Las Vegas 2014

Las Vegas 2014! What can you say about Las Vegas, that hasn’t already been said? After getting engaged during our last, albeit too brief, visit in 2012, we decided on 2 weeks in Sin City. And what a 2 weeks.

It started at Manchester Airport, with the customary shopping at Duty Free, before boarding a Virg in Atlantic 747-400 (Hot Lips for those who care!) and going straight upstairs. Premium Economy, it’s the best way to go Transatlantic.

The 10 hour flight is a bind, but it’s a neccesary evil, made all the more enjoyable with an iPad full of TV Shows, Films, Music and Games. Not to mention the onboard viewing from Virgin Atlantic, which has improved dramatically over the last version of the In-flight Entertainment System. We ended up watching 8 or so episodes of Revenge and I watched a couple of episodes of Episodes. Before we knew it, we were descending in McCarran Airport. A short walk through US Immigration and we were in the car going to the MGM Grand.

The MGM’s check-in is the biggest I have ever seen of any hotel, in the world. Ever. It’s huge. And, there was a queue! We had to wait around 45 minutes, disappointingly. But, we got to the room and immediately collapsed and went to sleep for a couple of hours. We’d been up around 19 hours by the time we got to the room. A short sleep and we unpacked, went out for food and retired again for the night.

Over the course of the next two weeks, we saw everything. Every Casino, every Resort. We feel like we ate in every restaurant and drank in every bar! My wallet feels like we shopped in every outlet too!

Some of the sights in Vegas are well documented, the daylight with it’s blue-skies and sunny weather. The evening with it’s pitch black skies and neon-lit signs. I took our rental car out down “The Strip” for a couple of jaunts to record it with the GoPro Hero 3 stuck to the roof.

Staying in the MGM Grand, at the southern end of “The Strip”, it provided a great base for us to explore – and we were perilously close to M&M World. That’s never good! During the two weeks, time was spent between shopping, exploring or just lazing next to one of the five pools at the MGM Grand. With the weather approaching 42C degrees (108F), it was hot, but with the humidity being around 5% it was beautifully manageable.

Moving outside of The Strip, we explored the shopping malls at the north and south end of The Strip. Town Square was very nice, and very well laid out. The mall at the northern end, though was about the best. But, a word of warning. Hydrate yourself and be prepared to get very warm.

Other days saw us drive out to Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon. Two areas of awe and beauty for contrasting reasons.

The Hoover Dam is sheer monolith, a genuine feat of human engineering on a colossal scale, more impressive is that it was built between 1931-1936.

It’s genuinely hard to comprehend just how big it is, unless you’re there, in the middle and looking around.

Red Rock Canyon is iconic in it’s appearance, a vibrate shade of burnt orange/red that sets the pulse racing, I can only imagine what it’d be like to see a sunset over those rock faces. The road around is twisty and enjoyable, it’s a shame I was in a rental car, and not the GT-R, although Ana probably not so much. As you rise up the road towards some elevated views, it just keeps getting better and better. There’s not a lot to do, but there’s an awful lot to see, some (mostly) undisturbed natural beauty; which is not normally my thing, but this was. If you’re in Vegas, have a car and don’t go to Red Rock, it’s a crime.

And here’s an extract of my Trip Advisor reviews for where we ate during our stay.

Il Fornaio
We visited this absolute gem 3-4 times for breakfast during our two weeks in Las Vegas. The food here is delightful, the staff are very courteous if a little over zealous on the coffee refills.

Food is served promptly, portions are just right for breakfast, maybe bordering on a little-too-much for us Europeans. The presentation is also excellent.
If you’re on the south-end of “The Strip”, this should be high on your agenda for breakfast.

Ami Gabi
Located inside Paris, we had breakfast twice here, during our stay in Las Vegas. The eggs Benedict is sublime, the toasted bread is light and flavourful. Coffee is among the best we had. The view is stunning, sitting outside, overlooking the Bellagio and the edge of Caesars on the southern part of “The Strip”. Good value, good breakfast, good staff and a very nice place to eat.

Pancakes! Known for it’s signature dish, IHOP never disappoints with a Smoke House Combo and some buttermilk pancakes! Complemented perfectly with the Butter Pecan syrup. Drooling just thinking about it. Always among the first places we go to whenever we hit the US.

The Cheesecake Factory
Returning to the first ever Cheesecake Factory that we visited brought back a plethora of memories, and I’m happy that none of them have become rose tinted over time. The Cheesecake Factory is Caesar’s Forum Shops is incredible. There is so much more to it than just cheesecakes.
The food is sublime, very tasty. The portions are large, but in moderation it’s fine. We choose an entrée and desert. There’s no way we could do an appetizer/starter, entrée and then a desert. The cheesecake is a meal in it’s own right.
We ate here three times during our visit and each time it was a 5 star experience. Kobe beef Glamburger is exceptional, the Chipotle Pasta, Wasabi encrusted Ahi Tuna, everything, all very, very good.
If you order a cocktail, be prepared for a lot of alcohol in it. We ordered ours to arrive “virgin” with the alcohol separate so that we could add to taste. That works out quite nicely.
Until next time, Cheesecake Factory.

Cafe Bellagio
After watching the Cirque Du Soleil production of “O”, we decided to stop in the Bellagio for some late night snacks at Café Bellagio. There’s an unwritten rule for the dress-code: Smart. Smart casual will cut it, but be smart; I did feel slightly under-dressed. The staff, however, did not mention it and were superb in their service. The food was hot, very well presented and reasonably priced for a medium-high end cafe in a premium casino. More than you’d pay elsewhere, but we’re in the Bellagio. Have we been before? Yes, would we go again? Yes.

Bonefish Grill
Every time we go to the US, we always attempt to go to a Bonefish. The food is better than it should be for a chain; we are very partial to the Bang Bang Shrimp. It’s fiery and tasty and comes highly recommended from me and the lovely fiancée! For entrees, we tend to stick with the fish based meals, and in 6-8 visits, we’ve yet to have a bad one. Great value, too.

Stratoshphere – Top of the World Restaurant
Excellent food, served with an incredible view. The Stratosphere is THE place to go for a meal if you want premium food and views within Las Vegas. Nowhere can compete with the rotating view of The Strip. However, if you suffer from motion sickness, it’s best to ask for a non-Premium seat, where you’re not looking out to the side of the restaurant, it’s only slow, but it can affect you.
The steak is right up with the very best. You will pay for that privilege, though. Excellent.