THANK YOU VERY MUCH

Married by Jesus in the Garden of Love

Thursday

As we had hardly spent anytime in our luxurious bedroom we were going to make the most of our 12pm check-out time. We ordered breakfast. I had a absolutely delicious frittata , Julie had a cream cheese bagel, and I also had a granola parfait on top of yogurt with strawberries and blueberries which tasted heavenly.

We lounged about in our super soft robes, watching trashy TV such as Jerry Springer. We also had complimentary newspapers delivered, USA Today and a local Vegas rag. We then noticed the time and had to quickly get dress and vacate the room!

The bathroom here was amazing. We regretted not having a bath last night as it was big enough to have done the breast stroke.

Another great feature were the his'n hers basins, although it felt very peculiar simultaneously brushing our teeth.

We reluctantly left our room with only ten minutes to spare.

When we returned to the Excalibur it felt as if we were back in the slums. What a come down. You don't always get what you pay for but when you're talking Vegas hotels, it's true.

We got back to our room and checked-in on our little family. Hannah told us that they had sorted out the marriage licence, found a chapel and were getting married in two hours!

With such short noticed we didn't have time to think, we had lunch, got changed, and picked up as dapper looking Rory in his stylish brown suit and pink shirt. That gave Hannah at least half an hour to get ready. She had borrowed an Armani(Jeans) dress from her cousin Rachel which was conveniently cream and very suitable as a wedding dress. No pre-meditation there then!

She looked wonderful; absolutely fabulous. I could not have imagined her looking any more beautiful if she had spent years of meticulous planning towards today. She was so happy and that shone through.

They were already mother and father, partners and loves of their lives, but they were soon to be husband and wife which completed them as a family.

A limo was booked to pick us up from the front entrance. We watched all the taxis come and go, and one or two limos drive through. We began to wonder if were at the wrong "front entrance".

Before long this beast of a limo arrived. A stretched hummer. It seemed to defy the laws of engineering.

We all clambered in. Tornado Rory made a b-line for the epicentre of the neon lit mini bar. Thankfully it was empty and a mini disaster was averted.

There was a sign stuck onto the window that the standard tip given to the driver was a $100. "well, they can swing for that" I bullishly said, but I took one look at the driver and thought that if I didn't pay up he'd extract it from me with menace anyway.

We soon arrived at the "World Famous Garden Of Love Wedding Chapel and 'I Do' Drive Thru".

It was quite a large building and actually had 5 themed chapel rooms. Whilst Tim swapped the wedding ring he bought last night for a wider fitting we took a look around the rooms.

One was an Elvis theme, one was traditional, one was a gothic castle theme with dark purple drapes and huge dark wood thrones. (which my flamboyant alter ego secretly liked!)

Hannah decided however to go for the white room; which was by far the nicest and most sensible choice.

We were then introduced to Julio, this giant who doubled up as the photographer. The kind of guy you wouldn't wish to meet late at night in an empty Taco restaurant.

Then in shuffled this tiny guy; who we later learned was called Jesus.

He pressed play on a ghetto blaster and suitable ceremonial organ music played. He placed his spectacles on the end of his nose and began to read his script. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today..." I was expecting him to segue into Prince's "Let's Go Crazy".

He whistled as he spoke as if he was missing teeth and his slurring Hispanic drawl was difficult to interpret. When he came to a pause, as if he was waiting for a reply, Hannah & Tim looked at each other and then over to us in the hope that someone could translate.

Jesus repeated himself and with Hannah leaning slightly forward and straining her ears she heard him this time. "I do" she said. Fortunately when the next pause arrived Tim knew it was his turn.

I missed the exchanging of the rings as Rory was getting restless and as I put him down on the floor he expressed his joy at his freedom by running around in a circle and then straight out of the room.

Despite only having three months experience standing on two legs he's very quick on his feet!

Thankfully his five frantic little steps were only the equivalent of one of my strides as I reclaimed my grandson before he demolished the silk flowers stand near the reception desk.

As I returned him to the white room they were just being pronounced husband and wife.

The church music was then stopped quite abruptly and Jesus left the room, the building and our lives.

It was short, very short ceremony and of course not at all what I imagined my only daughter's big day to have been but in many ways it was perfect.To start with my pocket got off lightly!

The wedding only cost $99. Hannah and Tim paid for half of it, and we added $50 so that they could have a "church"-style ceremony and more photos.

But more than that Hannah looked stunningly beautiful and even more importantly, extremely happy. That was enough to make me an exceptionaly proud father.

The two of them have come a long way since they met and they should be really proud of themselves.

We left a $20 tip for the minister despite the suggested amount being over twice the amount. "Jesus can just swing for the rest!"

Julio was also due a tip but we kind of forgot; which was a shame as he did most of the work. He spent at least an extra three minutes taking extra photos.

After they took care of some form filling and further formalities we returned to the Excalibur in the pumped up limo.

Despite the scary looking driver we were brave enough to only leave a $20 tip, discreetly hidden in an envelope and handed over just before we ran inside King Arthur's favourite Casino, pulling up the drawbridge behind us!

Within an hour it was time for the newlyweds to make their way over to the House Of Blues at the Mandalay. Their wedding night was spent at a Placebo concert! Now how rock'n roll was that!

We decided to take Rory out to see the bright neon lights of Fremont Street. We decided to walk down the strip as we had not been out in the dark yet! Las Vegas is famed for its neon lights and we were about to see what all the fuss was about.

Looking back from where we came the Excalibur actually looked quite captivating. The coulours of the towers were striking and without a neon bulb in sight. It's a shame if (according to Dan's rumours) they actually knock it down to build something less magical.

