Las Vegas…

The visit to Vegas was always going to be memorable given that it started with a short flight from New York with my best friend, while incredibly hungover.

Despite arriving in the early hours of the morning around 3am, there was a timeless buzz about the place, with groups of friends meandering through the reception and everything brightly lit. This was a pre-cursor for all we would experience on this trip.


Day 1

Looking directly down from our window we could see a beautiful blue twinkling diamond. There was a swimming pool that was our only planned destination for the day. After a very busy four days in New York and an early morning arrival, some rest and relaxation was exactly what we needed.

Swimming pool surrounded by day beds

Thanks to recovering from surgery, I had to wear a brace on my leg which meant I was unable to get in the water. Looking down from the window I didn’t anticipate this was going to be much of a problem, but when I got outside by the waters edge my mind was very much changed…..it was hot! Walking around the pool there were weird frames that were misting out a fine spray of water. I thought these were a strange design feature but after a couple of hours of frying like an egg in the heat of the day, they became my best friend.

As I’m a bit of a waterbaby, I couldn’t cope with not getting in the pool at all. I waded ankle length in the shallow end but looked like an awkward pool attendant just stood watching everyone. I retreated to sitting on the edge keeping my feet in the water-not the most comfortable option but my only one available. A team of drop dead gorgeous bar servers were walking round in tiny purple bikinis. I was conscious of sitting in their way so spent my day restlessly flitting between my pool edge and my sunlounger for the majority of the day.


Being in the city of excess, we knew we wanted to watch a show, there would be no limits to the spectacles we could see here. We’d been told that you could get tickets from street sellers on the strip, we just had to find them located under a big red umbrella. A quick google told us that luckily there was one directly across the street from our hotel so we decided to go for a mid afternoon walk.

There was a glass bridge spanning the twelve lanes of traffic (seriously everything in this place is supersized!) and this was a perfect place for a view of the strip in all it’s glory.

Eiffel tower on las vegas strip

After being recommended by the majority of baristas in Starbucks, we settled for tickets to watch Absinthe, and also secured some vouchers for dinner at Planet Hollywood.

With the evening drawing in, we continued our walking around. Neon, illuminating, day-glo there is nothing quite descriptive enough to capture exactly how lit up everything is. And it’s amazing how quickly you fall in line and find it totally normal to see an Eiffel Tower, followed by a pyramid, next door to a hot air balloon as you navigate the crowds.

Friends we met in New York told us not to pack the sneakers away and they were right, there is a lot of walking to be done in Las Vegas.

We made our way to Planet Hollywood to use our dinner vouchers then took a sensible option to call it a night as we had a big day ahead of us.

Neon lights above Planet Hollywood sign


Day 2

After  a rushed breakfast we raced to the underground carpark to be met by a sweeping black limousine, ready to whisk us off to an airstrip a short drive away.

Waiting to check in, I realised that everybody was being weighed. It made perfect sense for each helicopter to be fairly balanced but did nothing for my ego when my weight recorded a couple of kgs higher due to the ‘holiday weight’ currently on my back in the rucksack we’d filled with stuff to get us through the day!

With name stickers firmly in place we waited to be called by our pilot Bruce. With a moniker like that I was expecting a silver haired, more mature gentleman but was surprisingly met with a young guy who had a look of Mark Zuckerberg.

We bundled into the back of the chopper, headsets on looking like extras out of a music video and took to the skies. In a convoy following other helicopters we were soon cutting across the clear blue sky, gazing down at the vast expanse of desert stretching before us. After a short flight that cruised high above Lake Mead and the Hoover Damn, we came in to land. Stepping foot outside, we were officially in the basin of the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon

The landscape was other worldly. I suddenly felt incredibly small surrounded by the huge rugged walls of the canyon while listening to the tales of how this whole channel was carved by a once mighty and powerful river. There was plenty of chances to take photos and savour the moment of being where we were – I felt very lucky to experience this and even luckier to do it with my best friend by my side.

After a quick picnic lunch, we were back in the helicopter. This time we got to co-pilot and sit up front. The sleek glass of the windshield curved round and underneath our feet giving a panoramic view. This was most effective as we raced along parallel with the ground before it slowly fell away beneath us as we went over the cliff edge.

On the return flight we were able to swoop through the skies and fly in over the famous strip, marvelling at the OTT hotels in all their glory.


Being the ultimate tourists we wanted to mark our visit with a selfie by the Welcome To Vegas sign. We had two options to get there, start walking or play it a little bit cheeky and ask our limo driver to take a left turn instead of a right turn. We chanced option number two and thankfully the eight Americans we were sharing the ride with were up for a little detour. Surprisingly the sign is a fair distance from all of the action but this hadn’t stopped people making their pilgrimage to it. Naturally being British we were soon in the queue to capture the iconic shot.

