Viva Las Vegas - January 2008

Here is a trip that Maryanne took without Kyle; in fact Maryanne joined Carla, Kyle’s mom in Vegas to help celebrate Carla’s 60th Birthday. This is a place Maryanne had wanted to see for a while, and Carla was the perfect excuse.


Carla arrived by road from Phoenix, and Maryanne by plane from Norfolk late on the Friday evening. They were booked into the Luxor (faux pyramid hotel) on the main strip.

Slots at the Airport Gate! Slots at the Airport Baggage Area!
Slot machines even at the airport - Las Vegas

Luxor - Las Vegas Luxor - Las Vegas
Luxor Hotel - Las Vegas

Carla collected Maryanne from the airport and rather than go directly to the hotel, they drove up and down the strip to get my first taste of the Vegas lights and bustle. Getting back to the hotel Maryanne, not too comfortable with gambling (losing money) put some money into the 2c slot machine and after 20 minutes or so had won over $160. Not a bad start! It seems that in the old days, hotels and food were practically given away with the expectation that everyone would spend their money in the casinos – this is certainly not the case now! Drinks however are free providing you are gambling – and that includes the penny slots – so Maryanne was quite happy.


On the Saturday they were woken early with a call from Maryanne’s brother Russell. He had no idea Maryanne was in Vegas, and of the time difference – but he was a great source of information about Vegas, having been there for a 6 day stag party a few years ago.

Once awake, they set off to explore on foot the strip (well some of it). They went to their neighboring hotels first; they started off heading east on the North side of the strip.

Excalibur  - Las Vegas Maryanne outside Excalibur - Las Vegas
Ourside Excalibur - Las Vegas

MGM Lions at Play - Las Vegas MGM Lions at Play - Las Vegas MGM Lions at Play - Las Vegas
MGM Lions at Play - Las Vegas

  • The Excalibur (castle / King Arthur themed),
  • New York, New York (old style new York) – here Maryanne rode the roller coaster, and they found somewhere for breakfast
  • Monte Carlo (beautiful statues)
  • MGM – here they visited the lion enclosure and watched the trainers in with the lions playing ball
Bellagio - Las Vegas Bellagio - Las Vegas Bellagio - Las Vegas Bellagio - Las Vegas Carla takes a relaxing birthday drink at the Bellagio - Las Vegas
Bellagio - Las Vegas

Bellagio at night - fountains - Las Vegas Bellagio - Las Vegas
Bellagio - Las Vegas

Paris for Dinner - Las Vegas Paris for Dinner - Las Vegas Paris for Dinner - Las Vegas
Eiffel Tower for Dinner - Las Vegas

  • Bellagio – WOW! This hotel is the place to stay (if you can afford it). They foyer was stunning with Chinese themed lanterns, and gardens, and beautiful glass flower light fixtures over the mosaic glass covered horse statue. If Maryanne ever returns to Vegas, This is the place she hopesto stay. Outside the Bellagio is a huge lake with a computerized fountain display that goes off every 30 minutes with music and lights all timed – as they left the hotel they were treated to their first display.
  • Paris – we reached this hotel around dusk, and given it was Carla’s birthday, we decided to eat in the Restaurant here – built into the 1/2 scale Eiffel Tower, with a view over the street to the Bellagio lake. The food was excellent (the prices were as expected for the view/service). The wait staff were great, and brought Carla a special Birthday plate for desert. Throughout the dinner, the Bellagio fountains entertained. Happy birthday Carla. After dinner they took the elevator to the open top of the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the nighttime views up and down the strip. It was a little too cold to enjoy them too much – but the view was excellent.
The Strip at Night from the Top of the Eiffel Tower - Las Vegas The Strip at Night from the Top of the Eiffel Tower - Las Vegas
The Strip at Night

By then Carla and Maryanne were pretty much exhausted, and got a taxi back to the Luxor. They passed by Maryanne's now favorite machine before retiring for the evening.

In each casino/hotel on Saturday they did a little bit of gambling. Carla started to teach Maryanne the basics of Black Jack (21) and Poker, and neither of them lost too much money – they won enough to keep themselves entertained, and make their modest investment last for quite a while, but the house still won!


