Trip Start May 11, 2007
12Trip End Jun 07, 2010
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Where I stayed
The Auckland-LA leg was as good as it gets as far as long haul economy class flights go. I got an exit row seat so plenty of leg room and right next to the toilets so I was able to jump in as soon as the Fasten Seat Belts sign went off and change into my sloppy joe and trackies. Started reading the new Jeffery Deaver book I bought at Melbourne Airport – Cold Moon. Jamie bought another Deaver I hadn't read so we agreed to swap as soon as we both finish and then discard them to cut down on superfluous weight. I realised I'd left $3 in change in the toilet when I was changing clothes, which naturally wasn't there when I went to retrieve it.
Same deal with the entertainment system on this aircraft as the previous leg – movies and TV shows on demand. My screen kept drooping so one of the stewardesses jerry rigged it with gaffer tape. Watched Speed with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock as there was nothing in the selection of new movies that I hadn’t already seen that I particularly wanted to
Tried my No Jet Lag tablets – one on take off and then another one every two hours until we landed. Actually feel quite good this morning – a lot better than arriving in LA last November. Took one of the sleeping pills Jamie gave me about 4am LA time and basically passed out until breakfast – sausage and potato omelette - very tasty. The food on ANZ is actually very good, as well as the service.
Caught a connecting flight from LA to Vegas arriving about 4.30 pm. Still a bit vague from the sleeping tablet (I ended up taking two which was overkill) so after a couple of "big beers" at a little bar next to the gate lounge I don’t remember much about the flight at all. Incredibly long line for taxis once we got out of the airport, but well organised so we were on our way to the Luxor Hotel a little after 5pm.
The Luxor is amazing – a little tacky but amazing. The main accommodation wing is shaped like a black glass pyramid, and the décor is all Egyptian themed as well
Checked in and bought some postcards from one of the stores ($1 each - the casinos here seem to double as shopping malls) and some stamps from a vending machine. The sign said international postcards cost 90 cents to mail, but there doesn't appear to be a stamp for this amount, so I had to buy a combination of booklets to make up the required postage.
Met Jamie at the ram fountain in the foyer and started our orientation walk. Las Vegas Boulevard is amazing – complete fantasy land. There are people handing out cards advertising escort agencies that look like ads you see in Picture magazine at home. Most of these people seem to be Mexican. There are also newspaper vending machines that are filled with magazines with naked women on the cover that I assumed were more comprehensive versions of the business cards the touts were handing out
The Luxor is at the southern end of the strip near the Mandalay, the Excalibur and MGM. First stop was an Irish pub called the Nine Fine Irishmen. Ordered a couple of big beers (I had a Guinness) and sat outside in a little beer garden looking out onto the strip, then walked down to the Bellagio. Very luxurious but at US$20 for a glass of wine we decided to drink elsewhere. Stopped at the Paris that is dominated by a replica of the Eiffel Tower. The interior is supposed to make you think you're in a square in Paris surrounded by typical French apartment buildings, except the "square" is crammed with poker machines and gaming tables. The roof is painted like a sky at dusk with very realistic looking white clouds. Had a couple of glasses of wine there and played the poker machines that are inset into the bar then kept walking. We crossed the road via a sky bridge and had delicious margaritas at an outdoor bar, the name of which I can’t remember. Mine was mango flavoured and Jamie opted for the traditional lime with salt on the rim of the glass. An Elvis impersonator wandered by and I paid him $5 for a photograph – he asked me what my favourite Elvis song was and when I said “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” he serenaded me with a few bars
Walked back to the Luxor, stopping at a convenience store along the way. Bought a bottle of Sutter Home California Merlot for $9.99 – there’s no mini-bar in the room so I have create my own. I also bought a bottle of coke to mix with my duty free rum, but they don’t even have a fridge in the room to keep it cold (presumably they want the guests to spend as much time as possible down in the casino). Also got some cashews and some more postcards – 7 for $1! I should know better than to buy anything from the hotel as it will invariably be significantly cheaper on the street.
