Sep 04

V Variety Show, Las Vegas

For my last and final post about Contiki’s Northern Adventure, I’ve decided that V for Variety is the way to go.  If you want an overview of what I thought of the tour, here are my thoughts from last year.

Vlogo

But on with the show…  Oh Geez, thinking about this show is making my puny.  I apologize.

Ok, so the show is V – The Ultimate Variety Show at Planet Hollywood. It’s well, a variety show, as in lots of different acts.  There were skaters, jugglers, magicians, drummer dudes, and aerialists.  I’ve seen similar types of shows, and with the exception of one or two acts they all had a great balance of entertainment for the amount of time they lasted. There was a good pace to the show, so no sagging eyelids.

I thought for the price and with the type of entertainment, this was a great show for the family.

Of course, you might not want to use this entrance:

Aug 28

Your Dream Elvis Wedding

One of the occasional rights of passage on a Contiki tour is the Elvis Chapel Wedding. I’d heard the rumors, but never saw it, until we pulled up in Las Vegas all dressed up for a night on the town.  It’s a surprise for those on the Contiki bus, I had heard about it before, but will admit I was a little slow on the pick up on this one.  I ended up being almost surprised.

So here we are at the Graceland Wedding Chapel, all lined up waiting for something.  Our local Weeding officiant started telling us about the chapel and after a few minutes introduced ELVIS.  He rocked, played a bunch of songs, it was fun.

Then he pulled up two of our tour mates and married them with some funny vows.  Ok, the vows were kinda traditional, but were funny when both parties are laughing. Of course being blessed to the song, Hound Dog, does make it extra special.

For me the fun was that several years ago we joked about my sister and husband renewing their vows in an Elvis Chapel with their kids in attendance.  Well my sister didn’t do it, but I finally got a bit of the experience.  I highly recommend getting your already married friends to renew, just for the fun of it!

 

Aug 21

Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour

Many years ago (or in 2003) on a family trip to Las Vegas, My Mom, Dad, sister and I took a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. That trip was from McCarren Airport, flew us by the Hoover Damn and down to the Grand Canyon, I believe the north rim.  We flew around inside the canyon a bit and then headed back.  On the trip back we did a nice sweep of the strip.  I think that trip was an hour and a half in the air.  It was absolutely fabulous.

When I returned to Las Vegas last year I had the option of taking another helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, this one even included lunch (or brunch in our case) in the canyon.  I decided that after 9 years, and a different experience it was worth it.

This tour was quite a bit different though.  First we went from Boulder Airport, which meant two things: we had a longer driver to the airport and we were not going to see the strip on this trip.  Not seeing the strip was a bummer and something I would tell others to seriously consider this when picking a helicopter tour.

But, we had a shorter flight to the Grand Canyon. At the airport everyone was weighted and asked if there was anyone they had/wanted to fly with, then everyone was assigned to a helicopter and pilot. And then we waited, our group had 6-8 helicopters so it did take a little while to call all the groups and load them up.  My helicopter was one of the last to depart.

We flew into the canyon, flew for a bit and landed. Our landing area reminded me a bit of a scene from M*A*S*H.  Our lunch/bunch consisted of sandwiches, chips, soda, water, and champagne.  Lunch felt a little bit rushed being the last helicopter, it might have been in my head, but I felt like the earlier groups might have had a big more time.  Either way we had enough time to eat and take photos, about a half hour.


 Then we boarded up and flew back home, the good thing about being the last helicopter was that we were able to watch all the other helicopters take off from inside the Grand Canyon, made for some great photos.

Overall this was a great tour, and I highly recommend a helicopter tour to anyone who is visiting Vegas and wants to see the Grand Canyon with limited hassle.  The question is did I prefer a tour where I saw The Strip instead of the lunch?  Well, they’re both very different things and both were cool. If you’re more of a nature person, then lunch in the Grand Canyon might be better.  If you like the bright lights and big city, or just the overhead view of a city – then the fly over the The Strip is the way to go.

Aug 14

Clubbing In Las Vegas

Clubbing isn’t really my thing, I’m more of a bar with some music in the background kinda gal.  I like to be able to chat with people.  But when I was in Las Vegas on a Contiki tour I decided, when in Rome, do as the Roman’s do. Also, it’s one of the few “Las Vegas” things I haven’t done, so it was time to do it so I would have a legit excuse to not do it in the future.  Being onthe Contiki tour we had a club promotor and for like $15 or $25 he got us into 3 clubs (I only went to 2) with some free drinks so, why not?

 Rain at the Palm – This is one of the big clubs I’ve actually heard of.  It was big, loud and had lots of dancing. The drinks were also REALLY strong, as in, I could barely drink it because it was so strong. The reason you mix a drink is so you don’t have to drink straight vodka. This club actually seemed like a good club, if you like clubs.  There were lots of people dancing and drinking, what more do you want? Of all the clubs we went to this might have been the best. The music was even better than I expected.

