Friday 12th June
All booked and planned several months ago, the time had finally come to head to the airport. To anyone who had asked the story we’d given was that we were spending time in Dallas along with several days driving stretches of Route 66. That was indeed true, it just wasn’t the whole truth as everyone now knows. With the dogs safely in kennels, and the cats looking forward to three weeks of my dad’s attention, we were up bright and early on Friday morning. After a quick breakfast and one last double check of the house and our cases, our lift arrived i.e my dad turned up. Half an hour later we had checked in at Edinburgh airport ahead of our short flight to Heathrow.
Chilling at Heathrow
Flight down to London was quick and uneventful. Only thing worth mentioning is that in the seat in front of me was Peter Snow – he of the election ‘swingometer’. Once at Heathrow we had a three hour wait until our second flight departed. That flight wasn’t in fact to Dallas, but instead to the desert city of Las Vegas, Nevada. Trip from Heathrow to McCarron International was scheduled to last 10 hours and 15 minutes. Amazingly on board was a bunch of lads heading to the desert for a stag do. Twenty one hour round trip for a two day bender, expensive and tiring. My stag do wasn’t quite as elaborate.
Hello, Las Vegas
We touched down in Las Vegas at around 8pm local time, 4am back in the UK, as we were now eight hours behind home. This meant we were knackered but still had a few hours left to stay awake to begin the recovery from jet lag. Unlike our last US trip, we got through immigration without a hitch and collected our bags, which we’d last seen in Edinburgh. Next task was to find our shuttle bus to the hotel. This obviously involved going outside into the Las Vegas night. One word, wow! Leaving behind the air conditioned airport concourse the heat hit you bang in the chops. It was like someone holding a warm hair-dryer a few feet from your face. A dry heat, but a very warm heat and this was at night without the sun to add to the experience. We soon found our shuttle stop and when our carriage arrived it was only another ten minutes or so until we reached the hotel.
The view from our room
We had chosen to stay at somewhere called The Vdara. What made this hotel different to a lot of others on the Strip was a lack of casino, restaurants and shops. It was just somewhere to crash. Yes, there was a cafe, bar and a Starbucks, but that apart it was really just bedrooms. Perfect for us as it was a place to retreat to from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas. Our room was on the tenth floor and gave us a great view of the distant mountains as well as a large slice of Las Vegas. After scoffing down some food from the cafe we eventually gave into tiredness and headed for bed.
Saturday 13th June
The Strip (facing south)
After a coffee and pastry from Starbucks we set off to explore the Strip. Temperatures were pushing 110 as we had our first full-on experience of an early summer’s day in the Nevada desert. Not surprisingly it was absolutely roasting, but as I said before a very dry roasting. This meant it seemed as if you weren’t sweating as any sweat just evaporated as soon as it formed. When you went into an AC (air conditioned) building you felt sweaty for a few minutes as the built up moisture didn’t evaporate, instead it poured down your forehead and back. Nice!
Guess what they sell here!
From our hotel we turned down the Strip towards the MGM Grand. On the way we had a root around a shop dedicated to the humble M&M. However, this wasn’t just any old shop, it had four floors filled with everything you could possible think of crafted in homage to a chocolate sweet. Needless to say we bought a bag, and to be fair they did a good job of not melting. The first casino we had a close look at was New York, New York, just across from the MGM. In here we stopped for a moment to catch up on the Scotland game against Ireland which was showing at a sports bar. Final score was 1-1, decent result for the Jocks. There was a nice looking Irish pub which we didn’t go in this time, but did later.
Healthy eating on hold
A walk back up the Strip and we eventually found ourselves at Planet Hollywood. What I mean by Planet Hollywood is the front part of the hotel which was taken up by a shopping mall called The Miracle Mile. Not exactly sure where guests checked in, perhaps there was another way into the hotel. This was one of our favourite malls because it had what we would deem as normal shops i.e places with clearance racks and 2-for-1 instead of another intimidating Louis Vuitton where the staff almost always outnumbered the customers. After Deena was nabbed by someone trying to sell her beauty products we eventually came across a place called Vegas Cheeseburgers. It was really just a themed pub/restaurant, very casual with telly’s showing baseball and the likes. A couple of beers and a full belly of food later we finished our wander through the Miracle Mile and headed back to the Vdara.
Sunday 14th June
After breakfast and a relaxing hour or so in the hotel we set out into the sun. This time we had a definite destination and plan for the day. Sunday was the day our wedding moved one step closer. Back home we’d already applied for a marriage licence, today we had to go and collect and pay for it. Once that was done we had an appointment with Vegas Weddings!
