Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (10th Apr 2008)
Viva Las Vegas!
The flight over the hot air of the Mojave Desert was extremely bumpy and it felt like someone was smacking the top of the plane; we bobbed up and down on waves of turbulence as we made our decent to Sin City and we had amazing views of the entire strip, and our hotel was really obvious. It was quite a strange sight as there really is nothing else in the area, there is the strip, downtown and some housing suburbs, the rest is dessert for as far as the eye can see. We arrived at about 1.30pm and straight off the plane we knew we in Vegas, neon lights and slot machines were everywhere and it was hot, really hot.
The ride from the airport was extremely short since the airport runs pretty much parallel to the strip about a mile away.When our shuttle bus pulled into valet parking bay it was hard to control the little kid inside and we were all giddy upon seeing replicas of Cleopatra's Needle and the Sphinx gracing the outside; this continued inside the lorry / reception which has towering statues of Ramses. The lobby is a classy mixture of Art Deco and Egyptian with marble and cherry wood everywhere. The most spectacular thing, we thought, was the way that the rooms were built around the outside of the building leaving a 20 floor high atrium like space, it made you realise just how massive the place was.
After a lengthy queue to check in we got given rooms up on the 5th floor which overlooked the front out onto the strip. Our room like the rest of the hotel was a cross Egyptian kitsch with Art Deco styling and had some lovely (rolls eyes) inlaid wood furniture and a hilarious hieroglyphic bedspread. The view from the slanted windows was pretty nice but would have been better higher up, but we figured since we wouldn't be in the room much it didn't really matter.
Since it was still relatively early we decided that we would all go for a "quick" walk to look around and get our bearings a little. Being at the very bottom end of the strip worked in our favour, kind of, it meant we didn't have to decide which way to head, there was only one way, north. On our walk we saw all the famous casinos that we all have seen in the movies and on TV and to make things a bit easier for everyone reading this, here is a brief note on each of the places we have seen and been in to etc:
The Luxor is where we stayed; it is a 30 floor pyramid which is made top to bottom from blacked out glass (to keep the blistering sun at bay). We thought that it is among the most recognizable hotels on the strip because of its striking design, featuring both a replica Sphinx and a 315,000-watt light beam at the top; Luxor says that's because the Egyptians believed their souls would travel up to heaven in a beam of light, we think it's really because it gives them something to brag about: "The most powerful light beam on earth!".
Now this is kitsch. One of the largest resort hotels in the world, Excalibur (aka "the Realm") is a gleaming white turreted castle complete with moat, drawbridge, battlements, and lofty towers, and it's huger than huge. Everyone (us included) publicly stands in favour of quiet good taste but there is a part of our soul that is secretly thrilled by overblown fantasy locations such as this, for us it is so authentically Vegas and you can't help but love it.
Like our hotel, the MGM is on the south end of the strip, and instead of a giant Sphinx it is guarded by a 45 foot tall, 50 ton lion (largest bronze statue in the world) and clad in emerald green glass. The massive (5034 rooms) hotel is an icon of Las Vegas and definitely lives up to its name, not only in sheer size, but also in offerings, with world-class shows, gourmet restaurants, hip nightlife, a spa, and lion habitat which we thought was awesome.
New York, New York (NYNY)
The Name says it all, we thought NYNY was the quirkiest love it or hate it place on the entire strip, essentially a miniature version of New York and its famous landmarks including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge made into a giant casino, hotel complex and theme park. The interior features faux trees and streams lining a Central Park themed casino and a bar area themed in the middle of "Times Square", complete with neon light and expensive drinks.
Caesars Palace is one of the most Vegas style hotel's that you'll find, we would have to guess that the whole idea was originally designed to reflect Roman decadence and the luxuries of being an emperor, it has the Roman colonnades, Roman pillars, gigantic faux marble Roman statues, staff attired in gladiator outfits—it's really quite ridiculous, but for us it's what Vegas ought to be. One thing we couldn't help but notice is that it is looking a bit dated (to us) compared to all of the newer more subtle places like The Wynn that are catering to the same kind of high end clients.
Sacre bleu! The City of Light comes to Sin City. Paris is themed in a similar way to NYNY, it is essentially theme run amok, and we thought it was a pretty good effort. The outside, like NYNY is dominated with various Parisian landmarks such as the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and most impressively a half scale perfect replica of the Eiffel Tower.
