A Travellerspoint blog

24. Heading home sweet home!

Tuesday 30th / Wednesday 31st
I'd set my alarm for 5.45 and groaned when it went off. I finally hauled myself out of bed, packed my suitcase for one last time, showered and left my lovely big room. I'd checked in online yesterday and been told I'd had a change of time and flight - the time change was only half an hour but the flight on my ticket said Vegas to Manchester direct - the new flights were Vegas to Philadelphia (with thankfully only a two hour stopover) and then onto Manchester.

Several people had raved about Uber while I'd been travelling and Indigo, the lady I'd been sat next to the plane from San Fran to Portland had given me a free ride code so I booked an uber to take me to the airport. It was fab, the car came in a few minutes and was only a few dollars - although really free because I used my free code voucher.

I checked in and for some reason I'd got TSA approval which meant I was fast tracked through security. Vegas airport is as mad as the ready of the city - there are slot machines all over the place! I headed for a bit of breakfast and bought a Bagel with egg and cheese, it was disgusting! When I checked my ticket it said business class on it so I was one of the first on the plane...... I it turns out that I wasn't actually in business class but the row behind - how mean is that - so near yet so far!! I did get on the plane first though and I got extra leg room - so that's a bonus! I did ask the air stewards why my ticket said business class when I wasn't and they didn't know saying it might have been a printing error! The flight from Vegas was alright and I slept through most of it. I was pretty pleased I only had a short layover in philli this time, I was ready for home now. I headed to find some food and found a place called Saladworks where you could create your own salad - I had a bowl of pasta, olives, mushrooms, sweet corn, tomatoes and onion - it was huge and I couldn't finish it. I had a grand total of $10 in my purse so I found a place for one last glass of wine (telling the barman that I didn't mind which wine I had so long as it cost less than a tenner!!)

Back on the plane, cos my flights had changed I didn't get chance to choose my own seat - where I always choose a window seat - and I was sat in the Central bit bit was on the front row so had the extra leg again. The plane journey was absolutely fine, I watched Money Monsters with George Clooney and Julia Roberts which was a lot better than I was expecting it to be, slept a bit, had cheese Tortellini and one (more) glass of wine and then watched a documentary abut the vanderbilts which was very interesting but I missed the end cos we landed.

Manchester airport was ok for a change and I got to go through the electronic security check which saved loads of time. My bag was also the first bag off the belt also for a change. APH were excellent as ever in coming to pick me up to take me to the car park. First thing I needed to do was fill up my car with petrol as I'd left it running on fumes, then off I scoot over Woodhead home. Mum and dad are waiting for me at mine with the kettle on for my first proper coffee - Dowe Egberts - mmmmmm! The moggies have got the face on with me for leaving them! Paula and Lauren pop down later and then I unpack and get ready to bed, I have to get up for work in the morning (very bad planning on my part!!).

I've had the most amazing holiday, I love America and definitely want to see more. the post holiday blues start kicking in, time to start thinking about where my next adventure will take me..........!

Posted by cazbatt 12:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

23. Achey feet and Michael Jackson

Monday 29th
My alarm went off at eight but my feet were still throbbing so I decided to have another couple of hours in bed. My plan was to do another lap of Vegas on the hop on hop off bus again (I had bought a 3 day pass), call at the big hotels that I'd not been in so far and then do the night tour of the city on the bus which I'd not done yesterday - those plans flew out of the window! My feet just did not want to walk at all so I ended up staying in bed til lunchtime reading and going through my photos and having a bag of Cheetos for breakfast! I am a bit exhausted and just for a little while feel a little bit envious of those people who go on holiday and have a nice relaxing, chilled time - why do I not like doing that?! I decide to give it a go for a few hours to relax and to perhaps get a bit of a tan - my arms, face and chest are a nice shade of brown but the rest of me hasn't seen daylight let alone a bit if sun!! I head down to my hotel pool and get myself a sun lounger, it's a pretty huge pool directly underneath the Rollercoaster and is packed. I last half an hour before I'm too hot so,I go for a dip in the pool and then head to the jacuzzi (via the bar where I buy a frozen strawberry daiquiri just to cool me down - after the I initial brain freeze it is delicious!), the jacuzzi bubbles feel so nice on my achey feet, that lasts about another half an hour before the boredom kicks in and I have to go and do something.

