Viva Las Vegas

“So baby, shall we go to Vegas?”

Hell bloody yes! After checking out of the slowest-internet-on-Earth (although not worst- the hotel I’m in at present might just be a contender for that…) hotel, we made a cheeky stop for breakfast at a McDonalds drive in and made our way to Vegas. I had a sense of impending doom for the City of Sin awaiting me; I felt as if, having watched countless movies featuring the place, I had to have a certain cool about me; I would have to waltz into casinos in a cocktail dress and lay my cards down on the table as if I had every confidence in what I was doing.

Of course, the reality was very different, but more on that later. As we crossed the state line (and took the mandatory photo, this time of Nevada, for the geographically-challenged among us) we decided to take a detour into the Hoover Dam. I cannot even begin to describe how hot it was, all I can say is, I was glad I was wearing the handkerchief otherwise known as an Asda’s own playsuit, covering my modesty and not much more. We got out of the car and immediately had to climb a load of stairs- not the most welcome sight in Death-Valley-esque heat, but it seemed to be where all the other tourists were going so we followed suit.

Sure enough, we’d inadvertently made our way out onto the bridge overlooking the Hoover Dam (and walked back into Arizona…) and gazed out as the mutual fear of heights took over. I couldn’t quite remember if I’d seen pictures of it before; all I could conjure up in my mind was that episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob’s brother turns up and tries to blow up a dam. Maybe that dam, goodness knows. Anyway, essential photo-taking over and we were back in the furnace that was our Toyota and just a short drive from Vegas.

I couldn’t contain my excitement as we rolled into civilisation and the myriad of hotels became visible. Though we were disappointed to have missed the iconic ‘Welcome To Las Vegas’ sign, there they were within the confines of one camera frame: Luxor, Mandalay Bay, even Hooters, and of course, what would be our hotel and evidently the centre of a naked Prince-based scandal, the MGM Grand.

‘Hotel’ is perhaps an understatement when describing the MGM Grand. In fact, I wrote a whole article on the place itself: (shameful plug I know, but it’s my only way of making money out here!) The MGM is in fact, the largest hotel complex in the world, and proved its worth by costing us half an hour just trying to park! Once we were in, we were immediately bowled over by the vastness of it all- this wasn’t the 15 x 15 lobby of the Comfort Inns we were used to; this was a grand lobby with a boxing ring sporting a bronze lion inside it, an adjacent casino, fountains, shops, restaurants, the works. By comparison, then, our room was surprisingly pokey, but certainly not lacking in class and boasting an epic view of Vegas through our very own tinted, remote control blinded-windows. Very suave.

The first couple of nights in Vegas we were just too scared to play on anything besides the machines- we swotted up on how to play Blackjack but just didn’t have the confidence to approach the tables, despite the numerous drinks upon drinks the waitresses would bring us if we tipped them a dollar. At first we didn’t really leave the MGM Grand, and I would find myself dressing in cocktail dresses, before realising that people were walking around at all hours in little more than bikinis and shorts having just come from the pool.

And how could I forget the pool. The pool, if you can call it a pool, was quite simply, paradise. On our second day we ventured in to the aquatic utopia to have a look around, and we were not disappointed. Before us lay five movie-themed pools, each complemented by their own bar serving (overpriced) cocktails. Hordes and hordes of bikini-clad women strutted around while large groups of men guzzled buckets of beer…in the swimming pools! And here’s the best part- surrounding the pools was the MGM’s classic ‘lazy river’, a huge river rapids which circled the perimeter and proved a huge barrel of laughs if you could get your mits on one of the coveted ‘tubes’ (rubber rings to you and me.) This was perhaps the highlight of the trip for me- rather than pay $16 to hire a rubber ring, we simply commandeered one and I hopped in, with Craig clutching on as we let the current take us round the river.

Suddenly we’d collided with a huge traffic jam of people riding these ‘tubes’, undoubtedly drunk, screaming, cheering, hurling chants at passers-by, ‘WOOOOH! TUBE PARTY!’ I hadn’t even had a drink and I found myself cheering along with them, bobbing along and dancing to the music that was pumping out across the five pools, and the party-spirit was absolutely incredible. Suddenly I felt as if I knew what George Michael was singing about in Club Tropicana; (apart from the free drinks of course) everyone was feeling the awesome mood and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky; we were just sipping drinks, soaking up the sun and riding the waves in a completely carefree atmosphere. Absolutely sensational.

After all the daytime fun we decided we simply hadn’t booked enough time in Vegas. Before long we were booking another two nights and exploring the strip like a right pair of tourists. After a few days we’d gained our confidence, I recall one particularly boozy evening in Excalibur, we had one very loyal waitress who supplied us with the Dutch courage to go and play the tables in New York New York.

I guess you could call it beginners’ luck- I played with $10 initially, and awkwardly made my way through the Vegas-esque hand gestures before winning $42 dollars within the space of about two minutes and a lucky blackjack. Realising my fortune, I decided to quit while I was ahead, and let Craig carry on as I thumbed through my $32 profit with glee.

I continued this strategy for the next couple of nights, quitting while I was ahead, and I feel, had it not been for all the time we’d wasted on slot machines trying to get free drinks, I could have left in profit. Of course, Craig played far more dangerously than I did, but he knew what he was doing! We’d left Vegas knowing we’d earned back quite a bit of what we’d played and had certainly had a lot of fun.

We also ate like kings in Vegas- having discovered the absolute heaven that was the Cheesecake Factory, I made Craig take me there- three times! I sampled three different cheesecakes and loved every one. We also took the opportunity to rinse our free $75 dining voucher at the hotel buffet one night- only, it was a rather stupid move, as we ate so much, we both had to turn in for the night to sleep it off!

So after almost a week of sun and sin, taking in all the sights like the Bellagio fountains, Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage Volcano and the New York New York rollercoaster, it was time to go to Yosemite National Park after what was without a doubt the best part of the trip so far for me. Or maybe I’m just saying that because I made some money…

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