Friday, August 14, 2009

It's Vegas Baby, It isn't Europe!

Many years ago, a friend I booked a cruise to Mexico. As we walked across the gang plank, we knew we had made a big mistake. Neon lights and tacky decor was the rule of the day. He described the ship as Las Vegas on the water. I thought it was an apt description. The last time I had been to Vegas, it was flashy, tacky and a little dirty.

At dinner we were seated with six people we didn’t know. Everyone around us talked about their travels while we just sat, sipped our martinis and listened. At one point a women commented “Once you have been to Vegas, you’ve been around the world.” I immediately ordered two more martinis and kept my usually over zealous mouth shut. She went on to describe the Eiffel Tower, Grand Canal and Empire State Building, that is, the Las Vegas version of all these monuments. At the time I felt like a well traveled Manhattan resident and much to snooty to take her statement seriously.
Yesterday, for the first time in 30 years, I had a Las Vegas layover. I decided to explore and try to find what she was talking about.
As we drove in from the airport I could see all the famous landmarks. An air of excitement buzzed through the van while we made our plans. We decided to have dinner and then see the casinos beginning with Paris Las Vegas.

Jimmy, a fellow Flight Attendant, suggested Ellis Island Casino and Brewery for dinner, where they offer a New York Strip Steak, vegetable, potato and a pint of Ale for under ten bucks. I ordered the Hefeweisen, a wheat beer made in their brewery. Wonderfully refreshing it was cloudy and fruity, served in a large chilled glass, garnished with an orange. Perfect refreshment for a 103F/39.4C degree afternoon. The steak was good but the real winner was the bill. We each spent $7.50. With a $2.50 tip we were out the door just 10.00 lighter. Now that is what I call hitting the jackpot!

Paris Las Vegas, our first stop, was vibrant and kitschy. Decorated to look like a miniature Belle Epoque Paris underneath the Eiffle Tower.
With French flags flying, you enter beneath the Arc de Triumphe. The Louvre is in the corner of the casino, and just when you think you've seen it all the Hotel de Ville can be spied at the back of the casino. Parisian style buildings surround the entire room with small cafes scattered throughout the casino. A bridge overhead connects the casino with the Eiffel Tower. An American version of French flair.

Ceasar’s Palace,
which was designed to look like a giant version of the Forum and then through the Bellagio. Both were opulent and bigger than life. .
The Flamingo seemed a bit down at the heels.
The Saint Mark's Bell Tower at the Venetian, was beckoning me. I knew I couldn’t rest until I saw the Grand Canal and the Gondolas.
As I made my way down the strip, which resembled a very busy Monte Carlo,
I saw the Mirage shimmering gold in the setting sun.
Old and young, parents and lover’s passed me on the street. I saw a Bride, Elvis, a drunk and an abundance of beautiful women. I heard every language spoken from around the globe, some I didn’t recognize.

The Venetian Las Vegas, lived up to it’s name.
We traveled up a moving sidewalk while looking at a Moorish building.
The LV version of the Venetian Lagoon flowed under the walk. Security guards were dressed like Italian Policemen circa 1940. Sign’s directed us along a walkway into the lobby. The casino was down stairs and the Grand Canal was through the archway. Yes folks, I can honestly say it looked like a movie set.
Authentically costumed Gondoliers rowed gondolas filled with tourists around the canal.
The Italian Cafes with their tables spilling onto the piazza were serenaded by a trio of musicians playing Vivaldi. A gondolier blew me a kiss as I took his picture. It was a lovely scene, and all that was missing were the African purse merchants with their wares spread onto blankets.
Cafe’s, saloons and Pete’s Coffee competed for business. You could buy a tee shirt, coffee mug or shot glass emblazoned with the name “Venice, Las Vegas” or “The Venetian”.
Teenage girls sat at an oxygen bar while their parents sipped wine at a nearby Cafe. Somehow Las Vegas has become a family destination.

At the end of the day, I thought about the statement my table partner had made. Did I feel I had been to Paris, Rome or Venice? No But I did feel like I had been to Epcot with gambling and prostitution thrown in. Would I come back? Absolutely, but only if my airline was footing the bill.

All text and pictures belong to The Gypsy Chef


  1. thanks for the pictures and vivid descriptions--i almost doubt i'll ever experience vegas myself. sounds like an interesting balance of fun (hooray, gondolas!) and disturbing (i just feel sorry for anyone who feels the need to resort to prostitiution). great post!

  2. Thanks Grace, I was really excited to see Vegas after all I have read about it. It really is bigger than life!