Saturday, 28 March 2009

Leaving Las Vegas

For our finale in Vegas we felt that a little gambling was in order. Jus had already dipped her toes in the water by investing a few dollars in the slots, and I later caught her pushing quarters into the Elvis Presley penny falls. $6 into the red, we wandered around the casino looking completely out of our depth. Every once in a while we'd pause at a table and watch for a few moments, desperately trying to work out what game was being played and what the rules were.

Finally, we took a huge risk and placed a $5 blackjack bet - King and Jack for us... dealer goes bust - Yee Hah! Flushed with success we headed back to the slots for a final flutter and while Jus was losing, my machine suddenly went crazy and started giving me credits (I'm still not sure I understand what I did to make it do that). As it hit the point where we were back level, we agreed that we would quit while we were ahead. I cashed in my winnings and our final balance sheet from Vegas gave us a very healthy 57 cents profit. In these troubled financial times, it's good to know that there are still sensible investment opportunities if you know where to look.

All in all, we're glad we've experienced Vegas but wouldn't go back. We've proved to ourselves that we're not big gamblers, we don't need girls delivering (like pizza) to our door and if we wanted the Trafford Centre, we'd go to the Trafford Centre.

Fear And Loathing

Day two dawns, we wake up, pull the curtains back and... its still there! With some trepidation we head back out and begin our mission to visit every one of the big hotels to check out the standard of "theming".

Somehow it doesn't seem quite so grim in the daylight and we attempt to cross "The Strip". There are cars everywhere - at one point we counted 13 lanes in the road. As we make for an overpass, a voice appears out of nowhere and starts advertising at us (we're 5 years from Minority Report here) "Good morning Simon, we notice it's 2 months since you purchased your last iPod. Why not stop by at our store where we have the latest colors [sic] in stock at terrific prices". This place is making my head hurt.

We arrive on the other side of the strip unscathed and head into the Venetian which I have to say looks pretty impressive - various elements from St Mark's square are reproduced here and the scale of the place is immense. Inside, we head for the shopping mall which we've heard has a canal in it. This turns out to be true, it does indeed have a canal in it, and there are gondolas on the canal and in the gondolas there are gondoliers who are singing gondolier-type songs (you know, Just One Cornetto, that kind of thing). Aside from the canal, it looks like the Trafford Centre (I'm sensing a theme here).

All set to move onto the next hotel, we spot 3 statues heading down an escalator. Concerned that Vegas has mushed our brains completely, we sit down to watch. Thankfully, it turns out that this is a regular show and it's actually pretty good - the "statues" go and stand in a fountain and then start dancing around while water sprays from their fingers and heads.

Several hotels later and we've seen an indoor rain shower, lions, an erupting volcano, flamingos, pirates fighting pole-dancing-sirens, choreographed fountains and some excellent circus performers.

We then visit "The Largest Souvenir Shop In The World".

This affords me the opportunity to buy almost anything I could imagine, including an entire "Jesus range" including Jesus pens and my own personal favourite, Jesus lip balm - "lookin' good for Jesus"!

As if this wasn't enough excitement we head off to the Stratosphere hotel, a 112 storey tower with three theme-park-type rides on the top of it. Going up in the lift makes our ears pop and, emerging onto the observation deck, we can tell how high we are by how small everything below looks. Also we feel the floor move as people walk around - when I'm 112 storeys high and standing in a big UFO shaped room which overhangs the tower by a significant amount, I generally like the floor to not move, but maybe that's just me.

Given that we're already nervous (I mean I'm fine, but you know, Jus isn't and I don't want her to think that she's the only one), we decide we may as well give the three rides ago (in for a cent, in for a dollar, as they say). First up is Insanity which is a spinny round kind of ride which hangs your chair over the edge of the tower and you are gradually tipped forward as you accelerate so that you are invited to stare downwards at the not-very-bouncy earth way below - we thought this would be the scariest one but the worst thing about it from my point of view was that whizzing round in a circle at 40 mph made me feel very dizzy (bordering on sick).

Next up was X-Scream which looked like a giant see-saw with a bob sleigh mounted to it. We got on with it pointing up in the air and as the bob moved forwards, it suddenly tipped downwards and we hurtled over the edge of the tower and then stopped suddenly in mid air - this made Jus scream very loudly (I was unable to scream as my pancreas had blocked my throat). It messed us about a little more by randomly tipping up, then plunging back down, delighting the two Japanese guys who were "lucky" enough to have bagged the front seats (they were more than welcome to them).

The final ride was Big Shot which was a vertical ride sat right on top of the tower - it basically just shot you up in the air at high speed, stopped abruptly at the top which made you feel weightless (and sick) and then you came back down again, very fast. This one made both of us scream very loudly.

As we took the lift journey back down the tower, we were entertained by a lift attendant who delivered, at breakneck pace, the kind of monologue that Johnny Carson would have been proud of... "later tonight we've got a fabulous show called 'Bite' featuring exotic dancers - I have vouchers which get you two tickets for the price of one - if you're out in Vegas this evening, be sure to use the designated crossings or walkways as they are handing out tickets for jay-walking and whatever you do, you all make sure you have a good time here. This stop is the lounge." I wanted to applaud!