Tying up loose ends

As this is our last full day in Las Vegas, we wanted to use it to tie up the loose ends. Or, so to say, we wanted to do the things we did not get to do in the past few days.

First off, there were a few hotels we didn’t visit yet, like the Monte Carlo Hotel. Even though this hotel has grandeur all around on the outside, the inside is a little less grand. It isn’t ugly, but it is less nice than the outside suggests. I don’t know why, but it is just the feeling we had strolling through the areas available to the general public.
As today is again a really hot day, being inside does count.

Even though it is quite early in the day, we just had to get on the roller coaster at the New York New York Hotel. However bumpy, it actually is a good ride! With really tight turns and a good amount of speed it makes for an interesting roller coaster, yet it is, like all things in Las Vegas, a little expensive. The coaster runs on the patio of New York New York, and the start/finish is inside an arcade hall. Good fun!

As Las Vegas has not always been this big, and all the fun has not always been centred on The Strip, we took a trip to Fremont Street. That is where the old city centre is located and where he olde Hotels and Casinos like the Gold Nugget are. As things have to get more interesting as they are situated further from the Strip nowadays, they have put a massive roof riddled with LEDs over the full length of 2 blocks. At night, these are lit and they even have shows!
As we arrived at Fremont somewhere in the afternoon we agreed to go back and see for ourselves how it looks in the dark.

That meant we had some time to kill. As we are in Las Vegas, there always is something to do. We chose to relax and go see the pool. Just chilling with everybody hip and happening at the Bellagio. I can only say it is lovely!

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More Vegas is more Vegas

After nearly completing our south trip of the Las Vegas Strip yesterday, we decided today was going to be the day of us touring the northern part of The Strip.

The Strip actually is really long but has no official boundaries. It is however said to run roughly between the Stratosphere Hotel on the northern edge and the Las Vegas Sign on the southern edge. Yesterday, we only went to the last hotel on the Strip, Mandalay Bay. The Sign actually is a little while further down south.
Today, we will not make it all the way up to the Stratosphere, as we planned to travel only to the Wynn and Encore Hotels. From there, the Stratosphere is still quite a distance away.

Without going into too much details it is safe to say that every single hotel we have been to is really beautiful and really big! Also, they all have excellent air conditioning which comes in handy when temperatures outside start reaching 40 degrees Celsius. Especially when the sun is out and the wind has picked up a bit.

Tonight was a little bit of a special night for me, as it was the night my birthday present was to happen. Yay!
This meant we had to go to the Rio Hotel to see a show by Penn & Teller!
As I was pretty sure I wanted to go to their show, I kind of dragged Kirsten along with me. But luckily, she found the magic show to be really good, just like me.
So here’s another tip: when in Las Vegas, go see a show by Penn & Teller!

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Viva Las Vegas!

After sleeping in to get over the previous day, we headed off for our first full day at Sin City. And what a day it was going to be.

We booked tickets for a show of Cirque du Soleil at the MGM Grand hotel, and we were supposed to pick them up at the box office there. As we intend to get a good look at every hotel on the strip this year, we figured today was a good day to view the Strip south of our hotel. With some really major hotels situated just south of us, it was going to be a packed day!

First off, directly adjacent to the Bellagio, there is the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Virtually brand new, it is a really stylish hotel. We did not like it though. It just lacks a lot, and we did not pay much attention to it. Next up: Aria. With really pretty shops just in front of it, Aria is also pretty new and marvellously built and decorated. This is how all shopping malls and hotels should look like!

After that, there is of course the Monte Carlo Hotel. Built based off of the original hotel at Monte Carlo, it is really nice, baroque and romantic. We did not take a look inside as we were in a hurry to get to our tickets. Next time!

Next to the Monte Carlo lies New York – New York, with the Brooklyn Bridge in front of it and both the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building towering over it, this hotel is mimicking the skyline of our previous destination. Inside, it is not as grand as outside. Just like many others, you go straight from the pavement into the casino and it lacks much of the ambiance other hotels have. It is not bad, but not the best. The ride is lovely though! It is definitely on my todo list!

Across the street, the MGM Grand is situated. Currently under a major overhaul it has temporarily lost a lost of its grandeur, but you can still see what it used to be. Let’s hope it will come out better than before! Oh, and the lion exhibit is unfortunately closed for now.
This is where we got our tickets, and will be returning to that night.

