THANK YOU VERY MUCH

Life is the Name of the Game

Sunday

With body clock all shook up I woke at 2:00am; wide awake. I could hear Rory in the next room nattering away as if it was 10am. For the next few hours I tossed and turned, getting no nearer to sleep only nearer the sunrise.

A couple of hours later we noticed that Rory's content little mutterings had now developed into a grizzly protest, so at 6:30am we took the tiny rebel off their hands and went for a walk. Hannah and Tim were glad of the respite.

The Excalibur was connected to the Luxor by an interior walkway. Rory was quite happy strolling along sat in his buggy watching the early morning world go by.

The Egyptian themed hotel was as fascinating on the inside as it was striking on the outside. The pyramid rose up internally with all the guestroom doors facing inwards. Large Sphinxes guarded the entrance to the casino. We were stood by one and Rory was pointing excitedly going "Yeah, Yeah" or noises to that effect. "Oh, look ... he likes them" we thought.

A little higher and slightly to the left however we noticed that he was actually pointing at a video from Luxor's Fantasy show showing semi-clad women gyrating seductively.

Perhaps we should have covered his eyes, but we just found it so funny!

We stopped for a bucket of coffee and a massive croissant at Luxor's Backstage Deli. (I'm sure there a double entrende lurking in there somewhere.) We noticed that Lisa Minelli performed at the theatre here last nightbut neither Julie nor I felt that we missed out on that one.

We continued along the road to Mandalay where the connecting passageway was filled with interesting (read expensive) looking shops that fortunately had yet to open.

There were several restaurants here also that caught our fancy. It just seemed to be getting better and better the further from the Excalibur we walked.

The end of the road arrived in a cloud of vanilla essence and calming creams as the Mandalay oozed class. It smelt great, looked great, felt great.

We both wished that we were guests here; a feeling that was heightened when we caught a glimpse of the private sandy beach that was open to guests only.

Nice; very nice. Perhaps next time we're in town.

On top of that they also had a great rock venue called The House of Blues. Could it get any better?

Earlier, as we walked past we had checked the box office and found out that a band called Placebo were playing here on Thursday.

They weren't exactly our favourite band but I knew that Hannah had a few of their albums so we decided immediately to buy two tickets. Unfortunately we couldn't because it was only 7:45am!

We continued to walk all the way around the eleven acre beach. We realised that when we stepped outside the Mandalay it was the first breath of fresh outdoor air we had in our lungs since entering the Excalibur yesterday!

We enjoyed the lovely sunny day so much that we decided to walk back to the Excalibur along the outside of the hotels.

It was fascinating being so close to the pyramid. It was such an impressive structure. Those who dreamt of building such a construction must have been ex-Disney imagineers.

Mickey Mouse with Mafia connections!

At 9:00am, back in our Excalibur room, I phoned Ticketmaster to try and secure Placebo tickets.

It was all voice activated and I was having real difficulty in getting myself understood. "Did you mean Albuquerque?" asked the robot.

Ooooh, that really pissed me off. It asked me again, and I replied "Las Vegas".

"Did you mean Los Angeles?" "AAARGH!! No!!" I was getting closer but no cigar.

I was so glad that Julie was in the toilet so that I avoided her ridicule when I desperately descended into an American accent. But hey, it worked!

It understood me and I did manage to reserve two Placebo tickets. I was busy celebrating when I was hit with an inflated price of $63. Something called a courtesy charge?

"What? ... the tickets were only $20 each?" Sadly the ticket bastard robot wasn't listening to me. I was fuming and shaking my fists at the telephone receiver like the demented owner of Fawlty Towers. Before I erupted into a tirade of abuse I hung up.

Having calmed down somewhat we decided to walk back to the House of Blues box office. This time we made use of the free monorail that shuttled backwards and forwards between the Excalibur and the Mandalay and we were there and back in no time, with two tickets in our hands. Rock on! (as a drummer friend of mine once said.)

After a Quizno's sub for breakfast we all left the Excalibur and headed out for our first real glimpse of the strip.

We were immediately presented with the spectacular Manhattan skyline of New York New York, framed by its very own roller coaster.

It had them all, the Empire State building, the Chrysler building, Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and many more scaled down landmarks.

It was quite possibly the most visually impressive of all the hotels on the strip.

Its strange how the three resorts clustered together (Luxor, Excalibur, and New York New York) were probably the most ambitious and eye-catching. They must have all been built during the Disney-for-adults phase.

The next hotel, Monte Carlo, was disappointingly unimaginative in comparison. It had a grand entrance but after that it was pretty plain. It could be argued that its sheer white simplicity was stylish and chic but it didn't at all grab our attention.

Next on the strip was just a big hole. This was where the Boardwalk Hotel once stood, with its Coney Island facade. The traditional white-washed wooden rollercoaster track and equally quaint ferris wheel now knocked down to make way for something bigger, better and more modern I suppose.

Moving along swiftly we came across the resort that excited us both. Mostly because we had made a reservation for Wednesday night. For one night only as it was so expensive!

The Bellagio, if you hadn't of guessed already, is an Italian themed luxury resort loosely based on the beautiful town on the shores of Lake Como.

