woensdag 2 maart 2011

Grand Canyon

No rest for the wicked! After a few days in Vegas one needs some wide open space to detox, so we cruised on down to the Grand Canyon to see one of the seven wonders of the world. It had snowed a foot the night before so it was pretty damn spectacular, not at all what you expect when you think of the desert in Arizona!
We did part of the Rim Trail along the South Rim and took the shuttle bus up to Pima Point to see the sunset. Even though it is impossible to comprehend what you are looking at, it is one of the single most impossible views you will ever see in your lifetime. 'Nuff said.

(click images to enlarge them!)

dinsdag 1 maart 2011

doin' the Dirty Harry

So, there we were, eating our free, hot breakfast (out of the cardboard danish, rubber beef patty, so-called french toast and gutter water coffee with absolutely NO kick, the instant oatmeal was the best- need we say more?) in Boulder City, Nevada in our "high-end" motel with a 24 hour pool, marvelling at what luxury we had managed for ourselves. It wasn't great, but it wasn't a fleapit. Had we known that we would be in the decadent heart of being king-for-a-day just a few hours later, we would have laughed at ourselves. The only thing the two places had in common was the menu of themed rooms with ceiling mirrors and jacuzzis.
We hit Vegas at 10 am. Perhaps not the most likely time to wander around the City of the Night, but it is apparently never to early to shoot a gun and so we hit the shooting range after the coffee drive-thru. Daniel had read about it and decided that if any time was going to be the time, it was now (he hates 'em, but just really wanted to know what it was like to shoot 'em). I went along for the ride. We were greeted by a girl who signed Daniel in. What gun did he want to shoot? (Girl produces gun menu) Did he want a package? (I believe that for $400 you could shoot every gun they had in the place, and that's including semi-automatic machine guns) Daniel proceeded to explain he only wanted to shoot a handgun (the Dirty Harry, a Magnum .44), which coerced the girl's possibly most impressive sales technique ever out of her: "But you're a gun virgin! Losing your virginity to a handgun is like losing your virginity to a crack whore! Why not start with the supermodel? (eg. the machine guns)" Maybe it was our wide-eyed, stunned silence at this colorful metaphor, maybe we looked too European for the big 'uns, but she let is be after one more word of advice: "Don't be afraid of the kickback guys. 12 year olds come in here and do it all the time!" (I'm not really sure how this was reassuring)
Once inside Daniel picked a target (when in America, be an American! Bin Laden was the obvious choice) and went off to shoot. I was going to be his side-kick photographer for you folks at home, but the gun man wouldn't let me come in (because apparently I was going to be a hazard, not the 10-odd people toting large firearms) and he took really awful pictures. So you'll have to take our word for this one.
Moving on, we found the pinball hall of fame, and since that is only Daniel absolutely most favorite thing to do in the whole wide world (are we sensing a Daniel-themed morning here?), we spent a good hour or so there playing all sorts of retro video games and choosing from over 200 pinball machines. Even I thought it was pretty cool. Next up was ultimate kitsch at the Liberace museum (Heather's choice...), and although the outside looked totally promising it was, unfortunately, closed.
So.. Moving on again, it was time to check into our hotel! We had managed to book ourselves into Downtown's finest, the Golden Nugget. This may have been the point where we realized the difference between motel and hotel. If only because around the corner from the lobby was the largest single nugget of gold (aha!) in the world.
So having valet parked our car and settled into our room (which inevitably involves me rearranging the contents of my bag across the room floor), we primped and preened and made ourselves beautiful and hit town. My aunt Lisbet happened to be celebrating her 50th birthday the same weekend and so we were invited to go and see a show on the Strip. We ate chez Denny's (a real classy joint, you could compare to van der Valk for the Dutchies) and then wandered over to the Mirage where we saw LOVE (Cirque du Soleil's take on the Beatles). WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW. Oh my God. So NOW I want to be a set designer and acrobat when I grow up obviously. We saw the Bellagio's fountain show (fantabulous), various poker rooms (again, a Daniel-themed day- and Lisbet is big poker momma so they got on FINE), Paris, Venice and finally downtown again where we hit the final poker room where Daniel took a stand and lost $100 in about 2 minutes (it was a REALLY unfortunate call. Even I as a non-poker player saw that one...). Time to call it a NIGHT.
The next morning we felt the consequences of learning how to get $1 drinks at penny slots. We had a breakfast date however and so off we went to the Aria for brunch (we ate enough to feed small armies), and then we walked pretty much the entire Strip on both sides, taking in each casino separtely until we could see no more. For those who have never been to Sin City, all your preconceptions are true. It is absolute mayhem, time is completely irrelevant, the place reeks of "What happens in Vegas..." with all the bachelor(ette) parties screaming their drunken way down the Strip, and absolutely everything is about money, whether it's the bills fed into slot machines or the mandatory tipping for anything from getting into a cab to buying a drink. It is a place where everyone is king for a day- no matter how much money is in your bank account, you are treated like a million dollars (obviously I don't know what it's like to be a high roller) and you can indulge yourself in whatever level of luxury befits you. For us this meant soaking in the hotel jacuzzi in the setting sun with drinks in our hands, swimming in the hotel pool which had a 200,000 gallon (760,000 liter) shark tank embedded in it (and a waterslide going through the shark tank...eek!), or being able to get champagne "on the house" because we were sitting at a slot machine, getting our car valet parked, and having a constant stack of dollar bills in our pockets (which inevitably became tips, but hey).
We spent our second evening at the 'Fremont Street Experience', where a 500m super screen above our heads gave a lightshow every hour and amongst all walks of life sauntering around one could see Kiss members having serious conversations with Spongebob Squarepants while waving at Spiderman and a group of showgirls accross the street. We gave up around 9, when the depressing gamblers started to hit us and everyone seemed suddenly to be hideously obese. Enough is enough already.