Friday, July 27, 2007

Day 59

It turns out that the boys (except Paulo) played poker last night and they played and they played and they played...

They played all night and rang us because they were hungry and wanted to meet for breakfast. I woke up still feeling a bit rough but went to meet the lads for breakie in Nine Fine Irish Men. A full Irish and a couple of cups of coffee later and I was feeling like a new man.

The boys needed a kip and Paulo wanted to chill out for a while, so I went down to check out the pool. As you would expect, it was huuuge! The water was great but it was unbelievably hot and I didn't last in the sun for more than about 40 minutes.

Now I was knackered as well, so I went back up to the room to relax and listen to some music.

A few hours passed an now myself and Paulo were both bored so we headed out for another stroll down the strip and to have a bit of a shniff around.

It ended up being a virtual tour of all the newer casinos in Vegas.

We started with the Excalibur, which is right next to Luxor. We were both pecky so we got an over-priced, badly-made sub from Quiznos and then walked through New York New York to the Bellagio.

The Bellagio was built on the grounds where Dunes used to be and opened on October 15, 1998. It has 3,933 rooms, was inspired by the Bellagio resort in Lake Como and is the real fucking deal. It's famous for it's eight acre lake between the building and the Strip, where fountain shows are held every afternoon and evening. A lot of professional poker players use the Bellagio as a base because it has a very high table limit. And of course it is part of the three casinos that were robbed in the film Ocean's Eleven (along with MGM Grand and the Mirage). I'm not sure if the vault featured in the film actually exists but I'm sure that no one from the casino will ever tell if it does or not. Several scenes from the film where shot in the hotel as well.

Walking around the resort, I must say that I was very impressed. Everything was big and posh and the casino floor was well laid out with lots of room to move around. The atmosphere was quite different to Luxor and you could just tell that the people in the place had lots of money (except for me and Paulo of course).

The next stop was Caesar's Palace. Also very nice and quite up scale.

Caesar's is made up of five different towers, contains 3,349 rooms and was opened on August 5, 1966. Construction began in 1962 and cost an unbelievable (at the time) ten million dollars. It was named Caesar's in an effort to reflect royalty and make guests feel like a king when they arrived. Endless amounts of famous people have performed in the resort and it was a mecca of boxing for years. Andy Williams performed there on opening night and in 1967 Evil Knievel tried to jump the hotel's water fountain but did not succeed. In the 1980s, Sugar Ray Leonard fought Thomas Hearns, Larry Holmes fought Gerry Cooney and Mike Tyson fought there a number of times. Joe Louis was involved with the hotel and worked as a greeter there until he died.

Next in line was the Mirage, where the Beatles' Love is a permanent show.

The Mirage has 3,044 rooms and was built with junk bonds from Wall Street. It opened on November 22, 1989 and (at the time) was the most expensive casino in history, costing 630 million dollars. It was projected that the casino would need to make one million dollars a day to pay off the construction loan in seven years. Incredibly, the loan was paid off in only 18 months! The late 1980s was a bit of a new beginning for Vegas since it had to compete with Atlantic City
and the Mirage became the standard for all other casinos to follow. It was the first casino to use security cameras full time at all of the table games and contains a volcano, white tiger habitat, dolphin habitat and a secret garden.

The Beatles' Love, performed by Cirque Du Soleil is a permanent show in the Mirage and last December a bar called Revolution was opened. The bar was designed by Cirque Du Soleil and is totally cool. It is very trippy and psychedelic with white plastic tables and chairs and black leather couches.

And the wall at the entrance to the bar contains the titles to a lot of Beatles' songs against a piece of glass that is lit from behind.

The Mirage was easily my favourite place and where I would stay if I ever return to Vegas. The casino floor is a bit smaller but the restaurants look good and the bars are fantastic.

