Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A Trip part 5

Las Vegas

What can you say about this place? It is larger than life and the capitol of glitter. Every new hotel competes to be the biggest, finest and most extensively themed establishment on the Strip. They most often end up being ridiculous.
Not Lego land, the Excalibur Hotel
Click to enlarge all pictures
In England, the two well-known seaside resorts, Southend and Blackpool, are glitzed up to the nines to make themselves interesting and an ‘experience’ but they are candy floss, an ounce of sugar spun up to make a huge cloud of insubstantial pink, allegedly strawberry flavoured fluff. It looks good, tastes good, but has little substance. Similarly, Disney World and other money spinning resorts are fun and excitement and candyfloss too but Las Vegas whilst it is fun, and candyfloss, it is spiked with cocaine underneath the strawberry flavour.
Some wild architecture
The hotels all have casinos which are their real source of wealth, no one could possibly build and run a hotel at the room prices charged in some of them, even taking into account the numbers of rooms per hotel, and make a profit .
A typical casino
But behind the glitz there is a much more sordid sex industry. Whilst the town is showy and fun with fancy buildings made to look like works of art, there are constant adverts for escort services and adult shows whilst on every street corner there are sad looking people handing out business cards for contacts, promising to get a woman to your hotel room in twenty minutes.

These trucks were driving up and down all day and night
The most impressive part of Las Vegas is the sheer demonstration of wealth it presents.
The glories of Rome and ancient Egypt, took the combined wealth of their entire nations to build their emperor’s and pharaoh’s palaces and temples, whilst in Las Vegas, a property developer can come along and build a complete imitation of their works on a whim and the speculation of making even more money from the resulting work.
The glory that was Rome, duplicated in Vegas at wholesale
We stayed in the Luxor hotel, which is a huge pyramid shaped building with 30 plus stories and a vast open space inside that easily totalled the same amount of space that every single hotel in my home town contains.
The rear of the Luxor with one of the two towers

The balcony outside our room

Looking over the balcony you can see all the lower balconies
Looking further over the balcony you can see all the way down, all twenty six floors
Outside the hotel there is a full sized replica of the Sphinx, an obelisk and several statues in the style of ancient Egyptian art. Scattered around the building are more statues of various Egyptian deities and minor gods, whilst the décor is based on various interpretations of Egyptian structures. All of which must have cost millions of dollars to build.

The Luxor front, complete with obelisk and sphinx
Such a casual display of wealth is impressive but makes you realise that there are more have-nots in the world than haves.
The cityscape in the background is all one hotel, the New York New York.  In the foreground, the grass is astro turf and the hedge on the left plastic but the flowers and palm trees are real

New York New York has a roller-coaster around the outside
Naturally we took in as much of this as our three days we had set aside would allow. Of course TBH would not let me try out the escort services or the adult shows, but I did have a short session on one of the Roulette tables. I have played roulette before and rarely lose and with a certain amount of luck, I managed to retain that dubious claim by doubling my stake. The trick is always to stop when you are winning, a difficult thing but this is the key to my success on the tables rather than any arcane ‘system’. Just common sense, cover your losses and quit. It works.

We noticed that all the major stores and malls had nothing but up market designer goods
One of the aspects that confirmed my impressions of this place were two shows advertised all over town, ‘Menopause the Musical’ and ‘Fantasy’ a show advertised by a group of scantily clad leggy females, with the subscript ‘The show must go on’ with the word GO crossed out and TURN written in.

Two contrasting shows

Whilst a lot better accommodation than our first overnight stop, the Luxor is beginning to show signs of age having been open for about eighteen years. They have recently refurbished the towers but the pyramid is due for an upgrade. We were offered an upgrade to the towers but we wanted to be in the pyramid and it is certainly a strange and interesting experience. I had idly wondered when we first booked a room in the pyramid if we would find ourselves in the centre with no outside view, but as I had mentioned earlier, all the accommodation is in the outer wall. The lifts (‘elevators’ according to Americans) were labelled ‘Inclinators’ because due to the shape of the building, they went up at an angle.
 This meant that every time the inclinator started you got an unexpected lurch to one side, which took me by surprise nearly every time I rode up to or down from our room. We were on the 26th floor and when you leave the inclinator, there is a corridor that forms a square running around the whole floor, connecting all the bedrooms to the lifts. In places this turns into a balcony with just a low wall between you and a 25 story drop straight down to the centre of the hotel mezzanine floor! My first thought was ‘nice, if you have just made a disastrous loss on the tables, what a good place to end it all,’ and decided to keep an eye out for falling bodies whenever I was on the mezzanine floor.
The Egyptian décor was universal throughout the hotel
Inside our room, the Egyptian theme was continued by the large wooden wardrobe, but somewhat spoiled by the rather elderly CRT television it housed.
An Egyptian wardrobe
Our bedroom window was facing west and the view was impressive, because in the morning there was a huge triangular shadow leading away from the hotel and in the evening we saw a splendid sunset across the Desert Mountains in the distance. It also meant that during the afternoon the desert sun baked the room and both the window glass and the window frame were too hot to touch.

