Grand Canyon

We were picked up by shuttle early in the morning and taken to the nearby small airport. There were five of us, plus pilot, going to be flying from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon in our helicopter. Julia and I had been allocated two seats in the front next to the pilot so we had a great view. The doors were just closed when I noticed a bee on the windscreen inside the helicopter. I was rather concerned about a bee biting someone, possibly the pilot, while were in flight so brought it to the pilots attention. He let me open our side do and I tried to use a piece of paper to chase it outside. But the stupid bee wouldn’t go out. So I squished it. Sorry little bee.

The view of Las Vegas as we left the city was great. Likewise the view of the desert and the Grand Canyon as we approached. We landed near the bottom of the canyon near the river. The pilot brought out some minor refreshments and we had champagne, orange juice, and muffins while we enjoyed the view.

We left the Grand Canyon and landed at a nearby refueling site for the helicopter where I tried jumping in the air while Julia took my photo (to pass the time).

The pilot few us to a nearby town were we waiting for the next part of our trip; down the river. A shuttle took us though a security area (they have special permission) to the bottom of the Hover Dam.

We boarded our boat and our new guide took us down the river telling historical information about the area.

It was a very hot day. The guide gave us all small cloth towels which he soaked in the river water and we used them to keep cool. The water in the river is released from very low in the day so the sunlight never has a chance to heat it up. So the river remains very cold. We stopped along the river three times. Once for the guide to show us a natural hot spring. He collected some water for us to touch and it was definitely hot.

He also showed us another hot spring further along the river which was just above a nice little beach. Apparently hikers/cannoers have been spotted having a shower in the natural spring, sometimes naked. No such show for us today.

The other two times we stopped were to cool off and have some lunch.

I was amazed at how clear the water was.

It was often that I saw large fish in the water as the boat traveled along the river (there are none in the photo above – that I’ve seen anyway).

At the end of our journal we left the boat and got back onto a shuttle bus which returned us to our hotel in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas by night

Vegas looks best by night. The bright lights are much prettier than the bland sidewalks by day. And its also cooler. It was still 36 degrees at 9.30pm so still much hotter than I’d like. But cooler than the mid-40 degree temperatures during the day.

We walked next door to the Excalibur casino and caught a night tour bus which took us around to see the city lights. The bus was a double decker, open top, and the wind was HOT while driving around.

The Bellagio Fountains pretty much appear in any modern video associated with Vegas. Its impressive how high the fountains can go and when the water is shot up it sounds like cannons being fired:

The Venetian canals; we didn’t get to ride in one of the gondolas.

Welcome Las Vegas sign

New York Casino; I think this is one of the most interesting casinos when viewed from the outside. Its a shame that they have stopped building themed casinos and now are only building boring hotel box buildings.

The Fremont Street light show is impressive to see; displayed over multiple city blocks on a roof canvas. They were running some sort of ‘rock music’ activities in the area so the light show was made up of parts of a Bon Jovi concert.

Bus to Las Vegas

Today we left LA and made our way to Las Vegas. Rather than travel from Anaheim, where our hotel was, back to the LA airport, we decided to travel by bus. By the Lux Bus. They picked us up from our hotel at 8am. There was a short 20 minute stop at the nearby depot where other travellers got on the bus. Seating size was pretty ordinary but the seats did recline. There was also power points for each seat to power a phone/laptop/etc. They were going to show a movie on the overhead monitors but there was a problem with the player. We didn’t mind and just enjoyed the scenery and relaxed.

There was also wireless internet available but we were driving through areas with no mobile reception so that didn’t work. They offered cold drinks and snacks on the way too. There was another quick stop at a truck stop half way to Vegas for a bathroom break. We arrived at Las Vegas at around 1.15pm. The bus only dropped off at one hotel, which wasn’t ours, so we caught a taxi to our hotel. We stayed at the Luxor casino while in Vegas. That is the hotel that is a giant black pyramid.

The view from inside the pyramid near our hotel room:

Universal Studios

Today was a trip to Universal Studios. We were expecting long lines for the rides similar to Disneyland. However instead of a ‘Fastpass’ facility that Disneyland have, Universal has a ‘Front of Line’ pass that you can optionally pay for. The pass is about $85 per person but in our case it was definitely worth it. The pass allows you to skip the general line with absolutely no waiting at all. The catch is that you can only use the pass for each line once. So you can’t go on the same ride over and over again while skipping the line.

The entrance to Universal Studios

The first attraction we went on was the Universal Studio tour. This included the original ‘flash flood’ of water rushing towards the carriage that is in the photo below.

But it also had some new features like a King Kong section with giant screens surrounding the carriage and it appears as though dinosaurs and King Kong are fighting around, and on top of, the carriage.

Did I mention it was hot. Damn hot.

And still hot.

The walkway between the top and bottom areas of the park. There are multiple escalators that you have to take. One section going ‘up’ was stopped. Not a fun climb in the heat.

The Transformers ride used large screens and motion to make it look like you were trying to get away from the robots. It was pretty good.

The Water World show still draws big crowds at the park.

The Back to the Future ride is gone. Its been replaced with the Simpsons ride. Lining up I thought that the ride would be really bad, but it actually turned out to be one of the best in the park. It was a virtual roller coaster ride with the Simpsons characters.

Outside the park there is a stretch of shops. One of them was a candy store which had some interesting bug candy.

No, we didn’t try the bug candy.

Hollywood and LA tour

Yesterday we did a bus tour of the LA and Hollywood area.
First stop was Olvera Street, which has Mexican stalls, and the oldest house in Los Angeles.

Julia in front of Mexican stalls:

Next stop was the Hollywood walk of fame. The number of people dressed up as movie stars trying to get photos with the tourist (for money) were everywhere.
Julia with Mickey Mouse star:

To get a photo from the area near the Hollywood walk of fame there is an archway. You can go up to to the higher levels and get a photo with the ‘Hollywood’ sign in the background. However its still some distance away, so the sign is really really really small.

Next was our lunch stop at the Farmers Markets in LA. There was lots of fresh food stalls which wasn’t of much interest to us since we weren’t grocery shopping. Instead we had a burger lunch at a Johnny Rockets restaurant.

Our last stop for the day was the Santa Monica area. The pier in Santa Monica was really crowded, I think mostly tourists looking. At the top of the pier was also lots of homeless people.

The beach was busy with people working on their cancer, I mean tans.

A few blocks away from the pier is a shopping mall, which is closed to car traffic.

In all the stores in the mall were these methane alarms. I felt like it was necessary to stand next to one and fart, but I didn’t do it. I was probably more worried that the alarm might go off.