US of A: Viva Las Vegas!!

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October 28th 2011
Published: October 28th 2011
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To be honest with you all, I've been dreading starting this blog. I don't know if it's because we are home and the whole 'back to reality' is setting in or I just don't know where to start with Vegas.....But I don't want to put it off any longer....

We were incredibly excited about Vegas and spent ages over the million dollar question - Where are we going to stay? Eventually, just before we left New Zealand I booked Polo Towers Hotel. It had a brilliant rate for the nine nights we would be spending in Vegas. It ended up just being mid way down the strip which was perfect locationally. We even had a strip view from our huge balcony! It had a little kitchenette, (which was great in case Andy spent all the money gambling - we could just live on cereal!) a gorgeous bathroom and a huuuuge tv! The bed was a murphy style, we had to pull it down from the wall! It was quite funny, it reminded me Batman Returns when Catwoman had that in her apartment. Our other alternative of accomadation was the Stratosphere but we are so pleased we didn't stay there as it was quite a way from the main part of the Strip! As amazing as the strip was, it was funny when you'd think 'O well the Bellagio is just next door to Ceasars Palace but twenty minutes later your still walking next door!'

In a complete dreamland I would have found myself staying at the Bellagio with a view of the magnificent fountains! I really fell in love with that place, I even liked saying the name a lot! Our first night we decided to enjoy ourselves at the Bellagio Buffet! It was really good, the little desserts were delicious! Walking out of the casino we saw our first fountain show - Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On. It was absolutely beautiful, I was really taken with the fountains. We actually watched the fountains every night we were out. I was addicted. My favourite was Elvis' Viva Las Vegas!

And so our routine started, we stayed in bed until late morning, watching tv. American tv was quite entertaining! We normally didn't leave the hotel until 2-3pm and then we used to stay out really late. Vegas really came alive at night. I couldn't believe all the different characters we encounted. People dressed up on the street, crazy drunk people, Mexicans selling prostitute cards by all the traffic light junctions etc.

Our first proper day we decided to go to Madam Tussauds and see all the wax works. It wasn't bad but some of them just didn't look right. We had fun though. As it was in the Venetian we had an explore around the casino and all their lovely, expensive shops. We decided against a gondola ride, it was just too expensive for what it was. We quickly discovered that Vegas Hotels do not want you to find your way out. Over the 9 days we got lost in every single one. That night we had dinner at the Treasure Island Buffet and then watched Sirens at TI, which was a free show. The show was weird. We just had to laugh at how crazy it was. Some devil women taking over the ship and held men hostage. There was a big water fight and fire stunts, can't ask for more when it's free!

One of the days we braved the NYNY rollercoaster which was really good becuase it was so long. Too many rollercoasters are over in seconds. It was quite rickety, we bashed our heads a few times but there were some good loops and drops! We got lost in MGM and visited their Lion Habitat. We stayed for the talk, it was really interesting. They are not the same two lions everyday, they are alternated and actually live on a massive farm not far from the strip.

We decided we wanted to see some of the Exhibitions on show, we decided to get a combo pass. Each exhibit on their own cost $32 each, but we bought 3 exhibits for $54 each which we thought was pretty good value. The first was at Luxor Hotel and Casino and it was the Bodies Exhibition. We were a bit unsure about whether to visit this one, they show real bodies that have been donated to science. It was actually really interesting. We couldn't take any pictures which was fine by me, didn't really want to take any. The bodies were very strange, but they looked a little plastic because of all the treatment it has to stop it decaying so that made it better. There were different rooms, digestive, nervous, respiratory etc. The best bit I thought was they showed a pair of lungs that had been damaged from smoking, they were all black. Next to the case was a huge perspex block with lots of cigarette packets in, inviting people to give up there and then. One scary fact on the wall said that every packet you smoke takes 3 minutes and 45 seconds off your life!

The next exhibiton we went to was the Titanic Exhibition. This one was really good. Everyone knows the story of the doomed luxury liner but it was fascinating to see what Luxor had done. They created a mini ship, when you walked down the corridors it was just like on the film in third class with the red floor and white piped ceiling. They had even created the grand stair case and glass domed ceiling. They had artifacts that had been bought up from the ship. Jewlery, games, plates, dishes, service plates, letters and postcards that people had written whilst on board. They even had a huge iceberg in one room! The best bit was they had even bought a huge 15 tonne part of the ship, called the Big Piece, it even still had the glass portholes in! It's over 26 feet long and was pulled from the ocean in 1998. For 3 years it was treated with different chemicals to stop eroding and then it's been an exhibit. It's been in Vegas since 2003 and will remain there for 10 years. I'm not surprised with that length of time as it took 48 hours just to put it in the exhibition! It was fascinating to see that piece of the ship but my personal opinion is they should just leave the rest of it now.