We had outlined a rough plan of the places we wanted to visit before we left Kansas and this involved a lot of walking. The strip is several miles long and everything looks nearer than it really is. There is a bus service and a monorail but the former is slow due to the heavy traffic and the latter does not always go very near the places we wanted to see, so we walked most of the time. With outside temperatures often well above 100F, this was thirsty work and I acquired a taste for Starbucks Frappuccinos, iced coffee so cold you had to be really careful to avoid the dreaded ‘brain freeze’. We all suffered from this at least once but the advantages were worth the pain.

We managed to visit most of our priority places, Caesar’s Palace, Mandalay Bay bay’s Shark Reef Aquarium, The Venetian, the Mirage volcano, The Secret Garden Zoo and the Bellagio fountains.
Caesar's Palace
Caesar’s Palace has impressive interiors and has some interesting shops, but to my mind the most interesting thing was a circular escalator, something which is quite an impressive engineering feat. Getting something strong enough to carry people, to rotate smoothly in two directions is not simple.

The interior of Caesar's Palace was sumptuous, complete with moving staircases
In the aquarium at Mandalay Bay, we saw the usual display of sharks gliding above and below us, which was one of TG's choices.
I am sure there is some appropriate movie theme music to accompany this picture, but I can't quite remember it...
Another of his choices was the Secret Garden zoo. This place amused me because there were signposts everywhere telling you how to find the ‘secret’ garden, of course there may have been another secret garden, or several, which we never found because they really are secret. We will never know. The one we found had an impressive display of large cats including a white tiger.
A contented looking leopard

So who is king of the jungle?
(Just as an aside, a good book that, The White Tiger)

The Venetian impressed me as an engineering feat too, because on the second floor (first floor to us perverse English) there is a canal system complete with Gondolas with Gondoliers and some pseudo Italian singing. You could take a ride in one and have a well-known Italian song blasted at you if you really wanted. O sole Mio seemed to be favourite and I was expecting to hear Poppa Piccolino or Shut uppa your face, any minute but that never happened.
Hard to remember not only are you indoors but upstairs as well.
The sky is a projection on the ceiling 
The canal outside this hotel was disappointing because it had sprung a leak or something and was innocent of any water but had workmen doing something to it with cement.
An empty canal
We had a look in Paris, but did not do more than pass through the ground floor level where the legs of the half size Eiffel Tower come down through the ceiling and get in the way. You can go up this model tower, which is quite large and although only a replica is actually taller than the Blackpool tower, but we skipped that treat.
The half size Eiffel Tower
We managed to arrive at the Bellagio just in time for the fountain display to start and found a good spot to film it. This is most impressive, and possibly the high spot of the entire visit to this fabled city. Not only was it spectacular in its own right, it was accompanied by Elton John’s Your Song, something both TBH and I like a lot.
The effects produced by this fountain were spectacular

These sprays are going up more than three stories in height
The Mirage volcano was not quite what we expected.  On TBH’s previous visit with the family, it was much more realistic and less of an effects show. She had videoed it and we are able to compare the difference and it was not as good this time.
Good but not spectacular
At one point in our travels, we took a ‘cool cut’ through the MGM Grand, cool cut, as in air conditioning and as opposed to a short cut, and were given the spectacle of two grown men earning their living by sitting in a glass lion cage each stroking a sleepy looking lioness. Neither of them looked delighted by their good fortune but it did draw a big crowd.
The MGM Grand outside, complete with huge golden lion

The MGM inside.  Here be lions
We used the bus on a couple of occasions and the monorail twice but all of this walking, roasting and alternately freezing our brains wore us out and by the afternoon of day three, we had run out of energy and so by mutual consent simply lounged about in the hotel, some of us dozing , some reading, some watching TV or playing Angry Birds.

