Somewhat unexpectedly, I enjoyed Las Vegas tremendously. It is so quintessentially American, despite, or, maybe, even due to all the Venetian, Parisian, Moroccan, and Egyptian motifs. The complete juxtaposition and melting pot of cultures, peoples, eras and lifestyles. The Eiffel Tower across from Caesar's Palace; the Vietnamese waitress in a Venetian cafe; the flower garden celebrating the Chinese New Year in the Bellagio of the Belle Époque. And the grandeur of it all - the casino money paying for excesses upon excesses and still leaving huge profits.
The Top 5 Highlights:
- Awing at the grandeur of the musical fountain show in front of the Bellagio - free
- Visiting the real Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, with the only live Great Hammerhead Shark in Western hemisphere - $30*
- Having dinner in a Parisian street cafe, with dimmed street lamp lighting under an evening sky (aka ceiling), sampling, if not finishing, at least 5 different deserts - $50*
- Enjoying a French erotic show La Femme (exquisitely erotic, yet not pornographic), exchanging glances with my boyfriend between the acts - $120*
- Stopping on a deserted road in Death Valley and watching the Milky Way on an amazingly starry sky (competing for the most romantic yet unplanned moment in my life) - priceless
(*) - all prices are for 2 people, taxes and gratuities not included, cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts, void where prohibited or restricted by law
There was more, of course, much more:
- The gambling - how could a trip to Vegas be complete without it? $100, spent entirely by my boyfriend, who managed to get so excited by Craps that he almost forgot the laws of probability; I stayed out of the casinos entirely.
- The hotels: the Venetian, with its canal and gondola rides; Paris, with the ride up the half-sized replica of the Eiffel Tower; Aladdin, with an indoor rainstorm and, in a truly Vegas tradition, a group of Moldova (former USSR republic) acrobats performing in a Moroccan town-square; Mirage, with a rainforest and playful dolphins; Treasure Island, with a live Sirens of TI show; and many more.
- The food - well, my diet was put on hold for the trip ('nough said)
- The nightlife - moving to the beat together with professional dancers in Studio 54 (good, but not amazing), dancing in a jazz lounge at Bally's (relaxing), checking out an ultra-lounge at MGM (not so ultra, IMHO, but nice)
- The nature - Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire (either they weren't too impressive by themselves, or, we've been desensitized by recent visits to Yosemite, Switzerland, Grand Tetons and the like)
- Death Valley - oohh! aahh! The lowest place in the US (Badwater, at -282 feet) and a view of the highest (Mt Whitney, at 14,454 feet); seas of crystallized salt; an aptly named Artist's palette of multi-colored rock formations; private hot springs (clothing not an option) under an amazing sky.
- The Cirque Du Soleil show "O" - underwhelmed. It's not that professionally performed diving and synchronized swimming isn't impressive, and it's not that sitting in the front row and seeing the mostly Russian crew up close and personal isn't nice - it's just not as overwhelmingly amazing as it was advertised. Then again, maybe my expectations were just a tad too high.
Oh, and thank you to everyone who contributed with advice and helpful suggestions, and to my Mom for finding us a good hotel after Sasha's conference was over.