Views on Vegas: The Strip

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The Forum Shops at Ceasar's palace, complete with fake sky

There is a free monorail (called a Tram) which connects the Mandalay, Luxor and Excalibur hotels These three hotels form the foot of a reversed L shape, the main vertical bit being the Strip proper. Hotel New York New York was just across the street from ours, and I wanted to explore its roller coaster. Sadly, it was closed because of the rain, but we found a Wheel of Fortune machine instead, where I more happily placed single dollar bets on low-odds numbers, which was a bit of fun without blowing my whole gambling allowance in one go. I know, I’m far too sensible and logical to make a good gambler.

No matter where you travel, there’s always an Irish pub, so thought we’d better explore Nine Fine Irishmen (tsk, no bicycle on the ceiling? What sort of fake oirish pub is this!), and back at the Excalibur we used one of our $20 welcome tokens on drinks at the Lounge Bar, where there is no escape from gambling, as there are even machines on the bar counter in front of you.

After an afternoon nap, we headed out for something eat. We were too tired for the Ice Bar, but agreed we’d try that before the week was out. And R didn’t want anything too spicy, so we ruled out Tequila Taco, and instead opted for Rice sushi place. For some unexplained reason, we couldn’t sit in the main dining area, so we were offered a seat in the lounge area, either at the bar, or at low tables on a sofa, or at high bar-stool tables. R found it hard to understand the menu, and the noodles he’d ordered were crispy fried, rather than slurpy soft, so he was unimpressed. I had a sexy lady (snigger) which was a beautiful sushi roll filled with avocado and prawn.

Tuesday dawned, and we were starting to be more proficient at finding our way around. There was no tea making equipment in the room, but there were coffee kiosks at every entrance, so I started the day the way I like best, with a cup of tea in bed. Then I hit the gym for an indoor triathlon (10 mins each elliptical, bike, and treadmill), before breakfast at McDonalds, a rather respectable maple fruit oatmeal. We sussed out where the pick-up point was for tomorrow’s long trip, skipped the casino’s craps lesson, and went to explore where the heliport is, and also the main strip monorail, which starts at the back of the MGM Grand.

When this massive green glass edifice opened, it was the largest hotel in the world, though it’s currently in second place behind the rather more utilitarian Izmailovo in Moscow. It has 6,000 rooms and keeps a fleet of private jets at the airport for its more wealthy customers. Inside, the spacious decor is very art deco inspired, with beautiful fountains and chandeliers, and video footage of Dire Straits playing on a giant screen above the reception desk.
But hey, 6 of the world’s 10 largest hotels are in Vegas, our own clocking in at the number 10 spot.

We ambled admiringly through the almost chilly air-conditioned splendour, and found our way to the monorail which runs along the back of the hotels on the right hand side of the Strip. $12 bought an all-day ticket, and the ride was smooth, un-crowded and pleasant. We decided to go all the way to the end of the line to get our bearings, and were intrigued by the construction of a huge wheel, called the Linq, an attraction due to open next year.

Enjoying a Bloody Mary at Ceasars palace, complete with little cheesy nibbles

Coming back down southbound, we got off at Harrahs, which had a strange Blackpool-like sleazy feel to it, and an odd smell. The Excalibur smells of coconut (R reckons they probably went Camelot – Coconut, close enough!) but this place had the odour of stale wee. Back in the heat outdoors, we wandered down the Strip as far as Paris, before crossing and entering the vast opulence of Caesar’s Palace. It was jaw-droppingly glamorous. We found that the bar did not have gaming machines on it, I ordered my daily Bloody Mary, and R noted that his theory that the classiness of the hotel could be guessed at by the shagability attractiveness of the cocktail waitresses was still holding up. The dress-code in Vegas does seem to be “not very much”. The drinks were served with little cheesy nibbles, so although it was pricey, it was a memorable and enjoyable experience which did double duty as brunch.

When in Vegas, there’s no place like Rome. And the Forum Shops does its best to evoke the sense of ancient Rome, though obviously in a non-smelly, sanitised way, with the aid of acres of designer boutiques. And under a fake-sky roof. With a spiral escalator. I’d promised myself a pair of Stateside jeans, and was magnetically pulled into the Lucky Brand store which had a sale on. I came away with a dark blue pair of bootlegs, a paler blue pair of tomboys, and a bargainatious pair of soft leather pants in oxblood red. Original price $499, reduced to $69, with another 40% off made them an affordable but slightly mad purchase. They are rather “spray-on” and I don’t know where I’ll wear them, but when in Rome....

Using the convenient pedestrian walkways above street level, we crossed back over and went into the Venetian, another case of “even better than the real thing”. Canals that don’t smell, singing gondoliers whose voices resonate off the fake sky, and no pigeons. I was reminded of the Truman Show, when I spotted an air vent disguised by a bird painted onto the ceiling. We had a late lunch at Zeferinis, overlooking the canal and a great way to enjoy the ambiance. Three courses of deliciousness were $22.95, though the charges for water and drinks pushed this up a bit.

Bea gets ready to throw herself at the ground and miss

An afternoon nap was called far, then I changed into my slouchy new jeans and walked down Tropicana past Hooters to find the airport suite for our night-time helicopter flight. This had been included in the package price of our holiday, and we were looking forward to it greatly. We were weighed, given a green armband, and a plastic saucer shaped glass of what the organiser called “Dan Perignon”. They asked for volunteers to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, and R’s hand shot up. We browsed the calendars and photo merchandise, waiting for the call for green armband wearers. We shared the minibus out to the runway with the white armband group, who were to go up first, giving us 10 minutes to pose for photos at a chopper on the ground.

They were doing “hot loading”, i.e. the helicopter wouldn’t come to a complete standstill between one lot getting off and the next lot getting on. The rotor blades were very noisy, and created a lot of wind. R hopped into the front, and I scooted into the back seat over to the right hand side, before the other 5 passengers took their seats. And we were off, soaring past the golden triangle of the Mandalay, the glittering pyramid of The Luxor with its beam of light emanating from the apex, and past our own castle-like Excalibur. We cruised down one side of the strip - sadly it was most visible out of the left hand side of the craft, so my choice of seat hadn’t been optimal. We sailed past the dancing fountains outside the Bellagio, the looming Stratosphere Tower, and over the bright lights of old downtown Vegas, Freemont Street. And then turned and came back down the other side of the Strip, with the best views to be had again from the seats beside the windows on the left hand side.

A shuttle bus returned us to our hotel, where we had a quick flutter on some fun slot machines. I won $25 on a Michael Jackson themed bandit, where the seat moved in time to the music, before getting an early night ready for tomorrow’s adventure – the Grand Canyon!

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