26th July, To Be Continued…




I thought I’d write today’s entry on a separate post as quite a bit happened today too.

We decided that it was a shame we had been so jetlagged at the beginning of our holiday so we hadn’t actually managed to see much of Vegas yet. We woke up and went on the hunt for somewhere to eat breakfast and found ‘Denny’s’. The breakfast we all decided to get was called the ‘Red, White and Blue’ as it was two rashers of bacon, two fried eggs, some hash-brown (the American version which is just shredded potato, not what us Brits are used to) with a separate plate of pancakes with blueberries, strawberries and whipped cream. Oh my, if I wasn’t so full after it, I could have eaten a hundred!

After that we bought an all day bus pass for around $8 which we thought was very reasonable, and as a tip for touring Vegas, much cheaper than getting a cab everywhere! We hopped on it and headed for the famous ‘Welcome to Las Vegas sign’ – it had to be done before we left! It was so much taller and large than I expected, and there was a bride and groom next to it which reminded me that I hadn’t yet seen a drunken wedding occur in Vegas. I don’t know why I was expecting to see hundreds of Friends’ Ross and Rachels running around with ‘Just Married’ written in sharpie on their foreheads, but I am very disappointed that I haven’t.

Just as we were leaving having had our numerous photos taken I spotted a man proposing to a woman and we stopped behind a bush to secretly watch. We presumed she said yes because a lot of kissing and hugging was happening when we began clapping.

Then we began walking back along the Strip, hitting all the hotels on the way: The Luxor – a full sized pyramid shaped hotel, Excalibur – a knights themed hotel which made us miss our home in the UK quite a bit, and the New York New York hotel where we took a ride on the famous rollercoaster that is on top of it which was fun but hurt our shoulders quite a bit!

This evening mum was desperate to visit Freemont Street, however having been there five minutes and already seen several topless dancers and a man being chased down the street by armed cops we turned round and came straight back to safe Venice.


Snacks, Soaring and SkyWalking


Apologies I was unable to write yesterday, but due to being up for a total of seventeen hours I was literally falling asleep with my head on the keyboard while trying my hardest to enthusiastically recount a fabulous day. So I thought I’d wait until today when I can tell you all about it without a mess of words that don’t make sense and a ‘qwerty’ print on my forehead…

We got up at 5:30am. Shudder. We headed through the corridors of the hotel (which still smelt like wet carpet…) as a trio of zombies with tourist backpacks on, occasionally stopping to head down yet another elevator that blasted ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ into our numb heads. It was only when we saw a huddle of other zombies that we began waking up and feeling excited for the day ahead… THE GRAND CANYON! We planned to all asleep on the bus as we had three hours to kill, but as it turned out the drive to the canyon was so beautiful it would have been a shame to miss it. Also, the exuberant tour guide shouting about self-sufficient desert plants and beef jerky through the overhead speaker would have kept waking us up.

Around forty-five minutes into the journey we arrived at the top of the Hoover Dam and were permitted a twenty-minute break to use the ‘restroom’, visit the gift shop and take pictures of the stunning yet terrifying view. Mitchell and I took the opportunity to continue our tradition of buying a pin from each significant place we go.

We also stopped at little odd gas stations along the way for fuel and yet more bathroom breaks. I managed to snap a couple of really cool pictures that I thought looked straight out of an old western film.

[As a little side note: Mum bought us a large packet of ‘Twislers’ as they are something you can only get in America but they were awful! Tasted a lot more like liquorice than they looked. However, taking the advice of the tour guide we also picked up a pack of beef jerky. Oh my goodness. I’ve decided it’s my new favourite snack – it tastes just like salami – but much to my disappointment $11.00 for a small packet means that I definitely can’t be chewing on it all day…]

Back onto subject…


The landscapes that we saw on the way were amazing and the funny little tour guide, who was very much growing on me by this point, informed us of some interesting facts about the surrounding area. For example, this is home to poisonous rattlesnakes and mountain goats, eek – due to my irrational fear of goats I wasn’t even worried about the snake…

After a quick bus change and farewell from the tour guide we began the bumpy approach to the canyon. It was made a lot more bearable by the people we met on the journey down. A very difficult exchange of handshakes across the chaotic bus taught us that a man named Steve and his brother had been here many times before, and that an Australian woman named Leanne and her daughter Maddy were doing the boat and helicopter ride along with us, so we decided we should stick together.

