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  Monday 1st March 2010 - Travel to Las Vegas, planes, movies and VIPs at The Bellagio
   
Snowy morning here in D and The Fiancé and I are up and ready to go for 6.30 am.  I find the time to top-up the bird feeders in The Starry Towers garden, then the transport to the airport arrives, provided by my old friend Tom, and he's reliable as ever, getting us to Edinburger Airport in plenty time.  We're flying with Continental Airlines and note the increase in security.  We go through the usual security point, footwear off, outer clothing off, metal objects like watches and belts off, everything in the trays and through on the metal detecting conveyor-belt machine, then it's single file walking through the metal detector for us.  That's the usual we're all used to already, but then at The Continental Airlines desk before boarding, everything back off for a search through by members of staff and a body pat-down search too.  Over at Newark Airport on entering the USA we have finger prints and retina electronic scans too, but I was seriously disappointed not to have a body scan.  Was wondering if they'd do a the full body scan, and if so, would they offer to sell me a copy.  I was thinking $5, or even $10, to be totally honest, I'd have given up to $20.
  
  The flight times, the changes in time zones and the lay-over hours in Newark between flights, all confuses me...almost constantly during travel, and a lot thereafter too.  Newark is 5 hours behind Edinburger and Las Vegas another 3 hours (8 in total).  The Fiancé changes his watch at each time zone, I leave mine at Scotland Time throughout the entire trip, cos it's the easiest option, and I just ask him what time it is in Vegas when I feel the need to know.  The airline provides dinner and a snack in the first 7hr 50min flight of our journey, and a choice of many movies, TV progs and music on individual screens on the back of the headrest in front of each passenger.  I watch three movies.  At Newark we have a scout about and visit Ruby's Diner for chicken salads.  I recognise, but don't say out loud, we're kidding ourselves, pretending to do healthy eating options, chicken salad...yeah right.  The salads are massive, and full of fatty bacon bits and croutons and dressings.
  
 The flight on to Las Vegas is 5hrs and 50mins and it's 6.35 early evening (Las Vegas time) when we get to McCarran Airport.  On this slightly shorter, but still hellava long second flight we get more food and the option of one movie on the ceiling screens, but I listen to podcasts and play Solitaire on my iPod.
  
 A major factor in my decision to ignore the movie on this second flight is that on the first flight the Continental cabin crew hand out sets of their airplane compatible ear-phones, for free, to every passenger.  Their earphones are rubbish, but if you take the wee adapter bit off the end of their earphones, and stick your own ear-phones in through the wee adapter bit, you can listen in comfort.  End of that first flight I left my earphone adaptor bit behind, because I didn't know, on the connecting flight, they charge $3 for a set of their earphones and adaptor.  That pissed me off so much I refused to pay the $3.
  
 I'm tired, restless and just want to be there already.  The Fiancé chats all the way to a Jewish lady who is travelling with her doctor husband and 5 of her 6 children.  The Doctor and kids are sat in other rows, she sits separate because she has a fear of flying and wisely, doesn't want to pass her phobia on to her children, which is as good an excuse as I've ever heard for escaping children on airplanes.  I have to say, her children were exceptionally well mannered and behaved.  I tell her I'm a trained registered psychiatric nurse with vertigo, but train my brain to put it aside when I feel safe in such vehicles as airplanes and helicopters, it's only when I'm up a ladder, standing on a chair or edging near to low battlements that my brain is sometimes fooled into forgetting logic.  Sometimes when my eyes glance down and get taken by surprise at what they see, in these sudden situations the eyes relay the fright to the brain so fast that logic doesn't have time to keep me feeling safe and sensible.  She tells us that she needs someone to distract her.  Just how much she lived to regret this request we'll never know for sure, but I can hazard a guess.  The Fiancé proceeds to talk the hind legs off a donkey, all four paws off several Antelope Ground Squirrels and the coats off an entire mountain range of Wild Burros.  Wild Burros and their coats will be explained later in this journal.  He looks back on that flight as enlightening and enjoyable, having the opportunity to discuss the Jewish faith and the history of Jews with this lady gave him great insight.  The snippets I caught as I tuned in and out between fitful sleep and podcast listening, I'd say the lady gained great knowledge and insight into the life and times of The Fiancé.  She was a bit zoned-out on the Valium though, so I dare say she may not have been as tortured as she should've been, and she thanked The Fiancé saying this had been her best (most distracted) flight ever.
  
 Our smartly suited and booted, uniformed driver is waiting at the airport, holding a sign with The Fiancé's surname on.  He looks like Will Smith in a capped hat and helps retrieve our suitcases before whisking us off in a silver stretch Limo.  Being chauffeured in a stretch Limo with fully stocked bar, leather seats and blackened windows, through the streets of Vegas, with the lights flashing and twinkling all over the city, is so exciting, but I need sleep.  At The Bellagio we're slipped into The Executive Suite Lounge, we refer to it more simply as The VIP Lounge, to check-in, skipping queues out at the check-in/check-out/enquiry desk, which is long, heavily staffed and way upmarket enough for usual luxury hotel circumstances.  The blurb says..."The Executive Suite Lounge offers a luxurious and exclusive check-in experience to Hotel Suite guests. The Lounge features hand stitched leather walls with a warm walnut wood trim accompanied by a spectacular view of our lush botanical garden. The Executive Suite Lounge delivers an unparalleled private registration experience."  That's about right.  In there we're receiving free beverages and snacks and very short queues.  The bell-hop then takes us to our Lakeview Suite, she has our cases on one of them big fancy luggage trolleys like they do it in the movies.
  
 We're whisked up 32 floors in our elite private lift.  There's 3 of them for the use of guests on the 27th floor upwards only, with strict security measures to keep both the crooks and the mere plebs off the upper floors.  I reckon there's three of them to ensure that anytime you press a button to call for a VIP elevator, there's always one of them available to open immediately.  The bell-hop lady tells us that Obama was here last week supporting one of his party's politians.  His people took over our very same 32nd floor and the 33rd floor above, which contains only The Presidential Suite and The Chairman Suite.  Well if it's good enough for The President of the USA and his staff team, it's good enough for us.  The suite is gorgeous, but after a few photos of The Bellagio fountain show from our 32nd floor to ceiling windows, we fall into our giant luxury Bellagio bed.  It's easily more than 24 hours of the wide awake club for us at this point, natural fatigue, and the wish to make each full day count while avoiding the regular excesses of Las Vegas nightlife, and we're asleep in minutes.
  
  Before going to bed The Fiancé had tried to open a window, just to get a clearer photo of the Bellagio fountains from our suite, when he discovered the windows don't open, I guessed immediately...imagine if Las Vegas hotel windows could open...how many people would commit impulsive suicides having lost fortunes in the casinos, and how bad that would be for LV business.  LV hotel windows don't open.  But if you're really serious bout it, The Stratosphere, go to the upper viewing deck, and if your not serious, throw yourself in front of a monorail.  Las Vegas will always attract the suicidal, the least the hotels can do is non-openable windows.
  
