Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Hanging Out with Guildies IRL: Sleeth Part 2

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Tahitian Vanilla Gelato and cocoa nib cookie crust

Back in March, I wrote a post on “How to Meet Your Guildmates in Person,” which was a very cute post, I thought! I wrote about the first time meeting my Despair guildies Ben and Sleeth (SWTOR Harbinger players may be familiar with this name), and I was able to hang out with Sleeth again recently! If you remember from November, I also hung out with my guildie Drios in San Francisco, which I wrote about here.

A few days ago I went out to dinner with Sleeth and his wife Andria, who were visiting Las Vegas to celebrate the New Year! The first time we hung out in person we ate dinner at Gordon Ramsey’s BurGR at Planet Hollywood, as I wrote about in the blog post I linked above! However, this time around, I picked a restaurant at CityCenter.

It’s a little difficult choosing restaurants to go to with visitors, because I don’t want to take them anywhere they can go to at home, nor do I want to take them to an extremely fancy (expensive) restaurant either. Las Vegas has quite a lot of “fancy” restaurants, and I’m a little picky about where I go that is semi-casual. I ended up choosing Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina inside The Shops at Crystals. I had been there before, but it had been a long time. I don’t go out to dinner as much as I used to, so I was excited.

We started with the Calamari “Fritto,” which had basil aioli, tomato sauce, crisp parsley, and lemon. I preferred the tomato sauce over the basil aioli, but both were very good. I also really liked the crisp parsley, which I actually thought was kale at the time. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of this!

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For our entrees, I ordered one of the wood fired oven pizzas: Spicy Pepperoni, Calabrian Chili, and Fresh Ricotta. Sleeth ordered one of the specials, which had pasta, clams, and chili. His wife ordered the Garganelli Carbonara, which contained English Peas, Crisp Pancetta, Egg Yolk, and Parmesan Reggiano. I regret ordering a pizza, because their pastas looked so delicious! Fortunately, I can go back since I live here, but I’ll have to find someone to go with me!

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Zeppole: warm doughnuts, orange custard, and caramel dipping sauce

I saved some of my pizza for later, and we ordered dessert! Sleeth ordered the Tiramisu (mascarpone filling, lady fingers, and biscotti), Andria ordered the Zeppole (warm doughnuts, orange custard, and caramel dipping sauce), and I got the Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse (Tahitian Vanilla Gelato and cocoa nib cookie crust)! I love chocolate. I didn’t try the Tiramisu, but the doughnut was delicious! I don’t normally like orange flavored desserts, but this tasted good enough to overcome that.

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Tiramisu with mascarpone filling, lady fingers, and biscotti

During dinner, we talked about the game of course (Star Wars: The Old Republic) and the guild! It’s a lot of fun being able to talk to people in real life about things you do in-game, and while the community cantinas are great, it’s very nice meeting people I actually interact with in-game and in Mumble (voice communications).

We said our goodbyes, but I will be seeing them again in a few weeks in San Antonio, since they actually live in the area! Hopefully I will be able to take some great food pictures then as well!

(After) Christmas in Columbia, South Carolina

South Carolina State House in Columbia

South Carolina State House in Columbia

This past weekend I flew out to Columbia, SC! The weather was, pleasantly, a bit warmer than it was in Las Vegas, which was very cold and windy. It also rained a few of the days I was there, which made me happy. Living in a desert for 14 years makes me ridiculously excited about rain.

I visited a bar called Flying Saucer and ordered some kind of blueberry ale, which was pretty good! I can’t remember the name, but it had 4.9% ABV. At this particular bar, you can be immortalized in their Ring of Honor by ordering and drinking 200 different types of beers. However, you’re only able to drink three per day towards your total, so you can’t binge and drink ten in one night! Once you achieve the 200 beers, they display a plate with your name, date that you got the 200th beer, and some other things. There were hundreds of plates on display inside the bar! Unfortunately, I am the worst blogger ever and didn’t take a picture of anything.