At the main canyon terminal we were separated into the groups who chose different activities they paid to do that day. As the helicopter ride was the first activity we were due to do, we were first weighed to see where everyone should sit in the aircraft. We then went outside to the landing area where a running helicopter was awaiting our arrival. I was called forwards first. I was then bundled in the front of the craft next to the pilot (oh my God) and desperately tried not to knock any of the hundreds of buttons in front of my with my shaking knees. I was scared as it was about flying over a canyon hundreds of feet deep, let alone scared I would push an emergency-landing button. All I wanted in that moment was to be huddled between my Mum and brother in the back seat. However, after everyone screeching over the sound of the moving blades above us about how “the front seat is the best view” and convincing me they were all “super jealous”, I felt better and we were off.

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We stayed only a few feet off the ground on the approach to the canyon and I thought, huh, this isn’t too bad, in fact I was worried it was going to be boring. BAM. Suddenly we were hundreds and hundreds of feet off the ground as we launched off the cliff face and over the river in the canyon below. It really was breathtaking. All of a sudden I felt completely safe. I felt like a bird soaring high above the ground and I have never felt freer. I wanted to extend my arms and yell at the top of my voice, however I composed myself and my thrill was conveyed only in a grin that reached my ears.

We descended to the bottom of the canyon where we were to get a boat tour down the river. However when we arrived there was already a crowd of around twenty people waiting for the only boat that was working that day. There was no drinking water, no wind and no shade to relieve us of the 45 degree heat and the scorching sun for the next hour of waiting. I had never felt so hot in my life, it felt like my blood was close to boiling and my head was starting to get faint by the time our names were called. It turned out to be worth it though.

Finally we were on board being lead by a very friendly guide who actually belonged to the tribe who were the Native Americans that own part of the Grand Canyon. It was cooler on the boat and the breeze on the water made a comfortable journey down-river.

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Our next activity we decided afterwards was no-where near as good as the others, and wasn’t really worth paying the extra amount – in case any of you were considering such a trip. It’s called the SkyWalk. It is a glass bridge hanging out over the canyon where you can look below your feet and see…well, thousands of feet of thin air (the hole below was deeper than three of the Empire State Buildings), and vaguely make out the bottom if you looked close enough. It sounds fabulous, but when we were on there it was terrifying, and you weren’t even allowed to take your own photographs, so when we got off five minutes later, bored of the same view, we succumbed to paying $25.00 for one photograph of us, in which you can barely see the view through the protective glass.

So yesterday felt like a true Langcaster-James tourist trip, and I’m now sure you can understand why I couldn’t write yesterday!

Breakfast, Browsing and Buying

Oh my word it has been such a busy day, I’m struggling to think if it really has all been in the same day! First things first, we went to the Bellagio Hotel, which according to Mitchell is “extraordinarily famous and is in the film ‘Ocean’s 11’”…what ever you say! Despite me having never heard of it, it fell nothing short of my brother’s eager expectations. In true ‘viva Las Vegas’ style we decided today was the day we would try and stuff as much food in our bodies as humanly possible at the incredible all-you-can-eat buffet! Oh Lordy, it was heaven –

Course 1 – Eggs Benedict, O’Brien potatoes, spinach, bacon and a bagel.

Course 2 – Strawberries and cream.

Course 3 – French toast, 2 pancakes, a waffle, yet more bacon and practically a jug of syrup.

I’m just awaiting my heart attack: it will be completely worth it.

After that we very steadily and slowly wobbled around the hotel itself to explore. It was magnificent. In the front lobby there was an amazing piece of glass art covering the ceiling that fit in with the botanical theme of the hotel; flowers surrounded the front desk, including miniature hot air balloons in the background. I must say the effort gone into the display of this particular hotel was exceptionally impressive – a large conservatory was filled with different kinds of flowers, ornaments such as large snails made from flowers, and a bridge that took you over a small pond. Breathtaking.

Next we wandered further along the Strip to Caesar’s Palace Hotel, which was one of the largest buildings I had ever seen… in fact, the entire scale of Las Vegas is mind-boggling. They say that Las Vegas is a place to be when you’re 21 and can drink and gamble, but to be honest the quirkiness and intensity of the city made me feel pretty drunk despite being completely sober! It is definitely something to add to your bucket list! But anyway, Caesar’s Palace: The only thing about this hotel was that at first glance you would presume the designers clearly spent the budget on scale rather than detail. For example, the fake Colosseum situated outside the hotel really was massive, but a lack of detail caused it to not look very realistic and more like the set of a play. However, the inside was much better. Huge statues and fountains decorated an impressive array of designer stores, tiles on the floor added to a more authentic ambiance and ceilings that depicted Rome’s great history and culture were mesmerising.

From here we began making our way back to the hotel, but on the way I spotted a Sephora store so I let Mitch and Mum go on without me… the sale was too irresistible! After a perfect couple of hours milling in makeup shops (I may have spotted a Walgreens with drugstore makeup counters on the way out of Sephora) I headed back to our room where I found Mitchell Skyping our Dad who was busy gloating that England is too hot at the minute because it was ’27 degrees’… Gee Dad, I feel so sorry for you, one second while I turn up the air conditioning to stifle the 40 degree heat out of here.

Anyway I think I’m going to have to love you and leave you: we about to go downstairs to book a daytrip to the Grand Canyon in the lobby!

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore…


Well, I am certainly not in Kansas anymore! Since my last online entry we have arrived in Las Vegas (or ‘Lahs Vegas’ as the Americans seem to pronounce it)! The approach to Vegas in the plane was spectacular – the desert around it was not at all what I was expecting. In my mind I had visions of flat yellow landscapes, when in reality the view below was of dry, red mountains. I guessed it made sense from photographs I have seen of the Grand Canyon though. The first individual building we saw from the air was the Stratisphere; the tall pole-like structure, upon which a restaurant over-looking the city and a terrifying ride were positioned.

It was at this point in the flight that the captain made an announcement – our new Prince (just as I predicted: I bet he’s called James… we’ll have to see) had been born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge! No one clapped, but I’m sure our murmurs of excitement far exceeded those of the Americans around us. We love the Royals, us folk.

Las Vegas Blvd

We touched down at 1:08 local time. From here we collected our luggage, which turned out to be a little battered, and set off to find a ‘cab’. It turned out to be white, not yellow like the cabs in New York, much to Mitchell’s disappointment.

To say our cabbie was odd would be an understatement. She was frightening. She threw our cases, literally from the sidewalk aimed into the trunk, despite the ‘FRAGILE’ stickers all over each one of them. Also, when mum was attempting small talk she commented on the lady’s Russian-sounding accent by simply saying “So you don’t sound like you’re from round here?” to which the woman replied in a deep, husky voice – “I live here. That’s where this conversation ends. I’m taking you the long way to your hotel because I need to make a living, you know how it is.”

In hindsight we guessed that ‘she’ probably wasn’t as female as a first glance would suggest.


The Venetian Hotel.

I wasn’t sure about the hotel when we first arrived. It is themed to represent a mini Venice and was apparently the best on the Strip. We entered and at first glance I thought the lobby was kind of tacky and there was an odd smell of wet carpet down the hallways. However, I slowly began changing my mind on the half-an-hour walk (I’m not even exaggerating, the scale of Vegas and everything in it is mind-blowing) up to our hotel room – gold detailing, luxurious carpets and incredible paintings on the ceilings. A small corridor that you expect wouldn’t lead anywhere suddenly expands into a gigantic ballroom, to which you wander through with your head spinning trying to drink up all the immense detail and care gone into the interior design, and back into the corridor again.

12–634: our room number, and it is fabulous! Two large double beds, a marble decked en-suite, a balcony inside overlooking a lower level in the room containing several sofas, two flat screen TVs and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Las Vegas.

We all did the typical thing of arriving in a hotel room and jumping face first into the huge, soft beds, though this time we didn’t explore the rest of the hotel straight away; we let our heads sink into the feather pillows and caught up on some much needed sleep.

I awoke at 6am this morning – I think it’s safe to say my body clock is well and truly messed up because I never see that time of day in England without several alarms shouting at me. After an hour long chat with mum, who also couldn’t sleep, I got up, brushed my teeth, applied Bonjela to a cracking mouth ulcer and fell straight back to sleep until half nine. We all got up and ready for a relaxing day by the pool to see us through our jet-lag, but little did we know what was about to come…

The pool area we chose out of the ELEVEN pools on offer at the Venetian Hotel, is the largest one. There are free water dispensers everywhere, a number of pools, a handful of bars and hundreds of sunbeds. It has such a Fijian feel to it due to all the exotic plants separating the walkways and lounge areas. We chose three sunbeds, with one in the shade for Mitch who’s skin apparently is very disliked by the sun, and lay sunbathing for about an hour before deciding we should get some water and head for a dip in the pool.

