Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back in Britain!

My final week in America began in Las Vegas! Casino City! I landed at 8am at the Las Vegas airport, and was amused to find that you don't have to even leave the airport to begin gambling!

I arrived at the El Cortez on Fremont Street, and found that Vegas is really not a morning place. I left my belongings at the hotel and wondered down to the strip. The place was dead. Silence. I know I was wondering the desert but I expected some excitement? But no one appeared until lunchtime, when suddenly a mass of people dispersed onto the streets!

I couldn't believe how massive this city was, and how different it was from any other American city. You can smoke indoors and drink in the streets, and gamble 24/7, to which most people take advantage of. No matter what time you are up in vegas, whether its 10pm at night or 5-6am in the morning, the casinos are full.

The first evening I had tickets to see Cirque Du Soleil, which turned out to be an amazing show. However before hand I decided to dress up in a suit (which I had purposely bought for my travels). I get to Las Vegas and find that people don't even dress up for even the nicest of establishments. Embarressed that I appeared to be the ONLY person in a suit, I found the most expensive restaurant I could find, which was in the MGM grand, where even here people were still coming in jeans. The prices were extortionate but was worth it if only to fit in.

The next morning I set off to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. With a keen interest in 1920s american history, I couldn't wait to see the Hoover Dam, a true iconic moment in american history, but also an industrial wonder of the world; followed by one of the seven wonders of the world; the Grand Canyon. The group I was with took a ride across the west brim of the canyon, a walk across the skywalk (I wouldn't bother...) with beautiful views of what is essentially a hole in the ground, but breath-taking all the same. This followed by a meal and entertainment at a local ranch. That evening I went to see the light show on Fremont Street and watched some live bands across the downtown area.

My final day in Vegas was spent in the shopping malls and checking out the casinos; however not for the casinos themselves as I don't actually gamble. The casinos are filled with rollercoasters, attractions, lion inhabitants in some cases! I also managed to visit the shop where Michael Jackson famously spent millions on Martin Bashire's documentary 'living with Michael Jackson'. They weren't letting the tourists in, however they must of assumed I had money as they let me straight in. After all the shopping and rollercoaster fun, I went to see the Blue Man Group perform which was hilariously entertaining. However word of warning; never turn up late to their performances, a poor couple turned up a few minutes late, and they stopped the show, put a spotlight on them and got the crowd to constantly sing 'Your late' until they got to their seats. Also never buy front row tickets as you will have to wear a rain coat to avoid the paint spillages on your clothes, glad I'd learnt not to turn up in my suit that evening!

The next day I awoke and went down to reception where I had booked the complimentary airport shuttle. They directed me outside where I was welcomed with a black executive jaguar, and the gentleman had the door open ready for me! I assumed there was a mistake and protested that the car wasn't for me... I was paying $20 a night for this hotel, I was surely getting a van of some form to the airport? But no the driver insisted the executive jaguar was for yours truly, and so I stopped protesting and accepted the free ride!

I flew to San Francisco, where my friend Renee was awaiting in the airport. We travelled up to the Haight District, an area full of hippy stores and anarchist shops, and BEAUTIFUL hairy hippy men. I gave a woman collecting for opposing against prop 8 $20 in the hope to hurry it up so I could marry one of these gorgeous fiends and live in San Francisco forever! We then went to the Castro where Harvey Milk famously began his campaign to provide homosexual rights. It was like a mini pilgrimage to the gay holy land!

We then took a famous San Francisco trolley down to Fishermans Warf where we attempted to get tickets across to Alcatraz, but it was booked up for 2 weeks! Ridiculous. But we got some good views of the island, and gives me another reason to return (besides the beautifully dirty hippies of course)! We walked along the water front where we discovered San Francisco seems to have a large number of homeless people. In fact on a trip to a public restroom, I had to step over, not one, but TWO homeless men asleep on the bathroom floor in order to use the urinals. I couldn't handle that so instead I waited until we found the nearest restaurant where I could also try some of that San Francisco famous Clam Chowder.

The next morning we got up and headed to China Town, where we found a nice collection of restaurants, gift stores and sex shops... those Chinese are horny gets I tell thee! After lunch we headed to Golden Gate Park where we had planned to visit the King Tut Egyptian exhibition, which once again appeared to be sold out! So after another disappointment we jumped on a bus to Golden Gate Bridge. However in California they're a bit strange and seem to have confusing bus routes which end in the middle of nowhere. We were dropped off on top of a hill with no side walk and were told it was the end of the line. So rather than pretending we were lost, we renamed it a hike and an adventure, and walked over to the Golden Gate Bridge.

On Thursday I returned to Chicago, where Obama was selfishly visiting just as I was landing, and of course had to take up the entire airport and surrounding roads, making my 15 minute drive home last an hour. I had my last night out with Albert and Patrik and said my goodbyes to very good friends this last year who I wouldn't have got very far without.

Friday was my final day in America, and work had set up a final farewell dinner. I packed and said my emotional farewells to the friends and the place which had been home for the last year.

I landed at Dublin at 8:30am on Saturday morning very tired and wanting my bed; I was hoping to have slept on the plane, but they distracted me with '17 again' and the 'The Office' as air entertainment... the bastards. 5 hours I had to keep away in the airport, and what else was there to do in Dublin but drink? So I found the nearest bar, and sat with an irish man for 2 hours who was giving me the addresses to the best irish bars in America... I think he was too drunk to comprehend I'd just left America...

I landed in Manchester at 3pm and realised I was home before the plane had landed. The people on the plane barely waited for the back wheels to hit the ground before running to the front of the plane with their luggage, eagerly waiting for the doors to open. One gentleman actually jumped over me to grab his stuff, such impatience. My parents were waiting for me and got me back home safely, where nothing appears to have changed, everything is just the same.... although my dad had bought a new kettle which he was keen to show me.

2 hours later, we were back in the pub again, having a drinking competition with one of my mum's friends. I officially won though seeing I'd been drinking since 9am...

So I'm back... not so much with any avengence... just with a slight yank accent and weird words which need to be beaten out with me as quickly as possible!

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