I am going to do two cities in one post to get this series out of the way.
San Diego is a bland and active city at the same time. We were here for three days, and the weather ruined one of them.
I found San Diego to be a really rah-rah-American patriotism kind of city. There is an American military base nearby and the city catered to them in a big way. Wherever we went, whether Sea World or Point Loma lighthouse, or even bumper stickers on cars, there were loud and proud signs proclaiming "We Support Our Troops".
Even at Sea World, the hostess would announce, prior to each show, "We would like to reiterate our support for our troops. Sea World supports our troops. If you are a family with a serviceman or in our forces, please stand up and everyone please give a round of applause."
Such in-your-face patriotism gets to you after a while. I am a tourist, I have come to see stuff, keep your troops and your war cries out of sight!
Sea World was pretty good.
It's just amazing how trained those huge orcas and killer whales can be. They would flop around, execute synchronized jumps, twirls and backflips, all at instant signal from the trainers.
And the dolphins, wow! They could jump 16 feet high!
I didn't know if it was safe to buy food (even French Fries) though, given this sign.
Even seals got into the act. The finishing was a night time Christmas special show with Sea World's flagship killer whale, Shamu.
It was in San Diego I met Haleem and his lovely wife Mona, who live in Mississuaga, and were visiting San Diego at the same time as us, as well as my friend Suparna and her family who used to live in the Middle East before moving to the US. It's amazing sometimes you live in the same city and never meet up, and then run into each other in some other part of the world!
Las Vegas was just a mind blowing city. It's one place I wouldn't mind going back to, again. The drive from San Diego to Vegas took about 6 hours and the scenary changed from brilliant green farm land to stark dry desert to mountain peaks filled with ice and snow, and then, as we approached the State of Nevada, back to dry desert again.
The famous Strip was everything I imagined it to be. Loud, gary, with flashing neon lights, music, busy with people, and even guys hanging around street corners, handing out cards with a number and a promise "Girls to your room in 30 minutes".
One famous aspect of the Strip are the themed hotels. Of those, I found the New York New York hotel to be truly huge. It replicated several of the famous New York buildings, and even had a coaster around the hotel/casino resort.
Right next to the Paris Hotel was the Bellagio Hotel. One of the big attractions of Vegas are the Fountains of Bellagio, shown in the movie Ocean's 11. We got a perfect spot by following some Indians who were chatting "Eha se dekho sab dikhta hai" and got the whole show on tape.
A different music was played for each show and those would be repeated every 15 minutes or 30, depending on the time of the day.
The waters would shoot 30 feet up into the air!
They say the Eiffel tower at Hotel Paris is really 1/3 the size of the real one.
We stayed at the Luxor hotel and resort, which is really a good location on the Strip, as well as having the uniqueness of living in a Pyramid!
Here's a picture of it during the day.
The famous Las Vegas sign wasn't too far from our hotel.
A bus runs along the Strip (it's called Duece) and costs only $5 for 24 hours of unlimited travel. The traffic on this road as well as the construction around reminded me of Sheikh Zayed road in Dubai.
Here's the "Eiffel tower" again in the morning.
I did one silly thing - went to the Stratosphere tower in the morning. It would have been better to go in the evening (but then the lines are LOOOONG) so you get a view of the Strip at night.
I was just amazed at the detail of the themed hotels - the Venetian had the Bridge of Sighs, gondolas and even the arches of the Piazzas all proper!
We went to the Criss Angels show and saw him live! All in all Las Vegas was one truly great touristy city. Lots to do, even if you didn't gamble.