I had noticed that I was sweating a ridiculous amount (ew, sorry!) and my heart was palpitating but I pinned it down to the thumping music blasted out of a speaker near us so I trooped on to gain a killer 45 degree tan and didn’t mention it to anyone. So when we were stood waiting to get a drink I finally told my mum how fast my heart was beating and she told me to sit down and drink some ice-cold water. That’s when my hands started to tingle, and the clarity of my vision got worse, kind of like when you stand up too fast. Then my hands went numb, everything went black and I collapsed in my mum’s arms. When I came around a minute later I had a wet, cold towel round my neck and several medics checking my heart beat telling me I had a weak heartbeat and low blood sugar (Gatorade, a sports drink full of electrolytes, would sort that out apparently) and I was whisked off in a wheelchair to our hotel room in only my bikini. Oh my God. I fainted again in the chair. In short, around four hours was taken up with my fainting, sleeping and sipping Gatorade. Apparently dehydration is common in the middle of the desert…who knew?

And here we are, I’m sat up in bed recounting my humiliating tale from a few hours ago, mum is napping beside me and Mitchell is hunting down a margarita pizza somewhere in the hotel.


Until next time…

Our Little Venice

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There are no words. We don’t live in a hotel; we live in a city! Well, Venice to be exact.

I thought the post earlier would be the only one of the day, however I couldn’t not tell you about my latest discovery: I have discovered exactly why the Venetian Hotel is the best on the strip: the shopping. Not just the type of shopping you and I are used to but an all-new experience of browsing.

The shopping floors are located underneath the ground floor that contains the lobby, casino and art galleries. Each shop is designed to look like an old building, the hallways are decorated with statues and lampposts and the ceiling is painted blue with lights that change colour according to the time of day all to portray an outdoor effect. But by far, the most impressive thing about this whole charade is the canal filled with running water that winds its way past shops, restaurants and through the central ‘town’ square where a stage is decked with bands performing live music to add to the overall authentic feel of the city. Passing along the stream are several gondolas steered by men in rather dapper stripy suits who sing to you as you glide through the hotel. We didn’t ride one today, but I sure want to before we leave!

So after the initial shock of discovering a fully functioning secret city under our hotel, and after taking several hundred photographs, we met up with mum for an ice cream while watching the live band from a bench near the canal.

In the later evening we finally ventured out onto the Strip, though not very far as it was already getting pretty late. We were feeling a little homesick so we managed to find a Starbucks and have a sit down before having a wander over to The Mirage Hotel. This particular hotel is famous for it’s fire display complete with an exploding volcano, which I would highly recommend as it was breathtaking!

A cheeky bite to eat at McDonalds later we headed home for a good night’s rest, and here we are.

So goodnight, from our very own little Venice.

It’s All Up In The Air!

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Well, you’ll be pleased to know that this online journal entry is coming from Seat 35J at about 33000 feet off the ground! It’s official; this road trip has started, though I admit we are not actually on the road yet! The flight is almost 12 hours long and, according to the information provided on the personal media console I have on the seat in front of me (yep. I know, pretty darned cool) we are now travelling at 909 km per hour and the temperature outside is -49C! A moment ago I was staring at these little numbers on the screen and thinking about how surreal and odd all this is. I turned my head to look out the window at the blanket of white below and was all of a sudden very humbled at how insignificant everything and everyone seemed from all the way up here. However, back to the point of filling you in about the day so far…

This morning, we were up and out of our hotel room at about 6:15am to come to the airport, and thanks to one of mum’s clients, we managed to gain access to a free breakfast buffet, so I admit I went a little food-crazy, especially for someone that hasn’t eaten breakfast in nearly two years! I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stuff my face with a full English (extra bacon, of course) for the last time in almost two months. So after all that we had to sluggishly grab our luggage and just managed to haul our bulging bellies onto the space-age looking shuttle to the south terminal of the airport.

The usual, and terribly dull, part of flying was made somewhat more interesting by me managing to set off the security alarm in luggage check and being patted down for the first time by a particularly embarrassed looking young attendant. I assure you I was not harbouring contrabands, I had just forgotten to take off my sunglasses – something that many of my close friends will know is typical ‘Jasmine’ behaviour – yes, I have been known to go to bed in them, no, it is not always sunny when I wear them. That frightening episode was amended by my mum’s client striking again by giving us access to the first class boarding lounge, so it’s safe to say that, despite still being rather full after breakfast, we made the most of the free snacks and beverages, the floor to ceiling view of the runway, and the mini cinema complete with beanbags and popcorn.

