Part-time traveller, Full-Time Brummie

USA Sept 2010: Discovering Vegas

I like my sleep. I like to stay wrapped up in my duvet until the very last possible moment that I have to face the world. So why do I find myself sitting on a 24th Floor hotel windowsill (inside I must add) watching the sunrise reflected in the City Center buildings? Damn you jetlag, you are my nemesis!

Sunrise over Las Vegas buildings

Mr Fletche surfaces not long after me, and I place my order for a Starbucks – “Bring me tea!!” (I’m English – tea is part of my lifeblood). My wonderful husband does the tea run whilst I test run the MGM bathroom products. After my tea craving is satisfied, we now have a craving for something more substantial – FOOD.

We check out our breakfast options at MGM and opt for Studio Café. Breakfast seems a little pricey but we have at least three meals worth of food served and knew we wouldn’t need to eat again until the evening! They very kindly organised for me to have no eggs with my Corned Beef Hash (Yes, I know. Everyone likes eggs. However, as you will learn throughout this blog, I have my little quirks. Eggs are one of them. Breakfasts in the US generally contain eggs) yet, my meal still filled my plate and tumbled over the sides…

Finally sated, it’s time to hit the Strip and see what the other hotels have to offer. We pop into the M&M store – how much stuff can you stick an M&M logo on? I could have decorated our house twice over with M&M merchandise… M&M Dinner Service? Certainly, Madame. M&M Bathtowel? Right this way. M&M Toilet Paper? Of course, Madame, its right upstairs next to the M&M rubber duck and M&M shower cap.

All M&M’d out, we cross the street to Aria. Very impressed by the public areas, very sleek and modern, with a subtle – but not overpowering – scent. This was just a quick recee, so we were soon out the other side via Crystals shopping mall. Not much on my shopping list here – these are the type of stores that max your credit card out just window shopping.

Next stop – Bellagio. As soon as you walk into the lobby, you know this is a very special hotel. The lobby ceiling with its blown-glass flowers is just stunning. We walked through to the conservatory – unfortunately it was change of season so there was lots of machinery and maintenance staff milling around but we got a good impression of how the Fall conservatory would look.

Fall display in Bellagio Conservatory

glass ceiling in Bellagio hotel

Our final stop on our first morning itinerary is Planet Hollywood, mainly because this is where we will be picking up our rental car. Our rental pick-up is handled quickly and efficiently by the clerk at the Avis desk – no hard sell, no trying to get us to upgrade, no “extra” insurances – and we’re sent off to the valet to pick up our car. Here it is, the Fletchemobile, a gleaming blue Ford Fusion. With neither of us having any experience of driving on American roads, and only limited experience of automatics, we request a quick instruction on the finer details – like “Where’s the gearstick?” and “Which side of the road do we drive on again?” and off we go.

I say we. I’ll let you in on a little secret – I totally wimped out of driving in America. We planned to share all the driving, but I panicked about panicking and decided I am a much better passenger than driver. Mr Fletche was fantastic and adjusted very quickly – despite me shouting instructions like “Move to the right for God’s sake, we’re going to crash into this wall” and “don’t listen to the GPS, I know best…” for the first couple of journeys. I don’t regret not driving, Mr Fletche enjoyed the challenge and I was free to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Anyway, we’re out of the parking lot: first thing to negotiate – a left hand turn onto Las Vegas Boulevard. Perfectly executed by Mr Fletche. I breathe a sigh of relief. This driving lark’s going to be easy! We soon realise that if you stay in the right-hand lane, you’ll soon be forced off somewhere you don’t want to go, so we settle for the second lane instead. The plan is to drive to the Las Vegas sign – we’re past MGM, we’re past Mandalay Bay… We’re past the Las Vegas sign…

We find a suitable place to change direction – which happens to be the airport – and its back onto the Boulevard. The sign is ahead of us – only there’s no access to the parking lot northwards. By this time Mr Fletche has already stopped loving the Fletchemobile, so we decide to park back up at the MGM and have a rethink.

Our new plan for the afternoon is this. We’ll get the tram from Excalibur to Mandalay Bay, and then we’ll walk to the Las Vegas sign. Yes, you heard me right. In 96 degree, blazing sunshine, we will walk from Mandalay Bay to the Las Vegas sign. It didn’t look that far in the car did it?

First part of the plan is fine. Excalibur. Tram. Mandalay Bay. We sensed that things were about to go wrong when we couldn’t find our way out of Mandalay Bay. Eventually, we’re back out on the Strip. And we walk. And we walk. And then we walk some more because there is nowhere to sit and reassess this decision.

