The Strip

Death Valley is around 100 miles away from Las Vegas. It looks closer on a map but everything in America looks closer on a map. Leaving Death Valley at sunset ensured that it quickly became pitch black on the drive towards Las Vegas. It was an eerie drive in the pitch black. Now and again you’d see a pair of headlights coming towards us that seemed close, but the roads are dead straight and go for miles so the lights deceive you an it takes a good while for you to cross your fellow driver on the road. Just knowing you’re driving in the middle of nowhere enhances your own vulnerability; knowing there isn’t a sole for miles. We began climbing, up, up as we’ve done often around eastern California and throughout Nevada – they’re both mountainous areas – until suddenly you can see a dim hue over the next rock on the horizon. All of a sudden you summit the mound you’re ascending and the lights come into view and then you’re all too well aware that you are not so lonely and there’s a party coming your way. 

The hue on the horizon is split by a thin powerful green laser shining directly out of its middle. It shoots into the sky like some sort of calling beacon to all those who want to go wild in Sin City, and can be seen for miles. The light is emanating from The Luxor hotel, which is shaped as a pyramid. Directly in front of it is a replica Sphinx. It reminded us a bit of Stockport’s pyramid. Apart from the former houses a huge casino and hotel, the latter houses The Co-operative Bank. 

We followed the lights an proceeded up The Strip, or Las Vegas Boulevard, to our hotel, The Flamingo. The Flamingo is, or was, one of the first hotels and casinos which was constructed in Vegas. This wasn’t our reason for picking it; it’s cheap and conveniently located. You can tell it was one of the first there. The walls are decorated with pictures of it from the 70s, when it was originally built. It’s no doubt had some enhancements since then – about 30 or so floors – but I think the carpets are still the originals and some of the Black Jack machines maybe too. 

After parking up we made our way to the lobby to check in noticing the smell of smoke (I’m not sure but I think Vegas remains one of the only places in the US where you’re allowed to smoke indoor still) and the array of lights from the dozens of slot machines. Quickly checking in with one of the 10 or so receptionists we warily made our way up to our room – we were pretty knackered after the long day’s drive and walking about – and threw our bags on the bed. As Milly grabbed a shower I noticed something on the side which must have been left by the room’s previous tenant…..See the pic below:

We went back downstairs with the evidence in hand and they apologetically changed our room and gave a slight refund for the inconvenience. To be fair we weren’t that bothered by it, but we tried blagging it slightly in the hope we could obtain an upgrade. They gave us a room with a better view but that was it. The room was probably a bit worse than some of the motels we’d stayed in; no coffee facilities and dated decor, but we weren’t moaning, we’d made it to our final stop, Vegas. 

Las Vegas translated from Spanish to The Meadow. The word ‘meadow’ generates images of lush pastures, butterflies, quaint water and birds singing. There is none of that in Vegas. What there is, is debauchery, alcohol, sex, loud music, lights, shopping, and gambling. Lots and lots of gambling. Even the medical centres have slot machines in them. 

The first evening there we decided to see what our own hotel had to offer. Each hotel along The Strip will have its own casino, club, multiple pools, restaurants and bars. Most also have some kind of show area or stage. The main one ours had was showcasing Donny and Marie Osmand in duet. Apparently it’s Vegas’s number one act! We didn’t bother paying to watch it though. 

We’d heard that as long as you’re betting you get free drinks. After all someone who’s pissed is likely to spend significantly more money gambling. But trying to get one out of some of the bar staff was a grind. I’m sure they only serve someone who’s likely to tip them. America on a whole, from what we’ve seen, has made tipping a virtual tax on your bill. Expect to pay upwards of 5% on top of any bill you accumulate, in tips. Unless you’re happy to be cold hearted and just walk away of course. 

We had enough drinks to make us feel tipsy and gave the casino a good walk around to get our bearings. I taught Milly how to play roulette (too which she eventually became a dab hand) and we threw some green backs into the cheap slots before calling it an evening. 

Day came and the sun rose in the cloudless sky. It wasn’t very warm, until midday when it hit about 18 degrees but it was pleasant nonetheless. We headed out down the strip to fathom our Vegas in its entirety (well, the rest of the strip anyway) so headed south. We grabbed a bit to eat in one of the shopping malls, a huge indoor centre which reminded me of the food court at The Trafford Centre; the ceiling painted like the sky. 

After brecky we ventured south down The Boulevard and were amazed by the place. They’re literally recreated a various different notable places from around the world and stuck them along one street. Each section, a large hotel and casino combined with retail outlets, restaurants and performing theatres. There was The Venetian , which was in the image of Venice, Ceasar’s Palace for Rome, New York New York as New York (this place included its own full size roller coaster), Paris – complete with a mini (but still large) Eiffel Tower, Excalibur which was an actual castle, The Luxor fashioned on Egypt and the Valley of the Phaeroes and just add to that the ones which didn’t seem to take on a specific genre but were still mightly impressive: The Bellagio, with its legendary fountain show, Our very own Flamingo (which had actual real life flamingos living on site), The MGM Grand (which hosts the biggest boxing fights in the world) and many, many more. 

Ceiling at The Venetian

It really is an amazing place – like something I’ve never seen. The streets are permanently rammed with people, day and even more so at night. Multiple people trying to give you pamphlets or taxi cards, or trying to sell you show tickets, or buskers doing magic, singing, dancing or some just dressed up (or even down) trying to get money off you for a picture. There really doesn’t seem to be any rules. We saw one police man the entire time we were there and he was nicking somebody for a driving offence. We walked our way through all of the chaos and down towards the famous ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign which was about 2.5 miles from our hotel. There was a large queue of people waiting to get their pics in front of it and as Milly was getting hungry by this time, we decided not to wait in line. Part of the line was some newly weds and their entourage. Again, seeing wedding parties about the place was just normal. 

We then made our way back up The Strip and found a little church where Elvis can marry you and at this point Milly was very insistent we get hitched. Sadly I had to turn her down and you should have seen the disappointment in her lovely little face. 

We made it back to HQ and got ourselves dressed up and ready for a night on the town, the final hurrah before making our way back home. 

We had a top night. Got really pissed and mooched all over the place, taking money and drinks off any casino we could. We probably broke even over the course of the evening, which was great considering we’d ended up fairly drunk (which was free in most part) and we’d entertained ourselves for a good 8 hours or so. We’d ventured out to see the lights, the fountains of the Bellagio were amazing and the Venetian Hotel is like something I’ve never witnessed in my life – there’s an actual canal going through it and you can buy a ride on a gondola and have an Italian bloke sing to you. Cesear’s Palace was just immaculate, they’ve certainly not scrimpt on the detail of the place. We also headed back to the indoor shopping mall we’d been to earlier as Milly had seen a strip club there earlier and she fancied giving it a go. Unfortunately it wasn’t open though and she left disappointed. 

We ended the night by fulfilling our dream of eating one of those large slices of pizza you see in any American sitcom and having a chat with a pissed up couple from Oregon. 

The next day was a none event. We spent a great deal of it sleeping, eating and packing bags. I wouldn’t say it was a fitting way to finish off the holiday, but it was worth it because the previous evening was a top laugh. 

Anyway, its with great sadness that we now sign off as the travelling is at an end. Thank you so much to everyone who has bothered to read this and the kind words you’ve fed back about it. Thank you to all those who we’ve met along the way and have made the trip so amazing. 

We’re now back and planning our next trip which we will of course blog about.