1. What Happens in Vegas...
We had a long day of driving ahead of us. The kind of day full of coffee and naughty fast food snacks. Things I would never allow myself on a normal day. But this wasn’t a normal day, this my friends was vacation!
We were on our way to Las Vegas, Nevada. Sin City, The Miracle in the Desert, The City of Entertainment, or the tagline that I prefer: “It’s Not For Everyone”. Vegas is not my first choice for places to go. We went for the first time in 2003 and honestly I had no plans to ever go back. But, here I was 16 years later in my husband’s car on my way there. There are few people who could get me to make this trip- my sister sits at the top of that list, but it wasn’t her fault I was eating McDonald’s french fries in Lost Hills, California and ruining my waistline. Who do I have to blame for this? My in-laws.
One year earlier we sat in the kitchen of my in-laws house in Scrooby, north Nottinghamshire eating donuts (um yolo, vacation right?). My father-in-law slapped an itinerary on the table and announced that they were going to Las Vegas for 10 days the following year and they wanted us to join them. I’m not going to lie, I panicked inside. Las Vegas for TEN DAYS! No way. I’m sure the panic showed in my eyes. My husband must have internally groaned when he heard the news too, it’s not his cup of tea either. Fortunately for us we were able to whittle our participation down to 5 days, which is still way too many days to be in Las Vegas. But I concede, it was better than 10 days. When we got home from that trip to England we set about planning a larger road trip vacation which included the Las Vegas portion but wasn’t centered around it. Hallelujah!
Fast forward to almost exactly a year later and I was now staring at the Mojave desert. Windmills and oddly enough rows of decommissioned airplanes broke up the landscape. Off to our right, a vast airplane boneyard stretching off into the distance and now my friends, I know where they go to die. Surprisingly even as late into spring as we were there was still snow on the mountains in the far distance. They were like this shining beacon of hope that we weren’t stuck in a landscape of never ending desert. I kept saying that I wished we were headed to those mountains, it was like the reverse of Mordor. Have I mentioned I’m not a fan of the arid desert?
Anyone that’s been on Highway 15 has seen the odd sight that is the Ivanpah Solar Electric generating system. We didn’t know what it was so when we saw these weird towers with the panels on the top reflecting the sun it felt like we’d stumbled up an alien landing zone. I had to look it up immediately! The mirrors on top of the towers gets so hot they kill birds in flight. There are some odd things out there in the desert my friends. Sometimes I think it’s best not to know what’s out there.
You know you’ve hit Nevada state line when suddenly the desert is interrupted by random casinos and mini amusement parks. It was such a strange sight. I never saw a sign announcing that we’d entered Nevada so I was wondering how we’d know we had crossed the state line. How silly of me...
I have to admit I was taken off guard by how quickly the city of Las Vegas appeared before us. I’ve never entered Las Vegas from the ground, we flew in our last time, so I’d never seen the high rise casinos of the strip just suddenly be in front of us. I’m not going to lie, even though Las Vegas is not my favorite place it was magical to see the glittering gold of the Mandalay Bay. They know how to make those high class hotels look inviting. It felt like this was our first time in Las Vegas. Our first trip was a quick one and we stayed on the far south end of the strip at the Stratosphere. It was blazing hot on that trip and so unpleasant, the monorail was broken and we had to take expensive taxis to get anywhere. The furthest north we went was the Venetian.. This time we intended to explore as much of the strip as we could.
By the time we arrived my in-laws had already been in Las Vegas for 5 days. I have no clue what they’d been doing that whole time before we arrived, any time I asked I just got a shrug in return. They were staying at a hotel 2.5 miles off the strip called the Mardi Gras and with no rental car in sight we were their main transportation. I should mention before I get any further that my husband and I had quite the spirited discussion about where we were going to stay while in Las Vegas. Originally we were due to stay at the Paris Hotel and Casino the entire 5 nights that we were going to be there. I was happy with that and happy to keep it that way. Had we done that we would have had a nice and most likely uneventful stay. As I’m sure you’ve guessed that is not what ended up happening. My. husband had other ideas. He decided that we needed to stay where his father and step-mother were staying. I was not having this, after all, I’d read the reviews on TripAdvisor and I’d even had one of my clients go and scope it out in person for me. It’s not a nice place. After our standoff I admitted that I had to give a little ground and we compromised. We were to stay 2 nights at the Paris Hotel so I could have my little bit of luxury and the remaining 3 nights we’d stay at the Mardi Gras.
I was not happy, not happy at all but marriage requires give and take and I had to acquiesce or risk a very uncomfortable 7 hour car ride. We picked my in-laws up at their hotel which made my heart sink even further. Seeing it in person was just as bad as I’d imagined. I put it out of my mind, trying to focus instead on the next two nights in our glorious room at the Paris. Denial and I are good friends and even better friends when I’ve got a cocktail in hand.
We arrived at Napoleons lounge inside the Paris just in time for happy hour. I mean, we skidded in just as it was ending receiving our two drinks simultaneously which made for a very jolly table! Once I had a Moscow mule in me I was a very happy camper indeed! We sat at the table catching up. It’s amazing how quickly you get back into a groove after not seeing someone for a year. Within 10 minutes it felt like we’d never left them.