Darth Vader - Imperial Stout + Framboise

Darth Vader – Imperial Stout + Framboise

I also visited the Columbia location of World of Beer, where I ordered a drink called the “Darth Vader,” which was an even split of Imperial Stout and Framboise. I really like Framboise, but the stout was a little too much for me, though I did think it tasted like chocolate raspberry! I ended up ordering just a framboise after that. I saw the 49ers win against the Cardinals, which I wasn’t expecting, since they’ve been having a disappointing season this year.

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The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden holds a special holiday tradition, the Lights Before Christmas, in which the zoo is lit up in lights! There were regular, Christmas-y lights, and also lights in the shape of the animals they had at the zoo. I went later in the afternoon, so I was able to see a few animals before it got dark, which was the perfect time to see all of the lights. My favorite animals that I saw at the zoo were the koalas, a huge vulture, the tiger, and all of the farm animals!

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Tiger Riverbanks Zoo

Lions Riverbanks Zoo

Gorilla Riverbanks Zoo

It looks like the zoo is in the process of renovating, and there will be new habitats to observe bears, otters, sea lions, and more! I love going to zoos and aquariums, so I’ll have to make another visit there when this is all done.

Additionally, I walked around downtown and around the university and saw the South Carolina State House! I enjoy looking at buildings and architecture and also learning a bit about history, so I really liked visiting this. On the side of the building there are bronze stars marking where it was hit by cannon balls, which I thought was very cool! Additionally, there is a statue of George Washington in front of the building, in which you can see that his walking cane was damaged by brick batting during the Civil War. The Confederate flag also still flies, not on top of the building with the American and South Carolina flags, but in the front of the building commemorating Confederate soldiers who died in the war.

I’m excited for my next trip, which is to San Antonio for PAX South in just over three weeks. I already have my flight and hotel reserved, and I can’t wait to go to the convention, attend another SWTOR community cantina, and meet new people!

Long Beach, Aquarium of the Pacific, Geeky Mamas & More!

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This past weekend I went out of town to Long Beach, CA, which I mentioned in my post from a few days ago. While I was there, I visited the Aquarium of the Pacific, which was walking distance from my hotel. If I have the time, I try to visit an aquarium or zoo in the cities that I visit, and I was lucky to have a bit of time to go! I also visited a few other places that we don’t have in Las Vegas, like Porto’s Bakery, IKEA, and a cute “geek boutique” called Geeky Mamas.

Click “Continue reading” to see a whole bunch of pictures from my trip!

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Hanging Out in San Francisco: Drios & Swtorista

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On my very short trip to the Bay Area this week, I didn’t have a lot of time to do things outside of the EA event, but I did still have a little fun!

When I arrived in town, I used Uber to go to downtown San Francisco, where I met up with my SWTOR operation leader, Drios, who is also one the officers in my guild Despair. I walked for quite a bit in the wrong direction (away from where we were meeting up), but I saw Union Square and went to a few different shops while I waited for him to arrive. I realized I had forgotten some essential toiletries (pouf and toothpaste), so I stopped into Walgreens to buy some travel sized items. I know I probably could’ve just gotten toothpaste from the hotel and used the hotel soap instead of the body wash I brought, but at least I have the items for my next trip. I also realized here that the sales tax rate was 8.75%. In comparison to Nevada’s 8.1% sales tax, I decided I didn’t need to buy anything else since I could get everything in Las Vegas. However, I still walked around for quite a bit and browsed!

Here's a picture of where we went, but not the crappy picture I took.

Here’s a picture of where we went, but not the crappy picture I took.

By the time we met up, I was pretty hungry from walking around! We went to the top floor of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, which has a cocktail lounge and bar with fantastic views of the city. In the dark, I don’t think I took very good pictures, but I’ll include a picture on the blog of what it looks like in the daytime also.

We ordered a few finger foods, some sliders and shrimp (both of which I forgot to take a picture of), and I ordered a Sam Adams. We tried to talk to one of our operation group members in Mumble (which I have on my iPhone), and we chatted about the game and real life! It was his first time meeting someone from the internet, but for me, it was not as daunting since I’ve met many people from the internet a lot lately.

