Viva Las Vegas, then g’day LA by Richard Jones

RJLV

The historic 1959 sign welcoming punters to Las Vegas.

AFTER our fascinating morning with the male grizzly bears at Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain it was time to move on and head out to the airport.

Las Vegas was our next stop and for the final stages of our trip we’d be without caring tour guide Kit Cross.

She’d looked after our group on the cruise to Alaska and right through Canada so we were sad to say goodbye.

This time we’d be reverting briefly to our normal routine as unescorted travellers and started out in the giant, landmark Bellagio hotel.

It was a Friday night when we flew in so the place was swarming with gamblers, people looking for a classy meal as well as just plain rubber-neckers peering around.

The noise was absolutely deafening. A waitress in the restaurant we eventually picked out told us she’d been remiss about her hearing tests so had one scheduled for the following week.

The next day we decided to just have a look around so we headed to the Miracle Mile shopping complex. My wife is an enthusiastic apron-buyer for family and friends so we stocked up on those before heading back to the Bellagio.

Another driving tour beckoned – this time in a mini-bus with just four tourists from Israel as our companions – so off we went towards the mighty Grand Canyon in neighbouring Arizona.

We looked out at the grandeur of the Grand Canyon from three or four high-up viewing spots and from one could just make out the Colorado River snaking its way through the canyons way down at ground level.

A quick stop at Lake Powell followed for us to get our orientation sorted out. We’d be back on the lake the next day so bus driver Manuel pointed us in the direction of Page, Arizona.

Just as had happened before on the trip this little town sprang another surprise. Not only did we eat smokehouse meat from a restaurant barbecue, but Page featured a very competent country rock band.

The place was packed – it was a Sunday evening – as everyone chewed away on their smoked ribs or steaks while the band hammered out some classic songs.

The next day we headed back to Lake Powell – which is, in  reality, a giant reservoir – for a boat cruise, notable for a slowed-down passage through some towering cliffs. At one stage it seemed both sides could be touched simultaneously, before we were once again in canyon country.

This time it was Bryce Canyon in Utah. Once more we gazed out upon natural rock sculptures: carved spires, pillars and arches.

On we went to the town of Kanab in Utah where we were to come across our finest dining experience of the entire five-and-a-half weeks.

Unexpectedly we found an adjacent hotel to ours which boasted a restaurant featuring five-star fusion cooking.

I enjoyed the most complete roasted duck, topped by a delicious skin crackling, while Judyth ate scallops flown in from Maine on the east coast. All topped off with some classic Californian wines.

On day three we headed to Zion National Park and the Virgin River.

We decided the best way to take in the stunning sheer sandstone walls and high towers was to board the nine-stop shuttle bus and gaze up at the sandstone cliffs.

Back to Vegas we headed via the small city of St George and arrived there after a three-day 1460 kilometre tour across a trio of  states: Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

We’d decided aircraft travel could be saved jut for the mammoth flight back to Australia so to reach Los Angeles a commuter bus was our choice.

Through an arid Californian moonscape we drove until the insane, overwhelming traffic on the outskirts of LA engulfed us.

Six lanes on both sides of the centre strip with non-stop movement of cars, trucks, interstaters and America’s ubiquitous 4WD trucks.

Via a shuttle bus and then a taxi we eventually reached our hotel, a circular building on the fringes of Beverly Hills but close to the Getty Museum.

This is where we spent the next two days gazing at fashion photography, early Dutch masters’ sketches and drawings, Queen Marie Antoinette’s collection of 18th century Japanese lacquer boxes along with authentic Greek and Roman sculptures.

It was fantastic and even though we spent two full days there we’d only scratched the surface.

In an elevator one day we spotted a familiar face. Unobtrusively, trying to catch the lady’s attention, we asked whether she was an actress.

“Indeed,” she said. “I’m Anna Chancellor.”

Readers might remember Anna from the classic movie Four Weddings And A Funeral and maybe from the BBC-TV series (both screened on the ABC) The Hour and Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond.

Finally the last day arrived. We decided to ride the hop on-hop off buses through LA’s classic streets and boulevards: Sunset Boulevarde, Melrose Avenue, Hollywood and Vine along with Santa Monica Boulevard.

The bus isn’t allowed to travel down Rodeo Drive. You have to walk.

RJMAli

Richard and Judyth beside Muhammad Ali’s five-pointed star adjacent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Of course no LA tour should end without seeking out the Hollywood five-pointed stars on the Walk Of Fame so we strolled along one of the 15 blocks of those and found not only Russell Crowe’s on the sidewalk, but Muhammad Ali’s star on a wall just inside an adjacent shopping mall.

 

We both felt the bus journeys would be much better under lights at night. In daylight hours Whisky A Go-Go and sundry other famous buildings looked a tad sleazy.

That was it for our holiday and next up we faced the 15-plus hours of the Qantas flight back to Melbourne.

Fortunately, we both managed to sleep comfortably for seven to eight hours in spacious premium economy seats.

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