Looks like it’s happening!
Best way to get up and down the Strip was by bus. Therefore we each bought a three day pass for $15. For that we could go on the main Vegas buses (Deuce, SDX) as often as we liked for three days, which was a good deal. Today would be the first of three times we used our pass to make the 25 minute trip up to the Bonneville Transit Centre. From the Transit Centre (bus station) everything we needed was a five minute walk away. Our first port of call this particular afternoon was the Marriage Licence Bureau on East Clark Avenue. Have to say the Marriage Licence office looked more like somewhere people were registering deaths – it was a bit dowdy and run down. However, it was quick and within 15 minutes we were in and out. Next port of call was Vegas Weddings, a couple of hundred yards down the street.
We were about an hour early for our appointment, but there was no way we were going to walk round the block in temperatures of 113. Therefore we made for the sanctuary of Vegas Weddings and their air con. As it happens they were happy for us to wait, and if possible, see someone earlier than planned. After about half an hour we got seen and all our outstanding paperwork was completed. This involved us giving them the marriage licence, signing a few documents and paying whatever money was due. If you’re interested we were having the Drive-Thru Faster wedding package. Vegas Weddings looked a nice place, fresh, bright and overall a good venue to get married. Definitely felt more up market than the kind of place some people may think folk go to get married in Las Vegas i.e. a mouldy Elvis manning reception.
After sorting out the final details of the wedding we headed back to the Strip. A second meal in Vegas Cheeseburger was followed by a walk back to the hotel to chill. Our last night as two single people.
Monday 15th June
Our wedding day!
To be honest, I can’t remember if we had breakfast or not. I don’t think we did, the ceremony was set for 10:15 and there wasn’t much time to spare. Once washed and dressed (both in white of course) we headed down to the hotel lobby to catch a taxi. Journey to Vegas Weddings in local traffic was an unknown factor so we left plenty of wiggle room. Therefore as with our trip up the day before we were early – not as early as Sunday, but still early none the less. However, like before it wasn’t a problem. Our flowers were removed from their cold storage and while mine was pinned on, Deena held onto hers. After about 15 minutes (this was still well before 10:15) a woman we hadn’t met before said hello and asked us if we’d selected the location. We hadn’t and in truth it wasn’t something which had been mentioned until now. Think I thought there was just a standard location and choice wasn’t involved, but it was.
We therefore set off on a quick tour of the venue. As it turned out we could get married outside in the sun in front of a “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, in the reception of the venue next to an “infinity fountain” or in the drive-thru tunnel. Luckily for us there was a fourth option which was only available because we were early – a proper wedding room. There was a wedding set for around the same time as ours in this room, but we were early so got in there ahead of the next party. We actually thought we were just being shown this room as part of the tour but before you knew it the ceremony was about to begin. The woman we assumed to be one of the wedding planners was actually the minister.
Around five minutes later it was done. Rings and vows exchanged and Deena Catherine Clements was now my wife. Some would say about time too after being together for over 13 years. After the wedding we chilled for a few minutes while another wedding came and went. It was then that the photographer turned up. Over the course of the next 15 minutes, and multiple locations, between 40-50 pictures were taken of the happy couple. Once this was done we said our goodbyes to Vegas Weddings. But fear not, we would be back again the next day to get our official marriage certificate and pick out the photographs we wanted to buy.
Our flowers, after a full day walking around Las Vegas, in 43 degrees C, attached to my hat and Paul’s rucksack!
On leaving Vegas Weddings it was a short stroll back to the Transit Centre. I quickly changed from my black jeans into shorts before we got on the bus to the Strip. It had been a busy and momentous morning but the fact was it was still barely 11am i.e. plenty of the day ahead. What we decided to do was visit the Titanic exhibition at the Luxor hotel. Wasn’t a huge exhibition but what there was took a good hour or so to wander around. Star of the show was “The Big Piece” which was as the name suggests, err, a big piece of the side of the ship.
Titanic – No sight or sound of Jack and Rose!
After Titanic we made for New York, New York and decided to have lunch at the Nine Irishman pub. Two drinks were enjoyed at the bar (which included the picture we put on Facebook to break the news) before we went inside for a meal – and delicious it was too. A few hours later we ended up back at the hotel. Perhaps not the wedding day many people would want but it was what we wanted. I’m sure everybody we know will understand and accept that.
