Where’s Wallis? Las Vegas, USA

What happens in Vegas…

…goes on the blog (well maybe not everything 😉)

Turns out that all I’d heard about Vegas is true: It is wild, it is expensive, it does ruin your body and mind, and two days is probably all you need there (I had four!)

I’d booked to arrive a day earlier than Alec, Jane (from my work team in London) and Ben (her boif) who were arriving on NYE.

I’d seen on Facebook that a wonderfully spontaneous New Years trip to Vegas had been booked by Lori (who I played hockey with at Manchester) and her friend Charlotte on Christmas day!! Holiday heroes!

This isn’t the first time Lori and my paths have crossed in exotic climbs, having bumped into each other in Thailand back in 2010 and then risked our lives tubing in Laos.

I arranged to go clubbing on New Year’s Eve-eve with Lori and Charlotte and their friend Bruno at a club called ‘Life’ inside a casino called SLS. All the clubs are inside casinos which felt slight bizarre strutting past all the slot machines all dressed up.

Lori’s message to me was something along the lines of “We’re going to see Ingrosso at life in SLS”. I must admit it took me a little bit of a google to figure out what this meant and therefore what the night would entail 😂

The temperature in Vegas was ARCTIC! I’d thought it was cold in Venice but when I stepped out the car at the end of the 5 hour drive from LA to Vegas, I was shocked by how chilly it was.

We’d agreed that I’d head over to Lori and Charlotte’s hotel about 9pm. I got myself glammed up (I.e used a hairdryer for the first time in the trip) and dug out my heels that had been squished at the bottom of my rucksack.

My friends at home will know that I tend to get ready in about half an hour and then just sit there chatting/drinking whilst everyone else finishes. I seem to have got even quicker whilst travelling therefore was ready by about 7pm. I decided to pop out to the ‘liquor store’ to get us some fizz for before we went out and ended up having to take off my dress and layer up again just to go next door it was so freezing. I got back to the room, worked out how to make the aircon act as a heater and actually got under my covers. I still had about an hour before I needed to head out and was dangerously close to snoozing!

I had to give myself a little talking to: “Caitlin you are in Vegas, you must go out!”, and I scoffed down a bag of pretzels to energise before re-readying and stepping out into the night!

I was staying at ‘Rumor boutique hotel’ which I’d booked on an app called ‘Hotels tonight’ which is sort of like lastminute.com so you can get places at hugely reduced rates by booking on the day/the day before. This worked perfectly for me, although I don’t think that the rates were as low as they can sometimes be given the proximity to New Years.

Rumor was one of the more luxurious places I’d stayed so far but it also had an undertone of seediness to it. Sums up most of Vegas actually! 😂

I had a fantastic night with Lori and Charlotte. I’m not a huge clubbing fan on the whole, but if there was ever a place to do it it’s Vegas.

We had the option of being part of a gaggle of girls on a promoter’s table, at the risk of being evicted at any point for someone better looking/willing to spend more money.

Instead we decided to be the independent women that we are and fund our own little table, which was actually in a fantastic spot overlooking the dance-floor and apparently allowed us the privilege of dancing up on the wooden ledge behind the seats. Not that we did that. Obviously not. What kind of girls do that? 😳

We left the club around 3am and I contemplated continuing the party with the girls, however there was another big factor to take into consideration: if one wanted breakfast delivered at Rumor hotel then there was a sign that had to be hung on the door before 5am. This obviously won and I felt like a bit of a dweeb explaining to Bruno and his friend Matt why I couldn’t stay out longer. But I was loving life the next morning when my little breakfast box arrived.

Except…the tea!!! Now I’d heard that Americans can’t really do tea, but this seemed more apparent in Vegas than anywhere. At Rumor I’d ticked the box for ‘tea’ expecting standard breakfast tea and ended up with some weird camomile-mint concoction. The next day the tea sagas went to the next level but I’ll come to that shortly…

I got myself semi-presentable and went for what I thought was a 5 minute stroll to the Vegas strip. It was 2 blocks on the map but it turns out that the blocks are about half a mile long each, so by the time I’d just got to planet Hollywood and the ‘miracle mile shops’ to purchase some gloves for the NYE street party I got a call from Alec telling me he’d arrived so I quickly grabbed some Las Vegas gloves and began the 25 min walk back to the car.

Alec had been having major car troubles on his drive down from San Francisco to Vegas, having to stop every 20 mins or so when the car started beeping and driving strangely and wait for it to calm down before setting off again. He’d found a mechanic in Vegas to leave it with over New Years (not the best time to need urgent repairs doing) so I went to pick him up from the repair shop.

As soon as I got in the car the effects of the previous night suddenly hit and I felt dreadful. I think it was forcing my brain to concentrate on something that did it. Anyway I made it to pick him up and we spent about an hour driving around fruitlessly trying to find the Vegas branch of ‘dollar car rental’ to add him onto my car for the long drive to the Grand Canyon but one office we found on Google was shut, and the other was telling us that it was in the middle of the treasure island lake on the strip, which we were skeptical of.

