I had never been to Las Vegas before. In fact, I feel that I must be the only person in my office and probably one of the few people in America and Europe that had never been to Las Vegas. As the British Tourist Council had organized a conference there, I decided to pop over, meet up with some colleagues, see the sights, and then head back after a couple of nights.
What a weird, wonderful, and strange place it is.
The ride from the airport does not take long. Out of the desert, emerges the mirage of hotels in the middle of nowhere. Not just your average hotels either –- rather iconic sites of the world hotels. Every hotel is a casino. My check-in experience was walking through the casino, watching all of these people sitting by slot machines, smoking cigarettes, and losing money. Then there were other people who hung out on the empty card tables waiting for customers to play Blackjack, Poker, Craps, or Roulette. And still, nobody looked like they were making much, if any, money. No wonder the hotels don’t cost a lot here.
In the end, Las Vegas is like one huge shopping mall. Most people, I believe, never really leave their hotel environs. There are shops, waterfalls, fountains, restaurants, and swimming pools, but most people just wander around in the air-conditioned paradise of the interconnected walkways.
Out on the Strip, on the other hand, is another world. It is unbearably hot, there is a central four-lane highway running through and separating the hotels. And there are all of these iconic sights that you normally have to go halfway around the world to see that are jammed next door to each other.
And honestly, even though it is completely bizarre and hilarious, it is absolutely brilliant. The Eiffel Tower is stunning. The gondoliers in the canal at the Venetian are the real guys. The fountains at the Bellagio are awesome. There is a Trevi Fountain, a pyramid, and currently ready-to-roll is the largest ferris wheel in the world.
London, eat your heart out.
What is amazing about Vegas is stuff goes up really quickly. This juxtaposition of all of the new development architecture against the old, slightly seedier Vegas stuck in between. And it’s fall at the Bellagio! Trees were going up with red leaves, pumpkins, hay, and all of the accoutrements of fall, except in fall the leaves come off of the trees.
Oh well, it’s Vegas.
Ironically, the day after I left Vegas, I ended up at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA for a barn dinner fundraiser for all of the good work that Red Gate Farm does by bringing in kids from the inner city and teaching them about vegetables, animals, and the environment.
It was a magnificent evening. The local music director at Charlemont Academy, a nearby school, provided the music and the band. He played banjo. We left into a cold and crisp New England night where the stars were out, the moon was high, and the smell of fall was in the air.
The real deal.
No Eiffel Tower, no gondolas, and no fake trees. What a difference a day makes.
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