Venice's twin sister city has come afloat at The Venetian. It seems to us that the newer Vegas hotels are trying to move away from the tacky days of old, but still like NYNY and Paris, the Venetian is still a theme resort, all be it a really well done one. Its exterior recreates most of the top landmarks of Venice, the Campanile, St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace, a canal or two which you can go on gondola rides; all that's missing is the smell from the canals, but we were quite are happy to let that detail slide. "Bellissimo"
MSN Travel says "Exquisite, opulent, magnificent—these descriptions convey Bellagio's appeal to discriminating world travellers who wish to vacation like royalty". We agree, it is right posh! The Bellagio is one of the most famous hotel / casinos in the world, if only for the movie Ocean's 11 and it world renowned fountain show. The whole building, setting, and aura say Elegance, with luxurious marble used everywhere; that coupled with the etched glass and green wrought iron make it really stand out as somewhere we would love to come back one day and visit as guests.
The Sahara opened in 1952 and was one of the first hotel casinos in Las Vegas, and it shows, although it still looks alright, the casino area and restaurant just don't really compare to some of the others and is in danger of being left behind as more new casinos are being built as we speak.
Found at the very far north of the strip, the 1,149 foot Stratosphere Tower is the tallest observation tower in America; the top is pretty much visible from anywhere in Las Vegas. Not only is it famous for its sheer height but also the hair raising rides that are built onto the top (our interest in it).
Right, so now everyone knows a little bit more about the Vegas casinos and resorts. Back to our quick walk and things turned out lasting a little longer than we had first anticipated; the strip somehow creates some kind of optical illusion and each casino only looks a few steps away, it's surreal, and we somehow managed to walk over 4miles right down to the Wynn (3/4 of the way up the strip) and instead of being out for an hour or so we ended up being gone for nearer seven.
After the sun had set and the lights of the strip came on things got even better, the place really came alive and within seconds of seeing the real Vegas, it totally lived up to our expectations, it was tacky and flashy, and with everything lit up you could really get a feel for the size of the place, all the casinos were colossal it was a total assault on the senses.
To put the cherry on the top of our cake, we got our first glimpse of a celebrity. As we were walking out of the door of Treasure Island, where we had both lost a bit more, a big black guy held open the door for us and Mark especially couldn't believe it when we all realised that it was Iron Mike Tyson. The face tattoo was the biggest give away and as soon as Mark realised it was him he went chasing him into the casino to say hello, but by then the fans had already started to flock and he had no chance. The thing that confirmed it was him was when he say hi to the crowd in his child like, high pitched voice, that coupled with the fact that he was absolutely huge and with a supermodel. For the rest of the night Mark was star struck and couldn't stop going on about it and after Mark had finish chasing Mike through Treasure Island we carried on going down back towards our hotel.
We had planned on stopping to see the world famous water fountains at the Bellagio at some point in our time in Vegas and by accident we happened to be walking past on our way home when they struck up Elton John, My Song over the loudspeaker system and the water started to go crazy. The lake outside of the casino is full of computer controlled fountains that "dance" to songs and shoot water up over 200 feet the entire length of the pavement, and they dance their little aquatic hearts outs for about 10minutes at a time to pieces carefully choreographed to a wide variety of tunes, we saw the Elton John number and hung around for the next performance which was a Hymn Mark remembers singing at primary school. The whole show was very clever and the water is so streamlined it looks like glass when it first shoots out, and we have been told that the height of the show there is as much as an Olympic swimming pools' volume of water in the air, it was phenomenal, no matter what anyone says, it was brilliant and we nearly ended up staying even longer, but we were hungry and the fountains would be there all week.
Having not eaten all day we had a quick look at a couple of restaurants up the north end of the strip but only managed to find somewhere for a drink, so after a gruelling walk back to the hotel we made our way to the buffet only to find it was already closed as it was gone ten. We weren't too worried about being able to find somewhere to eat as Vegas is a twenty four hour city and soon enough we found ourselves in the Luxor cafe, open all hours of the day for all of your eating and drinking needs. After barely struggling to keep our eyes open whilst we ate we were soon ready for bed, but not before a quick gamble in the casino where Kevin, to his great surprise somehow managed to pick up the jackpot on one of the many slot machines without even really knowing how to play it.
