Archive for December, 2012


Las Vegas: The Strip

So this is part 3 of my 4 part record of my Vegas adventure. It’s going to focus mainly on shows, but lots of the shows don’t permit photography so there aren’t too many pictures to look at. Sorry.

I’m starting at the Mirage, which I believe was the first hotel on the strip. Some clever chap noticed people driving from LA to what is now downtown and thought “If I build my hotel and casino here folks won’t have to drive so far”. That hotel became the Mirage which is where this post begins, with the Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.

Siegfried and Roy were a pair of magicians who did a lot of work with exotic animals until one show where one of the tigers bit Roy’s neck in an apparent attempt to carry him to safety. In any case, at Roy’s request the tiger was not harmed, but the incident led to the show closing, and what is left is an animal sanctuary and dolphin enclosure. The sanctuary is pretty small, but the dolphins really were amazing, so here is a picture:

Dolphins at the Mirage

Dolphins at the Mirage

We saw a fair few shows whilst in Vegas. At the Luxor (shaped like a pyramid) we saw Carrot Top’s show “worth the trip”. Carrot Top is a prop comedian and I wasn’t really sure what to expect but was actually hilarious. I was laughing out loud until my ribs ached. I would definitely recommend that.

Outside Caesar’s Palace we saw a close up circus show in a very intimate little tent. The show was called Absinthe and the stage, at the centre of the arena must have only been a couple of metres wide. The ring master character was very crude but funny, and the acts were amazing. I was particularly impressed when one guy standing upright balanced another guy, who was upside down using only their necks. If you’re trying to figure that through in your head and it just sounds impossible then stop, because what you’re imagining is probably right. Also outside Caesar’s Palace we met a guy dressed like the guy from the hangover, presumably outside because the hotel isn’t pager friendly.

hangover

We also went to see Ka, which is a Cirque De Soleil show at the MGM Grand. It told the story of a power struggle between two nations, and a pair of royal twins who were separated from each other. There were tonnes of amazing acrobatics but the star of the show was the stage itself, which, suspended on some really heavy duty looking hydraulics could move to all sorts of angles. It could be flat and covered in sand one minute, and then shift all the way to vertical (tipping the sand off as it went). Another great feature was that it also formed a projector screen, which meant that when a member of the cast fell into water the actor seemed to be tracked, and bubbles were projected in the wake.

Back to the Mirage, but this time at night where now and again you can see a volcano erupt. This is one of a host of free shows put on by the casinos and shopping centres.

Volcano on The Strip

Volcano on The Strip

We saw a volcano erupt. We saw a pirate ship sailing down the strip, and we heard thunder, saw lightning and felt rain during a rainstorm inside a shopping centre but by far the best of the free shows was the infamous fountains at the Bellagio. These shows run fairly frequently and are choreographed to music that changes each time, so there’s a lot of repeat value. I think we watched them four or five times. This is a must for any Vegas experience. At night the lights really add to the overall effect, and they go really, really high too!

fountains

The Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon

So this is post two of four posts on my Las Vegas Adventure. Whilst we were in Las Vegas we took two trips out, one to the Grand Canyon, with a brief stop at Hoover Dam, and one to the Dam itself where we got to take a closer look around.

hoover1

The Hoover Dam (originally Boulder Dam) was built to stop farmland from flooding, and regulate the flow of the Colorado river. It also provides a source of Hydroelectric power. It’s not as big as I thought it would be, but it’s still pretty amazing. In order to give the structure strength it’s wider at the bottom that it is at the top, and it’s arched so that it will brace the pressure from the water on the lake side. The lake is called lake Mead which provides a whole host of water based leisure activities in what is effectively the middle of the desert.

hoover2

The dam took as little as five years to build at the beginning of the 1900’s and, as workers descended on the area a small settlement called boulder city was formed. Building the dam was dangerous work. A total of 112 deaths were recorded as part of the project. Interestingly the first person to die was the father of the last person to die.

canyon2

I have far less to say about the Grand Canyon, despite it being far more impressive. I just don’t have the right words to describe it. To say that it’s basically a big hole in the ground totally fails to do it justice. It was truly awesome and totally messed with my sense of perspective because I just wasn’t used to seeing anything so big. We saw the Grand Canyon at sunset, which was really beautiful as the changing light drastically changed the shadows and I would highly recommend it.

canyon1

The grand canyon was carved by the Colorado river; the same river that is controlled by the Hoover Dam. You can see the path of the river winding its way through picture above. I would have liked to spend some more time at the Grand Canyon but it was soon time to leave. As a bonus, we stopped on the way back in an area without too much light pollution to get a really good view of the milky way.

This trip was one of the highlights of my Vegas adventure, although all the desert scenery really made me want to give some more attention to grand theft horsey red dead redemption.

What happens in Vegas . . .

Well, I’ve clearly neglected my blog for a while now, so this will be the first of probably four posts about my Vegas trip and then I can catch up on all the other things that have been going on. In between preparing for going away and then coming back straight into the start of semester suffering from a nasty plane cough on top of the jet lag was not a pleasant experience, but enough excuses.

I shouldn’t complain too much as I had an amazing time. They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Well I say boo to that! I’m going to give you a no holds barred summary of my two weeks in Sin City, accompanied by a fair few pictures taken with the camera Rob recommended. I’m not a skilled photographer. I just pointed and clicked and I was pretty pleased with how they came out.

Part of the strip

This is a daytime shot of part of the strip. You can see the MGM Grand and New York – New York hotels, which are on a crossroads with two other hotels. One tour guide told us that at this cross roads there are more hotel rooms than there are in the whole of San Francisco. I’m not so sure that’s true, but still, there are a lot.

It took me a few days to get used to Vegas. My wife has been to Vegas before, but that’s a whole different story from before I made an honest woman of her. I found the whole spectacle very strange for a couple of days, but once I’d “acclimatized” I started to really enjoy the feel of the place.

Three things that you should know about Vegas.

1. As you probably know, Vegas is in the middle of the desert. That means it’s very hot. Some days it was more than 40 degrees.

2. You do a lot of walking. Even if you’re just going to the next hotel along the strip you might be walking for half an hour. Walking from one end of the strip to the other will take you about an hour an a half, but most of the time you’re walking in and out of hotels rather than in a straight line. It takes a long time to get around.

3. The food is amazing. Especially anything to do with beef. The steaks were epic. They were huge, they were cooked really, really well and they tasted great. After dinner at one restaurant had defeated us we took our partially devoured steak home in a doggy bag and even cold it still tasted great the next morning. There is a huge range of choice of food as well. On our first morning we went to Hash-house a go go for breakfast and I was so baffled by the menu that I ended up getting “Andy’s sage fried chicken w/ fresh spinach, hardwood smoked bacon, market tomato, griddled mozzarella, chipotle cream and scrambled eggs” as seen on Man Vs. Food.

Yes, it was an odd thing for breakfast, and yes, it was huge, and no, I didn't eat it all.

Yes, it was an odd thing for breakfast, and yes, it was huge, and no, I didn’t eat it all.

So, welcome to post 1 of 4 on my Lag Vegas Adventure! Viva Las Vegas!