Make that Venice, Las Vegas!
Had a fab two days in this wild desert city. It's so h-u-g-e, and so glittery, and so gorgeously tacky. Whatever you feel about it - and for me, two days were plenty - you can't help but be caught up in the sheer buzz and excitement. I just wish David had been with me to explain the arcane machinations of craps, which is the only game he reckons is worth playing in a big casino.
:: So this (below) is where we stayed, in the golden edifice of The Mirage ...
... which is in the heart of the Strip (below):
:: I had a luxurious room all to myself on the 25th floor - and, on checking in, I was asked if I'd like a pool view or to see the volcano. Obviously, I plumped for the volcano ... but it was a bit of a fizzer really: half-hourly pyrotechnics with scorching yellow flames, and red lights playing over a waterfall.
For all its comfort, the Mirage seemed to have a crisis of identity: at any one time you could see its dolphin pool with baby dolphin, or the white tigers of Siegfried and Roy, or the wonders of breast augmentation in the admirably succinctly titled 'bare pool'.
The casino, spread out across almost every inch of the ground floor, was impossible to avoid. Wherever you needed to walk - from the flowery, leafy jungle-style atrium to the guest elevators, or from the marble lobby to the restaurants - the route would take you through its noisy, gaudy, fake-wood-and bright-lights poker machines and gaming tables. And they whirred, whizzed, hummed and bing-bing-binged 25 hours a day.
:: There was no such thematic confusion over the road at the Venetian, a massive and very ornately grand resort, complete with its own Grand Canal (with gondolas, natch), Bridge of Sighs, Doge's Palace, and Italianate tower thingy with recorded church bells that chimed on the hour.
But I don't remember the canals of Italy's Venice being this sort of inviting blue. I could be wrong, but they seemed more olive green, and much more viscous than these temptingly cool and chlorinated waterways!
There were dreamy colonnaded walks that looked over the canals - almost as good as the real thing.
:: Not far from the Venetian, and just a little farther up the Strip, we discovered the Trevi Fountain. But of course! It had gorgeous statuary and romantically misty water, with a great view of Caesar's Palace next door - conveniently near the Colosseum.
Caesar's Palace has the most opulent lobby in the whole of Vegas, I reckon - at least out of all the ones we saw:
:: Next door to the Mirage was a resort called Treasure Island. It had enormous pirate ships bobbing about in its pool out the front:
Four times a night, a team of talented actresses and a team of talented actors would bump and grind their way through a short but gripping musical play about sirens luring seamen to their fate.
The sirens all wore bikinis and cowboy boots, and occasionally chains and cutlasses. They pole-danced on the ship's rigging and sang songs loaded with double entendre about 'coming on board' and so on.
The pirates, who, needless to say, succumbed to these wenches' tempting charms, looked like the Chippendales and didn't put up too much of a fight. There were some cannon shots, fireworks and an explosion, the boys' ship sank, and the finale involved a song in which the captain discovered 'the real treasure lies within' as he frolics up the mast to the crowsnest with the head siren.
:: By far the best and most spectacular free show was outside the Bellagio, where the wonderfully choreographed fountains danced for the masses every fifteen minutes, to a different song each time:
:: Fortunately, Don and Laura had come up with the perfect antidote to all this gilt and glistening shimmy-shammy:
A daytrip out to the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Words can't do it justice, and photographs don't come close. Truly awesome. Massive. And utterly breathtaking. And this is only a minor part of it all.
Laura and I took deep breaths and went out on the Skywalk.
I hope you click on the link and have a look - we weren't allowed to take cameras out there. We stood on the Skywalk's glass bridge that juts out from the canyon wall, 1400 metres above its floor. It's one of the best things I've ever done in my life.
And afterwards, we had lunch, though not at these tables right on the edge - a definite appetite killer!
And get a load of the weather: it was not too hot, it was raining, and there were big flashes of lightning. As if there weren't enough drama.
:: To give you some idea of the scale of these pictures, click on this one to see it big, and then you'll notice a helicopter whizzing through it.
:: Back to earth now, home in sunny and beautiful San Diego, where the air is clean and crisp and the temperatures never seem to get any higher than a delightful 28 degrees. Perfect!
Comic-con - 120,000 visitors - has been on at the convention centre downtown, and the Bondi has had a fast and furious weekend. It's been brilliant. Dave reckons we had 1000 people through the doors on Friday alone - yee ha!