For our first day we wanted to head up to the far end of the strip so we could go on the rides that are over a 1000ft up on the top of the Stratosphere and then work in reverse back to the hotel. Our first stop however was going to be breakfast somewhere. Originally we planned to head over to the MGM Grand but it was stupidly expensive so we resorted to plan B with the help of the Las Vegas monorail. Not before a little bit of gambling in one of Las Vegas' most famous Casino's though where Mark was thrilled to win, his first big win totalling $40m. Meanwhile Kara sat and lost dollar after dollar... Anyway after gambling our way across the casino floor we eventually managed to make it to the monorail entrance.
The monorail runs most of the length of the strip, behind the casinos so not to spoil the glitzy fronts. It was on the opposite side of the strip to our hotel and it stops every so often at the bigger hotels, so thinking we would ride it all day to save all that walking again, we opted for the day pass which allowed for unlimited 24 hour access; in the end we only happened to use it once and that was to get to the Sahara where we went for the buffet breakfast. This was our first experience of one of Vegas' specialities, buffet food. The Sahara strikes the perfect balance of low prices, forgettable decor and adequate food, it's what you want in a cheap Vegas buffet and although we were impressed initially (we haven't seen this much food in a long time), we soon realised how average it was after we had a few more buffets elsewhere.
One thing worth mentioning is the amount of people in the city who want to sell you something, they are on every corner whether it be is someone trying to sell you a show ticket, a nightclub pass or, the most common, a "hot babe - direct to your door". The streets are peppered with people distributing fliers and other information about decidedly adult entertainment options in the city ranging from clubs, escort services, phone-sex lines, and more. Sex is everywhere, just walking down the Strip in the day time would be enough to put you ever bringing kids here (They don't call it Sin City for nothing!). Though prostitution is not legal within the city, the sex industry is an active and obvious force in town and every other cab carries an advertisement for a strip club or private dancing lady. You can't even avoid it in the casinos; we were approached twice by people who were selling time shares just trying to find our way back out onto the street.
The Stratosphere is at one of the last hotel / casinos on the north of the strip and it stands at a huge 1,149 ft (350 m) and can be seen from all over Las Vegas. At the top of the tower there are two observation decks, a revolving restaurant, and three thrill rides and the rides are the main reason we wanted to go. We had decided that two of the three would be enough and choose the Big Shot and XSCREAM, described below:
·The Big Shot at 1081 feet (329 m) is the highest thrill ride in the world, like the Playstation at Blackpool Pleasure Beach but on the top of the tallest free-standing structure in Nevada and the second-tallest free-standing structure in the United States.
·XSCREAM at 866 feet (264 m) (3rd highest thrill ride in the world) is essentially a rollercoaster that drops thirty feet of the edge of the building.
The third ride which we didn't go for was Insanity as we thought it looked a bit tame but once we were up there we wished we had got a ticket for that two as it looked pretty good once it got going.
·Insanity at 900 feet (274 m) (2nd highest thrill ride in the world), it dangles riders over the edge of the tower and then spins in a circular pattern at approximately forty miles per hour.
Once we got through the airport style security and had our obligatory photograph taken we were directed toward the lift which would take us up to the 103rd floor which is where the observatory deck is. When we had taken a few photos and had a walk around we went to get the next lift which would take us up to the 108th floor to Big Shot as Kara was getting more nervous by the second and just wanted to get it done before she backed out.
It doesn't really hit you until they pull down your safety restraint and strap the secondary safety belt nice and tight round your waist where you are and what you're about to do...
5...4...3...blast-off! (They miss out 2...1... to surprise you) and it was mental, Kara couldn't stop screaming and Mark came out with profanities he didn't even know he knew. You get fired up 160 feet in a mere 2.5 seconds at 45 mph, getting a taste of weightlessness and 4Gs of force lift you literally off your seat (Astronauts experience about 3.2 Gs on lift-off) it was such a rush and being so high up made it even better because you couldn't see the building underneath and it looked like we were going to freefall all the day back down to the ground. As with all thrill rides it was over too soon and looking back now we would have liked to have done it again but facing the strip this time, we both agreed that next time we come to Vegas it is a must do again.