  Bellagio Executive Suite Lounge
   
   
 
  
  Tuesday 2nd March 2010 - Tipping in the USA, marriage license, The Bellagio Botanical Gardens, Pawn Stars, The Big Yellow Popsicle, girls direct to your room in 20 minutes, The wedding dress, Caesar's Palace and Paris and Cafe Bellagio 
 
 I'm awake at some insane early morning time, I think it was about 4 am Las Vegas time.  The Fiancé tried to talk me back to sleep, but given that I've heard all his stories before, he then had to try and slap me back to sleep.  It didn't work anyway.  This same early morning wakening and early evening bedtime goes on all holiday for me.  The Fiancé, while agreeing with the early bedtimes, isn't so keen on the early wakening Breakfast Club membership.  Several mornings I had to lie there for a couple hours listening to favourite podcasts waiting for the Las Vegas sun to come up.  A couple mornings The Fiancé actually had to take himself off to our Lakeside Suite sofa in the next room to get another couple hours slumber. 
  
 The 8 hrs time difference turns me, a naturally nocturnal creature back in Scotland, into a member of the Wakey Wakey Rise 'n' Shine Club in Vegas.
   
 I have to mention the USA tipping system.  Fundamentally I'm against tipping, in any country.  I'm a nurse, no-one tips me, and if they try to, as a professional, I have to refuse.  As a nurse I have to refuse because it clouds the picture and may elicit preferential treatment, so it's quite rightly banned.  Tipping in the USA service industries means the consumer can't just relax and take prices at face value.  It's an inconvenience to me and seems to mean that big businesses get away with paying crap wages cos the consumer is s'posed to make up the employee wages.  If businesses paid decent wages then the public would receive a better deal for their bucks, instead of having to work out how much more in gratuity they're expected to shell out in restaurants, hotels, taxis etc.  The Fiancé tells me it's just the way the system has evolved in the USA, I understand that, and I can see how it means that the individual employees have greater incentive to provide good service with a more happy-smiley (and I'd argue...fake and insincere) personal touch, but I don't agree with the basic principles.  Even if most of the employees in these industries are sincere and genuine, they can easily be perceived as false, due to this system.  I can't be bothered adding a percentage and I think the USA prices are high enough without this additional built-in cost to the public, expected by the waiters, drivers and anyone else delivering anything, but not expected by me.  It's difficult for me to accept, just as well The Fiancé was dealing with most cash transactions cos I just couldn't bring myself to join in with this nonsense.  I saw many bills with the cheek, the pure cheek, to add for your information, at the bottom, a list of what the gratuity is if you wish to give a 5, 10, or 15% tip.  To save you figuring it out, or maybe so you have no excuse to give too little.
  
 When we arrive at The Bellagio heir 'theme' is the Chinese New Year.  There's a magnificent sparkly horse statue in The Lobby and their Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are full of red lanterns, topiary pandas, a tiger and giant Mandarin.  They regularly change themes in keeping with the seasons and holidays of the year.  As the blurb says..."Brilliance abounds inside our breathtaking Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. The attention to detail is astounding. The passionate display of nature in all its awe-evoking glory - quite simply, sensational! Let your imagination wander as you assume a leisurely stroll amongst rare natural finds selected distinctively for Bellagio from all over the world.  Admire the essence of every season recreated with exceptionally gorgeous plants, flowers and trees thoughtfully arranged to inspire full splendor. Specially designed lighting spotlights every flower to accentuate its best features. To ensure the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens maintains magnificence 365 days a year, 140 expert horticulturists theatrically arrange gazebos, bridges, ponds, and water features uniquely for each season. Treat yourself to this unrivalled attraction's ever changing personality for the Holidays, Chinese New Year, spring, summer, and fall."  Again, that's an accurate description.  Everything about The Bellagio is fabulous and elegant, of all the casino/hotels we visited in Vegas The Bellagio has an unrivalled elegance and a quality of luxury with no hint of gaudy.  The one we thought closest in beauty and awe is Caesar's Palace, but it loses it's Brownie Points due to the ridiculously gauche talking statues.  On our last two days the 140 expert horticulturists are busy changing their theatrically arranged gazebos, bridges, ponds and water features to celebrate Spring. 
  
 Day 1 and the very first job is making sure this wedding is going to happen, a taxi to The Marriage License Bureau at 201 Clark Avenue in downtown Las Vegas.  The Fiancé asked the taxi driver what he thought bout hiring a car in Vegas.  The driver was very honest considering, and advised that it would work out way less expensive than regular taxis if we did hire a car.  The driver was a pleasant surprise all round, he'd read extensively about Venice and it's history and is hoping to get there one day.  He was thrilled when we told him we'd been to the real Venice.

This brought home to me the cheap versions aren't really anything special, why on earth would you want to go visit the LV version of The Campanile Tower or St Marks Square at The Venetian, or The Eifel Tower at the LV Paris, when you've done the real thing it makes the modern fakes way less awesome.  But if you haven't seen the real historic items, then I guess the fakes are good enough. 
  
 On the drive to The Marriage Bureau we spotted The Graceland Wedding Chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard South, but just before this The Fiancé told me bout the world famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, setting for the reality TV show Pawn Stars on the History Channel.  There's a queue of kinda podgy redneck type people outside waiting to go in.  Every time we pass from then on, there's always a queue of podgy redneck type people, it must be very famous.  After we get the license and visit The Chapel we join the queue and take a wee tour of the world famous pawn shop, inside people are queuing again to have their picture taken with, presumably, one of the stars of the show. 
  
Taxi back to The Bellagio, then across the Strip to the Paris hotel and casino, which is where our closest branch of Hertz car rental is situated in The Lobby next to their check-in desk.  And as the blurb says..."Exclusively built for Hertz, the Corvette ZHZ brings the mighty Corvette to even higher standards.  Sporting a six-speed paddle shift transmission, the ZHZ makes the most of the dual mode exhaust delivering 436 horsepower.  And, these impressive features are wrapped inside a uniquely packaged Corvette that features Hertz’s iconic yellow and black, colors that have a storied past in sports car history.  Production of the ZHZ Convertible will be limited making it an instant classic."
  
For the car enthusiast:
• Special limited edition built by GM
• LS3 6.2L V8 aluminum-block engine with dual-mode performance exhaust and 436 horsepower 
• Magnetic Selective Ride Control - Tour or Sport Mode
• Goodyear Eagle F1 EMT Supercar tires
• Larger brakes with cross-drilled brake rotors 
• EPA estimated 25 MPG highway
• The Coupe models are the most aerodynamic Corvettes ever
 
  the Hertz hire Corvettethe Corvette
  
 We called her The Big Yellow Popsicle.  She was lovely and The Fiancé fell in car lurve, see the pics on The Las Vegas Gallery.  He fell in lurve so deeply, back home he WOULD swap The Jag for one of the Big Yellow Popsicles.  Two differences I spotted, not being very knowledgeable in the car department...1 many many people looking at her and people's apparent perception that the Corvette is so prestige, quite a few strangers spoke to us about her, making pleasant comments showing gentle envy and respect.  And 2, it creaks, inside as your driving along, the interior creaks a lot, it seems like the dashboard fittings are rubbing off each other resulting in these 'kck' sounds.  Not that it bothered The Fiancé, he found it an endearing feature.  The Corvettes dash is plastic, The Jag's leather, I wasn't so blinded, or deafened, by head-over-heels lurve like The Fiancé was.
  
