Turning 30 - Vegas Style!

Trip Start Nov 27, 2010
Trip End Dec 12, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Thursday, November 17, 2011

The big 3-0 was approaching far too fast. LA came and went in a blur and no sooner has we landed in the States than we were back at the airport and heading for the bright lights of Vegas.  As far as I was aware Vegas was just going to be a nice little jaunt to Sin City where the 2 of us could enjoy a few days of wandering around casinos and hotels and maybe take a look at a show….how wrong I was! 

Surprise number one was that Nicola had arranged for a limo to pick us up from the airport and drive us down the strip.  Not a bad way to start the trip; a huge limo to stretch out in and we got to cruise down the strip past all of the famous hotels and landmarks right down to the other end to our hotel 'Stratosphere'.  What a cool hotel as well, with a huge tower (complete with revolving restaurant) and 3 different thrill rides perched precariously on the roof.  The sheer size of the place itself is baffling 

We grabbed a tasty bite to eat in the restaurant and enjoyed some spectacular 360 views of the city before jumping on the frequent and thoroughly useful shuttle bus to get down to the other end of the strip, which is a surprising 4 miles long.  We had a look around the Egyptian pyramid-themed Luxor and bought tickets for the very well done Titanic artefact exhibition before taking a  walk past the absolutely over the top ‘New York New York’ and ‘Paris’ to take in their scale mock ups of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.

Back to the hotel and I gorged myself of the all you can eat buffet and could have easily had a kip or stayed in a watched a movie but Nic said that she wanted to ride a gondola at the Venetian so, agreeing that a walk and some fresh air might be a good idea, we set out for the Venice-themed hotel which was about halfway down the strip.

The Venetian and Palazzo are sister hotels connected by a massive underground maze of shops and, amazingly, a canal complete with dodgy-accented gondoliers.  We got our tickets and jumped in for the return trip ‘down town’.  After making the turn and setting back on route back to the dock, our gondolier started belting out some very loud ‘Nessum Dorma’-style operatics as we sat half-embarrassed in our seats.  It was then that Nic turned to me and said that a few friends would be joining us for my birthday and when I looked up there they were all stood in a line on the bridge above us.  I never expected that!!  A complete surprise and we were now headed for an altogether different type of Vegas experience. 

A huge amount of credit has to go to Nicola and Olly for getting their heads together and organising everything for this trip.  I can’t believe Nic managed to keep it to herself for the whole time as well.  I had absolutely no idea! 

It’s hard to believe that a year had passed since I had seen any of these guys.  We grabbed some beers and set about on a little Vegas tour of some of the casinos.  It’s all true that in Vegas there are no clocks in the casinos, they pump in oxygen to keep you awake and you get free drinks if you’re gambling.  We rocked on through to 5am that night with no bother at all.

The next day was another surprise; we were moving hotels down to the Venetian!  This of course worked out great as we would be nears the boys and nearer the action down on the strip.  We had a fairly leisurely day and decided to head down to Fremont Street in the downtown area of Vegas to take in the original big Vegas casinos.  The area has a different feel to it, more worn and a little cheaper but none the less still a good atmosphere.  The best thing about Fremont Street is the Light show which goes off every hour.  A huge LED canopy 90ft up from the street floor and 1500ft long, its plays out a video mural complete with ‘Born to be Wild’ sound track and it was this that marked the transition into my 30’s (at least on US time). 

Nic and I had an earlyish night as the next morning we were up early to take a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon at 8am for my birthday.  This was the first helicopter ride for both of us – and what a place to do it!  After taking off from the airport we quickly moved past the city and into the desert.  We got a good look at the huge Hoover Dam and the newly completed bridge that now stands beside it.

We moved quickly past Lake Mead and further into the desert where the terrain started to move from flat and dusty to rugged and mountainous.  When we came up upon the Canyon itself the sheer size of the thing was awe-inspiring.  Flying over the 1 mile deep crevasse, we felt so small and when we looked over to where the skywalk is, it seemed so small and far away. 

We set down at the bottom of the canyon and got to enjoy the view from another perspective.  We enjoyed a glass of Champagne and watched in amusement as tiny chipmunks raced around close to our table hoping to receive some of the scraps from our sandwiches.  It was a quick lunch and we were soon back in the air and making our way back to Las Vegas.  Our pilot was excellent in explaining the type of terrain we were flying over and the different sights we should look out for.  The final visual treat was a fly by along the strip on the way back to the airport, that’s when we truly got an idea of the size of some of the hotels.  A great birthday so far!

One final Vegas surprise was where were heading for my birthday night. The lads had arranged for a booth at the top club in Vegas – XS at the ultra-salubrious Wynn Hotel.  Wowzers – this place was crazy, surely the very definition of a super club.  Our booth turned out to be an entire room next to the illuminated swimming pool complete with our own waitress.  This was living!  We partied hard and it was a 'never forget' night to celebrate my 30th and our Vegas adventure. 

The last day was largely spent in a zombie-like hung-over state and the last night before heading across country of heading home wasn’t to be a big one.  Most hit the hay the earliest they had in days although a few managed to pull out another big one.  But I did find the time to get a chip from a casino for Mark….by quickly winning (and just as quickly losing) on the craps table.

The next morning most were still struggling a bit but we managed one last get together to say good bye to the boys and thank them for making the trip.  They have to make their way back to the UK via a stop over Atlanta while we would be heading west and back into California.  We said our good byes and at least this time it wouldn’t be so long until I saw everyone again. 

We had a car to collect and some distance to make up before we got to Death Valley.  Getting out of Vegas proved difficult in itself without a decent map.  That coupled with an accident which backed traffic right up meant it took us a couple of hours to get outside of the city limits. 

A whole lot more happened during our 4 days in Vegas but as all the advertisements on the plane in from LA made so clear – What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

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