A Travellerspoint blog

Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown.

I have never been to China, and it barely interests me other than to see The Great Wall en-route to Mongolia and Kazakhstan where the real fun's at. Why you ask? Well, I have been to Chinatowns all over the world and if China resembles them in any way, I want no part in it. It always smells like rotting shrimp gizzards and wilted dog testicles and it’s really hard to ignore that.

I do like to stroll through them and wonder how this entire sub-culture can exist within a city. You could literally live in an awesome location in New York’s Lower East Side and not realise you weren’t in Shanghai. In fact I bet there are old people being Goodbye Lenin fooled on these streets,

“nah Nan, its Beijing, crack a window can’t you smell the freshly slaughtered toad tongues? It’s a shame you are too old to go out, Mao's doing a tap dance show in the square”.

Not many things will get me to Chinatown. It might be filthy and assault all your senses with grot but I, and many others, will still follow our stomachs to Chinatown for the food.

Australia does amazing Asian food, and rightly so. A veritable feast of various cuisines from Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and even Nepal and beyond. It's one thing you miss eating from home, the delicious Asian food that they just don't quite do well everywhere else.

In one of my in depth discussions with strangers that I have had on this trip one fellow foodie, not the fancy style, the 'if you add marshmallows and pecans to pumpkin and then brown sugar it tastes great', kind. She doesn't rate this Asian fusion food hoopla, she tolerates Chinese. But then again one of her other cooking secrets is to add hard liquor to cupcake icing so…

With its history similar to our own America does have some great Oriental cuisine, the only other place I have had delicious Vietnamese food outside Vietnam and Australia was New York.

Chinatown New York is on the grow, much like China itself, gradually worming its way in to every aspect of our being. Even Australian koalas these days are probably just dogs wearing koala fur jackets made in China and bought for a special wholesale price.

Little Italy is located to the north and you would struggle to find a pizza for all the Peking ducks. As with all Chinatown’s the world over, it is a very good place to buy junk. Chinatown's specialise in junk stores. I am no economist but I'm pretty sure China's entire economy is 98 per cent made up of products sold for $2 or less. To be fair I am not sure where we’d be without them, imagine having to pay fair prices for things like mops, soap holders and spray paint. Barbaric.

What bought me into the depths of New York Chinatown on this particular occasion was another neighbourhood speciality, their bus links. You can take a Chinatown bus between New York and Boston for $15. The train costs about $70.

If you make it alive it is such a saving.

One day in the future I might look at that and say, "wow, the train is only $70" but in the mean time, it was to Chinatown I was headed.
This was my second time taking Lucky Star bus. The first challenge is finding the depot in the midst of the maze of Chinatown.
You can sit inside the painted garage on plastic chairs and wait. There is a bathroom that was cleaned back in 1993 should you need it. You have to ask for the key because they are trying to preserve its filth for paying customers only.

I chose to sit out on the side walk on top of my backpack which was stuffed with last minute items and bad packing so it made a good solid seat. I nick next door and pick up a Bubble Tea and wait for the bus. There is no reminder that you are in fact in Manhattan as you try to avoid your backpack sitting in congealed discarded special sauce with extra cat meat on the pavement. That and not choke on slices of tapioca coming up your bubble tea straw like a bullet.

When the bus pulls up to illegally park by the curb to load passengers it appears battered and bruised, missing half of its rear bumper and pumping out gases into the atmosphere. It looks like it’s had a rough day. Much like you probably look having ploughed through the streets of China with all your worldly possessions looking for Lucky Star's oddly inconspicuous shop front.

When you climb on board the smell of rotten cabbage smacks you in the face and takes your breath away. You see the Chinese girl opposite put her bin bag over the seat headrest and you consider that she’s probably on to something and this bus probably isn’t hygienic as such and make a mental note not to look at the toilets and just hold on until Connecticut.

As you take off out of Chinatown and across the Manhattan Bridge, shaking, speeding, swerving and rattling along you can understand why the side of the bus is damaged and why this trip costs a mere $15.

The Manhattan skyline disappears into the horizon as does any personal standards subcategory, transport.

Zài jiàn New York City.
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 02:45 Archived in USA Tagged new_york chinatown Comments (1)

I Heart NY

As you all know I love to travel. I love new places. I love so many places and will tell you many things, about so many places for hours on end but sometimes I just love a place so much I want to marry it and bear its children.

