Following on from my “An Englishman in…..San Francisco” post i thought i would continue on that theme and write down my latest trip to the US, and this time again NetApp related and this time it was for my first NetApp Insight event in Las Vegas.
Having suffered with jet lag from the trip to San Francisco i decided to venture out to Vegas a few days early to get rid of the jet lag before the big event. For those that have attended Insight in either the US or EMEA or even APAC when this was running know how much it takes its strain on your bodies…. albeit through walking, learning, talking and the occasional networking…..
I flew in McCarran International Airport on Friday 24th October, after 10 hours on a flight from London Heathrow in my head it was 03:20 but in Vegas it was around 8pm….. The first steps into any American airport so it would seem (I have been to two now) is the security is extremely high as expected, you then head to passport control…. where i think the majority of the plane myself included was actually told to put our phones away by a policeman or he would take it off and throw it in the bin! his words exactly. Obviously all the US residents were hurried through leaving 95% of us queuing to meet 2 passport control attendees!
Once through it was time to get a taxi to the hotel, and this is where the people watching began… in the taxi rank there were so many different types of people, some young groups on some sort of stag do/hen do maybe, some people around thirties to fifties on vacation or out for business and then you had some real oldies but the spread of different outfits and apparel was tremendous.
I get in my first Vegas cab and head over to the hotel… and pretty much straight away the size, lights and scale of the buildings in Las Vegas hits you like nowhere i have ever been on this planet! Everything was massive we drove down the strip to get to the hotel i was staying so i was able to see Caeser’s Palace, The Bellagio, Paris, Planet Hollywood and New York New York. I was staying at the MGM grand in itself not a small sized venue… in comparison to back home my local shopping centre (Mall) is smaller than the MGM.
When i departed the taxi and entered the hotel lobby i was greeted by a hotel lobby the size of a football pitch it was incredibly big! At this point i am feeling tired given the fact i have just travelled over 10 hours on a plane, slept very little and my time zones were all over. but then on the other hand i didn’t want to miss an opportunity of being in Las Vegas. After getting checked in and making my way up to the hotel i dropped off my bag had a wash and headed back down to find some food…. the first night i didn’t venture far or wide within the MGM i found Wolfgang Pucks and that’s it, had some dinner and got to bed….
Those that have suffered from jet lag know that it strikes at normally the early hours of the morning when travelling in the US from the UK, it was no different on this trip day 2 i was awake at 430 and couldn’t get back to sleep at all! So i headed down to see what was happening, expecting the hotel to be quiet and parts shut off etc. but that wasn’t the case… this should be named the “city that doesn’t sleep” because it really doesn’t.
having wandered down i noticed a Starbucks open and serving coffee… for those that know me i am addicted to coffee and Starbucks is my favourite, I grabbed a coffee and wandered around looking at the shiny lights trying not to be lured in to gamble any of my money… i believe that lasted me all of 20 mins of walking around the casino floor. Roulette was my choice game for the week and i would only use the left side of the board, none of this wasting time and money on the numbers, clearly i have no idea what i am doing but i quickly turned $10 into $20 and then that into $50 and this was where my gambling for that day and the week went completely south!
I ventured away from the Roulette tables and machines and played on some other spinning wheel game… and before i knew it the $50 was nothing!!!!
second on my list of things to do was to try one of the buffets so i did and i hit the MGM buffet as it was on my doorstep and i knew no different at this point in time. managed to combine breakfast and lunch into one sitting and being suitably full i went back to the room to rest.
I did venture out and walked up and down the strip, venturing through the casino floors of all the famous hotels. but no more gambling took place that day.
On the Sunday was when most of my fellow NetApp A Team arrived in Vegas, so a lot of us met up and headed out to frankies tiki bar a recommendation from @JK47theweapon – it was a cool bar, however no beer was disappointing but pretty cool but strong drinks nonetheless. (http://www.frankiestikiroom.com)
Time seems to disappear pretty quickly in Vegas and before i knew it, it was Monday morning and the start of Insight. I am planning on putting other posts up regarding the technical stuff that was announced, the sessions i attended and all the other cool conversations i had with people.
All i will say is this event gives such a great opportunity to meet the people that you hear so much from over social media, it allows you to put faces to the names or twitter handles in my case.
Clearly through the week of insight it was a lot to do with networking, meeting new people and catching up with people that i haven’t seen for a while. This involved quite a lot of drinking and eating. Most of which really was in the MGM grand, we ventured out a couple of times but mostly we would stay in and find one of the many restaurants to eat, or one of the many bars.
One of the nights we did get to go to Downtown Vegas, a very different place to the strip. there were street shows happening and with it being Halloween week there were some interesting shows at that being performed. We wandered up and down the road, the impressive overhead canopy that stretches the full length of the road and is lit up with colourful illuminations is something i would recommend seeing, obviously there were casino’s but not like the strip these looked a little more seedy and how i always imagined Vegas to be and i guess it was years gone by before the rich people built the huge new strip where i was staying.
We got on a blackjack table and lost a bit of money and then got on a Roulette table where again we lost a little more money before heading back to the MGM.
Thursday rolled round quite quick and the end of the conference was close, the majority of the guys i know were all heading off either early afternoon or early evening, i knew i was there for another night i didn’t fly till Friday 930pm and by this time it is right what people say. You have had enough of Vegas after 4 days! I was ready to leave. i missed my wife and baby boy a lot!
But there was nothing i could do about it, and as the Insight floor closed and people dispersed off, i hooked up with some friends that were over from the UK on holiday, one of the couples in the group had actually got engaged on their trip to the grand canyon. I met them in the Caeser’s Palace front bar, we grabbed some food and drink and had a cracking night in Vegas…. it was the last night in Vegas, i got to see the Bellagio fountains something that i missed earlier in the week because of timings. We went to an amazing club and i am trying to find the name of the place but cannot remember… but it being the last night i managed to stay up all night not going to bed till the late hours when i need to check out at 11am! not the smartest move before heading home.
The final day for me was very long! first of all i had to drag myself up and out of my room after no more than two hours sleep! check out and head to my friends hotel where they said i could leave my stuff till my evening flight. One of my friends the day before had bought a boxing glove from a sports memorabilia shop, because on the Friday Mike Tyson was visiting and if you bought something you were able to take it back for him to sign. So i went with both friends to get that done. i didn’t go in as it was only one person allowed to accompany him but that was fine as i had already gate-crashed his holiday. Back to the pool after that and then it was time to leave i think i was at the airport 3 hours early…. i really wanted to sleep and go home. as soon as i sat down on that plane i was flat out and i am not normally one for sleeping on a plane.
All in all Vegas as a city was not what i expected, i expected it to be a lot like what i saw and experienced in Downtown, i think maybe if you were going there for a holiday things would be different as well. I also found things to be really expensive, i know this is the case in large cities such as London and new York but the prices seemed extra expensive here.
When i got back i was asked if i would go back? Well yeah… i will have to next year for NetApp Insight 2015 which is at Mandalay Bay but would i go back for a holiday or stag do, yeah i think i would like to experience that as well. but there is a long list of places i want to visit and Vegas is now ticked off so it’s now on to the next ones.
I am off to Berlin, Germany next this is for the EMEA leg of the NetApp Insight tour, i am hoping to pick up the sessions that i didn’t make in the US, i am also hoping to meet and network with my fellow peers that i have either only spoken to over social networks or them guys that i haven’t seen since last year in Dublin.
I also have some more pictures to post when i get the c
Catch you soon.