Drios and Dianah!

Drios and Dianah!

He had to work at 6:00am the next morning, so we parted ways! It was fun getting to meet someone I played with in-game several times a week, and now I’m able to put a (better) face to the name. (The only picture I’ve seen of him was of him taped to a tree.)

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The next day I attended the EA event and met Victoria of swtorista.com! After the event was over, we headed downtown. The night before she had also been downtown, but we had not known that the other was going to be in town, so we didn’t hang out. However, we had some time before our flights later that evening to play tourist!

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She had not seen Union Square yet, so on our way there we stopped in Ghiradelli for some drinks. The employee gave us free samples of the Peppermint Chocolate, which was excellent! Victoria purchased a hot chocolate with the melted Peppermint Chocolate in it, and I chose a Pumpkin Pie latte!

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We made our way to Union Square and took a few pictures! I really liked all of the Christmas decorations. We also did some light shopping, but we didn’t have enough time to do anything but impulse purchases. I found a Madewell inside the Westfield mall on Market St., which I was both excited and bummed about. Excited, because I really liked the store and don’t have one to go to in Las Vegas, and bummed, because I didn’t have enough time to take my time, try things on, and evaluate whether or not I wanted to buy anything. Since the sales tax was higher, I guess I can just buy it online now that I am home, but it was nice being able to see and touch the merchandise in person.

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We took the BART back to the airport together, where we had to fly out in separate terminals! It was a pleasure meeting her since I’ve listened to her interview on OotiniCast. We haven’t communicated much online since I prefer Twitter (she doesn’t have an account) and she prefers Reddit (which I haven’t really posted to). However, I’m glad we met and hung out, and I hope we can present some useful information to the SWTOR community about the EA event once the embargo is lifted!

Trying Uber For the First Time

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A few days ago, as some of you might know, I flew into San Francisco for an Electronic Arts (EA) press event for the new Star Wars: The Old Republic Shadow of Revan expansion. I cannot release any information about it yet, but I can write about my experience using Uber while I was in the Bay Area!

My hotel had a free shuttle to and from the airport, so I rode on that when I arrived at the airport. That night, however, I was meeting up with one of my Despair guildies in downtown San Francisco! I had planned to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train, but there wasn’t a station within walking distance, and I didn’t want to take a car to the stop and then the train! I asked the front desk employee as I was checking in the best way to go downtown at that time, and he suggested that I try Uber.

What convinced me to give it a shot instead of calling for a taxi was that he said it was faster (within a few minutes), more convenient (don’t have to fumble with payment at the end of trip), and cheaper than a taxi. I was a bit wary since Uber has had some legal battles in Las Vegas on whether or not it could operate in the city, and additionally, I have no use for it since there is free parking everywhere and I have my own vehicle. On vacation though, away from any sort of public transportation and without a car, I decided to try Uber.

I downloaded the app, which was easy enough, registered with my name, phone number, e-mail address, and credit card information. There was an option to add a profile picture, but I thought it was unnecessary at the time. (Later, I realized the value of adding a profile picture to your account, so that the driver can identify you as the correct person.) I selected my pickup location at the hotel and chose a destination close to Union Square in downtown San Francisco. Nearly immediately, it said I had a driver nearby that would pick me up within 5 minutes, so I hurried downstairs and waited in front of the hotel. The app shows you who is picking you up with their profile picture, name, a rating (out of 5), and the vehicle type and license plate number. My first Uber driver, Adam, was on his way in a Ford Focus!

His car was very clean, and he had GPS and phone screens all over the dashboard. He was very friendly and engaged in entertaining conversation about what I was doing in San Francisco, the Las Vegas housing market, and my gaming hobby. At the end of the trip, I got out of the car, the amount for the trip was displayed on my phone, and a request for me to rate the driver. I gave him 5 stars.

