June 17, 2010
I knew I was in Vegas when I woke up this morning: my hotel room’s lights faded in over a 60 second period, the TV greeted me with a personal message and my curtains drew back automatically, revealing a replica Chrysler building outside my window. Not my normal start to the day.
First stop of the morning was the Bellagio where a press conference took place to announce Virgin Atlantic’s long-term partnership with Panasonic for full connectivity throughout its eX2 in-flight entertainment and exPhone products. This means that passengers will be able to email, SMS, make calls, play content direct from iPhones, iPods and other mobile devices, and even share holiday snaps – all at 35,000 ft.
By the time the conference was over, crowds had gathered outside the front of the Bellagio, where the world-famous fountains shoot into the sky every half hour. They’d obviously heard that a rather bombastic stunt was just about to take place. For the first time ever, a jet-ski was allowed onto the Bellagio’s lake and Richard Branson whizzed around a few times before taking to the podium to conduct the fountains. He then picked up one of our lovely crew, sped around a bit more… and fell in. All in a day’s work.
If you’ve read our feature on the best side-trips from Las Vegas, then you’ll know that a visit to the Grand Canyon is the ultimate excursion. Today we took to the skies and flew over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter, and the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead before it. This really is one of America’s most thrilling adventures and if you’re coming to Vegas any time soon, make sure you don’t miss out.
We landed at a different canyon – El Dorado – and were greeted by mustachioed cowboys on horseback and taken to the Techatticup Mine; the oldest and best known gold mine in the state of Nevada. From here it’s possible to tour the mine (genuinely fascinating), kayak, go quad-biking or take a horseback ride through the desert. The owners Bobbie and Tony are knowledgeable and fun and want to share their stories with you, including how the mine has been featured in numerous films, music videos and photo shoots. Old props and remnants are littered throughout the surrounding landscape, including a smashed-up plane from Kevin Costner’s 2001 thriller 3000 Miles To Graceland.
Our celebratory barbeque took place in the afternoon, with a live band, dancing horses and even a cowboy fire juggler. Richard cut the very special cake to mark 10 years of flying to Las Vegas, and we all melted a little in the heat and dust before heading back to the city.
Tonight we put on our gladrags and made for the Palms resort and casino where our birthday party proper took place. The Moon nightclub, on the top two floors of the Palms, is a rather unique venue – not only does it have two balconies offering unrivalled views of the Las Vegas strip but it also has a retractable roof for the ultimate star-gazing experience. A fitting place to finish off an amazing couple of days.