Coming soon near a theatre near you…

I have finally got around to looking at the hours of video footage I shot whilst we were in America and have put together a couple of films of Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. To be fair I didn’t actually use my camera as much as I thought I would so the Vegas footage is quite short. For the Grand Canyon clips I’ve used the trailer feature within Apple’s iMovie which I think goes well with the filming.

I still have footage of Yosemite and San Francisco to go through, so watch this space for more blockbusters to come…!

Repellent blood?

For as long as I can remember I was always the one that got the insect bites; whether it was bugs on holiday or fleas from the dog or cats at home. For some reason they took one look my skin and decided that it was worth chomping into. And the bites always itched like hell and normally ended with some sort of allergic reaction and swelling.

Tina, on the other hand, didn’t seem to get targeted in the same way.

But things have now changed.

In fact things changed about two years ago when I was diagnosed with Coeliacs Disease.

It is now very rare that when I get bitten by insects I suffer much more than a small amount of itching, which normally stops within a few minutes or hours. As an example, whilst we were in the Grand Canyon, I was bitten quite a few times on my arms and legs, with visible marks where the darling mosquitoes fed on my blood, but no itching or reaction.

Tina, on the other hand, who was also attacked at the Canyon, has reacted badly to the bites, with lots of itching and swelling. And now, three weeks later, one of the bites has swollen badly and started to spread. And she’s been feeling tired and run down. So today she went to see the GP practice nurse and had to give a blood sample and has been put on antibiotics. The doctor also saw her and was concerned over the bites, suspecting that she may have contracted West Nile Virus, which is transmitted by infected mozzies and is prevalent in North America.

Fingers crossed the tests come back negative as the virus can result in some serious side-affects.

And for me  it looks like my gluten-free blood may have some resistant properties.

I wonder if I can bottle it to create an insect repellent?

UPDATE – Tina’s blood test results came back clear so she’s not got the West Nile virus, just a headache, very tired and flu-like symptoms. Goes with the winter-like weather we’ve had recently!

A grand flight…

20110519-220711.jpgAnother good nights sleep, the hotel accommodation is so comfortable and enables easy relaxation.

Off for our Grand Canyon tour by helicopter later this afternoon but first a few hours to explore some more of Las Vegas.

After showering we visited the hotel buffet, this time there was a bit of a queue to get to a table, but it moved fairly quickly and we were soon seated at a table. I decided on an omelette for breakfast along with bacon and some fruit. Tina stuck with a full breakfast and a croissant.
As we had a few hours to kill we decided to go up to The Luxor hotel as I wanted to take a look inside. I had noticed that there was tram that left our hotel and headed south so I suggested we use that to save on our, by now, blistered feet from our walking yesterday.

We boarded the tram and were soon at the end of the line south, although we didn’t realise that point and next thing the tram started moving north again. We therefore stayed on it returned back via the northerly stop, The Bellagio.

We then walked to the next tram station at the Escalibur Hotel and on to The Mandalay Bay Hotel, which was next to The Luxor, which you can access via walkway. Surprisingly the inside of the pyramid hotel was hollow, with all the rooms on stepped platforms reducing in size as they got closer to the apex. We took a few photos inside and out then started walking northwards up the strip, taking more photos on our way.

Eventually we stopped at the Sugar Store and ordered some massive ice cream sundaes and sat and ate them outside the Eiffel Tower. I, of course, managed to eat all of mine, why waste it, but Tina gave up after getting half way down hers. Even I couldn’t help her out. We both felt stuffed so we headed back to the hotel room for a rest before the limo pick up.

The limo arrived on time and together with a couple of other people we headed for another hotel to pick up someone else before driving the short distance to the airport. We signed in, paid our $80 additional fee (apparently to cover fuel etc) and waited in the lounge, watching a safety video. Soon after we were greeted by John, the Sundance Helicopters pilot who took us to his aircraft. We had the obligatory photo taken next to the chopper, before John gave us further instructions and got us settled in.

