Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A hunka hunka burnin' Vegas

Vegas is everything they say it is AND MORE!

Okay, I'm finally back and ready to get back into our trip.

I can't believe how fast this year has flown and our holiday is all but a memory.

Anyway, after the laid-back pace of Montana we headed off to Vegas.

It was the most expensive part of our trip!

Timeshare, anyone?

We flew Delta to Salt Lake City and caught our connecting flight to Vegas where we were amazed by the amount of poker machines that greeted us as we got off the plane.

They were everywhere!

We caught the train to the baggage terminal and just walked around everywhere with our mouths wide open like 'slack-jawed yokels'.

A taxi took us to our hotel, Harrahs, which I had booked online for around $125 a night for the four of us, with $9 vouchers for each of us for breakfast at Starbucks each morning.

There was a long line at check-in upon arrival but we were through that within half an hour.

Our elevator wasn't far from the lobby and our room overlooked the multi-story carpark out the back, but we didn't come to Vegas to sit in our room and look out of the window so I didn't care.

We quickly dumped our luggage in our room and headed out to explore Sin City.

We spent 3 nights at Harrahs and I can tell you it wasn't enough time for all that we wanted to see and do.

It takes so long to get anywhere because you can't just cross the road anywhere; instead you are funnelled over walkways over the road and into casinos.

Where we would promptly become lost!

We wandered over to the PBR restaurant for dinner on the first night and we're sure we passed George Gregan and his family on our way.

But more than anything, I wanted to go to 

The next morning we got up early and wandered around and heaving a sigh of relief that most of the card touts that we encountered last night were not around, and neither was their subsequent rubbish.

Phew. Try explaining to Little Man why people were handing out cards of near-naked women...

We visited M&M World, Caesars, Paris, The Venetian and lots more.  

Having the kids with us meant that we couldn't really stop in the casinos so The Groom would wait for us to go and find somewhere to eat and sneak off to put some money on the table or in the machine while we were waiting for our food.

He knew that was a good, cheap way to get a drink - put some money in the machine, wait for the drinks waitress to come over with a drink, then collect the money and come back to us.

For some reason, it never worked for me.  I must have just become invisible whenever I put my money in.  

But I did win $35 while we were waiting for the Nathan Burton Show.

And Little Man was chosen to be part of the act.

He was so excited about that.

Anyway, we stopped in at Margaritaville during the day and asked about dinner and if kids were welcome.

We were more than welcome and told to wander about inside the restaurant and have a look around.

It wasn't busy as it was early afternoon so we checked out the boats and planes and the volcano and decided to go back that night.

All I can say is that I am not a drinker.

But after a Bud Light (I thought it would be like Hahn Light and low alcohol...), a Long Island Iced Tea and some of The Groom's It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, I was a bit giggly and unsteady on my feet.

The Princess and Little Man thought I was hilarious.

The food was great, the service was wonderful, the balloon man on stilts was funny and the volcano show with the lady was good.

And yes, I sang almost non-stop.

It was so much fun and we can't wait to go to the one in Cozumel.

After dinner we watched the Bellagio Fountains.

It was almost as good as the World Of Color at Disney.

We never managed to see the Treasure Island show as we were always too late by the time we walked from one thing to the other, but here's a nice photo of the finale.

We decided that we wanted to spend an extra night at Harrahs but there were 3 conventions starting up the day we were meant to be checking out.

As we had been sucked in to doing the timeshare presentation in order to get our "free" Nathan Burton tickets, we ended up buying into the Worldmark Group.

Our seller was lovely and it turns out it is a small world after all - his wife is from nearby and he also played for one of our local basketball teams!

But that's not why we bought.  

So, we called our guy and asked if he could book us a night at the Worldmark on Las Vegas Boulevard and he gave us the 2 bedroom Penthouse suite!

For free!

We didn't ask for it and it was totally unexpected since we expected to pay anyway.

It had a lounge, dining room, full kitchen, two bathrooms and a huge balcony.

This was our room.

And the view from our room.

We ended up getting takeaway Chinese food from the nearby shops and eating in our suite.

I caught up on all of the washing and rearranged all of our accumulated stuff in our bags so everything would fit.

Then played luggage jenga in our hired Jeep Laredo the following morning to fit it all in.

It's such a shame we were only there for the night...

Sadly, it set the standards pretty high for the kids for the rest of the trip.

As we were leaving the next morning for Hoover Dam we came across a McDonald's on fire as we headed back up to the Strip.

Luckily, it was closed for refurbishment.

So we waved farewell to Vegas, stopped for the obligatory photo at the Welcome to Vegas sign, then stopped at the outlet stores and Shepplers for some last minute shopping before making the drive out to the Dam.