 The Corvette's Sat Nav was invaluable t us a strangers to Las Vegas, and it helped us locate absolutely everything we required when we required it.  Though I didn't try to find prossies on it, I'm thinking now, it would probably have given directions to the nearest ones of them too.  On The Strip there's pimp looking guys (but they're probably just card-hander-outers) handing out cards and advertising Girls Direct To Your Room in 20 minutes.  They try to hand cards to everyone, even men with a woman on their arm, even women on the arm of a man.  What bit of The Fiancé and I walking arm in arm looks like we're just dying to engage in sex with a prossie or two in hotel rooms...in 20 minutes? 
  
 The first dress shop as recommended by the VIP receptionist last night was closed, so we drove to the second, Tuxone on West Charleston Blvd.  In the shop, I was initially bamboozled with the many many rails of choices, and didn't know where I should start.  It looked, on first impressions, like we'd be there all day.  I touched a few as I started to try to seriously form a plan of action, pulling them out on their hangers to try to get a better look, an idea of whether they would suit or not, hoping to find a place to start working through the process logically.  A little girl assistant asked me what size I was, I said a 10 in the UK but USA sizes are different.  The first dress I picked out was fitted down through the body with a big voluptuous fishtail and lots of sparkly beading detail, I had no idea of the dress's size, or if they'd have it in other sizes if I liked it but it wasn't my size.  I thought, if I've got to do this, (and I did have to), what would most likely turn out to be a horrendous, uncomfortable, embarrassing, sweaty, lengthy, endurance exercise, it was as good a place to start as any.  The wee girl took it down of the rail and escorted me to a fitting room.  I had no faith in her knowledge or judgment, when I'd told her the UK sizes are different from the USA's, her her response was..."they're probably much the same".  Eh...no they're not girly!!!  But, when I later looked at the size label of my frock, it was a USA 6, the equivalent of a UK 10, the wee girly has a good eye.  I tried on this first choice...and it was perfect.  Fitted like a glove, so so pretty, and The Fiancé was extremely happy.  All that was required, was a normal hem pinning up, to make it right for my height.  By the time it was delivered the day before our wedding...perfection.  I enjoyed a glass of Champers while the shop manageress pinned it up. 
  
 It was a Maggie Sottero frock and more than fulfilled my dreams and The Fiancé's.  He wanted a lotta dress, something that would fill the stretch Limo, and be competition for Elvis's outfit, something outstanding that would frou-frou up the homely little chapel in the photos.  I wanted a shapely number, something fish-tail I imagined, that wouldn't have me look like a big fat mer-an-gi, something that would show off my curves to best advantage while maintaining a slimming silhouette rather than a huge mass from the hip like a toilet roll lacy dolly decoration.  This is the Maggie Sottero 'Destiny', in white, 'a strapless, fit and flare gown with corset closure. Exquisite panels of ruched Crystal Organza and beaded embellishments plunge into the floating, tiered A-line skirt. Crystal Organza is fashioned into a stunning oversized rosette at the left hip'.  And it cost $700 for the loan of, worth every dime. 
  
We take a walk around Caesar's Palace and Pars o Day 1.  That evening we choose to have our main meal at Cafe Bellagio, salmon burgers on big buns and loads of salad and fries.  Prior to falling into bed again The Fiancé phones The Parents back home in Braehead, when I realise what he's doing, it's like...d'oh!  It's 3am in Braehead, he is so so sorry, and The Mum doesn't seem to mind anyway, she's just pleased to hear from us.  Then we're off to bed at 8.45pm.
  
  
 
  
 Wednesday 3rd March 010 - The Hover Dam, Route66, Wendys, London Bridge, Levis, a Veterans Highway and "O" 
  
  
 The Fiancé wakes with an urge, he's very keen to get back behind the steering wheel of The Big Yellow Popsicle.  The perfect excuse to go to The Hoover Dam.  As you approach The Dam there is an inspection checkpoint with police officers.  We approached on U.S. Highway 93, that checkpoint is one mile north of the dam on the Nevada side.  There is a speed restriction of 15 miles/hour on the dam, the officer who checked us at the inspection point had a quick glance at The Big Yellow Popsicle and us, then indicated we could travel on, saying, "hi guys, try to keep it below 100".
  
 The Hoover Dam is obviously well impressive and worth a visit, in fact it's worth a couple of visits.  We drove there and had a walk around on top the Dam and visited the gift shop, then later in our holiday we took a helicopter trip over the dam before landing in The Grand Canyon for a Champagne lunch, both great experiences.
  
 The admittance charge to the car parking at the dam is $7, but it's free to drive over.  At the gift shop The Fiancé bought a ridiculous hat and really cheap sunglasses...he was entering the spirit, but he is NOT allowed to wear them back home.  It was here that The Dad's gift jumped off the shelf at me, a John Wayne "Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" ceramic mug of good quality.  The Dad loves John Wayne's movies and would watch nothing else if given a choice.  When he stays over at Starry Towers helping me out with my work travel arrangements he always watches John Wayne movies on SKY TV.
  
 On the dam you cross between Nevada and Arizona, the clocks on the intake towers on the different sides show the time difference of the two zones.  Nevada is in the Pacific Standard Time Zone (Pacific Daylight Time Zone) and Arizona is in the Mountain Standard Time Zone, although because Arizona does not observe daylight saving time, the two clocks show the same time during the half of the year around the northern summer.
  
 We drove on into Arizona, to a town called Kingman, "The Heart of Historic Route 66".  Kingman is at one end of the longest remaining intact stretch of Route 66, so I bought a glass Route 66 ashtray and Route 66 magnetic note holder and we had fish fillet burgers at the Kingman branch of Wendy's before taking a drive along a section of Route 66 called "The Purple Heart Trail".  In Wendy's there was a psychotic gentleman doing ballet leg stretching exercises at the queue barrier at the shop counter while he waited for his meal.  I know he was psychotic rather than just an off-duty ballet dancer keeping fit on his lunch break because after the stretches he stood in a corner, pointed a finger at no-one and spoke to no-one, with great feeling.  He then sat down and ate his meal.  During most of his eating time he held a Wendy's napkin over one of his eyes, his left eye, strange and troubled man.
   
 During the Wendy's fish burger a big filling fell out of an upper right molar, in my mouth.  First I knew was I felt a crunch, when I discovered the filling, two thoughts, 1...no pain, that's good, 2...it's a filling, not a piece of something that came with the burger, that's good. 
  