Bundled back in the limo we really pushed our luck asking the driver for a second detour. This time we knew our limits and vowed to just get out of the car at the next unplanned destination. Hotel New York New York. The idea of a rollercoaster within a hotel is generally unfathomable so we expected to find a tame merry go round at most. But this is Vegas and Vegas doesn’t do things by halves. With no queue to contend with, all too quickly we were strapped in and thundering in, out and around the hotel on a very real rollercoaster.


Taking a bit of a breather, we decided to stroll along the famous strip, basking in both the sunshine and the wonderment of the surrounding hotels and their insane uniqueness. Exploring every inch of this place, we caught the bus to Fremont Street and stepped back in the to old style Vegas. With the Kicking Cowboy and the glittering lights of the Golden Nugget casino this was the expectation of Vegas I had from watching Sister Act!

Time began to run away from us thanks to something going on in literally every direction. Back on the bus downtown we were suddenly up against the clock along with battling rush hour traffic to get back and get ready for the evening.

After a quick freshen up and a change of outfit, we were out again hoping to spot the circus tent where we’d be watching the show after our dinner reservations in Caesars Palace. With this hotel being practically next door-but-one we couldn’t foresee any trouble with the plans.

Making the way up the sweeping driveway we stepped foot inside the huge hotel and the search for the restaurant began. Weaving through hallways and through casinos, into the corridors all topped with ceilings decorated with clouds, time stood still. It was ridiculous to be lost within a few minutes of being inside but the truth was we were very very lost. If we could have located a fire escape to get back on to the street and start again we’d have taken that option. It felt like we’d never see natural daylight again and the restaurant was a long forgotten dream thanks to the hypnotic dance of the clouds on the ceiling.

Clouds painted on ceiling

After an eternity (in reality it was around 30mins) walking through the hotel we finally located the restaurant. I can categorically admit this is the first and last time I’ve asked for the bill while ordering food mere minutes after sitting down!


Miraculously we made it on time and the stresses of the evening melted away into pure hysterics. Absinthe is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever experienced. It’s a variety, circus style affair but with more than a touch of adult humour about it. If you can’t laugh at yourself or are easily offended then I’d try to make a point of avoiding it.

Buoyed by the show, we left the huge circus tent on a wave of giggles and still keen to take in all this city has to offer. We wanted to time it just right so that we could watch a volcano erupt at the Mirage hotel.

Learning our lesson from Caesars, we made a beeline for the nearest assistant and asked for directions to the volcano. Rightly so she looked astounded that we’d asked and politely ushered us back outside just in time for an enormous fiery dance to be performed by the gigantic volcano right before our eyes.

Using another glass bridge, we crossed the road to go and tick another first off the list, marvelling at an indoor canal complete with gondolas.

Gondola on a canal

Continuing our march down the strip, we never quite got to the stage where there were no people but the throngs did start to thin out a little as we approached our furthest destination, the Stratosphere.

Ascending the iconic tower we made our way to the highest viewpoint of the day. Looking across the vista we were now greeted with a view resembling a thick black blanket dusted with twinkling lights far below.

At this stage in the day, neither of us needed further encouragement to end the day in style, so we climbed an additional level for a final blast of adrenaline.

On the roof of the Stratosphere there are three rides. One’s a huge mechanical seesaw that teeters precariously towards to edge of the building. One’s a more glamorous version of a flagpole that shoots up to the skies. And one’s a mechanical arm that swings off the side of the tower.

We’d decided we were doing one, but which one was up for a debate that wasn’t really a difficult choice. I’m not a fan of the seesaw effect so that was ruled out, and my friend isn’t a fan of the piston shooting style so that was ruled out, leaving us with the mechanical arm.

We’d spent a couple of minutes watching so knew the arm swung out off the side of the building, and the pod area that you stood in rotates. From the safety of the viewing platform it looked nothing more than a wonderfully unique experience for a couple of minutes. Both with a competitive nature and a thrill seeking encouragement for each other, we queued for a short while before it was our turn.

Stepping on to a metal floor, we walked to the little booths you stand in and were strapped in with the restraints that pull down over your head. Standing side by side in pairs, there were four teams all facing into the centre towards each other. A nervous uneasy tension enveloped us as the lights started to flash and the music cranked up. We couldn’t see each other but could shout and hear what the other was saying.

Slowly the arm began to swing out. A slow mechanical process geared to heighten your senses of just how high up you are before the spinning starts. But there was an extra treat we hadn’t realised. The standing zones began to tilt forward to face you directly at the metal floor, before the absolute delight as the floor retreated leaving nothing but clear space.

