You’ve fallen in love, again, with your mate, or you’ve just met a new mate, and you’re wondering what you can do for the two weeks vacation time coming up. It’s a long plane ride to the west coast of the U.S. but what the heck, you’re looking for romance, and why not take the flight?
But where to go first?
Start in Las Vegas. Get a taxi from the airport and head for the Bellagio Hotel. Before checking in, go to the high roller’s room, where they play baccarat. Give the cashier ten crisp hundred dollar bills and ask for one coin to play the thousand-dollar slot machine. There are only two of these machines in all of Vegas, and both of them are in this room. The jackpot pays a million bucks. No one has ever hit that, so it’s prime. But there have been a few who turned their single spin into a half million dollars. You’re probably going to lose a thousand dollars in Vegas over the two or three days you’ll spend there, so why not get this over with right away? You’ve flown fifteen hours, your luggage is still next to you, you’re in this high roller room, and you’re about to put a thousand dollar coin into an oversize slot machine. This is about as crazy and impetuous as it gets. But consider this: you win, you’ve got the next twenty years worth of vacations paid for; you lose, it’s in your budget, just be prepared to get back in that taxi, head for the airport, and get out of Vegas fast. You’re down a thousand bucks, but you didn’t pay for a hotel room, and you’re on your way to Scottsdale in Arizona.
Or: your thousand-dollar gamble paid you a few grand, and that covers the next two days in Vegas. The Bellagio’s a nice place to hang. But so is the Venetian, or the Mandalay Bay, or any of the other hotels on the strip. Vegas is a trip no matter where you stay. There’s a monorail that runs from hotel to hotel, so you can stay in one place and eat or play at the others. You’re free to choose where to throw your money away in any of the gaming rooms whose ambience you most prefer.
Either way: once out of Vegas, why not go to the Fairmont Princess Hotel in Scottsdale? Get yourself a suite in one of their private casitas ($319 to $739 a night), go to their very fancy Willow Stream Spa where you can enter the Inhalation Eucalyptus Room and clean your sinuses with this pungent aroma, then get a golf sports massage for $190 (expensive, but worth it, they know all the right points to press) and go play on one of the two golf courses they have there. The TPG Stadium course was the site of the Phoenix Open, where Tiger Woods aced the 16th hole par 3 ($214 per round). The Desert Golf Course cost just $54 a round, but isn’t as memorable. You can take a Jeep trip into the desert or a balloon ride to look down on the desert if you’re up for it. And then get in a plane and fly down to San Diego, where you can rent a car and drive thirty miles north to Carlsbad.
Why Carlsbad? That’s the home of Callaway golf. If you’re a golfer, this is a good stop, because they have a computerized testing center that can help you select the right clubs. It’s by appointment, so call ahead: they will analyze your swing, check the speed, the angle, the follow-through, and present you with a printout that puts it all before you. Here’s why you slice, here’s why you hook, here’s why you dub, here’s why you hit the ball only 140 yards instead of 175. You can have specially ordered clubs made for you; you can purchase standard clubs off the rack; or you can take your printout and go home to your favorite golf dealer and let him tell you what other brands might do just as well for you. (Callaway also has a testing center in Australia, so if you don’t have time for this, you might want to check out their web site and see if any other center is more convenient for you: www.callawaygolf.com)
Okay, you spent half a day in Carlsbad, turn around, head south, and go spend the rest of the day at the Hotel Coronado in San Diego. It’s a world class hotel, it’s the place where a lot of movies have been shot, it’s huge, it’s got great staircases, it’s on a beach. Eat there, drink there, walk on the sand outside, take a drive over to Old Town to look at some funky stores, and then prepare for the best week of your life. Because you’re going to return the rented car at the airport where you got it, and catch the free shuttle that will take you the forty miles southeast to the U.S.-Tecate, Mexico border. Three miles from that border, on the Tecate side, is the oldest health spa in the Americas: Rancho La Puerta. It’s a place you will never forget.