USA Honeymoon 2010 – 1. Home, LA and Vegas

Introduction

Our honeymoon was a road trip through the US Southwest. This page is a quick description of the holiday with some photos and videos included.

This was a great holiday. Our favourite place was probably Zion National Park, followd by Las Vegas. Our least favorite aspect was some the the accomodation in places like Death Valley and Yosemite, where there is a captive audience or demand exceeds supply. Most of the accomodation was good.

We flew from Heathrow to Los Angeles, and returned from San Francisco to Heathrow after 2414 miles of driving. One reason for starting in LA was that we could then keep the whole car for the trip – if we had started in Vegas, we would have had to deal with one-way drop off charges (Nevada to California), whereas if you hire a car in California, you can normally drop it off anywhere else in California for no extra cost.

Holiday route - Click for larger version

Plan

Day 0 – Heathrow

The day after our wedding, following a morning clear-up, we travelled down to Heathrow and spent the night in the Crowne Plaza, putting up my Best Man in a room since his flight back to the US was the same morning as our (but to New York).

The hotel room was fine, and it had a decent pool. My Best Man suggested a swimming race of 4 lengths, which my wife won easily, beating me by a whole length. Her swimming every morning has obviously paid off.

The hotel food was a bit average, but due to its location we were able to get a good night’s sleep and not have to get up too early for out flight.

Day 1 – Heathrow to Los Angeles - Photos

We were met by a pre-booked car to take us straight to the terminal. I quickly found out that Honeymooning gives you no chance of an upgrade.

Our flight to LA was on time, and we had pre-selected seats near the back so we got 2 seats to ourselves. The flight was spent watching films and looking out of the window.

Crops being grown in the desert

Vegas from the air - driving here tomorrow!

On arrival in LA immigration was easy, and we found the shuttle bus to take us to car hire, where we selected a Chrysler Sebring convertible. This car was comfortable, fast enough and had a big boot (trunk to Americans), but the boot space was reduced dramatically with the roof down, meaning one of our 2 bags needs to go on the back seat. While our bags were fine, if someone had a big case, I doubt it would have fitted at all with the roof down.

We had a quick and easy drive to Santa Monica and the SeaShore motel, very close to the beach. After checking in we went for a sunset walk on the beach, to Santa Monica pier, enjoying the sun and the Pacific, which felt very different from the rainy Heathrow we had left that morning.

One of many colourful lifeguard stations

 

Paddling in the pacific

 

Santa Monica Pier

 

Sunset into the Pacific

┬áDay 2 – Los Angeles to Las Vegas – Photos

We woke early since we were still on UK time, and went for an early morning sunrise walk on the beach.

We went as far South as Venice Beach / Muscle Beach, but there was nobody around. A few people were doing some early morning surfing, and lots of little birds were at the water’s edge, and some large birds swooped along the waves.

Swooping birds

Running birds

After a very tasty breakfast as the cafe next to the motel, we drove out of LA towards Vegas. The drive out of LA was easy on multi-lane highways, and as we left the city for the desert the temperature started to rise, peaking at an indicated 42 centigrade or 108 farenheit. We had tried driving with the roof down, but soon realised it was too warm for that! Over the trip, we found that the best times for having the roof down were in cooler weather and when not on the interstate.

We stopped for lunch in Barstow, which was really dissapointing. We went to Rosita’s Restaurant, which serves bland gloopy mexican food, and a house salad so coated in a thick dressing that it barely counts as salad.

Back on the road, the drive to Vegas was easy, and we followed our maps to the Signature at MGM Grand. We had chosen this hotel on the basis of excellent Tripadvisor reviews, a good location, and some reasonable mid-week rates. It is a new development of three towers built slightly behind the main MGM, and connected by walkways.

The room was on the 11th floor with views towards the strip. I would have preferred to be higher, but it was high enough. It was a great room (Signature one-bedroom balcony suite), loads of space (950 square feet, slightly larger than the average new build UK 3 bedroom house!). Big kitchen and lounge with balcony and the first bathroom. Then a ery nice bedroom and main bathroom.

A video I took of the room is here.

Bedroom

Kitchen

 

Lounge

Panorama from balcony

Once settled we went walked out to the main Strip entrance of the MGM Grand (about 10 minurtes from the reception of our tower) across to Excalibur, monorail to Mandalay Bay, then back through Luxor, Excalibur and New York New York and on up to the Bellagio.

The glass flowers on the roof of the lobby look spectacular, and we then went through the hotel to try their evening buffet.

Bellagio lobby ceiling

 

Part of a strange display behind the lobby

The buffet was ok, not the best we have had. It took my wife a while to get used to a buffet this extensive, but she soon becamse used to it.

Buffet desserts

After dinner the watched the fountains for a while before walking back to our hotel.

A video of the fountains playing a slightly cheesy song is here.

A video taken by someone else with a wide-angle lens is here. I have started the video near the end – note the very loud noise (and time for the sound to travel) of the very large fountains at the end of the piece.

Bellagio fountains

 

Day 3 Las Vegas - Photos

I woke early again and took a few photos from the balcony before returning to bed to wait for a suitable time to rise.

Night panorama

Night panorama

We decided to visit the main MGM pool. Each tower had a little pool and a few hut tubs, but the main pool is much larger (if a few minutes walk). It is an extensive pool complex with a lazy river, although only one pool was open early in the morning. It was quite quiet, so we had a swim and then lay in the sun for a while.

MGM pool, looking towards the Signature towers

Underwater photo

Following a quick return to our room, we caught the monorail to the North end of the Strip and went up the Stratospehere tower. This 1149 foot tower has a great observation area wth impressive views, and the world’s highest thrill rides on the top.

Stratosphere

 

View from Stratosphere down the strip

I went on the Big Shot ride – the world’s highest. This is really good views, and since you already start nearly 1000 feet up, the views are impressive. I had the ride to myself as it was

A video of my ride is here.

For someone elses first-person ride, see this link. Try to ignore the annoying whooping.

Waiting for launch

I also went on the Insanity ride, which I would describe as mildly disconcerting, and not very much of a thrill.

After the rides we walked back down the Strip and went into the Wynn for a buffet lunch. I was glad we did, since this is the best buffet I have ever been to. Good food, amazing range of dishes, friendly service, very nice serving and eating areas. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

See this video which demonstrates the scale of the buffet. Lots of food / buffer photos are in pages 2 and 3 of the set for that day.

The Wynn was a nice hotel to walk through, and we then went through the Palazzo / Venetian, with its many shops and gondolas, before heading back to our room for a rest and a swim in the pool.

Gondolas in the Venetian

Following dinner we went to see the Cirque de Soleil show in the MGM Grand – Ka.

This was a spectacular show, with a very impressive stage and some good performances. The theatre was a little quieter than I had expected.

After the show we headed back out into the evening for more of a wander, some watching of the Bellagio fountains(Video 1, Video 2), and a dinner at Fat Burger, which was good.

New York New York

Arc

Arc de Triomphe, Paris

 

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