It's time to make my feet do just a bit more walking so I head out to have a look in some of the hotels near me, Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay bay are all linked by walkways, I wasn't too impressed with Excalibur, I didn't find much to look at but Luxor is nice, that's the pyramid shaped one with a giant sphinx and cleopatras needle outside. Inside is obviously all Egyptian themed too, as I was coming down an escalator I spotted that the hotel rooms are actually in the inside of the pyramid walls - the place is gigantic! I had planned to go to Wahlbegers for tea (a burger place run by Donnie Wahlbergs (swoon) family but that was quite a walk away so I nipped into a place called Slice of Vegas which happened to have a happy hour on, I had garlic bread with a real roasted full bulb of garlic, mmmmm - no vampires will come near me tonight and fried ravioli - it should have been disgusting but was yummy, I washed it down with 2 glasses of wine.

Wandering through Mandalay bay I saw the signs for the cirque du soleil MIchael Jackson One show, well I'd seen the signs all over Vegas but this poster said it was a birthday weekend special - it turns out it was 28 years to the days since we first saw him at roundhay park so I thought that it was a sign for me to go and see it - I was supposed to be going on the hop on hop off bus again but decided I'd already done the entire loop and I'd much prefer to see the show so I got myself a ticket, it wasn't particularly cheap but I did get a 25% discount on pretty good tickets.

Once I'd booked I'd got a few hours to spare so I carried on wandering round the hotels - the statue from MJs History album cover is in the foyer of Mandalay bay, there were lots of MJ lookalikes walking round the hotel - well there were some lookalikes and quite a few more looknotalikes!!

I decided to have another walk up to the Las Vegas sign to take a few more pics, it was a 40 minute walking round trip (my poor feet!!), you wouldn't think it was quite so far out but I got talking to an American couple as I was walking up there. I took a few more selfies (none of them very good) and headed back, I was extremely dry (I think it was the garlic bulb I'd had for my tea - I bet I stank!!) so decided to pop Into McDonald's for a coke and to pop to the loos - there are all these beautiful posh toilets in the grand hotels and I go to ones in McDs!!
The roads in Vegas are massive and constantly there are cars whizzing by - there are crossings that you really need to use if you value your life but they take ages for the lights to change - so long in fact that I got chatted up by a bloke while I was trying to get back across to Mandalay bay for the show! Apparently, he was staying in a suite in Mandalay bay and had a jam packed mini bar which I could help him work through - ha ha as if!! There was nowhere for me to go tho so I had to chat to him til the lights changed!!

It was time to head back to get my seat for the show which was fabulous - the story itself was a bit crappy - it was about four misfit kids who found jackos gloves and then became amazing dancers - I thiught that bit was unnecessary but the acrobats and the proper dancers were brilliant. My favourite bits were Billie jean, which had dancers dancing on the walls, Dirty Diana was a lady pole dancer who was amazing and Man In The Mirror which had a MJ hologram on stage which was awesome and had me sobbing through it. One of the dancers only had one leg but had a pretty major dance bit where he danced with his crutches- wow! It was really good and I was glad I'd scrapped the hop on hop off bus idea to come here. As I was heading out there was a man stood at the top of the steps looking back at the stage crying so I stopped to see if he was ok and had a chit chat with him for five mins.

I walked back to my hotel through the casinos at Luxor and Excalibur and decided to have a bit of a last night flutter in my hotel casino. I'd got $30 dollars from the folk at work and still had that in my purse. I'd also been collecting quarters while I was in the states, there's a different quarter for each state and I'd tried collecting them all but only managed 34 so decided to cash them in and put them in the slots, I did fancy a go on the roulette wheel but didn't have a clue what I should do so I stuck to the slots- Gene Wilder had died a couple of days before and there was a Willy Wonka slot machine with his picture on it so I decided to play on that, I won a few times- $2, $3.50 and $6.50 but I left it and carried on playing and lost it again - ha ha! I did get a drink brought to me though, I'd heard someone order a margarita so decided to have one too. I'd finally squandered my money and drank my drink by about 1am, I wasn't too bothered about going to bed cos that meant I'd soon be waking up, my holiday would be over and I'd be heading home.

Steps: 16,601. / 6.8 miles

Posted by cazbatt 12:51 Archived in USA Comments (0)

22. Hopping on, hopping off then a gigantic jump!

Sunday 28th
My alarm went off at 7 but I rolled over and went back to sleep for an hour or so - I think the nights camping were catching up on me. I got up and headed out for about ten o clock, I headed to find the Big Bus hop on hop off bus, I missed the bus on the first pick up but got on next one. The bus ride up the strip was very good but very fast - the bus shot past the famous Vegas sign without stopping - you'd think they'd at least pull over for people to take a photo or two. All the hotels are vast and very elaborate, it really is like nowhere else on earth - although I guess a comparison for English people is like it's a bit like Blackpool on a huge scale acid trip! I stayed on the bus all the way down town which is quite a bit more grungy than the Strip but things are on a slightly smaller scale but with loads of shops. Restaurants and casinos. The main part of Downtown is Fremont Street which is now a big covered area - there are loads of lookalikes walking around wanting their pictures taken for a tip - I was watching three Elvis and a chain smoking nun walking about together when one of them came and took my camera off me and told me to pose - it was only after they told me they wanted a tip but I only had big notes on me so I had to say sorry - the picture was a good one tho, although one of the elvis looked more like Gary glitter! There are giant zip wires that you can go on over Fremont street which I had planned to go on but they actually looked a bit tame so I gave them a miss, I'd got another adrenaline buzz planned for later.

