Thursday, 29 August 2013

Las Vegas is mad

Route Las Vegas

We are visiting Las Vegas simply because neither of us have been there before and it is one of those places you should visit, even if you do so only once in a lifetime. There is an RV park close to the centre of LV at the Circus Circus Hotel / Casino and that is where we are staying. Really it is a large tarmac car park with RV facilities but it will be better to stay there and walk into town than stay on the outskirts and have to travel in by bus every time.

The first view we get of LV surprises us – it is much smaller than we had imagined it to be.

Las Vegas First View

After quite a boring drive across cactus studded desert with mountains on the distance, a town appeared on the horizon and it looked like I imagined LV would look but it did not look large enough – there was a thin strip of skyscrapers surrounded by a smallish outlying district. Having checked the “distance to destination” on the satnav against a road sign, we decided it had to be LV and of course it was.

Our KOA RV site was between the main Strip area and Downtown and hence when we went out for a walk, the surrounding area was less than exciting and we wondered what all the fuss was about - that was until we took the night bus tour. The only way to show why is to include numerous pictures into the blog entry. The tour starts starts at dusk and continues into the evening but it is not logical to show the pictures in chronological order because we assembled a portfolio of the architectural madness that is LV (both during the day and the evening) over a period of a couple of days.

Trump Tower at night


As the sun sets on the gold plated Trump Tower which actually is off The Strip and has no Casino and boasts of being Pet Friendly

we set off on a trip up and down The Strip.

Sphinx Pyramid Searchlight Obviously apart from iconic Casinos / Resort Hotels such as the Luxor which has a very bright (42.3 Billion Candela) beam of light shining out of the top of the Pyramid (hotel), so bright in fact that it was said to be visible some 275 miles away by planes over Los Angeles Airport, we see lots of neon lights (there is in fact a Neon Light Graveyard which you can visit to see lights from the old days).

Amongst the lights and other interesting illuminated objects which we pass are:

Motel SignElvis signMGM Grand MGM Bronze Lion McDonalds Sign Harrahs-1 Harrahs

and this supermarket which I have included  

White Cross Market

because we were constantly told that it is famous for the fact that “The Rat Pack” used to go there for early breakfasts because it was visited at that time of day by many Las Vegas dancers purchasing their stage make-up.

Leaning Building Veer Towers

The walls of the Veer Towers have been built to lean 50 from the vertical although from the ground it looks a lot more and next to the Veer is the Gucci Store which is also strangely shaped.

Casino Themes

In order to attract gamblers, each hotel on The Strip has a particular theme. You can choose from gambling in Venice, Paris, New York, Cairo, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace and many other places. Some themes have been done better than others and most will have cost an enormous amount to build showing that there is a lot of money to be made in gambling.

The Bellagio has dancing fountains which

Bellagio Fountains

B Bellagio Fountains

B Bellagio Fountains-001

perform to music during the day.

There are numerous videos of them on YouTube taken from a restaurant high up in the hotel – if an advert appears when you play this one, click on the X in the top right corner of the advert and it will disappear.

Treasure Island has a couple of old sailing ships outside of it in a large lake and every evening a “play” takes place during which a crew of “Pirates” are tempted by a crew of “Sirens”

Treasure Island Battle SireensTI Sirens

with some astonishing pyrotechnics.

Mirage Volcano

The Mirage has an exploding volcano with equally astonishing pyrotechnics and large crowds assemble around the hotels at the appropriate time to see the show.

The Venetian

This was our favourite themed casino, simply because it was done so well.

VenniceV Tower and Bridge

The obvious structure outside is the “Campanile di

V Venetian

San Marco” but adjacent to that is one of the famous bridges in Venice which you can see in the picture.

V outside

The canals are somewhat cramped in front of the hotel but inside the canals

V Canals and shops V Canals inside

open up and there is ample room for the Gondoliers who take tourists around the canal system on gondolas which have a small electric motor (unlike those in Venice) to keep them moving at a constant regulated speed. The Gondoliers sing in Italian but their repertoire seemed to be somewhat limited – we heard “O Sole Mio” too many times when we were there.

The Piazza San Marco has moved indoors away from its tower

V Piazza Night Time

V Piazza Dancing Opera

and it is full of diners and also a live group of singers and dancers.

V SHops

The shops seem to be very high end and priced to use up any winnings.

V Casino

The Casino in the basement looks the same as casinos everywhere in this city

V Ceiling V Pepsi Mosaic

other than the enormous quite realistic ceiling painting in the foyer to the Casino and the rather unusual (no doubt genuine) Roman mosaic at the entrance to the toilets.

V Carnivale V Carnivale-001

Today (as it seems to be on most days) is Carnivale and performers are in the grand hall in front of the Casino.