 On we zoomed to Lake Havasu City (Arizona's Playground) in earh of he world famous London Bridge.  The very same London Bridge on which William Wallace's tar-dipped head was placed on a spike after his cruel torturous death in 1305 at the hands of that old stinker, King Edward I of England, the bastard.
  
 In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London placed the bridge on the market and began to look for potential buyers.  On 18 April 1968, the bridge was sold to the American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch of McCulloch Oil for $2,460,000.  When casting his bid for the bridge, McCulloch doubled the estimated cost of dismantling the structure, which was $1.2 million, bringing the price to $2.4 million.  He then added on $60,000, a thousand dollars for each year of his age at the time he estimated the bridge would be raised in Arizona.  His gesture earned him the winning bid.   As the bridge was taken apart, each piece was numbered to aid re-assembly. The bridge was reconstructed in Lake Havasu City, and re-dedicated on 10 October 1971.  The reconstruction of the London Bridge spans the Bridgewater Channel canal that leads from Lake Havasu to Thomson Bay.  This London Bridge has become Arizona's second-biggest tourist attraction, after the Grand Canyon.
  
 On the way back out of town we dropped into a JC Penney's for a bargain on the Levi 501s for The Fiancé, his favourite jeans, 4 for the price of 3 and each much cheaper than they are in the UK.
   
 On the drive back we were briefly in California before crossing back in to Nevada, along a road commemorating war veterans, with many small segments, each in the name of veterans of particular wars, WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf.  I wondered where they were going with this, till the last sign...in the name of veterans of the Global War on Terrorism.  We drove on, through a town called Searchlight, and back to Las Vegas.   
  
 Wednesday night is "O" night, VIP tickets obtained via the VIP Concierge  The Cirque du Soleil show at The Bellagio.  I expected it to be good, it is better than that, it's fantastic.  It's wonderful, mind-blowing, beautiful, grotesque, burlesque, dreamy, wild and crazy.  A Dali canvas of  air, water and fire.  The music, the visuals, the comedy, the drama, there's dancing, ballet, there's diving, synchronised swimming, there's acrobatics, trapeze, parallel bars, contortion, a man on fire and clowns.   The clowns are there to give the audience members and their senses mush needed periodic rests.  Click on 'view trailer' for a tiny flavour.  The show lasted a non-stop 90 mins, after which I truly couldn't have taken any more. 
  
 From there we headed to The Stratosphere, which was entirely something else.  Bit of advice, do not buy a multi-ticket at the base.  We purchased entry and admittance to the three rides in a ticket package deal.  Don't do that, just wait, have a look at the rides before you pay the money, you might not be able to do the rides once you realise what's involved.  They are seriously scary.  I'm not a big shows/rides person, having only indulged once before in my life.  At Port Aventura near Barcelona with The Boy a few years ago I gave them a good shot for his sake, but that's the only ones I've been on.  Up you go in the elevator, over 100 floors, up the 1,149 feet tall tower, to observation decks, one indoors and another higher up, outdoors.  All's well at this stage, one feels safe, enjoying the panoramic views out over the city and far beyond to the mountains.  Then you start to take notice of the rides.  The Big Shot, X-Scream and Insanity.  Oh My F*****g GOD!!!  I was in no way prepared for what lay before me.  The elevator guy had told us to do the Big Shot first because if you can do that, the other two are a piece of cake.  He is so not right.   
  
 For me to be able to do this kind of adrenalin rush thrill seeking, so called fun' activities I have to be with someone who will egg me on and persuade me.  The Fiancé was not that guy.  He had his health and safety hat on, and quite frankly, was convinced that none of the three were particularly safe.  I could easily see his POV.  Thinking back to my Port Aventura experience I reckoned the Big Shot would be relatively safe, it looked similar enough to the Hurakan Condor, where you are secured in, raised slowly to the height of the 100 metre ride then suddenly dropped in a free fall at great speed, then the hydraulics kick in to bring you slowly to a gentle stop.  I thought that was what would happen on the Big Shot.  I thought, if anything goes wrong, at least your on the Stratosphere, you could only fall to the floor on the roof of the Stratosphere.  How wrong was I?  Very very, potentially fatally wrong.  As you sit there waiting for it to start slowly raising you up, suddenly and unexpectedly your fired skyward at ferocious speed and force.  You are shot straight up 160 feet at 45 mph (over 4 Gs) until you are 1,081 feet above the Strip, and your arse leaves your seat for what seems like an eternity.  All you know is the bars your hot little hands are gripping onto for dear life, that's all you can feel touching anything solid, your arse isn't touching anything, your feet aren't touching anything, all that is saving you from leaving planet Earth and entering the Moon's orbit are your hands and the recently rock solid arm muscles you never knew you had till right now.
  
 We thought the Big Shot looked the safest because of what I just said bout my experience of Port Aventura's Hurakan Condor and the fact the Big Shot stands on top the Stratosphere Tower...not over the side of the Stratosphere Tower, like X-Scream and the totally insane Insanity do.  We got it wrong with the Big Shot, after which the even more extreme over-the-side rides were big big big NO-NOs.  Are they mental?  Who would go there?  Some people obviously do, but f**k!  They don't even have safety nets below to give some sort of pretense at safety reassurance.  We couldn't go there.  The Fiancé was even asking me...what if it just breaks down and your left out there for hours, and the even more frightening, what if your safety bar thingy opens?  The X-Scream propels you 27 feet over the edge of the Tower, 866 feet above the ground, and tips/slides you back and forth a couple times, the even scarier Insanity, has a massive mechanical arm which extends 64 feet over the edge of the Tower and spins you at a force of 3 Gs with nothing but the far away, distant, ground to look at below your pathetically hanging little feet at the end of your crappy little useless legs.  All your thinking is...SPLAT!  And your the SPLAT! 
  
  THERE!!!  That's where we were!
   
 Well, anyway, at least we did the Big Shot.  On the way back down in the elevator the lift guy asked if we did the rides.  He was astounded when I told him we could only do the Big Shot, but he got my POV when I explained the Big Shot is at least on a floor which gives a little false security to the human brain.  However, the experience was one of our trip highlights, I just don't expect to be able to persuade The Fiancé to get on another ride in the near future. 
  
 After this The Fiancé needed to regain control and touch base with the Earth, an what better and more fun way than to drive The Big Yellow Popsicle away from the towers, flashing lights, glitter and tinsel that is LV?  None better, we took the west road out of town and visited the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area in the Mojave Desert, a few miles outside LV.  The Fiancé asked me, what I thought would be there..."red rocks" turns out to be not only the obvious, but also, the correct answer.  It's a very lovely nature area and worth a visit to take a drive through their scenic route.  And this is where the Wild Burros and their jackets come into the picture.  One of the wild animals in this desert mountainous area is the Wild Burro, a wild donkey.  We spotted one, The Fiancé was convinced it was a horse with a coat on.  We also saw a critter, which turned out to be an Antelope Ground Squirrel.  Very cute. 
  
