Vegas, Baby!

Today was a travel day. Throughout my holiday most flights had been scheduled at night, but this was a morning flight. In future I think I’d try harder to have all my flights of an evening, because it seems to make much better use of the day.

My bags were mostly packed the night before, so when I got up there were only a couple of things to throw in my suitcase (including some socks I’d washed in the bathroom the night before…) I’d booked a shuttle bus to collect me at 10am for my 12pm flight, so I went downstairs with my suitcase at about 9am and left it with reception while I had breakfast. Not wanting to go too far from the hotel, I found a small bakery just around the corner. It didn’t have a great range, but was convenient. I had a ham and cheese croissant and a coffee, then wandered back to the hotel.

I was early at the hotel, but didn’t want to risk missing the bus. After about 15 minutes, and a great chat with the guy at the hotel, the bus arrived and I was on my way to the airport. Something that concerned me with a lot of the shuttle buses was that they didn’t always take payment over the phone. It made me wonder what sort of guarantee I had that they would actually come, since I hadn’t paid for their services yet.

Flying over snowy mountain peaks
Flying over snowy mountain peaks

There were two other groups to pick up in the city before we could go to the airport, but I got there with enough time for check in, security and even a Pinkberry frozen yoghurt! The flight was around an hour and a half long and I’d landed in Las Vegas by about 1.30pm. Walking towards baggage claim, I was surprised to see some pokies right next to the conveyer belt! There was a bit of a wait for the luggage (deliberate perhaps??), and while I was standing there a few people wandered over and started playing.

Pokies next to baggage claim at McCarran International Airport
Pokies next to baggage claim at McCarran International Airport

I gathered up my bags, and headed towards the taxi rank. I looked up a website that said it would only be about $16 in a taxi to my hotel, the Flamingo, so I figured rather than bothering with the extra travel time of a shared shuttle bus I’d just go with a cab. In the end it cost about $35 and took almost half an hour. I thought the website I’d read must have been out of date, but at the end of my stay the trip back to the airport only took 10 minutes (and that was in a shuttle bus!). I have a feeling the driver took the scenic route to drag out the trip and bump up the fare.

Anyway, I arrived at the hotel just before 3pm. Check-in time wasn’t officially until 4pm but I thought I’d try anyway. There was a queue of about 10-15 people at the check-in, but I noticed an empty queue for Total Rewards members. Just behind the check-in queue was the Total Rewards counter, so I went over there instead and signed up for their reward program. 5 minutes later I had a voucher for the pokies and was at the front of the check-in queue!

My room was ready, so I was able to check-in straight away. I hadn’t really had a proper lunch, so I was feeling pretty hungry. I changed into shorts (it was so much hotter than San Francisco!) and went back downstairs to explore the hotel and find something to eat.

In the hotel gardens there were flamingos and pelicans! There were also ducks and other birds, along with a pond filled with massive gold fish. I felt a bit sorry for the flamingos and pelicans, particularly at night when they were trying to sleep with people still out and about and a lot of noise. Still, they were very pretty.

They don't call it Hotel Flamingo for nothing - flamingoes in the hotel gardens
They don’t call it Hotel Flamingo for nothing – flamingoes in the hotel gardens

Just around the corner from the birds was a restaurant that did Mexican food. I sat down, ordered a frozen margarita (2 for 1!) and some tacos. By the time I’d finished ‘lunch’ it was a bit after 4pm, which was why I decided that day time flights waste time – it was 4pm and I’d hardly done anything!

Armed with a water bottle and my lonely planet I went to explore. Being in Vegas, I felt like I should gamble on my first day so I wasted a couple of dollars in one of the pokie machines then moved on to see what was outside. It was really hot outside, and I was a bit lost as to where everything was and what I should do. I spent about an hour ¬†wandering around, but didn’t get very far and felt a bit overwhelmed. Deciding it was all too much, I found a bar outside the hotel serving $3 beers and decided to just sit there and watch the people going past. It was quite relaxing, and there was a constant flow of interesting people walking by, including a couple of guys dressed as cupid taking tips for photos.

Crazy cupids outside the hotel
Crazy cupids collecting tips outside the bar

I stayed there until it started to get dark, then went inside in search of food. There was a food court, so I had a hamburger and chips, then went back upstairs to drop off my backpack. Looking out my window I could see the lights outside, and was quite excited to try exploring again. With just my camera, I headed back out.

Fountains outside Caesar's Palace
Fountains outside Caesar’s Palace

Given it was now night time it had started to cool down a little bit, but even with the sun gone it was somewhere around the low 30s. I didn’t want to stay out too late because I had an early start the next day for a day trip to the Grand Canyon, so I just explored the casinos closest to the Flamingo. Just across the road was Ballys, where the bus was picking me up the next morning, so I went there first so I knew where to go in the morning.

Lights of Ballys and Paris
Lights of Ballys and Paris

Next door to Ballys is Paris where they have built a half scale replica of the Eiffel Tower. There’s an elevator up to the top, but I was happy to just look from the ground. Across the road from there is the Bellagio, where the fountains dance in sync with music every 15 minutes at night. I saw a couple of shows in the time I was in the area, and they were spectacular. The boom of the water as it shot up was quite loud, and it was impressive the way the water stayed in time with the music. Sometimes I think it went as high as the hotel roof!

At all of the major intersections the road is fenced off and there are escalators and stairs going up to a bridge walkway for pedestrians. I guess the purpose of that is to keep pedestrians off the road making it a bit safer, but I found it quite confusing at times and would go up the wrong stairs or forget completely and get to the road only to find my way blocked by the fence. During the days particularly, it was quite draining going up and down stairs in the heat of the sun.

It was getting towards 11pm so I decided to head back to the Flamingo and get a good sleep before the Grand Canyon in the morning. The bus was coming at 7.40am so I had to be up a bit before 7am to allow enough time. Although my visit to Vegas had started off a bit slow, by the end of the night I’d had a nice time exploring my little piece of the Strip and was looking forward to coming back the following night and going a bit further.

My home, the Flamingo
My temporary home, the Flamingo
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