Las Vegas is like no other place I’ve ever been and since Virgin Atlantic fly direct to Manchester from there and it’s just a short flight from San Francisco, it made sense to tag a few days in Sin City to the end of our American Odyssey.
We land on time and I’ve booked a limo transfer to take us to the hotel, this is Vegas after all! Mum had no idea and had never been in a limo before so she got quite excited when our driver met us at the baggage carousel and took our bags to the car. As soon as we’d checked in (not a Marriott this time!) she logged on to the free Wi-Fi to show everyone back home our sweet ride.
Mum was looking forward to visiting Vegas the least out of our 3 destinations, but I took her for a walk down The Strip to show her what this place is all about. We obviously couldn’t avoid a mission around the Miracle Mile Mall! She scoffed at the price of the designer handbags, “they’re fakes, they’re not that cheap at home”. We’re not at home though, are we mother? She wanted to see how the Sphinx at the Luxor Hotel compared to the real thing so we walked that way so she could get her snap. Within minutes, the picture was uploaded on to Facebook!
No trip to Vegas would be complete without a visit to Grand Canyon West. I’d been before but as mum wasn’t likely to go to America again, and least of all Vegas, it made sense for us to go. We got picked up from our hotel and driven to Boulder City airport for our little turboprop plane to the Grand Canyon. I didn’t think mum would enjoy the Skywalk much so we gave that a miss. We took our pictures at Eagle Point and cringed as tourists got far too close to the edge of the chasm. No bloody Wi-Fi here, not even a phone signal. Mum was oblivious for once but I was sweating, how could I pull off my surprise if I couldn’t get a damn phone signal?
We caught the little hopper bus to Guano Point and after some lunch, the adventurous spirit came out of mum as we scaled the rocky mound to get a better view. The way up was fine, but the way down was a bit trickier. I took mum’s handbag so she could concentrate on her footwork, I must have looked pretty special to anyone watching me descending the rocks with a lady’s handbag! I offered the chance to take a helicopter to the floor of the canyon, which I’d done and loved on my previous visit, but mum wasn’t keen so we gave it a miss. I still didn’t have a phone signal and was starting to panic about what was happening at home.
We boarded the little plane back to Boulder and I don’t know what it is about my mother and small aircraft but the ride back was almost as scary as the flight in Kenya. I’m never getting in a light aircraft with that woman again! I then started to panic that it was me that nearly killed us as I switched my phone on mid-flight to see if I had any updates from the other half on my master plan. I dash in to the toilet as soon as we’ve landed as a text pings through – “SORTED!”
After dinner, we wondered the Strip and watched the dancing fountains at The Bellagio before walking a bit further to watch the volcano show at The Mirage. The volcano is my favourite, so much more aggressive than the fountains!
As a Christmas gift, the other half had given me a $20 bill with the strict instruction to wager the whole lot on red or black on roulette. Although I’d been to Vegas before, I’d never gambled on the tables and tended to stick to the slots. Mum wasn’t much interested in either and despite budgeting a gambling fund, she didn’t enjoy slipping dollar after dollar in to the machines and getting nothing out. I must admit, the odds certainly seemed better at The Stratosphere casino than they did Central Strip.
Anyway, after a few glasses of wine, I plucked up the courage to observe a roulette game. One of the players left her seat after a run of bad luck and the croupier asked if I was joining in. Well it’s now or never!
Everyone around the table looks very serious with their piles of chips. Mum’s telling everyone about the $20 gift and how I’ve never played roulette before whilst everyone places their bets. What do I do?! The other half’s birthday is on the 28th so that seems like a good choice. $20 on black 28.
Bets are off and the women spins the little ball around the wheel. We all watch and wait until it comes to a stop. On black 28!
Absolutely flabbergasted, I’ve got no idea how much I’ve won but I ask the women if I can stop now, or do I have to carry on playing. I’ve never done this before, I don’t know what to do! She says I can leave so I scoop up my chips and stand to leave, almost forgetting to take back my original $20 stake. Who knew you got your original stake back too? I walk over to the cashier in a daze. She lets me a take a picture of the chips before swapping them for $720 in cold, hard cash.
On a total high, we find a bar to have some celebratory cocktails and wait for the other half to get up for work so we can share the good news with him. Mum’s mega chuffed as I take her to buy the handbag that caught her eye earlier in the day. She talks me in to buying her a pair of sandals whilst we’re at it! It was coming up to Mother’s Day in the US anyway so we’ll use that as an excuse!