I was surprised as to how much space was inside one and also how noisy they are when the rotors are going. There were another five or six helicopters all leaving at the same time and once it was our turn we were off. Amazingly Tina seemed quite calm about the takeoff, looking around at the sights as we hovered over the airport. Soon we were heading west away from Las Vegas towards the mountains in the distance. I was surprised as to how smooth the ride was and felt at ease flying in a tin can with rotors. The views we got were fantastic, firstly of Lake Mead then the Hoover Dam. The helicopter was fitted with headphones for each passenger and as we flew along we had a running commentary of the history of the area. Also John, chipped in with other snippets of information, making it a very personal experience.

We continued on towards our destination, both of us taking photos and videos as we went. As we got closer to the Grand Canyon, following the Colorado river snaking across the landscape, we started to rise and suddenly you could see this magnificent sight in all its glory. The views of the canyon were spectacular, it was difficult to know which way to look. As John steered the helicopter down through the valley of rocks, he explained where we were going to land and soon after we were down.

He informed us that we had about thirty minutes before taking off again and that we could go and explore, take some more photos and then participate in the picnic and champaign. I took more photos and we then went back to eat.

And as I half expected, there was no provision for my gluten-free diet, despite receiving a telephone call from the booking company in the UK that is had been arranged and further confirmation when I confirmed the booking on arrival in Las Vegas. Oh well, the pieces of apple we OK but I was a bit miffed that I had been forgotten. We chatted to John about being a pilot and the canyon; he explained he’s been a gulf war veteran before becoming a civil pilot. Whilst we had been sitting there, we all noticed how the colours of the canyon were changing as the sun moved lower in the sky. What a sight.

John packed up the picnic things and we all re-boarded the helicopter for our return flight. Again, I took lots of video and photos of the fantastic landscape, hopefully there will be some that are worthy of printing out.

As we neared Las Vegas, we flew adjacent to the strip, enabling us to see the hotels in their full glory. This was equally as impressive as the Grand Canyon, although slightly younger in age!

We landed without incident and rejoined the limo, not before purchasing the souvenir photo of Tina and I for an extortionate $30.

Once we got back to our hotel we showered and went for dinner, returning to our favourite haunt, the Aussie Outback Steakhouse, Tina having chicken and I enjoyed a New York steak, washed down with a bottle of wine.

As we walked up to the restaurant we had to stop to buy some plasters as the blister on my foot was becoming uncomfortable. I managed to get back to the hotel OK, but standing on it was becoming unbearable. We watched some more of the games before going back to the room.

We were exhausted and we both asleep by ten thirty.

So much for experiencing ‘the town that never sleeps’, we just couldn’t keep up.

USA here we come…soon!

Preparations have really started now for our California/Nevada road trip next month.

When I first booked the flights I’d only made reservations the first couple of hotels, thinking I’d book the rest when we land at Los Angeles, but in the end I have decided to pre-book most of them so we don’t have to spend time driving around searching for accommodation.

Once we leave the ‘City of Angels’ we will be driving up to Las Vegas, stopping off at Lake Havasu City on the way. This ‘City’ is famous as it is the place where the old London Bridge was sited after it was purchased by the American’s a couple of centuries ago.

Slight change in itinerary since publishing this; we’re now staying at Long Beach near Los Angeles rather than travelling to Lake Havasu City. Reviews suggest the place where the old London Bridge now resides is a bit of a dump so we will be bypassing it and going straight to Las Vegas.

Next we take a short drive to Las Vegas where I have booked up into the Bellagio for three nights. Judging by the reviews we are going to be spoilt whilst we stay there! I have also just booked a helicopter tour which will fly us to the Grand Canyon; Tina was not too keen as she doesn’t like flying but I hope she will enjoy it once we start to see the wonderful scenery.

When we leave Las Vegas, we then head towards San Francisco, not before stopping off at The Yosemite National Park. I have booked a couple of nights hotel accommodation at San Francisco with a view of extending should we decide to stay longer.

I want to visit Alcatraz, the famous island prison, but Tina is not keen; I think she believes I will leave her there!

Towards the end of the second week we will head back towards LA, driving the coastal route which apparently is spectacular.

As usual I will try to keep a diary and if possible make a video diary too.