A Travellerspoint blog

Viva, Las Vegas!

And no fear and loathing, thankfully

sunny 27 °C
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We have to start by saying Vegas is nuts! It lived up to expectations and, if anything, exceeded them. It’s known as a place of excesses but we didn’t see a massive amount of human excess on the gambling or drinking front even though we were there during Spring Break (and we left on St. Patrick’s Day). We consciously stayed in a non-casino hotel so that we had a haven and the Vdara fitted that bill nicely with a nice atmosphere and lovely suite. As a bonus, we could see the Bellagio fountains from our room so didn’t have to go far for that show. We’ve basically walked the length of the strip by day and by night; from the Palazzo down to Mandalay Bay and back. The hotels are a feature in themselves so we’ve taken far too many pictures of those – both inside and outside – as well as both the Bellagio fountains and Mirage volcano at night. The Blue Man group were just brilliant; funny, clever and engaging. Well worth the money. A trip out to the Hoover Dam to see both the dam and the new bridge across the gorge helped relieve the intensity of ‘The Strip’ and both of those are impressive engineering feats. Our last night was spent watching ‘O’ at the Bellagio, which is just mesmerising. There were so many moments where we were both dumb-struck with the various acts that were on stage that we concluded it’s the best thing we’ve seen this trip and, quite possibly, the most impressive, spectacular and amazing show we’ve ever seen. The only criticism is that sometimes there’s just too much going on on stage and you miss something. Neither of us are gamblers so we didn’t have a strong draw to do this side of Vegas; watching a few people has been a good pastime though but some people really do need to tone down their celebrations when they win $10. Yes, American students we mean you! If anything, the smoke levels in the casinos is off-putting for non-smokers who are used to not having this in the UK or anywhere else on this trip to date. We’d forgotten how unpleasant it is to leave a place that’s smoky and smell it on your clothes when you wake the following morning. Still, they’re intriguing places to spend some time. In summary, there’s not a lot else we can say about Vegas that hasn’t already been said by someone else: it is what it is and you get what you want. It’s mad. It’s excessive (where else can you go and see a lion in a hotel?) You could be in a hotel and not know if it’s day or night outside. It’s for the young, the old(er), the tourists, the professionals, the gamblers and the non-gamblers. We’ll have to return at some stage because we’ve barely scratched the surface and it’s as good a place as any to get married ;-)

Posted by neilthelr 22:29 Archived in USA Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

Two months in

3 weeks left

sunny 20 °C
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Yesterday (15th March) marked two months since we left home and whilst it feels like we've been away for ages (and we have by most measures), the time feels like it has flown. We've now got just a bit more than a normal holiday duration left. That said, we've still got some great things to see and do in those final few weeks....Death Valley, Yosemite, San Francisco and the Pacific Coast highway. It should be a good last few weeks.

Posted by neilthelr 12:21 Archived in USA Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

Iron Lion Zion

But we only saw two of those!

sunny 16 °C
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Zion was the last of the Utah National Parks before we head up to Death Valley and Yosemite and it couldn’t be more different to the others we’ve visited in Utah. It’s at a lower elevation so it’s greener but still has spectacular rock formations (some coloured from the iron deposits) and it’s far less open in the sense that it’s more canyon-based. Only a small part of the park is accessible by road so there was a lot more human traffic than we’ve experienced in the other parks, plus it was the weekend. It didn’t make it any less pretty or impressive though. We did a fairly typical tourist route through the park, driving the scenic route and taking some pictures at the various stops. We’d planned to walk a couple of the trails but only did one in the end, which took us down in to a narrowing part of the canyon. We would have had to wade through the river to continue so, like everyone else, we stopped there, took some photos and headed back. Having left the park we stopped at the store in Springdale for a few supplies then headed to Vegas, which will be a little different!

Posted by neilthelr 12:19 Archived in USA Tagged mountains Comments (0)

Two parks, one day and a small screw

Aka Bryce Canyon, Zion and a puncture

sunny 12 °C
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When we started the car early this morning we got a warning light. After consulting the manual we concluded we needed to pump the tyres up, which we did at the local gas station however, that wasn’t going to do a whole lot of good once I’d spotted the nail in the tyre. Luckily, the tyre repair place was next door so, around 40 mins later, our planned day started properly with the car all fixed. We were $20 lighter but had a few tips from Kirby / Kirb / ‘the Kirbster’ regarding our route to Zion and were very grateful to him for all of the above. We went to our planned overlooks in Bryce and did a walk down in to the canyon, amongst the Hoodoos, to a point where the trail became trickier (we’d already encountered an icy track, deep puddles, heavy clay soil and falling snow and rock) so we headed back up the several hundred feet that we’d come down, cleaned our boots and headed out to Zion. Only about 20 miles down the road we passed through Red Rock Canyon, which comes out of nowhere and disappears as quickly, but is a wonderful surprise that lasts a few miles. We went in to Zion via the east entrance, wound our way through the park road heading for the tunnel that takes you a mile through a mountain. We stopped just before the tunnel entrance for a small hike up to a viewpoint over the canyon, which was worth the effort as the views were fantastic. The road after the tunnel winds back and forth, descending down to the main south entrance but just before getting there we turned a corner and were greeted with the amazing sight of the setting sun hitting the tops of the mountains on our left; it had an almost ethereal quality to the view. Just stunning. Tomorrow we’re heading back in to the park but, from what we’ve seen today it’s already very different to anything we’ve seen this trip already. We’re looking forward to it but then we’re off to Vegas.

Posted by neilthelr 21:21 Archived in USA Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

Scenic Byway 12

And you can’t argue the name

sunny 11 °C
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Torrey sits at the eastern end of Scenic Byway 12, one of the few ‘All American Roads’ in the country that are named as such because the road is the destination rather than anything else. It heads uphill from Torrey towards Boulder – the last town in the USA to finish receiving it’s mail by mule – in to some amazing pine-clad, mountain scenery with snow piled up at the side of the road but you could still see desert valleys in the distance. We passed the 9600ft peak of the road and stopped at various points along it on the way down. One thing that has impressed us in the USA has been the way they cater for tourists with really well set up Information Centers (sic.) in small towns and it’s at one of these we stopped and sat in the sun eating our lunch (and T-shirts). We continued on Byway 12 passing through a few small towns that sit in the most spectacular scenery just taking in the sights as we drove. We arrived in Bryce earlier than expected so took the opportunity to enter the park (thus getting better value from our annual membership) and drive the 18 miles to the far end and work our way back to each viewpoint making it back to Sunset Point just in time for sunset. In contrast to the rock formations we’ve seen over the past few days, the formations at Bryce are just completely different and very spectacular. We’re off to hike amongst them tomorrow.

Posted by neilthelr 20:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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