The final exhibition was CSI: The Experience. This one was really fun. We were given jackets to wear and a clipboard with a case to solve. Luckily, we'd chosen a quiet time so we didn't have to wait to go to the next section. We had to solve the death of a young girl, she had been found outside her workplace. We had to look at DNA, attend her autopsy and look at toxicology reports and work out which drugs she had been taking. We then filled all the information into a computer and they told you whether you'd solved it or you have to go back and look at where you went wrong. Andy and I did it first time and got certificates! It was great, unfortunately, we could only do one case, I would have done them all!

At the weekend, we went to Stratosphere and paid to go to the top of the tower and go on one of the rides. When we got there, Andy was hungry so before we went up we had a Champagne Brunch which was great! We thought we'd just get one glass of champagne but she kept coming to top us up. Before we knew it, we were both very tipsy so any fear of doing the scary ride over the edge of a 900ft tower had vanished with the bubbles! We decided to do Insanity Ride which takes you over the edge on a massive claw and spins you around whilst pointing you at the ground! It was actually really comfortable, I felt very safe but then that might have been the champagne!

After Stratosphere, we thought we might as well go to Fremont St as we were that side of the strip. We hopped on the bus and after many red traffic lights got there. Fremont St is the original Vegas gambling area with loads of casinos right next to eachother. The sky above had been completely taken over by a huge LED screen running the whole length of the street. On the hour it had a show but it was a bit strange, lots of crazy patterns and made us feel a bit sick. We had our best win at the casinos. Definetely better odds on this street! Made a profit of about $40, not bad for beginners! On the bus on the way back to the strip we got talking to 4 Americans who summed up Vegas as an 'adults playground!' Brilliant!

The weather was so beautiful in Vegas, really hot and humid. We had a great rooftop pool and hot tub at the hotel which we took advantage of in the mornings. It was lovely up there. One night near the end of our time in Vegas we went up the half scale Eiffel Tower! It was really good and I'm glad we left until dark to go up as it was beautiful seeing all the lights of the strip. The following day after much research we went on a Grand Canyon Tour! We would never have been satisfied if we had just done a coach tour so we decided to do the whole lot, coach, helicopter and then a boat ride along the Colorado River! I've never been in a helicopter I was really excited!!

Here's a few fun facts:

The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,000 feet / 1,800 metres). Nearly two billion years of the Earth's geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While the specific geologic processes and timing that formed the Grand Canyon are the subject of debate by geologists, recent evidence suggests the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago.

We got picked up from our hotel at 6:30am on the dot and taken to the regestration area at Planet Hollywood. Once we had paid the full amount we were assigned coaches. Our coach driver which also turned out to be our guide was called Kathy. She was a very bubbly person and told you things straight. I asked her which side of the coach to sit on for the best views. Hehe. Kathy told us on the way to the Canyon that if we wanted to be the first at all the attractions we had to listen very carefully. There was only four of us on the coach that were flying in the helicopter, the rest were doing the sky walk which you had to pay extra for. Along the way, Kathy told us stories about Navada state and told us when we crossing into Arizona. She pointed out some 4 lane bridges across the freeway and told us that these bridges were not built for cars but for the horn rimmed goats that graze on the land either side. Apparently they had been there for years and she had yet to see a goat on them!

We got to the helicopter terminal in good time and we had our instructions from Kathy. We raced off the coach and straight for the queue. We had read on reviews that some of the queues for the helicopter rides can be over an hour so the earlier we get there the better. Kathy drove the coach around and sorted out everyone else and then she said she's be in to see us to give us our tickets for the day. Totally unexpectedly, there was no queue and we registered straight away. We were each weighed and then myself and a German lady Bridgit had our hands stamped with Front Seat! Woo! The only bad thing about this was I couldn't sit next to Andy. Being a group of four meant we all had the window seat so it was perfect. We were rushed forward towards the helicopter, Kathy giving us our tickets at the last minute. When we took off we weren't really over the canyon more like on the edge so it was fantastic when suddenly the floor fell away and we were looking down hundreds of metres. It was a great! The view of the Colorado River was fantastic, feeding its way through the canyon. We landed on the rock floor and climbed our way down to the jetty to board the pontoon boat to take us up and down the river. It was a really amazing way to see the canyon from the bottom, looking up. We were surprised how wide it was, from the air it just looked like a small crack. The best thing about it was getting the helicopter ride back up to the top too. It was soo good to do it twice! I loved it when it takes off. I'm not a great flyer, but I felt really safe.

