AFTER LA it was off to LV – Las Vegas – for Christmas. The week was the blur that I had hoped it would be, but piecing it together afterwards special mentions must go to Frankie's Tiki Room and The Griffin as fantastic drinking dens, Capos Speakeasy as the best place to eat by far and the surprisingly generous poker players at the Mandalay Bay who kindly donated to my holiday fund.
I had big plan to do some interesting, wholesome activities that had been recommended to me – to see the Mob Museum, visit the National Atomic Testing Center, dive in Lake Mead/Hoover Dam, take in a show (Britney Spears has a residency) but, well, I met an old friend from Tokyo and we had a lot of catching up to do...
We did drive out to the Grand Canyon though. It's fun driving for the first 5 minutes but those roads are long, straight and featureless. Cruise control on and nothing to do for 4 hours, the sooner driverless cars come along the better. Of course the Grand Canyon is wonderful, amazing, awe inspiring etc etc – and it really truly is – if I'm ever back I'll be skipping the Skywalk on the West side and would drive a few hours more to another part. Not because I'm scared of walking out over the heights on a glass floor - that was easy, and fun, just I would rather avoid the tacky tourist trap the Hualapai have put in around it. I'm very aware of the apparent contradiction in moaning about tacky tourist traps designed to squeeze every last nickel and dime out of you on a trip to Las Vegas, but this was The Grand Canyon, not Vegas. I resent getting x-rayed and frisked every time I get on a plane never mind these guys with their metal detectors making sure we're not sneaking phones or cameras onto the skywalk so they can ensure that the only photo you'll get on it is an overpriced one from them.
For my money Red Rock Canyon National Park had it nailed as a visitor experience – jaw dropping scenery, a real sense of being in nature, hikes for all abilities, a nice loop road for driving with parking and toilets at all the best photo stops and not a single person trying to rip you off selling run down tourist tat. Nature so big, bold and fantastic does not need a gimmick to entertain, it surely has to be enough on it's own.
As this is a family publication I'm going to leave my Las Vegas experience right there and let your imagination do the rest, but for the last week of my travels I jumped a flight to halfway home. I like to think I'm scared of nothing so flying into the middle of the Bermuda Triangle was not going to put me off hitting the beach, and I quite liked the idea of doing New Year in Hamilton without having to spend it in Hamilton, Scotland.
Bermuda was much more wholesome and relaxed. It's a surprisingly conservative scene, I imagined a place that Silvio Berlusconi and Michael Douglas enjoyed to holiday in would be much wilder, or maybe I was just getting invited to the wrong parties.
The closest I got to Bunga Bunga was a launch party for a new rum cocktail that Goslings were promoting.They scandalised the island by daring to have burlesque dancers doing a turn; turns out even that is a bit to racy for the good folks of Bermuda. It was noted by the guests that Charles Gosling, who doubles up his rum interests with duties as the Mayor of Hamilton, tactfully chose to be absent from the event... Anyhow, drinks wise the rum swizzle has it's place but I prefer the Dark 'N Stormy.
The beaches were fabulous, the marine life abundant – massive parrot fish and rays obvious without the need to snorkel, never mind get the scuba gear on. I always love swimming in the sea, but swimming in the sea in January whilst the sun is high and hot is especially fantastic. The taxi drivers in Bermuda all rave about Horseshoe Bay as the best beach, and it's certainly the busiest, but you're much better off hiring a scooter and buzzing off with the locals to quieter, smaller, more spectacular beaches off the beaten track.
Rules abound even on tropical islands, I was unsettled waiting for a bus for every bus stop had No Loitering painted on it, with no small print to tell me when waiting for a bus crossed over into loitering... Whilst it felt very far from home some things remained the same. The schools in Bermuda all have that same tacky green flag flying in their grounds that I'm sure stands for something wholesome and worthwhile but just looks cheap.
We spend New Years Eve partying in a grand hotel in Bermuda with an Elton John tribute act facing off a Billy Joel tribute and proving that Hogmany anywhere around the world is pretty similar, ending at stupid o'clock in the morning singing songs with new friends and a hangover in the post... One of the new friends was Mike Bishop, a fixture in Bermuda renowned as a talk show host, magician, hypnotist and pub quiz host extraordinaire. I say extraordinaire as at his pub quiz later in the week my team won on the question who sang the 1984 smash hit 'Young at Heart', clearly favoring his new Scottish drinking buddy...
So LA, Las Vegas and Bermuda were quite an adventure, Bermuda was the easiest to make new friends in, LA the hardest, possibly related to the size of the places respectively. They all served up exactly what I expected though, LA with tons to see and do, Vegas every bit as wild as you can take for a party and Bermuda chilled out, relaxed and beautiful.