Next up was the XSCREAM which claims to be "the ultimate thrill ride in the world". Simply being perched atop the observation deck on the Stratosphere Tower, the eighth-tallest building in the world is intimidating enough but XSCREAM takes it a bit further with an arm with stretches out 30 feet over the edge of the tower. We didn't know what to expect of this one, but soon got the idea as we joined a queue of other nervous riders. You are loaded into an eight seat rollercoaster car on a track that goes up and down like a seesaw and then hoisted high into the air before the track dives at a 30-degree angle, taking the car and your nerves with it. Watching the people go before us was scary enough as the car flies about backward and forward down the track at high speed, jerking to a sudden halt at the end of the track, with nothing but 900 feet of air between you and the ground. The ride has all the usual safety equipment and even with all this you can't help but feel a little nervous as you would fall to your certain death if anything did go wrong... but we didn't and we thought it was awesome. Although not as scary as we first thought it still made you hold on tight, scream and scare the life out of you for 30 seconds.
After all the excitement Kevin made his way home which left us wondering what to do and where to go. We needed to print out a flight confirmation and so when we saw an internet cafe/bar we headed over to it. As soon as we entered it felt like we had stepped into the local's Las Vegas, bearded men sat at the bar playing virtual poker while blonde women in mini-skirts stood talking on the phone. While Mark got on with the reason we were in there, Anne and Kara sat and enjoyed a $2 bottle of bud each and Anne even managed to attract the attention of a massive black gentleman who asked if we would be returning in the evening for the live music...we politely declined. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the Fashion Mall, the strips biggest fashion outlet but it soon proved too big for us and we gave up and had a nice relaxing taxi ride back to the hotel.
For our evening meal we didn't really mind where we ate, and it didn't take long for us to find somewhere that took our fancy as in the next casino along, The Excalibur, we settled in at a place called Regale Ristorante Italiano. The place looked really promising on first impressions but that illusion soon disappeared, the food took ages, our waitress was some kind of temp not in uniform but at least the food was ok when it managed to make its way to us. Not wanting to wander too far for the night we moved along one more casino to NYNY, where we played the 1c slots and had beers and cocktails in "Times Square".
Day three of our Vegas outing started out in the Excalibur with a buffet breakfast, and although we had quite a queue to get in it was well worth it, for Mark especially. They had hundreds of things to choose from and everyone found something they liked, and plenty of it. Mark remembered his love for American streaky bacon and got nothing but 50 rashers (no exaggeration) of bacon with toast whilst everyone else went for a slightly more varied mixture of omelettes fruit and cereal. Forty five minutes later and feeling completely stuffed we managed to waddle ourselves over to the Tropicana where we had persuaded Kevin and Anne to come and see the Bodies Exhibition.
The exhibition is made up of real human bodies that have been preserved using a method known as polymer preservation, in which all tissue and water is replaced with silicone rubber (the muscle tissue looked like the bacon mark had just eaten). The exhibition has about 20 full human bodies, mainly men and more than 200 organs and partial body sections, all of which have been meticulously dissected and had the skin removed leaving behind just the muscle structures and bones. Walking into the first room was a very weird feeling with the bodies placed in poses (playing darts) to demonstrate how the body works. Mark wanted to take pictures but they wouldn't allow any photography so we have included a few of the photos from their website so you can get a better idea of it all.
One of the most eye opening displays in the exhibit illustrates the respiratory system where they have a display case housing a set of healthy lungs and heart alongside a smoker's lungs and heart, leaving no doubt about how much smoking affects the organs. Another interesting thing they had was someone's brain that has had a stroke and the inside is all black as if it had been burned. You walk away wanting to take better care of your body and realizing just what everything looks like and what can happen to you.
The final area of the exhibit is dedicated to foetal development and is particularly intriguing if not a bid morbid. One display depicts the gestation of an embryo from the chorionic sac to 32 weeks into pregnancy whilst another provides examples of various birth defects including a set of conjoined twins, and although you can read about it in books and see medical diagrams nothing can really explain things better than seeing these with your own eyes right in front of you.
We both like different bits of the exhibition, Mark thought the best part was the human body that they had sliced into inch thick pieces and laid out over twenty feet was particularly impressive, along with the "skin suit" which was a full body's skin that had been removed and laid out like a skinned tiger rug. Kara on the other hand liked the dark room which had all of the different organs in it which had been preserved in a similar way to the bodies but had had red and blue polymer pumped through them so you can see all of the tiny blood vessels, veins and arteries; it was crazy to see how small and how many you having running through every part of your body.