On Sunday Carla and Maryanne were woken by some kind of fire alarm in the hotel, and a repeated announcement that they were looking into the problem, please stand by! There was no way to sleep with that noise – so we were up early again. Sunday’s plan was to view the rest of the major casinos on the strip and make it to Freemont street (the old center of Las Vegas, where all the old casinos are) for the evening, where a wonderful light display was promised them.

The Venician - Las Vegas The Venician - Las Vegas
The Venician - Las Vegas

The Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, The Venetian, Harrah’s etc all kept us busy. They loved the Venetian with the gondolas and fake sky ceiling. Harrah’s trapped them with the promise of a mono rail link – which turned out to be quite a walk away (our poor feet). Eventually they gave up on that idea, but did discover that the Body exhibit was showing in Vegas that weekend, and Carla and Maryanne both really wanted to see it. They added this to their plan for the day, and as it did not close until 11pm, they knew they could do it after Freemont Street.

Freemont Street Freemont Street Freemont Street Freemont Street
Freemont street - Flashing light and evening ceiling lightshow

Freemont street has quite a different feel from the main strip – many more flashing lights, the slot machines here have real money paying out when you win (the modern ones simply spit out a receipt of your winnings at the end – and you can take that to a machine to get cash back) . It reminded me of a typical British sea side promenade (Blackpool). Of course there were not just slot machines, but also card tables and roulette wheels – but it was the slot machines inside, and the flashing signs outside that gave the flavor of the place. There was plenty of street vendors selling all sorts of things (Just like the beach), and even a motorcycle ball/cage – although they did not get to see this in action! This one street has been enclosed with an arch filled with 1000’s of lights that are linked to a computer and act like a huge movie screen above – every hour at night they put on a show, and this is what they had really come to see – pretty cool.

The combined exhibit of Body the Exhibition and Bodies (despite showing in Tropicana) is not exactly Vegas stuff – but if you have any interest in how the Human body works it is fascinating. It is an exhibit using preserved (real) human bodies (and parts). There were whole blood vessel systems preserved and on show (without the surrounding body tissue), amazing presentations of our bone, muscle, skin, intestine, brain, diseased tissue and organs, everything – each exhibit being a piece of art and an item of wonder and awe. Seeing the exhibit raised some obvious questions about the source of the bodies used, and it seems there is some wide spread criticism of the exhibit regarding the origin of the bodies and the ethics of showing them. It has been banned from many states in the USA. A good overview of the exhibit and the issues can be found on Wikipedia. Maryanne was very impressed with the exhibit and hope that these issues can be resolved with the appropriate dignity. Maryanne didn’t find the exhibit ghoulish in any way, but extremely educational, along with being impressive just for the technology used to present the bodies and organs in this way.

There is a similar exhibit that Maryanne had not know about called Body Worlds that seems to have a better web site – and It is currently (2008) showing in Manchester (UK) – she would love to see this also.


Monday’s wake-up call was a truck that sounded as though it was practicing reversing (beep, beep, beep) outside our room for at least 20 minutes. They could not quite understand where the noise was coming from as the room was on the 7th floor, and there only seemed to be roof tops outside the room – no streets.

They had breakfast in the Luxor, picked up a free T-Shirt for spending so much, and set off. Maryanne had planned to visit one last Casino, the Stratosphere that day, in order to ride its amazing roof top rides. It has 3 (The Big shot – highest in the world; Insanity – has riders flung out dangling over the edge; and XScream – a ride that drops its riders over the edge!). However exhaustion of the weekend was catching up and Maryanne convinced herself it would not be open in the morning – they bypassed it and headed home. Maybe Maryanne will be braver next time!

Drive back to Phoenix - Lake Mead Drive back to Phoenix - Lake Mead Drive back to Phoenix - Lake Mead Drive back to Phoenix - Lake Mead Drive back to Phoenix - Lake Mead Drive back to Phoenix - Lake Mead Drive back to Phoenix - Hover Dam
Drive back to Phoenix - Lake Mead and the Hover Dam

Quickly the road leaves the city and puts you in desert. Hours of driving with spectacular views. We crossed the Hover Dam (straddles the Colorado River). We took a side tour to Laughlin on the border of Arizona and Nevada for one last casino hit and for Lunch.

We arrived back in Phoenix just in time to collect Kyle from the airport Monday evening. Over all a great trip – Maryanne thinks she has pretty much done Vegas now, if she were to ever return – it would be to stay at the Bellagio, and ride the top of the Stratosphere, and maybe to win back some of her investment there!