The Grand Canyon

We booked a day trip to the Grand Canyon with Grand Adventures, a tour company that runs small vans rather than big buses. We were lucky enough to have a very competent, informative and charming driver named Chad. Luke and I were the first ones picked up and then there was another couple from Sydney, a young woman from Singapore and a couple from Canada. We left Vegas at 7am.

On the drive Chad filled us in on the history of Vegas, we all got to know each other and then we stopped at the Hoover Dam, not far out of town.

Apparently so much concrete was used in the dam that a two lane road could be built across America with it. We learned a bunch of other facts that I recall perfectly but won’t bore you with here.

Next stop was Seligman, a little town on Route 66. I’ve already posted about that so I won’t write any more here except to say that it was where we first saw snow. In fact two of the ladies on the bus had never seen snow before – but more about that later.

The Grand Canyon (south rim) is over 4 hours from Las Vegas. It was quite a drive but Chad kept us entertained when we weren’t talking to each other. Somehow we always end up in the tour groups that know how to keep a conversation going and Chad was most impressed with our immediate rapport. I believe he might’ve said we were the best group he’d ever had. Or maybe I said it. Either way, it was undoubtedly the truth.

Finally we reached the national park. It was much more low-key than I expected. Not much of a fanfare or flashiness, which was really nice. Just some great viewpoints and a dusting of snow. We bundled out of the warm van and tried to avoid patches of ice.

Amazing views.

Spot the Colorado – it’s about the width of two olympic sized swimming pools.

When we realised two of the crew hadn’t seen snow before the next step was obvious.

I’d never actually seen anyone do this before.

Angels!

Big smiles!

We all found the view spectacular… some might even say energising.

An heroic jump!

We had such a brilliant day. I thought I’d sleep in the van on the way back but I ended up talking to Chad about American schools and government and all kinds of things. I’d definitely recommend his company to anyone thinking of going – personal service, comfort and nice small groups.

Las Vegas

Even the shop displays are so very Vegas.

Limo from the airport!

We spent four nights in Las Vegas, three at the Monte Carlo and one at the Signature MGM Grand. Apart from a day tour to the Grand Canyon we didn’t really think too hard about what we were going to do there. The first night we checked out which tickets were available for different show and decided to see Zumanity, the Circe Du Soleil burlesque show.

View from the Monte Carlo. Not the strip but still not bad.

I’ve seen one Circe show in the past and the costumes and acrobatics in Zumanity weren’t as stunning but it was very entertaining and had quite a bit of comedy in it too.

We spent most of our time walking around the strip, which was a lot more exercise than I expected. Half the intersections have bridges, sometimes you have to go into malls rather than walk on the street – it can be a bit maze-like. ¬†And then there’s the hoards of people asking for money, trying to sell stuff, handing out cards for escorts or dressed in costume so you can have your picture taken with Elmo or a transformer or whatever.

My favourite things we did, since I’m not into gambling and I’ve had enough of drinking this year, was just watching the Bellagio fountains and the Mirage volcano – the volcano was especially good because it was so very, very cold when walking around. Even with our new hi-tech, super warm jackets.

Luke in front of the Bellagio. The fountains play to a different song every half hour or so.

Should’ve brought marshmallows.

We spent our last night wandering around the ‘real’ Las Vegas. Most people don’t realise that the new strip isn’t actually in the city of Las Vegas itself. We’d headed to the Neon Museum to see the old signs that had been retired from various casinos and businesses. The website makes it look really photogenic and interesting – unfortunately when we got there it was closed for a photoshoot – despite the website saying that it was fine to turn up to any of the tour times and buy a ticket. Rather annoying after a $30 cab ride. We walked to the nearby ‘old strip’, which was almost as shiny and bright as the new one. We took some photos and then had dinner and a couple of drinks in a bar.

The Flamingo lights are my favourite.

Christmas tree outside the Venetian.

Liberace’s diamante-encrusted car.

I can’t help thinking that Vegas would be more fun in party mode, but we’re a bit worn out in that respect and these days I like my early nights. It was certainly an interesting experience though and I loved the Grand Canyon. More on that next.

Arizona: Route 66

I’ve got lots to write about Vegas, but here’s just a picturesque half hour from our day trip to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at a tiny but significant town along Route 66 – the first highway to link the east and west of the USA and much celebrated in American history.

The town of Seligman is a couple of hours from Vegas and is home to a man named Angel, who campaigned long and hard to get Route 66 and it’s historical value recognised. Thanks to him many small towns, not just Seligman, survive thanks to tourism and an ethos of enjoying the journey – not just whizzing along the interstate from city to city.

Here’s some photos from the town that inspired the movie ‘Cars’.

Snow on the hood.

Note the background car.

The barber shop.