Let me tell you the first mistake I made on this trip. I had expectations. I had a picture of how I thought the Vegas part of our trip would go. I imagined one or two nice sit down dinners, nightly drinks in a lounge or cool bar, fun daytime adventures that might include the mob museum or a zip line over Fremont Street, maybe a show, and lounging by the pool with a cocktail. The problem with expectations is you set yourself up for disappointment. See, I didn’t factor in the possibility that no one else had this picture of their time in Vegas. I also didn’t factor in that maybe one or more of my traveling companions was just as stubborn as me and maybe just maybe they didn’t intend to do any of the things on my list. This was to be our one and only nighttime cocktail and we left just as the pianist began playing as it got too loud for my companions. It was then I realized this was to be a one off. Cross one thing off the list.
We retired back to our room to show my in-laws our fantastic view. We got lucky when we checked in that they had an upgrade offer that didn’t break the bank. Our room had an unimpeded view of the Strip. We were directly across the street from the Bellagio fountains which is quite the spectacle. We could hear just enough of the music through the window to catch the choreography of the water. We also had an unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower and it’s gorgeous nightly light show. That room was just amazing. The only hitch was being on the 26th floor my fear of heights kicked in if I got too close to the window. Fortunately for me there was a comfortable chair just the right distance from the window. I thoroughly enjoyed the light show from said chair. I wish we’d stayed there the entire 5 nights.
Our first morning waking up in Vegas and we went out in search of breakfast and most importantly coffee. I also slapped on a Hangover patch from the Good Patch, 2 strong Moscow Mules is enough to send me to scratchy eye and moderate headache territory. I’m telling you those little things work. My friend Lindsey is the real MVP for introducing me to those B-12 packed saviors.
Breakfast options were abundant but every single place had really long lines and we were on a time schedule. We were meeting my in-laws at the Mandalay Bay to check out the aquarium and we decided to walk there from the Paris. We got quick breakfast sandwiches from The Earl of Sandwich and took off at a double step pace. Imagine our surprise when we arrived near the Excalibur hotel and it started to sprinkle. Rain hadn’t been forecasted in Vegas before we left so I didn’t think to bring an umbrella. We hopped on the mini tram from the Excalibur to the Mandalay Bay to escape the droplets and arrived 15 minutes late to our meeting time. My in-laws were no where to be seen. After a few tries calling them we finally got connected and found out they were at the Tropicana. Why, you might ask? I asked that myself. Did we get a clear answer? No. Apparently they wanted to see it, our meeting time be damned. Remember those expectations I mentioned friends? Yeah, I was learning quickly to lower them.
Eventually we made our way to the aquarium and the sharks in the 1.3 million gallon tank. I can confirm that that is one large tank. I cannot speak for everyone in my group but I enjoyed this small aquarium. It had a touch pool where Daniel touched a sting ray and a jellyfish tank which is always my favorite. Our ticket also included the polar journey, which to be honest unless you have young children is not worth going to. It’s quite small and hokey.
After a quick coffee we concluded our afternoon with lunch at Outback Steakhouse. I swear we only went there because my father-in-law wanted to go up the Coca Cola elevator. We sat at our table overlooking the strip and New York New York and watched as the skies absolutely opened. It started dumping down rain. I can understand now why the desert is so susceptible to flash floods. The amount of water that fell in the time that we took to eat our lunch was staggering. We were also trying to figure out how on earth we were going to make it back to the hotel without getting absolutely drenched! We tried to wait out the storm under the overhang of a building but realized pretty quickly that that was futile. This rain was not letting up any time soon. As I stood under that overhang, looking at the distance to the crosswalk and wondering just how see-though my shirt was going to be when I got to the Paris, a woman who had been sheltering next to me turned to me and very bluntly asked, “Can I have that plastic bag you’re holding because you’re clearly not using it.” To which I replied, “ Sorry no, I do intend to use it once I’m not under the overhang.” She gave me a dirty look and took off in the rain. The cheek of some people.
Having finally made it back to the Paris predictably soaked, we saw my in-laws off at the monorail station. I took this time to finally head to the hotel gym. I don’t know when I became this person but somehow I’ve become someone who exercises regularly and looks forward to using a hotel gym. Who goes on vacation and gets super excited to use an elliptical machine? This girl.
For the first 30 minutes or so it was myself, one woman doing free weights and a bunch of dudes. It’s funny watching people work out. You have the serius fitness people who give it their all and really put in the time and energy at their chosen machine/s. And then you have the ones who come in and try each machine for about 5 or 10 minutes, sit down and wipe their brow and then watch the tv’s above the machines. In the hour that I was in the hotel gym splitting my time between the treadmill and the elliptical I saw quite a few impressive people really working out hard and some not so impressive people peacocking around. And then there was me. Working my heart out literally pounding the treadmill (I’ve discovered in the quiet gym that I’m quite heavy footed, oops!) and choking on my water while on the elliptical. So basically, I was noisy and sweaty but oh so happy when I was done. So pleased with my effort in fact that we promptly went for pizza after I showered.