Sunday, 1 September 2013

Post trip generalisations

How easy (or otherwise) was it buying fuel for our RV?

We never had any problems in obtaining fuel and rarely did we drive more than 30 miles before we passed a gas station. The most isolated region seemed to be parts of Utah. Gas was usually available in the very large National Parks (such as Yellowstone) but it was quite expensive.

Many gas stations had loyalty card schemes and whilst it is worth joining them, it is not worth driving out of your way to use them. Using the GasBuddy website saved a lot of money (see the blog entry here on buying gas in the USA using a European or non American Credit Card).

We had to look out for LPG because many gas stations did not have it but there was never a problem finding one that did – we just waited until we passed one on our planned route. Many camp sites sold LPG.

What was driving an RV like on American roads?

Our RV was 25ft long and driving it was quite easy other than that parking it could prove difficult because of its length. There were a number of occasions when we could not park where we wanted to visit because there were no parking spaces large enough. Parking over two bays seems to be accepted practice for large vehicles (although it seems you only pay for one if there are meters). Maybe were lucky never to pick up a ticket. In a few places we visited, we ensured that we got there very early in the morning in order to be able to park. A 22ft RV would have been far better – in fact we ordered a 22ft but when we went to pick our RV up, they had “run out” of our preferred size.

American drivers do not understand flashing headlight etiquette (and only rarely do they acknowledge when you may have done something to aid their driving) when you overtake or when you have been overtaken so we stopped using or expecting it.

Turning right on red seemed to be allowed everywhere unless otherwise indicated. Being undertaken could be a shock and we constantly had to look out for it. Other than in the cities, there was far less tailgating and aggressive driving than in the UK. In the few big cities we went to, driving standards were as bad as anywhere in the UK.

It is worth using a GPS in the USA?

Our GPS (TomTom satnav) was absolutely invaluable and navigation would have been very difficult without it. Using it was simple provided we had the full address of where we were going to (otherwise sometimes we had to settle for the location of “city centre” and then sort it out when we got there). We chose the “computer voice” rather than the “human voice” because that one could tell you the name of the road you were looking for and that was useful. Occasionally it got lost and told us to turn onto a road which was not there so we always treated its commands with a certain amount of caution.

We had a general road atlas and also picked up free large scale State Maps from “Welcome Centres” whenever we got to a new state because these gave quite a good detailed view of the State and its roads. Seeing where you are going on a map is always helpful and relying on a satnav only can be a disaster.

Speed limits on roads constantly changed and keeping track of the actual speed limit at any particular spot was difficult. Sometimes the GPS statement of what the speed limit was at a particular spot was wrong.

We saw lots of drivers being stopped (Oregon seemed to be the worst for this) and given tickets – we kept to at least 5 and usually 10 mph below the limit in order to avoid a ticket (it worked).

Some roads have minimum speed limits which you have to remember as well as the maximum. Unmarked police cars are very common.

Camping and RV Parks

We joined Good Sam and KOA and hence got a 10% discount at many campsites. This definitely saved us money. Most KOA campsites seem to be more expensive than non KOAs and were not necessarily better than non KOAs although booking a KOA was simplicity itself (freephone or Internet). There did not seem to be any relationship between how much you paid and how good or bad a camp site was.

The number of RV camps throughout the USA is astonishing and we found much more choice than we had expected. There are a lot of RV camps which do not have websites and / or are not in directories.

However, it was impossible to find an RV park near Chicago so we stayed in a hotel close to the airport which had a large external car park and used the Metro to get into town. This was very easy. Similarly, there are very few RV camps in Los Angeles.

There are numerous state parks throughout the USA where camping in an RV is very cheap. Usually they have no power but often have water and most times have a long drop toilet. If we were to do a similar trip in the future, we would make more use of them.

Other than the very popular areas such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Malibu and a few others, we had no problems reserving a campsite place on the day or the day before we needed it. From mid August onwards every campsite we visited (other than a few national parks) had plenty of spaces available because the schools had gone back.

Buying Food and Drink

Finding supermarkets was never a problem although finding good quality fresh food was an issue. We were surprised at how poor the quality was in some of the largest supermarkets – in general small supermarkets had fresher food. Big food shops were open seven days a week, usually very long hours and often 24 hours a day,

Decent bread was impossible to find – only one supermarket we went to had what we would call “good tasty bread” and we found only one specialist bread shop.

In one state I had to produce proof that I was aged over 21 before they would sell me beer. I did not realise that at 63 years of age, I look like a teenager! They said “everyone has to prove their age”.

