We were up before sunrise again this morning. Breakfast was courtesy of the Best Western, with a breakfast buffet put on for all guests.
Knowing we had a decent drive followed by some hiking, I loaded up with an English muffin, eggs, bacon and potatoes.
On the road again and with one stop for petrol we made it to Zion Canyon in good time. Entering the park from the direction we came from means going through a tunnel.
And it is not an ordinary tunnel. There are no electric lights, the only light is provided by your vehicle’s headlights and by gaps or windows cut into the wall. Also, due to the limited height in the tunnel, RVs can only get through if they drive in the middle of the road. This means drivers of these homes on wheels must alert park officials well before they get to the tunnel (there is a roadside stop with information on this) and then the tunnel is cleared and traffic is stopped so the RV can get through. Must cause chaos in busy times. We were there early and on a weekday so were able to head on in without stopping.
We made it out alive and were greeted by this:
We had been talking to fellow travellers the day before and they suggested the road into Zion was windy and narrow, thankfully for my nerves it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as expected. Yosemite was a lot worse!
We parked at the visitors’ centre and got ourselves sorted for what would be the last hike of our trip (unless you count hiking up and down the Las Vegas strip!). During peak season mandatory shuttle buses run through Zion, dropping people off at designated stops, usually at the start of trails.
We jumped on a bus and rode it to the Grotto Picnic stop. We crossed over the road and onto the West Rim trail. This would take us up to the notorious Angel’s Landing trail, where you walk up the peak shown on the left in the photo below.
Before we had even left Australia J was very keen to do Angel’s Landing. I was not. I was actually hoping he was just joking every time he mentioned it, but he was serious. But after seeing my fear of heights on previous hikes he knew there was no way I was going to even attempt it, and this was reinforced by all the signs and the announcements on the bus that people with a fear of heights should not do this trail.
There is a spot just before the Angel’s Landing trail called Scout’s Landing, and it was agreed that I would get to there and stop while J went on. That was good enough for me, and the walk up to this point was strenuous and a little bit scary.
It did offer amazing views though, and you can also see the path in the next two photos.
The last ascent before Scout’s Landing is a series of tight switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. Before we started this hike it was my goal to get to the top of these and I was happy to make it.
I plonked myself down in the shade while J went and had a look at the start of the Angel’s Landing trail. There were quite a few backpacks lying around and it seemed that many people leave their stuff at Scout’s Landing and only took lighter smaller stuff onto Angel’s Landing.
When J got back I went and had a look…
Just after I took the above photo, the girl in the blue top slipped and missed grabbing the chain. Thankfully, due to the nature of the rock, she didn’t slip very far but it was a heart in the mouth moment for everyone concerned. If there was any part of me that was contemplating doing this trail it ran and hid after seeing that. (If you want to see what is past the first set of chains do a Google Images search for Angel’s Landing, and you will see why I wasn’t keen).
J also decided to give it a miss (much to my relief). When he was off taking photos he heard someone saying that it was an hour’s wait after the first set of chains and he had no desire to be standing on a cliff in the hot sun for an hour or possibly more. We had gotten up there at a reasonable time and it didn’t seem that busy but there were clearly parts of the trail we couldn’t see and due to the narrowness of it all, numbers must be limited in certain spots.
We walked a bit more around the West Rim trail and then headed back down.
A nice flat section of the trail:
Of course there were chipmunks and squirrels everywhere and I kept getting distracted because I wanted to stop and watch them! This little fellow would run ahead of us and then suddenly flop down and lay very still, arms and legs splayed, making him as flat as possible. He was convinced we couldn’t see him.
We got back down onto the road and made the decision that we were done. There were shorter trails that would have been good but it was midday, getting very hot and we still had a long drive to go.
We got the next bus to the visitors’ centre and hopped into the car once again. Driving out the opposite way we came in, through Springdale, was very different to coming into the park. Totally flat and not a windy road to be seen! Springdale looks like a very pretty town and in hindsight we should have stopped there for lunch.
Instead we pushed onto St George and ended up at the Painted Pony. A bit more formal than we would have liked but it was food!
We both had sandwiches, I can’t remember which one J had but I had the rosemary chicken (grilled chicken breast, olive tapenade, roasted sweet peppers, spinach, provolone, aioli). I think it was the combination of the peppers and rosemary that did it for me but this was the best sandwich I had our whole trip!
The fries were good, but J in particular really liked the chilli tomato sauce.
From St George it was south back into Arizona and into Nevada. It was hot outside, I was watching the temperature slowly creep up…
Once we crossed the border into Nevada we turned our clocks back an hour as Nevada is in the Pacific time zone. This meant we arrived at our hotel in Las Vegas at the acceptable time of 3:30. I had been worried about getting to the hotel and driving down the strip, but the GPS directed us right, and we bypassed the strip for the most part only turning onto it at the Bellagio for the short hop down to the Mandarin Oriental, which had good signage directing us where to go.
One of the reasons we chose the Mandarin Hotel was that is not part of a casino. This means we didn’t have to walk through any gaming floors to get to the reception desk, or to our rooms. It also meant it was a lot quieter. There were never crowds milling around or crowding the public spaces up.
We took the lift to the 23rd floor, where reception is located.
Despite check-in being at 3pm, our room wasn’t ready. We had been allocated a room on the 19th floor but were offered one on the 4th floor instead, with the check-in lady telling us there was no difference in the view. Ummmm, I would have thought 15 floors would make a bit of a difference? They seemed to be struggling as I overheard other people also being told that their rooms weren’t ready.
In the end we said we would wait for the room on the 19th floor to be ready. However, check-in lady couldn’t tell us when that would be, at one stage saying it was in the final stage of cleaning and then saying it would be an hour. She also didn’t give us refresher towels that the other staff were giving guests. She seemed pretty flustered.
We said we would go up to the pool and wait, and she said someone would bring us the room keys when they were ready. She escorted us to another bank of lifts and we went back down to level 8 where the spa, gym and pool is located. The lifts we came up in only access public space and to get to the rooms and the pool we had to change once we got to level 23, or, as we soon found out, changing at level 3, where the cafe and conference rooms are is much quicker.
Before we got to the hotel I had got our swimmers out of the suitcases and put them in my backpack and after hiking and a long drive we were both ready to cool off.
This is not the sort of place where you just go and make yourself comfortable anywhere you want. The pool attendants take your room number (hard when you don’t have one), offer you chilled bottles of water and lay towels out on the loungers for you. We chose loungers in the shade and put our books etc down and went to get changed. When I came out of the change rooms J was on the phone. Our room was ready but as check-in lady had forgotten to take an imprint of our credit card we would have to go back to reception as they wouldn’t bring the cards to us. We had both noticed this at the time, and J even had the credit card in his hand but she never asked for it.
We decided to have a swim first and then get our room key. They had stuffed us around, they could now wait for us. After a very refreshing dip, we wrapped ourselves in towels and went back to reception where check-in lady was quite surprised to see us in our swimming gear! Ha!
We got our keys sorted and were once again escorted to the lifts, all while check-in lady babbled about this and that. I gave a sigh of relief when the lift doors closed.
Thankfully, our room was awesome. The curtains opened when we walked in, which was a bit naff but also cool!
This was the main space, from the door.
To the right of the bed there is a walk through wardrobe into the bathroom:
Through the door in the above photo is a small room that houses the toilet and a third sink. This room was bigger than our whole bathroom at home! There is a second door that leads back into the main room.
View of the room from the windows.
We had booked a deal where we paid for two nights and got the third for free. I have read reviews that say this deal is a load of sh*t as they just jack the prices up for the two nights you do pay for. Whatever. We were very happy with the price we paid and I know that what we paid for three nights you would pay for one night in an equivalent room in Australia.
When we made the booking we had said we were travelling to the US for J’s birthday. There was a card and a gorgeous looking cupcake waiting for him.
I am one of those people who like to read the directory thingies hotel have in all their rooms. At the Mandarin Oriental there were three folders, one marked Spa Directory, one for in-room dining and one was labelled as the hotel directory. However, it also contained the in-room dining menu! We were going back upstairs to reception anyway so told someone on the desk and it was promptly fixed.
The Mandarin Bar opens at 5pm and offers an elegant space to enjoy a drink. We were lucky enough to be seated with a view over the strip.
I had the Cucumber French 75, which was a slice of cucumber, a splash of lemon juice and Hendricks gin topped up with bubbles. A perfect drink for me as I love Hendricks and I also love bubbles so makes perfect sense to combine the two! J had the Un-usual negroni (Hendricks Gin, orange zest, Lillet Blanc and Aperol). The snacks were complimentary and we were warned that the green things in the middle had wasabi in them. They were good as long as you didn’t put two in your mouth at once like J did!
After toasting a successful road trip, it was time for our spa treatments. I had booked these from the car while driving to Vegas as we decided we needed some form of leg massage to help our tired legs recover from all off the hiking we had done.
I had initially booked us the Replenish treatment but when J’s therapist asked us why we chose that one and he explained about all the hiking, she suggested that the Detoxify would be better. This consists of a cleansing foot ritual with a Chinese spearmint foot bath and natural exfoliation with jute fiber mini mitt and lemongrass soap. We then moved to separate areas and our legs were covered in a detoxifying mask with warm ginger and black pepper, followed by a pressure point massage for the feet and legs. A lemongrass cream massage was then applied.
It was very nice and very relaxing, but we agreed we needed more hard core massages. But that would have to wait as spa treatments in Vegas are soooooooooo expensive and the 45 minute one we just had was more than enough for our budget.
Back to the room for a glass of wine and to get ready for dinner at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire.