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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vegas, baby!

In the continuing saga of random places PR firms and their tech clients send me -- see: Malta, Dresden, Miami, Seattle, Prague, Amsterdam -- I spent a week in luxury at the Mandalay Bay resort on the Strip in Vegas.

What a weird place, Vegas. It’s like Disneyland for adults. Everything is fake and sterile and commercialized… but hey, it's still hella fun.

The first day I arrived, I barely managed to leave my hotel. It was pretty big, okay? I stumbled jet-lagged through some random mall over to the Luxor, which is pyramid-shaped and Egyptian themed. It’s cool looking, no doubt. But I’m not sure I’d want to stay there – the slanting interior feels weird and the echoing chamber a bit cold. Then again, what do you expect when you theme your luxury hotel on a tomb?

Anyway, there were banners up everywhere promoting Nicky Hilton’s birthday bash (the night before, shame I missed it) at the Luxor’s club, LAX. Amusingly, in small(er) print at the bottom of the banner, just underneath the number to call for tickets, the promoters advised that anyone with a Luxor room key had automatic free entry – wow, exclusive, that.

Right. The next day, as the conference hadn’t really started, I took a stroll down the strip, passing all the ridiculous hotels – Luxor’s take on Egypt, Excalibur’s take on mediaeval England, MGM Grand’s take on Green. It’s all very tacky in a luxurious sort of way. It’s like Britney Spears – rich yet cheap.

I eventually made my way most of the way down the Strip – it’s about an hour walk – where I found the Fashion Show Mall, so called because it’s a mall which has fashion shows, which is rather brilliant. The shite dollar meant my pounds went twice as far as normal, so I could actually afford to buy things. Things which cost money. This hasn’t happened in a while, so it was exciting.

Looking to extend my sterling even further, I hopped the amsuinigly named Deuce bus to an outlet mall, which wasn't really worth the $5 travel card, but killed a few extra hours before I headed back to the hotel, where I must have gone out for dinner, but don't remember. I was jetlagged then, and still am now. At some point we ended up at the top-floor bar, with a view out across the strip, which was pretty awesome. But that might have been Sunday. I really am confused.

Monday, the conference started, which kept me busy all day. I didn't even leave the air-conditioned hotel (again) until dinner, when we went to the Harley Davidson Cafe for food. I'd like to think it's just a stereotype, but servings really are bigger in the US than the UK. I got about half way through my burger before calling it quits.

Tuesday -- again, no going outside until post-work, at which point I met up with my aunt, uncle and cousin. I had three sets of aunts/uncles in town, and managed to meet up with one (my phone was being weird.) After that, we (journos, etc) headed to some bar called Pure, where we'd booked their rooftop area. It was pretty cool... until our time ran out, and they made us leave. I guess we weren't cool enough to overstay our paid-for welcome. After that, we hotel-bar hopped from some divey-Irishy-thing to the Venitian, where we drank to much and nearly fell asleep at the table. Getting back to the hotel, one journo named Tony wandered off to the casino, and showing a marked resemblence to Calgary-Tony, won $200 at poker.

Wednesday, more work. (Noticing a trend?) I did get a spare half-hour to go look at the hotel's aquarium... they have sharks (video here). And a turtle. Maybe more. The evening event was intriguing, however. It was the conference's big gala dinner, where they got all 4,000 attendees into a big warehouse room (made me think of grad at the Big Four) to shovel food into our faces, before pushing us off to a ballroom to take in the glorious sounds of none other than grammy-award winners Hootie and the Blowfish (video here and here). This really, really amused me. After actually watching all of Hootie's performance, we went to the casino. I was up $13 on a $1 bet, but lost it all after an american tried to pick up on me. He was cute, but clearly unlucky.

Thursday, after doing some writing, I did something I'd been wanting to do all week: go to the pool. Mandalay Bay's pool area is ridiculous. They have sand! and a wave pool! and a fake river, with a current! And, best of all: sunshine -- sweet, sweet sunshine. After a boozy lunch, a few of us headed off to the airport, where we sat for three hours, waiting for our delayed flight. I love air travel.

After sitting through a ten and a half hour flight next to a very attractive, incredibly stupid couple, we reached Gatwick, where the plane had to land on autopilot because the weather was so shit and foggy that no one could see. Ahhh, England.

More pictures are here.

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