Some states do not charge SalesTax and we often saved quite a lot of money by stocking up in the Sales Tax free state before we crossed a state border.

Mobiles phones in the USA whilst on the road and staying in touch

We purchased a Virgin Mobile Phone for emergency use and to phone camp sites and it turned out to be not as good as we had be told in the store. Coverage was quite limited outside of urban areas and there was a period of 2 weeks when we could get no signal at all when we were in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

AT&T seem to have the best coverage and an AT&T PAYG sim card may have been a better purchase even though its call charges would have been slightly higher.

Only one of the three mobile phones we had with us would work in the USA because it is a tri-band country and two of our UK phones were bi-band, Strangely, we do not remember having this problem the last time we were there – maybe technology has changed. Our UK sims cards worked if we put them in our tri-band phone but the cost of making and receiving a call on a UK sim card was very very high and so our friends were encouraged to use email.

When our mobile phones were not working and we wanted to make a phone call, we found that if we asked in a store “can you tell me where the nearest phone is? My British mobile phone does not seem to work here and I want to make an 800 (or sometimes a local) call?” they would invariably hand us the store phone to use. This really surprised us and was most welcome. The definition of a local call seems to be one with the same area code and 800 free phone calls apply to any phone number where the area code begins with an “8”. Sometimes we had to put a 1 in front of the area code and sometimes we did not – we never worked out how to get it correct first time.

Internet connectivity was surprisingly poor at most camp sites throughout the USA. It seems to be due to a lack of bandwidth (in one town we stayed in, the new superfast 5Mb service was proudly being advertised) and as soon as the campsite gets busy and evening comes, everyone is using WIFI and no-one can get any reasonable response. We learnt to grab any connectivity we could get at any time of the day. No doubt if we had purchased a US data package life would have been easier. A number of cafes and fast food places had free WIFI.

The cost of data roaming on a UK registered mobile phone in the USA is extortionate – do not even think of trying it.

Odds and ends

Some over the counter (OTC) drugs are much cheaper in the USA than in the UK and others are more expensive, it is probably better to bring them with you.

The USA is shamefully bad at recycling and the only place you could be sure you could recycle was in a National Park.

American TV is terrible. The only time we found anything decent to watch was when we could get a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) channel. Our van had a normal and a digital TV aerial but it rarely picked anything up. Some campsites had cable but the first sentence still applies. UK DVDs will not play on American DVD players so it is not worth bringing any with you unless you know they are “area unrestricted”.

We paid for as much as possible using credit cards (we had a couple of the UK “foreign transaction commission free” cards) and quite often we had to produce some ID to use the card – our signature was not sufficient. Other than at ATMs, we never used PINs in the USA, they do not have the technology although there is talk of them being introduced in a few years time.

There are ATMs everywhere and it is useful to have a couple of debit cards just in case the machine swallows one card. On the one occasion we got cash from an ATM at a proper bank, we got a very bad rate of exchange  - $1.44 to £ as against the $1.55 we were getting on our credit cards. The rate we got for $ in the UK before we left was far better than that on offer anywhere in the USA.

Whilst we always were careful about our personal security, only once did we feel uneasy and then we made a speedy departure. We did find statements made by some of our fellow campers “of course we have a gun in our RV / handbag / bedroom / car” a little unsettling although no one ever produced one to show us.

The National Parks Service is superb and usually offered a range of ranger led activities throughout the day. We purchased an $80 one year America Pass which proved to be good value because we visited a lot of parks.

We went through four time zones and therefore had to be aware of when it changed. The clocks going back when travelling west was never a problem because we just had more time to get to where we were going but the clocks going forward an hour when travelling eastwards meant we had to be aware of the time in our destination. Arizona was a catch out because although in the Mountain Time region, it observes Pacific Standard Time. A helpful check was to say “what’s the time with you now?” when we were booking a campsite somewhere where we suspected there was a time change.

All of the above comments are of course generalisations but they reflect what we experienced. 

How did we plan the trip?

Many dark wintery nights were spent working out a draft route which:

  • visited all of the places we would like to go to;
  • had few really long days driving;
  • got us to certain places on set dates;
  • enabled us to determine the date we would be at some places; and
  • had sufficient space in it to allow us flexibility.

It also had to take into account Independence Day and Labour Day when much of America goes on holiday.