New York New York

Crysler Building

This hotel / casino is modelled on the New

New York New York

York skyline and outside of course, is a copy of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge which was under construction when we were there.

NY Inside NY Inside-001

The streets here are more obviously film set like

NY Bar

and the bar shows the dedication of casinos to making it easy for you to gamble. You can sit at the bar and gamble as you drink using one of the bandits built into the bar top. 

Paris Las Vegas

is at its name suggests. Outside is a 50% size version of the Eiffel Tower

P Eiffel Tower-001 P Eiffel Tower at night

and a version of the Arc de Triomphe de

P Arc de Triomphe

l'√Čtoile with an advert for a chef who would not find himself on the real thing,

P Montgolfier

also the Montgolfier Brothers have landed nearby with a large advert.

Inside there are a number of reasonably

P Street-003

realistic streets

P Street P Street-001 P Street-002

and some rather interesting Framerlais signs

P Framerlais

which show American versions of Franglais such as Le Car Rental and more.

P Casino

The Casino is of course the central part of the hotel and looks little different to others.

P Craps

Circus Circus

We were camping in the grounds of Circus Circus who theme is self evident.

Circus Circus Sign

Because we walked through the Casino a few times each day (it was so hot outside, even at night, that the trick to survival was to stay in the air conditioning as long as possible) we decided to spend our gambling allowance there – a whole $10 each. Having decided that we were going to gamble recklessly, we first needed to learn how to do it. The Casino helpfully provides free lessons in a number of the ways to lose your money so we attended a Craps lesson

CC Bewildered at Craps

and came away more bewildered than when we started and also a Roulette lesson which seemed to be a much easier way of loosing your money.

Circus Circus One Armed Bandits

It was the slots however that we finally decided to take on.

CC Bewildered Gambler

There seemed to be hundreds of them, all flashing lights and making every sort of noise possible. There may well be an art to playing them but if there is, we did not know it.

CC Pat feeding the slots

Our technique was to insert a $1 bill into a slot, push the minimum bet button, pull the handle and see what happened next.

CC Our Winnings

We won!!!!

The above (plus another one for $1.92) are our payout slips for different $1 bets and we came away from the experience a total of 92 cents the richer which we spent (and more) on Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the Casino because we did not want them to suffer financially due to our large winnings.

It is true that there are no windows or clocks in casinos so you have no idea what the time is, they bring free drinks to you as you are betting and will also bring snacks. Everything possible is done to encourage you to gamble. You are not allowed to gamble however if you are seen to be drunk and you have to be over 21 but the age rule does not seem to stop lots of young children walking through the gambling area with their parents. It is also the only place we have been to in America where smoking is allowed indoors. Hence many more people were smoking here than anywhere else perhaps because they were allowed to do it and it reminded them of “the good old days”. There is a growing lobby however amongst the workers in casinos to have it banned since it obviously affects their health.

Even though we were big winners, we are still of the opinion that ambling is for fools or the very lucky or those that know how to play and do not mind loosing money (I mind !)

Circus Circus tortureIn order to live up to its name, Circus Circus has an indoor adventure park where you can be turned upside down on a variety of rides, win enormous stuffed toys which you cannot take home with you on the plane and numerous other absolutely essential things.

It also has (we think in part of the hotel where there used to be a circus ring), various circus acts during the day.

CC Flying Angels-003 

CC Flying Angels-001We saw the World Famous (apparently) Flying Angels from Argentina who actually were quite good. During the act they whirled through the air singly, doubly and in triplets and generally made you grateful that there was no audience participation.

CC Flying Angels

They all survived of course, but personally experiencing

CC Flying Angels-002

a flying trapeze in still not on either of our bucket lists. Someone has put a video of their act on YouTube and you can see it here.

Downtown Las Vegas

The downtown end of Las Vegas has seen better days because most of the new developments are some miles away. Most people do not know that the Las Vegas Strip is not actually in Las Vegas City but in an town called Paradise which is an unincorporated town in Clark County. Therefore when they say they are going to Las Vegas, they are actually going to Paradise! (something which Las Vegas as a whole certainly is not).

As you drive to the downtown area, you pass “The Stratosphere” which is part of a casino

Stratospherecomplex (of course). The “attraction” here is to go to the top of the tower, parachute down after a long controlled free fall or participate in one of a number of rides which dangle you over the edge. Unfortunately, our bus did not stop there so we were unable to get off and try the rides out.

Also on the road to Downtown are numerous wedding chapels. Americans like to say that LV is the wedding capital of the USA (Reno is the divorce capital) and hence there is always somewhere in LV where you can get married, any day of the year, any time of the day.

