13 – 18 September
On the Monday we returned our rental car which had served us so well from San Francisco to Napa Valley, to Lake Tahoe, to Yosemite, to Santa Cruz and back again! We caught our flight to Las Vegas and arrived in the evening; without too many hassles we caught a shuttle to our hotel (Gold Coast Hotel & Casino).
That evening despite being tired we managed to wonder around the casino floor and marvel at all the zombies throwing money away in the slot machines; don’t they have video games at home? Flashing lights and all kinds of whizzing, beeping and coin jingling sounds were constantly erupting from all over the floor – we went and found some peace and a beer at a karaoke bar, we didn’t sing but rather chose to watch others. We stayed up till midnight and then went up to the bowling alley and utilised the post midnight cheap deals – $1 beers, $1 shoe hire and $1 bowling rounds. It was fun.
The following day we took the free shuttle from our hotel to the main strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) where we made the mammoth walk in the intense dry heat to a German beer tavern (Hofbrauhaus) for lunch and beer – it was fun but expensive, certainly not German beer prices. Refreshed and ready we made our way back to the Las Vegas Boulevard and checked out such famous establishments as Caesars Palace, The Mirage, Planet Hollywood and the Ballagio. We saw the famous water fountain show at the Ballagio (During the night it can spurt water to heights taller than Caesar’s Palace). Then we went and saw the volcano eruption at The Mirage. I’m sure there must be some interesting story behind the creation of these shows – I can just imagine the owner of The Mirage responding to an employee “What, the Ballagio has created a water fountain display with music, lights and choreographed water spurts! – Well you make sure we build a better display, I’m not going to be outdone by the f***ing Ballagio!” The employee would no doubt have asked what kind of display/show the owner wanted, at which point the owner probably yelled. “What am I playing you for, use your bloody head, you can build a god damn volcano for all I care just make sure its better than the damn Ballagio’s water thingy!” – and so a volcano was built in the middle of Vegas for a casino called The Mirage.
To properly get into the Vegas spirit I risked $20 on a blackjack table at Bill’s Casino and Tavern, by the time we were hungry enough to want to leave I was $1 better off. I was stoked, I was a winner – I was convinced I was a natural blackjack player.
On Wednesday we had a relaxing morning at the hotel; we had a swim and just chilled out. In the afternoon we headed back to the Strip where we visited places we hadn’t seen the previous day. Including the MGM Grand which has a famous M&M shop where Renee bought stuff and an expensive lion habitat which was kind of cool. We looked in Hooters, Tropicana, Four Seasons, Monte Carlo, New York New York, Excalibur, Mandelay Bay, and the Luxor – it was a busy day of casino visiting. Later at Bill’s Casino and Tavern I was simply itching to play blackjack again, I knew that I wasn’t simply playing; I was going to win. Funnily enough I did, I came out $45 better off.
After returning from our Grand Canyon flight we were dropped off at a Best Buy where we intended to buy a laptop for my mum, it turned out that his was not going to happen at Best Buy as the staff are so useless. Next door there was an Office Depot where we managed to buy the laptop. Later in the Gold Coast casino I managed to win another $45 playing blackjack, I was about to turn pro but decided to have dinner first. After dinner the luck changed and Renee and I both ended up losing $20 on the blackjack tables, maybe I wasn’t such a winner after all, perhaps I’d just got lucky a couple of times. I was yet to be entirely convinced so I played again later and lost an additional $15. This certainly was not going to be a route to riches after all, how disappointing.
For Friday Renee and I decided to go up the Stratosphere Tower and rode the Top of the World ride; shooting 160 feet in the air at 45 miles per hour; it was brief but kind of exhilarating. We had a few drinks and snacks during happy hour in a couple of venues on the strip before finding a nice Japanese place in the Ballagio for dinner. Later we went to Beatles Love, the show; naturally being a Cirque du Solei production the feats the performers do were quite amazing. I would describe it as a performance extravaganza to Beatles music, but it didn’t seem to have much of an overall story line or acting.
The following morning I made a difficult goodbye to Renee who was flying back to San Francisco en-route to Auckland.