USA Day 22: Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon

Today, I decided to road test the room service breakfast selection.  I ordered the lemon and ricotta pancakes, and they were pretty fabulous!  Lovely and moist, with a lovely smattering of fresh fruit.  I would put them in 4th or 5th place in the overall pancake ratings…

Andrew and I had already agreed that he would sleep in, while I got room service.  He was OVER breakfast – he finally had his fill.  He did pretty well for someone who usually doesn’t eat breakfast at all (unless he’s diving or riding).

After Andrew got up, we decided to go for a reconnaissance tour down the other end of the strip – to check out the shopping in the Fashion Show Mall. So down we trotted.  I got a bit caught up shopping – how does that happen??? And then we went to have some lunch.  I told Andrew he had to pick the place this time so we ended up at a place called “Strip Burger”.

Strip Burger

Fashion Show Mall
Las Vegas  NV  89109
(702) 737 8747
Open: Sun – Thu  11am – 11pm;  Fri – Sat  11am – Midnight

Always happy with a cocktail!

Andrew had the Hickory bacon burger – caramelised onions and hickory smoked sauce
(with a rogue mushroom that he quickly got rid of).

3 mini hamburgers

I couldn’t decide – but fortunately, they had a menu item called “three mini burgers” – so I had (from left to right) – their famous blue cheese burger with fried onions; the hickory bacon burger; and the mushroom cheddar burger – Oi!! I left the burger bun tops off!!

And then, they had fries – we had half with cheese and half without.

Ahh – the culinary excess of Vegas!!

Stripburger (Fashion Show Mall) on Urbanspoon

We walked back to the hotel – we were pretty relaxed. We got back about 1:45pm and the helicopter company wasn’t picking us up til 2:30 – so we vegged out a bit.  About 2:10pm I noticed the message button – so I listened to the message….

Hello Mrs Siddel, it’s 1:34pm – we’re here to pick you up for your transfer out to the airport. If you get this message, can you please call me on blah blah blah… .

OH. MY. GOODNESS. (and other expletives!!)

Bloody daylight savings.  I had booked the trip so long ago, it was during US daylight saving time –so the departure time was 2:30pm then, but of course, daylight savings had kicked in!  So, in my head it was 2:30pm pick up!!!  But we were supposed to be down in the tour lobby for a 1:30 pick up!!! AARRGHH!

I had a mini meltdown – because I didn’t write the number down so had to redial the message bank – and then there were 3 messages from previous tenants – I mean – really!!!  REALLY!!!!   Anyway – we finally got the number and I called them – they said if we jumped in a taxi now and drove straight down we would probably still make it.  The other alternative was rescheduling, but that would cost $100 per person – so they strongly encouraged us to try to get down there today. Despite my disbelief that we would make it in time – which I verbalised quite strongly – we hustled out of there.

We basically ran through the casino – grabbed a taxi and urged the driver to go as fast as possible. I felt like we were in an episode of The Amazing Race (I would never survive on that show!).  He got us there within 10 minutes – we paid him a big tip – and rushed into Maverick.  We rushed up to the counter – there were about 50 people inside milling around, so the signs were good.  “Have we made it, have we made it????” I asked the girl at the counter – and she said yes.  Phew!!

She then weighed us – I explained that my bag was really heavy (to help explain the high number) – and we sat down in the waiting area.  These poor people had already been waiting 45 minutes longer than us!!!

Here we are in the waiting area – what a rush!!

After all that – we waited for another 10-15 minutes anyway, before the pilots came in and called our names out.   Our pilot put us in a mini bus – and got us to the helicopter where we had to do a safety briefing and were allocated seats.   They try to be fair, and rotate us around before and after the break in the Grand Canyon – but there were a couple of big guys – and they had to sit behind the pilot for weight bearing reasons.

Maverick Helicopter Tours


We had chosen the Dream Catcher tour.  It included a touchdown in the Canyon to have champagne and nibblies, and would cover the Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam and finish up with a tour over The Strip at night.  A bit of everything.

Andrew was happy to be in a helicopter…

Over the burbs…

Some of the land formations…

You could see Lake Mead in the distance – apparently the USA’s largest dam by volume…

It’s huge – long and narrow…

Apparently the water levels were a bit low…

Coming over the Valley of Fire…

There’s an RV park just tucked in amongst the rocks…

Some more amazing terrain…

Here we go – getting closer now…

The Colorado River snaking through…

We landed at a special spot in the canyon, that Maverick obviously pays the National Park a pretty penny to use – there were about a dozen other helicopters from Maverick there…

Andrew and me with the helicopter.

Another shot of the Colorado river, just below where we stopped for our 30 minute break.

See, this is the Grand Canyon – well – actually, only a bit of the Grand Canyon.

To be honest, while the view was amazing, this setting down spot is obviously one of the less spectacular areas of the Grand Canyon.  I had seen on YouTube a lot better angles and positions to see the canyon, and this was not one of them. Somebody had mentioned to me that the West Rim is not the place to be, but I think that’s where we were. D’oh!

