Today’s destination is the man-made phenomenon in the Nevada desert that is Las Vegas, a fantastic city of feverish gambling, neon lights and glamorous shows. Well that’s what the advertising bumph would have you believe but Jim and I were there years ago and we hated it. We are only here now because it was on Kate’s ‘Must Do’ List.
While we were driving along the 3½-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, known as ‘The Strip’, Jim and I looked at each other and said, ‘this doesn´t look at all familiar’. What we remembered was “Old Vegas” a less than salubrious area filled with tacky wedding chapels and equally tacky casinos. When we were there last, the pyramid shaped Luxor was brand new, and a remarkable sight, with virtually nothing close by – it is now surrounded by up market hotels and casinos. The Vegas we thought we knew with the Golden Nugget Casino (where I lost $20 all those years ago) and the iconic images of the waving cowboy and cowgirl are now part of a canopied, five-block area called the Fremont Street Experience that has a $70 million light show each night. Still tacky but very different to how we remembered.
We were now seeing, along with hundreds of tourists wandering the Strip, are the amazing fountains dancing out front of the Bellagio hotel. They are set alongside the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
We witnessed the spectacle of an exploding volcano in front of the Mirage
Then the Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge, and Bridge of Sighs. There are canals, with of course, gondolas and gondoliers and the Grand Canal winds its way past a collection of expensive Gucci, Prada, and Tiffany, shops. And of course there is sex. It is everywhere from the scantily clad showgirls posing on street corners for pictures to the erotic burlesque shows. It is no surprise that Vegas is known as Sin City.
What isn’t in doubt is the main attraction of Las Vegas is gambling – what is a surprise is the extent of it. All the hotels are essentially 24 hour casinos. They teem with people whose confidence is high. If they win, the Vegas visit is paid for if they lose, they just continue with fingers crossed hoping they will win on the next turn of a card or roll of a dice.
The other big thing in Vegas is the shows. We started with ‘Vegas the Show’ an impressive mixture of, music, dancing and comedy juggling which although it sound naff was very funny. The next evening was spent with the Million Dollar Quartet: Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Another excellent show but quite spooky as both Elvis and Johnny looked so like the people they were impersonating it felt as if the originals were on stage.
When you’re in the thick of it, Vegas seems all too fleeting – too much to do and not enough time to do it. That was the case with Matt Goss, unfortunately, we didn’t have time before moving on to see Matt who was at the same school as Kate. We thought he was famous as part of Bros however now he is resident at Caesars Palace he is super successful. So well done that Surrey lad.
The question is – Is Las Vegas the ultimate in vulgarity or is it fun?
I found that we soon got used to its hedonistic spirit, its entertainment, glamour, luxury, its cloudless skies. It is a very surreal place, dare I say beautiful? So what started at the bottom of my list soon headed to the top because for me, Vegas is fun.
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