Sometimes I just have a good experience there, sometimes I want to live there, it’s a myriad of reasons, but I’ll be talking about this one country or one place for weeks, my journal entries will be pages and pages long because I have so much to say.

New York is one of these places for me. The US was never high on my travel agenda, but then neither was Asia and I’ve managed to do both this year, but I always knew I wanted, nay needed to go to New York.

Big cities are my favourite, the bigger the better, I like being one of the masses and piling in to subway trains and pouring back out of them onto busy streets. I love not knowing anyone and no one knowing me.

New York is tough but cultured, rough but rich. Its arty and sporty, it’s massive but you can go to parts that are like little villages. You have so many different social levels and cultures in one place. People act like they are awesome because they are a New Yorker, and I have to agree, I’d give a limb to live there and walk around like I’m awesome too. Jogging along fifth avenue in my expensive designer leggings because I’m the shit and I live somewhere within running distance to the most exclusive street in New York.

It’s a buzz you walk 60 blocks, from sun up to sun down and wonder why you are exhausted every night.
After my first visit I went on the internet to try and work out how I could move to New York. I wanted to study there, so I looked up universities but already got a couple of those course things so I couldn’t do that. I looked up internships and apartments I can’t afford on Craig’s List. Found a few rough share houses in Devil’s Kitchen I considered applying for.

I fancy myself living down the Lower West Side, I couldn’t pull off the East, not rich or hip enough. I’d have a wicked apartment with a stoop. I’d have a cool job in mid-town (ie. At NBC in Rockefeller Centre or on Broadway as a lighting rigger) Life would be sweet.
It’s an unrealistic dream, in reality I would probably be working at Tom’s Diner and living above a Polish restaurant in Queens. But one can dream.

I could spend so long in that city and not get bored. Why this last stay was only 4 nights is beyond me I was originally going to spend a good few weeks on my return. The city makes me happy, I walk the same blocks and never tire of seeing those massive buildings tower over me, can walk through Time square every night and still enjoy the neon. Admire those beautiful art deco New York buildings that pepper the skyline. It is an amazing skyline. Eat and hang out and wander, three of my favourite pastimes. Someone sponsor me to live in New York, I’ll nanny your spoilt little monsters on the Upper East side if need be.

So I really do, heart NY.
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 14:08 Archived in USA Tagged new_york love Comments (2)

Food GLORIOUS Food

American Food Safari

In my informed and educated opinion the term “foodie” is being grossly misused in today’s urban hipster society. This ‘foodie’ is one who enjoys dining on small, weird little objects on a plate and no change from $100. However, I would say I’m more of a foodie. I love to eat. I know you probably cannot tell by my slight figure but I really like food. Really, I just physically enjoy the act of consumption whether it’s expensive steak or two day old pizza.

The United States isn’t perhaps well known for its cuisine but it is known for its fat people and these people get fat because of the super-size me menu America has on offer. In fact a recent study showed that travellers gain an average of 8lb in two weeks on holiday in the USA. So I had a good 16 odd pound goal to work towards.

New York is one place which is considered a foodies paradise, but foodie used in the hipster nonsensical way. It is full of fancy restaurants and cupcakerys where people line up around the corner because Carrie from Sex And The City pretended to eat one on camera once (then spat it out). Thankfully, New York is such a melting pot of cultures that for every super rich Upper East Side noshery there’s a poxy Halal King Kebab street stand. So it caters for one and all.

Last time I was in New York I ate myself stupid and this time was to be no exception, only this time I wasn’t weighed down with a busy tourist calendar, I was hitting the big apple with the simple aim of wandering aimlessly, pretending I live there and eating.

Because I am a urban hipster I was staying in Brooklyn. Once a shithole now New York's 'it' area. The cool kids hang out drinking organic fair trade anything and eating micro greens. I had a sandwich with turkey, brie and sliced apple. So Indie it hurts. Later I sat outside reading a cinematography magazine (reading about 30 Rock and skipping over anything that mentioned lens or film stock) and drinking my coffee on Bedford Ave where the guy next to me was wearing a bow tie and bowler hat smoking on pipe like he’s Sherlock sodding Holmes. Hipster nonsense.

