Viva Las Vegas – Exploring The Strip

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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….

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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.
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.

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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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