The day started with a swim for the girls, and a quick visit to Starbucks for me to upload to our website and pickup email (and, importantly, the latest virus updates for Sophos – viruses are big news here at the moment). Then it was off to Calico, an old mining village that is now a real, original Ghost Town. Well, we were pretty disappointed. It had been restored to the point of a theme park. All of the original buildings had been rebuilt in new wood and it had all been made to look brand new, rather than looking a few hundred years old. And every single building was now a shop or a café.
So we’d paid $15 to visit a shopping arcade. Most of the things we saw were pretty tacky, but we all enjoyed the cowboy gunfight, and the gold panning. But half an hour there was enough.
On the way out we called into the cemetery, which was outside the theme park areas, in which were buried original inhabitants of the town from the 1800’s. There were simple wooden headstones, still standing and legible 150 years on. This was probably one of the most interesting parts (although it wasn’t mentioned in the literature or guide – we’d read about it in a newspaper!).
Then it was on the road again, heading to and through Las Vegas. Our aim was to reach southern Utah, within a 100 miles of the North rim of the Grand Canyon. We did have worries about finding reasonably priced accommodation, because Kanab (where we were heading) has a weekend long cowboy festival, which means all the motels are full. But we knew that rooms are really expensive in Las Vegas at weekends, and the town is pretty busy. We wanted to be there when it was quieter (relatively!). When we stopped at the first tourist office inside Nevada (at Primm, which is a vast casino built 10 yards over the state line!) we found out that a huge conference was due into LV on Monday, taking 90,000 hotel rooms (yes, NINETY THOUSAND) and we’d have no chance later in the week. So we changed our plans, and decided to do LV first, then the Grand Canyon etc. (This has to be a good plan, because we can then go to Kanab when the cowboys have all gone home!).
We arrived in Las Vegas around 4pm. Boy, is it an odd city. After driving 3 hours across the desert, with no trees, buildings or roads apart from the Interstate 15, you suddenly see this big city right in the middle of the desert, surrounded by more desert. And slap bang in the middle of the city is a pyramid, a bundle of famous New York buildings, including the Statue of Liberty, plus an medieval castle and a spire with a roller coaster round the outside of it. Oh, and the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. You suddenly wonder if you’re seeing things. We checked out a few hotels – the big ones were $100 up (Friday night!), and the motels were from around $60, but seemed a bit tacky. And then we found St Tropez Suites. We had a voucher for $49.99 a night rooms, but this excluded weekends. Somehow Sarah’s negotiating worked wonders – the front desk guy came down from $89.99 to $49.99, even though he was charging everybody else $90 and up. So we got a great room, looking out over a great pool, including breakfast, for £35. And it is very modern and spacious. As soon as we’d checked in we hit the pool, to wash away the 98-degree heat and dust of the day. This is definitely NOT a £35 a night hotel – you’d pay a fortune for this elsewhere. Oh the joys of Vegas! We did discover a small flaw – that its right under the flight path for the airport, but as the airport is only ½ mile out of town, then I guess every hotel is. In fact, it was quite exciting watching the private jets flying in for Friday night gambling. There was even a Tomcat (yes, a fighter plane) which landed – I’d heard that really, really rich people (like those who work for Microsoft) own fighter jets, but to actually see one landing at the airport made the story a bit more real!
Later we went to the strip – we walked the three blocks (we shouldn’t have done that in the early evening, in that heat, with hungry girls) and went to the Aladdin Hotel. It was great, a shopping arcade inside the hotel resembling an Arabian souk. We’ve been inside a few real souks in Egypt and Morocco, and this was a convincing copy (except that it didn’t have the smells, all the shops were American, and I’m not sure if the rickshaw rides were really in keeping!). The other impressive bit was the indoor monsoon, every half-hour. We sat eating dinner, watching the rain falling inside a shopping arcade – with lightning and the sky turning dark.
Then outside, to join the throbbing throng on the pavements, moving across the roads in a wave (it was like Oxford Street at Christmas). We saw the fountain display outside the Bellagio, and wow’d at the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe outside Paris. We made the mistake of thinking it was realistic, so we went to look at the hotel inside. Big mistake – it was jammed full of slot machines and casino equipment. What a let down. But still, the outside was great to look at. And very convenient, because they’ve rebuilt all the big sights of the world within a few hundred yards of each other. Today, Arabia and Paris. Tomorrow we’re thinking of going to Venice and the Pyramids!