Las Vegas, July 2009

I was looking for a quick getaway….and got an offer I could not refuse… and so I set off for Las Vegas. It was an easy flight and a short ride from the airport to our hotel on the Strip.
I was staying at the TI (formerly Treasure Island). Its claim to fame is a Pirates and Sirens show involving cannon shots, fireworks, flames, smoke, a sinking ship, some girating sirens and pirates diving from atop the mast into the surrounding water…noisy and very popular.

This hotel houses the Mystère show, which is the first Cirque du Soleil show ever produced in Vegas. We saw it and I loved it…the magic is still there, the fantasy, the imagination…and having the show inside a building rather than a tent allows for so many more special effects and stage tricks…We got there early and an entertainer had us rolling with laughter as he played jokes on unsuspecting entering spectators…

Each hotel has something that sets it apart from the rest and so visiting hotels is one of the main attractions in Vegas. I did not have time to visit them all, but we focused on the ones closest to the TI.
Across the street and connected by a tram is the Mirage. This is where The Cirque du Soleil presents its show “LOVE” choreographed around music from the Beatles. We saw that one too. It is more about music and visuals than acrobatics. It is spectacular but I preferred Mystère.
In the day time there is another reason to visit this hotel: this is where you will find the Siegfried & Roy animals: there are tigers, leopards, lions, a panther…I did not get the details but I think that after the accident they stopped the show but kept the animals and just show them off zoo style. We got there as the cubs were frolicking in the pool.

There were a couple of silly looking llamas

as well as several pools holding groups of dolphins.

The hotel lobby has a soothing jungle décor

The pool area was busy and noisy, which made me think the clientele must be young… Their free attraction is a spewing volcano…

Next we walked over to the Caesars Palace, and its adjoining shopping mall: the Forum Shops. The entrance is built around an imposing circular staircase flanked by numerous statues.

The mall itself is enclosed under a domed lit “sky” so you never know what time of day it is…or what the weather is really like…

Everything in Vegas is big, oversize (even toilet seats)…and this Trojan horse at the entrance of F.A.O. Schwarz is a fine example…

This is the property that was built to house Céline Dion’s show…everything I saw was over the top…and a bit gaudy…but spectacular nonetheless.

Across the street we visited the Venetian, complete with canals and gondolas, the clock tower and the winged lion. There is even a replica of the Bridge of Sighs spanning Las Vegas Boulevard… The canals connect to the inside of the mall, where the photo on the right was taken

The stores here were more middle range and there was a huge crowd of young people in the lobby presumably waiting to go into one of the bars…which points to a younger not as wealthy clientele.

The next day we set out in the opposite direction and visited the Wynn and its sister property: the Encore.
The themes here are flowers and butterflies….they are everywhere, on tiled floors, on carpets, on the ceiling….

The stores are very high end here and there is a spectacular waterfall over an eternity pool….This is a posh hotel….

Speaking of posh…I think that the Bellagio is up there among the best if not THE nicest hotel in Las Vegas. The lobby ceiling is all Murano glass flowers.

There is an inner courtyard worthy of a botanical garden.

This field of freesias reminded me of my wedding flowers…

These flower animals were so cute….I wonder how they keep them fresh as they are obviously cut flowers

There is an aviary with the most colourful birds!

Of course in such a nice hotel you are bound to find very unusual stores and restaurants. The Jean Philippe Pâtisserie caught my eye…there were chocolate fountains by the door and an exhibition of cakes all around…needless to say I took a few photos….

The Bellagio is also famous for its fountains. They dance to light and music every half hour…

We could not visit all but we did drive by most of them: such as the Paris, with its Eiffel tower

The Luxor with its pyramid and sphinx, the MGM with the lions and some of the more famous restaurants, the New York New York with its roller coasters… At Planet Hollywood, there is a sudden thunder and rainstorm in the middle of a shopping mall…

In the old Vegas, around the Golden Nugget Hotel, is an area called Fremont. It is covered by an overhead canopy that extends the length of more than 5 football fields. It is lit by 12.5 million LED modules that are linked to a 550.000-watt sound system... Everyone said we HAD to try the Fremont experience, so we did….We walked by casinos, shops, stalls, musicians and impersonators but when they started playing “We will rock you” everyone stopped….you could feel the ground shake…and the light show up above was so impressive you did not know where to look. It was a bit overwhelming…and there were a lot of weird people…so we were happy to hop in a taxi and head back to our hotel after a couple of hours.

Obviously people go to Vegas to gamble… There are casinos everywhere, in all the hotels, along the street, there are slot machines in bars and restaurants, even at the airport. I would look at the card tables and the roulette and the craps as I walked by, but they felt out of reach for me. The slot machines were less daunting but still I had no idea how to play them…I was lucky enough to meet 2 mentors who kindly guided me through the intricacies of a “gold fish” machine…It was easy, and fun, the graphics were colourful and innocent…right up my alley. We cleared $50.00 after having a good couple of hours of fun. I can see how this could become addictive… There were people at it around the clock…even when we came down for breakfast there would be bleary eyed people beer in hand hitting those buttons…The busiest time was at night…even the sidewalks outside were jammed at one AM…I am told that they add oxygen to the vent system, so people do not feel tired and continue to play. This is also the reason there are no windows in casinos…so people lose track of time…

All this was fun and pretty much as I had expected, but the activity I was most looking forward to was seeing the Grand Canyon. There are many ways to visit it: by car, by bus, by plane, by helicopter and by a combination of all of the above. I chose to go by helicopter because I did not have a lot of time and had been told it is the nicest. This was my first time riding a helicopter, which added to the attraction.

There were 6 of us boarding plus the pilot. I was very lucky to be seated up front, so I had an unobstructed view. It was hot in there even with the AC (112F on the tarmac) and noisy but we were given big ear things through which the pilot could talk to us, pointing things out, explaining as we went along the geology, geography, history of this barren area.
The views we got from above were breathtaking. The photos look like abstract art.

We flew over the Hoover Dam. Very impressive even from afar.

Next we followed Lake Mead until we reached the Colorado River and the Canyon.

After a brief stop and a picnic on the ledge we flew back right over the river.

The next day we explored in another direction and went to Mt Charleston. At 7000 feet it was surprising to find vegetation and greenery. It reminded me of back home: there were even log cabins and a ski hill!

Back down in Vegas I was fortunate again to be invited in someone’s home and was stunned to see fruit trees growing right next to the desert.

The lime tree was loaded as were the fig tree and the pomegranate tree….
I saw an almond tree for the first time!!! They look so soft…

It was nice to see real people living there, as Vegas is such an artificial place…

I enjoyed my trip even if it was too short. It IS hot in the desert in summer….but it IS dry heat which is more bearable. There was a little bit of rain while I was there and people were complaining of the humidity at 3%!!!!
To me Vegas is a playground, a Disney World for grown ups…everything is fake…but nobody cares….I have heard people say : “Why bother to go to Europe ? You have it all here”…and I guess if you have never seen the original…you cannot tell the difference…
This is not a place to rest…but it is the place to be entertained…around the clock…