Thursday, 14 July 2011

Road To Mandalay - Via A Rude Concierge

We're up early again on Wednesday. It would turn out to be the last full day we had available for doing nothing except getting drunk at casinos. Something to make the most of, I'm sure you'll agree.

Before we leave the Fitzgerald we have a trip to plan. We have set aside Thursday for the trip to the Grand Canyon, and Friday for a visit to the Hoover Dam. The latter is much simpler. It's only around half an hour to 45 minutes drive from Las Vegas and, according to the literature, can probably be done in an afternoon. The Grand Canyon, on the other hand, is over in Arizona, fully 300 miles from Las Vegas!

Understandably, Emma's a little concerned about the drive. On the way into Palm Desert from San Diego she had to negotiate some pretty scary roads. Tiny, winding, narrow roads which cut through the mountains around the Coachella Valley. The views from there are both breathtaking and terrifying all at once. To my continued dismay, Emma kept pulling into the specially designated rest areas designed to allow slower drivers to allow the nutcases to pass. Given the lofty location of the Grand Canyon, the drive was going to be tricky.

So we explore the possibility of letting someone else drive. We thought it logical that the hotel would run some kind of excursion. We expected that the biggest barrier to getting on such an excursion would be access. Holiday excursions are almost always taken using highly inacessible coaches and we have been very lucky indeed on the odd occasion whenever we have found one equipped with anything resembling a lift. Yet on this occasion access was not the biggest problem. In fact, it wasn't the problem at all.

The problem was money. We approached a very rude female concierge who informed us that a ticket for the Fitzgerald's Grand Canyon excursion would set us back $170. Each. The rude concierge did not seem to think this should be a problem for us, and began dismantling any alternative to this that we might have been able to come up with. We had literature from several other places along the strip which advertised the Grand Canyon trip at as little as $75-80. Not cheap, but not $170. Each.

"Oh, they tell you that's the price, but it really isn't." began the rude concierge, shoving another copy of the Fitzgerald's Grand Canyon excursion leaflet into Emma's face;

"See, what happens with those ones you have there is you pay that lower price right there, but your place is not guaranteed. They'll bump y'all off if they find someone who'll pay more." she added, pointing and nodding for America.

So, if we were not to take the car (and we were still seriously considering that option at this point) we would either have to pay $170 (yes, you know, each.....) or else pay around half this but risk turning up at some ungodly hour of the morning to find that our places have been given away to the highest bidder. Despite the rudeness of the concierge, we had to at least pay some respect to the notion that she might actually know what is talking about. It's her job to know these things, but on the other hand it is also her job to be pushy and rude, and to try and sell us the Fitzgerald's own trip at all costs. At $170 actually. Each.

In retrospect we mulled over this for far longer than I am now comfortable with. But then that's because I have been home for two months and I know that it worked out ok in the end. The deliberations dealt with, we decided to pass on the Fitzgerald's excursion and look out for a better deal. Worst case scenario, we take the car. Either way a trip to the Grand Canyon was going to be a 13-hour job including all of the travelling. But reason has it that you do not fly 8,000 miles from home to falter 300 from one of the most awe-inspiring sights in the known world.

Much of the rest of Wednesday is a blur. We went into almost every hotel on the strip once again, played as much free electronic poker as the time allowed, drank as much criminally cheap alcohol as our bodies could stand and generally had a right good old time of it. We walked all the way down to the end of the strip at Mandalay Bay, just because we wanted to be able to say that we had been in most if not all of the famous hotels on Las Vegas Boulevard. We got lost in MGM Grand, also visiting Excalibur, New York New York, Paris, Treasure Island (again), Caesar's Palace (again), Mirage (again) and so on.....

At Mandalay Bay we happened upon the House Of Blues, the hotel's theatre and music venue. They were selling tickets to see The Script on Saturday. They were $34 each. About five times less than we could have been paying to get on that bus to the Grand Canyon in the morning. Staggered at being able to buy tickets to see a band that we had heard of for less than $150 (we've seen Elton John anyway and I'd take the bullet over Celine Dion, frankly) we coughed up straight away. I remember being slightly disturbed by the salesman repeatedly informing us of the procedure should the gig be cancelled for any reason. Set-backs like we had endured on our trip so far teach you to be suspicious. It didn't quite affect Emma in the same way. She was delighted.

I'm afraid I can't remember much thereafter of that Wednesday. We never did find an alternative excursion to the Grand Canyon, so resigned ourselves to travelling there by car early in the morning. Though we headed back on to the Deuce before 8.30 pm, we had still managed to put a good eight or nine hours drinking and gambling time behind us that day.

Under such circumstances, the memory gets a bit hazy.

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