Going back across the street we continued our journey south. Encountering familiar grounds with Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay, we travelled through all of them as they are all linked together. With temperatures searing it feels good to be inside. Outside is no joke, I can tell you that!

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Crossing the country

There always is a time of coming and a time of going. I have no idea whether there is a saying in English anything like that, but in Dutch there is. What I’m trying to say here, is that all good things come to an end, and so is our stay at Niagara Falls.

This means we have to go back from Canada to the US, and return our rental car. It also means we have to drive through the US Customs, go back to Buffalo and deal with the situation of getting into a plane, and reaching a 45 minute transfer in time. Also, reaching the hotel from the airport is among the things we have to accomplish today.
It’ll probably work out just fine! But for now, a little stress is setting in.

First things first. Our flight leaves Buffalo at 6. Our car has to be returned at 3. This means we have a large chunk of the day for ourselves. What will you be doing when in Niagara Falls? Right. Go to the Falls.
Just the Canadian side this time, as we did not want to go through the hassle of crossing the border twice a day!

After getting into the car and driving to Buffalo, everything actually went pretty smooth!
We made it to our flight, we connected on to the next flight in Boston without any issues and the journey from McCarran airport to the hotel was a breeze thanks to a shuttle service. Unfortunately not a courtesy shuttle, but that was ok. We are not the big spenders anyway.

And there we have it. A little past 12am and we are here. In our room. At the Bellagio.

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What stays in Vegas…

What stays in Vegas… doesn’t leave Vegas. It is as simple as that. So we left. Checked out, tugged al baggage to the car and drove off. Destination? Ridgecrest.

Our main goal for today was not Ridgecrest, as one might have guessed; it is Death Valley.
The lowest and hottest point of North America. Today it was a mere 43 degrees in the shade at the visitors center, so at Badwater (at -68 metres the lowest and hottest point) it was several degrees warmer.

We went out to see all major points on the roadside and after the advice of the very cheerful National Park Ranger “In this weather, you don’t want to walk more than 20 metres from your car” we kind of did.
At Badwater, we walked about half a kilometre over the salt crust to the more virgin salt crust and took some pictures. Very impressive, and equally warm!

Other points of interest we attended were: Zabriskie Point, Dantes View, the Towne pass, Badwater and Artists Drive. The last is a very scenic drive to several bumps and big rocks on a hillside with loads of different colors. There are yellow, green, blue, red and all other tones to be seen in these formations which is fascinating.

Leaving Death Valley is not an easy task as it is surrounded by three big mountain ranges. You have a steep climb to come in and an even steeper descend to go out. After that there virtually is nothing there, as it simply is yet another dry, low valley where almost nothing lives.

There are a few people though, in places called Trona and Ridgecrest (formerly known as Crumville). Tomorrow off to Yosemite National Park!

Vegas baby!

Sleeping in our lush hotel in the kingsize bed is quite nice, I can get used to that! The only thing is that the constant ringing and plinging and zinging of the slotmachines is getting to you after about 15 minutes…

Having bought a full day pass to the buffet at the Luxor we had breakfast and git ready to board the bus to to to the Bellagio to get our tickets for their 7:30pm show. Because of the double bus system they have on the Strip with a slow bus which stops at every stop and an express bus which only stops on selected stops the ride up took us ages on the slower double decker bus called the Deuce.

After the lady at the Bellagio box office helped us out great with refunding double booked (and charged!) tickets we watched and even filmed a couple of the fountain shows the hotel offers. These are as crazy as one would imagine, complete with super high water jets, light show and music to top it all off. The best free show in town.

We dove straight back into the bus to ride it all the way to the Stratosphere Hotel to take a look at Las Vegas from the tallest building around. From 185 meters up, it is really impressive! As Kirsten was not feeling well, we did not go on any rides up there, which is too bad as they looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, as the elevator system is really weird in the tower, we waited for around half an hour to get a ride down and finally got one.

