12 (June 17, 2008) Balboa Park and driving to Vegas
We must start early again this day. The morning
will be spent in San Diego. We should visit the parts of Balboa Park we
couldn’t see the previous day and, at the beginning of our way to
Vegas, there is a place called Escondido with a wildlife reserve
belonging to San Diego zoo where you can interact with the animals,
like feeding giraffes and rhinos. Its name is Wild Animal Park and,
although it is not a must-do visit, we will keep it in mind. Then,
lunching there or in our way, we would drive through Mohave Desert
until Las Vegas. I’m planning arriving at dark there as I’ve been told
the appearance of the city in the middle of the dark is quite
It is a long route: 535 Km. We should cover them
in almost five hours.
Once allocated in Vegas we would go out at night
to visit some hotel in the Strip and living the party
After what happened yesterday, we only have this morning to
spend in San Diego. I would like to visit the Wild Animal Park, but now
I can’t see us doing that.
Once I’m ready to go to breakfast I go to the
garden for a cigarette while waiting for the women. It is beautiful and
I’m enjoying my walk when I can hear a big buzzing which makes me look
for the source expecting to find the biggest bumblebee ever but,
instead, I find a hummingbird. I keep watching, amazed, how it is
visiting every flower in the closest tree to me. I didn’t know I could
find hummingbirds here! I wish I brought the camera, but I never
thought it could be necessary in a cigarette in front of the room so I
just enjoy that moment and don’t come back until I miss it.
It’s a good beginning for this day and we go to
breakfast while explaining my experience. Generically, this is the
worst hotel of this travel, but it is not that bad, it’s more the rest
were very good.
Once driving, I can find the highway quickly after
what happened last night and park in the free and big Balboa Park
parking some minutes past 11h. We notice then how close planes are
flying from us, airport must be right here.
There is a trolley, like a wheeled tram,
which goes to the main spots in the park and is free too. That’s weird!
It’s pretty, all wood, and driver is a guide too, explaining the things
as we’re passing by them. There are a lot of museums here, and we can
see some war planes outside the Aviation and Space one. We’re not going
to get into any of them and the famous San Diego zoo, which is located
in the park too, was discarded even before starting the travel. The
idea is visiting what we can see around, while walking, but the feeling
is you could spend 2 or 3 days exploring this park. We go down from the
tram in the Square named in the map as “Panama Sq.”. It seems the main
one and you can get anywhere in the park from here. We take the broad
promenade called “El Prado”. Names are Spanish, and architecture seems
to be too, besides, we find three statues of three famous Spanish
painters: Velazquez, Murillo and Zurbaran.
everything we’re seeing here and we understand the recommendation we’ve
got to visit it. Buildings architecture is the same for all of them,
like in colonial Spain, with an excess of ornamentation in fašade, like
the sample in the picture.
We keep walking along El Prado until a space opens
at our left with a nice lake and a semitransparent building, like
herbarium. The map marks that place as the Botanic Garden and we go to
there looking at the colorful fishes in the lake in our way.
We look at the plants indoors, there are even
tree, close to reach the ceiling. There are all kind of plants, but the
ones we are attracted more to are the carnivorous ones, like the ones
in the picture below at right, with a sort of “bags” with water with
sugar in them and a top which can close the whole thing when an insect
has got in to taste the nectar and becomes in food itself.
While leaving the place I admire the beauty of the view of
lake, full of water lilies, and the building in front.
Following El Prado we reach the end of it, on a big square
and with a round fountain in the middle. Here it is the Natural History
Museum and the Science Center as well. It is beautiful and we walk
around the square to coming back to Panama Square by the same way,
where we wait the trolley which can get us back to our car. We feel the
pity of having so few time to spend in San Diego, the delays and extras
along our trip have ended by penalizing this city. We know now it
We take I15, just besides the park for a long and
easy trip, ass this same highway goes to Vegas. In our way, I look the
exit to Escondido as we have no chance of enjoying the wild animal
reserve now, so I keep driving to changing landscape to desert. As far
as I know, these views are going to be there along the whole ride.
