Five Days in Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Our plane touches down at eleven o’clock pm after a five hour flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My wife and I start our five day vacation in famous Las Vegas. For fifty-nine years I have been meaning to pay a visit to the city where anything goes and finally I have made it, thanks to a little incentive from Hurricane Ivan.
We jump into a taxi and right away the happy-go-lucky driver wants to know if we want to take the freeway or the strip to our hotel…The Excalibur. Since the hotel is only one and a half miles away I did not think the freeway was a good idea. He then asks if we would like a tour of the strip. I explain it is really two in the morning as far as our body clock is concerned but that does not deter him from asking “so how about a trip down the strip.” Once I explained I was a reporter he took me straight to our hotel.
After a twenty minute wait to check-in, the courteous clerk ungraded our room to a deluxe and gave us a special 6 o’clock, late check out time. As we made our way to the room we have to walk through the busy, cigarette smoke-filled casino. I sense my wife already wishes she was not here and in a daze bumps into a sinister looking man who gives her a scowling look. Behind him are two large cops who are escorting him out of the casino.
As we step into the elevator two rednecks with beers in their hands step into the elevator with us. They stare deeply into my eyes and since I do not think it was love on their mind, I avoid eye contact. I wish them a good evening as we exit the elevator when it reaches our floor.
“Wow!” I remark as we walk down the hallway. “What a great exciting start to the holiday.” I don’t think wifey shares my joviality. The room is large and clean but I fail to fathom where the deluxe description came into the picture. We will not be spending too much time in the room apart from sleeping, so it is quite adequate and will serve its purpose. We are not paying a king’s ransom at Excalibur, therefore we cannot expect a palace.
The next morning we have to walk through the casino again. At eight-thirty in the morning there are not many people playing the slots, accordingly, not too much smoke. We enjoy a few cups of hot tea and a banana for breakfast in the Sherwood Forest café. Folks around us, with large bellies, are tucking into bacon, eggs, sausage, potato hash, pancakes and waffles. I guess we are the fishes out of water in this pond. As I drink my tea I wonder, when did Robin Hood’s forest become part of the Arthurian story of Excalibur? Obviously, the folks who planned the hotel had some secret inside information on English mythological history?
After a few cups of tea we decided to explore the casino while it has relatively little cigarette smoke. As we meander around the massive room, we happen upon the Sports Book Center. A large screen is showing race horses going down to post for the 12:30 pm race from Philadelphia Park. I remember I had a dream a few days before we left for Vegas and the number nine kept reoccurring. I look up at the screen and the number nine horse is being shown on it. I go up to the window and place $10 to win on the number nine horse. My wife tells me it is called ‘Bottled Excitement’ and I guess that does sum up my feelings.
We sit down to watch the race with only a few other studious, form following men in the room. My horse comes out of the gates dead last. As the race progresses it gradually makes its way through the field overtaking the other horses…it wins right on the line. It was just like a race you would see in the movies, where the underdog coming through right on the last stride. I go to the clerk and hand her my ticket. “Do you know how much you have won,” she says with a nice smile. “No idea,” I replied. She then proceeds to count out $470. I give her a twenty dollar tip and remark, “It’s amazing what you can realize from deciphering dreams.”
We have a nice little chat and she thanks me for lighting up her day as we leave the room. I now have my ‘gambling pot’ for our stay and no matter what happens, I will definitely go home with at least $100 of my winnings.
We continue our meandering around our hotel and take the elevator to the upper floor. It leads to a parade of shops. One is selling sessions of inhaling pure oxygen. I suppose if you have been gambling for over twenty-four hours you need something to revive the mind and body. Our strolling takes us down a passageway that leads us to the next hotel, The Luxor. Wow! what a spectacular place. It has large Egyptian statues and artifacts decorating the lobby and public rooms. In the entertainment center there are a number of cinemas with special effects movies continually playing. One is a 4-D pirate movie with Leslie Nielsen, that we will view in a few days.
We do go into an exhibition replica of Tutankhamen’s tomb, with an audio narration from an actor playing Howard Carter, the man who discovered the tomb. It is well worth the $5 admission. It only lasts for twenty minutes but it is very professionally projected. It made us believe we were viewing the actual tomb, with Carter expressing his first feelings of excitement and passion on his discovery.