The exhibit has been very controversial in the media about whether it is appropriate or not but we thought it was very informative and although some bits are saddening like the cancer and babies sections, it was well worth seeing and we left having felt fascinated, amazed and uncomfortable at times but one thing is for sure, it's an exhibit has made a lasting impression on us.
Next on our list for the day was to ride the Manhattan Express rollercoaster at NYNY which loops and curves its way in and around the casino. When we got to where they sell tickets there wasn't too many people so the wait was pretty short and we got a nice surprise when we got round to paying too as when you buy 4 tickets they give you two photos free!
This isn't your average roller coaster, it has a giant loop and portions of track which is upside down; it twists and turns in ways you could never imagine with a combination of corkscrews, hills and bumps. To make sure that it stays with the theme of the hotel the roller coaster trains are designed like New York taxicabs. The ride begins with a steep hill that climbs up forever (203 feet), building up the suspense and anticipation. From the top you get a great aerial view of the south end of the strip, which is one of the last things we remember seeing, because before we knew it we were flying the first little drop (75 feet) followed by an even bigger, gut wrenching 144 foot drop with our eyes closed (Kara) and hands up in the air (Mark) whilst screaming our heads off. It was awesome speeding past the statue of liberty and then going into a spiral ½ loop down and into the casino to finish. After the ride we all felt surprisingly energized and we could have gone again, but the same couldn't be same for Anne and Kevin, round one was plenty and signal time for our afternoon rest.
For our evening meal we had already decided that we would get the bus down to the Fremont Street Experience which is an entertainment and gaming complex in its own right in downtown Las Vegas. The complex centres itself on a huge canopy that is actually the world's largest big screen and sprawls for over 5 blocks making an outdoor/ indoor pedestrian strip. Before we found out what 'the experience' was all about we decided to get some food at Tony Roma's Restaurant in the Fremont Casino and Hotel, their speciality being ribs and steaks so we knew it would be good for at least three out of four of us; and the food didn't disappoint at all, even for Kara who steered clear of the meat dishes and easily washed down with a few delicious cocktails for Anne and Kara and beers for Kevin and Mark.
The sun had just about set as we made our way out of the Casino so we knew it must be time for the experience to begin and just at that second the whole strip was plunged into darkness as a female voice began a narration that pumped from speakers throughout venue. Then, as if by magic the entire underside of the canopy lit up, 12 million lights in total, to create a spectacle that we had never seen anything like before. Beautiful images and every gambling scene imaginable began flying over our head as pulsating music circled around us. It was a mesmerizing experience that kept us glued to the spot for the full fifteen minute show.
As we were in a gambling hotspot we made our way to The Golden Nugget, a casino Mark had heard great things about. We all settled in on various slot machines dotted about the Casino. Not long after Kara had her first big win of the holiday ($40) and was giddy with excitement until Kevin went and doubled his winnings of the day from $200 to $400 and the $40 just seemed pathetic in comparison. Quitting while we were ahead we then decided to walk the entire length of the strip taking in various street performers and the unusual atmosphere the canopy creates. To assist with this walk Kevin, Mark and Kara got a beer, not just any beer though, this beer came in a football shaped plastic container that weighed a ton and lasted forever. We soon found ourselves at Main Street Station which is one of the older and prettier buildings in Las Vegas and now home to a Hotel and Casino filled with dark wood, brass, antiques and beautiful stained glass features. We stayed for a quick gamble before making our way back to the bus, only to be distracted by a crowd gathering at the top of the strip around something called the Thunderdome. When we got closer we realised that a guy on a motorbike was about to enter the huge ball and soon enough he was off. We were amazing by his gravity defying stunts but then things were taken to whole new level when not one, but two other guys on motorbikes joined him in the ball, just about fitting in all lined up next to each other. The next couple of minutes were unbelievable as the motorbikes whizzed around the ball together, missing each other by centimetres and high-fiving each other along the way. The finale was by far the most heart stopping part of the show as they got two volunteers from the audience to stand in the centre of the ball whilst all three motorbikes were ridden around them; it really was jaw dropping stuff as we again found ourselves glued to the spot for the entirety of the death defying act. After watching Evel Knieveland co we ready for home as we were all pretty tired, so we got on the bus and made the painfully long ride back to the hotel (over an hour) but not before having a stop on the way for a toilet break at the Bellagio Hotel!