Explaining some of these planning constraints in more detail:

  • we wanted to go to the Deadwood City Rodeo which is held only on the third weekend in July;
  • visit a couple of friends en-route and it is only fair to them to let them know when we were going to arrive etc
  • whilst much of the time we could just turn up at a camp site or phone earlier in the day and expect to get a pitch, there were some places where that is guaranteed impossible. For us, these include Yosemite (reservations open in mid February), Yellowstone, Custer State Park and a few more.

So we have had to plan a route which enabled us to say with certainty, “we intend to be in Yellowstone from X to Y” so we could book a pitch as soon as bookings opened.

We also knew from experience that along the way it was highly likely that we would want to stay somewhere for an extra day or go and visit somewhere we had just heard about.

To do this we needed space in the plan and the ability to adjust the plan as much as possible.

Devising a route and plan which coped effectively with the above took a long time but eventually it resulted in:

Planned Route

The total distance of the above was just over 8000 miles so we were expecting our final distance to be around 10,000 miles allowing for diversions and all the other little trips which soon increase the distance.

The principal places we wanted to visit were:

Getty Museums in Los Angeles CA
Hurst Castle San Simeon CA
Yosemite CA
Bodie Ghost Town CA
San Francisco CA
Bodega Bay CA
Walla Walla WA
Glacier National Park MT
Craters of the Moon National Park ID
Grand Tetons National Park WY
Yellowstone National Park WY
Little Bighorn MT National Monument
Deadwood City SD
Mount Rushmore SD National Memorial
Chicago Il
Columbus In
Arthur IL
Springfield IL
Oklahoma OK
Amarillo TX
Holbrook AZ
Winslow AZ
Arches National Park UT
Las Vegas NV

and of course there were lots of other places in between the above which we saw on the way.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Home again, Home again..

Route final

Friday 30th August was our 75th day on the road and the last day in the van. After a 6 hour drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, the latter part of which being quite difficult due to the very crowded roads and fast traffic (it was Labor Day Weekend and many people were making an early get away for the weekend), we returned Mac to the Van hire

Goodbye MAC

Depot somewhat grubbier than when we picked him up and headed to the airport.

Contrary to the common experience, our transit through LAX was easy (although its facilities are sparse when compared with Heathrow),

Route Back from LAX.bmp

the overnight flight back was about one hour shorter than timetabled and after 76 days on the road, a tired pair of travellers opened their front door to a mountain of mail and an overrun garden (with short grass thanks to M).

During our 76 days away, we drove nearly 9500 miles, used over 1100 gallons of gas, stayed at 47 camp sites, visited 18 states and 18 national parks, washed our clothes 12 times……. and we saw more of the USA than many of the people who live there have seen. We met some very interesting people, had discussions with people of all political persuasions, made many new friends and met again with some old friends.

To say the trip was an education is an understatement. Although we have been to the USA many times before, this time we went to areas which neither of us had been to previously and we were astonished at the different types of landscapes which we came across. We went to some fantastic museums, saw some lovely old buildings, saw some terrible edge of town developments amd much more.

Our favourite states were Montana and Utah with Wyoming following closely behind. We decided that really we prefer “large landscape and few people” and we certainly found those few occasions when we went into big cities rather difficult.

We also had numerous opportunities to meet and talk to Americans on their home ground. We will particularly remember a campground in Montana and evenings around a camp fire, meeting my Cousin for the first time was a real pleasure as was meeting again someone we last met some 43 years ago and also someone we met recently in Norway who seems to get as much pleasure out of travelling as we do.

Whilst we were on the road, we wrote down numerous questions about America and the places we went through to which we did not know the answer and researching these will keep us occupied during the winter months. They range from easy ones such as:

  • what are the words to Rawhide;
  • what is the history of the Hutterites

to more esoteric ones such as:

  • why is two medicine river so called;
  • what is in a field just south of Bynum Montana

and at least a hundred more.

Now we have to consider where to go next – Alaska is high on the list alongside Africa. Which one of these or anywhere else will it be?

You will have to wait and see.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Las Vegas is mad

Route Las Vegas

We are visiting Las Vegas simply because neither of us have been there before and it is one of those places you should visit, even if you do so only once in a lifetime. There is an RV park close to the centre of LV at the Circus Circus Hotel / Casino and that is where we are staying. Really it is a large tarmac car park with RV facilities but it will be better to stay there and walk into town than stay on the outskirts and have to travel in by bus every time.

The first view we get of LV surprises us – it is much smaller than we had imagined it to be.

