Thursday, September 9, 2010

A short intermission from the writing life: VEGAS

Yeah, I admit, I've been lousy with my writing/blogging schedule lately. I just finished an intense train-the-trainer course in Las Vegas. I dare YOU to try to stay on top of your writing schedule when you have to travel to Las Vegas for 4 days of work. After 8 hours on the computer in a stuffy hotel conference room, I had to get outside!

Now, I am not a gambler, and I am on a tight budget ($150 to see Cher in concert was not an option), so this is my CHEAP tour of the Las Vegas strip - also known as Disney World for adults.

Imagine small-town Wyoming girl on Las Vegas Boulevard with eight lanes of traffic, surrounded by huge crowds and flashing lights and billboards in every direction. It was an adventure just going for a walk. I stayed at the Flamingo hotel which is notable for its courtyard full of palm tree and pools with giant koi fish and, of course, live flamingos.

Directly across the street (except you don't actually cross the street, there are massive stone pedestrian bridges at every intersection), is the Bellagio hotel and casino, with a lake in front of it to mimic Lake Como in Italy. Every fifteen minutes, hundreds of fountains in the lake are synchronized with music and lights to create a mesmerizing ballet of moving water. Inside, the Bellagio also has beautiful colored glass sculptures, and a very surrealistic conservatory with giant insects all made out of flowers. And I can't even begin to describe the chocolate fountain that was, um, like 15 feet tall.

Next door to the Bellagio is Caesar's Palace, which is actually four or five different palaces/towers, hundreds of massive Romanesque statues, gardens, fountains, and probably more marble than the actual city of Rome. I was even more impressed by the Forum, Caesar's Palace version of a mall. Again, think acres of marble, gigantic fountains and statues, a simulated sky to make it feel like an outdoor mall, and shops like Tiffany's, Gucci, Versace... you get the idea.

To avoid temptation, I stayed out of those shops and visited the art galleries instead. If you've never seen artwork by Vladimir Kush, by all means check out the link. His paintings are like a cross between Salvador Dali and Thomas Kinkade - my favorite was the tall-masted ship with butterfly wings for sails.

I also adore nature photography, and Peter Lik's glowing photographs are absolutely stunning. His website simply can't do them justice - get yourself to a gallery as soon as possible.

Next door to Caesar's Palace is the Mirage, and after the graceful and cool dancing beauty of Bellagio's fountain show, the Mirage's volcano show is a perfect opposite: all power and fire. The volcano mountain is not very impressive (looks freakishly fake) until the show starts. I imagined that the volcano eruption would be just light and sound effects, but while there are plenty of those, there was also a serious amount of real fire - enough that ambient temperature went up by at least twenty degrees, and the gas fumes made you want to hold your breath. In addition to all the fire exploding out of the fake mountain, the pool surrounding the volcano also sprouts multiple gas jets that go off in synchronized patterns. 

My last stop was at Treasure Island for the famous Pirates of the Caribbean show, which was recently replaced by the new Sirens show. Again, the special effects were pretty cool - simulated canon shots and a ship that completely sinks - but the singing and dancing were pure Vegas: loud, flashy, corny, and lots of bare skin. I happened to be standing near a security guard who told us that each Sirens show (which is free for anyone to view) costs $30,000 to put on, and Treasure Island has three shows a night, every night, all year long. More than the show, I loved the contrast between the glossy marble grandeur of Caesar's and the intricate woodwork and frontier feel of Treasure Island.

Even if there weren't these free shows (and I only mentioned three), the sidewalks themselves are pure entertainment, between the people-watching (the fashion! the outfits! the giant margarita glasses!) and the sidewalk performers. The casinos also send out people in costumes (Jack Sparrows, storm troopers, show girls) for photo ops and people with macaws perched on their heads, or pythons curled around their shoulders. 

Bottom line: you can enjoy Las Vegas without spending a penny, except for your lodging and food, of course... which don't come cheap. Simple necessities are outrageously priced - a simple bottle of water costs three times as much as it will at home, and there are no drinking water fountains. The other downside, at least for me, were the crowds and cigarette smoke. Still, for a two-mile walk, I'm not sure if you can find any other place with as much cram-packed free entertainment.

