Sunday, January 08, 2012

Knowing when to hold 'em and fold 'em

Thank heavens for this blog sometimes. My brain doesn't need to remember dates or details, because this handy little catalogue will do it for me. In February 2008 I went to Las Vegas for the first time. When my parents mentioned that on their trip to the US they also wanted to see The Town That Calls Itself Fabulous, all I had to do was drag out my blog entries from a few years ago and I had the inspiration for the start of an amazing three-day trip.

Day Fifteen, At Least It's Clean
If you wanted to analyse the Las Vegas trip properly, it didn't start off in particularly promising fashion. My parents had booked their NY-LAS flights MONTHS before I got my act together, so by the time I looked at airline tickets the costs to get me on the same flight as my parents were pretty ridiculous. It started to seem like we would not be able to fly to Las Vegas together after all. So I went to an online travel site and inputted my search criteria so that I could at least fly out of the same airport, on the same day, at around the same time.

How excited I was when the online site offered an option that fit the bill beautifully, so clickety-click, I purchased the ticket. It wasn't until the confirmation email arrived that I realised I'd booked my flights out of JFK airport and not Newark, like my parents. What the?! I hadn't chosen JFK airport as an option - I knew what airport I wanted to fly from, and I'd carefully selected Newark as part of my ticket search criteria. Why would an online travel site just automatically disregard my departure airport, just so it could find me the cheapest air ticket? Doesn't William Shatner know I don't read computer screens and I just obsessively press buttons? What is wrong with the universe?!

Sigh. So yeah, the trip to Vegas started out with yours truly ballsing up her airport departure.

On the actual day of travel though, none of this was any problem in the least. I booked two airport cars for us - one going to JFK, the other to Newark, and I made it to Las Vegas McCarran Airport about 30 minutes before my parents. I was waiting for them at baggage claim when they arrived. We were back on schedule.

When I came to Las Vegas in 2008 we stayed at The Bellagio. Now even back then I knew that that was an amazing and very special experience; one not likely to be repeated in my lifetime. And true enough when it came to booking this trip, the accommodation discount gods of the Bellagio were not smiling on me. So this time around, we stayed at the mammoth Caeasar's Palace Hotel. Our room was clean and well-appointed, about a kilometre from the elevators (through rabbit-warren hotel corridors) but at least we were well away from the mania of the 24-hour casino floor. Forget chocolates on your pillow - this place should come with complimentary valium. And a decent map. In equal measure, Caesar's Palace is enormous, confusing, smokey and incredible.

But hey, I'm honestly not bagging Caesar's because I totally chose to stay there. I wanted my parents to have an authentic Vegas experience. I wanted us to be in the thick of the action on the Strip, surrounded by noise and people and neon. I got all those things in spades.

Our first stop after dumping our bags was Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. This is like my oasis of calm in Las Vegas and I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to sip on the pomegranate margarita and soak up the crazy atmosphere of the place. Even my Dad soldiered on, in no small part powered by the ultra-amazing Perfect Margarita (and its fabulous - and multiple - tequilas inside).

By the time we got back outside, evening had arrived and the pamphleteers were out. You know the ones I mean - they are shady looking guys and gals who pass out little pamphlets to male tourists on the Strip. These little pamphlets are actually catalogues of strippers and escorts that you can purchase to come to your hotel room and keep you company for a couple of hours. I had warned my Dad about the pamphleteers of course - so he knew what to expect. But in typical fashion, they fiercely descended upon him and flicked their pamphlets at him, left and right. To the wails of "come on, big maaaaaan", they tried to tempt him to purchase a lady or two for the evening. For me and Mum, watching Dad try to stay nonchalant and coolly navigate these very insistent PR men was most amusing.

Back at Caesar's, we lost a couple of dollars in the slot machines (just to say we did it) and then we were in bed super early, knowing that Day 2 of our Vegas Vacation would be a long one.

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