Tag Archives: USA

Maybe at heart, I’m just a little bit country…

Good afternoon!

Welcome back to the inside of my mind, today I’d like talk to you about one of the constant joys in my life – country music.

I still remember the first time I fell in love with country, being a city boy born and bred you get little exposure to the country way of life, and specifically the musical expression largely from America of this genre. It was five years ago, I was age seventeen, driving along in my first car doing about 60 when I turned to one of the pre-sets from the previous owner, and there it was, Don McClean’s ‘American Pie’. Now if we’re being pedantic about it technically ‘American Pie‘ was more folk rock but it was that which led me on my journey to discovering love for the art of country music, so I’ll carry on the story anyway.

Don McClean – American Pie

After finding out who sung the song I’d loved while driving along carefree, I began to get recommendations from YouTube, the modern day DJ which pointed me in the direction of another artist, a relative newcomer onto the scene, a guy by the name of Luke Bryan and his recently released album ‘Tailgates and Tanlines’. It was obvious by the name I had to check him out and from then I was hooked. ‘Drunk On You‘ was the first song on the album I listen to and it took me instantly back to a fortnight I’d spent just outside of Orlando where I had a childhood holiday romance at just fourteen years old, something about the combination of the music and memory really sunk into me. ‘Muckalee Creek Water‘ describes my ideal Sunday, so much so I added the day that this song described onto my bucket list, a dream I may achieve early 2016 when I visit southern USA.

Luke Bryan – Tailgates & Tanlines

What is it about country music that really speaks to me?! Is it the way each song tells a bittersweet paradox of young love back in 1920’s southern America coupled with bad habits of self destruction? Maybe it’s my underlying personal desire to spend some time living in a sleepy state in America’s deep south, sheltered from the modern world I’ve grown up with where a local bar is used for a game of pool and conversation rather than free wifi. I’ve always had an interest, love and respect of the quieter, boarding on archaic way of life in places like Atlanta, Georgia – the birthplace of country. However, one thing I know for sure is that the next artist I came across was the man who sold it to me absolutely.

Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw – the legend that is. Arguably one of the best of all time to come out of the genre, he’s been in the industry recording tracks for over twenty years, dating back to 1994, when I was just baby. Now at aged 48 he’s still gigging up and down the USA, performing with stars such as Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift, most of the time upstaging them in the process! His live performance of Just To See You Smile with Swift shows even now his voice is every bit as powerful as it always was.

‘Sundown Heaven Town’ – Tim McGraw

When thinking country and if you are looking to see what all this fuss is about, there are other powerhouses in the business you may wish to check out such as Johnny Cash, Brad Paisley, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson or Kenny Chesney. In fact thinking about it Garth Brooks in my eyes is a strong contender for top dog alongside McGraw, but that wasn’t the point. If I am to leave you with one thought or instruction, take half an hour out of your day to go and sit on the grass, or failing that even just before you go to sleep – ignore your texts and notifications, put on your headphones and listen to ‘Sundown Heaven Town‘ by Tim McGraw. Immerse yourself in this wonderfully written album and see if it can’t put you in a state of calm and happiness the way it does for me, every time. Start here with ‘Shotgun Rider‘ and have an amazing evening.

~ Luke Ryan ~


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‘Believe you can and you’re halfway there’

– Theodore Roosevelt

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Las Vegas: The City That Never Sleeps

Travel Diaries – Part 1
Las Vegas, Nevada (February 2015)

Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. Jake(brother), Me, Pizzey, Nate.

Vegas According To Luke

 Insane. The only word I can think of that even comes close to summarising my time in the beautiful adult playground that is Las Vegas, everything from the Central Boulevard lit up at night to the breathtaking lush green setting of Moapa Valley just gives a feeling of being in paradise. We landed in McCarren international at 20:00 local time, ready and waiting was a stretched limousine full of Grey Goose, Budweiser, Ciroc and Brut Champagne, putting on our shades we headed out in the night, four London boys ready to explore.

Our limo driver Debbie, a local with over 30 years experience navigating the jungle of roads surrounding the strip was an asset to have on our first night. She made a point to take us to the iconic ‘Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign just on the outskirts of town (see above), although this place was busy even at that time in the evening, she managed to clear the yard for us to get our first photo of the holiday.

As the night descended into chaos and far too much champagne we arrived at our colossal hotel complex, The Vdara. After speaking to the front desk and having a bit of banter with Dylan, we were upgraded to a three bedroom penthouse suite with breathtaking views of the city. With an underground passage to The Bellagio, casino’s and fine dining were just a stones throw away.

Thanks for reading along this far, I’ll be covering the city and all the things to do here in more detail below, so if you’re still with me, let’s get started on the review.

The Nightlife 

When you think of Vegas you think of casinos, packed to the rafters with punters chasing their fortune. You think of super-clubs such as SLS bouncing to the beat of anything with a heavy bass line. You think of bars and clubs, crawling from one to the next. Let me vouch firsthand that all of this lives up to the expectations and beyond. I could give a detailed account of nearly every bar and club in Las Vegas but I’ll stick with picking my top 3.