We slowly continued our exploration of the Luxor and find ourselves on an escalator that leads to another five star hotel…The Mandalay Bay. This is an outstanding, opulent hotel and the more we explore, the more I feel the ingenuity of the architects that planned this palace.
It is now 1:30 pm and our stomachs begin to rumble as we had only eaten a banana since last night’s meal. We are standing outside ‘The Burger Bar’ at The Mandalay and on the menu is a special burger which they claim is the best meat in the world. We are mostly vegetarian, but nothing is written in stone and since we are in sin city we decided to split a burger and a Greek salad. Both were excellent, however, the burger is quite small for the $16 price tag.
We make our way back to our hotel feeling the effects of walking quite a few miles without even seeing the light of day. I book a dinner show at our hotel which was advertised as a “knight’s of the round table extravaganza”.
A few hours later we are sat in a large arena with dinner tables laid out in rows. Around sixteen hundred people are seated in eight, two hundred seat sections, with differing country flags flying over their space. At the center of this massive room is a large sand floor/stage where the knights of the round table will joust on horseback and sword fight with each other in the most realistic manner.
Each section of the room is encouraged to cheer for their knight and it is all very professionally produced. The meal consists of a small bowl of tomato soup followed by Cornish hen and a small, cake-like apple pie for dessert. At $43 a ticket it is good value and makes for a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
We are in bed by 9:30 and go spark-out until 7 the next morning. The next four days were spent on a pilgrimage visiting all the monumental hotels on the strip. We walk everywhere, averaging well over ten miles a day.
A skyway from our hotel takes us over to the New York New York hotel and then on to the MGM Grand and Tropicana. From there we made our way to Paris, Aladdin, Venetian…across the road we visited Caesars Palace, Mirage, Bellagio, Monte Carlo. We pace ourselves over the four days and explore all the public rooms in each hotel.
The Bellagio is an imposing, majestic hotel. At three o’clock in the afternoon we witnessed an enchanting display of dancing fountains, firstly to the music ‘America The Beautiful’ and secondly, Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brightman singing ‘Time to Go Home.’ A truly memorable experience.
The Venetian also stands out as one of our most enjoyable experiences. At mid-day we sat in a mock-up of St. Marks Square and attended a very entertaining show. Five opera singers, three women and two men, in costume, sang arias from various operas and it was a sheer delight. On the far side of the square, gondolas carry guests on a short journey on canals around this Venetian oasis, serenaded by costumed Gondoliers.
Whilst we were there, we ate lunch in the Lutece restaurant, located in the Venetian casino. It is reputedly the busiest restaurant in the USA. We ordered two salads (one Polynesian, one Mandarin) which cost only $11 each, which has to be a super value in a five star hotel. They were very large and a delight to the palate.
MGM Grand also has a great lunch buffet and for only $15 you can sample a large variety of excellent quality food, well prepared and in constant abundance. Since we only ate one meal a day, we made our three lunches at the Grand Buffet the best bet in Vegas, as far as we were concerned.
A few years ago, when we stayed in Rome, visits to cathedrals and fountains were particularly appro-po and after a few days we became cathedraled out. In Las Vegas, visits to hotels and casinos are the order of the day. I suppose you could say they are holy shrines to many gamblers. A pilgrimage of a divergent ilk. But after a while, we, the non-devout, became glitzed-out.
Five days in Vegas is enough to last a non-gambler a lifetime. I would recommend just three nights to be more than adequate for folks to visit the magnificent hotels of Las Vegas. They are quite fantastic and a testimony to the ingenuity, creativity and inventiveness of humanity. If only humankind could adapt their skills in a more authentic manner to help society live a more peaceful, serene life. But I guess that is just the rambling of a dreamer. Even so, I must say we enjoyed our stay in Las Vegas.
In summing up my impressions of the casinos, Las Vegas is filled with players – or should I say prayers. Each one fixated with taut expressions on their faces, as though they were sitting in the dentist chair awaiting an extraction. All hoping for a miracle to occur, all hoping they break the bank and go home rich. Yes indeed, prayers and players on hallowed ground, in a twenty-four hour continuum of faithful expectation. But, it is only for the devout gambler, for when you see the size and grandeur of the hotels, the astute person understands someone has to pay for their opulent materialization and the expenses of keeping them operating.