Crossing Tropicana Avenue we caught our first glimpse of the bright lights of Vegas as the MGM stood out in its neon green and with their iconic Lion proudly guarding its lair.

With clever lighting the bronze statue truly looked more like solid gold. Adding to the whole pride symbolism the stars and stripes flapped in the breeze. Land of the brave.

We continued walking down the strip past New York New York, Monte Carlo, and that big black hole that will be the Cosmos City thing one day.

Reaching the shores of Lago Bellagio we noticed a crowd gathering. The nearer we got we saw huge floodlights pointing towards this demure young lady balancing precariously on a beer crate!?!

Film crew and make-up artists fussed around her as she prepared for her performance. We didn't hang around to see what see did.

Sing? Dance? Juggle beer bottles?

We moved on trying to figure out who she might be. "She looked a bit Paris Hilton but it's not her." We gave up in the end. We would never know, even if we guessed right, anyway.

As we were half way across the lake the fountains suddenly exploded into life but it was accompanied by an eerie silence, no heart pumping musical soundtrack.

I guess it would have been requested by the film crew so that they could hear the Paris Hilton lookalike speak!

Despite the lack of sound the fountains looked fantastic illuminated against the dark night's sky.

At Flamingo Road we crossed over the strip to catch a Deuce bus up to Fremont street.

Staring into the Flamingo lights I thought about a childhood memory of watching my father's super 8mm cine film of his 1978 trip to Vegas with his best mate Harry Bach.

It was one of those moments when I can vividly remember. One that spawned a thousand dreams of travelling the world.

We stood at the bus stop waiting for the next bus. We waited and waited, for over half an hour we waited, and then three came at once!

The first one was packed to bursting point. The other two were probably empty as we, all twelve of us who were queuing at the Flamingo, all piled into the first bus. We had to stand up for part of the journey which made for a very stressful ride.

Once we were past the Sahara the bus began to empty and we were able to sit and relaxed a bit.

We rolled up shortly after 9pm just as the incredible roof show was coming to an end. The whole length of the street was lit up as one big television screen. Apparently it takes 12.1 million bulbs and $70 million to create. So not something you could have built in your garden then. (But imagine the TV envy !)

It may only run for five to ten minutes but it was an incredible show.

Rory's was totally enthralled by it. His face was a picture as he pointed at every flashing light bulb.

It was quite a clever idea to regenerate downtown Vegas. The old school casinos of Golden Nugget, Binnions, Four Queens, built in the 40's were long past their heyday and unable to compete with the big shots down the strip.

Now visitors flock back to Fremont Street to see the light show and the old style neon that Vegas is so famous for.

One of the most recognised signs was winking waving Vegas Vic.

Other than the Flamingo, the neon sign I remembered most from my father's footage was the Golden Nugget. I think he may even have stayed at the hotel. Unfortunately it no longer had the glitzy lights. They had been replaced in 1984 by a more subdued white and gold.

Glitter Gulch is not subdued in the slightest! They were advertising Topless Dancers as we walked by the entrance and two very young looking girls were touting for customers to enter their bar. Now I know we are both getting older but they barley looked young enough to be allowed out after 8pm unaccompanied!

We reached the end where a hotel stood and we turned around to walk back down the Fremont Experience.

By the time we reached the crossroads by Four Queens there was a band performing. Rory absolutely loved it!

We stood there with him bouncing up and down, boogying to Creedance Clearwater's 'Born Under A Bad Sign'.

The band must of had a loyal fan base in the redneck community as stood right behind us were a couple fresh from the swamp.

Both were wearing dungarees and baseball caps, both had hardly a tooth in their head, and both had a beard to be proud of, especially the female. The similarities were uncanny.

They could have been brother and sister, in fact, they could could also have been uncle, cousin and the pet pig all rolled into one.

Da-da-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-dong.

I just couldn't get that Deliverence tune from out of my head!

We didn't stare at them much, but other people were less polite with some blatant sniggering and gawping going on.

As we were just about to leave the ceiling came alive. Rory was once again mesmerised.

They switch off all the casino's neon lights for the show so it's all dark apart for the illuminated ceiling.

We caught the Deuce bus back from beneath the Fremont Experience sign. Thankfully it was empty and we could have our pick of the seats. Naturally, like all good naughty schoolchildren, we made our way to the back seat.

It was getting late now and despite being shattered Rory charmed everyone who came on board. He was struggling however towards the south end of the strip and was getting very restless.

We bailed from the bus at the stop just after the Bellagio and walked back to our hotel. He settled into his buggy and was fast asleep within two minutes.

It was about 11pm by the time we got back. Hannah and Tim had just got back themselves. They had a great time but she did say "I didn't that they had such a gay following!"

We handed sleeping beauty over and went straight back out again.

I hadn't eaten since my granola parfait and yogurt for breakfast and was starving. We returned to our favourite place, New York New York, back to Il Fornaio. It closed at midnight and we arrived by the skin of our teeth. I had a vegetable pizza which was very good, great base, tasty aubergine, artichoke and courgette topping, even right down to the wood-fired oven taste was excellent. A good 8 out of 10 on the board Miss Ford.

Julie had roast chicken.. same as Tuesday. Same great standard. We may be back again tomorrow!

We were laughing about how I always write about our food in the journals and how anal I am about my own and how dismissive I am of hers as I usually just add, "oh, and Julie had meat and potatoes"

Our body clocks must be shifting slightly as we were wide awake when we returned to our hotel, and it was gone 1:00am. We didn't paint the town red however, choosing instead to retire to bed.

Friday >>> ęCopyright Colin Owen 2006

©Copyright 2000-2012 Colin Owen