What started as a trip to one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World - the Grand Canyon - became something entirely more memorable. As Original Traveller Tony Herbert's tailor made American Road Trip blog series testifies, life is in the detail…
Here I am, sitting in our room in the Bellagio hotel, situated right on the Strip, watching the amazing fountains dancing at the front of the hotel. They're set against a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower straddling the Opera Garnier and what I suppose is meant to be the Crillon hotel with the Arc de Triomphe in the far distance. The big question is: is this the ultimate in vulgarity? Or is it actually fun and even - dare I say it - beautiful? So far as I'm concerned, it's all of these things.
The Venetian hotel is the best example of Vegas at its most "Vegas". The entrance is the Doge's Palace, with the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs next to it. Then there are the canals, of course, with gondola rides and singing gondoliers. But inside, up the escalator and beneath various ceiling murals copying Veronese and others (including non-Venetian Michelangelo), there is the Grand Canal winding its way past a collection of expensive and elegant shops (Gucci, Prada, Tiffany, etc) - all seemingly empty. One suspects that the average tourist in Vegas is not the core clientele of these splendid establishments. Why are they here? Subtle marketing, I guess.
No business like show
What isn't in doubt is that the business of Las Vegas is gambling. This is not a big surprise -what is a surprise to me is the extent of it. The lobbies of all the hotels are essentially casinos: our hotel lobby is a vast hall of many hundreds of slot machines, crap tables, roulette wheels, baccarat games, you name it; all operating round the clock. They're somewhat deserted during the morning, but heaving during the rest of the day and well into the night. The sight of the weary croupiers as you go to an early breakfast is not a pretty one.
The other big thing in Vegas is the shows. We started with the Rêve (or 'the dream' in French) at the Wynn. The theatre is an amazing, lavish theatre-in-the-round, the central stage being water or, as you go in, mist gently rising from it. The Rêve is magnificent: the dancing is a vastly impressive mixture of aquatic acrobatics, music, diving, swimming, dancing, and includes frightening exhibitions of daring stunts. Very enjoyable - and no fatalities. Next evening was a Cirque du Soleil show called "O" - as in "eau" - and therefore more water. It was also more varied, more artistic, more visually stunning, and with more humour. At The Mirage hotel the next day, we saw the Cirque du Soleil show based on Beatles music and visited the 'Secret Garden', a splendid display of dolphins, white striped tigers and lions. Magnificent.
I found that we soon got used to Vegas and it's hedonistic spirit: dinner looking out over the dancing fountains; excellent food, even if in massive, overwhelming portions; showgirls posing for photographs; the endlessly cloudless skies; and, in the hotel elevator (I'm becoming American), pressing the button marked "C" and "Casino" for the ground floor.
Read all of guest blogger Tony Herbert's blog series on his tailor made American road trip:
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