So, I might have mentioned it once or twice, but I’ve just got back from the US. Six days of sunbathing, spa days, ridiculously large buffets and a win or two at the Roulette table in Las Vegas, was followed by six days of serene walks, picture-taking, delicious lunches and shopping in the sun in Los Angeles. A brilliant 12 day-trip.
I know, I know. It isn’t the most original of trips. But the Las Vegas leg of this tour has been in the making since 2004.
After a sneaky boys holiday by three members of the group back then, they’ve been banging on about going back. “We HAVE to go back,” they bellowed on their first night home. “It was the best trip EVERRR.”
Seven years on, they got their wish. This time it wasn’t just three lads, but a mighty 15 of us. ‘Ocean’s 15’, if you will. Ahem.
So off we all went, on a Thursday, all pointed in the direction of Nevada, USA on the world map. Some were already out there ‘road-tripping’, some were visiting family in nearby cities and travelling over, the rest of us had to work right up until the Delta flight that morning.
I was travelling with two pals, let’s call them Yams and George. It didn’t take long for George to get a few things off his chest. “I can’t sleep on planes,” he informed us. “And I’ll need the gents a lot, so I’m not sitting in the middle.” He sat in the middle. Mainly because after you’ve heard your name called over the tanoy three times as a ‘Last Call’ while in the queue for Maltesers and a copy of heat and you’ve realised the entire plane is waiting for you, you take what you get.
And it turns out none of us slept… Until about 26 hours later. *thumbs-up face*
Now, I tend to quite like Delta Airlines. Mainly because they are cheaper than other companies. But also, on the whole I find they usually serve decent meals, provide wine when you’re flying with someone who needs alcohol to get them through turbulence and… they are one of the few airlines where I don’t find myself shivering non-stop for the duration. The staff can be nice too. Sometimes.
True to form, the journey was just fine (even the three hour stop in Detroit, Michigan flew by), but the staff weren’t so friendly on this particular flight. Tossing pizza across my tray table isn’t the greatest of service, thanks Mr Air Steward With Attitude.
And then a mere 15 hours later, there we were at McCarran Airport, Las Vegas. Suitcase collected, hotel checked in and rooms sorted (you can do this at the airport these days in LV, who knew?!), and someone even gave us the tip off on how to reduce our taxi fare by half. “Just don’t go through the long tunnel.” Ah.
Arriving at MGM Grand Hotel, we headed straight to the Poker Room, because the other boys were already there – drinking whiskey, smoking cigars and taking out the rest of their table with a Full House – or so I assumed (they’re men, right? That’s what they do). Actually turns out, they’d just had salads for lunch and were ‘easing ourselves in’ on the $1/$2 rounds, orange juice in-hand. Mmm, manly.
And so began six days of sun, booze and gambling. Oh and food. SO. MUCH. FOOD. There should be rules about the food. But there aren’t!
Day Two was mainly spent by the pool sleeping off jetlag and sipping on a half yard of cocktail. There was also a ‘lazy river’ type feature at MGM, which by 4pm, when quite a few 1/2 yards of cocktail had been consumed by scores of people, was a bit like being on Spring Break. Guys lined the edges, beer in hand, getting their leer on and saying things like, “Hey girl, where YOU from?” One of them who was hitting on Yams and Cheese (we have good nicknames, don’t we?) looked like Bradley Cooper, that was a definite highlight. The women, generally, seemed to flaunt their bikini-clad bods around and as a result, got all their drinks bought for them. Win.
Our girls weren’t brought up that way though (we’re very good you know), so we bought our own drinks (not sure how this is good, actually) and the boys… “Oh, we were still checking the chicks out, just from under our sunglasses,” one stated. Was SO proud to be with them. So proud.
The day ended with the first celebration of the holiday. Our pal Jason turning 30. He had a whole night in his honour – we had an amazing meal at Mandalay Bay’s Red.White.Blue restaurant (Continental food) and then headed to the Eye Candy Lounge, which is EXACTLY as you’d expect it be. Dim golden lights, lots of sweaty grinding on the sticky dance floor (and that was just us) and we even blagged a private booth (for a small* sum of money). The best bit was when Shaggy – yes, Shaggy – came on and did all his hits like Angel, It Wasn’t Me, etc… Actually he didn’t sing much of it, some other bloke did. He just said ‘Shaggy’ a lot in the right places. But Amelia in our group managed to get a hug from him, so every cloud… Oh and two of the group got engaged that night too. Congrats Bella and Adam! Must have been the Shaggy vibes in the air.
The next few days, they’re quite honestly a blur. We wandered around all the hotels to see which was the best (The Venetian is very pretty, with indoor canals Venice style and everything. The Wynn probably, er, wins because it’s very glossy and looks amazing. Plus their buffet dinner serves sushi and crab. And Luxor is ace because the lifts go up the pyramid diagonally and it all looks like you’re in Egypt.)
We also visited Freemont Street – which is the old school Las Vegas and where it all began. Bright lights, little beehive sporting cocktail waitresses and proper old fellas gambling away their livelihoods – it felt real down there, not like the manufactured world that is The Strip. It had character, and it was probably the best discovery of the trip.
We ate a LOT of food. On one morning our mate Tom ate about eight courses for brunch. He started off with chicken, then a plate of cold meats, followed by pizza, dabbled in some desert, before going back for cereal, fruit and a glass of milk. He has a gift, that one. Although, he didn’t feel too well after. Other highlights were the Clam Linguine at MGM’s in-house restaurant and the Lobster Thermidor at The Palms.
And for the final celebration, George’s 30th, we headed to The Palms. The hotel is set a short distance away from the Strip, and the restaurant overlooks the valley. It’s pretty stunning! There was steak, lobster, snails – the whole lot going on, and it was all delicious. George even got a surprise Creme Brulee as a birthday gift. And a Creme Brulee at any time is not to be sniffed at. Then we headed to the roof and to the Ghost Bar. The open-air view was… wow.
Then on the Wednesday, after six days of getting to know each other VERY well (Alex and Sam, this means you), we all went our separate ways. Some headed home, others headed for City fun in New York, two went off exploring the National Parks surrounding Nevada (Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Death Valley, just to name a few) and also came back engaged (congrats Kennedy and Chris). And some of us went off to LA for some serious R&R…
But that’s Part Two and I’ll write that bit when it’s not 5am and jet lag isn’t killing me slowly. I’ve tried warm milk, it hasn’t helped.
*Large. The sum of money was actually a bit large. But we were too drunk to care.