Las Vegas – Arrival day

Pale bodied and starkly English we stared across the pool like rabbits in headlights. Beach balls flew overhead whilst girls in impossibly tiny bikinis and tanned men whose ages were impossible to tell or care about cooly dance to Paul Oakenfold’s set at Hard Rock Hotel. It’s a miracle we’re here, in fact I’d not be overly surprised to wake up scrunched into the deep recesses of my duvet with the rain hammering at my window.

Organising a surprise 50th to Las Vegas for a parent isn’t a terrible idea, but is far more likely, I’ve learned, to hold more surprises for the organiser. I have regrets, and I have learned a lot of lessons, but I’d not change it for the world. From sorting out said birthday girl’s partner’s Romanian Visa to negotiating the shiny new LV terminal and endless interrogations this holiday has, for sure, been the test of stamina and determination I perhaps could have gotten by quite nicely without… but WHAT a weekend!

We really should have known from the moment we were surrounded by armed officers in Gatwick airport whilst happily munching on what we then thought was a big ole brekkie. The first we were aware of what was going on we were already surrounded, relaxing a little when the spaniel sniffer dog got a tour round the venue… I’m not sure my heart’s returned to normal bpm since.

I’d tell you all about Virgin Atlantic Airways, but as there’s little choice in who you travel with there’s not a great deal of point. I will advise that the food is tasty but portions are small, so don’t get on with a grumbly belly. Also the plane out is pretty gorgeous, spacey and comfy but do expect a bog standard 1990’s boeing return, complete with tough red cladding and ominous stains. Apparently we were all shorter then, too. Unfortunately for me I passed up the Virgin punch on the way out (vodka optional) and found later it’s a one-way special. I imagine they assume no-one returning from Vegas could possibly be worthy of Virgin Punch.

Customs are concertedly prickly, I felt pretty damn guilty when I was done with but not entirely sure why… at this point I’d insert a big happy picture of 20 odd showgirls that is there to greet you on arrival however due to camera restrictions the artist, a showgirl herself, is fortuned only to a tight audience of visitors.

With the four of us successfully through the gates obstacle two was to find our transfer. Bell Trans, we later discovered, are everywhere… except when you want them. Due to confusion and mis-direction I will spell the directions out (you never know, a potential visitor may stumble across my ramblings). Off the plane to the meet/greet area, turn left and walk all the way down to the transfer desk. Engage if necessary. Next door on the right – cross the road (at this point be mindful the traffic is all backwards to what we are accustomed) and the stand is on the left. This should shave around 40 minutes off of our trip to the bus stand! There is Wi-Fi at the airport which may assist (i.e. ‘ask a friend’ etc).

And so to the Hard Rock. Pulling up at the main entrance a military operation runs 24/7 to ensure each transfer bus, taxi and limo is where it should be. Pedestrians to fight their own battle! This is all good and well as the valet foyer pounds with classic rock, modern rock and the odd surprise track, each one will make you feel invincible and capable of taking on rogue monster trucks. There’s no shortage of those!

The gaming pit is all consuming, the lights, the sounds, the ring-ting-ting-tinnnggs! They all start here… even the corridors are lined with frequently used cymbol-lights. The Saxophone chandeliers are a little harder to use 😐 I was a little confuddled at the room description ‘Mountain View Room’ as pulling back the ceiling high heavy curtains revealed a wall. And what appeared to be little light blocks – facing into the room. My concerns were confirmed during the night as having forgotten to draw the curtains in jet-lagged exhaustions various colours pumped into the room – every corner really is a party. Checking out the second room had me in fits of laughter – Dizzy Rascal’s “Holiday” video was in full swing right outside the door. I can’t recall if the pool was ever quiet, but watching it was quite transfixing. And no – the Hard Rock ethos doesn’t translate to the dance-happy American crowds that flock in from across the US to live it up over the summer months. ‘Summer months’, by the way, doesn’t mean the flash glimpses of golden light which are rudely washed out at regular intervals that British weather would have us believe. Quite the contrary, the Las Vegas news showed temperatures of 44 for the duration of our visit to be succeeded by a week of ‘Hotter, Hotter and Hotter’. That’s how they do weather.

Day one didn’t quite go down as planned as guests were shuffled around the pool side due to filming for a boxing match, however the love for American food portions (I say portions because the restaurant was Mexican) began right here. Pink Taco in the complex turfed out whopping big plates of a delicious Mexican combination with complimentary Nachos which raised all our spirits instantly. Despite being some distance from the strip the need for grander reaches the HRH (Hard Rock Hotel … not sure Her Royal Highness would really appreciate the location) with two substantial guitars poised up high on the hotel and fronting Cafe. Every spare wall space is home to a bit of music history:

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More of this to come.

Padding around the front of the venue is discouraged but breaking away from the complex unveils a convenience store that had me pawing over the unfamiliar packaging and reaching for the biggest bags of ‘Lays’ crisps in unusual flavours. Opting for lime chilli crisps and pink lemonade iced-tea I proceeded to play the full-on tourist and stand around the streets photographing everything in sight, thankfully avoiding (on this occasion) the Bavarian Beer hall.

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Pleased with my purchases and eager to get out on the town to explore the strip I bounded up to my room to get Jon who had indulged in a nap and made a last minute decision to invest in some organising instead. After about an hour trying to figure out what to do about the helicopter booking (which, online, requires a 48 hour turn over and each passanger’s estimated weight) I found I could barely move for exhaustion. Despite arriving at 2pm on the same day of departure, we lost a day in transit which means I was on auto-pilot after 17 hour day. I’m not sure I can take responsibility for this:

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