On our fourth day in Sin City the sun was really beating down and even the walk over to the Tropicana for breakfast was painful. The buffet wasn't as good as where we had been before but it did the job and shortly after we were back on another trip down the strip, this time headed for Circus Circus. Circus Circus is another one of the casinos at the north end of the strip and it caught our eye a few days previous when we were at the top of the Stratosphere with its huge metallic red circus building that makes up the back of the complex.
Inside it was easy to tell that this is one of the more budget minded places and it was reflected in the decor and the slightly more mature aging waitress staff that parade around in a one piece swimsuit with their fake boobs hanging out; not that any of this stopped up from playing in the arcades for an hour or so and having a go on the slots. The reason we had come down to Circus Circus was to watch the free performances that they put on in the day time and we managed to catch the end of a trapeze artist performance and a guy who flies around on wires; the shows were what you might expect for free and it would have been good no doubt to go and see the real deal in the proper circus but none of us were that interested and it was pretty pricey, regardless it was a bit of fun and kept us entertained for 20 minutes.
As we wanted to leave Mark managed to get trapped by a beautiful young Italian girl who was selling some fancy hand crème and organic scrub. Whilst Mark was stood helplessly being pampered the young girl offered to clean his face and was flirting like crazy to try and sell the stuff, she said he had "strong hands" and was "extremely handsome"...After 10 minutes of watching Kara finally came over and told her that we wouldn't be buying any that we were off, and that was that, Mark felt bad for wasting her time but he did like how nice and soft his hands were now!
We all wanted to see at least one show whilst we were in Vegas and to be honest none had really been jumping out at us, so when we saw a Tix4Tonight kiosk that were offering half price tickets to the comedy show Carrot Top that was on at our hotel, we took a gamble and bought tickets for the 8pm show.
Heading back down the strip towards home, we decided to stop off at the Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. The Secret Garden open in 1996 to house the animals used in the shows but has been a permanent home to the World Famous white tigers and lions since 2003 when Roy was attacked.
*Back Ground Info* During a show at The Mirage, Roy was bitten on the neck by a nine year old male white tiger named Montecore and was critically injured and sustained severe blood loss. Despite his life threatening injuries he is said to have said, "Don't harm the tiger". Roy was listed in critical condition for several weeks thereafter, and was said to have suffered a stroke and partial paralysis. Doctors removed one-quarter of his skull to relieve the pressure of his swelling brain during an operation known as a decompressive craniectomy; the portion of skull was placed in a pouch in Roy's abdomen in the hope of replacing it later.
Anyway, Siegfried and Roy had been an iconic part of Las Vegas throughout the 80's and 90's and up until 2003 when Roy was attacked, still one of the most popular shows on the strip. Mark remembers watching them perform on TV when he was younger and would have loved to have seen their world renowned magic show, but since that is no longer running, he would have to make do with seeing their trademark white tigers, lions and other exotic animals.
Luckily for us it wasn't that busy and we didn't really have to queue or wait around to get inside. We saw the dolphins first, and while they don't do regular shows there, the trainers were playing with the dolphins, so we got to see them do some flips and stuff. After seeing them from around the edge of the pool we headed underground, to the underwater viewing area where we could see the dolphins swimming much closer, and they all seemed to have smiles on their faces (if that's possible) and enjoyed zipping around the pool with one another.
In the back area is where the big cats live, as mentioned they had the white lions, white tigers, leopards and unusually some llamas which seemed kind of out of place. Keep in mind, there are no performing animals in shows; this is basically just animals in simulated habitats, but the animals are amazing! The lions and tigers are extraordinary creatures and it was a lot of fun to just watch them stroll around their enclosures and climbing around.
The pools and enclosures seemed the same size as any we had seen before and they don't make the dolphins do anything they don't want to do so it all seemed above board and the animals all looked well cared for etc. Overall the Secret Garden was a great way to kill an hour in the middle of a hot day, and made a nice change from being in a casino, and even if it wasn't the best zoo or aquarium we have ever been to it was worth going and seeing.