Buildings have progressively disappeared from the
road sides along with the cars. After a couple of hours we are looking
for a place to lunch but there is no place anywhere, whether for
lunching or for anything else. Somehow, after some kilometers appear,
in the middle of nowhere, what seems to be a big shopping mall. I can
see a Hooters from the road but, once inside the area, with all similar
buildings, short and brown, I cannot finding it anymore and we end
parking in front of a restaurant from a Mexican food franchise: Rubio’s
Fresh Mexican Grill. The whole area is like a city, with business,
shops and restaurant, but we can barely see people around. Who is going
to come to here! How these shops and restaurant can do any business
here? Where the people working here come from if we cannot see any
house in several kilometers around?. Mysteries…. and also, it results
here they have the cheapest prices: one dollar tacos!
So, we lunch by 14$ all three, tacos and the
all-you-can-drink cokes! It’s like 3€ per person. I cannot find an
explanation to all together, but we’re happy and ready for going on
with our drive.
Joshua trees have been appearing filling the
desert at both sides of the road. This is the Mohave Desert. The road
is like an infinite straight line to the horizon. You cannot see the
end although there is open sight for several kilometers. It must be it
is new for us but the 5 hours’ drive is not boring or monotonous as we
keep looking amazed around.
In the very moment we cross the state border,
along with the “Welcome to Nevada” sign, we can see a huge hotel with a
giant roller coaster. We can read “Buffalo Bill’s” as name and we think
Las Vegas is at the corner, but it is just a preview, there is still
road for us
I can see we’re going to arrive to Vegas at
daylight and we could spend more time in San Diego, then. About 30
minutes after being in Nevada, the city of Las Vegas appears like a
huge oasis in the middle of the desert. I15 goes across the city, in
parallel to the Strip, so we can see at our right the back side of the
famous hotels. Mandalay Bay has a big screen at road promoting its
shows and a little bit later appears, as a white Titan, our hotel,
Excalibur, with its towers with a blue or red top.
We take the exit and drive with New York New York
hotel at left keeping an eye to our hotel at right, so we cannot miss
it. Then we get the car into a roundabout belonging to the hotel, but
that is not the main entrance, so we go on by the Strip – which real
name is Las Vegas Boulevard - and go around the complex until I reach a
matter of ramp with a row of cars on it waiting for the valet parking.
Here is the entrance.
I can see how the guy is taking our car giving us
a ticket in exchange and we go in Excalibur with carrying our baggage
and our open mouth. These hotels has nothing to do with the ones we
know, there is no hall itself in the entrance, instead, a huge and
carpeted floor full of machine slots and all kind of casino stuff. It’s
not easy trying to find a reception desk or the way to the rooms. Then,
our eyes get used to the soft light in here and we can see the signs to
go wherever you want to go there. We walk looking at the amount of
gamblers around or the fancy car displayed as prize for a winner, but
we cannot see the end of it. Finally, we find the reception desk and it
is not small, there is a row of people waiting for their turn, which we
We get a hotel map, the key card and we’ve told we’re in
Tower 2. Following the signs we arrive to the only entrance to Tower 2
with a guard which checks all the people coming in have a valid key.
The room is good, as expected, with the big flat screen and the
magnificent views to NYNY hotel as the shown in the picture above at
right. We rest for a while and dress for night and go out for our first
contact with the Strip.
Once again in the
unavoidable casino, we’re called by a big man, dressing as a bodyguard,
so we thought he was from hotel security. He propose to us to go to a
Cirque du Soleil show in Treasure Island hotel by just 40$ each. As I
checked rates before coming, I know it uses to cost 100$, so I’m
interested on it. The trick is we must attend to a marketing talk
tomorrow evening, but we already have tickets for the Elton John
concert for then, he says it could be the day after tomorrow, but we’re
going to spend the whole day in Grand Canyon. The he looks at me as
saying “so what?, you already have plans for all days here!”, and the
answer is yes. But we still have tonight, so I ask about any way of
having discounted tickets for tonight without any commitment for the
future days and he nicely explains to me the way locals go to these
shows. They purchase 40$ tickets in the place he is going to address me
and then tip with 20$ to the usher telling him we want good chairs,
he’ll understand. He tells me could explain more things, but as I
already have got the days busy… So, we go out with the idea of reaching
Treasure Island on time.