Landing back at the terminal we all thought great, we're going to see everything else like the others. Little did we know that Kathy had given us the wrong tickets in the mad rush. We had her meal ticket as the guide and 3 skywalk tickets. We should have had 4 meal and bus tickets. So, Andy, Jackie (Bridgit's new American husband) and I waited for quite a while at the reception desk trying to get hold of Kathy. Eventually, she came bursting through the doors, her boss had been on the phone and told her off that we'd been given the wrong tickets. Woops. She said it didn't matter and she'd realised what she'd done and was looking for us. Luckily, it still left us enough time to see everything else.

The four of us then caught the shuttle buses that were going around to the different areas. The first one stopped at Eagle Point. This is where the new sky walk bridge has been built. It was an extra $30 each to walk on this glass bottomed bridge that jutted out about 60ft from the side of the canyon. We'd already spent a lot and I didn't really fancy it, especially when you have to put your cameras in lockers and your not allowed to take photos. Apparently, this is because of the Japanese and their huge cameras and tripods cracking the glass floor. Rubbish I thought. So it's ok for some professional to be out there taking pictures of you and your family that you have to pay an arm and a leg for. Eagle Point itself was pretty cool. Really nice views of the canyon and you could see in the rock the formation of an eagle (see pics). We also went to Guano Point which had a really cool pointed area of canyon that people were climbing over. From a distance it looked liked an ant hill. Hehe. Unfortunately, we couldn't climb it as we didn't have time.

We had lunch at a really cool cowboy ranch. It wasn't bad, corn on the cob, coleslaw, bbq ribs and pasta. The way back was quite relaxing, Kathy put a DVD on for us to watch. We got back at exactly 6:30pm, 12 hours since we left. Pretty good!

The next day was our last full day in Vegas and we started it by going to lunch at Hard Rock Cafe! It was really tasty but we were still not used to the huge portions they serve. We had a starter to share and we were so full by the time we had finished that! We had a bit of a gamble and went to pick up our CIRQUE DU SOLEIL show!! We were both soooo excited and had decided to leave this for the last night to make it extra special. We decided to go and see Mystere at Treasure Island. My brother and a few others we know had seen it and said it's really good so we thought why not. In true backpacker form we had cheapy seats and our seats were just a few rows from the back. We had even decided to go to the later show as that was cheaper. When we got to the show we queued up with everyone else, we were ushered into another queue when our tickets were checked. Wondering what was going on we asked and to our delight they said the show was not full so they were moving people down to better seats! We ended up sitting in the closest circle to the stage, just off to the side. It was perfect! We were really chuffed!

The show was amazing! I didn't really know what it was about. I was thinking maybe something like a babies dreams as there was a man dressed as a baby wondering around and causing mischief and some really strange characters. There was some fantastic acrobatics. Our favourite was when two men lifted eachother up in all sorts of crazy ways, it was incredible! The costumes were incredible too and all the staging. It was really fantastic. I don't have anything to compare it with but I thought it was great.

We were really sad to leave Vegas. We had to go to the airport to pick up our hire car for the drive to San Francisco, we asked at Polo Towers if they could arrange for someone to take us. We sorted out a fee and then a limosuine turned up for us! I'd never even been in limo so that was a nice way to travel!! We had two days to get to San Fran so we thought we'd drive, its more fun than the bus or a plane. We booked with Thrifty and went for the wild car option, meaning we'd just have what was available. After going through all the insurance and paying yet more money (dam those under 25 fees) she said they had some Mecury car available. From the picture on the screen it looked a bit rubbish but we didn't complain and she kept saying sorry.

When we got to the next level to pick the car up another woman said that the car wasn't ready so would we like this SUV? YES PLEASE! It was a Ford Escape 4x4 and it was beautiful, brand new this year!! We couldn't believe our luck and quickly settled into our two day journey..................

Hopefully, the next one won't be too long away....hehe......

Hope you are all well.


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28th October 2011

cool blog little dude. Love vegas. Viva las vegas.xxxx
2nd November 2011

Nice Vegas visit accounting
You accomplished a lot on your trip...this was a good summation post. Cool... Cheers Chuck60 on Twitter
6th August 2012

wow, what a trip
I just came across your blog and was impressed. I go to Vegas a couple times a year for business and usually try and sneak a little fun in and I don't think I have done half as much as you both did in the last couple years. Fantastic. I always wondered about the 3/$54 and think next week we are going to try those. You sold me. They should send you your referral fees. :) Cheers!

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