For the duration of my short trip, I used Uber 3 more times. Some drivers I thought were more talkative than others (one gave me a WWII history lesson), and one vehicle was not as spotlessly clean as the others, but overall I had a positive experience using the service. The trips did seem cheaper than a taxi, especially for the long distances that I was driven to. I was happy not to have so much cash. I dislike not having the correct denominations of bills and then having the taxi driver give you change. It was much easier just to leave the car and have the trip charged to my card, which they don’t ever see or have access to. I also was very happy that the drivers arrived quickly to pick me up, within 5 minutes every time I think, aside from the last one that was a bit lost navigating the EA headquarters.

I probably won’t be using Uber anytime soon when I’m home in Las Vegas, but if I visit another city where Uber is available and I don’t have a car, I will definitely use it again!

If you would like to try out Uber, I have a promo code that you can use: heathern184. You can redeem it at https://www.uber.com/invite/heathern184. This will get you $30 off your first Uber ride (and also give me a free ride up to $30 next time I use it).

Going to the Gold Beaches of Corellia

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Just kidding. I wish I was going to the Gold Beaches of Corellia. That would be nice.

In reality, I’m traveling to Puerto Peñasco AKA Rocky Point, which is in Mexico along the Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez. If you follow me on Twitter, this is why I’ve been fretting about bikinis for the past week. I did buy three, despite my previous blog entry only mentioning one, and the one pictured isn’t even one I bought!

I most likely will not post any new blog entries until Thursday (unless I get bored during travel time and whip up another article), but I might post pictures on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook if I find some kind of WiFi hotspot. I apologize in advance for the lack of posts for the next few days, because I try to motivate myself to post something every day.

Stealthing out!

Colossal Cave, Tucson Presidio Trail & Maynard’s Kitchen

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Unfortunately, today was my last day in vacation in Tucson. I don’t know how to purchase the Kindle version of Insurgent, the second book in the Divergent series on my iPhone, so I am blogging instead. I need a tablet/gaming laptop so I can type more efficiently on the go.

I did do quite a few interesting things here in Tucson today, however. I visited the Colossal Cave, located east of the city. The Hohokam had used the cave in years past, but in 1879 the cave was *discovered*, and since then it has been used by robbers, tours, and even some movie filming. Here are a few pictures I took at Colossal Cave Mountain Park:

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I also walked around downtown Tucson, mostly on the Presidio Trail, which is like Tucson’s version of Boston’s Freedom Trail. Unlike the red painted trail in Boston, there is a turquoise painted trail in Tucson. It’s also totally not as cool as the Freedom
Trail. I took some pictures on the way, but the pictures of the pink Pima County courthouse building looked the best:

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Along the Presidio Trail, we saw Maynard’s Kitchen. The menu looked pretty good, so we had an early dinner. We ordered the Rosé and Chardonnay wines along with the Poutine, Steak Tartare, and Mussels off the Happy Hour menu. The mussels were definitely my favorite!

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Overall it was a pretty good trip. Tomorrow’s post will most likely be my review and screenshots of Elder Scrolls Online beta, since they removed the NDA restrictions.

Tacos & Beer in Downtown Tucson

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I cannot stress enough how beautiful the weather is outside today in Tucson the middle of February. It’s 85 degrees Fahrenheit here—perfect weather to be out!

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At the moment I’m sitting at the World of Beer right now, drinking a ridiculously girly Fruli Strawberry Beer. You can’t find any of your really mainstream beers like Bud Light, but they have a large selection of craft beers from around the world. Typically at regular bars I would order a Dos Equis Amber Ale or a Blue Moon, but I didn’t even bother finding out if they had those because this Strawberry Beer is freakin’ awesome.

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I also have the World of Beer app which keeps track of what you have tried so you remember what to get next time! My bartender was really cool and nice; I remember her from last time I was in town about a month ago. Today she told me about how Mudshark (It’s like Blue Moon on steroids!” she said.) was coming out eight fruit flavored Lunacy beers next week. That is something to look forward to next time I go to a bar that carries that brand.