Las Vegas First View

After quite a boring drive across cactus studded desert with mountains on the distance, a town appeared on the horizon and it looked like I imagined LV would look but it did not look large enough – there was a thin strip of skyscrapers surrounded by a smallish outlying district. Having checked the “distance to destination” on the satnav against a road sign, we decided it had to be LV and of course it was.

Our KOA RV site was between the main Strip area and Downtown and hence when we went out for a walk, the surrounding area was less than exciting and we wondered what all the fuss was about - that was until we took the night bus tour. The only way to show why is to include numerous pictures into the blog entry. The tour starts starts at dusk and continues into the evening but it is not logical to show the pictures in chronological order because we assembled a portfolio of the architectural madness that is LV (both during the day and the evening) over a period of a couple of days.

Trump Tower at night

 

As the sun sets on the gold plated Trump Tower which actually is off The Strip and has no Casino and boasts of being Pet Friendly

we set off on a trip up and down The Strip.

Sphinx Pyramid Searchlight Obviously apart from iconic Casinos / Resort Hotels such as the Luxor which has a very bright (42.3 Billion Candela) beam of light shining out of the top of the Pyramid (hotel), so bright in fact that it was said to be visible some 275 miles away by planes over Los Angeles Airport, we see lots of neon lights (there is in fact a Neon Light Graveyard which you can visit to see lights from the old days).

Amongst the lights and other interesting illuminated objects which we pass are:

Motel SignElvis signMGM Grand MGM Bronze Lion McDonalds Sign Harrahs-1 Harrahs

and this supermarket which I have included  

White Cross Market

because we were constantly told that it is famous for the fact that “The Rat Pack” used to go there for early breakfasts because it was visited at that time of day by many Las Vegas dancers purchasing their stage make-up.

Leaning Building Veer Towers

The walls of the Veer Towers have been built to lean 50 from the vertical although from the ground it looks a lot more and next to the Veer is the Gucci Store which is also strangely shaped.

Casino Themes

In order to attract gamblers, each hotel on The Strip has a particular theme. You can choose from gambling in Venice, Paris, New York, Cairo, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace and many other places. Some themes have been done better than others and most will have cost an enormous amount to build showing that there is a lot of money to be made in gambling.

The Bellagio has dancing fountains which

Bellagio Fountains

B Bellagio Fountains

B Bellagio Fountains-001

perform to music during the day.

There are numerous videos of them on YouTube taken from a restaurant high up in the hotel – if an advert appears when you play this one, click on the X in the top right corner of the advert and it will disappear.

Treasure Island has a couple of old sailing ships outside of it in a large lake and every evening a “play” takes place during which a crew of “Pirates” are tempted by a crew of “Sirens”

Treasure Island Battle SireensTI Sirens

with some astonishing pyrotechnics.

Mirage Volcano

The Mirage has an exploding volcano with equally astonishing pyrotechnics and large crowds assemble around the hotels at the appropriate time to see the show.

The Venetian

This was our favourite themed casino, simply because it was done so well.

VenniceV Tower and Bridge

The obvious structure outside is the “Campanile di

V Venetian

San Marco” but adjacent to that is one of the famous bridges in Venice which you can see in the picture.

V outside

The canals are somewhat cramped in front of the hotel but inside the canals

V Canals and shops V Canals inside

open up and there is ample room for the Gondoliers who take tourists around the canal system on gondolas which have a small electric motor (unlike those in Venice) to keep them moving at a constant regulated speed. The Gondoliers sing in Italian but their repertoire seemed to be somewhat limited – we heard “O Sole Mio” too many times when we were there.

The Piazza San Marco has moved indoors away from its tower

V Piazza Night Time

V Piazza Dancing Opera

and it is full of diners and also a live group of singers and dancers.

V SHops

The shops seem to be very high end and priced to use up any winnings.

V Casino

The Casino in the basement looks the same as casinos everywhere in this city

V Ceiling V Pepsi Mosaic

other than the enormous quite realistic ceiling painting in the foyer to the Casino and the rather unusual (no doubt genuine) Roman mosaic at the entrance to the toilets.

V Carnivale V Carnivale-001

Today (as it seems to be on most days) is Carnivale and performers are in the grand hall in front of the Casino.

New York New York

Crysler Building

This hotel / casino is modelled on the New

New York New York

York skyline and outside of course, is a copy of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge which was under construction when we were there.

NY Inside NY Inside-001

The streets here are more obviously film set like

NY Bar

and the bar shows the dedication of casinos to making it easy for you to gamble. You can sit at the bar and gamble as you drink using one of the bandits built into the bar top. 