A diet coke, Malibu-and-pineapple aaand a white wine spritzer later we made our way to the waiting area at Gate 17.

I like to think of this part of the travel experience as a sort of reserved barn dance – everyone shuffles closer and closer to the doors awaiting the call of their allocated seat group, they then hop from foot to foot in the queue as they steadily inch toward the pleasant hostess checking boarding passes, and finally they ecstatically perform a ‘grand-jeté’ as they leap onto the craft. Then again, maybe that’s just me and my happiness looks a little out of place among frequent flyers trudging down the queue with stony faces and hand-luggage containing a specific slot for both passport and boarding pass. They are not enthralled to be heading to their next destination by the looks painted on some of their faces.

Anyway, as I said, I am now on the plane, sandwiched between my mum and brother. It’s taken me a little while to write this entry so far and quite a bit has happened on the flight already, so I’ll have to fill you in.

Just our luck, mum’s TV doesn’t work, so there was a little palaver with trying to share the tiny screen on the back of my chair and eventually giving up and swapping seats with her so she could catch a couple of episodes of ‘Friends’ before I steal it back to watch ‘Wreck It Ralph’ – I’ve heard it’s pretty darned good. Then there was MY usual palaver with my silly ears acting up on the take off. I don’t know if other people particularly experience this too when the pressure changes on a flight, but due to my unfortunately inflamed sinuses my ears cannot ‘pop’ to stabilize the pressure inside my head to suit the pressure outside. This causes a pain so intense I can only liken it to having someone stab a knife through your ear and pointing it down your jaw towards your mouth. However, I am aware that this happens every time I fly so this time I came prepared with a sealable freezer bag filled with decongestant inhalers, pain killers, Halls tablets and nasal spray. So, if any of you happen to go through the same trouble I highly recommend dosing yourself up on lotions and potions and grabbing a vodka cocktail for the ascent. Pain free. Hallelujah.

Now I am being presented with a travel-sized dinner of chicken korma and all the cute extras that come with the aeroplane foods, and listening to my mums revelation about “just how odd it is that we are about to eat hot food thousands of feet in the air”. So I better go for now, and I’ll speak when I have touched down in America!

Last Goodbyes

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Currently I am sat in the airport hotel and hurriedly writing a post before a much needed early night. Today so far has been pretty darned rubbish because I had to say goodbye to my family, obviously apart from Mum and Mitch. However, my Dad handing me a goodbye card containing a $100 bill made the goodbye a little easier. Spending money! I think depending on the price of them, I want to buy a t-shirt in each place we visit and at the end, when we arrive back to English ground, I will make a large quilt or blanket using them. Seems like a very sweet thing to have as a memento. And of course, some American makeup!

Anyway, as I said I have a much-needed early night before the flight in the morning: I’ve never been great at sleeping on planes, particularly if there are onboard films available! So goodnight to you, and goodnight to England for the last time in six weeks.

An Open And Shut Case

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Wanderlust; A great desire or impulse to travel and rove about.

I had just hit my teen years when I first discovered this term. I decided I had caught it: a terminal case of the ‘wanderlust’ bug.

As a child my mother had always made it a key priority to educate me not only in the safety of school classroom walls, but also out in the world, meeting new people and being faced first hand with different cultures and ways of living. I’ll always be thankful for this. By the time I was a teenager I had lived for two months in a village on a remote Fijian island where we witnessed rituals, sipped ‘Kava (a traditional herbal drink) with the locals and visited a school that had around fifteen students who’s classes often took place on benches in the dust outside. I had also stood at the top of an Australian mountain looking out over the peculiar ‘Blue Mountains’, scorched my feet on the burning sand of Dubai’s sand dunes and much more.

There are days when I’m stuck in dreary England, looking out of the window through the drizzle and will catch a glimpse of a plane flashing between a huddle of several grey clouds. All I want in the whole world right then is to be sat on that exact plane, and I don’t even care where it takes me – anywhere new with a different climate, different birds (it’s always something I notice when I’m in a new country for some reason) and a different culture. I want to sit on the plane and see where it takes me and then just explore and breathe in fresh air.