With me feeling hungover and Alec hungry we quickly gave up and drove to ‘Desert Paradise resort’ where we were staying with Jane and Ben for 2 nights. It was about 3 miles from the strip, and we knew that once we headed out into town for the afternoon that was it for the evening since the strip would be closed to traffic for NYE and it would be a nightmare to just “pop back” to the apartment, so we were committed.

We had a super annoying taxi driver taking us into town whose cab stunk of cigarettes, kept trying to do an English accent, and would not stop giving us “helpful Vegas tips” (most of which contradicted each other). As Alec had silent hunger rage he wasn’t speaking so I had to deal with this guy.

I don’t understand the need felt by many of the Americans I’ve met to just talk incessantly. I 100% appreciate friendliness, but there’s a difference between that and the tendency to just spout a self-indulgent monologue, where I felt like even if I said “I just did a wee in your taxi” or “There’s a lion in the corner of the restaurant” they’d just carry on saying exactly what they were going to say anyway!

So we made it to the strip, did a bit of sightseeing and then went for a very late lunch at Margaritaville inside the Flamingo hotel (which apparently has some flamingos but sadly didn’t see these). We had a couple of Margaritas each which sorted me out from the night before and set me up for the evening ahead.

When I was back in London I’d seen in one of the free magazines an ad for “The happiest half hour in Vegas” which is a ride on a giant wheel with an open bar.

Alec and I were debating whether it was smaller or bigger than the London eye, we concluded it was probably smaller, but this was obviously an illusion caused by the giant buildings nearby as apparently it’s the biggest observation wheel in the world!

We’d booked onto the 5.40pm ‘lift off’ as pre-6pm counted as a ‘day’ ride, so it was $32 for the happy hour ticket compared to $25 for the standard ride…I mean easy decision!

Jane and Ben’s flight only landed at 3pm so they were pretty rushed to get back to the hotel and then back out in time. They messaged at 5.15 saying they’d just managed to get in a taxi so we were worried they’d miss it, but the Ed Sheeran lookalike manning the doors told us that we could just wait and go on whenever they arrived, even if it was after 6pm. Very kind.

I think he was so generous because the wheel had only just opened, and whilst the set-up suggested that they were expecting hundreds of riders there were only 6 of us in our cabin (4 of which were our group).

It was a great way to see the city at night, and we easily got 2 or 3 drinks each on the way around. I’d recommend it if you’re in Vegas!

There was a sign saying that it was hired out for a private party from 10pm – 1am. So intrigued who has the money to hire the whole thing!! What ballers. Great place to watch the fireworks from though.

After the wheel we headed over to ‘Spagos’ restaurant in Caesar’s Palace casino. The casinos are just so huge it took us about 15 mins to walk there once we were in. A concierge there showed us the way and I was quizzing him about the dynamics on NYE. He basically said that it’s a choice between being in a casino at midnight and staying there for the next couple of hours, or being out on the street to watch the fireworks and not being able to get in anywhere for a couple of hours afterwards!

For us the latter was the obvious choice. None of the casinos held enough appeal to choose them over the fireworks, their main plus point being the warmth they offered.

He said that the casinos would lock their doors just before midnight and only let you in if you had a room key for the couple of hours afterwards. He said that occasionally they’d let you in if you had a ‘casino reward card’ so we promptly went and signed up for one. Ben asked the woman at the desk whether it would work to get us in after midnight and she said no so Jane (wisely) didn’t sign up. Although we all said we’d leave her behind at 12.30am if she was the hindering factor getting in 😂

Spagos was delicious!! After that we had a bit of time before we needed to be out on the strip so popped into a champagne bar called ‘Fizz’ in Caesars.

Then we set off to secure our positions for midnight fireworks. We set up camp outside the Planet Hollywood hotel and the Paris hotel. Paris had a stall outside selling oversized cocktails, so Jane and Ben got a giant plastic Eiffel Tower filled with some sweet alcoholic concoction and Alec and I each got a giant gold bottle (complete with convenient neck chain!) filled with vodka redbull 😳

The Bellagio did a couple of fountain displays in the run up to midnight but was very quiet when it came to the fireworks display.

It was spectacular, 6 of the big hotels let off coordinated displays at midnight and there were hundreds of people celebrating on the street.

The news had predicted 300,000+ people but I think that the prospect of snow had scared a few off as it was actually a bearable level of crowds!

Once we’d seen the new year in we strolled south down the strip (miraculously not losing anyone!) where we planned to find a casino to go into for a couple of hours before attempting to get a taxi home.

Nature was calling Alec after drinking about 10 litres of vodka redbull and it got to the point of such desperation that when we found one bar that was letting people in and the bouncer said “it’s $50 cover per head” I could tell he was considering it!

Luckily we backed away and found a wonderful pizza place next door, it was exactly what we needed! We got a pizza and a couple more drinks and by the time we were out the casinos were open again.

We made our way to the MGM grand taxi queue via the casino. Alec put a cheeky bet on roulette (no win) but we were stunned at the minimum bet on most of the tables being $50!

How is a normal tourist gambler supposed to get involved? The answer is the slot machines.

I’d pictured myself like Phoebe in Friends with a bowl full of quarters feeding them into the machine and repeatedly pulling the arm.