Had dinner at a Mexican place in the Luxor called La Salsa which was excellent. They sell margaritas by the yard in these long, bulbous bottomed plastic glasses that you see people slurping on in the street. Everyone seems to drink in the street in Vegas which gives the place a real party atmosphere. Ordered the Champion Burrito with shrimp, rice and black beans – the deal is if you can get through the whole meal AND a yard of Margarita the restaurant gives you a free T-Shirt. I failed miserably in the attempt managing to only get through half of each, but at least I got to keep my Margarita glass! It was about 10.30 pm by this stage and we were both ready to call it a night, agreeing to meet at the ram fountain at 10am the next morning
May 13, 2007
Woke up about 5am feeling reasonably intact – the No Jet Lag seems to have worked. Rearranged the furniture in my room so that the table is now in the corner near the power point so I can plug in my laptop – which I have done - and one of the chairs now faces out my window. Not a great view as we’re on the first floor, but I can see the MGM and the Excalibur across the road framed between two large faux Egyptian columns. My room is very nice – quite large with ancient Egyptian-style paintings on either side of the bed, one of which shows a felucca on the Nile with a temple In the background.
Around 7.45am now. I have bundled up some brochures, stamps, and other touristy stuff for my journal in one of the complimentary Luxor envelopes and will drop this off at the front desk to mail home to myself, then probably a quick walk before I catch up with Jamie. Also need to send first round of postcards – I printed off a list of all the people I will be sending them too on sticky labels before I left, so just have to peel them off the sheet rather than write them out by hand
Walked to the Mandalay Bay – the casino next door to the Luxor - via the Luxor pool area which is currently being refurbished. They have a row of little tents next to the water, each with its own fridge, a TV and deck chairs, plus a sprinkling system that sprays misted water over the entrance – I saw the same system outside the main entrance of the Riviera casino later in the afternoon; obviously meant to keep the guests cool and comfortable in the desert heat.
The Mandalay is a little more tasteful than the Luxor – lots of black marble and subdued lighting. It also has an aquarium full of sharks that is open to the public from 10am, but as I was meeting Jamie at this time I gave it a miss. Walked back to the Luxor along LV Boulevard and took some shots of the Sphinx, which is actually the main entrance to the hotel, not the car park as I first thought.
Met Jamie and walked down the Strip to the Forum Shopping Mall near Caesar’s Palace – amazingly opulent and over the top; stained glass, huge statues and a ceiling like the Pantheon in Rome
Bought a $2 margarita from some cheapo casino and slurped my way down LV Boulevard where I found an even more downmarket place that had $1 a bet blackjack tables. Quickly blew $20 before checking out Circus Circus next door (almost as depressing) then headed back up the strip. Caught a taxi back to the Luxor (about $8) then had an afternoon siesta.
Met Jamie at the usual place about 5pm and walked across the road to MGM. Had a Pina Colada at a bar there ($12 for a regular) then caught the monorail to Harrahs where Wayne Newton is currently playing (no, he isn’t dead yet). Walked to the Venetian which looks like a replica of St Mark’s Square from the outside and a tacky Sistine Chapel inside. Had dinner at a French restaurant called Bouchon. Excellent meal
Cirque de Soleil was incredible – beautiful costumes, great dancing, superb circus acts and comedia del arte type comedy, particularly from the guy who started the show pretending to be an usher. Bought three little bottles of California red from the theatre bar for $7 each, two of which I drank during the show, the third one on the walk back up the strip to the Luxor. The lake in front of the Bellagio had a water fountain display that had attracted a huge number of people, but after we fought our way through them it was smooth sailing. As usual, lots of people drinking as they cruised the strip and Mexican guys (and girls) handing out cards with photos of beautiful semi-nude women, all of whom you could apparently rent for ridiculously low prices. I’ve decided I love Las Vegas – it’s full on and laid back at the same time, and anything short of sex in public and violence appears to be acceptable
Left my key in my room so I had to get them to issue me with a replacement. Picked up my bottle of rum from Jamie’s room, filled the ice bucket in the bathroom from the dispenser down the hall, and mixed a couple of stiff rum and cokes while I updated my journal.
Early start tomorrow – getting picked up at 8.10am for our helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. Steve and Sharon arrive tomorrow after lunch. Considering the day ahead (plus the fact that its already 2am) I think I’d better call it a night.
