When I wrote my last blog, I mentioned that I was about to make a transatlantic trip to the West Coast of the USA before heading over to spend a couple of weeks in the Caribbean. We arrived safely to our first stop which was Vegas and we (my family and myself), fought through our jetlag to reach our home for the next four nights- a lovely rented villa about 10 minutes away from the strip. Obviously with this being a family trip, being slightly away from the heart of 'Sin City' suited us fine,
With the rest of the evening pretty much a write-off, we started bright and early the next morning. Primarily we wanted to see two things whilst in Nevada- the first was obviously the glitz of Las Vegas city, but we also wanted to see some of the beautiful desert landscape which makes up the rest of the state. We started with the latter, and made our way to Red Rock Canyon, a state park about 20 minutes away from the Strip.
The easiest way to get around Red Rock Canyon is to drive along the 13 mile stretch of road which circles the main sights. Starting at the visitor centre, we learnt about how the landscape had formed in the barren climates and the flora and fauna which survives there despite the extreme conditions including cacti, creosote, tortoises, scorpions and wild horses. There was also information on the various movies which had been filmed in the park.
Leaving the visitor centre, we started the scenic drive. The best way I can describe the scenery is by saying that if you've ever watched Breaking Bad, you will probably have some idea of how the landscape in this part of America looks. In reality though, it was much more beautiful. The red sandstone against the blue sky, the sheer rock faces and the flat plains of the desert were stunning and it was a beautiful drive passing the various points of interest.
After taking in the views for a while, we headed away from the Canyon and towards the centre of Las Vegas. The contrast between the natural scenery of the desert and the glitz of the strip is pretty surreal. Driving into it, the huge resort hotels tower over the wide road with sights to be seen everywhere including a pyramid, a replica Eiffel Tower and the iconic Bellagio fountains.
After finally managing to get parked (something of a challenge in the area), we started walking along the strip stopping quickly at an American diner for lunch. After a refuel, we headed into some of the different resorts starting with the Bellagio. The hotels in Vegas aren't typical 'hotels'- they are gigantic powerhouses holding casinos (obviously), theatres, multiple restaurants, designer shops, art installations, nightclubs and much much more. The Bellagio for example, had set up an ornate Chinese garden in it's lobby to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year.
The strip definitely isn't understated or tasteful, but it is spectacular! Walking out of the Bellagio and stopping to watch the huge pressured fountains which shoot jets in time to music..
....we continued along the strip passing a fake St. Marks Square and Rialto bridge outside the Venetian, a pink hotel with a carnival theme, a Statue of Liberty and a load of mock-Roman statues. We even saw the Mirage Hotels' volcano show which simulates an eruption shooting jets of fire and ash into the air.
Scattered amongst the strangeness, there are hundreds of street performers, buskers, artists and people dressed as various characters stopping for photos with tourists (for a price).
It's a cacophony of colour, sound and extreme sights with something to look at on every direction and I have to admit, I did really love it. It's very unique and I can't imagine wanting to stay too long, but there's something very fascinating about it all.
Not wanting to waste too much money, we passed on gambling this day- the hugely expensive buildings of the resorts that house the casinos are a testament to the saying 'the house always wins'. Walking through the casinos was largely depressing anyway thanks to the mindless figures hunched over slot machines and game tables who had obviously been there for hours. The casino in each of the hotels we entered seemed to take over the vast majority of the ground floor space with more games than you could imagine taking place.
Instead, we bypassed the casino in the 'Paris' hotel, and headed to it's other main attraction- the adjoining replica Eiffel Tower. We took the lift to the top of it for a spectacular view of the neon-lit strip.
This was a perfect way to end our first day in Vegas. The following day, we headed away from the city on a trip out to the Grand Canyon, but it's bed time for me now so that will have to wait until next time!