I bought a ticket for mob museum but decided for late breakfast / lunch first and headed to find Vegenation, a veggie place I'd found on trip adviser - it was fabulous, very busy and there was a great live singer on while i was in too which was really nice. There was loads of choices on the menu and looking round at what other people was making me drool. I ended up choosing two starters - black rice veggie sushi and bao wow, which was a kind of Vietnamese mushroom and tofu sandwiches, I also had some rum drink - it was all very delicious and a real veggie treat.

After my belly was full I headed back round the block towards the mob museum, I took a bit of a detour because from the bus I'd seen a lot of street art, there were some really great stuff on the walls including a giant lizard and a snail which were fabulous. The mob museum was in a really neat looking building, I thought I'd be in about an hour - 2 and half hours later I emerged! There was so much stuff inside to read and some of the rooms I just skimmed. It was all about how Vegas had emerged and how the mobs / mafia etc had ruled the place for years - It was really interesting. I headed back to the hop on hop off bus and was toying with two options of what to next, I'd originally thought I'd stay on the hop on hop off bus for another loop and the do the night tour which was on the ticket - this included a guided night walking tour of downtown which is apparently really good and you get to see the famous light show, the alternative was to do the sky jump off the stratosphere.....! I decided to go and investigate the sky jump, I wasn't sure if I needed to prebook, it turned out I didn't and half an hour later I was being kitted up in a snazzy jumpsuit and the tightest, strongest harness I've ever known - there was no way I was falling out of the thing, I was concerned it might stop circulation in various places though!! . It took about half an hour to get all the gear on and then off I went in the elevator back to the top of the stratosphere, the platform is on the 108th floor and 855 foot off the ground. There are loads of checks and double checks to make sure the harness is ok and that I was properly secured to the ropes and wires and then it was up to me just to step off the platform and zoom towards the floor at speeds of up to 50mph. It looks a bit like a bungee jump but really it's more like a vertical zip wire. I'm not exactly sure how it slows you down before you hit the ground but it does, it must be some kind of resistance mechanism. I must admit I was a bit nervous as I was stood on the platform being fastened to the wires (and you can see I was on the video I had filmed - ha ha!)l. My last word to the camera were "it's high up here" and then I stepped off and my next words were "oh sh!t" but it was fab, a proper adrenaline buzz and i could see for miles as I was falling. It was all over and done with in about 15 seconds and my next words were "wow, I wanna do it again!!" It was great fun!

I'd missed the last hop on hop off bus back down the strip, I could have got an uber but decided to walk back again and call in some of the casinos I'd not been in yet. The first one this time was Treasure island, which wasn't very impressive inside but had a couple of galleons outside which were all lit up. As I walked past the Mirage the volcanos outside were just erupting, pretty cool but also pretty hot from the flames that are spewing out the top of the volcanos. All the hotels are just amazing when they're lit up at night, they look fabulous. Caesars palace is very beautiful inside, all very Grecian with loads of shops and a painted sky feels,like you're in a proper city (a big one at that), there's a replica of the Parthenon and a fab little aquarium with manta rays in it. I hung about to watch The fall of Atlantis show - it looked good, there were giant talking and moving statues but the voices were mingled and I didn't quite know what was happening especially at the end, everyone just stood around saying "is that it?" And "what happened". Even though I had no idea what had gone on, I am glad I went into see it because on the way out I spotted a little art gallery / shop, it was all stuff by a Russian artist called Vladimir Kush, his paintings were all a bit surreal but very good and I spent ages looking at them - and dodging the gallery manager when I realised that the cheapest painting was around £3k! If I win big in the casinos I would definitely buy one!

The next hotel / casino on the way was the Bellagio so I wandered through that again just to have another look at the beautiful glass ceiling and flowers displays which are done in an under sea theme, everything is so detailed. Next was Aria which was quite understated compared to some of the others but very lovely with giant lit up swans and ice columns - I'd seen these columns of white rock "I thought" and then read that they were in fact ice so of course I had to touch them just to double check - ha ha, they were real ice columns!!

