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Published: November 4th 2014
On my flight to Las Vegas one of the movies I watched on the way was "The Edge of Tomorrow". Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt get to relive the day over and over again, basically until they get it right. It felt like I too had that opportunity, well only the once, as thanks to the miracle of the international date line I landed in Vegas before I left Sydney. Plot spoiler - my days went a whole lot better than Tom and Emily's, even if they did manage to save the world.
It was my first visit to Las Vegas, and it was a whirlwind, but the purpose was see Rod, who I hadn't seen for 2 months. The city of around 2 million people is implausibly plonked right in the middle of the desert. Surrounded by dry dusty mountains, everything is big, vying for your attention. The hotels and casinos are huge and over the top, many with thousands of rooms, dozens of restaurants and several theatre spaces, so you never need leave the casinos. They obviously do their job well, as last year there were 37 million visitors, and the revenue from gambling alone was a staggering
$6 billion. If you do manage to leave the casinos though, you can travel the world in this one city, seeing the Eiffel Tower, the London Eye, the Sphinx, Venice and the Statue of Liberty.
There's plenty to see beyond the famous Strip, and my first two nights were spent in one of the nearby suburbs in the hills where Rod was living. For me, it was equally as surreal staying in one of the gated communities, high in the hills, set around a lush green golf course, the velvet greens and manicured gardens tended by an army of Hispanic workers. Beyond the gates were more gates, where the houses got even bigger and even grander. It all felt very strange and unfamiliar, although perhaps it was the 17 hours it took to get there and the lack of sleep which was making me delirious.
Not far away is the Hoover Dam, built in the early 1930s and a feat of modern engineering, which now generates hydro-electric power for use in California, Nevada and Arizona. I couldn't believe that this monstrous celebration of concrete attracts around 7 million tourists a year. My brother visited nearly 20 years ago
and the magnitude of the concrete obviously stayed with him, as he told me that there's enough concrete to pave a road from Los Angeles to New York. I've got to say it was fascinating, however I'm not the target audience to visit an engineering marvel and a concrete explosion. However I was really lucky, as my introduction was with Rod on his friend's boat on Lake Mead. We seemed to be the only boat on the water that day. It was beautiful and peaceful and I was fascinated about the enormity of this man-made dam.
Another nearby tourist attraction was not wasted on me though. The Red Rock Canyon is only a few kilometres out of the city and it's a protected conservation area. With stunning red cliffs, and gorgeous views, I could recommend it to anyone as a welcome diversion from the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip though for both of us, was a helicopter visit to the Grand Canyon. It's a long drive from the city, around 450 kms away, and while day trips on buses are available, the helicopter tour finishing at sunset sounded too good to pass
up. It really is quite breathtaking, and although there were around half a dozen helicopters that buzzed in on convoy on our trip, it really did feel like we had the place to ourselves. We landed in the Canyon on Indian land, enjoying the majesty with a glass of champagne. It was an extravagant treat, but we loved the whole experience.
Of course my visit, however brief, couldn't pass without a true Las Vegas experience on the Strip. The helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon included a flyover of the Strip at sunset. The lights were amazing, and it felt like a rock-star arrival! We stayed in the Bellagio, a beautiful hotel right in the middle of the Strip, famous for the fountain shows each evening. It is a gorgeous hotel, and while not the largest hotel compared to others up the street, there were still nearly 4,000 rooms. It's quite mind-boggling!
We made the most of our prime location, and explored the famous main street. As we wandered up and down the Strip, my eyes were on stilts. Dinner was at one of the Bellagio's restaurants (I think I counted 14 in total) before heading "next door"
to Caesars Palace to enjoy the wickedly funny Absinthe, a kind of crude twist on Cirque du Soleil. I say "next door" because the walk from one to the other took nearly 10 minutes after traipsing through the slot machines and casino tables, passing restaurants, and shops of all imaginable luxury brands. Any newly won cash is easily spent again.
The show was great, very funny, but you definitely needed to come with an open mind and probably a drink in hand. We both enjoyed the spectacular acrobatic feats as well as the wildly politically incorrect, but outrageously funny humour.
It seems like nothing ever closes in Las Vegas, so after our show finished around midnight, we went on to listen to some live music at the BLVD Cocktail Company in the new-ish LINQ Promenade over yet more glasses of wine. Eventually in the early hours of the morning it really was time to find our beautiful hotel room.
Not surprisingly the next morning we had a slow start. After three days in Las Vegas we needed to figure out how we would get to Los Angeles - sadly it was time for me to go home.
Yep, I had the true Las Vegas experience, flying from Sydney for a few short days, with a night with Rod in LA on my way back. I certainly made the most of it, it was a fabulous trip, and we are already planning the next one. What a shame I can't relive those days over again like Tom and Emily....... I must've done it right the first time!
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