I have arrived over an hour early at my Philadelphia hostel - they operate traditional hours and open for a couple of hours in the morning and from the early evening onwards - so while I'm sat in this local coffee shop I might as well get my update for Atlantic City done.
Firstly, I had a great rest for the two nights I stayed in Atlantic City. I was in a Super 8 Motel rather than one of the casino resorts, but it was only half a block from the boardwalk so it was conveniently located without the hefty price tag of the casinos. I got another overnight bus from Buffalo, New York at 10:45pm through to New York City, arriving at 6am and laying over until my 7:30am departure to Atlantic City, which was pretty full even though it was so early.
I got to my destination for 10am and walked to my motel. I walked in and said that I had a reservation for that night and asked if it was possible to check in early or at least leave my bag. The response I got was not one I was expecting - they said they didn't have my reservation. I didn't have the confirmation number written down and I couldn't find an email from the booking website. Luckily they had a cheap room available with a queen-size bed and a balcony, so I took it. I have learnt the lesson to always write down the confirmation number - I always do with hostels but I assume that the big hotel chains will have good systems that won't screw up.
The room was a very good sized standard-looking room that also included a fridge (empty) that I could use to keep my drinks cool, which was a nice feature. The only complaint I have about it is that in the bathroom the light switch is behind the door, which I can assure you is not the first place I looked for it. The balcony was only big enough to stand on, not sit on, but that didn't bother me. Looking to the side I could see the boardwalk and the ocean, so it was a room with sea views - technically.
After a good long rest and an attempt to have a relaxing soak in a bath so short you couldn't drown an ant in it I ventured out to the boardwalk. It was lined on one side with restaurants and souvenir shops, all selling very much the same things, with the occasional casino taking up a block. The other side, predictably enough, was taken up with the Atlantic ocean, but it was always over a small sand dune so the beach was never visible from the boardwalk. And there were the occasional wicker chair taxis being pushed down the boardwalk. It had a good, relaxed atmosphere to it - a bit like Las Vegas meets Southend.
I popped into the casinos to see what they were like. They're not as themed as the Vegas ones but otherwise they're identical - once you've got a formula that works for you there's no point changing it and they must know how to make their money. I stopped when I found the penny slots and had a go. There had seemed to be something missing as I walked through and I found out at this point what it was - when you win at a slot machine it doesn't spit money out at you; instead you print out a ticket when you decide to stop and you can redeem it at a specific machine. Whether this is so they casinos don't need to keep stocking up the machines with coins during the day, or to prevent fraud/theft or just because if it gives you money back you might be tempted NOT to gamble it I don't know. It also meant that the machines don't accept coins so I couldn't just stick a quarter in some machine just for the hell of it. Instead I had to provide it with paper money, and it had to be a minimum of $5.
So I put a fiver in and, because it was a penny per credit, it lasted several minutes until I'd built it up to $6.41. So I cashed out and walked on. I stopped at a nickel machine and put the ticket for the $6.41 in. It spit out a ticket for a penny in change and I very quickly burned through my $6.40 in a couple of minutes. I still have that ticket so at some point in the future I can go back to Caesar's in Atlantic City and cash it in.
Caesar's runs a three level shopping centre on a pier so I explored that, only to find it was all boutique shops that don't cater to the budget traveller who doesn't have a burning desire for some more diamonds, like myself. At the end though was a square of water fountains that does a six minute display every hour to music. It's nothing on the scale of Bellagio in Vegas but it was more spectacular in colour and detail. I took a little video of part of it that I will try to get on my blog - it doesn't quite do it justice but if you've ever there yourself you should definitely check it out.
That evening I tried out Atlantic City after dark. At 10:30pm I had a craving for some snack food so I left the hotel with just a twenty dollar bill and my room key in my pockets. I would've left one of my kidneys and lungs behind as well if I could, just so I couldn't lose both. I walked the street one block back from the boardwalk for two blocks in each direction from my street until I came across a 7-Eleven. Thanks to its clever name I knew it would be open so I was able to pick up my giant bag of Cheetos and a large bottle of water.
For the first time since I came to this country I gave money to a homeless person. I assumed she was homeless - either that or appearance-impaired. Inside the 7-Eleven she asked me for 15 cents so she could get a pretzel. Because we were in the queue to pay (rather than on a street corner) I believed her so I handed her a quarter from my change. As I left she was paying for a pretzel and as far as I know you can't exchange them for crack so I felt like I did a good thing.
I was glad to get back to my hotel room. It didn't feel dangerous out there but I had felt wary because there weren't too many people around and some of the characters on the street looked a little shifty. So did I though, probably.
On my second day I walked The Walk, which is a large parade of outlet shops right near the boardwalk. It's a great place to go for shopping and they've made a real effort to make the surrounding area pleasant. I bought a new pair of sunglasses because mine broke a week ago and have been holding together by luck since then, and also a new pair of shoes because my original trainers (sneakers) were squeaking in the heels with every step and they lacked any cushioning in the heel. The sunglasses were the equivalent of 12 pounds and the shoes were 27 pounds for a pair of Nikes with free pack of six pairs of socks. Bargains!
On my second evening after I'd enjoyed a meal in House of Blues with accompanying live music I did my second session of gambling. Again I put a five into a machine and built it up to around $6.50. And again I took that to a second machine. This time though I had a couple of big wins and got it to nearly nine dollars. I told myself that if I managed to double my money to ten I'd cash out and take the profit. But guess what happened... I lost it all.
Overall I enjoyed Atlantic City and, as you can tell, not for the gambling. It helped that it was sunny and warm all the time. I would definitely go back there but going back right now is not an option because I have so much more ahead. Right now I'm in the city of brotherly love and soon I'll be pushing onwards to the capital region and the city of bureaucratic love.