Paris Las Vegas

is at its name suggests. Outside is a 50% size version of the Eiffel Tower

P Eiffel Tower-001 P Eiffel Tower at night

and a version of the Arc de Triomphe de

P Arc de Triomphe

l'√Čtoile with an advert for a chef who would not find himself on the real thing,

P Montgolfier

also the Montgolfier Brothers have landed nearby with a large advert.

Inside there are a number of reasonably

P Street-003

realistic streets

P Street P Street-001 P Street-002

and some rather interesting Framerlais signs

P Framerlais

which show American versions of Franglais such as Le Car Rental and more.

P Casino

The Casino is of course the central part of the hotel and looks little different to others.

P Craps

Circus Circus

We were camping in the grounds of Circus Circus who theme is self evident.

Circus Circus Sign

Because we walked through the Casino a few times each day (it was so hot outside, even at night, that the trick to survival was to stay in the air conditioning as long as possible) we decided to spend our gambling allowance there – a whole $10 each. Having decided that we were going to gamble recklessly, we first needed to learn how to do it. The Casino helpfully provides free lessons in a number of the ways to lose your money so we attended a Craps lesson

CC Bewildered at Craps

and came away more bewildered than when we started and also a Roulette lesson which seemed to be a much easier way of loosing your money.

Circus Circus One Armed Bandits

It was the slots however that we finally decided to take on.

CC Bewildered Gambler

There seemed to be hundreds of them, all flashing lights and making every sort of noise possible. There may well be an art to playing them but if there is, we did not know it.

CC Pat feeding the slots

Our technique was to insert a $1 bill into a slot, push the minimum bet button, pull the handle and see what happened next.

CC Our Winnings

We won!!!!

The above (plus another one for $1.92) are our payout slips for different $1 bets and we came away from the experience a total of 92 cents the richer which we spent (and more) on Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the Casino because we did not want them to suffer financially due to our large winnings.

It is true that there are no windows or clocks in casinos so you have no idea what the time is, they bring free drinks to you as you are betting and will also bring snacks. Everything possible is done to encourage you to gamble. You are not allowed to gamble however if you are seen to be drunk and you have to be over 21 but the age rule does not seem to stop lots of young children walking through the gambling area with their parents. It is also the only place we have been to in America where smoking is allowed indoors. Hence many more people were smoking here than anywhere else perhaps because they were allowed to do it and it reminded them of “the good old days”. There is a growing lobby however amongst the workers in casinos to have it banned since it obviously affects their health.

Even though we were big winners, we are still of the opinion that ambling is for fools or the very lucky or those that know how to play and do not mind loosing money (I mind !)

Circus Circus tortureIn order to live up to its name, Circus Circus has an indoor adventure park where you can be turned upside down on a variety of rides, win enormous stuffed toys which you cannot take home with you on the plane and numerous other absolutely essential things.

It also has (we think in part of the hotel where there used to be a circus ring), various circus acts during the day.

CC Flying Angels-003 

CC Flying Angels-001We saw the World Famous (apparently) Flying Angels from Argentina who actually were quite good. During the act they whirled through the air singly, doubly and in triplets and generally made you grateful that there was no audience participation.

CC Flying Angels

They all survived of course, but personally experiencing

CC Flying Angels-002

a flying trapeze in still not on either of our bucket lists. Someone has put a video of their act on YouTube and you can see it here.

Downtown Las Vegas

The downtown end of Las Vegas has seen better days because most of the new developments are some miles away. Most people do not know that the Las Vegas Strip is not actually in Las Vegas City but in an town called Paradise which is an unincorporated town in Clark County. Therefore when they say they are going to Las Vegas, they are actually going to Paradise! (something which Las Vegas as a whole certainly is not).

As you drive to the downtown area, you pass “The Stratosphere” which is part of a casino

Stratospherecomplex (of course). The “attraction” here is to go to the top of the tower, parachute down after a long controlled free fall or participate in one of a number of rides which dangle you over the edge. Unfortunately, our bus did not stop there so we were unable to get off and try the rides out.

Also on the road to Downtown are numerous wedding chapels. Americans like to say that LV is the wedding capital of the USA (Reno is the divorce capital) and hence there is always somewhere in LV where you can get married, any day of the year, any time of the day.

Wedding Chapel Little WestViva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel

We lost track of whom had been married to whom and in which chapel, which were drive-in drive out, how many had Elvis Presley officiating over the ceremony, which one would send Elvis to your hotel in a large open topped Cadillac to drive you to and from the chapel, which one had trapeze artists to assist you in celebrating the day, which one would speak Klingon throughout the ceremony etc.