Desert sun, ancient Egypt and a monorail
But we had seen Las Vegas! One of the fifty things to do before-you-get-too-old-and-the-cost-of-travel-insurance-is-larger-than-the-pension.

On the last morning, checking out of the Luxor was quite an interesting experience. A small wizened creature sat at the desk I approached and having given the room number, I was asked for my name and they could not find it so I told this possibly female creature at the desk that it was probably booked under TS’s last name. She/it did not understand what I said and then turning to someone near on another desk, (who was definitely a human female) asked her something I could not make out and when she got a reply turned back to me and snapped $390!
 I wanted to make quite sure I was paying for the correct room and so asked, ‘Is that in the name of TS or M?’
‘$390!’ was the reply.
‘OK, but is it under the name of M?’
At this point two things occurred to me. It had been in the back of my mind throughout the encounter that she/it reminded me of someone or something when it spoke. I suddenly realised it was the character from Monsters inc, number one, who constantly snapped ‘You haven’t completed your paperwork!’ in exactly the same way as the creature behind the checkout was asking for the money and secondly I realised that they had been saying the TS’s, name but contracting the second syllable so much I had not recognised it. Satisfied I was paying for our room, I paid and left.
You haven't filled in your paperwork!
We then set off heading South East to Boulder to have a look at the Hoover Dam, on our way to the Grand Canyon.


  1. Oh my goodness, snafu - I am of mixed emotions as I read your post. Such grandeur, such oppulance, such extravagance, such expense -- such lust! I am not sure La Vegas would be on my list of 50 things to see, being quite contented, now, to have viewed it through your photos and excellent tour guiding. I suppose it is something one ought to see at least once in a lifetime, if only to be aware of how low mankind has come....(re the existing 'have-nots, especially). Your description, about candy floss and cocaine, is masterful -- seems to describe Las Vegas to a tee. What an eperience for you all!

    (you won't believe this -- the word verification for my comment is "viva"!)

  2. It's on my wish list. Not sure I'll ever achieve it though. Thanks for the tour.

  3. I've always wanted to visit Las Vegas. I shall come back on Sunday and read your post in full!

    Ellie Garratt

  4. Hi Snafu! I visited you last night and wrote a comment and then lost it all. Google has an issue with me right now because I have an extra account and I don't want to change anything. So I'm waiting for Owen to tell me how I can get around it, but he has taken a few days off, so I will have to wait until he gets back. I think your description of Vegas is really excellent and your analogy to candy floss and cocaine absolutely 'masterful' as my sister has already said. I hope you don't mind but I have used you as one of my 'c's for ABC Wednesday. C as in Cousin. I have not given out your name etc. but I have linked your blog to mine. You are such a good writer you should have many more people reading you. I know it's not a numbers game, but good blogs are hard to find. I won't be actually posting it until tomorrow around 2:00 pm Pacific Time, so if you're adamant about me not posting it, shoot an e mail off to me. I'm going to read it all again now that I have a little more time than last night. And woe betide Google if they lose this comment! By the way, I did post a photo. Not the unflattering one Kaybee has, but the one of you and your sister and me and my brother at the pool at your house about 1944. It is the one with me with my mouth open so wide you could fit a truck in it! In the mean time I am waiting for your next installment.

  5. Oh. My. Firstly this is a lovely trip report and I greatly enjoyed reading it. I've never been to Las Vegas and even though I have read about it before, in fiction actually - your post and pictures really brings it to life. I think my jaw dropped at the cityscape picture, when I read that it was all one hotel. I don't think my jaw came back up!

    I think Las Vegas would terrify me. It's opulance and grand fake facade is just awe-inspiring and plain weird. There are some genious designs here - The Venetian - that is amazing. And I agree about the circular escalators - serious engineering behind here (and serious money.)

    Wow. I'm going to tweet about your blog as I so enjoyed reading this. Am eager to read your next adventures!

  6. I'm here from Chris' blog and completely enjoyed your adventures in Las Vegas.
    My Hubby and I just returned from several days there ourselves. You hit the nail right on the head in your descriptions. We have seen it all on various occasions and love wandering around the hotels for perfect photo ops.
    I actually have some photos from our recent visit on my blog too. Drop by.
    Really enjoyed this post.

  7. What an extraordinary place! I liked your descriptions very much - a whole city devoted to trompe l'oeil;-)

  8. Snafu, this is a wonderful description of this leg of your trip. I'm with Kathy on this one; on the one hand it all sounds fascinating and possibly enticing, but I'm not sure that it is one of those places that I would feel very comfortable with visiting for real. x