Sadly, they only take dollars, and were unexpectedly confusing (though this could be because it was about 3am and we’d had a couple of drinks!) but Alec ended up not being able to pull the lever and the machine spat out a coupon for 40c, so he’d lost 60c without doing anything. There was rage. The ticket may have been torn up in a gamblers fury.

We edged forward in the taxi queue in the freezing cold for about 45 minutes, me with severe hiccups, and were still a LONG way from the front. Ben noticed that lots of the taxis weren’t actually picking people up from the rank, not wanting the NYE revelers presumably, and him and Jane managed to snare us a private chauffeur car home for $15 each, whilst only pissing off some of the queue 🙈

Interestingly Vegas is one of the cities in which Uber is banned as I found out when I was attempting to get one to Lori’s hotel and the map was totally blank!

New Year’s Day is not really worth writing about. Perhaps what one would call a “write off”. All I will say is that redbull is not good for me, and that Vegas is an absolutely dreadful place to be hungover.

We went for ‘brunch’ at about midday. We were aiming for ‘Hash house a go-go’ in the LINQ casino, they said it would be a 45 min wait. We went downstairs and saw another place that said it served breakfast all day.

Totally dreadful. Admittedly it had only opened a week before but it shouldn’t have opened at all.

Tea issues part 2: Jane and I both ordered breakfast tea and asked for “a little milk on the side”. He came back with 2 PINTS of milk 😂😂😂

Alec’s drink was forgotten. We waited about 45 mins with no sign of food. The waiter disappeared, reappeared, saw us, seemed to suddenly remember us and sprinted back to the kitchen. Then came to apologise and tell us that our food would be another 20 minutes still due to “kitchen troubles”.

He offered us a drink on the house so we asked if we could just have the drinks we’d already had for free and then we’d leave the food. It was about 2pm by this point and we were all rather “Hangry”.

Luckily all worked out in the end as we went back to Hash House, demanded to know why they hadn’t called our names yet (even though we’d obv missed it!) and were quickly seated for lunch.

Sadly I felt so ill and shakey by this point, I think in part caused by lack of fresh air (in fact smoke filled air given you can still smoke in casinos) that I didn’t really manage any of my lunch.

Once we finally made it back to fresh air and natural light I felt a little better but after we went to see the Venetian and the weird fake sky I still needed to head home for some recuperation.

That evening feeling a little restored we headed for a delicious Japanese meal with friends of Jane and Ben who lived in Vegas at a place called Ichiza.

Our final day in Vegas we went on a huge day trip to see the Grand Canyon. It was such a great respite from the chaos of Vegas.

I’d researched whether the drive to the south rim was possible in a day and there were varied opinions ranging from “it’s a breeze” to “do NOT do it”.

Google maps thought it would take about 4 and a half hours, so we set off just after 7am, but the sat nav said we’d arrive at 1pm 😳 lordy.

Alec was a smart cookie and worked out why mid-journey as we crossed the Arizona state line the time zone also went forward one hour.

The temperature steadily dropped as we drove inland and the snow piled up. I think Alec was a little nervous with me driving in the icy conditions as he tentatively enquired “so did you drive in Iceland?”

We made it safely, and were greeted by tonnes of snow, blue skies, and -3 degree temperatures and of course INCREDIBLE views. I loved it.

We made it back to Vegas by 7pm so it was 12hr round trip, but the drive really wasn’t too strenuous as it was just on a duel carriageway (rather than a 5 lane freeway) and has stunning views. We got excited about driving over the Hoover damn but sadly they’d blocked off any view opportunities!

Our last night we went for a dinner at the Bellagio cafe. The food was good but the place had a bit of a strange feel to it! I’d hoped to be able to get tickets to ‘O’ at the Bellagio but they didn’t have any available for a couple of days, should have planned ahead.

Jane and Ben were spending their final night in the Bellagio and had been excited for the “Bellagio Gardens” which had rave reviews but turned out like much else in Vegas to be weird and fake and consisted of ‘Coca Cola’ polar bears made out of flowers….

The next day we were planning to drive back early to Newport Beach but Alec’s car still wasn’t ready, so we did a couple of extra touristy bits: went to see the Las Vegas sign where I tried to make the letters ‘L’ and ‘V’ with my fingers and ended up doing it backwards and making a fool of myself in front of the whole long queue for the sign!

We also popped to the Bodies exhibition which I was so pleased to see as I’d missed it in Manchester and in London.

Now I’m conscious that you’ve all probably already stopped reading this due to the massively excessive length. But you know, a lot happened in Vegas. Since I do LOVE facts, here are a few bodies facts to end the blog:

– For half an hour after conception everyone is one single cell;

– Female brains make up 2.5% of their body weight, mens are just 2%;

– Everybody’s brains have a unique ‘wrinkle pattern’ on;

– If you stretch out all the blood vessels in your body they would cover 100,000 miles (I got this fact confused after a couple of drinks and told some new friends in Venice beach that when the intestines are stretched out they are 100,000 miles long, which caused some dispute…”no honestly guys, I know this, I’ve been to the bodies exhibition” !!)






















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