Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Viva las Vegas

We agreed they should have this song playing full belt as you walk through the airport. Which is the only airport I’ve ever seen with slot machines in the arrivals area. And that’s just the beginning of the crazy.

I met Martin at our hotel which was Bright. Gold. And right by a large pyramid. For aesthetics. I think.

There was a television in our bathroom. And a phone in the ‘restroom’. Perhaps for emergencies. Or ordering room service.

We caught up over lunch, the first of many meals ranging from really fucking ordinary to completely inedible. Then we lazed about by the pool, where they pack ’em in on those sun lounges like sardines. Well, Martin lazed. I fidgeted.

A walk down The Strip proved more stimulating. Each casino seeing the next one’s ridiculous, and raising them one. Each one had their own distinct feel, and in the case of the Excalibur – its own distinct smell (a combination of old pee, cheap perfume and airport antiseptic).

The Bellagio by comparison seemed beautiful. But i can’t be sure, as I do fear I was starting to lose my sense of perspective.

We threw a little money at the roulette table and I played a couple of hands of blackjack. We lost, but that’s to be expected. We had a late shitty dinner and then watched the spectacle that is the fountains out the front of the hotel. Picture this: fountains move like Chinese ribbon dancers, in a choreographed piece to the painful cries of that godawful Celine Dion tune from that godawful film, the Titanic. The fountains spurt, gushing, and explode… growing more & more animated as the song reaches its crescendo.

The next day we hired a car and took off for the Grand Canyon. Martin and I played the old married couple game of “You’re a shit navigator. Well, you’re a dumb driver.” Which is always fun. Especially when driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road in a place you have no knowledge of. We got through it, and it was well worth it in the end.

There are many words you could use to describe the Grand Canyon but “breathtaking” does the job for me. Because there were several moments when i literally gasped.

We spent a little bit of time walking around a very small part of the South Rim, and a lot of time wishing we could stay overnight.

I’d been hankering after a helicopter ride (thanks for the heads up Brad George) and Martin had spotted the aerodrome on the way in. We dropped in, not favoring the odds of us getting on board. We completely lucked out, with 2 spots on a chopper in 20mins time. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of amazing things in my life but this was absolutely incredible.

The view from above, had us both nearly in tears. The sheer scale and beauty of this place has to be seen. I could bang on and on – pulling out all sorts of appropriate adjectives and suitable superlatives but, you know what? I just wouldn’t do it justice. I will say this: go.

Quick travel tip: I would highly recommend organizing yourself, as opposed to taking the tours they offer you at all the hotels – we had more ground time, did it all at our own pace and for a lot less money.

Many hours later (it’s at least a 4.5 hour drive each way), we went into the old part of Vegas, which is a lot more down and dirty… The 50s style flat roofed hotels with their mult-colored doors, and old school bulb lit billboards… We passed a lot of quicky-marriage chapels, including the drive-through that Elizabeth Taylor once took advantage of. It made me wonder, are people who get married multiple times, the eternal optimists?

In our own optimistic search for a green vegetable, we stumbled into a very unlovely piano bar with a bunch of youngns who were getting happy and singing for their supper. They were good, so we stayed for a drink.

Don’t even ask about the disaster that was dinner at 2am. It should be noted we had consumed exactly 2.5 alcoholic beverages between us by this point.

Next morning we visited some of the other casinos, including one called the Venetian which featured gondoliers serenading overweight tourists in a man made internal canal, against a Truman Show sky. Yes, seriously.

I was starting to trip out. This version of Fear and Loathing was a lot less fun than Thompson’s. I don’t think I could have handled any LSD. Although maybe it would have resulted in everything looking normal. While it had been a fun, whacky ride- I was glad to be getting off.

I fell asleep on the flight for San Fran even before take-off, having vivid dreams of broccoli falling out of slot machines in a major pay-out.

26 May

If you’re going to San Francisco…

First observations are that it’s far more spacious & sunny than NY.
There’s hills. and homelessness. Amazing architecture. Pretty parklands. Cable cars. And finally decent coffee!
I noticed more gays, Asians and surprisingly, a lot of people in wheelchairs.
It’s the perfect place for a livid lesbian or an aging activist. If you want a soapbox, you’ll find one here, complete with an audience… I witnessed a few mini protests.
I was relieved to see they take their recycling seriously here. Not like NYC where, as Angie pointed out you’ll buy a coke and they’ll give you a straw wrapped in paper, then throw it that into a plastic bag with a dozen napkins. None of which you need. Except maybe the can of coke. And even then, thats dubious.