Lux at Luxor was kinda lame.  The club was small and the music wasn’t so hot. I think this club would have been better as a swanky lounge than as a “club.” And maybe that’s what it was and nobody told us, but something wasn’t quite right here. We left after an appropriate amount of time and went to:

Carnivale at Harrah’s is an outdoor club with a more relaxed vibe to it.  If you’re looking for something more casual then this might be a better option then Rain.

I should warn you though what I know about the clubs in Vegas.  Granted, I only know this from my brother-in-law, but he prides himself in knowing everything about Vegas so I’m inclined to think this is at least partly true.  When you’re hired to work at a club, you may only work 2 or 3 nights at your home club.  The other nights you’re going to other clubs to “party.” Basically, you’re getting paid to help fill other clubs and make them appear to be popular.  Basically, the clubs are all in with each other, assigning each their “night” and helping to make the clubs seem popular by sending employees from other clubs there.

If this is true, the good news is that the local employee is less likely to put something in your drink, but he’s also either giving you a fake number or an STD from the girl/guy the night before.Clubbing

Jun 19

Zion National Park

We finally left Kanab, the location of my falling and cutting my leg going to the POOL!   We were headed to Zion National Park on the way to Las Vegas.  Yes, this park is an easy 1-2 hour drive from Vegas, incase you feel the need to exercise some of sin city out of yourself.

 

Unlike Bad Lands, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon, our primary point of visiting Zion National Park was from the floor of the park, not from the top.  While Zion wasn’t quite as beautiful as Bryce Canyon or as grand as the Grand Canyon, the vantage point from the base gave it a different feel.

Most of the tour group did a hike to a small waterfall, most had planned on going further, but the trail stopped there due to construction so it was the end of the line.  We got some great photos and headed back to the visitors center there for some shopping and snacks.

On the way to the hike I noticed our coach driver and tour manager inspecting one of the tires, it turns out we had developed a leak in one of the tires.  What’s a tour to do when that happens?  Go to the main visitor center so the driver can find the National Park bus driver guys and try to get the tire fixed.

 

The only problem with this is that when you’re waiting for your bus to be fixed and you already have seen a nice piece of the park, you don’t really have time to do much more then shop at the bigger store and soak in the experience. Oh, and don’t go to far incase the tire is fixed sooner then you thought.

As I recall, it took less than an hour and then we were on our way to fabulous Las Vegas!

Jun 12

Falling Down

To set the scene for this post you need to know that I have a fear of hiking down hill, it’s a fear of falling and breaking my leg in the wilderness.  It’s not necessarily a reasonable fear, but it’s not debilitating either.  After hiking in Bryce Canyon and almost dying (walking uphill) I had taken it easy at the Grand Canyon.
Later that night we did have a good old fashioned BBQ in a local park in Kanab near our hotel.  Hamburgers, chips and smores!  We even got to play on the swing sets and jungle gym.  Sometimes it’s fun to relive your youth.  I survived all that fine.

When we returned to our hotel a bunch of us decided to go to he pool, which was across the street and down the block at another hotel.  As we’re walking I managed to slip on gravel. Turned my ankle and fell to my knee, on GRAVEL.  I cut up my entire left leg from my foot to my knee.  It was gross and it hurt and I didn’t have anything really appropriate to care for it.  I did borrow some band-aids and bacitracin and cleaned it out at the hotel room.  But the irony that I was afraid of falling while hiking, but actually fell walking to the pool was NOT lost on me.

I have not changed my stance on hiking!

May 22

Grand Canyon’s North Rim

Our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon started with an early drive from our hotel in Kanab and a time change. Of course we were staying in Kanab that night so our return from the Grand Canyon would include a time change.
At the North Rim there is a nice visitors center that includes facilities, maps, a restaurant and beautiful views.
From the visitors center there are some shorter walks along the ridges (they’re perfectly safe for the average person) and offer AWESOME views. If you’re visiting this area follow the trails to the Bright Angel Point.
If you’re looking for something more strenuous you can do the Bridle Trail, which I did.  The good thing about the Bridle Trail is that it is shaded and easy for the average visitor. The bad things is that most of it has absolutely no view.  So why do it? It leads to the trails that go into the canyon.
I opted not to go down into the canyon because I was afraid it would be too much for me and I would find out too late. But I hear the trail was not one of the nicer ones we would have done in the National Parks due to the donkeys.  Apparently the trail was not as clean and pristine.
Instead I opted to relax and take a nap inside the visitor’s center while looking out at the Grand Canyon.  I’ve got nothing against the outdoors and all that nature stuff, but sometime it’s better to sit and be in it rather than doing as much as possible. Today was that kind of day.