 On the way back to Vegas we stopped off at Blue Diamond, located approximately 23 miles southeast of Las Vegas, just inside the entrance to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Park.  An quiet little old mining town with an interesting Sheriff Office come General Store come Casino, photographic evidence in The Las Vegas Gallery.  The shop is signed..."Village Market and Mercantile", "Sheriff's Office" and "Sheriff John McCarthy".  Inside there's a little general store and a nice man behind the counter.  The Fiancé asks him if the Sheriff is in, the store clerk says, "no, he's out sheriffing somewhere".  Also, there's a small row of five slot machines.  Slot machines truly are everywhere over there.
 
 Back at The Bellagio on the walk to our suite I dropped into a Bellagio brand shop and picked a Bellagio bear for The Mum, then up to our Bellagio bed for another early night, but not before a wedding dress test run.  The bell-hop delivered the dress to our suite this afternoon.  The Fiancé turns into The Gay Wedding Planner as he experiments with different options for lacing up the back corset ribbon-tie, and teases and messes with all the flouncy organza tiers.  After he has it fixed to perfection, he snaps away with his G10, turning into Gay Wedding Photographer.  Wedding tomorrow! 
  

   
 Thursday 4th March 2010  MGM Grand, Circus Circus, The Stratosphere, Red Rock Canyon, Blue Diamond, Mum's Bellagio bear and the gay wedding planner   
    
 Today we visited a couple of casinos, first the MGM Grand and their Lion Habitat, then on to Circus Circus where I bought some memento trinkets.  These two casinos were nothing to write home about.  Especially Circus Circus, a bit dingy really.     
    
 The shopping area we found ourselves in was a bit rough with some really crappy little outlets o th tye tha the sales people stand outside trying to hook you with the application of free nail transfers and anti-aging creams.  Usually I avoid these with a firm 'no thank you', but this one girl got me.  I don't even know how she done it, before I knew it I was having an anti-wrinkle collagen and gold cream applied to the area under and around my right eye.  Which was a really stupid thing to permit, if I'd been allergic to any of the ingredients I could've found myself with a horrible red eye/skin rash on my wedding day.  Happily that didn't happen, but anyway, I was led in by my new BBF, and her telling me how well I look for my age, by the time she realised she was loosing this potential customer, she was offering to sell two of the products for $100 each (down from $150 each) and throw in a free $200 tub of another product as a gift from her to me, and she was telling me how bad my crows feet are.  I found it all rather disturbing and time-consuming.  
    
 Tomorrow's the BIG DAY!   
    
    
 
 
 
    
 Friday 5th March 2010 ELVIS AND WEDDING! Mandalay By, he Luxor and the World Famous Largest Chocolate Fountain in The World  
    
 We rise at about 8am.  I'd thought bout how I'd go about this wedding morning prior to it beginning.  I'd get up in good time, leisurely take a shower, apply Nivea night cream moisturiser to face, neck, décolletage, shoulders, arms, back, legs, allowing this to work it's immediate Nivea softening and dewy-appearance magic, and giving it time for the cream to sink into my skin so as not to make a mess on the dress.  And it worked.  About 10am I started to apply my makeup, wet my hair again then dried and GHD-flattening-irons straightened it.  It was all very relaxed with no pressure, apart from The Fiancé pacing about and mumbling to himself here and there.  I'd decided not to worry, what could be worse than not enjoying this entire experience?  So, and this is a new approach to life for me...I didn't allow myself to worry or fret, I just enjoyed it.  The dress had given me a new confidence.  I'd convinced myself, the dress was so beautiful, no-one would be staring at and thinking bad critical stuff bout me personally, they'd be too bowled over by the dress to notice the faults of who was wearing it.  My mind trick worked a treat.  I thought I looked quite good, at my 40-summit age now, I am nearly 50.   
    
 On the walk through The Bellagio in THE dress, lots of strangers speak to me, telling me how beautiful I look, how fantastic my dress is, strangers wish us good luck, some applaud, there's a load of ohhhs and ahhhhs.  For a wee while I stand alone waiting till The Fiancé finds where our Limo is at.  A young guy in shorts, with sports bag and big drinks container walks by into the VIP lounge, stopping to say to me...sorry I'm late, I'll just get changed, back in a minute.  Then another young man walks over to say...oh no, he hasn't stood you up, has he?  I reassured him all was well.  There was such a lot of good feeling from these Americans and other tourists from all over the world.  That's the magic of Las Vegas, people are so happy being there, they want to spread their happiness and kindness.  Which is good for their mental and physical health and wellbeing, and for mine.   
   
 The Limo is there and the driver is a lovely older gentleman.  We three chat and we ask him stuff bout weddings at The Graceland Wedding Chapel, he tells us that at the height of the season at weekends, there's up to 45 weddings a day at the Chapel.  He helps relax us more, as he reassures us he'll stay with us till we're in there and he'll be waiting for us when it's all done.  At the Chapel he disappears then reappears with the roses, my bouquet and The Fiancé's button-hole.  Then The Photographer takes over, talking to us, before The Minister comes to introduce himself and give a few details as to how the ceremony will proceed.  Then we're with The Photographer again, we ask if Elvis is in the building, the photographer says, and I quote, "he's probably out back taking a bunch of pills or something".   
   
 When Elvis is most definitely IN the building, he's here, saying hi, then checking with the minister how the music will play out, they agree on his song list, then The Fiancé is directed to stand up at the alter and Elvis is offering me his arm, and asking if I brought THE dress over from Scotland, and telling me what a gorgeous dress it is.  Then it starts for real.  Elvis breaks into song, Can't Help Falling In Love, and the camera is rolling.  And we're off, walked up the aisle by Elvis, then he hands me over to The Fiancé, before stepping over and around THE dress.  The only thing that I found uncomfortable was the camera rolling.  I've never been videoed before, and I'm conscious of trying to keep my face straight.  I'm kinda like Posh Spice in that I don't think I have a nice smile, so for photos and such like I try to keep my face straight.  It was so difficult, all you want to do is laugh and smile, it's all so surreal, Elvis keeps breaking into song.  You feel the urge to applaud him, and dance, and giggle.  But it's a church, a wedding, composure is required.  And the video camera is running and the photographer is snapping away.  I'm torn between looking at the vid-cam, the minister, Elvis, The Fiancé, so my big eyes dance around a lot.  Then Elvis starts in again with Love Me Tender, and gives it big licks with a big Elvis-type arm and hand gesturing finish.  Then The Minister starts the religious bits, we turn to each other and holding hands say the I Dos.
  
