From Sin City to the City of Saints
Trip Start Sep 14, 2010
10Trip End Nov 16, 2010
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Flying in to Las Vegas we sighted the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam and got a surprise to see just how big the city of Las Vegas is, the houses spread far and wide.
Vegas is loud with the chime of slot machines and caters to all sorts! We got just as much enjoyment observing the different people in the casinos as we did the casinos themselves. There were young adults, grannies on scooters, businessmen and cowboys, the high rollers and the families, just to name a few. When we arrived at the MGM Grand, we were offered an upgrade from a twin room to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite at a minimal cost. We took it! Our room was at the end of a 150m corridor, double door entry, huge living areas and bedrooms and bathrooms with panoramic views of the strip
We weren't sure how we were going to get to see all that Vegas offered so we decided to wander The Strip and look at the different casinos and what they had to offer.They are glitzy and gaudy, but all fun and beautiful in their own right. The MGM Grand has lion cubs on their casino floor and Treasure Island holds a mock sea battle. Paris has a replica of the Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe and the Venetian has canals running through it on which you can have a gondola ride. New York, New York is a mini version complete with the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge. It also has a rollercoaster that Courtney and Pete went on - Courtney screamed through the whole thing. Dawn really wanted to see Caesars Palace and was very impressed with the swanky Forum Shops! It is hard to choose the most beautiful resort - the Bellagio is lovely and the choreographed dancing fountains were fun, but the two newest additions to the Strip, the Wynn and the Encore were equally impressive.
Downtown, the 'old strip' has been brought back to life with a four-block pedestrian mall topped by an arched steel canopy filled with computer-controlled lights. At night, the canopy is transformed into a 6 minute light and sound show enhanced by 550,000 watts of wraparound sound
It didn't take us long to realise why Las Vegas is as big as it is. Our hotel, the MGM Grand, had over 5,000 hotels rooms itself. The number of maids they must need to clean, not to mention the front desk staff, the croupiers, the bar staff, the waitresses, the chefs, the decorators, the maintenance staff, the gardners....everywhere you look in Vegas there is a whole other industry! Nearly everyone in Las Vegas must be connected to the casinos somehow!
We didn't see everything in Las Vegas and were sad to say goodbye to our room, but we saw a lot (and walked a lot!!) in the time we did have there and as we were having no luck in the gambling stakes, it was time to move on. That meant picking up another hire car - unfortunately, a Mercury Grand Marquis. Dawn and Courtney are most unimpressed with the Yank Tank appearance and Pete cant get over the lack of guts it has as a V8
Next stop, The Grand Canyon. As we approached Hoover Dam, we said goodbye to Nevada and hello to Arizona. The weather was getting cold and miserable and we were beginning to worry about the weather ahead. As we drove through barren landscape, Arizona had a more cowboy and indian feel and we also had a brief stint on the old Route 66, stopping in Kingman for lunch.
Our initial plan was to visit the North Rim,but with the season approaching its end, we were unsure of the availability of accomodoation, so headed to the South Rim. Unfortunately the weather at the Canyon wasn't great. It was overcast, hazy and cold but we did get to see a lot more than we first expected. At roughly 1 mile deep and 10 miles across, the Grand Canyon is a pretty big hole in the ground! The Colorado River, which has carved the canyon over the past 6 million years and exposed rocks up to 2 billion years old, travels 277 miles along its floor.
Although the weather obscured our view somewhat, the Rim Trail trek gave a good enough look to appreciate the beauty and expansiveness of it
Leaving the Canyon and Kaibab National Park, we passed throught the Navajo Reservation; the largest Native American Reservation in the country, extending across 4 states. Dawn loved the roadside markets set up by the Navajo and enjoyed browsing through them. It's amazing how the Indians can live in such desolate surrounds.
Once again, we left one state behind and entered another one. Utah is a state we have all wanted to visit. On our way to Salt Lake City, we stopped at Zion National Park. For many, it is the Grand Canyon that epitomises the ultimate US travel destination, but we were all impressed equally, if not more, by Zion
We didnt have time to vist Bryce Canyon, but we have been extremely fortunate with timing our visits to the National Parks. As we travelled further in to Utah, small pockets of snow were on the ground and eventually, it began to fall! As Courtney has never seen snow fall, she is the only one out of us all that is actually excited about the snow!
Parents always tell their kids to go outside and play. In Utah, that could almost be a marketing slogan! The state isnt over-populated and the rugged terrain begs to be hiked, skied and explored. The varying colours are spectacular and as diverse as the biggest set of Derwent pencils and the huge, soaring mountain peeks loom over you from all points in the city. Salt Lake City sits in a stunning mountain setting and is quite a modern-looking city with a sizeable gay community that came as a surprise to us given that Salt Lake is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (better known as Mormon)
We had a lot of contact with Mormon missionaries around 15 years ago and though we never intended on joining their faith, we learnt many things from the missionaries and appreciated and respected what they brought to our family and individual lives. We have stayed in contact with one missionary and we caught up with him and his family for dinner while we were in Salt Lake City. It had been 15 years since Mathews mission and he is now married with children, but it was absolutely lovely to see him again and meet his family.
Temple Square is Salt Lake City's most famous sight. It occupies a 10 acre block and is surrounded by a 15 foot-high wall. We were surprised to be met by Sisters completing their mission at Temple Square. We thought this sounded like a fairly easy mission compared to what some of the other missionaries face when they are on theirs, but the sisters told us that even at Temple Square, they are met by people who do not want to talk to them. Why these people would visit Temple Square in the first place, we dont know! We saw the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall, but the Temple is for Mormons 'in good standing' only. There were fantastic visitors centers that had model displays of the Temple. We thought the Tabernacle and Temple would be bigger and slightly more ornate
Due to the expected bad weather, we headed off to buy warmer clothes and better shoes, much to Dawns disgust! Just as well we did, we had about 4 inches of snow that night and needed to buy an ice scraper in the morning! Our next stop - Yellowstone National Park and Big Sky Country, Montana!