It's a relative newcomer to the strip, built in 1999 and reputedly costing a cool $1 billion. It comes complete with all the designers you'd associate with the glitterati of Milan. Armani, Gucci etc were all represented. I don't expect even the real Bellagio could compete with that!

Alongside the Bellagio stood the imposing and statuesque hotel that is possibly the most well-known; Caesars Palace.

It may not have been much taller than its terracotta neighbour but it gave the impression of towering over it.

We also had a reason to be excited here because we had a date with Elton John and his Red Piano on Friday. He's filling Celine's slot as they say.

It's usually Ms. Dion that entertains the masses at the Coliseum but whilst she escapes for a week or two Sir Elton fills her slot, ... so to speak. He's not exactly our usual style of music but hey, when in Vegas …

Looking at a map of the strip we had hardly covered a quarter of its length yet we were all doggone tired.

(Hey, I've been in the USA less than 24 hours and I've already picking up the lingo!)

Looking back towards the Excalibur it didn't seem that far away but the oversized scale of these hotels was very deceiving.

We'd actually walked much further distance than we realised. Add the blazing sun during arguably the hottest time of the day and no wonder we had to sit down by the Trevi-style fountain for a rest.

As we began to wither away in the heat we decided that it would be a good idea to head inside Caesars' Forum Shops for some shade .

Both my father and Ray (the Hilton's doorman) had mentioned to us that moving statues and a ceiling that looked like the sky were worth a look.

We didn't find any robotic statues but the blue sky effect was pretty cool. It had a pink sunset hue which was quite calming; ideal for shopping for when things inevitably gets stressful. So no trolley rage here then.

We ambled down the faux roman street until we came to the end, which was also the beginning of the casino.

Retracing our steps down Via Caesar Hannah had to admit that her eyesight wasn't as good as it should be because she misread a neon sign for Wolfgang Puck's Spago restaurant.

"That can't be his real name? … oh, I see … it's Puck … with a P. "

Feeling a little rejuvenated and a little hungry we left the Forum shops with the intention of reaching the Fashion Mall where we knew there was a good food hall.

We didn't quite make it however. Within a few minutes of being back outside we were wilting like pengiuns in the Bahamas. (We had been told not to underestimate how hot it gets, even in October, and they weren't kidding.)

We made it as far as the bend in the strip, occupied by Treasure Island, (or T.I. as it's more trendily known as these days) before deciding to call it a day and head back to the Excalibur's pool. To hasten our return we decided to catch the monorail from the nearest stop, which was Harrah's.

Crossing over the strip we saw for the first time the exceptionally stylish Wynn. Wow, it looked like a box of chocolates! It just gave the appearance of designer chic indulgence.

Built by Steve Wynn after he sold his previous venture, the Bellagio, to the MGM Mirage group, it is the newest resort in town and its most opulent.

"Definitely next time" we both agreed.

Walking back down the strip the next up was the faithfully reconstructed Venetian resort. The attention to detail in the Campanile, Doge's Palace or even a scaled version of the Rialto was excellent but the female gondolier wasn't how I remember Venice.

Eventually we finally reached the doors of Harrah's and it was Hurrahs all round!

In we went, looking for any signs for the monorail. They sent us this way, then that way, down steps, (or elevators in Hannah and Tim's case as Rory relaxed in his buggy), then back up steps, around this corner and that corner.

It was way way over at the very back of the hotel but never mind, we got there in the end. We bought a 10 trip ticket for $35 which theoretically saved us money and sat down on the clean air-conditioned shuttle that transported us with gliding ease down the line.

The first stop was for Flamingo and Caesars Palace. The next stop was Bally's/Paris Vegas stop and for some inexplicable reason I had a compulsion to get off and walk from there back to our hotel. I think it was for a close up photo opportunity of the Eiffel Tower! Anyway, everyone followed me off the monorail, and through a maize of shops, eventually onto Bally's casino floor. This is where we stayed for 10 minutes, held captive against our will, trapped and increasingly getting more despairing as we searched for the 'Way Out' sign. There were signs for the toilets, for the monorail, for the restaurants, for the shops, but not for the exit. They didn't make it simple for you to leave. Once you're in they want to keep you in! (But what about an emergency evacuation?)

Anyway we eventually stumbled across a door to the outside world.

Our rejoicing was short lived however as we couldn't believe how little distance down Las Vegas Boulevard we had travelled. I hadn't realised but were only just opposite the Bellagio. That felt a little demoralising and I felt a little guilty.

I then followed everyone else as we crossed over the strip to walk back down the quieter side of the street and whilst merrily moaning about the monorail farce the Bellagio Lake started to bubble. Well, that lifted our spirits. We were in time for the fountain show.

We took up our positions, centre right, and waited in anticipation, not really knowing what to expect. What happened next blew us away. It was truly astounding and even surprisingly emotional. We weren't expecting that!

It began with a familiar intro, a percussive string section that was unmistakenly the begining of Andrea Bocelli's "Time to Say Goodbye".

