New York and Denver to Las Vegas
Excerpts from a family holiday diary
Thursday: Flight from Heathrow. David used his Virgin Gold card to get us all into the executive lounge. Very nice, will forgive him for all those business trips. We made good use of the facilities. Becky had a haircut. We had cocktails and champagne, then a meal. Boys played snooker while we read papers and had coffee. Very nice.
Flew Economy to JFK. Flight lasted forever.
Arrived JFK. Got monorail to Avis. Rented totally massive car.
Drove to Hilton in Montvale. Nice but am way too tired.
Friday: Got bus into Manhattan. Checked into W hotel in Times Square. Very trendy. Suite. Bathroom had a glass wall, very strange – who wants to watch someone using the toilet?
Looked down into Times Square. Pedro spent ages looking out and learnt the sequence of all the electronic billboards. Can recite them. Sad. Clever, but sad.
Walked around. You feel like you are in a movie set in NY. So many people, everyone rushing, shops you can get lost in, sirens and cars beeping, smells wafting from all the fast food places and delis.
Ate at Smith and Wollenskys. David and James shared a huge steak (half a cow.) I ordered chicken, expecting a portion and a WHOLE chicken arrived! Delicious food but too much. Excellent red wine. Fun evening, ate and laughed a lot. Didn’t see anyone famous.
Saturday: Breakfast at Starbucks.
We all queued outside Abercrombie and Fitch, waiting for it to open. I had an argument with a woman who pushed in. Can’t quite believe I did either of those things, embarrassing.
Went downtown. Saw Statue of Liberty, China town, Little Italy. It’s nice to just walk around, looking at places.
Lunch in a diner. So american! Had booths and everything! Pedro had philly cheese steak. Very NY.
Got bus to Woodcliffe Lake, then taxi to Hilton.
Dinner at Applebees. A comfortable restaurant, reminds me of Beefeater in the UK but with lots of sports paraphernalia on the walls. Becky got told to move further from the bar – I always forget how strict the US drinking laws are.
Really really tired.
Sunday: Church at Cornerstone Christian Church in Wycoff. Saw a few people we recognised. Good music with a band, interesting talk, friendly people.
Went into city with some friends. Ate at a mexican restaurant. They kept bringing us huge platters of food. Really nice.
Walked through central park and round zoo. Very hot. Central Park always surprises me, such a big park in the middle of the city. Saw lots of places I recognise from films. The zoo is small and smelly but nice if you like zoos (which I do.)
Back to friend’s house. Take-out pizza.
Monday: Pancakes at IHOP on Route 17. Perfect! Quantities still huge though. It is not possible to only order one pancake, they come in stacks. All the coffee everywhere is ‘bottomless’ (free refills) which is wonderful.
Went to a friend’s pool. Swam, chatted, relaxed. BBQ chicken and corn with friends. Then went to Paramus Park Mall in the evening. So big! Dairy Queen ice creams, then said goodbye – always sad.
Tuesday: Gym and swam at hotel. It’s a nice hotel, very inexpensive and convenient being so near the city but also in New Jersey, so you can see a little of ‘real’ America too. Breakfast in hotel lounge. Bagels – I had forgotten how fantastic the bagels are in NY.
Drove round Upper Saddle River, saw the house where we used to live. Remembered all the traffic laws – like having to drive slowly past schools, not being allowed to park on the street at night, having to stop if you see a stationary school bus. Also all the ‘unwritten’ rules, like watching the opposite traffic lights and moving the very second your light turns green or you get honked!
Went to Summit, met friends.Sandwiches from a deli for lunch. Had forgotten how easy it is to get nice food in US. Summit is nice, lots of trees, lots of typically american houses, clean and peaceful.
Went to town pool. In US, most towns seem to have a town pool. You have to be a resident of the town to become a member but can then invite friends. It’s where people meet their neighbours and spend summer afternoons. It doesn’t really have an english equivalent.
Wednesday: Breakfast. Packed.
James informed me that if you hide shampoo they keep leaving more. (Horrid image of hotel shampoo stashed in mini fridge comes to mind…..) Becky added that it doesn’t work with hairdryers. (Not sure how she would know that.) The boys swivel chair was in the bathroom. They told me they had used it in a game. I decided not to ask… (Tip for parents of boys: If its not dangerous, illegal or mean, then you are probably happier not knowing.)
Boys raved about how comfortable their beds were and even went as far as looking at the name on the mattress!
Newark airport. Awful.
Flew to Denver.
Collected another car the size of a caravan and drove to Best Western in Dillon. Next to a lake. Very pretty.
Ate in an American Restaurant. Nice.
James threw lemonade over Pedro, who was surprisingly good about it.
