Never has a phrase been so apt. After spending the last week or so in some of the most glorious scenery known to man, we then drove through the infernal heat of the desert to the most vainglorious temple to mammon – Las Vegas.
We’d already seen mirages floating up through the heat of the road on this trip but nothing prepared us for this. How did we get the point where someone thought that ‘what this desert really needs is a copy of Venice and a bazillion fruit machines?’
Venice – the city of canals, which by their very nature are quite watery, recreated in one of the driest places on earth!
There’s a copy of the Rialto Bridge, complete with moving walkway, to propel you towards the air-conditioned aircraft-hanger-sized casinos. We’d not seen such a cheesy pastiche of Italy since the Cornetto adverts of the 80s.
A certain six year old declared Vegas to be “bonkers” and she’s quite right. That said, she and her sister loved it, and you can’t help but be somehow impressed by the staggering folly of the place.
It’s also an interesting city to be a skinflint. Given that it’s whole purpose is to separate you from your cash it’s surprisingly cheap to visit. We stayed at Circus Circus and paid about £25 a night for the four of us, in a hotel with two pools and free circus acts. There’s also free shows on at other hotels and the performance and pyrotechnics at Treasure Island were quite something, with pirates and fireworks, sinking ships and singing sirens.
However once you’re in the hotels they make it as difficult as possible to leave, with no visible exit signs inside the labyrinthine malls, arcades and casinos – they were even playing “Band on the Run” by Wings at one point – “Stuck inside these four walls… If I ever get out again…” which at the very least showed some appreciation of irony.
However if you asked the girls what they liked most about Vegas it would probably be going to the Build-a-Bear Workshop, and I’d rather that was their abiding memory than the people playing the slot machines at 8 in the morning when we left for the airport.
Las Vegas is an experience but a disquieting one. If something does have to happen in Vegas perhaps it’s better that it stays in Vegas because I prefer the real world to this edifice of artifice.
And with that we were off to Mexico…