23 comments:

  1. Thanks for the mini-tour. The last time I was there was in the late 70's! Then food was cheap because they wanted you to spend your money in the casinos. A few good shows in town and still rather small townish. Then they decided to attract tourists with families to compete with New Jersey. Boom! Gotta go check it out myself soon ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, it looks and sounds amazing. I must admit, Los Vegas isn't one of the must-see places on my list. But after your description, you never know.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I used to live there and have enjoyed watching everything you mentioned! My husband and I spent our honeymoon weekend at the Flamingo.

    Thanks for bringing back some fun memories!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you! Thank you! One off my bucket list dreams is to go to Las Vegas. When I talk to people about it they are always so negative about the cost. I shall them your post!

    p.s. I’m running a competition this week. If you get time, pop along and have a look.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've been to Vegas twice and did the 'free' tour like you. The first time I was 16 and couldn't participate in the gambling anyways, and the second was my 21st birthday (I still didn't gamble). There's always more to do there, and I think I prefer the free parts. The paid for parts are never worth what you pay.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Is this even on the same planet?!?! LOL!! So all the rumours are true!! How absolutely whacky, surreal and fun and just mad!! and ever so slightly scary!!! :-)

    Thanks for the links to these fab artists - they seem sane in the face of such showmanship!

    Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
  7. So cool!! Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us :) I have never been to Vegas and I'm not much of a gambler (or a fan of such overpriced water! Yikes) but would love to go someday just for the heck of it. Glad you had a good time!

    ReplyDelete
  8. And I've mostly driven through over the years ... except when I stopped on the northern outskirts to visit my aunt.

    I do tease the old man about going to Vegas to see the Cirque du Soleis (sp?).

    ReplyDelete
  9. I would love to see that fountain show, but I think the rest of Vegas would be too 'over the top' for me. The people-watching sounds great too though.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think if I ever went there again I'd take notes - and lots of pictures. What a good resource for character building. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ah, it looks like us writerly types tend to agree, places like Vegas are too "over the top" though it is fun for a short visit and for people watching! It is definitely more of the party-hearty type of fun rather than the cerebral type of fun I think I usually gravitate toward. But sometimes you need to throw something different into the mix (esp. if your job pays for the travel!) Thanks for all your comments!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hello Margo. Thanks for visiting my blog.

    What an amazing tour! I think my mouth dropped open as I read... I love that Vladimir Kush painting of the ship with the butterfly wings.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I cannot imagine anyone could focus while in Vegas! You've just given me a new artist to research -- Kush. Dali is one of my all-time favorites and I my house is scattered with Kinkade.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for the tour. I totally would have gotten NO writing done in Vegas.

    Shelley

    ReplyDelete
  15. We went there a few years ago and spent most of our time driving outside LAs Vegas to the parks and Hoover Dam etc.:) It made me sad there because amidst all the glitter there was so much poverty as well.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I admit Vegas intimidates me! But I do get mesmerized by pretty lights. I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow, the butterfly sails are awesome! Ditto the volcano. Vegas isn't even in my top 20 destinations, but next time I'm near, I might have to at least take a walk! :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Sounds like you had a great time! And you're right - it's too hard to stick to a schedule when so far removed from your norm.

    This post makes me want to go back to Vegas!

    ReplyDelete
  19. So much to do in Vegas! I haven't been there in years, but I long to go back. This time I'll hit up the places you mentioned. We spent way too much money last time.

    ReplyDelete
  20. So glad you had fun! I can just imagine you, the small town WY girl, taking it all in because that's how I feel as a small town AZ girl! (Ha, ha.)

    Thanks for sharing, Margo!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great getaway, Margo. Haven't been in a few years, but there's something there for everyone, isn't there?

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'd like to go some day, not for the gambling but sightseeing. I love the ship with butterflies.

    ReplyDelete

Followers

Follow by Email

My Blog List