So there it was. Midnight. Dangling off the side of the tallest tower. Staring at Las Vegas far far below. Waiting to be spun like a garment in a washing machine.

There were a few screams, but there were more words uttered that probably shouldn’t be repeated. And the three quick minutes we had witnessed a short time earlier were now an actual eternity.

Mechanical arm leaning over las vegas night sky

With this our final act of a jam packed day, we decided to splash out and treat ourselves to a cab ride back to our hotel. I can safely say it’s the best $10 I’ve ever spent!


Day 3

Given that the previous day was one thing after another, after another for a solid 18 hours, there were no arguments when we chose to spend the morning by the pool again.

We knew the drill, walk through the misty frames to cool off, rotate every 15minutes to prevent burning and listen to the faint hum of the helicopters zipping by overheard while day dreaming about now wanting to become a pilot.

As airports mornings go, this was a pretty perfect way to spend a couple of hours before bidding a fond farewell to the ultimate Adult’s Playground and continuing my exploration of North America.


Recommendations

Las Vegas was pure exhilaration. There’s a side that’s all clubs and gambling which I chose to avoid but my visit wasn’t impacted by this choice at all. If I had to, I’d recommend:

  • the early morning helicopter flight into the Grand Canyon – you avoid the heat of the days and there simply is nothing that can compare to what you get to see
  • another good pair of sneakers and allow extra time as the place is BIG and there’s a lot of walking
  • a sense of direction and no fear of heights as there is a lot to be seen in, around and up all of the hotels

Let me know if you have any thoughts or comments on this throwback.

The Introverted Globetrotter.

Advertisements

New York (#1)…

NYC. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. No matter the name, this city has a special place in my heart.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. It was the first stop on my first ever ‘multi-stop’ trip, teaching me important life skills of planning an itinerary and making the most of limited time
  2. I was working against a personal countdown clock. Following major knee surgery I’d learned to walk again but was still battling through recovery and physio to get off crutches and simply be ‘flight fit’. My best friend had vowed to push me around in a wheelchair if needed but thankfully I was able to avoid that.

Day # 1

Although I love to explore, I’m not the biggest fan of long haul flights. Experience has taught me that I just don’t sleep well on planes. This meant I had around 8hrs of being irritated by compression flight socks (damn you post-op care). Thankfully I had an aisle seat so I could get up to stretch and complete basic physio. Attempting mid-flight lunges or balancing on my weak leg passed a bit of time for me; it also gave plenty of opportunity for my friend to maintain she didn’t know me 😂.


Once landed, our first task was to successfully navigate the subway system. From unwittingly loading a Metro card properly with credit, to getting on the right train and working out that due to flying on September 11, there were diversions on the network. This added a little bit of time to the journey, but we were exiting the subway station and on the hunt for the hotel about an hour after leaving JFK.

With a time difference of -5 hours, but only three and a half days in New York, giving into jetlag wasn’t an option. We needed to get straight onto American time.

After a quick freshen up we headed out to buy theatre tickets. There wasn’t a specific show in mind just something on Broadway to tick it off the bucket list.

We ended up watching the hilarious Avenue Q. Although very enjoyable, the second half was painful to complete as the jetlag hit like a brick and we had to call it a night.

New York 1 : Girls 0


Day # 2

Greeted by glorious wall to wall blue sunshine framed by piercing blue skies, we were ready for a day of exploring everything the city had to offer.

Planning ahead meant we’d already bought City Passes to get us into three of the top attractions.

A short journey across the water allowed us to learn more about the globally recognised Lady Liberty, and how she was a gift from France.

Statue of liberty

We were naive and thought we’d be able to queue a little and then get to go inside and get a view from within her crown. Sadly this option was only available if you pre-booked in advance so it left us with a bit of extra time.

As all good tourists do, we used this to capture some photos to record our visit.

I personally don’t think foam crowns, lemonade cups and maps have ever looked better, do you?!


Continuing the exploration, we moved on to the location where the Twin Towers had once stood. The sheer scale of the area and the footprints of the buildings was something I wasn’t prepared for.

Despite being in a city surrounded by skyscrapers, I found it impossible to look up into the air above the waterfall memorials and imagine how big they were.

Again although right in the centre of an enigmatic city that just has a buzz about it, there was an eerily peaceful, quiet atmosphere. It was beautifully respectful but highly emotionally charged.

Visiting just one day after the anniversary really made an impact, but my key take away was the stunning new Freedom Tower.

