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USA Road Trip Part 7 – Las Vegas

USA Road Trip Part 7 – Las Vegas
August 26
09:00 2015

PIT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

Day 14 began hot and sunny once again. Apart from some rain in Telluride, our weather had been amazing and with Las Vegas, Palm Springs and Scottsdale being our final destinations, we didn’t exactly have blizzards to worry about.

After we had packed up in our little hotel in St. George, Utah, we headed across to the dining room for breakfast. We should point out that an American hotel breakfast isn’t too similar to that of its European cousins. In place of a balanced meal of cereal, fruit, eggs and bacon, you should expect bagels, muffins, donuts and if you’re in for a treat, the slightly vomit-inducing ‘country gravy’. But the breakfast certainly got us ready for our 185km drive to Las Vegas. So we hit the road from Utah to Arizona and driving through the wild mountainous desert, there was little sign of civilisation until we reached the Nevada border, where the small and seemingly sleepy town of Mesquite boasted a huge WalMart that seemed out of proportion to the size of the town.

With our WalMart picnic lunch provisions on board we drove on for a few miles before coming off the freeway and parking basically in the middle of the desert to have lunch. We were close to the entrance of the Valley of Fire State Park and judging by the temperatures, this name was very appropriate.

las vegas

WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS

Between Mesquite and Las Vegas we hardly met a soul and you didn’t see anything but a seemingly endless desert landscape. Then, suddenly, shimmering in the distance in the afternoon heat, we caught our first glimpse of the Las Vegas skyline. It still seems crazy that such a large city exists in a place so remote and inhospitable and the fact that its 140,000 bedrooms regularly sell out is unbelievable and a little bit crazy.
Up until now, driving had been easy and stress free, but arriving into Vegas on a busy Friday late afternoon hadn’t maybe been the best decision. Heavy, fast-moving traffic surrounded us and merged from every direction on a five-lane freeway the whole way into the city so we were relieved to finally pull into our hotel. It was a quiet, smallish hotel, located just off the strip beside the MGM Grand. Our hotel did not have its own casino and did not charge the usual resort fees. You were even allowed to park your own car…what a treat! Weekends are the most expensive and busiest days in Las Vegas, so if you have the option, try to visit during the week as you will be able to stay at the most glamorous hotels at much reduced prices and move around more freely.

Our hotel had a small pool, which was mostly in the shade of our towering neighbour hotel, which was currently carrying out building works. Due to the inconvenience of the construction, and possible falling debris, we were permitted to use their pool terrace on the 35th floor. An elevator ride of 35 floors to get to a rooftop swimming pool was definitely a new experience for us and we spent a few hours by the pool with panoramic views of the city, where we were sprayed by water misters to make the heat more bearable.

las vegas

HOBNOBBING WITH THE CELEBS

Night arrived and we headed out into a still stifling hot Las Vegas to explore and get dinner. Walking though the MGM Grand we noticed a lot of activity. We had walked right into the venue of the ‘iHeartRadio Music Festival’, where for the next three nights the stars of the music world would hang out and perform. From Queen, Katy Perry, Ylvis, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake and Avril Lavigne to Bruno Mars, Maroon 5 and Paul McCartney – everyone who was someone in the world of music appeared to be present. A quick souvenir photo on the kindly provided red carpet and on we went into the depths of the hotel. Until you have actually seen palaces like the MGM Grand, Caesar’s Palace or the Venetian with your own eyes, it is hard to imagine the scale of them, as they are designed to be like mini cities. You will also struggle to comprehend that you could easily walk around one hotel for an hour or more, just looking for a particular restaurant or shop (not that this ever happened to us 😉 ). Many have over 4000 bedrooms and casinos so enormous that you get lost trying to find a way out! Again, we are not speaking from experience here … cough cough.

THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF VEGAS

It was Friday and out on the street it was nearly impossible to move for the masses of people, so going anywhere took quite some time even if it didn’t look far. Adding to this challenge is the fact that pavements stop every few metres and pedestrians are directed up steps or escalators and through hotels in which of course you will get lost. Ladies, pad your stilettos – your feet will be eternally grateful! There were numerous girls dressed as exotic showgirls and people dressed as movie characters, all looking for money for photographs. Every few seconds someone tried to hand us ‘business cards’ for prostitutes – even though we were clearly a couple. We had found the shady side of Las Vegas where everyone is out to make a quick buck by any means possible.

las vegas

We had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Caesar’s Palace’s Forum Shops. Designed based on an Italian city, you can stroll along cobbled streets here, past various fountains and statues. The magical ‘sky’ on the ceiling gives the illusion of daylight even during the night. Luckily, the Cheesecake Factory does not only have cheesecake to offer, because this is where Nigel had his first encounter with Bang Bang Chicken & Shrimp – the beginning of an epic love story. The dish was so good that he is now obsessed with it and would happily book a holiday based around whether there was a Cheesecake Factory nearby. Their famous cheesecakes, which we sampled the following day, were also mouthwateringly good.

We were only there for two nights and because time was valuable we decided not to see a show. Shows here can be expensive and there are so many free things to see that they’re not always necessary.
The Bellagio Hotel for example has a spectacular fountain show. This huge extravaganza of a fountain spouts its delights various times a day to the sound of music and is a real pedestrian show stopper! The nearby Mirage hotel has an actual erupting volcano outside…as you do! The Venetian is true to its name and in its interior the visitor can embark on gondola rides through its canals. The Paris boasts its own Eiffel Tower and the New York New York its own entire skyline (including a scary amusement park rollercoaster ride). Restaurant and shopping fans will definitely enjoy Vegas and make a memory here that will be more lasting than a trip to your local Tesco. Every step along the strip is an adventure. There are things to see everywhere that you will definitely not have seen anywhere else. If you fancy a bit of risk-free gambling, we recommend a bit of roulette on a fixed budget. If you are awkward and shy like us, you can try one of the fully automated roulette tables without any risk of embarrassment – we even managed to leave Caesars Palace in profit!

las vegas

A PLACE LIKE NO OTHER

Las Vegas can be summed up in one single word: C-R-A-Z-Y! We had a lot of fun, but two or three nights seemed long enough in Sin City, because there are so many other amazing places worth seeing in this part of the world. There is a lot to do in Vegas, but most activities revolve around pure gluttony and are not family friendly. There is a fine line between glamour, crime and irresponsibility in this playground for adults. Once you do venture here though, you should try to avoid weekends and stay close to the Strip as within a short distance of the Strip you can stray into areas that are best avoided for your own safety.

We hit the road to the much more relaxed Palm Springs, where legends Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra used to go for a break from the spotlight.

About Author

Martha and Nigel - BayBreezin'

Martha and Nigel - BayBreezin'

Martha and Nigel are an international couple who live in beautiful Northern Ireland. Martha is German, Nigel is 100% Norn’ Irish and they met when Martha spent a summer working in Sweden, a country they share a love for. After several trips to London, Germany and Prague together, Martha finally settled in Northern Ireland in 2010. They have since travelled large parts of Scandinavia, the US and Ireland together, as well as Portugal and Spain. Nigel has developed into a real travel expert, always finding the best deals, routes and places to stay. They got married on the Beach of Coronado Island in May 2015.

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