Because I’m a huge fan of the movie, “Camelot,” I knew from the first moment I set eyes on a newspaper photo of the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas in the early 1990s, that I just had to stay there.
My dream came true a few years later in 1996, when my mother gifted my husband and me with an all-expense paid, week-long vacation at the Excalibur to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
I don’t remember much about the flight to Las Vegas, other than my husband and I both dozed off about midway through it. I woke up when the pilot announced we’d be landing shortly. Yawning and stretching, I leaned across my still-sleeping husband and peered out of the plane’s window. The first thing I saw was the Statue of Liberty.
I shook my husband awake. “Don’t panic,” I frantically whispered, “but I think we’re in New York!”
A flight attendant overheard me and smiled. “You’re not in New York,” she said. “That’s New York, New York!”
I stared at her as if she’d just grown another head.
“New York, New York,” she repeated. “That’s the name of the hotel! It has everything from a miniature Brooklyn Bridge to a Coney Island roller-coaster...and a huge replica of the Statue of Liberty.”
The last time my husband and I had been in Las Vegas, it still was basically a desert with a few hotels scattered about. I knew it had to have changed a lot in 20 years, but still, I was awe-stricken as I gazed through the window of the courtesy bus that took us to our hotel. We passed by a giant pyramid with a sphinx out front; a statue of a lion so enormous, 10 sumo wrestlers could have stood in one of its nostrils; and a Coca-Cola bottle the size of a barn silo.
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the sight of our hotel, The Excalibur, a gigantic Disney-World style castle surrounded by a moat and flanked by two 28-story towers that housed over 4,000 guest rooms.
By the time we walked through the 100,000 square-foot gaming room, rode the elevator 25 floors, and walked the length of the 100-mile hallway to our room, our vacation was over.
I must confess, though, the minute we entered the Excalibur, I felt as if we actually were living in Camelot and had been transported back to medieval times. We became “Lord” and “Lady” Breslin, surrounded by knights, knaves, magicians, kings, queens and wenches. The first time I saw our chambermaid, a burly guy wearing a tunic and leggings as he brandished a feather duster, it took everything I had not to burst out laughing.
We spent most of our first day there getting lost in our hotel. By the time we found our way through the maze of wandering minstrels, statues, and restaurants with catchy names like “Lance-A-Lotta-Pasta,” we usually found ourselves standing outside somewhere behind the hotel and asking ourselves, “How the heck did we get out here?”
One thing I was determined to do on our first day was buy tickets for the hotel’s medieval banquet and jousting tournament that evening. Fortunately, seats still were available.
I was surprised, as we entered the jousting arena that night, to see something so huge tucked away in the basement of the hotel. Everything in the arena looked authentically medieval, from the dirt floors to the tents and long, banquet tables set up around the perimeter.
My husband and I, joined by nearly a thousand other guests, took our seats at the tables. Our meals soon were served – Cornish game hens, baked potatoes and slabs of bread on pewter plates, with no accompanying utensils. The minute everyone’s food had been served, the lights dimmed and the jousting tournament began.
“It’s too dark now to see what I’m eating,” my husband complained, leaning over until his nose nearly speared his potato. “How am I supposed to tell if the food is cooked all the way through or not?” With two fingers, he picked up the hen and held it as if it had some contagious disease. “And what it this thing supposed to be?”
“A pigeon from the alley out back.” I answered, nibbling on a drumstick that was so tiny, I wondered if it had been stolen from Barbie and Ken’s Dream House.
He frowned at his baked potato and slab of bread. “Where’s the butter? And the salt?”
“There aren’t any,” I said, momentarily distracted by the muscle-bound knights in tights who were passing by our table. “You’re supposed to eat everything plain and dry – with your bare hands. There’s no butter because there aren’t any utensils to spread it with anyway.”
My husband opened his mouth to complain about something else just as the Black Knight, on horseback, came galloping into the arena. As he swept past us, his horse kicked up a big clump of dirt...which landed right on my husband’s plate.
“Hey, maybe the dirt will add enough flavor so you won’t even miss the butter,” I teased, laughing. When I did, the White Knight, the hero, galloped by on his white steed and sent a spray of dirt right into my open mouth.
It was my husband’s turn to laugh when he saw my expression. “It won’t kill you,” he said. “A little dirt never hurt anyone.”
I spit into my napkin. “It all depends what the horses did in it first.”
All I can say is the burgers and fries at the Las Vegas McDonald’s were exceptionally tasty later that night.
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