslist was over saturated with tickets being offered for sale. Most of them in the prices of $250-$500 PER ticket. There was no way I was going to spend that much on a ticket. Unless it was an amazing ticket, I don’t think I would spend that much on one U2 ticket even. Most tickets that were being offered at only $50 more then face value, were all the last row practically. I decided that it would be best to wait it out. As the time of the concert grew closer, my leverage would grow greater. I definetly had to cultivate the emotion that if I didn’t end up getting a tikcet and going to the show, no big deal. I also had to convince my friend Joey this, as he was going on this trip too. It is a tough thing to reach contentment on, because part of you is pulling so hard to go to the show, and would be dissappointed if it didnt happen. But you also have to have a belief in your negotiating skills that it will all work out.

The concert was on Tuesday, November 25th. As it got closer to the weekend before, I finally started to notice ticket prices on craigslist come down to closer to face value, if not slightly over. Face value was approximately $97. If you add in service charges it was about $116 or so. When coming up with the plan to attempt to attend this concert, I was budgeting that the concert would cost me about $100. On Saturday, I scoured the listings and emailed many many many different sellers. Eventually I found someone to sell me a pair of tickets for $180. They were decent seats for the price, in the upper deck, and for metaphor sake, at approximately the 50 yard line of the arena. We agreed to the price. But then, how were we gonna make the swap? Not only did he live in LA, but he lived in Lawndale–way out of the way of all my orange county family and friends (I thought, maybe one of them could make the swap for me). When I was looking at google maps to see where exactly Lawndale was located, I noticed that one of the surrounding towns was Torrance. And then I remembered that I worked with someone that used to live in Torrance…blah blah blah. I sent them a text message, and lo and behold (interesting cliche saying), they were home visiting family that weekend and could make the swap for me. I was so excited that it was working out so well. After many text messages and emails later, the details were finalized and the meeting was arranged. But then…

An hour later, I received a text message from the seller saying “Sorry Andy, I have someone coming over right now to buy the tickets, and is paying me full price. First come first serve.” I was so frustrated. I had been on the computer for hours, and had been really excited that I had found a decent deal for decent seats and that the plan was coming together. I decided to make a craigslist post and email a couple others, and then just blow off steam by going to the gym.

Later that night,I received a text message from the man in Lawndale. He said that his other person fell thru, and that he would hold the tickets for me at the previously agreed rate. Even if I had to not attend the concert, I was not going to buy from him. In buying tickets from strangers online, there has to be at least a little bit of trust.

A few hours later, I received an email in response to my post–asking for tickets for either face value or less. The lady said that she had paid $250 for her tickets but was willing to sell them for $200. I countered with an offer of $175 for the pair. She accepted. I was excited again. These seats were better seats then the previous ones, and of course $5 less. But now, how were we to make the swap? She lived in the Valley and was too busy with school or work to meet my friends closer to the O.C (don’t call it that). I of course was in San Diego. Fortunately her tickets were the emailable kind, but that also left her exposed to the risk of receiving the money. I said that I would photograph a check or overnight money etc…Joey has paypal so I offerred that method. She said she thought her dad had paypal and that she would check in the morning.

Sunday morning and I receive an email at 7:00 am. “My dad is being a f***ing a**hole and won’t let me use his paypal account.” Great. To make the long story short (too late), she created her own pay pal account and by 7pm, the transaction was completed and we received the tickets with 48 hours to spare. By the way, our tickets were section 413, row H, seats 9 and 10.

We left after work on Tuesday and arrived in Anaheim at around 5:30pm. We grabbed parked about a block from the arena, and walked to a nearby restaraunt called the Lazy Dog Cafe. Joey ate this great looking, but heavily loaded grilled cheese sandwich . I think he is still complaining about how un-gouda that was. After eating and killing time, we mad our way back to our car where Joey was insistant on having a pregaming it. So we enjoyed a wonderful Newcastle, cold from his ice cooler, in a great buisness building parking lot. Good times.

The concert was great. Chris Martin made a joke about how he was at an award show recently, and never felt as old and talent-less as he did when he met the Jonas Brothers. At one point, he tried to hit a high note that was just a tad out of his range, and mid song said laughingly, “F**k” and came back down to a note he

Coldplay sing Violet Hill on a german talk show

could hit. They started with “Violet Hill”and then continued on to put on agreat show, even had some christmas ornament shaped video screens that came down from the ceiling as well as the newest trite thing to do (I blame U2), blasted confetti from the rafters. Right before one encore, they ran off the stage to the very back of the arena right in tight with the fans, and played 3 songs, including a chilling acoustic rendition of the Scientist. They came back to the front and played one more encore, went off stage, and then came back a few minutes later for a 1 song finale of Yellow. Then as the crowd exited the building, they played the escape. We left the building to find ourselves in pouring rain and having to walk a few blocks back to our car.