So, I ended up in San Fran twice, the weekend before meeting up with Martin and then again, after Vegas.

It turns out it’s the sort of place I could return to again and again. The deeper you dig, the more you’ll find. It’s colorful, diverse, rich with historical moments & strong linkages to famous people. Harvey Milk, Joe DiMaggio, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Keraouc, and the beat goes on. It’s a pretty city, people are friendly and food is good.

Part 1

The first weekend I stayed at Faith’s beautiful house close to the Mission. She has two lovely flatmates who very generous in letting me stay in her room. Faith unfortunately, was in New York. I met Matt at Mojo Cafe and we shared a bit of banter. He shouted me a lovely beer by the name of Death & Taxes, made by a local couple.

Next day I did the hop on hop off bus. I wouldn’t normally, but SF is quite spread out and rather hilly. There are also 4 different types of transport not including the cable car, so it was just an easy way to get my bearings, see a bit of the city and get some interesting insights into the history.

I went down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a seafood lunch (touristy) and then linked up with Matt for a couple of cocktails and my first ever furnet at a cool lil dig called Davla.

Next day, a nice Russian brekky and the perfect coffee at a place called Bluebottle.

I spent some time ambling through the Beat Museum, and was fortunate enough to stumble into a room where some journalist students were interviewing an 83 year old woman by the name of ruth weiss who was part of the whole scene back in the day. I shared a beer with an old hippie, Hal and made my way to Oakland.

I’d been invited to a barbie by a girl I’d met in Turkey. Maya and I had stayed in touch the old fashioned way and I was seeing her and meeting her husband and kids (she’d just given birth to their second the week before!) for the first time since 1998. It was just super to catch up.

On Monday, I finally got to see Faith over The Best French Toast I’ve ever had. I later did the Alcatraz tour (this is a must do even if you’re not into tours) and then caught the cable car up the hill to meet up with Faith & her sister and friends for dinner. This form of transport makes you feel transported…hanging off the sides, imagined I was a philosophy student back in the 60s, with flowers in her hair.

On Tuesday I flew to Las Vegas to meet Martin for a bit of fear and loathing. But that’s a whole ‘nother story…

Part 2

We arrived back in SF quite late on Thurs evening and were absolutely desperate for food that was fresh, included nutrients of any description and didn’t involve cheese, sour cream, heavy sauce or fries. Or a packet of crisps as a non-specified, no requested side (WTF). We were lucky to happen upon a late night ramen noodle place with a small queue of Japanese people. Always a good sign. Some melt in your mouth sashimi, green soya beans, and clean spicy soup hit the spot.

Next day, the weather was a bit dodgy, so we treated ourselves to a luxurious massage in a beautiful old hotel at the top of Nob Hill. The pool (not snooker) room had glorious views over the city, and it started fining up.

We decided to bike over the Golden Gate bridge (thanks for the tip, jendowd). I was all like, a bridge is just a bridge is just a bridge… but up close, I realized not all bridges are created equal. It’s a gorgeous piece of modern architecture. I stopped many times to take in the scenery and photos of the bridge itself.

A short ferry ride from Sausalito afforded us a different view of Alcatraz, and the pretty cityscape. It was almost ruined by a godawful ugly snogging couple sitting opposite us. Why ugly people feel the need to engage in PDAs is completely beyond me. We moved seats.

We met up with Faith and her friends for cocktails (mixology is a very serious business in this city and I’ve developed a taste for smoky tequila cocktails.)

On Saturday we had decent enough yum cha (although nothing like the Golden Unicorn in Maroubra).

We visited Martin’s old stomping ground in the colorful Castro, sunned ourselves in Mission Delores park and strolled thru a Latin American festival before hitting up an old bikers bar with Melissa, one of Faith’s flatmates.

Early evening, Martin’s old uni friend, Nicola met us downtown, and Martin shouted us all a beautiful steak & a nice glass of red at a a cute little French restaurant.

Our last day we had a traditional American breakfast in an old 50s style diner complete with checkered floors, red leather barstools and a waitress who looked like she just stepped out of a scene from Happy Days.

And then we started off for the southern Californian leg of our holiday together…

29 May