Thursday: Beds do not compare well with Hilton, bad night’s sleep.
David went for early walk and came back with coffee for everyone.
Breakfast bar in hotel. James used internet in lobby. I looked at views across lake.
Supermarket trip. Family stocked up on bottles of water and gateraid (which no one likes, so not sure why.)
Drove. Went through a dodgy town (it had a ‘Kum and Go’ – didn’t stop to find out WHAT that was!) Listened to audio book. Drove. Denver to Vegas is shorter on the map…..
Amazing scenery. Amazing weather. Few rain showers, fantastic clouds, snow at one point when we were really high. Mountains, lakes, trees, rivers, cattle ranches.
Stopped at Bongo Billy’s deli (yes, real name!) and bought sandwiches. Boys bought food from a Subway opposite.
Had ice creams in Ouray. Cute houses, looks like a cowboy film set. Spent some time wandering around. Interesting curiosity shops.
Drove up a steep mountain pass – scary. Brilliant red rocks. Followed annoyingly slow lorry.
Pizza Hut in Durango.
Arrived at Holiday Inn in Cortez. Really nicely decorated with lots of American Indian stuff.
Friday: Slept well.
Breakfast not so good. Polystyrene plates and plastic spoons. David burnt finger on bagel. I put sugar on oatmeal, then discovered it was mushroom soup (don’t know how I missed that one!)
Becky spotted meercats. But they aren’t really meercats, must be cousins.
Found track to Valley of Gods (not easy, drove along someone’s driveway at one point. Lucky we didn’t get shot.) Saw amazing rocks. Road very rough.
Back on main road. Totally straight, no bends for many miles.
Saw eagles eating dead horse.
Looked at American Indian stuff on stalls next to road. Interesting but expensive.
Went to a visitors centre. Looked across a valley to an ancient town built into canyon wall. Looked like a toy town because the canyon is 4 miles across.
Drove to Tuba City, checked into Quality Inn Motel.
Lots of American Indian stuff.
Ate in restaurant next door. All other customers Native American Indian. Not sure if that’s a good sign or not. Nice pink lemonade. Very pink. Menu had food poisoning warning at the bottom, rather put me off my dinner.
Bad night due to motel having a blocked toilets problem (not ours). Maybe related to food poisoning warning on menu…..
Saturday: Went to Indian Trading Post. Interesting, some good stuff.
Drove to Grand Canyon. Found really good place to stop, amazing views.
Saw eagles soaring. Beautiful. You cannot help but be amazed at the size of the canyon. It deadens all sound and sucks you into its peacefulness. Best if you avoid the main car parks which are touristy. Bought a Christmas ornament.
Drove to Las Vegas. Queues at Hoover Dam, checking for terrorists.
Drove down The Strip. Checked into Mandalay Bay hotel. Nice room, tele in bathroom.
Met my sister who has come down from Calgary.
Mandalay Bay is nice if you like massive hotels. It was clean and the rooms had everything we needed.
Sunday: Starbucks breakfast. James awake and smiling. Pedro awake but not speaking, just making rude gestures.
Pool, incredibly hot. Lazy river nice but too crowded.
You remember you are in a desert as soon as you step outside of the hotel.
Lunch in a diner. Huge portions again.
Walked to other casinos: Luxor – impressive (though males rather distracted by bikini clad girl in lobby.) Excaliber – pretty castle outside. MGM – boys remembered rainforest cafe. Too hot to walk further.
Las Vegas seems different to when we visited in 1999. It seemed smarter then, everything looked new and people were well dressed. Also, all the food was very cheap due to hotels making their profit primarily from the casinos. This time it felt slightly old. Lots of people were very casually dressed and the food was pricey. It felt like it was trying too hard.The casinos didn’t feel excitingly low lit, they just felt dark, as if they couldn’t afford any more light bulbs.
After dinner, drove to Bellagio. Amazing lobby, like a giant garden. Watched fountain/music display.
Monday: Coffee and donuts in room. Swam, chatted, relaxed.
Drove to Venetian to pick up theatre tickets. Ate in their Italian restaurant (waiters were arguing.)
Saw gondoliers and giant toffee apples.
Went to Phantom of Opera show. Nearly late because traffic was so bad. Show was short but good scenery and singing.
Drove home past erupting volcano and fountain display.
To date, seen 4 brides, 2 Elvis’, 2 show girls in a car park.
Tuesday: Donuts and coffee.
Swam and sunbathed.
Drove to airport, which is right at the end of The Strip, so very easy.
Nine and a half hour flight home. Ugh.
Please note: Some (one) names changed to protect the identity of persons involved. (I do not know why their identity needs protecting and maybe should be worried……)