I don’t want Wagyu beef on my American food safari, it’s not the American way. I want TV food, all that salty, sugary, cheesy, oily food that is possibly not made with any food items just chemical agents and colourings. America has it in spades, and I shovel it into my pie hole. (Punny)
On my eating holiday there are many things that stick out as amazing, gross and challenging here are some of my culinary treasures.

I watch a lot of TV and movies so another food objective is to sample the width and breadth of the candy aisle. There’s your standard candy fare but then there are a whole bunch of things with peanut butter centres. It a whole candy sub-category. Peanut butter m&ms, peanut butter Snickers, peanut butter cups. They love a bit of the p-butter. On the candy front it’s nice to stop by and pick up some Twizzlers and a Swedish Fish from a Duane Reade, the coolest name for a drug store ever. That's just a street snack, sometimes Twizzlers are a breakfast food but technically they shouldn't be. Duane is also a staple stop for my 2011 goal of trying as many iced-tea flavours as possible.

Of course New York has all your American fare, hot dogs (hawt dawgs) burgers, fries, pizza. I will give credit where credit is due, they make an excellent burger in the States. a little trivia that took me a long time to figure out, and a few “what the hell, where’s my sandwich” exclaims, if it’s a chicken or turkey it’s called a sandwich. ie. McChicken sandwich.

At one point as I zeroed in on the burger section of the menu I asked if it was okay to have a burger for a 3rd night in a row. It kind of wasn’t though I was fully aware any other choice would be a bad one. The highlight of my burger travels was in New Orleans. A beef burger with peanut butter and bacon. Oh the deliciousness of the gooey peanut butter and the crunchy bacon ghllllllll – drool sound.

The burger came ‘dressed’ which is a term that still cracks me up. Especially when referring to sea critters.

“Would you like the crab dressed?”

“Yes please, in a mini tuxedo and a top hat if you can”

New York is built on migration, early settlers were Irish and Italian then came the Russians and Jews then a dash of practically everything else imaginable. The delis became a big thing, cured meats, pastrami, corned beef, brisket, tongue, sausage, bologna etc. The two most famous, the Carnegie Deli right in the heart of the busy part of mid-town and Katz in the lower east side. Katz is also made more famous by When Harry Met Sally and the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene.

They were nuts with people and while I’m not a great lover of meat especially in such massive portions as they come here I took a seat and ordered a pastrami sandwich. They do that weird thing where they seat solo eaters together. So I stared at the man opposite me and felt like I should chat but sensed he would have put headphones on if he had of thought to bring them. Pickles come with most things over here, so I gnawed on my pickles while I waited. I never used to touch them but I’ve grown to really appreciate a good pickle having visited Poland, Germany, Czech Republic prior. Some taste great some taste like what they are, salty cucumbers.

A pastrami pile arrived. As the New York marathon was being run a block north I pulled up my sleeves and began my late lunch. After breaking out into meat sweats momentarily I was soon licking the last bit of delicious mustard off the plate. I got through it, it was a challenge and I just approached it like a sporting event. Focus. Determination. Stopping and pretending I needed to do up my shoes laces to sneak in a wee breather.

New York has the largest Jewish Diasporas outside Israel and it is important to keep kosher and sample all the delights Jewish culture has brought to the city. As well as the aforementioned delis there is bagels and knish, a delicious potato ball thing and I had one with spinach from a Jewish bakery sitting on Houston St since 1910. Just quietly I then walked 50m to Katz and ate a corned beef of rye.

Oh the food. Oh the calories. A combination of all the above meant I needed a bowl of vegetables and fruit upon return to the UK as much as I need breakfast that wasn’t stale rye bread when I returned from Eastern Europe. Detox. And I made a mental note to eat more pickles once normal life resumes.

Fat wrapped in bacon and deep fried then wrapped in sugar? I’ll take one, does it come with pickles.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 07:34 Archived in USA Tagged food new_york burgers deli hipster carnegie foodie katz Comments (0)

What’s My Name Again?

I should probably retain some level of anonymity online but alas, I am a big believer in the online world and its incredible skills in hacking regardless of how much info they have.

