After hiking in Yosemite National Park, the second stop of our roadtrip was Las Vegas.
Nevada’s arid lands
From Yosemite till Las Vegas, the road crossed the arid lands of Nevada state. We were literally alone in desert, to the point that we stopped and took pictures right in the middle of the road.
Along the road we sighted wild herd of mustangs, rocky plains, Joshua trees and little swirls formed by the smoldering heat. The Wild American West as we imagined it.
After driving for miles, we got quite a fright : no more gas and no gas station in sight. We did cross a ghost city tough. Benton Hot Springs.
We finally found a gas station not far from Benton. What a relief ! It would have been so unpleasant to run out of fuel in this middle of nowhere. Especially as we encountered so few cars along the road.
We then stopped and ate fajitas at Beattie, the gateway to Death Valley. The last section of the road to Las Vegas was rather unsavory. The monotony of the dry landscapes was only broken by the numerous prisons and correctional centers located along the way. Sordid atmosphere… Was it a way to remind us that Las Vegas is a sinful city ?
Welcome to Las Vegas !
We finally arrived in the late afternoon in Vegas, and immediately suffered from both the terrible traffic jam and intense heat. We got lost in the maze of streets and parkings alleys, even if our hotel – The New York New York hotel – was quite unmissable.
As you can guess, the hotel embodied New York City and had its own statue of Liberty and roller-coaster.
Inside the hotel it was a hive of activity : flashy slot machines, tilting sounds, shiny neon lights, tons of restaurants, fake kind-of-pasteboard-decors and a non-stop crowd filled the place 24h/7.
In the hotel lobby we had to stand in long structured lines to get our keys and were treated like cattle. Not quite the service you expect when the room cost us a fortune.
But then everything is expensive in Las Vegas. The whole point of the city is about one thing : money.
2 escalators, 1 lift, 10 stories and 1 long corridor later, we found our room, that had a charming* view on the parking. (*obviously I’m being ironic). Every 15 mn the roller-coaster passed by our window with screaming sounds from its riders. So much for silence.
The Strip exploration
The Strip is the south section of Las Vegas boulevard. It is a central axis of traffic where are located the major casino-hotels, restaurants and attractions. In other words, it’s the place to be.
Numerous footbridges granted access to the many hotels on both sides of the boulevard. The pedestrian and car traffic was
hellish congested on the strip.
There, mixing with the crowd, we discovered with stupefaction so many crazy attractions. A gigantic bottle serving as the entrance to the Coca-Cola store selling all things Coca-cola related. The M&Ms world where you can find every color and flavor of chocolate candies. Small size Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe…
We admired the aquatic ballet and play of lights of the Bellagio’s fountains. Every 5 meters we encountered superhero or characters from the Very bad trip movie, trying to pose with us for a paid photo.
Musics, jingles, tilting sound surrounded us. Neon and artificial lights illuminated the strip like in broad daylight. The air was so hot that some hotel had installed water sprays at their entrance.
I didn’t expect to see so many families on the Strip. However they were later replaced by groups of scantily clad girls and intoxicated boys on their way to bachelor’s party or nightclubs.
Spend money, drink, flirt, dance, consume… Las Vegas is like Disneyland for adults, with uncensored entertainment.
The smoldering heat and crazy crowd got to us so we took shelter in the elegant Cosmopolitan Hotel. Of course, I couldn’t resist to drink a cosmo cocktail there.
We found by miracle a restaurant with no waiting lines. China Poblano’s menu mixed Chinese traditional noodles with Mexican type tapas and food. Peculiar combination, but the deco was really cool and the dishes not bad at all if a bit too overpriced, like everything else in Vegas.
For the rest of the night we then explored by foot all the mythical hotels of the city. Excessive, spectacular, ultra-kitsch, out-of-the-world-concept, are some of the words that described them. Every one is worth the trip.
See for yourself.
Caesar Palace, spectacular kitsch
The Venitian, and its fake Venice
Bellagio, so chic
What about the gambling ?
Vegas is the city of gambling, so like everybody else we wanted to try our luck with slot machines. There were so many different styles, types and themes of slot machines : Superman, Titanic, mermaids, forest gnomes (!!), zodiac signs etc.
Initial bets would vary from 0.25 cent to $1, and so did the gain.
The rules were so hard to grasp that we resorted to just push the button and waited… to loose. Or maybe win, just to loose again after. Not really exciting.
On the game tables, initial bets were much higher (starting at $1000 for some “VIP” table). Rules were also complicated. In our party there was a math teacher and a statistician, and yet, after watching a black jack game for 15 mn, we still didn’t understand how to play… The game was fast and people played while drinking non-stop for hours – seemingly knowing what they were doing.
I found all this madness quite anti-climatic, not glamorous (like the movies made you believe) and… actually quite boring after a few try.
However, around us, people seemed to enjoy it very much and never stopped playing, from morning to evening, spending a fortune in the casinos.
Downtown Las Vegas
The next day we breezed through the historic district of downtown Las Vegas. A “retro” district mostly known for its vintage neon lights and love chapels, where Elvis can marry you in 5 mn.
There we observed the sad reality of the city : people waiting in long lines in front of pawnbrokers. Pawn shops loaned money using personal belongings (like jewels, watches…) as collateral. To gamble more, people were ready to do anything. The bitter side of addiction.
During this insane evening in Las Vegas, we closely observed the madness of this city, built from scratch in the middle of the desert. A city where nothing felt real or authentic and that served as an outlet for millions of tourists and americans.
In conclusion, Las Vegas was quite an experience. A one-of-a-lifetime experience, yet the city didn’t fascinate or seduce me. I probably won’t be coming back.