It was about 11pm and My flip flopped feet were absolute throbbing by now so I called at CVS for provisions (wine and Pepsi) and headed back towards the New York New York, I realised I'd not eaten since noon so called for a slice of mushroom pizza at one of the takeaway shops in the casino and took it to my room to eat. My poor throbbing feet were absolutely filthy so I decided to have a bath, it was only then that I realised I'd caught the sun quite a bit at some point through the day so was a nice shade of lobster pink!! After my bath - which did very little to clean my feet I jumped into bed and was fast asleep before I knew it.

Steps: 23,370. / 9.6miles

Posted by cazbatt 12:45 Archived in USA Comments (0)

21. San Francisco back to Vegas

Saturday 27th
My bed at The Grace was sooooooo comfortable but I had to be up at 6am to get my packing done (this morning I'm kicking myself for not doing it last night!!). Really, I've not got that much stuff but it's an art getting everything to fit in perfectly - and what I mean by that is getting everything in so neatly that I can actually zip the thing up. I'm a bit sad to be leaving this lovely hotel because it is absolutely gorgeous but Vegas is calling again.

I'm meeting Richard for breakfast this morning as he's very kindly offered to drop me off at the airport. I'm meeting him at a place called Brenda's which serves Louisiana style food - ahh I'll be reminiscing about the start of my trip. Richard had told me to leave my bags at the hotel and we'd pick them up after breakfast - disobedient old me decided that I'd save time and haul my stuff with me - not only was it about a twenty minute walk but it wasn't the nicest part of town - there were homeless people everywhere and Richard had said it might be best for me not to walk about looking like a tourist - suitcase and rucksack on, I looked very much like a tourist!!!! I made it safe n sound though - and to be honest if anyone had tried robbing me, I had no money on me and a big case full of mucky clothes- that'd have been quite funny!!

Brenda's was a big old industrial looking building with a huge crack down the wall but it was pretty busy, the staff weren't particularly welcoming though when they saw my suitcase even though I said I didn't mind where it went because I didn't want it to be in the way.
Richard made me try a Beignet which is a bit like a square donut which was nice but not really my thing and then I had scrambled blackened tofu and potatoes which was lovely and finally some delicious coffee - which they kept refilling as often as we liked - I had about four cups! I think they put a dash of something in it like cinnamon, it wasn't a strong taste but definitely there - it was lovely!

After breakfast was over, there was still plenty of time before I needed to go to the airport so we headed down to the ferry pier market which has a farmers market on a Saturday morning - wow, what a fabulous farmers market it was. The fruit and veg was so colourful and all sorts of different and unusual kinds of stuff, it was really nice that all the stall holders were so friendly and as soon as you walked near them they wanted you to taste their produce - and not just teeny tiny bits - big chunks of their wares. If I didn't have to jump on a plane I'd have spent an absolute fortune. But I did have to get to the airport and head back to Vegas so my pennies were safe!

We headed back to Richards car and he very kindly dropped me off right outside the departure terminal and I said goodbye to my lovely friend for now. Check in was a doddle and I headed up to my gate (it was still only 10.30am). As I was sauntering up I spotted Kim and Mick having a cuppa so had a natter with them until they had to go for their plane.

I wasn't heading straight to Vegas, I was going the scenic route via Portland in Oregon - I'd saved a bit of money by using last years air miles but I could only use them on certain flights so my trip to Vegas included a touch down for a few hours in another US state. I got sat in the extra leg room bit next to a lovely young lady who had just graduated and was heading to Europe for a five week break before heading back to a new job in Yosemite, she also loved climbing and we chatted all the way up to Portland - the poor people sitting near us - ha ha!
At Portland airport I went for a wander round and was amazed at all the veggie food options - there was looooooaaaaads if stuff which is so unusual for an airport so I had to treat myself to something - I eventually chose an endemame bean bowl which had beans, rice, salsa, avocado and seitan (a veggie thing) in it - it was deelicious! On my way back to the gate I had a look at the flights and realised I was looking at LA flights instead of Vegas - oops! The flight was alright, there were some really noisy obnoxious blokes behind and there was quite a bit of turbulence but other than that it was an ok flight and went really quickly. Picking my bags up at the other end was quick and easy and I headed to get a shuttle to my hotel, while I was waiting for my shuttle I got talking to a fabulous lady - she looked like a taller, smarter Oprah Winfrey and she told me that she had been an air hostess for Delta airlines for 40 years, working in first class, apparently, for a year or so she did a secondment to British Airways and was the first black airline hostess flying with British Airways and help them set up their first class training programme! She never stopped talking but was lovely and very interesting.