After a about an hour, we finally made it thru the traffic back to the freeway and on our way to the Victorville where we arrived around midnight and spent the night. Heidi showed us great hospitality, making us coffee and bisquits in the morning that were very delicious. After hanging with Paul and the kids while waking up, we hit the road for vegas around 8:30am.

Ok, I will try to make this less narrative now. Im sure its dragged on about a gazillion paragraphs too long already.

Vegas was a lot of fun. Thanksgiving is usually its slowest time of year, so they often have great deals. We stayed at the Hard Rock. I love both staying and playing at the HR. Not only are the rooms spacious and includes a flat screen tv, but the casino has a small boutique feel. It is not very expansive like other casinos (tho, it may be heading in that direction). The dealers are also a selling point of the casino. It is a really chill atmosphere where the dealers have no problems reaching across and giving you high five, shooting the breeze with you, or just being funny. And of course, the best part of the HR, is they are always playing really good music, from many different genres and eras. We were there for 4+ days, and we maybe heard one song twice. Even when youre losing money, youre enjoying yourself because of the quaint hotel, the chill dealers, and the cool music.

At the Hofbrauhaus holding a liter of original and a liter of dunkels

We ate at The Pink Taco, Hofbrauhaus (twice), ESPN Zone (twice), Le Creperie, Kaizen Sushi and the Mr. Lucky 24/7 diner. All very tasty (though, the espn zone tended to ravage me–could have been all the greasy bar food). If I havent told you this already, anytime you are in vegas the Hofbrahaus is a must. At least it is for me. I go there usually once or twice per trip. It can be on the pricer side, but the good beer, and great sausages (as well as the other food items), and the kick back festive atmosphere is a good cultural experience.

We went to NY NY a couple times and spent a few hours watching the dueling pianos at the Bar at Times Square. They were a lot of fun. As usual it was a packed house. They are worth checking out if you are ever there. It inspired Joey musically. He misses gigging.

Fountains at the Bellagio from Joey's Camera phone

On Saturday night we saw the comedic hypnotist Anthony Cools. Although he can be more on the crude side, he is really funny. He has a good stage presence. Plus, it can sometimes be fun seeing people doing stupid things.

And of course, the amazing fountain shows at the Bellagio- which i contend are the best show you can get for your money. Even better when you realize its free. Such artistry and musical cooreography. Seeing the fountiains, visiting the hofbrau, and of course gambling (at the HR) are the 3 things I try to do every trip to vegas.

We gambled with someone named Richard Funk. That is right, Dick Funk was at our table. I am sure he was teased as a kid.

Another night, we were heading to the paris (an easy place to catch and exit a cab) as to head out to the strip. As we were leaving the HR, we were asked by a young lady if she could share our cab. We didn’t mind so we said yes. She then asked if we wanted any company for the night. That’s right, we were propositioned by a prostitute. We of course denied her. But it did make for some interesting small talk on the cab ride. I think I tried to ask her how many clients she desires over the course of a night, but accidentally asked I think how many clients she likes at once. I got slightly embarrased, which made it a further awkward ride the rest of the way.

Sadly, this was not my only experience of the trip with that type.  There was a time when I was gambling at a table with Joey, a lady, and 2 sisters. Patti was our dealer (one of my favorite dealers at the HR). Everyone was really nice and there was the typical friendly table conversation (“Good luck with that ace,” “Where are you from,” “What do you do,” “Are you here on business or vacation.”) etc. I think we gambled there for about 20 min or so, and when the 2 sisters left they said they would look for us later that day. Well, we didnt run into them. But the next day, I was shooting the breeze with Patti when she was at an empty war table, and she asked “did you run into them again?” When I said no, she said “good, cause they were ‘working.’ I don’t think they have sex, but they definetly get money.” I could only bust up laughing that we encountered prostitutes twice, and each time by surprise and unsuspectingly.

Gary was another cool dealer that we had while there. He had us busting up everytime we were at his table. And until the final day, he was also very lucky for us. I was winning money everytime with him. Meanwhile he was telling us how he likes to grill his chicken stuffed with marijuana.

Wall of giant T.V's at Espnzone Restraunt at NY NY hotel

Another set of interesting people experiences were when Joey and I went to watch the Lakers game at the ESPNZone Restraunt at the New York, New York hotel.  I do not like the Lakers.  Therefore, I put money down on their opponent that night, the Dallas Mavericks

Chilling in the recliner with a beer waiting for my food and for the Mavericks to win me some money

We sat next to some dread-locked dude from Los Angeles.  Behind us sat two couples.  All were Lakers fans.  The restraunt audio was on a college game and they refused to change it till that game was ove.  Finally in the 4th quarter their was audio.  Anyway, the people behind me kept hitting me in the head while I rooted for the Mavs.  The guy next to me was cool with it, since he understood that I couldn’t root for both the Clippers in life, and the Lakers.

