Happy Birthday Karen. We headed out early on a shuttle bus for LAX and our flight to Las Vegas. We arrived at the airport and were processed smoothly. We all needed to remove our shoes and we all had to stand in the body x-ray machine. We passed their tests, even Karen who was walking around wearing a bright flashing 'I'm 50' badge.
Our flight to Las Vegas was good and we all checked in to our various hotel rooms at Planet Hollywood Towers and MGM Signature. We met up again for the Cirque du Soliel show 'O'. The theatre itself was beautiful, with the most wonderful ceiling, and we were lucky enough to have great seats. The show was magnificent. It is a water show, and the performers were so athletic and precise in their routines. The show combined gymnastics, diving and some synchronised swimming with great flair and spell-binding choreograpy. Other outstanding features were the many and varied costumes which were whimsical and wonderful, and the imaginative and creative sets. Neil, our token male, is not a fan of gymnastics, diving or sychronised swimming, but did admire the feat of engineering required to stage the show. After the show we all went to Mon Ami Gabi, a French restaurant, for Karen's birthday dinner. It was a lovely restaurant, and we were all pleased with our dining experience. Karen was still wearing her flashing badge, so the waiter took the hint and brought her a free dessert with birthday candle to blow out, and we all obliged by singing happy birthday to her.
After our late night, everyone had a sleep-in the next morning. Neil and Cathi explored the Strip and we didn't see them all day, and the rest of us explored our helicopter flight options for our trip to the Grand Canyon. Up until today we have had terrific weather for our travels, but today was very, very windy and cool, and the forecast for the rest of our stay is not good. Nevertheless, being optimists, we have booked our helicoptor trip for tomorrow afternoon, hoping the predicted showers will have abated by then. It is expected to be cool in Las Vegas for the rest of our stay, but the wind speed will drop. We also investigated show bookings, and have decided to go to the Tim Allen show (Tim the Tool Man) on Friday night, and the young ones will go to Peep Show. Another friend of Peta's, Mel, also joined our group today. Kate and Kathy, the super-shoppers, went looking at the shops in the afternoon, and Karen and the young ones visited MGM Casino to see the lions, M&M World and then went to dinner at the Olive Garden. Lynne and I had a quiet night in to relax.
We spent the next morning browsing the shops along the strip, marking time before we were due to be picked up for our helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. Imagine our disappointment when we were told that our trip was cancelled because it was raining in the canyon, and unfortunately, we could not reschedule as all the flights were booked for Saturday, and we leave early Sunday morning. We were very unlucky because it hardly ever rains in the desert, and the current cool temperatures and rain are unseasonal. On the bright side, we had a nice meal in the evening before going to the Venetian to see Tim Allen. It was a very funny show, enjoyed by all, and all the better because Neil managed to get the tickets for almost 1/2 price.
It was a late start again on Saturday, and we wandered uptown to have lunch and to look at the shops (again). We've done quite a bit of walking around Vegas, and we were all pretty tired by the end of the day. We had plans to go out tonight, but Neil and Cathy were feeling unwell, so the rest of us, except Peta and Mel, decided on a night in as well. Peta and Mel met up with Danny, a friend of theirs from a previous trip to the USA, who is an event manager. He was involved in organising a party at the Palms for Hugh Hefner, so arranged for Peta and Mel to come along and join the fun, which they did and had a great time.
Las Vegas is a party town that comes alive at night when all the casinos and shops light up - it is very sparkly. It's a bit like a combination of Kings Cross and Surfer's Paradise on steroids. It attracts alot of 18- to 30-year-old people, who very quickly get into the spirit of fun, shopping and alcohol. As far as gambling goes, it seemed to be the older people who indulge on the poker machines and younger men are attracted to the tables. This is not surprising since some of the casinos have croupiers in bustiers and tiny shorts on particular tables with scantily-clad go-go dancers nearby. There are even poker machines on the footpath and in the airport terminals. The young girls and family groups were more commonly seen shopping. In the evening, and sometimes in the day as well, many young people were carrying around, and drinking an alcoholic slushy from 40cm long plastic cocktail-glass shaped cups, or plastic guitars slung over their shoulders that had a flexible plastic straw from which they could drink their favourite alcoholic beverage. There were many strange sights on the streets here. There were lots of Elvises (or is that Elvi), Captain Jack Sparrow etc, and cartoon characters, who you could have your picture taken with, for a fee. There were guys who had large electronic advertising boards strapped to their backs walking around, and they looked a bit like turtles. There were many, many mainly Mexican guys and girls standing along the footpaths yelling and trying to hand out promotion cards for strip clubs - they would make a flicking sound with them to try to attract your attention. Their main aim was groups of guys, but anyone would do. As with the other areas of the USA we have visited, Las Vegas has its fair share of beggers, however here they are more honest - a couple of beggers we saw were sitting on a walkway drinking beer with hat and a sign in front of them saying "We want more beer". On the positive side, the casinos have beautifully landscaped gardens, and the Bellagio water fountain show is great.
The strip in Las Vegas is similar to Hollywood in that nothing is really what it seems. In our hotel, in order to get outside we had to walk along what is called 'The Miracle Mile'. It is a mile of shops, restaurants and bars located on manufactured streets where the shops have streetscape facades and the ceiling is a skyscape. There is even a lake in this shopping strip and every now and then the skyscape darkens, there is thunder and lightening and water pours from the simulated rain clouds into the lake. Along Las Vegas Boulevard, in the real outside, it is a sea of casinos, each with its own theme. Caesers Palace tries to be grand with elaborately painted ceilings and lots of Roman statues. The Flamingo Casino has real flamingos in a garden. The MGM has real lions on show. The Venetian has a canal running through it and offers gondola rides. And so it goes on. Las Vegas is a great place if you like to gamble, shop or go to strip shows. It does not take itself too seriously, and does not have the intensity of Los Angeles. As I said, there is lots and lots of noise, but we did not see any violence, just people having lots of fun. Now that I've been there, I don't need to go back - its not my kind of town, but the young ones love it.