Proudly stretching into the sky where it looks like it can scratch the clouds; the light bouncing off causing it to shine and glisten like a diamond in the sun and all it’s incredible triangular angles – this is quite simply one incredibly striking piece of architecture.


Pressing on, our next wish was to find an observation deck with views across the whole city. We’d toyed between the Empire State and the Rockefeller Centre as we wanted to do one in the day time and one in the evening. We settled on the Empire State during daylight hours and thanks to the beautiful weather, were gifted with some amazing views.

Views from the top of the empire state building

With the Freedom Tower stood on the horizon and the Statue of Liberty nothing but a tiny dot in the water to it’s right, it was clear to see not only how many high-rises there are concentrated in a relatively small area, but also how far we’d walked! The view from the opposite side showed a huge, green and oddly flat rectangle slicing through everything, our first glimpse of Central Park.


Needing a bit of a breather we started to make tracks back to the hotel, but managed to stumble across both the Chrysler building and Grand Central Station. The main hall is something that needs to be seen to be believed. With constellations painted on the ceiling and sunlight pouring through the windows, it’s just too pretty and you have to remind yourself that it is still a train station!Main hall in grand central station


As evening descended, we managed to squeeze in another attraction at the Rockefeller Centre. We stumbled across a private function in the plaza directly outside, and inadvertently gatecrashed a Gloria Estefan concert to add a slight twist of random to the day.

Visiting the Top of The Rock was worth the wait. We got to see the famous skyline lighting up the night sky, along with being able to see the Empire State Building instead of being up it.


Back on ground level, we made our way towards the location that tends to spring to mind when you think about the city.

Times Square Standing in the middle of Times Square we were surrounded by a constant throng of people, all gazing in awe at the bright lights and neon screens that are in every direction.

We made the choice to grab some food from an American diner, then head back to the hotel to draw a close to a particularly busy day.

New York 1 : Girls 1


Day # 3

With a couple of main tourist spots still to see, we set off early, planning to have breakfast on the go.

After a bit of aimless wandering, we were struggling to find anywhere and starting to think we’d just have to go hungry. We’d stopped to have a look at Trump Tower where we met a friendly security guard. He took pity and directed us to a local deli where we were treated the kind of breakfast that meant we wouldn’t be wanting lunch anytime soon.

Fully fuelled up, we set off to explore the great big green rectangle spotted the day before – Central Park.

Patricia the horse and her rider were the perfect locals to introduce us.

A horse and carriage

Strolling along the avenues, and spotting locations that had been seen in various films and tv shows made for a much more relaxing start to the day. Even with us choosing to travel in a horse drawn carriage, the park is so big that we barely covered any it.

This was swiftly followed with a some therapy of the retail variety on 5th Avenue. It was my friend’s dream to visit the flagship Tiffany’s store and treat herself to some jewellery. My credit card thanked me for simply attending for the experience.


We had to be back at the hotel much earlier than the previous day mainly because we had pre-booked plans for the evening. We were going on a rooftop bar crawl.

Following instructions, we found the first bar where we were given neon wristbands and introduced to our fellow trip-goers. Hopping on the coach we were taken across a bridge and began to make the journey out of the city. Not knowing where we were going was a little daunting, but the view we were treated to from bar #1 was breathtaking.

Skyscrapers lit up at night

Travelling back to the city on the way to bar #2, we made coach friends with a couple from Florida who were keen to share their hip-flasks around.

By the time we reached bar #3, we’d also acquired a young Texan lady and some of her family. Americans are so friendly.

The tour ended after the third bar, and slowly the crowds along with the tour guide disappeared. We weren’t ready to leave just yet, so made our way across Times Square to a small bar offering kareoke. After a couple of shots of fireball, the Floridians had agreed to join us, and as my friend loves to sing, this seemed like the perfect place to continue the evening.

By the time we all went our separate ways, Times Square was practically empty which was puzzling as I thought this city never slept!

New York 1 : Girls 2


Day # 4

Our final day in New York was one of those awkward ones where you know you have a flight to catch, but time seems to stand still.

We’d packed and were ready to check out but took a chance to ‘rest our eyes’ before leaving the room. We fell asleep, but the sound of the cleaners keycard at the door saw us both jump out of our skin and run from the hotel to avoid a late check out fee.

Finding a real New York slice pizza bar across the street would have been an ideal place to kill some time, but thanks to the mother of all hangovers, all I could face was a large soft drink. Even that was a challenge.

I bought a KitKat in the hope some sugar would help me out, but I couldn’t function enough to open and eat it as we were walking along the street. Thanks to the warm weather, it proceeded to melt and drip down my arm before I could find a bin to throw it away.

