I am so excited to finally tell you about our trip to the Southwest! Granted, I wish I was posting this five months ago when we actually went on the trip, but hey, I am catching up here and I am proud of that!Our US road trip spanned two weeks, and in that time we got to visit Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. We flew into Las Vegas, we flew out of Denver, and we seemingly explored everywhere in between by car. But more on that to come, because today we will start at the beginning, with Vegas baby!! Honestly, I really disliked Las Vegas (!!!!) That feels crazy to type as I typically really love everywhere I am lucky enough to visit. However, I had a sneaky feeling I wouldn’t enjoy Las Vegas, but I went in with an open mind, and was not surprised to discover that it just wasn’t my cup of tea.When I travel, I love falling through time – exploring history, architecture, culture, and food – it’s one of many reasons why I currently live in Europe! In comparison to the destinations I typically adore, Las Vegas felt plastic and too manicured for my taste. It was like one large Instagram backdrop, manmade and fake.
Everything we did in Las Vegas was created to be seen and consumed, however I really enjoy discovering. I love stumbling down a 500 year old side street, wandering off trail and swimming in a serene, placid lake. It’s the joys you can’t map out or find online ahead of time that I truly love, and everything we did in Vegas felt like it was made to be done a million times.Knowing Vegas might not be our jam (and I use the word ‘our’ very lightly because Kai has been to Las Vegas before for a party weekend and LOVED it) we only booked two nights in town, with the intention of kicking the jet lag and resting up before an epic road trip of a lifetime! That said, if you’re going to do Vegas, you might as well DO Vegas, and so we shelled out €600 to stay at MGM Grand on the strip for two nights. I hated it. Our hotel room felt like a dorm, the hot water didn’t work in the bathroom, we didn’t have a window, and we had to walk 30 minutes down a LONG maze of hallways to get to the pool or casino.Imagine arriving at the pool only to realize you forgot your sunglasses and had an 30 minute walk back to the room ahead of you?! Nightmare! In hindsight, we should have stayed off of the strip, and will definitely do so if we ever visit again. I would rather pay less, stay somewhere nicer, and walk just a bit more to get to the strip. But again, I tried to embrace the experience with open arms, and so when we landed, we put on our bathing suits and walked (thirty minutes) to the pool to claim some chairs in the sun before the day ended.
Then the next surprise happened – we ordered two frozen margaritas at the pool bar and it came to $68 WITHOUT a tip! Even with a vacation-spending mindset, dropping $68 on two cocktails felt hugely unnecessary. MGM Grand 2 – Ali and Kai 0! That said, once the cocktail was poured, there was no going back, and so we spent more than $80 on two drinks that we sipped outside in the sun to welcome in our holiday.Another reason I may not have initially loved Vegas was because of altitude sickness. Every 20 minutes or so, I would get incredibly dizzy, and would feel like I couldn’t catch my breath. I would be on the verge of throwing up, taking deep breaths while everything spun, and then suddenly I would be fine. I would almost forget how shitty I had just felt . . . and then it would strike again! This went on for the whole first week of our trip (although towards the end it happened much less frequently) and I became acquainted with altitude sickness for the first time in my life. Usually I am a pretty good traveler – I can power through jet lag, sleep on the airplane, avoid catching a cold every time I step foot on in an airport . . . but yeah, altitude sickness really sucked and put a surprise damper on our first days in the US.OHH. And the last thing that kind of sucked about Vegas – it rained while we were there!! Only Kai and Ali could get poured on in the dessert – at one point we decided to catch an Uber to stay dry, and the driver, who was clearly a local, exclaimed to us, ‘Isn’t this great!?’ While I was happy for all of the palm trees and aloe plants who finally got a drink of water, our lay-by-the-pool-plan was slightly thwarted. So instead of just lounging, we did as you do in Vegas, and ordered some big slushy alcoholic beverages, and hit the strip to explore!Hotel exploring was by far my favorite thing to do in Las Vegas. The gardens of the Bellagio (while very crowded) were gorgeous, and strolling along the canals of the Venetian, while although paled in comparison to the real northern Italy, was a colorful experience.We had dinner at Cesar’s Palace Bacchanal Buffet that evening, and although it was an expensive meal (are you noticing a theme here?!) I’m pretty sure we got more than our money’s worth, with plates piled high with crab legs and multiple rounds of desert.We had two other meals that were also outrageously expensive, one at Wolfgang Puck’s American Restaurant in MGM and a second at Mon Ami Gabi in Paris. Both were good but nothing to write home about – we found MUCH better food while on our road trip elsewhere in the southwest. That said, I’ll stop with the complaints, as we were genuinely were excited to switch into vacation mode – as you can see blow ;)And also maybe a little bit jet lagged! By 6pm Vegas time we were both exhausted and ready for bed (that’s 2am Amsterdam time!) but we pushed through as much as possible.At Wolfgang’s restaurant, Kai went for a burger and I had the tuna tartare.And in Paris, we had a completely different culinary experience!I had fruit and yoghurt, and Kai had baked eggs. Again, for a $10 breakfast dish (before tax and tip!) I was not too impressed with my dollop of yogurt and half cup of fruit. But again, it’s Vegas, so I guess we were predominantly paying to eat in the fake Eiffel Tower.And I do have to say, the ambiance at Mon Ami Gabi killed it in terms of feeling very chic and French! We also visited the Neon Boneyard on our Vegas leg, which I’ll tell you all about in the next post, as those gorgeous photos deserve a home of their own! The second best photogenic part of the trip was simply walking the strip at night.
While glowing, Las Vegas is mesmerising.
I had a blast walking around the strip at night with my DSLR, and this jaywalking Mickey was definitely the star of my shots.Why so serious? Ohh, just trying not to vomit from altitude sickness (and realizing I’m randomly seated in a bunny chair . . . as you do in Vegas!) Overall – wow, what a different experience this city was!While I didn’t LOVE Las Vegas as much as some of the other places I’ve visited, I can’t say it was all bad, and the strip was definitely a cool sight to behold! If I’m ever back, it will be for a true Hangover weekend with the girls and lots of alcohol – and ideally there’s a bit more sunshine and time to acclimate to the altitude!
I have two more Vegas posts to share – a travel guide and my Neon Boneyard photos – but I may go out of order and start posting some Portugal photos while the trip is fresh in my heart! So keep an eye out for some more blog fun soon :)