When going outside it is night, but not dark, as there are
lights everywhere. It’s hot. We’re in rush if we want to be in Treasure
Island on time, but the Strip by night is so attractive for us as per
forgetting about the show. There are bridges over the roads so
pedestrians can go across them. We can see the green MDM in front of
us, NYNY is at our right, which is the way we follow. Pictures with the
Brooklyn Bridge – which is different from the real one just because
that has no screen displaying advices -, the statue of Liberty, Empire
State and Chrysler buildings,… We go inside and we’re delivered coupons
for Coyote Bar from one man in the door, it is just here. At this
moment we’re quite sure we’re not going to try the trick to get into
the show. We’re amazed by what we’re seeing: apart from the Casino,
there is an area with restaurants and bars on a kind of set with
Manhattan streets, with trees, and the ceiling painted as the sky in a
We come back to the Strip. There are pass ways to go down the
street avoiding the sight of the works. It seems they are building a
colossal hotel or something. I keep being delivered vouchers. The most
of them has the picture of a hot woman, a name, a phone number and a
ridiculous price: “Special 35$”. My wife keeps telling me not taking
more of them. “It’s just a souvenir!”.
Montecarlo is luxury, so we go inside. There are a
few people in Casino. We look at the machine slots. These machines have
evolved from what we knew about them: no more coins bucket; these
gamblers keep pushing the button without inserting any count as their
credit card is permanently inserted in the machine. You can use bills
too, but there is no place to insert a coin on them. If you win, the
prize is not given in hundreds of coins either, instead you receive a
printed receipt which can be exchanged by money in the cashier or, of
course, used on another machine. We get the dinner there, in a Chinese
- with Japanese food too – restaurant named Dragon Noodle. It’s not
cheap, but we’re living our first night in Las Vegas. We want sushi
and, as you can get a 7 pieces dish by 10$, we end paying 63$ for the
whole dinner for a couple, tips included.
Next hotel is Bellagio and Paris is in front of
it. We do some pictures in this last one waiting to the fountains start
their show which, I read, is every 15 minutes.
We see an Eiffel Tower, Arc du Triomphe and Opera house
replicas and even the whole building recalls the Louvre architecture.
It’s spectacular. But we must focus across the street as the music
starts in Bellagio.
Water streams, on different highs and shapes
during the performance, follow their choreography along with the music.
Besides the show in the pool, there is the magnificent facade of
Bellagio Hotel at the bottom.
It’s a fantastic show which is performed during the whole night with
different musics and different water moves.
We choose the Casino in Hotel Paris for a little
of gambling. I just set a limit of 40$ and if I lose them then we play
no more. Inside, it is set as street in Paris, with the ceiling, again,
simulating a sunny day. These casinos are thought to be timeless: no
clocks, no windows… no time references. It could be 4 AM or 12PM and
you wouldn’t notice a difference.
I choose a roulette with the lowest limit with a
free chair, close to the bar, where Eva takes her seat. Limit is 10$,
so I exchange a 20$ bills in two chips. I start betting on “1 to 18” or
“19 to 36” based on what have already happened. When I’ve got some more
chips, then I go for the a third bet, I mean, lower numbers, middle or
higher. I go for combinations, but never betting to a single number,
but 6 numbers as minimum.
As I’m winning, the rest of the table, young Irish
men from the same group, start talking with me saying they’re following
me as I use to guess the high or low tendency. It seems strange their
chips have no number on them but we celebrate winnings together and the
waitress keeps bringing me a Corona every time I’ve emptied the bottle.
Eva comes and when seeing I’ve got a good amount of 10$ chips she
suggest to save some of them: I give 100$ to her.
It results winning is fantastic here. Well, it must be fantastic
anywhere, but here, apart from the extra money, there is free bar as
drinks keep being served for free as long as you keep gambling, and you
can smoke!! Somehow, we will have to pay Eva drinks, but they’re not
expensive and Eva has a gift taking hours for a cup of champagne. I use
to visit her with 100$ on chips to save every time. I don’t know how
long I’m there gambling when it seems I’m starting to lose: from 200$ I
had on the table now there are 40$ and I decide to bet all four chips
at a time. I lose them and we leave knowing I’ve visited Eva 5 times,
so that’s 500$ to take from the cashier. We go back to our room very