Tuesday 16th June
Nice way to start married life
We thought we’d start our first full day as a married couple in style, so room service it had to be. Deena had pancakes while I went for the more traditional bacon and eggs. All very nice and put us in good spirits for our third and last trundle up the Strip to the Bonneville Transit Centre, and Vegas Weddings. The aim of today’s trip was to collect our official marriage certificate, and to pick out our one free photograph. First stop was the Vegas Weddings’ main building we had been to on the previous two days. Here we picked up our marriage certificate. It was then outside, back into the scorching heat and a short walk to their other property which is where they show the photographs. It was only three doors up so only took a couple of minutes to get there.
There was around 50 pictures in total and we were entitled to one free as part of the package. However, in the end we selected three. There were others which we liked but we settled on the three we liked best. Within an hour we were done with the photos and done with Vegas Weddings. Think what our experience shows is that if you want to do something with at least a modicum of classiness it can’t be done in five minutes. So while it was to most people a “quickie” wedding, even that required advance planning and slices out of three days of our time in Las Vegas. It was worth it though, as we both thought it went well and the photos looked great.
Just one Cornetto etc
A quick walk past the location for “Pawn Stars” before we boarded the bus back to the Strip. Our mall of the day was one inside The Venetian. Being Las Vegas there was indeed gondoliers in full regalia singing while they ferried punters through various waterways inside the mall. We had our main meal of the day at an Asian Noodle restaurant where I successfully completed both courses with chopsticks – Mrs Clements whimped out and stuck to her knife and fork.
Wednesday 17th June
Something was missing from our schedule today, oh yes, a trip up to the Bonneville Transit Centre! Instead we stayed fairly close to the Vdara and wandered through Bellagio to Caesar’s Palace. To explain. The Vdara and Bellagio were connected by a walkway from one hotel to the other. You did need to go outside, but only briefly, and under a roof. The Bellagio is the hotel with the famous fountains which do a show similar to the one we saw in Dubai last year. Caesar’s Palace was the next hotel up from Bellagio and is where many big boxing matches take place – not sure where, but I think there was an auditorium somewhere in amongst the labyrinth of gaming tables and restaurants.
Time for cheesecake
Spent most of the afternoon at the Palace. Shops were ok, bit more up market than Planet Hollywood but at least had some which weren’t the empty, high end retailers with no prices on the displays. Before going to Las Vegas I’d noticed somewhere called “The Cheesecake Factory”. In my naivety I thought this was a factory which made cheesecakes. Sounded like a good place to visit. As it happens it is of course a restaurant which specialises in cheesecakes. It is also famous for a menu which has more pages than you almost have time to read. I ended up choosing something Mexican while Deena had a burger. We both then had cheesecake. On leaving we were absolutely stuffed.
After another stroll through the shops, our cheesecake stretched bellies headed back to the Vdara. On the way we took a trip up the Las Vegas version of the Eiffel Tower. Great views up and down the Strip as well as the surrounding desert and mountains.
Thursday 18th June
This was our last full day in Vegas and we decided to spend it with a spot of retail therapy. Yes, we’d been in shops several times, but on this occasion we headed for a place we might actually buy something. In Vegas there are two main outlet villages, Premium Outlets North and Premium Outlets South. The North is more Louis Vuitton and Prada, whereas South was Nike and Tommy Hilfiger. So South it was. A 15 minute trip on the “SDX” (express bus) soon had us on site.
One of the first things we did was get some breakfast i.e. a couple of coffees and some pastry. At first I thought I’d made a mess of the order as it was half what we had been paying in the hotel’s Starbucks. But no, I hadn’t mucked up, it really was half the price. Moral of that story is the undoubted fact that the Strip charges more than anywhere else in town. As it happened the coffee and pastry were probably the best we had all week. After coffee we did a couple of laps of the mall. I ended up with a few things, while Deena not so much. That’s usually the way it happens: Deena looks at a lot and buys little, I look at a little and buy most of it.
Our main meal of the day was back on the Strip at our favourite Irish Pub in New York, New York. After that it was time to pack. With the cases zipped up we headed out for one last walk amongst the lights and sights of the Vegas strip, and yes, it was still blooming roasting even with the time nearing ten.
Bellagio fountains doing their thing
Walking back to the Vdara for the last time
Friday 19th June (Part 1)
Checked out using the TV, as you do. Meant when we left all we had to do was drop the room card at reception. They had our credit card details so they simply deduct what you owe when you leave. Simple and quick. A taxi was then hailed and off we headed to pick up our rental car for our five day road trip. Details of that in the second installment of “Hot Stuff in The States”.
Thanks for reading.