Thursday, October 11, 2012

Love Birds Do Vegas and Blogalicious 2012 - Pt. 1

It's been a little over a week since I returned from Blogalicious, and I'm ready to share my experience although honestly, I still feel jet lagged (I'm partially blaming the change in weather). 

I knew Blogalcious was going to be something special when I learned the conference size soon after attending BlogHer (approximately 300 vs. BlogHer's 5,000). Attending BlogHer was fantastic prep for Blogalcious kinda like how Boston cut my teeth for the move to New York. Going to the premiere blogging conference really laid the groundwork for how I wanted to approach Blogalicious and ultimately, I'm so glad I went to both in the same year. 

The set-up

I'm going to break down my recap into days then do a "know-before-you go/best-of" post to summarize what I learned. Since this was also a mini-vacation for Mr. Love Bird and me this recap will follow everything we did chronologically in addition to the conference events I attended. {Shout out to my Samsung Galaxy SIII  - it ROCKS - and Evernote for helping with the recap and no, I wasn't paid to say that!}

Here we go . . .

Thursday, September 27

We flew out of JFK on a Virgin America morning flight; unlike our previous trips to Vegas this was the first time we had a layover. We stopped for an hour in San Francisco and it was actually cool to fly into the bay and check out the airport. It was so zen. I definitely need to make a separate trip back for a visit.

This is 97% of the reason why I feel the need to return to SFO
Like my London flight experience on Virgin Atlantic, flying Virgin America was fantastic although we didn't get snacks, but the OTP (on time performance) throughout was superb! The only hiccup we had was when they gate checked our bags and didn't bring them to the gate when we deplaned. Instead we used most of our one hour layover getting them from baggage claim and re-entering security. The SFO staff was very accommodating and kind through the experience.

{A bit random but I'm quite the geek when it comes to in-flight entertainment. The favorite things I watched were a documentary about OWS by Christof Putzel which went inside the encampment to show how exactly the protest was run and this very strange music video which left me confused, but laughing so hard I cried - even funnier are the YouTube comments.}

Driving from the airport
We made it to Vegas and the sun was just starting to set. It felt like a homecoming seeing the city shimmering. Our first stop was our favorite Vegas restaurant Lotus of Siam (you can check out my picture of the unassuming, strip mall store front here and a quick but fantastic video about the restaurant here). It was a glorious meal even better than we had remembered since our last meal there in 2008, and there were several moments when we closed our eyes in pure food bliss. We ordered the exact same thing we did in 2008:

Garlic pepper wings spicy and crisped to perfection - just don't kiss anyone for several days!
Tom Yum noodle soup - I LOVE that it doesn't have mushrooms in it like most other versions. It's made based on your preferred spice level 1-10; I'm a 4 and Mr. Love Bird's a 6 (his nose was running by the end of the meal!).
That night we went to the club Pure at Caesar's Palace. It was more of rooftop experience and wasn't that great, but we liked the view. From there we walked around the strip for a bit then it was back to the hotel...

Friday, September 28 

Thankfully the conference events didn't kick off until noon (so smart of the organizers to do it that way) so Mr. Love Bird and I went to Hash House A Go Go - thank you to Jai Stone for tweeting her visit there which reminded me it was a "must visit" restaurant (the one off strip NOT at Imperial Palace!). 

Hash House A Go Go prides itself on making everything fresh, farm based and no microwaves or processed food. YES! We were there early enough that we were seated in about 10 minutes but by the time we left the lobby was packed with people waiting to get a table. 

My pumpkin pecan pancake
Attempting to master the Man vs. Food special
We made the 25 minute drive from there to Red Rock Resort and Casino, the location of Blogalicious. I couldn't stop staring at the mountains on the way there and the property was gorgeous. Mr. Love Bird accompanied me to registration and I was on my way!

Trying to capture the mountains from a moving car
You can see me and Mr. Love Bird at registration here

The expo hall was open while attendees waited to enter the main ballroom; I was so stuffed I couldn't touch the buffet. I did love the fresh fruit Gain provided though!

The eating experience and options available were great - lots of fresh, spa food. I would return just for the food alone!

Notice those cereal centerpieces? Yeah, I was mesmerized by them (and I'll have a close-up pic later)!

 At last it was time for the official welcome from Justice Fergie and her team.

We heard from Judene Walden about the State of Digital Media then it was on to the Shop Your Way Afternoon Tea sponsored by Sears and Kmart. Everything was a blur for me leading up to the conference and thankfully in the midst of it all I had remembered to RSVP for the tea. I'm so glad I did! They gave away two iPads and although I didn't win, it was so fun watching Swarthy Daisy celebrate her win - she seriously did a church shout and I was right in front to witness it. I wish I had recorded it!

I borrowed by sister's flower headband from her friend Stephanie's recent wedding to wear to the tea - thanks sis! {The Type A me was annoyed at my crooked badge I noticed later!}
By the time of the tea I was finally ready to eat. After my huge breakfast I was scared my appetite was ruined for the rest of the day! I had a couple of the delicious finger sandwiches and some veggies and I was back in normalized blood sugar bliss. I surprised myself by staying away from the sweets and didn't have any until the last conference meal (the lemon bar was SO good and I was sad when the waitress whisked away my brownie when I stepped away from my table briefly).

I kinda have an obsession with the Panorama feature on my Galaxy SIII!
After the tea it was time for the poolside niche chats. It was an adventure getting down to the pool, but thankfully I was one of the first to arrive and was able to spend some time chatting with Krystal Grant before her session began.

Krystal led the Life chat: Connecting Through Your Computer - Developing Real & Lasting Friendships. Krystal is extremely personable (she reminds me of my Aunt Angela, who is also a teacher like Krystal; coincidence?!). This chat was along the lines of my goal I set earlier this year to get from behind the computer screen and meet fellow bloggers face-to-face. Mission accomplished!

Next up we walked across the cabana area to the McDonald's party; fellow NYC dweller Kitty Bradshaw, who I met at BlogHer was a co-host of the party and welcomed the attendees.

I thought it would just be fast food at the party, but thankfully they not only had that but fresh, tasty options as well. I had chilled soup and veggie wraps. Good stuff! There were stations to get your picture take in costumes, pampering sessions and a DJ who kept the ladies dancing. Again I was floored by the view!

I squeezed in a make-up session (eyes and lips mostly) before heading to the strip with about 40 attendees via bus. 

First up was Lavo then the ladies continued on to Tao in the Venetian {the goodie bags included foldable flats, which are great post-club, but sadly mine are too small and I'm still trying to find someone to swap my M for a L; if you attended and wanna swap lemme know!}

The Venetian is gorgeous, but it has a distinct perfume throughout that I've never liked
Mr. Love Bird met me at Lavo, was introduced to the group then we headed to Bellagio. It was packed! We saw the requisite floral display, but I decided not to venture in because I realized it was just a repeat of the one I saw before. Bummer!

At the Bellagio after dinner on Friday
We wandered around the strip a bit before heading back to the hotel. It was going to be a much earlier morning Saturday, but I couldn't go to bed before taking a few glamor shots to savor my make-up and the night view from our hotel room:

If you're a blogger have I enticed you to attend Blogalicious yet? It only got better over the next two days. Stay tuned . . .