It’s our last full day in Vegas and the last day of a USA Coast to Coast Adventure. We spend the day shopping along The Strip and reminiscing about our favourite bits of the trip. Mum admits that she’s actually really enjoyed Vegas, even though she wasn’t looking forward to coming. She’s enjoyed the buzz and is already planning on coming back for a friend’s 50th birthday. I’m sure the win in the casino and the resulting purchases helped win her over!
In the evening, we’ve got tickets to see Hitzville at the Miracle Mile Mall, a revue of Motown songs which I knew mum would love. We’ve got great seats, right near the front and the whole audience sings and claps along to the tunes. Even I love Motown having been brought up listening to the old 45s so it was a really enjoyable show. Afterwards, we head to dinner at a Brazilian restaurant in the mall which I’d heard good things about. I’d booked the show and the meal as a package and it was incredible value for money.
We take our seats and I order some glasses of champagne. It’s mum’s birthday in a few days and I’ve got a card and gift for her in my bag. We clink our glasses and I’m a little bit choked as I tell her how much I’ve enjoyed our trip and that I’ve got a little surprise for her. She opens the card and out fall 2 Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy luggage labels. She’s so excited and comments that had she have known about the increased luggage allowance in advance, she definitely would have bought more clothes and handbags!
On our way back to the hotel, we stop off at Paris and take the elevator up the Eiffel Tower. I’d done the observation deck at The Stratosphere on my previous trip to Vegas so I was keen to see what this view was like. We stepped out of the lift just in time to watch The Bellagio fountains and they look spectacular from above. The view of The Strip all lit up is incredible and it’s a great way to end our last night.
The next morning, we have a leisurely breakfast before checking out of the room. Our flight back to the UK is at 1635 so we’ve got a bit of time to kill before we set off for the airport. Mum takes the opportunity to load last night’s pictures on to Facebook and tell everyone back home about her birthday present. Little does she know about my master plan.
The limo picks us up and whisks us to McCarran International Airport. Virgin Atlantic has kerbside check-in at McCarran but I want to check-in at the main desks for the big reveal of my surprise, so as the bags are lifted out of the car, I rush mum in to the departure hall and start making my way over to the check-in desks.
“So, you know I said that we were flying home Premium Economy?” I say to her. “Well, we’re not.”. She looks above me and sees the sign for Upper Class. Her little face lights up, “why did you lie to me?”. It’s called a surprise mother! Happy Birthday!
This is what the sweating was all about at the Grand Canyon. The plan had always been to fly home Premium Economy (not that she knew that!) but when Reward Seats for Upper Class opened up on the day we were at the Grand Canyon, I had to get the other half to ring Virgin and upgrade us. Paying with points meant flying home in luxury would be an absolute bargain, but then I went and won $700 on roulette so who cares how much it cost!
We drop the bags and walk straight to the Club Las Vegas Lounge where a very civilised hot buffet lunch is being served. Mum immediately logs on to the free Wi-Fi to share the surprise on Facebook. I sit and look over at her and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel immensely proud to be able to treat my hard-working mum in such a special way. She absolutely deserves it.
A member of Virgin Atlantic staff comes and tells us that boarding will begin shortly so we decide to leave the comfort of the lounge and join the melee of other passengers by the departure gate. Once we’re on-board, I take some pictures of mum in her big comfy seat and show her how to use the various controls.
Pre-take off cocktails are served and we’re asked for a menu choices for dinner. I’d flown Upper Class once before so knew roughly what to expect but mum had only ever flown economy so this was a real treat. The crew were amazingly attentive and as this was a night flight, we flipped our seats in to beds and snuggled down for some sleep. We landed in Manchester right on time, sad that our little adventure had come to an end but grateful that we’d been able to share some amazing, once in a life time experiences together.
Date of trip: May 2016.
Price paid: £100.00pp for 3 nights at The Linq Hotel, RO. £125.00pp + 12,500 Flying Club Miles to upgrade from Premium Economy to Upper Class (flight cost originally accounted for in New York edition). Hitzville show tickets with post-theatre dinner was £45.00pp including VIP seats and a CD of songs from the show.
Points earned: 2800 Virgin Flying Club points for booking the hotel through hotels.com.