We stopped in another bar called Shadow to check out the Sox and Yankee scores. We didn't have a drink but I would have liked to. There were two big screens showing baseball games and there was a great atmosphere in the place. The bar had great lighting and they were playing some quality house music. I could have easily settled in for a while...

Even the bar in the Sports Book was better than the one in Luxor. Not really my scene but there were loads of TV screens and most of them were playing baseball games.

I decided that I wanted to have an espresso and was even willing to go to Starbucks to get it. Now, normally you are bombarded with Starbucks everywhere in this country. You can't get away from them. Except when you really want one. We searched Harrah's, Casino Royale and Madame Tussauds. Nothing. Not a snizzling... Typical. We walked around for ages and eventually ended up in the Venetian.

The Venetian stands where Sands used to be which, of course, used to be home to the Rat Pack. It has 4,049 suites and when the Palazzo (next door) is completed the two will become the largest resort in the world with over 7000 rooms. It opened on May 3, 1999 and features the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes - over 500,000 sq feet of stores. It also has a real canal running through it complete with a fake city, blue sky and real gondolas that you can rent and have
someone sing to you while paddling you around the shopping area.

I finally found a coffee shop - Coffee Bean Shop and had a really nice espresso.

We then ventured a bit further down the strip to Wynn to meet the lads. We had a quick seven dollar beer in a posh bar and then went to the Ferrari show in the hotel. We had to pay ten bucks to get in but it was kind of good. There were ten or fifteen cars on display and then another couple of dozen downstairs in a massive show room.

The four of us then jumped into a cab and went to Freemont Street - the oldest part of Vegas. It's very tacky and glitzy but it's something that you have to see when you are there.

Freemont Street holds many firsts in Vegas. It was the site of the first hotel - Hotel Nevada & Hotel Golden Gate both opened in 1906. It was the first paved street in Vegas - 1925. It was home of the first issued gaming license - The Northern Club. It had the first elevator - Apache Hotel in 1932. It saw the first high rise - Freemont Hotel in 1956.

We had a meal at Binion's Horseshoe and then went for a stroll down the street, which is now referred to as the FSE.

The Freemont Street Experience was conceived in the 1990s as a way to try and attract more people to the area. It occupies five blocks and has a 1400 foot LED screen across an enclosure over the street that is lit by over twelve million lamps. The sound system is powered by 220 speakers. The covering is about the size of 20,000 plasma screen televisions.

We went past Four Queens, Golden Nugget, Golden Gate and Vegas Club. These are all famous in their own right but it is the same spot where U2 shot the video for 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' in 1987.

Every hour a show is played across the top of the covering. There are several different ones and the one that we saw is called Area 51, which of course is about aliens. It was pretty cheesy but the cool thing is that all of the lights on the street are shut off - even the casino signs. It is meant to imitate an attack by aliens on Las Vegas. A battle ensues and of course the humans win. The last shot is of an alien gambling in a casino dressed as Elvis.

We took another cab back up to the Bellagio to catch the fountain display. The show takes place every half hour during the afternoon and every fifteen minutes during the night. It was featured at the end of the film Ocean's 11. The pool in front of the hotel is the largest man made pool in the world and has a fountain with over 1000 nozzles. There are three different types - one that swings back and forth to make the water look like it is dancing, another that shoots water straight up in the air and another one that blasts water up into the air almost 250 feet. There are more than 4000 lights that are co-ordinated with music during the show. It is truly amazing.

After the show we walked back to the Luxor. Paulo and Aido got stuck into a poker game, while Ronan and I went next door to Mandalay Bay. It's another really nice resort with some fantastic restaurants. There was a band playing in one section - complete with two pole dancers but they weren't very good. Neither was the band. Another bar had a different, kind of rock band but there was a cover charge into the place. Eventually we found a lounge bar with a jazz band
playing called Stoned Immaculate. They were really good but unfortunately, we arrived at the end of their set and only caught about three or four tunes.

We walked back over to meet the lads and had a night cap before retiring to the scratcher.

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