Bye-bye Vegas.  

We'll be back.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A long time between posts...

I haven't slipped off the face of the earth.

I'm still here.

I've had some things that have taken up my time, energy and inclination lately and things I've had to deal with.

I will get back to my trip as soon as I'm ready.

Hugs to all.

Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Snowing!!!

Okay, back on track.

After Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Legoland, Universal Studios and Hollywood, it was time to wind down the pace back to 'normal' for us and head for the snow and time with family.

We flew from L.A airport to Montana via Salt Lake City.

If you are a non- U.S citizen and are travelling internally on a plane DO NOT assume photographic identification constitutes a driver's licence.

We were going through security after having guzzled all of the water out of our souvenir water bottles (ggrrrr) when we were asked to show i.d.

I pulled out our wallets and showed them our driver's licences.

Big mistake.

We were asked if we were U.S citizens (no) and where we were travelling to (Montana) and could we please step aside and wait for someone to escort us to an interview room, (um, but why?).

The whole thing came down to me not presenting our passports!

Luckily, after plonking myself down on the ground and pulling out almost everything in my carry on bag and the backpacks, I finally found my passports and showed them.

After that, no interview room and interrogation was required and we were free to carry on.

I was in such a fluster I don't know if anyone looked at us like we were criminals, but I did talk to some other people along the way who said it is 'normal'.  

Good grief!

After that, we made sure our passports were in the holder around our necks anytime we went near an airport!

We flew with Delta and I noticed they boarded families with small children early - in this instance we didn't qualify. 

I really hate travelling at times because of the amount of carry on baggage people bring onboard with them to avoid paying for luggage.

I hate it when you go to take your seat and the overhead locker above the three seats on one side you have booked and paid for is taken up with little suitcases, suit bags, laptop bags and shopping bags.  

The Groom just ended up removing some of the stuff from above his seat and the flight attendant moved it elsewhere so he could make room for his bag.  

I made the kids shove their backpacks under the seat in front of them and put my carry on bag in the overhead the locker. 

The flight to SLC was uneventful but the scenery from my seat was beautiful.

I loved the airport at SLC and we had some soup and crackers for a snack at a Quiznos before boarding the next plane to Montana.

Luckily, this time around, we were lucky to be allowed to board with the children before everyone else, so no searching the aisles for overhead locker space.

We got into Montana in the late afternoon and were met with hugs and smiles from The Groom's aunty and uncle.

We rugged up as we were met with a brisk Montanan winter before heading off to a local bar for a quick introduction to new-found friends then we were off to our first game of college basketball.

But enough about that.

I want to get to the best part of all.

Waking up in the morning and seeing snow from the bedroom window!

I've been to the snow once before, as a child, on a day trip with my family.

That was nothing compared with what was to come for the next two-and-a-half weeks.

The Princess promptly came down with a cold the day after arriving so the men-folk and Little Man took the opportunity to go skiing, while us ladies pottered about the house and relaxing. 

Aunty J and I had lots of gossip to catch up on, too.

Eventually, The Princess felt well enough to get out and about so we went and did some Christmas shopping for gifts that we didn't bring from home, and make our first trip to Costco for last minute Christmas groceries and wine.

Lordy, lordy, lordy.

What an experience Costco is and I loved it!

I could easily spend all day there, but we were there on a mission and we were in and out as soon as practical (but not before sampling almost everything that was on offer).

We don't usually spend Christmas with anyone but the four of us in our little family, so this was a special Christmas and one to remember.

The children made a family of snow-people, complete with pets, but Montana was experiencing a warm winter, so in the morning much of them had melted away.

It was so lovely just spending time with Aunty J, Cousin-in-Law J and The Princess preparing our Christmas meal and chatting away in the warm house.

Christmas Eve was lovely but we skipped going to church due to both kids having been sick by now.

Christmas breakfast was Aunty J, Uncle B, Cousin N, C-I-L J and the four of us, lunch was Aunty and Uncle plus us and dinner included some old friends of J and B.  

It was a Christmas full of laughter and love and full tummies.

We drove out of town in the days following for fireworks for New Years, then let most of them off not long after that, necessitating another trip out for even more fireworks.

Coming from a place where these things are illegal, The Groom made the most of his chance to release his inner pyromaniac and buy up as much as we could.

On New Year's Eve we had the same guests as we had on Christmas Day plus a friend of Cousin N's.  

It was a bit of an oddity to be standing around a campfire in the snow with our drinks, wrapped up in down jackets, snow boots, gloves, scarfs, beanies and our red noses, waiting for midnight to come around to let off the fireworks.