 The ring is placed on my finger and The Fiancé repeats his promises.  As we're not doing a ring for The Fiancé, all I have to actually say is 'I do'.  Then Elvis is back with Burning Love, and he's really giving it large, dancing about, and I'm nearly fit to burst as he reaches his song finish crescendo.  But it's not over yet, I pull myself together and turn to listen to The Minister again.  At which point he's announcing that he is pronouncing us man and wife and that The Husband can kiss his bride.  I remember we already did kiss earlier, we kiss again and Elvis comes back with Teddy Bear.  Half way through this I start dancing on the spot, I can't help it, Elvis is singing to us and gyrating around, what else can a person do.  The Husband joins in with a few lyrics near the end too, and just when I've lost track of the number of songs Elvis has sung (we had the 5 song package), off he goes again with my absolute favourite Elvis song, and the song I've been singing since we arrived in the USA, Viva Las Vegas.  Nothing and no-one could stop me dancing now.  I'd forgotten how difficult a song it is to dance to.  Have you seen the showgirls in the movie, trying to dance to this song...even they look stupid, it's so fast.  Then to our surprise Elvis says, "John, lets walk your wife down the aisle, and we're off...down the isle.  Then Elvis is behind us, "come back"...and we're walking back up the aisle, The Husband holding my right arm and Elvis and I holding hands on my other side.  Elvis is doing his "thank you very much" and telling The Husband to kiss me again, we're kissing again and "Elvis has left the building", as the video trails to an end and Elvis shakes, first The Husband's hand, then mine.  Wonderful.  I loved it. 
   
  Thing is, Elvis hasn't left the building, not yet, he has photos to do.  The Photographer instructs the three of us in some poses, then Elvis leaves the building.  We ask The Photographer to do some pics outside with The Graceland Chapel behind us, then we go back into the chapel to get our commemorative marriage certificate, our free copy of Elvis and Pricilla's wedding certificate, and to buy some Graceland Chapel trinkets.  I get postcards, flashing LCD light pens and a "Hitched In Vegas" Graceland Chapel car number plate.  The Limo driver is waiting for us and seamlessly picks us back up again.  He offers to take pics of us if we've brought a camera.  That's the one thing we could've done that we didn't.  If your planning on a Vegas wedding package, take your own camera, there'll be someone there that can take more pics for you for free. 
  
 The driver took us back to The Bellagio, me laying back on the car seat at an angle, cos of my dress corset features which prevent a full ben inthe mddle body posture.  At The Bellagio we stop by The Petrossian, the upscale piano bar-lounge in The Bellagio Lobby, with a good view of the casino and excellent people-watching opportunities.  We'd been in a couple times already and it had become our favourite place to go for drinks.  We'd seen a few times, people in front of us being turned away, all the tables having Reserved signs on, but each time we went the hostess would take us to a table and simply lift the Reserved sign away.  I think the Reserved sign thing was to allow them to pick and choose their clientele.  If your face, clothing, demeanour, behaviour doesn't fit, sorry, we're fully booked.  The hostess took us immediately to a previously "Reserved" table and we ordered Champagne to toast our marriage.   
  
 Then it was back to our suite to remove the wedding gear and go fill the rest of our day.  We started at Mandalay Bay, yet another hotel/casino n or lis of must-do hotel/casinos.  We visit the Shark Reef Aquarium with its sharks of all kinds, along with sawfish, giant rays, endangered green sea turtles, piranha, moon jellies and the rare golden crocodiles.  Over 2,000 animals in 1.6 million gallons of seawater, above you, below you and all around you.
  
  Shark Aquarium
  
 I purchase a soft toy shark in the gift shop, immediately named, appropriately, but with little imagination, "Sharkee".  Sharkee is now on my NEXT mirrored glass bedside set of drawers.  I also manage to refuse the ridiculous shark hat The Husband tries to have a persuasive salesman push me to buy. 
  
 We leave the aquarium and go for dinner at the Border Grill, a  "vibrant, modern Mexican restaurant overlooking the Lazy River just off Mandalay Beach, where Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Food Network’s “Too Hot Tamales,” want nothing more than to spice up your day. With two floors of patio dining, this hip, urban cantina is the perfect setting for sipping margaritas and savouring a menu of the bold flavours of Mexico while enjoying views of the beach and pool."  I've done very little Mexican in my life so have to ask what this is and what that is.
  
  I plump for Green Chicken Poblano Enchiladas - slow roasted chicken shredded and stuffed in handmade corn tortillas simmered in poblano cream topped with grilled corn, wild mushrooms, and roasted poblano peppers.  Very nice it is too, and huge.  The Husband has something else, a fishy thing I think, I simply couldn't eat a fishy thing after looking so many of them in the face.  After the entrees we reckon we don't have any belly space for a sweet, but our waitress learns we just got married, and she presents us with a large slice of a chocolate gateaux creation and two desert forks, telling us Americans celebrate with chocolate, so we have to have free chocolate cake.  We both somehow manage to find a bit of spare belly space. 
   
  After dinner we head to The Luxor hotel/casino next door to The Mandalay Bay and do the Bodies exhibition.  Real human bodies expertly spliced to reveal the inner workings of the human form, in an educational way, not a serial killer type way, but the two are pretty close in reality.  Not something you should undertake if your squeamish, but The Husband and I aren't, so it's cool.  The gift shop doesn't hold any enticing items though. 
  
 By this time we're tired and head back to The Bellagio for ice cream made in-house, from the Jean-Philippe Patisserie shop, which has the world largest chocolate fountain in the world.  As the blurb says..."displaying a spectacular series of melted chocolate cascades, the glass-enclosed, floor-to-ceiling chocolate fountain is officially the largest chocolate fountain in the world as certified by Guinness World Records.  The first of it's kind, freestanding attraction was a realised dream for award winning Executive Pastry Chef Jean Philippe Maury."  And, more blurb..."the artistic genius of Chef Jean-Philippe Maury is displayed daily at Las Vegas' first truly European-style pastry shop. You'll be welcomed into this imaginative display by a breathtaking chocolate fountain - a fitting entrée to the world of carefully crafted chocolates, cookies, cakes, crepes, salads, sandwiches and more."  And the fountain truly is a sight to see, the rest of the shop is pretty damned fine too. 
  
  Jean-Philippe ice cream
   
 Pics on The Las Vegas Gallery, and the best news ever...Jean-Philippe has an online shop!!!  We go for the two scoop ice-cream tubs, The Husband sticks to two scoops of his favourite mint-choc-chip, I go for a scoop of my favourite vanilla and a scoop of his caramel Dulce de Leche.

The last thing The Husband does before bed is organise a bell-hop guy to come take THE dress down for pick up in the morning. 
  
  
    
 
 
    
 Saturday 6th March 2010  Valley of Fire, Lake Mead, The Fashion Show and The Mirage volcano

Saturday morning and we're off to The Valley Of Fire.  The Valley Of Fire State Park is 50 miles northeast of Vegas.  They have petrified logs, white domes, Silica Domes, other rocks, lots of rocks, rock arches, a rock like an elephant and petroglyphics.  It's all very scenic and interesting with loads to see, even if you never left your car.  Which we did, but you don't have to actually go off hiking on one of the many trails to see all the special points of interest.  In fact, it looks quite exhausting and possibly dangerous to go off hiking in The Mojave Desert.  The park has multi-coloured eroded sandstone and sand dunes.  The petrified logs are logs and stumps washed into the area from an ancient forest about 225 million years ago, they are up a dirt track which The Corvette couldn't manage comfortably, but luckily they have an example of a petrified log in the Visitor Centre, so no need to go out of your way to see the others and endanger your hired sports car.  Some of the especially interesting rocks are at the end of trails, but you can still see Arch Rock, Atlatl Rock, Beehive Rocks, The Seven Sisters Rocks and loads of other rocks in strange shapes that, if they don't have names, should have.  The petroglyphics are ancient Indian rock art which can also be seen without the need for a hike.  At Atlatl Rock they conveniently provide a ladder and platform system to take you right up to see a load of these very old and very pretty drawings.  The Husband thinks the drawings are done by 2 year old Indian toddlers at Nursery, so isn't all that impressed.  I'm far more sensible about the situation, so I'm in awe.  It's a pity that Ike isn't in such awe and respect, or he may not have felt the need to scratch his name on the rock face beside all them historic petroglyphics.  Ike...your an idiot.