So back in the mid-eighties I was born and christened Regan. It’s not the most common name. While I like to tell people it’s after Linda Blair in The Exorcist, it was in fact after the daughter of King Lear in the Shakespearian play of the same name. Those who read the play or stayed awake for the play's entirety, mum and dad, will know Regan was actually not the noblest character in the play. She was an evil bitch.

I used to argue will the other Regan at school that it was in fact a girl’s name. I was the only 7 year old to prove myself right by referencing Shakespeare’s use of it as a name of one of his Princesses.

Eat shit boy. Boy with girl’s name.

I kept the ribbon on the King Lear page in our Complete Works of William Shakespeare in case I ever needed to prove my point again.

People have terrible trouble with my name, especially abroad.

What’s your name?

Regan

What?

Regan

What?

Regan.

Raygan?

No, Regan.

?

Regan. R-E-G-A-N. Don’t worry.

Ronald Reagan really throws people awry. The only place I have ever been where I haven’t had to say my name 10 times, or get called Megan, or spell it out or write it down is Ireland, though the only place I can get my name on a pen or a pin or a novelty stubby holder is Ireland.

Given the difficulty of my first name I have an alter ego.

Her name is Sarah. Sarah is a fun loving, espresso drinker. Sarah is my Starbucks alias. For anyone who has visited a Starbucks you will be familiar with their shit-annoying policy of taking your first name for the order.

How about I just wait in line and assume the coffee you make when there is no one else ahead of me, is mine?
So Sarah orders for me at Starbucks. It is universally easier for me to be Sarah, the lover of a tall caramel macchiato and the owner of a simple 5 letter, phonetic and universal western name.

I used this alter ego several times through the US as sometimes, I can hear the aghast from my Melbournites, you have to visit a Starbucks. Unfortunately while America might be the land of the free and independence and liberty and justice for all, they make god awful coffee. Without a doubt the worst in the world. I don’t think anyone has the heart to tell them that for the rest of the world, filter coffee stayed in the 80s with perming your bangs. It tastes like dirty water with a bitterness to slap you across the face. It is truly terrible. You can go to a coffee shop and it still won't sell a beverage that has been in any way connected to a coffee bean.

To get an espresso, you have to have Starbucks, terrible chain store, pretty terrible coffee but at least it hasn’t been sitting in a dirty drip filter for the past decade. There is also a level of comfort in mediocrity.

You have to be in the mood to face a Starbucks. Americans love options at the best of times but Starbucks is an army of options delivered with break neck speed by a super friendly, smiley person in a green apron. I never knew there were that many types of sweetener outside of sugar and fake sugar.

"Hi, there!"

So Sarah usually places my order and has her name written on my cup and called out and perfectly pronounced.

Easy.

Then I was wandering around Atlanta airport, both trying to kill time as my flight was delayed and find someone who spoke exactly like Holly Hunter I decided I would get a coffee but I was tired and bored and I faltered, lost concentration and as they said,

“and what’s your name”, *cheek to cheek smile*

“Ah Regan”, I said, immediately catching myself.

Regan doesn't make orders at Starbucks. This is Sarah’s job.

I looked at the girl who started scribbling words on my cup in case the idiot beside her forgot what she was told immediately.

She didn’t ask me to repeat my name so she got something.

I admired the array of artifical sweeteners available as they got to work making my coffee.
There was no one ahead of me so I knew they were making mine.

...

“Tall Caramel Macchiato for Raven” the girl chirped.

Oh shit that must be me.

Raven? That’s right. By forgetting my Starbucks alias I became the spunky pre-teen from Hangin’ with Mr Cooper.

That’s so Raven.

I tried not to laugh but on the other hand, I was happy to have acquired a more suitable name for the Deep South because Regan was never going to work down there, it certainly doesn’t have the sass that Raven does, and you’ve got to sass it.

I scooped up my caramel macchiato and shot my nicest smile to the smiling girl in front of me.

"Have a nice day y'all"

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 12:32 Archived in USA Tagged coffee starbucks names Comments (1)

Ghosts and Ghost Faced Killas in Nawlins

Halloween in New Orleans

Halloween: the only night of the year when girls can look like whores, boys can dress like girls and the gay boys can get about in their undies and angel wings.

I have always been majorly jealous of the northern hemisphere and this amazing holiday of fancy dress, witches and ghouls and candy. What is not to love?