LiFE Super-Nightclub, SLS Hotel

1) LiFE Nightclub: This is one of Vegas’ renowned super-club, situated on the ground floor of the SLS hotel and casino, LiFE is nothing short of a hidden jewel right at the heart of the Mohabi desert. I was invited here by chance with a really close friend of mine, a girl living in the state of Utah, Lyndi. She managed to get me and my brother express entry to watch a six piece Swedish DJ set play some of the best music I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to, everything from the deep beat you feel beating at the base of your stomach to the flashing lasers were a joy to behold. Whether you can dance or (like me)not, you can spend the night shuffling along to the world’s best – and if you’re ever passing you MUST check out the LiFE Nightclub.

2) Bank Bar & Nightclub: If you prefer a more intimate setting for your night on the town, consider looking into the Bank Bar & Nightclub, based in the middle of the Bellagio’s ground floor casino, this three tiered pyramid style venue boasts one of the best mixed JD & Coke I have ever tried. Packed to burst by 23:00 this is always a safe bet to start the night out – the dance floor at the bottom is always busy so whatever you’re looking to get from your night, Bank will be able to help.

3) Cleopatra’s Barge: This funky jazz bar is found in the Cesar’s Palace hotel and casino, looking like half of a ship with a real water source running beneath the deck side. You’d never guess it was here unless you were looking for it and I’m glad we had been tipped off earlier by a lovely bunch of American’s checking into our hotel. If you’re like us and enjoy a drink, this is the ideal place for pre-drinks, full with people between the age of 21-28 all dancing and having a good time. With our English accents fully audible, afterparties were easy to bag invites to.

The Excursions

This took me by complete surprise, I thought I’d be spending all my money on alcohol and gambling, however I was convinced to go on a few trips and see a few shows and damn, am I glad I did! I seem to like doing things in three’s so I won’t break that tradition, my top 3 excursions are;

Moapa Valley Native Reservation

1) Dune buggy riding in the Moapa Valley reservation: We never intended to do this activity, but now I’m on the other side of it I can whole heartedly say its one of the best things I’ve ever done. We got picked up by our tour guide Oscar and Brad from our hotel lobby, with two of the most typically ‘redneck’ yet hilarious guys you’ll ever meet. After a bit of racially orientated banter from the chaps we set out on the open road in their pick up truck, heading straight for Moapa Valley, a sleepy town so close to Utah you could almost smell the Salt Lake City. After getting strapped in to our buggy’s we began the 25mile round trip around the desert reservation, single file riding with Oscar heading us out into the unknown. We saw some incredible sights, snakes, lizards, all other kinds of wildlife. We even stopped for a water break that ended up with us scaling a 95+ft cliffside with no equipment just because we had the opportunity to. We were treated to a packed lunch in one of the larger gorges the wasteland had to offer before finishing our trip with a photo in front of the dull orange craters that surrounded the beautiful desert land.

Grand Canyon

2) Helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon & Hoover Dam: If you’ve never been in a helicopter before, I’d recommend taking your first steps in Las Vegas. As one of the wonder of the worlds, we landed in one of the most shallow parts of the Canyon, 2000ft high. As you can see by the above photo this is nothing short of breathtaking. We landed in a part of the Canyon still owned by the surrounding Native’s, one of the only sovereign states within the USA with their own government and rules. During our stop the pilot, Isaac, provided us with a magnificent champagne picnic with some excellent food. We then proceeded to make our way out, our tour guide giving us detailed backstories for the surrounding area. After seeing the Hoover Dam it really made me question what human’s are capable of and how much raw power and strength it must have taken to build something so magnificent back in 1936 before the introduction of modern construction tools.

3) Ammunition Firing Range: If you’re from the UK, guns aren’t easy to come by especially legally. Four lads in Vegas, shooting was inevitable and what a deal we got. Choosing the ‘Black Op’s’ package we got to shoot many of the guns styled by the popular Call of Duty game. The SAW certainly lived up to all boasts and you can see why it was the automatic weapon of choice in the range. Our guide was an ex-serviceman which added a patriotic feel to our venture into legalised weaponry.

The Food

Although you could find fine dining in any of the hotels or restaurants walking down the strip, only two establishments deserve a mention in my eyes. Taking a break from my tri-reviewing, let’s explore a couple of the culinary wonders Vegas to offer…

Breakfast, Las Vegas style

1) The Pepper Mill: One thing I didn’t know about breakfast in the USA is that Steak & Eggs are life. This restaurant was recommended by our taxi driver and after checking it out I can absolutely see why. We walked in to a 1970’s style American Diner with purple & electric blue neon lights surrounding the walls and booths. We obviously went for the steak and eggs and were served nothing short of a 14oz rump(served on a separate plate), bacon, four eggs, a side of potatoes and a pint of beer all for under $10. I can safely say one meal a day will more than see you through in LV.

Gordon Ramsay’s Restuarant

2) Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant: If you don’t mind paying a premium for incredible food, get yourself over to Cesar’s Palace to enjoy a steak at Gordon Ramsay’s establishment. Paying around $49 you’ll get a beautifully cooked steak, drizzled in a bourbon sauce served atop a bed of aubergine. You can also pay another $7 to get a side of fresh fries with truffle dipping oil – a premium we were all happy to pay.

If you’re reading this far down I thank you absolutely for your dedication. I’ll include a few personal photos from my trip below so feel free to take a look. This is my first review so please let me know what you think. I wrote this near-1600 word behemoth in one hit so I think I’ll separate it into sessions for the next one as to keep myself and the content fresh. There’s a lot more I can write about in terms of the people, the hotels, the locals and all the incredible sights to see but maybe I’ll include that in a Travel Diary – Part II later down the road. Thanks again!

~ Luke Ryan ~

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