Since we were going to be watching a show at our hotel it made sense for us to eat there first rather than going out to come back again later on, and besides we hadn't tried our own hotels Pharaoh's Pheast Buffet yet. The buffet restaurant is underneath the casino and the whole dining area looks like a scene from a time team episode, it is set in the middle of an archaeological dig, complete with wood braces holding up the ceiling, pot shards, papyrus, and servers dressed in khaki dig outfits, it's a unique and fun decor even if it is a bit tacky, it is Vegas after all... Dodgy decor aside, the food was brilliant, possibly the best buffet we went to in Vegas and it has something for everybody with us all filling at least two plates. After dinner we still had a bit of time to kill before the show so we hit the casino for a while where Mark managed to win $90 playing roulette and Kara and Anne fell in love with the video slot machine "Lucky Lemmings".
For the evenings main event we made our way up onto the second floor where the theatre, IMAX cinema and shopping arcade were so we could get ourselves seated for the comedy show Carrot Top. When we booked this we had no real idea what we were getting ourselves into except it was a comedian, so with an open mind we made our way into the theatre.
After being seated for a few minutes the warm up act came onstage and got the crowd going, he was a young black guy who has a radio show in Vegas and he did a pretty good job making us laugh with jokes that weren't too specifically American. Not long after the first guy had finished and the lights dimmed down and the stereo started pumping as Carrot Top made his way onto the stage.
On first impressions the guy seems really weird, a big muscular body, makeup on and a great big mop of ginger hair with a squeaky voice to boot; he was a bit of a mixture between a clown without enough make up and a transvestite. Regardless of his freaky appearance after 5 minutes of watching the show you can tell why it has been a full house every night for two years, it is a nonstop, high energy, rapid fire machine gun of punch lines, sight gags, stand up, impressions, and every kind of comedy you can think of.
It's not all juvenile gags either, clearly CT puts ALOT of thought into his routine, it's a very topical, current, and thoroughly entertaining show and if it sounds like were gushing, apologies, it's not that were easily amused, it was just that damn funny and we had to fight back laughing out loud through most of the show. One of the best things about the show was that he never lets you get bored and if you didn't laugh at the last routine, fear not, in 2 seconds you will have completely new material being launched at you. CT bases most of his show on the use of props such as an envelope shaped like a hand with an extended middle finger in which you can send off your tax return in or a microphone for Whitney Houston, with its own attached bong with a photo of a bedraggled Whitney on the overhead screen. In truth, the lighting/sound guy, whoever he was, deserved as much credit as Carrot Top for being on the ball with the speedy progression of the show.
The contents of Carrot Top's wild imagination turn the stage into a one man circus Not every joke comes from the comedian's famous trunk of tricks (the better ones do) sometimes he enhances regular joke-telling via a video screen behind him and well timed music to punctuate his every thought. Regarding the trunk's he has full of stuff, one of the funniest was the "redneck trunk" where a graduation cap is a John Deere hat with a tassel, a redneck iPod is an old turntable with a shoulder strap and a baby bottle comes with an attached ashtray.
There were too many funny jokes to mention and some that weren't laugh out loud funny but still good which he acknowledges, "They're not all gems. Some of 'em are just filler" he says at one point, "That one wasn't hilarious, just kind of clever" he notes of another and it's true but it's all a part of what make the act so enjoyable. CT also gives a nod to others on the Strip, performing his version of the Bellagio fountains using two water bottles and he also re-enacts the Blue Man Group, complete with a blue mask and toilet paper gun.
One final thing to note that was particularly funny was a section in the middle when he talks about country and western songs and how stupid the lyrics are, like "Wherever you go, there you are" and "Four minus three equals zero". The shows ended with a 10-minute encore, a rock medley in which he rapidly changes costumes for brief impressions of Kiss, the Rolling Stones and the like, punctuated by full volume music and pyrotechnic explosions. All in all it was an awesome show and we were all so happy to have been and seen it and we would both definitely go see him again and recommend it to anyone who gets an opportunity to see him live.
We had planned on going to the bar and into the casino for the rest of the night but after about half an hour and a couple of free drinks, we were all ready for bed, but not before Kevin won another couple of hundred bucks for the tenth time in less than a week!
After another visit to the Luxor buffet for breakfast, we made our way out and first visited Paris, followed by Venice (The Venetian) and Ancient Rome (Caesars Palace) before finally making our way into the Bellagio where we had come to see the Butterfly Conservatory and the City Center development model.