When the sign is in sight, we get a second wind. Which is a good job, because we lost our first one somewhere around Mandalay Bay…

Tourists at Las Vegas sign

The Las Vegas sign is great – you’ve not been to Vegas unless you’ve stood in front of that sign for a piccie. But that second wind…. It’s blown away once we start to contemplate the walk back. We decide to walk for a little while and see if we can flag down a taxi… And we walk. And we walk. And then we walk some more. I have NEVER been so grateful to see those two beautiful gleaming golden arches signifying a nearby McDonalds in my life. The staff look a little bewildered as we stagger through the door, croaking “water… water” as if we’d crossed the Sahara Desert. As I throw myself down onto a seat, I fear that I may never walk again. Thank god for refillable soft drinks as we chug our way through litres and litres of Mountain Dew.

We eventually feel that we can make that final journey back to the MGM via the Mandalay Bay  tram, although we can barely walk for aching legs and potential heat exhaustion. At last, we’re back safe and sound in our nice, air-conditioned, comfortable hotel room…. Time for a snooze I think; after all, it would be bedtime back home in the UK….

After a nice couple of hours nap, we’ve found a new lease of life. Memories of this afternoon’s horrendous walk have faded, although we still can’t find the energy to walk all the way to Paris  (the hotel. Not Paris, France. That would be a very long walk). So, all refreshed, we go catch the Monorail from MGM to Bally’s/Paris station. At $5 per person, the Monorail isn’t cheap, especially if you are only going one stop as we were. But it is quick and easy, and it’s a pleasant walk through Bally’s and Paris.

I’d done my research. Day 1, we eat at Mon Ami Gabi. And yes, I wanted a patio seat. So even though Mr Fletche was so hungry by now that he could eat the whole of Paris, I go and put our names down with the host and I’m given a pager which allows us to go anywhere in the casino (“but it doesn’t work past the white bridge. Or past that door. Or at the bar.”). The nice lady at the desk tells me it will be a 40-60 minute wait. I tell Mr Fletche it’s a 30 minute wait and hope he doesn’t notice… I’m just five foot away from the desk when the pager buzzes. Yes! We’re in! Except apparently it’s a double-booked pager, so I slope away disappointed with my newly reset pager in my hand.

The Paris casino in Las Vegas

As we’re confined to the casino, I decided to dabble in the slots myself. Put in $10, win $8.50, cash out even! All in the space of about five minutes. The cocktail waitress takes a while to make an appearance, but then appears twice in quick succession. We pass the time, putting $10 in here, $20 in there, no big wins, but no big losses either. And at about 9pm, the pager buzzes! I skip over to Mon Ami Gabi’s front desk in excitement.

We’re taken through the restaurant, and led out to a table at the railings on the left of the patio. Perfect! When we get sight of the first Bellagio fountain show while munching on our bread (mmm, good bread, still warm from the oven) I almost squeal with excitement. This is it – this is the Vegas you see in movies. We both opt for the steak frites – the steak is cooked to perfection, and the sauces are complementary but not overpowering. Only problem I had was picking up my frites with a fork – there must be some special art to this? With drinks, the meal costs around $65 – food, service, location and atmosphere definitely made this well worth the money.

With no room for pudding, we waddle over to catch another fountain show from in front of the Bellagio. I could have stood there all night watching one show after another. Does anyone else ever feel the need to clap when it’s done?

The night is young; we should get another drink somewhere!  We walk inside Bellagio towards Fontana Bar, but there is quite a queue, so we walk back down the Strip to NYNY. Nine Fine Irishmen is dead quiet on their outside patio, but when we get inside the hotel, there’s a cover charge and it’s packed inside. Bar at Times Square is also packed. We can spend a squashed sweaty night paying for over-priced drinks back home, so we decide to head back over to home base at MGM and seek out some attentive cocktail waitresses instead. I discover Video Poker – again, bet small, lose small…

With our first full day over, it’s already time to pack up and leave Vegas for one night. But we will be back soon….

In 2010 A Brummie Home and Abroad headed off to Las Vegas for the very first time. This is a day by day account of Las Vegas for beginners



5 responses to “USA Sept 2010: Discovering Vegas”

  1. josypheen says:

    Sounds fun (apart from the death walk before Maccy Ds!!)

    This is a slightly strange question, but why are frites hard to eat with a fork? Are they so skinny that they fall through the forks gaps? Or were they uber crunchy and un-stabbable!?

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