Friday, October 16, 2009

Viva Las Vegas

Gosh it's warm here - by comparison to the last few weeks, anyway. Has averaged 28C for our 3 day stay.
Is there a patron saint of holiday-makers? If so, we must have had some special protection as the weather could not have been better if we had scripted it, from the warmth of the south of France to the brilliant autumn sunshine in England to the snow in Canada, and now balmy desert days in Las Vegas. It will probably be horrible when we get home just to get even!
We have a very comfortable room on the 22nd floor of the MGM Grand hotel on the strip, with a view all the way out to the mountains and directly opposite New York, New York and its roller coaster, Aria, Monte Carlo and a still under construction, Big V, for Vegas. It's easy to get caught up in the glitz of the casino strip and miss the Sierra Nevada just the other side of the hi-rise towers.
We started well with a win on the slot machines, and HUGE pizzas for dinner in one of the 14 restaurants (not counting several Starbucks and at least five other fast food outlets) in the hotel - it's so big and so diverse there would be no need to leave at all, as any need imaginable can be catered for on-site. But wander we did - a tour along the strip, with visits to Bally, Flamingo, Tropicana, Caesars Palace (oh dear, the roulette wheel! And brain-freezing 24 oz slurpies with a triple citron vodka).
Thursday was the day we came for - gambling aside, Vegas is the access point for the Grand Canyon. We were picked up by shuttle and driven to Boulder Airport for the first adventure of the day, a light aircraft flight over the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead on our way to the canyon itself. 7000 feet above sea level is only around 3000 feet above the ground here and the view was spectacular. Lake Mead is enormous, over 110 miles long, although the water level has dropped 200 feet. The dam looks like leggo at this height but is still the largest man-made construction on earth, the scenery is wonderful and the flight over too soon as we land at the Hualapi Indian reservation that is the Western Rim home to the Grand Canyon. Our next leg was the helicopter flight over the canyon, and down 4000 feet to the canyon floor. Rich has been in a helicopter before, and whilst Sue loves the light aircraft experience, this is her first helicopter ride - "why didn't I do this before, it's magic!" Then a leisurely ride down the Colorado river looking UP at the canyon walls , and the vegetation and wildlife on the riverbanks, before the helicopter takes us back up to the rim. It's almost more scary on the way up, as the pilot hugs the canyon walls then crests a rise to reveal the sheer drop the other side. We spend the remainder of the day exploring the rim and the view across and down into the canyon (don't get so close to the edge!) before the return small plane flight when the shuttle returns us to the hotel.
In just 3 days we tour the strip by monorail during daylight, and again on foot at night to take in the fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel, see the Cirque du Soleil show 'Ka', and yet again eat ourselves stupid with a delicious teppanyaki dinner at the in-house Japanese, pasta and cab-sav to die for, and lovely Tom Yum. We saw the MGM's own lions but missed the picture opportunity on all 3 days, and everywhere you go there are slot machines and tables and opportunities to gamble including McCarran International airport that must have at least 300 slots!
So here we are at LAX waiting for our flight to Sydney. Such a long flight but both of us are now longing to be back in OZ despite all the wonderful experiences we have enjoyed on the trip, especially the love and friendship of Dennis and Barbara in Bosworth, the unbelievable Clive and Jean at Studland, the irrepressible Sue and her husband Roger in Woking, Tom and Mav in Calgary who were as warm as the weather was cold. Our loving and heartfelt thanks go out to all of them for making our overseas leg truly the trip of a lifetime.

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