Continuing the recent building spree in downtown Las Vegas, the next mega development is rising into the Vegas skyline on the Strip between the Monte Carlo and the Bellagio, dubbed City Center (Their spelling) which is going to be just what it says, in essence a city centre for the strip with a new mega casino (obviously), a hotel, several "condominiums", and a shopping centre. We had come to take a better look at the model and development centre that is just off the lobby which we spotted the other night when Kara needed her emergency toilet stop. Inside the fancy room they have a scale model of the whole development and Mark overheard a woman mention that the price tag of $7 billion makes the project the most expensive private construction job ever attempted and for a mere $4 million you can have an apartment in the smaller of the three towers!
Moving swiftly on, before we got temped to put down a deposit, we walked a bit further into the lobby in the general direction of the butterfly enclosure. The whole thing is a totally preposterous idea, a larger than life greenhouse atrium, filled with seasonal plants and flowers in all sorts of colours and styles which is packed full of every butterfly you can imagine. It was enough to keep us entertained for a while and Anne got so excited at one point she fell over.
Back at the hotel we decided that since we weren't doing much for the day we would just relax for a while and soak up the atmosphere in the hotel bar which is between the busy casino floor and the even busier reception area. Before we got too carried away (Kara and Anne on the Margaritas) we thought it was best to settle up, find Kevin and head out for our evening meal. We only made the short walk through the interconnecting air conditioned tunnel for tea to Mandalay Bay. After much debate we finally settled on the Red, White and Blue, a casual American restaurant that dished up steaks, pasta and seafood. Inside was surprisingly small but when the food came it did the job but it also did the job of convincing us that in Vegas there is no better way to eat than a buffet.
To finish of our evening we decided, kind of spur of the moment, to go and watch a movie in the hotels IMAX 3D cinema. To cut a long story short, we got stupid 3D glasses that made us look like idiots, Mark broke one of the arms of his pair, and the movie was distinctly average but none the less it was a change and we still had a good time.
Our last day in Vegas, the day Anne and Kevin would be going home came around all too quickly and it meant for us no more high life. Our two weeks of luxury was coming to an end and that signalled hostel dorm rooms once again and eating pasta with tinned tomatoes as our staple diet, but that would be tomorrow, we still had one more day left and we were going to all make the most of it, starting with our flight out to the Grand Canyon.
We all woke up excited about our trip and it was all we could talk about over breakfast. Since it was going to be a long day we all filled our faces at the buffet and made the most of the all you can eat philosophy. Our dreams of going to the Grand Canyon were shattered at about 10am, as Kevin found out he had been left a voice mail telling us due to high winds the light aircraft wouldn't be able to take off and the only alternative they could offer us was on another day but since we had left it till our last day it meant just getting a refund and cancelling the trip, which left us all gutted.
After wallowing in our misery for a while we decided we couldn't stay in our rooms all day so we made our way downstairs to hit the slot machines. It was at this point that we discovered the drinks that are offered to you whilst you gamble are actually free so we thought what better way to spend the afternoon, gambling and drinking, enabling us to drown our sorrows about our cancelled Grand Canyon Trip. After Kara had a win on her new favourite Lemming's game we all decided it was time to get leave the hotel and try and make something of our day. We didn't really get very far because as soon as we reached New York New York we spotted an Irish Bar called Nine Fine Irishmen so we made our way there and enjoyed an alcoholic beverage each whilst sat on the terrace overlooking Brooklyn Bridge. Kevin and Mark decided they needed a rest so they made their way back to the hotel which left Anne and Kara alone and ready to hit the shops at the Planet Hollywood Shopping Centre, which they did until the late afternoon.
For our last night we visited the Mandalay Bay again for our evening meal and to save any argument we opted for the buffet. This was probably the most expensive buffet we ate at in our entire time and you can see why once you get a chance to go and have a look at what they have compared with other places; they have all the usual stuff, but it's the extras that are obviously bumping up the price, the king crab legs, oysters etc. In our opinion it wasn't the best of all the buffets we had been to but it was a close second maybe, and one thing we all enjoyed was the strawberries which no other buffet has had (the little things you miss). Been that it was our last night we couldn't not gamble, so on the way back to the Luxor we played on the 1c slots and played a bit of roulette before doing the same again in back home before retiring to bed and saying farewell to Las Vegas.