Another small people detail, another small world fact.  We were playing blackjack and we struck up a conversation with the couple next to us.  Joey thought that the guy kinda looked like Jake Peavy -or that he was from Alabama.  Well the girl he was with there, flew in from California, and was a teacher at Poway High.  Yep, small world.

Ok, i’ll write about one more funny experience with people in vegas.  We were taking the cab back to the hotel, I think from New York (though, we later learned to only take them-when possible-from paris). Of course we had a foreign cab driver. We finally are getting back to the HR, when he pulls in the drive way, another cab is kinda hogging his lane going the opposite way, and she decides to honk at him. So he rolls down the window and yells “Up in your ass bitch. You don’t honk at me if youre in my lane.” This was of course with a different accent and had us busting up the rest of the trip.


My Lucky Ass Chip

My Lucky Ass Chip

Normally when i go to vegas and gamble, I start in a big hole before finally digging myself back to even. This time it was the opposite, and it was very enlightening and refreshing. I started out the first day, I ended up $700. I was shocked and excited as this doesn’t happen to me in vegas. Of course, I dwindled that down to end at around even for the trip. I have 2 gambling experiences to share here (cause I know that I have already gone on forever).

Joey seemed to be busting a lot at black jack tables on the number 22. He said many times that he wanted to try playing roullette and then bet some on 22 since he seemed to keep getting that number. So everytime we would walk by a table, I would ask “do you want to try it now?” He would respond with “maybe later.” So finally, after a long day of drinking, I decided that he just might need a little encouragement. So I sat down at a roulette table to give $20 a try. He also then sat and played. But this story is about me. It was a $10 minimum bet, but you could spread $1 chips all over the board. That quickly went away. I took my next stack of 10$ and put it all on red. I won that back. The next spin I spread $10 all over the board. The ball stopped on 00. One of the few places I couldn’t win. At this point, I am over the roulette experience. I figure I am losing anyway, so I take my remainging $10 in chips, and place em all on my favorite number, 5. Lo and behold, it spins a 5. This pays 35-1. So on one roll, I took in $350! I was flabbergasted. I immediately cashed in and went to bed, up $700.

I was mostly up and down on craps all weekend.  But the last night, as Adam had predicted, would be

Fall themed gardens at the Bellagio

Fall themed gardens at the Bellagio

a good craps night.  I think we rolled the dice for a couple hours off of $100.  At went point on that craps table I was probably up about 3-400$.  But like all things that go up, it eventually had to come back down.  Joey picked up a ghetto roll by watching some guy who would roll and then snap his fingers.  Joey kept hitting 4’s and 5’s so I kept place betting those numbers.  Then, the big roller decided to come sit down.  Somebody started betting $1000 at a time on the don’t pass and don’t come lines.  He would even swear very loudly when we would hit points.  It really ruined the mojo of the table.  It was more stressful to roll now.  ThenI was also rolling out of vengence.  I wanted to hit points just to piss him off.

The harder I tried, the less numbers I started rolling.  I eventually decided it was time to go to bed, still up about $150 on that table.
My final gambling tally:


Black Jack @ HR Up $233
Craps @ HR Up $137
Ebay Slot @ Planet Hollywood Down $2
Black Jack @ HR Up $79
Craps @ HR Down $100
Roulette @ HR Up $335
Black Jack @ HR Up $5
Single Deck Black Jack @ HR Up $94
Up the River (black jack/poker combo) @ HR Down $65
Texas Hold em Table Game @ HR Down $120
Black Jack @ HR Up $120
Craps @ HR Down $98
Black Jack @ HR Down $104
Black Jack @ HR Up $5.50
NBA Game (Hornets vs Nuggets) @ HR Up $9.50
Black Jack @ HR Up $4
Black Jack @ The Palms Down $50
NBA (Mavericks vs Lakers) @ NYNY Up $9.10
Black Jack @ HR Down $100
Black Jack @ HR Up $25
Black Jack @ HR Down $60
Black Jack @ HR Down $98.50
Craps @ HR Down $134
Black Jack @ HR Up $7
Black Jack @ HR Down $100
Black Jack @ HR Up $156
Black Jack @ HR Down $100
Black Jack @ HR Down $100
Craps @ HR Up $114
TOTAL Up $51.60

We went to bed about 2:30 that morning, to wake up at 5 am.  We hit the road at 6am to avoid traffic.  We got back to San Diego around 11 am just in time to watch the Chargers suck.  It was a really fun trip.  I am glad I went.  I hope Joey had fun.  I was ready to come home.  4 days in vegas can be really great.  But it can also be really long.  Also on the way back, we stopped at the Guitar Center.  I bought a microphone stand so that I can do two instruments in Rock Band 2.  Yes, I am offically a dork.

This Week I'm Thinking About: Jonathan Wilt