May 14, 2007
Met Jamie at the ram fountain and caught the bus to Boulder Airport a little after 8am. Drove through the Las Vegas the tourists don’t usually see – suburbs and sub-divisions, lots of billboards advertising new developments starting from sub $200,000. Later we saw some of these from the helicopter and they are in the middle of the desert – can’t imagine why anyone would want to live there
Bought some postcards and a sliver of pink volcanic rock from the airport concessionary then watched a safety video about helicopters, which I paid as much attention to as the in-flight safety demos on aeroplanes (ie none). There were six of us in the helicopter – two French Canadians, a pommy and another Australian (from Endeavour Hills near Dandenong I think he said). We had to weigh in to determine where we sat during the flight - I got a window seat on the left hand side. Flew over the Hoover Dam then on to the Grand Canyon – quite spectacular. Our pilot was very good and told us all the history of the places we were flying over – apparently a lot of the land is owned by the traditional owners (the Walopi I think he said) who are the ones who just opened the skywalk over a section of the canyon, although our guide was quick to point out that our trip provided a much more comprehensive experience.
We landed at the base of the canyon near the Colorado River where we had a light brunch of turkey and lettuce rolls washed down with a glass of cheap champagne. Time enough to take some photos before heading back to the airport, arriving about midday, then a minibus ride back the Luxor
Walked to Lots o’ Slots and played the $3 blackjack table while drinking $1.25 margaritas (probably alcohol free for the price). Jamie won $12 and I won $15 so a successful afternoon! They were handing out coupons at the entrance for Happy Hour: 9am – 10am! Ah Vegas – supporting a culture of responsible drinking!!
Steve rang Jamie’s mobile from Circus Circus next door and we caught up with him, Sharon and Chloe at the front entrance. They had lunch at McDonald’s (I wasn't hungry) then we caught a taxi to New York New York for drinks at the Nine Fine Irishman. There was a guy playing traditional Irish songs downstairs, but he was too loud so we got a table upstairs on the balcony. Had a couple of beers then went back to the Luxor and had a margarita each at El Salsa. Sharon took Chloe back to the Marriot then the three of us retired to Jamie’s room and drank some of my Appleton’s rum with Pepsi before walking to Smith and Wollensky’s for dinner.
Ordered blue fillet with gorgonzola and a side of whipped mash (mixed with garlic and basil oil, not butter)
Walked to the Tropicana and eventually the three of us ended up at the same $5 blackjack table. Played for about an hour and lost $30 – netting out my $15 win yesterday afternoon Vegas owes me $15 – not a bad result for the world centre of hard core gambling, and considering I had three glasses of red for free (courtesy of our attentive Chinese cocktail waitress) I can probably consider it a break even situation. Left the boys to carry on, then walked back to the Luxor for had a nightcap before calling it a night.
May 14, 2007
Alarm woke me at 6.15am, showered and checked out – total for 3 nights stay at the Luxor was $512 US
Bought some Visine from Hudson’s Newsagents (my eyes have been sore since I arrived in Vegas – maybe because the air is so dry) then was told I had to buy a ziplock bag to get it through security. This was obviously superfluous as the girl in front of me just dropped her stuff in one of the plastic trays and they let her through.
Train to terminal D then bought an egg and beef patty on a biscuit from one of the cafes (quite unappetising) and got to the gate just before boarding. Took off about 8.40am and landed in Denver two hours later (11.30 local time). My flight to New York leaves at 12.48pm so a good quick connection – just long enough to find an empty power socket near my gate and recharge the laptop. Not a meal flight – just drinks – so I had a glass of water and read a few chapters of Deaver.
On the plane to New York now, which arrives at 6.30 pm local time (3.5 hours in the air). Bought a snack box for $5 (UA are truly a budget airline) – corn chips and salsa, a bag of trail mix, some sort of Wisconsin baked cheese snack and a packet of something that tasted like beef jerky. Read some more Deaver then watched about an hour of Earthsea on the laptop – unfortunately it’s almost impossible to hear even at full volume due to the plane noise.