In New Orleans, or 'Nawlins' if you haven’t a trained ear, it is yet another reason to celebrate and get crazy. For the most part Nawlins is rough as guts. The beautiful French Quarter is bursting with characters from all walks of life – tramps, drunks, hobos, artists, tourists – from the downright classy to the plain down and out. The famous Bourbon Street, once the home of jazz is now the home of neon. An outdoor club as booze is sold “tigew” or “to go” again, if you don’t have the trained ear, in plastic cups. Cocktails, daiquiris and hurricanes are the local speciality typically come in a 30 ounce novelty-shaped plastic cup with discounted refills.

Apart from its violence, its semi-dodginess if you will, New Orleans is one of the most amazing cities in America because it is wholly un-American. Coming from Vegas, to me the quintessential American city, to New Orleans a little European outpost, its difference is highly noticeable. The quarter has cute little streets and double-tiered buildings with big balcony’s and iron work, a skill bought by the African slaves. The city was once French, then Spanish, then French before becoming American with the Louisiana Purchase. New Orleans was also a port city, the second biggest for immigration after Ellis Island so thrown into the Creole mix were Germans, Irish, Native Indians as well as a huge population of Africans, both slaves and "free people of colour" making it a veritable melting pot of cultures.

Famous for its food, Louisiana tradition uses French recipes as it was a French colony but given the slave trade the cooks were usually African so it became French food in an African cooking style. The influence of the other cultures integrated into the Creole food, with ingredients like herbs and bay leaves from the Indians, sausages from the Germans, tomatoes and chillies from the Spanish all being added to the mix. Food like gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp, crawfish and oysters, red beans, bread pudding, pecan pies and the odd alligator sausage are all Louisiana specialities.

As an old city it is of course, the most haunted city in America making it a perfect place to spend Halloween. All sorts of colonial ghosts wreak havoc on the streets. The city is also famous for Voodoo; the magic with its origins in Africa came over with the slaves and is very much a part of the New Orleans people. Our swamp guide, a guy who spends his time skinning gators and pinning their teeth to his hat refused to tamper with a swamp graveyard where a famed voodoo priestess is buried, because as he put it, as is the general consensus, "you just don’t mess with that shit".

We did a ghost tour, didn't see any ghosts for no lack of trying. A city forever plagued with epidemics, yellow fever and cholera and the like, the city is practically built on a graveyard. There are a lot of haunted happenings in such an old city. The LeLaurie mansion, one of the nation’s most haunted houses was once the home of an upper-class socialite who it turns out had taken a shining to torturing her black slaves to death in a rather sadistic manner. One was a little girl who was seen by a neighbour being chased by the mad woman through the house and fell from the upper roof to her death. Her ghost is often seen falling. LeLaurie was discovered and ran out of town but continues to haunt the beautiful colonial mansion in the French Quarter. Nicholas Cage bought the house and was eventually evicted for tax reasons, but rumour says Madame LeLaurie is responsible for his cursed film career.
And surely plain bad taste cannot be responsible for all those rotten eggs on his CV.

It was my first ever Halloween and I was pretty excited. I wished I had a child to go Trick or Treating with but for some reason people kept guarding their offspring. Being late to get a costume I had to get somewhat creative and spent a bit of time drawing on an Angel dress I managed to find and dying it with the filtered coffee (amazing, I found a use for American coffee) and tied fake cobwebs to individual fake spiders. I was going to be a corpse bride but I wanted more face paint so landed on being some kind of Mexican skeleton bride and utilised some face paint sticks and a black eyeliner to my university level arts degree abilities.

The Mexican skeleton bride hit the tizzle of New Orleans. Bourbon St was abuzz with revellers, most tipsy but not yet shitfaced. We watched all the people pass by in costume, some amazing, some hilarious, some stupid and others just plain crap they didn’t deserve to be outside. Halloween brings out all walks of life. It is an interesting little insight into the person. Some people look like nothing in particular, some come as football player by putting on a jersey from their cupboard or just in their pyjamas, these people are what we call uninventive. Some girls just painted their boobs as their costume which does nothing but bring out the perverts who take photos, no honey it’s not because you are hot it’s because you are topless. These people are what we would call closet whores; they wait until Halloween because they think they can get away with it. The aforementioned perverts are those dressed in a half-assed costume with a sign that says “free shot for a boobie shot”. I saw a dirty old man with this sign and even stranger, his wife was carrying the promised tequila bottle. Then you have people who are amazing and clearly spend all year on a costume instead of going to Wal-Mart. I appreciate people with these kinds of life priorities.