We were served champagne and a little treat box with a couple of baby carrots, some celery, some ranch dip, and cheese and crackers – fine dining!   I think not…

Once we finished our 30 minute break, we all got back into the helicopter.  This time it was our turn for the back seat.  We headed off, only to be told that we had to do a refueling stop. They have this self serve refueling zone somewhere out in the middle of nowhere!

Our pilot fueling up…

By the time we lifted off again, it was getting quite dark. This made taking photos a bit difficult. So I’ll blame the lighting and the vibrating helicopter for the fact that these pictures are slightly out of focus

Hoover Dam

Time to head off into the sunset….

And back to the strip for our night time view…

Overall – it was a pretty stunning and amazing way to see the Canyon and the sights – but for over $500 per person, it was probably not as brilliant as it should have been.  It was about 2.5 hours flight time, and half an hour at the Canyon floor.  The trouble was – the pilot didn’t tell us anything about the Canyon.  He was too busy telling us what an amazing pilot he was, how he used to work with the police and be involved in drug busts, and how much radio noise there was and how he had to keep monitoring  it, and how fast we were going in the air, and blah, blah, blah….

Tell me about the Canyon, and the Dam, and the Valley of Fire!  He did say a few little things about them – but not nearly enough for the amount of money we had paid.  Basically, he acted like a pilot and not as a guide (which I acknowledge is better than the other way around) – but for that amount of money we expected both.

Plus – the Grand Canyon is sooooo big – I don’t think it can be appreciated from a helicopter. You need to get higher up.  Anyway – it was good, but it wasn’t great. We were beginning to question the value of these expensive helicopter flights.

We were deposited back at our hotel by the tour bus – at least it was an hour earlier than we had planned. You’ve got to look at the bright side!  We got ready to go out to dinner… Bouchon at the Venetian!

Bouchon at The Venetian

3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 414 6200
Open: Breakfast  Mon – Fri  7am – 10:30am;  Brunch  Sat – Sun 8am – 2pm
Lunch at the Oyster Bar:  Mon – Fri  3 – 10pm;  Dinner  daily 5 – 10pm

Bouchon is Thomas Keller’s restaurant in Las Vegas – you know, Thomas Keller from the acclaimed French Laundry in the Napa Valley.  My expectations were high…

The Venetian – looking back out from it into the strip – you can see the canals, and they’ve just about finished putting up their Christmas tree…

Walking through to the restaurant was surreal –
the lighting was soooo good – it looked like a real sky!

As with most of the restaurants, you have to walk the full length of the casino to find them. In this case, we also had to travel up the elevator to the pool level, as the restaurant has a view of the pool area (which was completely in the dark when we dined).

The menus were wrapped around our napkins.  Very swish!

Some bread and butter, and pistachios…

Andrew’s first course was French onion soup…
not bad, but still not as good as the Ahwahnee!

I had the slow cooked veal with mushrooms and polenta  – amazing!

Andrew had the Steak Frites – I think he needed more fries!!

I had the boudin blanc with potato puree and French prunes – yummy.

I couldn’t decide what to have for dessert – they were touting the pumpkin ice cream – but they also had chocolate marquise on the menu – and I love chocolate marquise….  I asked the waiter if there was anything better than chocolate marquise (which was a trick question, because there’s not a lot that’s better than the chocolatey goodness of a chocolate marquise!).  But he looked me in the eye and said: have you tried the pumpkin ice cream – I kind of shrugged.  He said – you’re having it and took my menu away.

He brought back this: 3 mini chocolate fondants with pumpkin ice cream, caramel, cream and a pumpkin seed tuile.

You know – it wasn’t that great – the fondant was overcooked and too sweet, not rich and chocolatey like it should be.  The pumpkin ice cream was so-so – the pumpkin seed tuile was the best bit.  The waiter came over to check out my reaction – he seemed very crushed that I didn’t think it was amazing – as he had ordered it special for me (it wasn’t even on the menu).  Sorry dude – I make my own ice cream and I’m very fussy when it comes to chocolate and chocolate desserts –  so, it has to be pretty good to impress me.  That’s life!

Overall, I think I had higher expectations of this restaurant – Thomas Keller is the head chef after all. However, similar to Jaleo – it just lacked a certain vibe.  And I didn’t have a “wow” moment – you know, where you think you’ve hit dining nirvana.  Don’t get me wrong – Vegas was certainly nowhere near as bad as my first couple of dining experiences in Washington, but I needed gastronomical stimulation and it wasn’t happening.  Was it Vegas… or was it because we were food fatigued? I guess the next couple of evenings would let us know…  in the meantime…

Bouchon (Venetian) on Urbanspoon


Onwards to Treasure Island – and our first official Cirque du Soleil show – Mystère.    We were sitting in the front row – so Andrew was a bit worried that they would pick on him.  Luckily it was the guy sitting next to us that ended up being part of the show – literally!!

This was a really entertaining show – very classic Cirque – you have the funny bits, the spectacular bits, and the amazing make up and costumes (which you can really appreciate from close up).  Very entertaining!  We laughed a lot, and were spellbound by the amazing talent of the performers. A good way to finish our crazy second day in Vegas.