The literature regarding The Valley Of Fire tells us to look out for antiquities, the items they regard as antiquities are approx 90 years old, tin cans, old car parts.  The Husband says...back in Scotland, you'd still get your deposit back ob the bottles for this stuff.

Here's an admission.  When I first became aware of Antelope Ground Squirrels, back in the Red Rock Canyon, I wished for nothing more than some good photos of this little critter.  And there he was today, with all his cousins, below the bird table at The Valley Of Fire Visitor Centre.  Squirrels aren't so different, country to country, but these American ones are cute, they look like the Disney Snow White cartoon versions.  Pics in The Las Vegas Gallery.

We drove on towards Lake Mead, the first stop we took, the Lake wasn't there.  There seems to be a load of issues about water volume at Lake Mead and The Hoover Dam.  Overton Beach should be a thriving marina, but there's no water.  We drove on to the second next marina town, Callville Bay.  They are so much more fortunate there, the lake still frequents their shores.  We went into the gift shop/restaurant...for burgers (turkey) and I ordered a Corn Dog cos I was wondering what a Corn Dog was.  I now know it's like a fake sausage on a stick with some sort of sweet sponge-cake-like outer coating, and it's not a true corn-dog unless you periodically dip it in a wee pot of mustard and/or tomato ketchup...both available from the sauce-machine next to the cutlery and napkin station.   
 
    
 Back to Vegas and we took a stroll round the Fashion Show mall...nothing to report.  There's a lot of shops in Vegas, but very few with anything you'd buy whle onholday  Forthe most part the shops are of the top-end fashion designer version, silly money, items in the window with no price tags, and we all know what 'they' say about that, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.  I get annoyed at this no tag practice, I want to know how much a thing it, even if I have no intention of buying the thing, I just want to know what's what, this secret price system is for the price snobs.  We then went back to our Bellagio and I slipped on my silver Balmain-replica frock (£16) and my Boohoo black jacket covered with tiny black sequences (£40).  Added a pair of stripper shoes and my silver wrist candy clutch bag (£15, in a sale, down from £30).  Then we set out to see the volcano at The Mirage.  It's worth making the effort to catch the hourly evening show.   
    
 When the eruption and fire dies down again we walk back to The Bellagio via Caesar's Palace.  It seems possible to walk The Strip while staying mostly indoors, gong ousid ony occsionally to get to the next casino, though many have connecting corridors and even connecting monorails.  Back to The Petrossian Bar with the piano man playing the piano and were given another 'reserved' table.  This was our only late night having an alcoholic drink in Las Vegas.  The night-life goes on ALL night, every night, but we were very well behaved and were real early-birds, leaving the night owls to it.

This evening was also the only time I saw the same people more than once.   A thing about Las Vegas, the people seem to change all the time and you very rarely see the same person twice.  Even the Concierge in the VIP Lounge, she changed every time we were in, a different girl.  In The Petrossian this evening there was a hostess who had been working yesterday when we got back from The Graceland Chapel, this evening she admires my clutch bag, a woman with taste.  There were also a couple from Wales in there this evening who we'd seen sitting on bar stools when we got back from being married they were having a stiff drink before heading to their own wedding.  This evening they were telling of how they had got ready, packed their cases and took a taxi to the airport today, only to find they'd forgotten they had an extra night in Vegas, they'd bought 3 and got one free, but forgot.  They had to come back to The Bellagio and prepare to do the same packing and taxi again tomorrow.  What a waste of an extra day. 
 
    
   
 
 
 
   
 Sunday 7th March 2010  Freemont St, Red Rock Casino, Panda Express, Treasure Island, the monorail, Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat and Elvis Beanie Bears   
     
 We drive down town this morning to explore the Freemont Street area, it's very down town with very little to offer apart from stuff at cheaper prices, but the stuff is very cheap, the tacky tat people take home from their holidays.  I did buy two silver Las Vegas Zippo lighters and a little 'Las Vegas' gun for The Boy.  I'd tried one of these out in another shop previously, I lifted it, and thinking it was a lighter I squeezed the trigger, and got a small electric shock.   
    
 From there we drove out to The Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, it's out on.  It seemed the most family friendly of the hotels we visited, with a cinema, indoor play area, bowling isles and a food court with easy options for family eating.  Sometimes in other casinos you see adults with children in tow, and it can seem tantamount to child abuse, these little bits of kids being trailed round slot machines, flashing lights and adults drinking, smoking and gambling.

We had a Chinese meal at a Panda Express, which was alright.  Between us we had six different entrees, of which the only one you could actually say was noticeably tasty, was the Orange Chicken.  The Panda Express logo is a bit too much like the World Wildlife Fung logo, don't you think?  Or is it just me?  In Panda Express your eating dead creatures, at the WWF your trying to keep critters alive.

We head back to The Strip and park at Treasure Island, a wee wander around there then we take the 4 minute ride on the free monorail to The Mirage to visit Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, which has a load more critters.  The big cats: white lions, white tigers, panthers, leopards, and Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins.  The first thing that I find striking is the behaviour of the cats, they are full of life, cavorting around, play fighting, they have a spring in their steps and a twinkle on their eyes.  A huge difference from other big cats I've previously seen in cages, in zoos.  The reason seems to be is these animals are rotated and only spend short periods at the Secret Garden in between living their lives at S & R's house.  The white male lion is so strange, he looks a bit camp, like he works out at the gym each day in between visits to the hairdressing salon for regular trims and colour treatments.  He's so handsome he appears to have had cosmetic surgery, a lion with a face lift.  He looks like his make-up artist has preened him to perfection, with moisturiser, foundation and powder.
 
    
    
  Stir Fried Panda  
    
    
  There are also llamas with swans for companions and then there are the dolphins  Their trainers/human companions engage in what they call 'interactions'  on a regular basis.  The dolphins don't appear to be over-taxed, they're only asked to do a few tricks and give urine samples.  Which at first seems like an perversely odd sight to be witnessing, but apparently daily urine testing is required to ensure the dolphins stay healthy.  All of S&R's animals look very well and happy, or as happy as animals without true freedom can possibly be.  There is an aquarium area where you can watch the dolphins from behind a transparent wall, they're out there swimming around and we were looking at them from the level of the bottom of their tank.   
    