We enjoyed the revelry of New Orleans in costume, I liked seeing people sit in restaurant dressed up and many people dress their baby or dog to match them which i love and hate at the same time. One lady brought her two small children down Bourbon St, not suitable at the best of times and the poor child stood frozen on the spot, terrified of the people around her. I could see her staring at me and I smiled but I still would have looked terrifying to a 3 year old. There were tears. Everywhere you look there is oddness. You have drunken human chicken sitting in a gutter, zombies carving up the dance floor and Cruella DeVille just walking a Dalmatian down the street.

In all the hoopla on Bourbon Street that night it turns out there was a shooting, because that’s how some people over this way settle arguments. Banning guns is one thing Australia got right. So one was killed in the shootout on the corner of the busiest tourist strip in New Orleans which meant eight others were injured as they passed by in all the merriment, no doubt highly intoxicated and unaware they were in the way of stray bullets. Of course being Halloween with all that fake blood it would have been hard to tell who was shot.
There were 5 shootings in Nawlins that night, well it might be a little European town but your still down the trigger happy south.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 12:25 Archived in USA Tagged halloween new_orleans louisiana Comments (0)

Viva Las Vegas

Where gamblers, hookers and fat people happily coexist.

Las Vegas is both flashy and tacky to the extreme. The America of excess, grandiose and flashing neon.
The strip is home to the famed Vegas casinos, all big and over the top expensive establishments where high rollers lose their savings on poker and tourists try to win back the cost of their holiday on the slots.

I was quite pleased to see Las Vegas at street level after my hell flight (see previous entry). We descended and came to a bumpy, screeching halt in a city of odd shaped buildings surrounded by desert – a few high risers, a Sphinx and an Eifel tower. Just the usual.
Of course I knew I was in Vegas straight away because there were poker machines at the airport gate on arrival, then again in baggage claim, then again in the gas station then in the restaurant and that’s before you even set foot anywhere near a casino.

The Las Vegas strip is recognisable from movies and from the fact that they have ripped off a bunch of world landmarks and popped them in the middle of the desert. These casinos make so much money off us morons that they have enough money left over, after no doubt shouting themselves anything they could possibly want, to then build a 30ft Statue of Liberty, a roller coaster, a lion exhibit or a series of man built canals.
That’s a lot of chump change.

Of course with all the grandness of the strip, the flashing neon, the shopping and the glitz there is also tacky Vegas. Sin City. The original area of casinos now lies north of the strip, slightly garish and a little less loved. Sitting there like a sad hooker, its lipstick wiped to the side and its mascara running. Here the somewhat less classy folk sit all day on the slots. BBQ sauce stains on their shirt from their lunchtime baby back ribs. Up here cowboy hats and denim is the attire of choice. It’s a place where you can nick out between Blackjack deals and marry your broad in a drive-thru chapel then down a 40 ounce cocktail from a novelty guitar-shaped container.
It’s all class.

The term ‘off-strip’ refers to all that which isn’t in the fancy part of town.
When we returned to Vegas after our Death Valley adventures we arrived late, down a dark, unnamed street at our off-strip hotel.
Now the arrangement during road trip times is my travel buddy is responsible for driving, hotels, waking me up, time keeping, organisation – most things really, and I am in charge of navigating and entertainment. The later mostly means me singing along loudly all day to 90s on 9 radio station.
The shabby hotel had been painted yellow to cover up the misery, Route 19 passed right behind and it sat under the harsh glare of a highway billboard, the only illumination in the dark, prime murder location streets of off-strip Las Vegas. This was not a hotel that she would have knowingly booked. It is the type I would have booked.

It was an off-strip hotel slash whorehouse and crack den from all appearances. A little dishevelled. A bit dirty and broken. The floors hadn’t been vacuumed in a while and were stained with the blood of many a drive-by, gang related shooting. It was the perfect place to bring your hooker or engage in an extra-marital affair.