We did have lunch in the restaurant, it was a bit pricey, but it was good.  And after I had just enough time to take my favorite wildlife photograph ever!

May 01

Bryce Canyon

After seeing Salt Lake City and having to prove myself for a drink (I was 35 at the time) it was time to head south to see some National Parks.  Bryce Canyon was our first stop.  If you havne’t been following me for a while you should know, I have a fear of hiking downhill.  It’s been near paralyzing at times.

With that, we arrived at Bryce Canyon in the afternoon and were given 2 hours to explore.  We were given the choice of a couple different trails and although I was hesitant I took the longer hike.  Oh, not only do I have a fear of hiking downhill, I was also in terrible shape having had bone taken from my right leg 3 months before for a bone graft. But then, nothing like a little exercise to get your body back. 

The hike actually only took an hour and 15 minutes and I did manage to hike down without killing myself.  The hike up however… it was strenuous.  As in, switchbacks like I haven’t seen since I was in Norway going to Geringer Fjord, except instead of riding in a bus I was walking it.  Ugh, I thought I was going to die.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I was hurting at the end. And my shoes were coated in a lovely layer orange dust. This is one of those place I would suggest bringing your old shoes too.

It was worth it though, Bryce Canyon is beautiful.  The colors are fabulous, I’m sure it helped that we had a bright sunny day to contrast with the deep earthy browns and oranges of Bryce.  The formations of the hoodoos make the landscape unique from all of the other National Parks I have visited.  And as much as the hike sucked, it was also fun, there were a lot of quirky formations there, the kind of things a writer could make an interesting story out of.

Apr 24

Trying to Drink in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is known for it’s Mormon and Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints (LDS) influence, so when I went there I had to learn a bit about the church and break the social norms and have a drink.

My first stop for the was afternoon was the The Museum of Church History and Art.  I have to admit that being raised Catholic much of what I saw was similar to what I might have seen growing up, but with the subtle differences that separate the religions. 

The museum is quite large, spacious and the staff was friendly.  The museum was self guided, but you could also talk to any of the staff there to get more information. The information wasn’t too heavy, a good level for a casual visitor.  You could go and spend a half hour there or two hours if you’re more dedicated.  There are also several different displays to learn more about the history and the current state of the church.  It was a good museum to stop at if you’re in Salt Lake City and want to learn some local history.

After the museum my group immersed ourselves in the Salt Lake City anti drinking culture at an Olive Garden.  My group was a mix of men and woman and only 4 of us ordered drinks.  Two guys ordered drinks and were no asked for ID.  The a woman ordered got “carded.” They would not serve her a drink because she had an Australian Drivers License, but no Passport.  I then ordered my drink and was “carded” and served with no issue.

If we were anywhere else I would chalk it up to a female waitress giving preference to guys.  However, we were in Salt Lake City, a city known for strict and sometimes strange drinking laws.  Of course it may have been an anomaly, but it did feel a little suspicious to our whole group.

Apr 17

Rafting the Snake River

On Contiki’s Northern Adventure after our night in Jackson Hole we had the opportunity to go white water rafting on the Snake River.  Never one to miss an adventure I jumped at the opportunity.  I did go white water rafting once before on the Delaware River years before so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into, but this was still FUN!

Our morning started with a ride to their shop and getting fitted with wet suits and shoes for the day.  I do recommend both, particularly earlier in the season when the water is colder as they will help keep you a bit warmer.

My boats guide was Alex and he was great!  He gave us all the directions on where to sit, when to row and when to relax.  He told us fun stories about his history as a guide, and a few of his friend’s funny stories too.  He encouraged us to all jump in the river too, and my boat was the only one where everyone jumped in.  Oh, and no one fell in by accident either!

We did have class 3 rapids, which is what I experienced on the Delaware River.  I would suggest that for most people class 3 rapids are just fine.  If you have young kids or less mobile people then it might be a bit much.  But for the average person class 3 will be fun, but not too hard.  Spring is the best time for class 3 rapids, because of the melting snow in the mountains.  Unfortunately, melting snow makes for cold water.

And so for the bad part of white water rafting.  It’s COLD!  When you’re floating along the river all is well, but then you start hitting the rougher water and you get splashed.  Eventually you get soaked and it’s cold.  But then the sun comes out and warms you up.  Once you’re warm, you get soaked again.  It’s a cruel cycle…  But it’s fun and invigorating.  And just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, Alex told us we were going to pull over and get out.  Our ride was about an hour and a half. Perfection!

I don’t remember the name of the company we used.  I tried looking on the internet, but still couldn’t find it.  And since we never got our pictures or our bracelets for jumping into the river, I decided I wasn’t going to kill myself over it.  I’m not sure whose fault that is, Contiki or the rafting company.  It was only the second trip of the season that Contiki used this company and obviously they hadn’t worked out all the kinks.