I got dropped off at my new hotel - New York New York - it is huge!! We'd walked through the casino part of it the other day when we came to the Rollercoaster but I haven't realised just how big it was. I had put a special request on my booking saying I was staying here as a treat for my birthday and could they give me a good room - I did get a really good, huge room but I don't know if it was cos I asked. It wasn't as nice as the Pineapple was in San Francisco but there was two gigantic beds - it took me ages to decide which one to sleep in. My room overlooked the MGM, the Rollercoaster and the back of the Statue of Liberty replica!

It was about 9pm by now, so I headed out to have a look round the casino and shops in the hotel (the hotel is about the same size of Barnsley town centre) and also look for a snack (I feel like I've eaten a lot today!) The veggie options are few and far between even in Asian places which is unusual. I ended up at a place called Toms urban diner and had trusty mushroom pizza and couple of wines. I strolled back through the New York New York casino - it was about midnight and the place was absolutely packed with people gambling - amazing to see.

I got back to my room and was supposed to be planning the next two days but promptly nodded off before getting anything planned!

Steps: 12,040. / 4.9 miles

Posted by cazbatt 12:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

20. Lazy morning and the Coit Tower murals

Friday 26th
I had planned to get up at a reasonable time today and go for a wander round the City but my bed was so comfy and my bedroom was so nice that I just ended up having a nice lazy morning and didn't didn't get up and ready til 2pm which was when I was meeting my friend Richard. I've known Richard for a few years, he was one of my volunteers when I was out in Kenya helping to manage the rhino project. He was my 50c tour guide last time I was in San Francisco too showing me the city from a non tourist point of view. He's an ex bank manager like me and now he's retired spends his time volunteering at a school, working at a sea mammal centre and giving guided wild bird tours on Alcatraz - how fabulous - I hope i get up to stuff like that when I retire!!

I met Richard on the corner near my hotel (well I jumped into a car who flashed it's lights at me and thankfully it was Richard!!) I had emailed Mona to see if she fancied joining us but don't think she'd seen her emails. It was lovely to see him again and he had a bit of a treat lined up for me, there is a place called Coit tower which can be seen from all over city and was built as a memorial to the city firemen, we visited it last time I was in San Fran but at that time it was closed for refurbishment or something so we couldn't get inside, Richard had got us tickets to have a tour of the inside which is covered in murals. We were a bit early so had a wander round Telegraph Hill which is famous for having wild parrots (well there started off with a couple of escapee pet parrots that bred and now there are dozens living wild.) Today we were there at the wrong time and didn't get to see them.

The murals in Coit tower were fabulous - some a bit dismal because they were painted in and represented the Depression and life in the 1930s but they were all very interesting and some had hidden, secret messages in them. The guide showing us round was good but fairly new and I bet he hated us, Richard has lived here for 30 odd years and was telling him stuff about the city and history and I kept asking him questions that he couldn't answer - oops! He was very enthusiastic tho and seemed to very much enjoy his job. He did get us a free visit up to the top of the tower which was very good of him (although he probably just wanted shot of us - ha ha!)

I'd only had a bag of crisps for my breakfast (cos I was so lazy!) so Richard decided that we should go for an early dinner at his favourite restaurant - ristaurante Milano, which turned out to just be opening up as we arrived. I popped in and ordered a drink which Richard parked the car, he was a bit of a long time and it turned our he'd been and bought me a lottery ticket because just before we parked up I happened to notice as we were passing a newsagent that the jackpot was $142 million that weekend - it would be very nice!!! The food in the restaurant was delicious, we shared a mushroom crostini and I had Neapolitana angel hair pasta, which was very light and fresh. A day or so before I'd seen on the news that there had been a big earthquake in Italy and it turned out that the owner of the restaurants family lived near the earthquake - thankfully they were all ok but some of his family friends hadn't been so lucky. .

The plan next was that we were going to a place called hawk hill which has fabulous views of the Golden Gate Bridge but we noticed from the car that the hill was covered in mist so there would be no view from the top at all so instead we stayed on the city side and had a bit of a drive round some of the nicer areas of town - all the houses in San Fran are very cute and well looked after, mainly pastel painted clapboard (is that what it's called?) and the posher houses are just magnificent - there were a couple I was planning to buy with the lottery win of $142m! We stopped at a few places to admire the views and then Richard dropped me off back near my hotel, to say I'd not done much today I was still tired - ha ha! I should have packed when I got in but couldn't be bothered so just jumped into bed and didn't take much rocking!

Steps: 5792 / 2.3 miles (poxy effort!)

Posted by cazbatt 13:43 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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