It's a beautiful song that in itself makes the hairs stand up on end, but then add a spectacular water display that I can only describe as equal to the finest firework display I'd ever seen, and also to witness Rory's unabashed reaction to every swish and swoon of the fountain.

Well … Julie turned to look at Hannah, who looked back at her and both were brimming with pride and welling up with tears.

I'm not ashamed to say that I also had such a lump in my throat that I thought I had swallowed a leatherback turtle.

The song came to its crescendo finale and then stopped. The water that was still airborne came crashing down, slapping Lago Bellagio creating its own round of applause, and then, after a few seconds to snap out of our trance, we all moved on.

It's a memory that will stay with me forever and even now, as I'm writing this I can feel that emotion all over again. I can't believe I'm saying this over a water feature but it was a special moment.

Within no time we were back at the Excalibur getting ready for the pool. Julie and I were just about to leave our room when the phone rang. It was Hannah saying "We're going to be running a bit late. Rory's just dumped in his trunks"

"Oh, OK … at least it wasn't in the pool."

We could see the pool from our room and it looked to be quite a large area but we were still surpsised at its size when we eventually got down there.

It wasn't at all busy and we found it very relaxing.

There was even a bar nearby of which we took full advantage. They had on offer an ice bucket full of Budweiser bottles. Now I'm not a big fan of Bud normaly but this perfectly chilled bottle of beer was the most well received beverage that I'd ever downed in one.

After playing with the ice cubes it was time for Rory to be coaxed into the pool.

He was a little hesitant at first but once he became acclimatised he was soon splashing about like a fish. He had a great time bobbing about with Tim.

 

We spent two hours here and found it very relaxing but at 5 o'clock we left in a hurry to get ready for the evening's entertainment.

We needed to be at our seats for the "Tournament of the Kings" show for 6pm and we made it just on time.

Steps led us down from the casino floor, to a kids arcade area, then further steps led us down into a huge arena. I was very surprised that such a place existed in the bowels of the Excalibur.

We had front row seats and it included our food for the evening. We were bang on time but we were still one of the last to be seated. It was far from being sold out and we didn't have to disturb anyone to get to our seats.

Our waiter arrived and introduced himself, "Hi, I'm Burt". He had a very distinctive accent but I just couldn't put my finger on it. It was a quirky squeaky voice but despite this comic infliction he was a rather pleasant man.

I explained that we had two vegetarians and judging by the Henry VIII style devouring of Chicken legs that was taking place all around us I wasn't holding out for too much to eat.

"No problem sir " he said to my surprise "we have pasta primavera just for you"

"Cool" I cheesily replied. Cool? Where the hell did that come from?

The lights dimmed, trumpets heralded the start of the show and, as if it were a personal request, it began with a tumbling dwarf.

The King walked into the centre of the arena and explained the scenario of which the plot I instantly forgot, but I understood enough to know that we were sitting in the French section and had to cheer on our handsome prince.

We were all urged to shout "Hazaar!" and make as much noise as possible.

We were concerned that an over-tired Rory, on account of having not slept all day, would have been totally overawed but he was completely mesmerized by the actors, joining in with their cheering, banging of the tables, and shouting something resembling "Hazaar!" We all certainly threw ourselves into the spirit of the evening.

Once the knights were set their challenge they all left the arena, and the lights dimmed once again.

Then a huge firecracker blew up.

We all, with our hearts in mouths, turned immediately to look at Rory, worried that he would be cowering in fear or crying inconsolably after the explosion. Instead he was clapping excitedly.

The Knights returned on horseback. Adorned with brightly coloured tunics the blue of France had our favour, the obligatory Green for Ireland, and Red for Russia, and for some strange reason purple Norway and yellow Spain were also represented.

I hadn't realised before that they were renowned for their jousting!

Our food arrived but we hardly had time to eat as the show was excellent and grabbed our attention. Rory couldn't take his eyes off the action. In fact, there was one moment, at the end of a battle sequence when he suddenly felt the urge to join in and hurriedly placed his bread roll down to clap an excitable round of applause then quickly picked the roll back up and continued munching. Julie turned to look at Hannah, who looked back at her and both were brimming with pride, welling up with tears. It was the sweetest moment and I'm not ashamed to say that my throat was turtling again.

The long day finally caught up with him and without any fuss or struggle he just slipped away into his dreams. He must have been exhausted to have fallen into a deep sleep amidst the noise and excitement of the room. At the end of the show a flurry of battle grade explosives shook the whole foundations. Once again we all expected Rory to be in a state of shock after the Excalibur's medieval bombardment but he was unbelievably still fast asleep.

With an early start planned for tomorrow we all decided to join him in slumber land and returned to our rooms reasonably early. Before falling asleep though, Julie and I sat up in bed, drinking Bud, and talking a lot of rubbish. The kind you do when you're over-tired, or at least Julie and I do. When conversation meanders through topics so surreal you wouldn't wish to repeat them for fear of sounding absolutely ridiculous.

It'll be a sad day for the entertainment world when Bruce Forsythe dies.

All I can say is, Life is the name of the game, and I want to play the game with you.

Monday >>> ©Copyright Colin Owen 2006

©Copyright 2000-2012 Colin Owen