Wedding Chapel Little WestViva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel

We lost track of whom had been married to whom and in which chapel, which were drive-in drive out, how many had Elvis Presley officiating over the ceremony, which one would send Elvis to your hotel in a large open topped Cadillac to drive you to and from the chapel, which one had trapeze artists to assist you in celebrating the day, which one would speak Klingon throughout the ceremony etc.

Graceland Wedding Chapel

A famous one is the Graceland Wedding Chapel which is so called because Elvis gave them permission to use the name and if you are thinking of getting married there, here will take you to their website.

Las Vegas sign

It is the custom once you are married, to drive to the far end of The Strip where there is the famous Las Vegas sign and have your photograph taken. When we went past it, there were a few couples there recording the occasion.

Golden Nugget Casino

One of the original downtown casinos is the

GN Golden Nugget sign

Golden Nugget which has a Golden Nugget in the foyer to give credence to its name.

GN Hand of fiath nugget

GN Nugget

This is said to be the largest gold nugget on display in the world and weighs 875 troy ounces (61 lbs 11 ounces) and was found by a prospector in Australia outside his trailer home using a metal detector. We know that such prospectors exist because we met one when we were there a few years ago.



Opposite the nugget is one of three gold bar ATMs in America (and currently one of only ten in the world).



GN Gold PricesOn a screen is the current price they are selling gold bars at (apparently updated automatically as the price of gold changes) and you insert cash and in return get a gold bar. My calculations indicated that the price of a gold bar here was significantly more than the price of gold on the market that day. They say it is there to encourage people who win in the casino to convert their winnings into gold – and also for rich men to impress their girlfriends.

GN Slots-001

The slots are the same as anywhere but the Casino has a fish theme about it (we never discovered why) hence the advert for fresh halibut above the slots,

GN Reception

the very large fish tank behind reception

GN Shark Tank with chuteand the fish tank in the centre of the swimming pool which has a water slide going through the middle of it. The attraction is that you can go down the water side and pass through the middle of a tank with sharks swimming around you.

You could of course go to the Red Sea like I do and dive with them but that probably is not as exciting as doing it in a hotel in the middle of Las Vegas!

Fremont Street

The response of Downtown LV (where the original Casinos were and still are) to the attractions of The Strip was to create Fremont Street and it is superb (other than that it is a long way from The Strip).

The main attraction is the worlds longest TV screen in the roof of Fremont Street and it is amazing. On the hour, a video show takes place using the full length of the street

FS Roof 1 FS Roof-001 FS Roof-002 FS Roof-003

Spaceships fly down the full length of the roof of the street, the whole street turns into a guitar, graphics appear everywhere, it really is well done.

We only took still pictures of the “experience” but there are numerous videos of it on YouTube – including this one which is not bad (just click on the “x” to get rid of the advert)

What the video does not give you is the power of the sound system which is very loud. When they played an extract of the next video scheduled to be shown (Queen “We will Rock You”), the whole place reverberated. There are (relatively poor) videos of Queen at Freemont Street on YouTube – the video roof really is very good and well worth going to see.

Apart from the roof, there were numerous street performers including a good Elvis

FS Elvis

and dancers in various states of attire.

FS Lights FS Lights-001

Apart from all of this, there are astonishing neon light displays,

FS Lights-002 FS Lights-003

and street artists in various costumes who are prepared to pose with you for a souvenir photograph for a tip. The Casinos feature dancing on the tables in various states of undress as do the bars along the street and everybody who goes there seems to get caught up in the atmosphere.

It is a most astonishing place but is disadvantage is that it is isolated from the rest of LV and therefore if you stayed there you would constantly be travelling some distance to The Strip because of what is on offer there.

Of all of the recreations, Venice was superb and very classy, Paris was very good and New York was good. Circus Circus next to which we were camping was rather tired and tatty and felt a bit like a run down Blackpool.

Goodbye USA Meal

On our final night in the USA, we went to a

V Pat and a Margarita 

Mexican Restaurant where Pat was able to have her favourite drink – Margarita and we both sampled some superb Mexican cuisine,

V Polo Con Mole Poblano V Mushroom Tacos

That we were dining by the side of a Venetian Canal with gondoliers singing as they passed by and then we went to the Piazza San Marco to hear some opera and where underneath it (that the Piazza in Venice has an underneath (!) is a well kept secret) they were celebrating Carnevale and just down the road was the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre and in the opposite direction was New York and nearby was the Luxor Pyramid may seem unusual. But only in Las Vegas can you go abroad so easily and because so many Americans never travel abroad, this may be the closest they will ever get to foreign climes.

With Las Vegas, you just have to go with it and not take it seriously. If you worry about it, you will never enjoy it. Our 2½ days there were long enough and we are pleased to have visited it once (only).

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