Graceland Wedding Chapel

A famous one is the Graceland Wedding Chapel which is so called because Elvis gave them permission to use the name and if you are thinking of getting married there, here will take you to their website.

Las Vegas sign

It is the custom once you are married, to drive to the far end of The Strip where there is the famous Las Vegas sign and have your photograph taken. When we went past it, there were a few couples there recording the occasion.

Golden Nugget Casino

One of the original downtown casinos is the

GN Golden Nugget sign

Golden Nugget which has a Golden Nugget in the foyer to give credence to its name.

GN Hand of fiath nugget

GN Nugget

This is said to be the largest gold nugget on display in the world and weighs 875 troy ounces (61 lbs 11 ounces) and was found by a prospector in Australia outside his trailer home using a metal detector. We know that such prospectors exist because we met one when we were there a few years ago.

GN Gold ATM

 

Opposite the nugget is one of three gold bar ATMs in America (and currently one of only ten in the world).

 

 

GN Gold PricesOn a screen is the current price they are selling gold bars at (apparently updated automatically as the price of gold changes) and you insert cash and in return get a gold bar. My calculations indicated that the price of a gold bar here was significantly more than the price of gold on the market that day. They say it is there to encourage people who win in the casino to convert their winnings into gold – and also for rich men to impress their girlfriends.

GN Slots-001

The slots are the same as anywhere but the Casino has a fish theme about it (we never discovered why) hence the advert for fresh halibut above the slots,

GN Reception

the very large fish tank behind reception

GN Shark Tank with chuteand the fish tank in the centre of the swimming pool which has a water slide going through the middle of it. The attraction is that you can go down the water side and pass through the middle of a tank with sharks swimming around you.

You could of course go to the Red Sea like I do and dive with them but that probably is not as exciting as doing it in a hotel in the middle of Las Vegas!

Fremont Street

The response of Downtown LV (where the original Casinos were and still are) to the attractions of The Strip was to create Fremont Street and it is superb (other than that it is a long way from The Strip).

The main attraction is the worlds longest TV screen in the roof of Fremont Street and it is amazing. On the hour, a video show takes place using the full length of the street

FS Roof 1 FS Roof-001 FS Roof-002 FS Roof-003

Spaceships fly down the full length of the roof of the street, the whole street turns into a guitar, graphics appear everywhere, it really is well done.

We only took still pictures of the “experience” but there are numerous videos of it on YouTube – including this one which is not bad (just click on the “x” to get rid of the advert)

What the video does not give you is the power of the sound system which is very loud. When they played an extract of the next video scheduled to be shown (Queen “We will Rock You”), the whole place reverberated. There are (relatively poor) videos of Queen at Freemont Street on YouTube – the video roof really is very good and well worth going to see.

Apart from the roof, there were numerous street performers including a good Elvis

FS Elvis

and dancers in various states of attire.

FS Lights FS Lights-001

Apart from all of this, there are astonishing neon light displays,

FS Lights-002 FS Lights-003

and street artists in various costumes who are prepared to pose with you for a souvenir photograph for a tip. The Casinos feature dancing on the tables in various states of undress as do the bars along the street and everybody who goes there seems to get caught up in the atmosphere.

It is a most astonishing place but is disadvantage is that it is isolated from the rest of LV and therefore if you stayed there you would constantly be travelling some distance to The Strip because of what is on offer there.

Of all of the recreations, Venice was superb and very classy, Paris was very good and New York was good. Circus Circus next to which we were camping was rather tired and tatty and felt a bit like a run down Blackpool.

Goodbye USA Meal

On our final night in the USA, we went to a

V Pat and a Margarita 

Mexican Restaurant where Pat was able to have her favourite drink – Margarita and we both sampled some superb Mexican cuisine,

V Polo Con Mole Poblano V Mushroom Tacos

That we were dining by the side of a Venetian Canal with gondoliers singing as they passed by and then we went to the Piazza San Marco to hear some opera and where underneath it (that the Piazza in Venice has an underneath (!) is a well kept secret) they were celebrating Carnevale and just down the road was the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre and in the opposite direction was New York and nearby was the Luxor Pyramid may seem unusual. But only in Las Vegas can you go abroad so easily and because so many Americans never travel abroad, this may be the closest they will ever get to foreign climes.

With Las Vegas, you just have to go with it and not take it seriously. If you worry about it, you will never enjoy it. Our 2½ days there were long enough and we are pleased to have visited it once (only).