We left Arizona on Monday 16th May and drove into Nevada. The very first thing you meet in that state is the Hoover Dam and Mark was interested in taking a look at it so we pulled in and parked up in the shiny new multi-storey car-park for visitors. It was all a bit cramped and busy (smallest parking spaces we’ve encountered in the U.S. so far, for example) and as h and I really weren’t keen to see the generators the two of us found a shady spot near the café (worst visitor centre café we’ve encountered in the U.S. so far too…) and did some reading. Mark on the other hand paid his dollars and visited the “truly impressive feat of engineering” (his words). Apparently the tours were split into groups of 150 people at a time (eek) and then sent in the 75-people-at-a-time elevators to the turbine room (double eek – 75 people in an elevator at once…). It sounded interesting but I’m mighty glad I didn’t go in. h and I took a look from the top of the dam down to the river… that was plenty!
After this we drove along the highway into Las Vegas (less than an hour away) for our one night there. Everyone’s seen Vegas on TV and in the movies (probably ‘CSI’ and ‘Showgirls’ mostly for me) and so in part you know what to expect. Still the first impressions are not quite what the screen allows. These are the Las Vegas features we noticed during our short stay:
1.There are a lot of plazas (rows of shops and restaurants) on the drive in to the centre of town. And when I say ‘a lot’ I really do mean ‘a lot’. It’s a city that has grown a good deal in recent years and there is masses of new-build on the outskirts.
2. There is lots of dust – it is in the desert after all.
3. There are a lot of advertising hoardings (there are a lot everywhere in the U.S. but they sprout particularly busily here). They advertise casinos, dancing girls, dancing boys, lawyers, restaurants… all the things you need in Vegas. There are posters for shows you might want to see (Seinfeld was calling in later in the month for a couple of nights, for example) and then there are posters for everything else (unknown magicians, random Vegas dancing shows, stuff you might well need to be drunk to enjoy… put it this way, quite a lot of the shows give away free tickets…).
4. A lot of drinking is going on. Even on Monday the parties were well and truly underway all over the strip. We saw a stag do/bachelor party and the groom-to-be looked about 12. Guess we’re getting old.
5. There are a lot of cheap hotels – even the Casino hotels are fairly cheap (well, on a Monday in May) but of course there are always the hidden costs to consider (the “resort fee”, for example). After a little research we decided against a Casino and stayed in a place a block behind the main Vegas strip. It was lovely (a whole suite of rooms), just a walk from all the glitz and a real bargain. And it was blissfully quiet.
6. There are a lot of tourists (‘tourist capital of the world’ one local called the city) and whilst I’m sure London, Paris and New York (and a few others) might have something to say about that it certainly was pretty full of visitors. There were loads of English people about (quiet, tidy couples in particular – not sure why).
7. There are a lot of shops – particularly clothing shops… the fancier end mostly. With that and the whole shows-thing Vegas is a bit of a tacky New York in that respect.
8. The sky is very noisy – with constant helicopters up above (people flying off the see Grand Canyon and so on, we imagine). Lots of planes about too.
9. As well as all the busy parts of Vegas there are great empty lots (windswept desolate areas) right in the centre of the city. We’ve stuck a photo or two of those in with the slideshow – just for balance. It is an odd looking place.
10. It is quite fun to witness the interesting competition between the big casinos as to who has the cheesiest, most ridiculous décor out front (“Look at my pyramid!”, “No, see my Eiffel Tower!”, “No, I have a lion the size of a house!”)… and yet somehow it is kind of beautiful in its way (well, for a short time anyway). The fountain show at the Bellagio, for example, which we caught on the Monday night was really enchanting. We wandered up the strip to see all the big casino fronts but we only actually went in to the Mirage (for h and M to visit the lions and tigers and dolphins on the Tuesday morning). It was fun to see inside but my goodness it was like a town in there… bars, cafés, shops, even a bit of what looked like artificial grass called a ‘pet relief area’ at the back of one casino. Plus what is on sale is all so expensive (definitely most expensive sandwiches so far in the Mirage coffee place). Free parking though of course. Some you win, some you lose… and that’s Vegas.
Here are our Nevada photos (including Hoover Dam, Vegas and the Siegfried and Roy ‘Secret Garden’ at the Mirage):
And here is a video of the Bellagio fountain show:
So, a short and sweet post this time. We’re currently about halfway up California… there’s going to be heaps to write about all this bit of the trip but we've no idea when we'll get round to writing it up (never mind sorting through the photos!).