Having been accommodated above and beyond my own usual standards of late I still slept like a baby, the passing traffic of Route 19 whirring me to sleep mere metres from my left ear. My friend had a restless night worried ever so slightly by the filth and miserable environment we were in and sometime between midnight and daybreak had decided this place was not somewhere we were to be spending any more time in.

While the bed head being only rested against the wall and the bathroom door not fitting its frame were fun, the highlight of what then became our one night stay in the crack house was our included continental breakfast the next morning. At least we get breakfast we had said.

We went downstairs to eat and beside the vending machine was a cereal dispenser packing Cheerios and Fruit Loops, a few polystyrene bowls, plastic spoons and milk.

That my friends is an off-strip continental breakfast.

Needless to say we cancelled our next night and returned to our arrival hotel which had big comfy beds, that’s what we told reception when we arrived, really it was the waffle machines at the buffet breakfast. It pours out the batter then you pour it on the iron, close it and spin it over and 2 minutes later you have a waffle.
Amazing.

Never one to turn down Fruit Loops I ate the whorehouse breakfast anyway, thankfully it wasn't a filling buffet as 30 minutes later I was upside down on a roller coaster above a fake New York skyline.

The USA isn’t one of the world most obese countries for no reason. Las Vegas is a dream for us fatties. There is no such thing as stairs in Vegas, it’s an escalator world here. Even outside. Once when there were steps ahead of me and I almost flat out refused to climb them as it just quite frankly wasn’t the American way.
The meals are massive, burgers, fries, steak, ribs, mostly burgers. Even I, a lover of large quantities of food couldn’t finish a meal in these parts. There is a lot of all you can eat and a lot of people that could never be able to have all they can eat. They reward big people and big appetites in here. If you can eat a whole cow in one sitting you'll probably get it free and also get a complimentary string of Mardi Gras beads. It won’t matter if you get fat on holidays here; they just give you a seat belt extension on the aeroplane trip home.

Of course the main aspect of Vegas is the casinos. I’m no gambler, most slot machines are too complicated and take too long to take your money for my attention span but here in Vegas you get to pull the lever and actively, instead of passively, see your money disappear. With all the alluring glitz and glamour of neon, coins tinkling out of the winning machines and washed up ex-hookers bringing you free cocktails it’s easy to get sucked in to the casino life and gamble. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em and here in Vegas you definitely need to know when to walk away and not be tempted. Obviously I immediately lost $2 on the Happy Days slots which played the theme song every spin the moment I set foot in the first casino.
Oh my god Happy Days...
Damn you Ron Howard.

This is when most people get addicted. I however then spotted a Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks and a myriad of other food offerings. The streets of NYC are recreated inside the New York, New York casino and you can eat outside makeshift New York cafes along your signed famous streets. Not to mention Lady Liberty out front, a replica Brooklyn Bridge and a roller coaster on the roof. It’s all very cool. And again reminds you how much excess money these people make.

As a lover of New York and of Venice, the Venetian was my other main interest along the strip. Standing outside the casino is a recreated Rialto Bridge but remember this is Vegas, so it had escalators over it to save you the effort of walking. There was a recreated Doges Palace and man-made canals with Gondoliers atop gondolas taking people for a romantic ride. The canal flows into the depths of the casino otherwise you can walk through the recreated streets of Venice but instead of shops selling tourist Venetian masks and gelato its Chanel and Gucci. Why actually go to Italy! This version is much cleaner.

Tacky is the key to Vegas. Everywhere you go you have to avoid the people handing out booby cards as I called them. Oddly enough it wasn’t pervy men giving out cards like pimps, it was middle-aged Latino women wearing an oversized bright orange ‘Girls Girls Girls’ t-shirt over their dresses. It always amused me when a couple would walk past and they would try and hand the male a boobie card. He obviously declines because he wouldn’t dare take one even if he wanted to. The female evil eye gets thrown around left and right.

So that was Sin City, I didn’t win my fortune on the slots in fact I left Vegas in the red, including the $2 I lost at the airport gate waiting for my plane to board. No unspeakable riches but I did discover a love of both coconut and pretzel m&m’s and got a margarita from ‘Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville’ so I guess that’s a prize in itself.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 11:06 Archived in USA Tagged vegas Comments (0)

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