Leading up to midnight the sounds of fireworks reverberated through the valley, but I think we had the best lot of all if I may say so myself.

A couple of days later we packed up the car and headed to Yellowstone for a couple of nights.

It is such a beautiful place and we stayed at West Yellowstone opposite the Grizzly and Wolf centre.

We hired a snow coach to ourselves for the day and our driver took us wherever we wanted to go and see what we wanted to see.

J and B had been to Yellowstone before but never in winter so we made sure the main focus of our trip was to see Old Faithful.

We saw deer, bison, coyotes, foxes, eagles but no moose.

And no snow shoed rabbits!

(I'm still not convinced they're a real animal and are up there with drop bears and bunyips)

We spent time in Montana just being homebodies and skiing and ice skating.

J and B had to work some days so we would take their car and tour around the area, but never wandering too far.

Little Man and The Princess were happy enough playing in the snow in the yard, or inside playing on the keyboard or just reading and playing with the dog.

It was a wonderful way to relax in the middle of a fast-paced holiday.

Would we go back to Montana?  In a heartbeat.

The people were so lovely and in this part of Montana we were in they don't get many tourists so we were a bit of a novelty to some.

We liked trying to get people to say "g'day" or "mate" or "sheila" and they just wanted to hear us talk as our accents "were beautiful" (or so they said, maybe they were just too polite).

We have decided that we will go back again next year if we can manage it and do some more skiing.

Actually, let me clarify that.

The Groom and Little Man want to go back and do some more skiing.

The less said about my attempts and ability to ski the better.

I was better suited to the ski lodge I think.

After the slow, natural pace of rural Montana, it was time to brace ourselves for the spectacle that is...

Las Vegas!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The rest of L.A

After our cruise, we spent a bit of time in L.A.

We stayed close to the Walk of Fame, just behind the Hollywood and Highland Centre.  

Oh my, there are some real 'characters' out there.

It was quite sad, really, that some people had to resort to impersonating others to earn a living in the way they did.

The walk was crowded with tourists and touts, that sometimes it was hard to get anywhere, or not lose your patience with people stopping you every few metres wanting money from you for some reason or another.

We took a tour of the strip, Beverly Hills and the stars' homes.  

I really don't know if the homes the guide was pointing out were really theirs, because really, we wouldn't know one way or another.

Our guide was rude; he thought he was being funny but really, he was just sarcastic and insulting. 

He must have taken us for typical tourist mugs, which I took offence to.

Needless to say, he was not impressed when we didn't leave him a tip at the end of the tour.

We spent two days at Universal Studios.

There was an offer at the time where you get a second day free with your ticket.

We did most of the park in one day, the upper lot, so when we came back on the second day to do the lower lot we were in and out within a matter of hours.

The lines for the Simpsons ride and the Backlot tour were the longest we had to endure.  

Oh, and those for food.

I liked the Shrek 4D but it was pretty much the same as the one at MovieWorld on the Gold Coast (in Queensland).  

I can't do 3D, though, so I didn't get much out of this one.

But I love the extra dimension!

The House of Horrors had me almost in tears with fear, until I realised if I waited a bit, I could see what was coming up ahead and prepare for it.

In the end, I was giggling like a child.

Well, I shouldn't say that because The Princess wasn't giggling, she was actually terrified and in tears.

The poor thing.

Little Man would just close his eyes and bolt through each section when he went through with The Groom who was overly amused at his scared little family!

We didn't buy much in the way of souvenirs here, but I did wish I had have bought this shirt...

As Little Man loves Lego we drove to San Diego for couple of nights to visit there.

Some awful person had reset the GPS so it took us all over the place and more than 6 hours!

But we got to see some lovely places on the way, plus travel along the Ortega Highway (which was way too close to the mountain for my liking, considering I was on the 'wrong' side of the car!)

Let me say straight up, Legoland was a massive disappointment after Disneyland.

Little Man was at the upper end of the age range, and while he loved it, the rest of us were wishing the day would just end.

I won't trash it here, but I am glad he had such a lovely time even if many of the rides were a bit tame for him after what he enjoyed at Disney and Knotts.

I did like some of the Lego buildings but many of them were faded and peeling, some weren't functioning or were even broken.

I've heard that Legoland in Florida is a lot better.

L.A isn't somewhere I'd be in a rush to head back to.

It is a city that is not that different to many others and the one thing I did really enjoy most about it though, were the people we met when we wandered around.

We met some lovely people in the laundromat, too.

Ripley's Believe it Not was great (we always try and go wherever we see one in our travels) but were a bit let down with Madame Tussaud's - it wasn't what we were expecting.

Next stop, Montana - skiing and a white Christmas!