After this ordeal we went on to visit some more hotels, and the whackiest stores in the strip: M&M’s World, next to Coca Cola World. Both have 4 floors of merchandise, and both are equally expensive. Good fun though!
Since it was nearly time for dinner we boarded the Ace again and made our way to the Luxor to eat at the buffet. Weird as it sounds, it was actually great! The food was pretty good and it has a true Vegas feel to it to eat together with the gamblers and the likes.

After dinner we got dressed properly for the show and headed out to the Bellagio to go the latest Cirque du Soleil show O. Simply put: it is really expensive but one should go see it. It is mindblowingly good and an absolute joy to watch. For those interested in theatre techniques, it is even better!

Right after the show we got back to our hotel where we spent money like the high rollers at the slotmachines and git a net profit of -10 dollars. Oh well, the casino always wins…

It’s getting hot hot hot

Right after we woke up in our western style bed over at the Historic Pioneer Lodge in Springdale, we started our day off with a healthy *ahum* breakfast at the local saloon, also known as the hotel’s restaurant. We’re getting tired of the western style by now, and are quickly on our way to Sin City.

With a quick stop over at Fabulous Freddie’s car wash in St. George (go there for cheap gas and a nice clean car!) We went for a d-tour from the I15 to go to the Valley of Fire state park. Being the oldest state park in Nevada that particular feat is being mentioned at every possible opportunity.
We think it’s a hidden gem which shouldn’t be overlooked as the way it is right now. The bright red rocks are the weirdest thing you’ll see in quite some time as they just appear to emerge from the desert.
There is one minor disadvantage to this SP: it is blistering hot out there. We were hitting the lower 40’s degrees Celsius but it gets warner some days, even regular peaks over the upper 40’s!

After this, me moved on to find the big black pyramid in Las Vegas’ make street: the Strip. The Luxor hotel & casino is the place where we were to stay for 2 nights and thus 1.5 days. Right off the bat, we started off by getting checked in and walking the full 15 minutes through the heart of the hotel (and its gambling floor) to our car. And back.
All hotels have specific shows, rides and features to attract visitors. The hotel adjacent to ours, Mandalay Bay, has an indoor seaquarium with predator fish only and this year it’ll welcome its 10 millionth visitor in a decade. We also bought tickets to see the sharks and piranhas. Awesome!

We had dinner at an unnamed fastfood restaurant and proceeded to flaunt our stuff walking the Strip at night. We walked all the way from the Mandalay Bay to Treasure Island and back, which left us with sore feet and a whole lot of impressions. Las Vegas is just nuts! You’ve never seen a couple newlyweds, Darth Vader, a limousine and a homeless guy in just under 10 seconds until you’ve been to Vegas.

Tired, but knowing the next day will be stuffed with more Las Vegas, we went to sleep. Tomorrow a full day, and even some added entertainment!

Boarding the bus

Zion National Park has, like two other NP’s, a free shuttle bus system. You can safely ride the bus from the local town to the park, transfer to the park’s line and travel inside the park with those buses. All free!

We did just that to and in Zion, and I can tell you: it’s great. There’s no parking drama as the car stays at the hotel and inside the park buses are on a 6 to 10 minute schedule so there are no long waiting lines.
Besides, today the buses are very convenient, as I parked our car in a place where the lawn sprinklers were hurting the car. So early in the morning we woke up yo find our car covered in white stuff, which wouldn’t come off easily.
Luckily, after buying some bathroom cleaner (!) we got rid of the majority of it on the windows so we were able to see out clearly.

Zion NP is a great place to be, as beautiful as it is. I would recommend renting special water shoes to hike through the river to a place called The Narrows. This is where the gorge gets so small that the river fills up the place from wall to wall. We didn’t and kind of regret that.

On the way to a viewpoint called Weeping Rock, we found ourselves confronted with the only venomous snake in the park, the Diamondback rattlesnake. It just sat there minding its own business. I’m pretty sure it knew we were there but it simply didn’t bother to slither away out of our sight. The encounter with this majestic creature left us wondering how safe the trip really was…

Zion NP has a really interesting geology, and is part of the Grand Staircase. This means that all earth’s layers are fully exposed and that Zion’s oldest layer is Grand Canyon youngest layer. Bryce Canyon’s layers are even younger than Zion’s!

Finally, after a long and very hot day filled with scenic views and short hikes, we returned to our lush Western hotel to sleep in our timber built bed. Tomorrow the trip to Vegas!