 We left The Mirage, back on the monorail to Treasure Island where we admired ancient, 30,000 years of ancient, intricately carved mammoth tusks yards from the flashing lights of slot machines the Las Vegas branch of gamblers-not-so-anonymous, as you do, only in Las Vegas.  I say not-so-anonymous but actually photography isn't permitted in the casino areas, to protect the privacy of the patrons, though if your not ostentatious about your camera use, you can pretty much get away with it.  Along with the tusks, which apparently took one hundred years to complete, generations of carvers, there are huge jade articles from the Ming Dynasty, vases and a horse, each individual item carved from a solid piece of jade.  It is here at Treasure Island that I buy my Ty Beanie Baby Elvis bears as seen on The Blog 10/03/20.   
    
 Tomorrow is the helicopter flight to The Grand Canyon, so we leave the frolicking gamblers to their frolicking and gambling and it's another early night at The Bellagio for us.   
    
     
 
 
 
    
 Monday 8th March 2010  Grand Canyon helicopter trip, Planet Hollywood, Miracle Mile Mall   
    
 We're ready and waiting at The Bellagio bus tour garage at 8am.  There are public phones down there, with Bellagio notepads and pens by each, so I steal a freebie Bellagio pen.  You don't get much for nothing in The Bellagio or the rest of Las Vegas for that matter, so a freebie knicked pen or three (I'm back home with another couple from our rooms) is practically a necessity.  The bus collects us and a few others then takes us out to the Papillion company's airport.  Papillion is the "World's largest Grand Canyon sightseeing company", their terminal is at Boulder City Municipal Airport.  Our Grand Celebration Tour includes:

Spectacular views of Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Guano and Eagle Points, the famous SkyWalk, and the Grand Canyon

Exclusive landing site on the floor of the Grand Canyon 4000 feet below the Canyon rim

A light meal with refreshments under an authentic Indian Ramada next to the Colorado River with a champagne toast

Ample time for photos and exploring while on the Canyon floor

Hotel to hotel transfers

Operated aboard a EcoStar EC-130 with a large cabin area with specially designed sightseeing windows and stadium seating for 180 degrees of unobstructed views

Microphone headsets that allow direct voice contact with others onboard, including the pilot

Quiet Ride Technology that reduces cabin noise from engine and rotor

 
    
 Our pilot is quite lovely, and a Zappa, though no relation of the famous Frank, I asked.  Jimmy Zappa does a good job, and he's pleased to hear The Husband is in the oil industry and therefore regularly on helicopters, I'm assuming this will be because The Husband will be a perfectly trained passenger, aware of all the health and safety matters that his usual passengers wouldn't know.  We have upgraded to ensure we have front seats, so we're up there with the pilot and four Americans are seated behind us.  If you do any helicopter trip I recommend you upgrade to front seats.  Sitting in the back just can't be as good as having the full visibility of 180 degrees of glass, which extends overhead and underfoot.  The front seat option does come with a weight consideration though.   At the airport you must stand on a weigh-scale, and you don't get to remove your clothing, handbag, water bottle etc, they weigh you with all your stuff, thankfully they don't tell you the result and it doesn't get flashed to everyone in the room, though if I was in charge I would install a big screen and automated voice gadget that would proclaim the weight, for a laugh.   
    
 The trip is fantastic, just the right length, not too short and not overly long.  Mr Zappa provides an informative narration, again, just the right amount, he's not annoyingly over-talkative and doesn't just say stuff for the sake of disturbing the peace.  The experience of flying over this fantastic landscape with it's Natural Wonder of the World, and it's Wonder of the Manmade World, it's wonderful, you can only be filled with wonder, or your not awake.   
    
 This is the one time we agree to be photographed for the added extra of framed photograph of you at a Las Vegas attraction, they try to do this to you at nearly every place you go in Las Vegas.  As you take your seat for the O" show, just before you enter The Stratosphere elevator, with a million dollars in Binion's Casino in Freemont, even in the foyer before you enter the Bodies exhibition at The Luxor.  It's a money-grabbing nonsense, but we really did want a memento of our Grand Canyon helicopter trip and happily coughed up the extra $15 for a photo of us with Mr Zappa and his chopper.   
    
 Back in Vegas we fill The Corvette's tank with gas, return her to her rightful owners, The Husband cries a secret tear, claiming he got dust in his eye, then we take a stroll over to Planet Hollywood.  We walk through the Miracle Mile shopping mall were we eat at The Cheeseburger at the Oasis, sitting on their patio area by the fountain show.  The fountain show is rather pathetic, once you've seen The Bellagio fountains, well, this one is small and, it just isn't very special.  Their spicy fries were very tasty though.  My burger was chicken on toasted ciabatta bread, and very nice. The indoor thunderstorm show in this shopping mall isn't as wonderful as we expected either.  The lights dim to give the impression of gathering clouds, but this causes a big shadow on the 'sky', from the buildings below.  There's four minutes of thunder, lightening and rain, and that's it.   
    
 Back at The Bellagio for more ice cream, vanilla and rum and raisin this time, and a catch up on how the conservatory theme change is going, the answer is, slowly.  These 140 horticultural experts take time to obtain gardening perfection.  An early night for us as we'll be up at 3am to prepare to head back home to Starry Towers.   
    
    
 
 
 
    
 Tuesday 9th March 2010  journey home   
    
 We leave our suite at about 4.15am to check out, there's a giant flower pot, trowel and ants in The Conservatory and some persistent souls in the casino.  The stetch limo delvers us to the airport and so begins the worst part of an American holiday, the long long skies back eastwards.  There's an interesting Thunderbird car at the airport then we're on the first plane, Las Vegas to Newark.  During the boarding procedure there's this older lady giving faux fur coats a bad name.  She's on the chunky side and her coat is huge, ankle length and of the swing style, so there's simply loads of coat, in a non-descript black/grey/white colour-way, can't think of an animal with such a coat.  But it's not the coat that's her biggest crime, she has a head-scarf under a cowboy hat.  She's American, loud and narky, snapping disagreeably with her female companion.  Her seat is in row 7, we're much further back in 28, so we're boarded before her.  We're in our seats waiting for the rest of the plane to fill up, and there's this coat woman, passes us three times.  It becomes evident that she doesn't like her seat, and three times, THREE times! she attempts to take other peoples seats, and three times cabin crew have to move her on.  She's frequently to be seen moving in the aisle in the opposite direction to the one all the other passengers are trying to move.  Finally she's seated and a female hostess is walking past us saying, 'I don't tolerate cussing on my flight, I'll throw you off...just like that' and she snaps her fingers.   
    
 Another Ruby's Diner at Newark, where we sit in the very same seats we had the first time and we're on the final lap across The Atlantic.  The cabin crew are all in good humour, and the male one offers us free wine to celebrate our wedding, it's the early hours of the morning, we ask for extra water.  Another three movies for me and we're being picked up by Tom again.   
 
                       
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mmmm  mmmm