Before riding the subway to JFK, we took a final walk through Times Square and were greeted with the sight of a more niche tourist attraction. We’d found The Naked Cowboy 😂

The naked cowboy

New York 2 : Girls 2


Recommendations

From looking back, New York gave me a lot of memories. If I had to, I’d recommend:

  • the CityPass as it helped us skip a lot of queues
  • a good pair of sneakers as there’s a lot of walking to be done
  • saying no to fireball unless you’re prepared to get ‘New York drunk’ and suffer the consequences 😂

Let me know if you have any thoughts or comments on this throwback.

The Introverted Globetrotter.

Where in the world (literally) to visit?!

With literally a million and one different places available and accessible to visit, I only have one problem – choosing where to go first. Obviously there’s also the time/cost aspect but I have no place for serious(ly boring) stuff when Wanderlust is in charge.


Been App

About a year ago, I was introduced to an app to support me with tracking my globetrotting. I’m not the best when it comes to tech (if the video below doesn’t play this proves my point!) but even I can manage to tick a box next to a list of countries and build a personalised checklist of everywhere I’ve visited. My favourite part is the cool function of displaying my records in a 3d video of the globe.

I thought I was doing quite well getting myself around and about, but you have to admit that at only 13% of the world, I definitely need to make mine look a little bit more orange!

Why don’t you download the app and see what your stats are like?

Along with the video it categorises everything by the seven continents. My own personal record has plenty of room for improvement but so far so good:

Images of continents with countries already visited coloured in orange
4 continents ticked off
Images of continents with clipboard displaying to visit
3 continents still to go

I do feel a little bit of a cheat if I’ve only been to a couple of resorts, but my feet have still stepped on to the solid ground of a different continent so I’m claiming the achievement!


I’ve got ideas of where I want to go and what I want to see for 2 of the remaining ones, but I have to admit I’m stuck with where to start with Antartica!

While I ponder that puzzle, I’m going to throw it back and relive some of my standouts from the places already been – starting with North America.

Thinking about the adventures I’m about to share next, I’m already giggling to myself-this is going to be fun 😂

The Introverted Globetrotter.


The bones of the blog

In it’s most basic form, it’s a love of two things: travel and writing. It’s not been a natural combination of these two worlds by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s only now I’m starting to explore where it can go.

But what’s the point of this you may be asking yourself? Why should you read more to see where this activity has come from and where it will go?

Hopefully I can cover off with a little explanation.


I find it right to want to write

I have always had a love of writing.

Whether it’s a witty little rhyme in a birthday invitation, an acerbic yet amusing social media status update or an overly formal and purely professional email – putting pen to paper is what I’m good at.

Thanks to a cutting my teeth in a large multi-national organisation that shall remain nameless, I was exposed to the twists and turns of regular restructures, each of which brought along slight changes to my job. Although always confined to the daily grind of a 8am-4pm shift, I was gifted opportunities to work across different teams, different departments, different cities and even different countries.

It was in the latter stages of my career with the large multi-national organisation that shall remain nameless that I was officially contracted as location agnostic. It took me a while to get my head around being told I did not have a permanent location but I soon came to realise that this didn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. In fact it was probably part of the catalyst that brings me to the second strand of this blog-travel.


Firmly bitten by the travel bug

Thanks to the freedom of travel coupled with anything and everything being instantly accessible through the internet, the world can seem to be a much smaller place than it once was. That being said, there simply is no comparison for the awe inspiring vistas, the immersive local cultures and traditions and the breathtaking sights and sounds that are to be found in every corner of the globe.

I have been bitten by the travel bug, and bitten hard.


What’s in a name

Introverted Globetrotter.

With the globetrotter portion fairly self explanatory, the introverted portion ironically takes second place.

I can suffer from crippling shyness when self doubt takes full control, and I can think of nothing worse than being put front and centre in most situations.

But this doesn’t mean I don’t have a thirst for adventure, a desire to see more and an ability to not sit still for too long. The passion to explore all that is on offer in the world is very much alive and kicking.


So what now?

I think this has been a fairly productive start. I’ve set up the blog and settled on a name, I’ve downloaded the app with the intention of being able to update on the go and I have splurged my thoughts and opinions on where it has come from.

With the formalities out of the way, I plan to rattle through my back catalogue of locations visited and the memories that have been made in each.

I’m part way through my personal challenge of stepping foot on every continent (currently 4/7 achieved), and I hope to step up my campaign to bring back the humble postcard so I’d hazard a guess that these feature in future posts.

So that’s it, blog post #1 completed 😊

If you have spared a couple of minutes to read through the back story, I hope you join again for all of the tales I have yet to tell!

The Introverted Globetrotter.