Once in a while there comes an opportunity to visit a place that everyone across the globe talks about. Sometimes it is a place that you may have heard of as a child growing up, or perhaps someone told you of a time they went to an amazing world renowned city.
For us, this past weekend such a trip took place. We were invited along with precious friends of ours who were attended a family wedding in las Vegas. They asked if we would like to tag along so that we could at least say we had visited the gambling mecca of the world – Las Vegas. Without question we jumped at the opportunity, and drove with them on Friday, heading north across the State line into Nevada.
For those of you who know us, we are not the gambling type, it does not interest us, and so the motivation to see Las Vegas was completely different to the average visitor to the city. We had heard much about the ‘strip’, the hotels, the casinos, the water shows, light displays and so on. Looking at images online do not do justice to the actual experience of walking down Las Vegas boulevard. I digress…
On Friday, we drove into Las Vegas just after 2:00pm, and Jack, being a Mustang fanatic, mentioned that a must see in Vegas is the Shelby Museum and manufacturing plant. So…heading across town, we drove into the plant, and went inside to be greeted by the most amazing cars I have seen yet. Of course nothing like a Ferrari, the Shelby however ranks right up there as a power packed racing machine. We walked around the museum like little boys in a toy shop! To be this close to genuine Shelby powered Mustangs was amazing! There is a show on tv that follows a famous auctioneer around the USA, on one such a show we watched an old Cobra being auctioned final price on the block – $1.3 million for a REPLICA. In this museum stands an original…I can hardly imagine what the price tag would be. When we walked out of the Shelby plant up in the sky were fighter jets doing amazing displays, we stood and watched that for a while before heading across town to settle in for the night.
I managed to take a bunch of photos – having often seen the buildings on tv and online, now finally seeing them in real time was rather interesting. The Needle, Trump Center, The Luxor, The Mirage, Cesar’s Palace, MGM, The Mirage, The Excalibur -the list goes on…seeing all these amazing buildings glittering in the afternoon sun was indeed pleasing on the eye.
Strange to think that back in the day a group of business people or should I say mob related individuals decided they needed an outlet for their massive amounts of wealth, and what better place to bury copious amounts of money, than to build a city catering to every whim known to man, in the middle of nowhere, and call it Las Vegas!
Saturday afternoon Nancy and I put our walking shoes on, and started at the top of the strip, and began our 6 hour “look & see” journey, camera in hand. The atmosphere on the strip is tangible, difficult to explain unless you have been there and had the same experience. We walked slowly, and took in the sights and sounds as everything unfolded with each step. Most of the hotels have gold reflective windows…in the setting sun, the effect is dazzling. Next to the Mandalay is this huge black pyramid, it looks deceivingly small, but when you are right under it, looking up it is dauntingly huge. New York New York was a sight for sore eyes! Replicas of the New York skyline, the statue of Liberty and a roller coaster hugging the entire complex with screaming individuals roaring through the sky. I guess we could have gone for a ride, but then simply walking through Vegas is a ride of its own! Music blares from high quality speakers on every block, from classical to rock and everything else you can think of, often it was difficult to hear myself think!
We came upon the Belagio water front, and people had begun to gather, so we joined the crowd, and were treated to the world famous water display. Everything was incredibly well choreographed. We timed it well, because the sun had just set, and the glowing deep blue sky with the lighting from the Belagio in the background made the fountain display absolutely beautiful. We decided to walk in to Cesar’s Palace, and from the onset you are greeted by the familiar lights and bells and whistles of slot machines. Seasoned users sat glued to their seats focussed on the tumbling wheels of fortune, some smoking huge cigars, others drawing deep of their cigarettes to ease their nerves I guess, while they eagerly hoped for lady luck to drop a jackpot. We walked through the gaming tables, saw Bobby Flay’s restaurant, glimpsed at the prices and realized how wealth goes to the wealthy!
When in Rome do as the Romans – right? Well, that can be said to be true, but when in doubt stick with what you know. We were trying to decided on weather to eat in one of the buffets or go with something more familiar and close to home. Nancy spotted an “Outback” restaurant and that became the flavor of choice for dinner. Nothing beats a good old fashioned Burger and fries when everything else looks deceivingly tempting…my advice – stick with what you know. The marketing of casinos is done in such a way that in order to get from point A to point B you literally have no alternative choices but to go through the gambling halls. We sat and enjoyed our burgers, and reflected on what we had seen up until that point.
After dinner, we strolled down the street to the Venetian, automatic elevators take you to wherever you want to go, and along the way we came across a wax museum, and couldn’t resist a shot of a celebrity standing with Nancy. Down below we saw an intricate water way with Gondolas and people everywhere. Las Vegas is in the high desert siting approximately 4000 feet above sea level, and at this time of the year, the wind was howling through the buildings and made for a bit of a chilling experience. We walked until our legs could barely go on, sitting often to rest our feet and do a bit of people watching.
Ah yes – people watching! What better place to do that than in Las Vegas! The lights on the buildings were truly amazing, no blown out bulbs, just brilliant color everywhere, from the ground up as high as you can look. I had often heard Las Vegas being referred to as ‘sin city’. Of course the first thought that comes to mind is ‘gambling’. But there is a whole other side to the city that was rather shocking to say the least. People walking down the street with their drinks in hand, pushing and shoving their way to wherever they were heading. Every block was lined with people wearing promotional clothing handing out cards and fliers to adult shows. The streets and walkways were littered with offensive material, and no one seemed to be too concerned, the way some folks were dressed left very little to the imagination.
Towards the end of the evening, both Nancy and I felt an urgency to escape. We had come to Las Vegas, we had seen the buildings, the amazing architecture, the displays, the lights, the people, and we had come to the conclusion that we now fully understood why this was called “sin city”.
One of the highlights of our weekend concerned the place we were staying at. This was a little city 30 miles south east of Las Vegas, called Jean. This place has a community that owns their own runway, and you can only live there if you own a plane. Mary’s mom lives there and has two planes in the hangar – quite a sight! I thought we might see John Travolta flying around in his Boeing 707, until I walked to the runway and noticed it was a small strip not big enough for a jet to land on! Needless to say, that was quite an experience, staying in a community that doesn’t have car garages but plane hangars instead!
We also drove through the town of Baker, where the world’s largest working thermometer is on display! I must say in conclusion that despite the bad side of Vegas we enjoyed our visit and the whole experience was incredible, to actually identify reality with the images and thoughts we had concerning Las Vegas. One of the thoughts that kept going through my mind is “how much money flows through this strip here in Las Vegas?”. I did a little research and almost fell off my chair! Las Vegas turns over an average $56 million every single day! How scary is that concept?