Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vegas baby! (June 14-18)

The drive to Vegas was long (just under 8 hours), hot and what we saw along the way was nothing but barren wasteland. Having left late in the day, we knew we wouldn’t make it to Vegas, so we decided we would have to park in another random spot to stay the night. While we were hoping for a campsite or RV park, what we ended up with was a truck stop in the middle of the Mojave desert….a dusty open plain with the wind blowing a gale! We couldn’t actually have the windows open on both sides of the van because it became a wind tunnel! Thankfully, the temperature had dropped overnight to allow us to get a reasonable sleep, but we woke at 6:30am feeling like we were sleeping in a pressure cooker! A good incentive to get out of bed! Needless to say there was no lazing around in bed that morning. It was good to get on the road early for a change though.

The Vegas ‘entertainment’ began about 50 miles out of town when we saw massive billboards advertising shows, casinos and buffets. The series of signs we found the most amusing though, were those that displayed each of the Ten Commandments with about 100m in between each one. Is that really going to stop people from ‘sinning’ in sin city?! Hmmmm.

The barren wasteland

We stayed in Vegas for 2 nights initially at Treasure Island, then spent one night in the Grand Canyon National Park before returning to Vegas for an additional night's stay at the Luxor Hotel. You’ll read about the Canyon in our next post.

So most things you’ve read about Vegas are true and then some….it’s equally tacky as it is classy, cheap as it is luxurious. The thing that surprised us though is it definitely is not the town that never sleeps contrary to common belief, unless of course you have money to burn inside one of the many casinos. We actually found ourselves wandering aimlessly along The Strip on both nights after trying to find a bar with quality music only to find that the 'good' ones were closing early! Hmmm. At one point, we resorted to drinking champagne in our hotel room because finding a good drink in a decent environment seemed hard to come by and we didn’t really fancy sitting at a bar surrounded by slot machines. The flashing lights and musical tones overwhelmed the senses, not to mention the ‘loud’ psychedelic patterns in the carpet. Even if we wanted to give one of these things a go, how would we choose….there were hundreds!!? Maybe the Wheel of Fortune ones or the Sex & the City machines in the corner? We escaped the lure of the slot machine and any other form of gambling for that matter, despite the winning cheers we heard coming from the strategically located hidden speakers in our hotel room.

The Strip

While in Vegas, we saw a Cirque de Soleil show called Mystere, which for us didn’t have a whole lot of meaning or story, not that we expected that. We did however expect to see some pretty spectacular acrobatics and circus acts. We can’t deny the performers definitely had talent and it was a good show, but we did come away feeling a little underwhelmed. There seemed to be a lot of ‘fluffing’ around with some acrobatics in between and there was always so much happening on the stage that we didn’t know where to focus our attention. We did wonder whether we were not that impressed because we had just seen the most beautiful natural scenery in the National Parks and anything manmade would always come second best.

We ate at ‘Bouchon’, a restaurant owned by chef Thomas Keller who is famous for his world class restaurant in the Napa Valley called ‘The French Laundry’. Bouchon was a treat, but definitely a lot more affordable than the one in Napa and was still very impressive. Salmon cooked to perfection, the most succulent piece of roast chicken and bread that looked like a work of art. We savoured every mouthful. Unfortunately, that usual pouch kept for dessert was so minutely small we had to pass or we would have had to roll ourselves out of there and we figured that wouldn’t be very classy at all.

Speaking of rolling out of the restaurant…..we decided we had to try one of the famous Vegas ‘all-you-can-eat buffets’ and although we had contemplated the unlimited 24 hour buffet pass, we were glad we did eventually decide against it. We gave one buffet a go, at the Bellagio Hotel….according to online reviews it was one of the best in Vegas. We can officially report that this was the best buffet we have ever eaten, however it was ever so easy to feel out of control and we ended up eating until we felt sick. NOT GOOD!! So no matter how good the food was, it seemed that our enjoyment of it was spoiled by our overeating, which I’m sure you can relate to. Not only did we feel a bit sick, we felt sad about the level of wasted food in the restaurant, from ourselves included. The left overs may have actually fed a whole village in Africa for an entire month! We felt like we didn’t need to eat for at least a few days.

That was until we discovered ‘Hash House a Go Go: Twisted Farm Food’, a restaurant that specialises in breakfast, but also caters for lunch and dinner. We ate breakfast there twice in three days as well as dinner for one night. The meals were massive and the plates even bigger, but it did give us the liberty of sharing without wasting much. We only just managed to get through the half a kilo rib eye steak between us though, which was served on a 10kg plate! Just a little ridiculous really. The breakfasts were definitely enough to cover us for lunch as well.

Food @ 'Hash House a Go Go'

Of course our activities in Vegas did involve things other than eating….we were blown away by the indoor garden on display inside the Bellagio Hotel conservatory. Giant snails and insects with bodies crafted using real flowers, hundreds of sunflowers looking so perfect we were convinced they were fake. It was an incredible work of art.

The Indoor Garden @ The Bellagio

We visited downtown Las Vegas to experience the light show on Fremont Street. Worth over US$70 million and stretching almost five blocks is the biggest LED screen or in this case canopy in the world. Every hour on the hour, the souvenir shops and casinos lining the street turn off their lights and neon signs to make way for a spectacular choreographed light and sound show displayed overhead. The special effects and accompanying music were impressive to say the least. It was hard to believe that a moving and flowing piece of art of that size could be created using 12 million LED modules.
The Fremont St. Light Show

While in Vegas, I searched everywhere to locate anything or anyone related to Elvis just so I could send something to Oz for my Mum, even if it was limited to a photo of me with some corny Elvis impersonator. The best I got, was a pic of Elvis on the neon sign of a wedding chapel. I now have to break the news to Mum, that the King is truly dead, even in Vegas! I wonder how she will take it? I suspect, that if we had the chance, we may have still found several impersonators behind the doors of the chapels but really, is there anyone out there who would still like to be wedded by Elvis? Mum? An alternative option would be to say your vows in a drive thru fashion….that’s right, we did come across a ‘Say I do Drive Thru’. Hmmmm, a little concerning?

Say I Do Drive Thru

In a nutshell, everything about Vegas was excessive….entertainment, lights, food, hotels, all were designed for the tourist to ‘live it up’ for a while. We simply found it a little overwhelming for the senses…some people say that Vegas literally sucks the life right out of you! It didn’t quite have that effect on us, but what we can say is that it was nice to stay in a fancy hotel for a ridiculously cheap price, have a few fun experiences and eat some good food. We were however not that unhappy about leaving and we can’t say Vegas will be on the top of our list of places to revisit in the USA.


Gwen PIttaway said...

great Blog Sal, like the photos in between, looks pretty lived up there, can't believe it was hard to find an Elvis, but thanks for trying. wow the size of the meals! Dad would have enjoyed the all you can eat meals LOL Love you heaps, take care o x o x o x

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