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Today, however, my first stop for lunch was at Gio Taco, right next to World of Beer in downtown Tucson. This was my second time eating there. It’s a fairly newer restaurant, I think. Basically you order from the cashier, then your server brings your food to you. If you want dessert, they can take your order while you’re sitting at your table. Their takeout service is open until 2:30am Thursday through Saturday if you really want tacos when you’re drunk after going to World of Beer, which is sweet!

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I ordered the Grilled Steak tacos, which was kind of dumb of me because they had blue cheese in them, and I don’t like blue cheese. However, they were still good enough to eat the whole thing. I recommend the Tarheel taco, which I had the first time. Those are made up of braised pork, watermelon, and brown sugar. I know, sounds weird but it was really good.

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I ordered the combo, which includes a side and drink. With two tacos, my bill was about $9 and some change. I couldn’t resist getting an empanada ($2.50) while I was sitting there, so I got one of those also. Today’s empanada flavor was apple pie. Last time I came I think I got a chocolate one. It was pretty good, but I was too full to finish it. I stuffed the rest in purse for later!

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That previous picture was of the bar area. The sign outside says that they now have liquor, which is great! I also wanted to mention how friendly and easygoing my server was. She was blonde with glasses, and good service definitely makes a good impression on me.

Stay tuned for more Tucson vacation posts this weekend!

How To Save Time at the Airport

This Valentine’s Day weekend, I will be flying out to sunny Tucson, Arizona. It’ll be in the mid-70s Fahrenheit here in Las Vegas during that time, but in Tucson the high temperature will be in the mid-80s, with lows in the 50s. Suck it, winter!  Hopefully I will have some blog posts scheduled to publish this weekend for you all despite my vacation.

Weather Kitty App 

Quick Fact: Paradise, Nevada is actually an unincorporated town part of the Las Vegas Township, and is where McCarran International Airport, University of Nevada Las Vegas, and most of the Las Vegas Strip are located at. That’s to answer your question on why my Weather Kitty app says I’m in Paradise.

Some of the more tedious things about flying are the lines you face at airport at the check-in area and at airport security. On my way to a destination, I’m usually not rushing to get to my flight on time, but on my way back, I want to spend as much time on vacation before I go to the airport. So how can I maximize my time on vacation and minimize my time at the airport? Here are some tips on how to get to your flight faster.  This applies to domestic flights within the United States. International flights are a whole different monster.

Check-in online, and don’t check in your luggage.

You can completely just avoid the check-in lines if you check-in online, print your boarding pass, and don’t check in your luggage. Now, you can only bring your luggage as a carry-on if it’s small enough and nothing in it is a prohibited item for carry-on bags or breaks the TSA rules for liquids. So if you want to bring your nunchucks, you pretty much have to check in a bag or leave them at home. If it’s really necessary to bring liquids/nunchucks and/or you need to pack a lot of stuff with you (Fashion Week outfits, cosplay stuff for conventions, large winter coats etc.), then you just have to bite the bullet and check it in.

Dress properly for the airport security line.

At McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, we have those cool x-ray machines that scan your whole body when you step into them, so less wand-waving from the TSA workers! However, if you are wearing anything that they need to double check, they’ll still wand-wave you or pat you down. To avoid this pat-down, don’t wear studs or any type of metal on your blouse like I did (the female TSA worker gave me a chest pat-down; not the most comfortable thing) or anywhere else for that matter. Also, do not wear things like belts or large statement necklaces, because you’re just going to have to take it off, then put it back on, which may be annoying if you’re rushing to get to your gate. Additionally, easy-to-remove shoes are best. I usually just wear ballet flats or some type of slip-on shoe so I don’t take up extra time trying to take them off/put them back on.

I find that my time is better spend not waiting in line around in the airport or at the gate, but I guess if you really just don’t care about getting through the airport quickly, by all means, check-in your nunchucks/liquids and wear whatever you want.

Southwest Airlines plane image touching down at McCarran Airport by Brian from Toronto, Canada (Southwest 737) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons