"I've made a playlist" I squealed excitedly as I jumped into my friend Henny's jeep at 7am last Friday. As we weaved our way out of Los Angeles Billy Joel sang, "Say goodbye to Hollywood" and we did. Miley bounced us along with "Party in the USA" and Robbie Williams sang about the Mandaley Bay Hotel in "Me and My Monkey". We...were on our way to Las Vegas for the ultimate girlie weekend.
The first time I went to Vegas was 2002 and I hated it. I went with a boyfriend and couldn't wait to leave the smell of farts (not his!) and air of sadness and get to the Grand Canyon. I thought I'd never go back. But Vegas changed, gone is the denim and the hookers (although not completely!) and it is now a glitzy glamorous resort with world-class restaurants and clubs, better shows than ever and hotels that blow your mind. I've had a tough six months and sometimes you've just got to let loose and plan for a great weekend with your girlfriends. This was the time.
I now live a 5 hour trek down a motorway away and so it's easier and cheaper to get there than flying in from London, yet I've still only been for work or with a partner, so never had the full Las Vegas "Hangover" experience. "The Hangover" is probably the best public relations video Las Vegas could have hoped for. As the three of us, me, Henny and our friend Lorraine (all Brits living in LA) checked into our two bedroom suite at the LVH Hotel, where Elvis used to stay, we felt the same swagger as Bradley Cooper etc as we realized it was bigger than any of our apartments.
Remember Bros? Well Matt Goss, one of the twins from Bros, who sold 17 million records worldwide and sold out Wembley Stadium back in the day has a show in the "Gossy Room" of Caesars Palace Hotel. I loved Bros a great deal but never as much as A-Ha, and with a giggle and a vodka tonic in hand, we took our seats in this intimate venue which is rather randomly a barge in the middle of the hotel. "Are you from the UK?" I asked the other girls at our table, and they were. I'd bet most of the audience were from the UK, and finally got up close and personal with their teen idol. "Did you love Bros?" I asked the girl on our table, she was from the East Midlands and it was her last night in Vegas. "Yes, she replied, and screwed up her nose and leaned towards me, "I always preferred A-Ha though, if I'm honest". I laughed a little too heartily, and the show began.
No longer is Matt Goss the fresh 17 year old with the grunting voice from I Owe You Nothing, he's blossomed into a bone fide fantastic musician, who uses his pitch perfect voice and blue-eyed charm to bring two of the most joyous hours of entertainment on the Strip. The band are sharp and frankly incredible. Matt Goss is managed - and the show is choreographed - by the same guy who did the Pussycat Dolls and we were introduced to the so-called 'Dirty Virgins" dancers who came on to bump and grind like the Pussycat Dolls through a few of the numbers. I was a little unsure of where they fitted in to this classy music show, but I guess there has to be something for the dads? Matt does perform his old Bros hits When Will I Be Famous and I Owe You Nothing - how could he not? However, he freshens them up with a new sound more fitting with an older performer and older audience and frankly they are almost lost amongst the quality high energy versions of Hotel California and Sinatra classics that he croons through to our delight. You'd think after 6 years he could pretty much phone it in, but anything but - it was as fresh and as full of excited energy as if they'd been jamming in his garage and come up with the melody of Hotel California for themselves the first time. Sometimes you feel they're just playing for themselves because it sounds so good, and the energy of how much they are enjoying the show is tangible. Two solid hours of breathless entertainment that wasn't at all what I had expected and I'd recommend whether you were a Brosette or not, Lorraine wasn't and was blown away - we all LOVED it.
Afterwards...we hit the casinos. "I'm going to win on THAT machine," I said, pointing to a one-armed bandit. "No, go for the one next to it" the girls exclaimed. "No, I'm going to win on this one" and put $10 in and pulled the arm down. Ten times I pulled the arm down, until on that final pull...I matched up and ding ding ding...won $50. It was a great sign for our luck for the whole weekend. As Matt Goss sang, "Let luck be a lady tonight".
Saturday came all too quickly and after crashing out for far too little sleep, we hit the Fashion Mall opposite the Wynn and Encore Hotels on the strip. New outfits for the night ahead firmly acquired, we took a wander round the vast hotels that lay opposite. We had caught the display of the Fountains at the Bellagio the night before, and whilst they don't have the outward beauty of that hotel, the interior is incredible. An intricate flower arrangement adorns the entrance to the vast high-end designer shops, with a moving fairground carousel made entirely of flowers. The Encore next door hosts a fantastic Beach Party, but we had been late arriving and the queue to get in was winding round and round so we skipped that in favour of a Nanna-nap by our own pool at the LVH. Partying gets harder in your 30's!
Saturday night finally arrived after all the anticipation and excitement (and napping). At the MGM Grand, one of my favourite London restaurants, Hakkasan, has opened not only a restaurant but also a 3,700 capacity nightclub with big name DJs like Tiesto and Calvin Harris. I was skeptical whether it could be as good as a summer night in Ibiza. How soon and easily I was proved it was better.
Dinner at Hakkasan was truly extraordinary, the brooding dance music added to the sexy sultry atmosphere, and the food simply exquisite. The best salt and pepper squid I've ever tasted, and the most succulent amazing cod. "What is the sauce on the cod?" asked Henny. "Champagne" I replied, and we both dissolved in laughter at how ridiculous and amazing the answer was.
After an elevator ride, we were transported into another world, of lasers, blasting music and grinding bodies. There's a whole R&B club on one floor of the Hakkasan nightclub, next to a super chic bar. We carried on another flight of stairs up, to the main nightclub, which opened in 2013. It's one of the hottest spots in Las Vegas, and instantly I knew why. The décor is chic and stunning, the music and lights incredible and the atmosphere absolutely off the scale. I thought Las Vegas couldn't beat Ibiza for clubbing and I was wrong. Hakkasan puts any club I've ever been to in the shade. Tiesto was the DJ that night and was epic, the energy never let down, we danced on elevated surfaces until the younger crowd flagged long before us and started to leave. I've never been in such a happy club, packed to the rafters and not a sign of aggro. We were still dancing as they cleared the last vodka from our table at 4am and finally headed off to catch a taxi home. Without question - the best night out ever.
So we didn't find a tiger in our bathroom, no one gave us roofies or got a Mike Tyson face tattoo, but we certainly did...have the best girls weekend ever. Long gone is the old Vegas of 2002, this is a new, energized, young, glamorous and chic Vegas and I loved it. Although I need a week to recover. Viva Las Vegas. Zzzzz.