Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Las Vegas - An Englishman's Experience

Las Vegas is a long way from Europe. Thirty-five years ago, I had seen the place on TV, and wanted to go there. When you're 22, Vegas has a magnetic pull.

I was on a tight budget, so my girlfriend and I bought the cheapest air tickets we could find to the west coast, together with vouchers to stay in cheap motels. We pre-booked the cheapest rental car we could and then complained about it at the airport pick-up, so they gave us a free upgrade to a more expensive model.

Cheap Air Tickets

In San Francisco, we looked at the map. Being used to UK road maps, which were on a bigger scale, the distance from San Francisco to Las Vegas looked like a half-day drive - so we left in the early afternoon. Late in the evening, having driven longer than was good for me, tired and probably dangerous, we saw the great glow of Vegas ahead in the desert. I felt like I was on a different planet.

Las Vegas - An Englishman's Experience

It was midnight when we checked in to the Vagabond Motel on the Strip. The lady owner insisted on chatting to us for half an hour, even though we just needed urgent sleep. She told us about the high number of unsolved homicides in the area and the numerous bodies regularly found in the desert on the edge of the city. We probably wouldn't have slept if we hadn't been so tired.

Next day, we hit the town. We set a limit on our gambling expenditure and made it last. I think we just about broke even, by careful betting. We loved the excitement, the constant buzz, the timelessness. Being in air-conditioned, artificially lit buildings, with no clocks in sight, was strange. It was August, so the journey from one casino to the next involved leaving one very cool casino and entering what seemed like the very hot outlet of a giant hair drier, before escaping once more into the next.

We quickly learned where to eat well for practically nothing, if you didn't mind standing in line for a while. It was possible to drink cocktails free 24 hours a day, just by putting a coin in a slot whenever you caught sight of a waitress.

Circus Circus was just amazing - high wire and trapeze artists performing right over the heads of the folk on the gambling floor.

For us, the nightly entertainment was the most enjoyable part of our stay. We saw the Four Tops one night and Diana Ross on another and at a tiny fraction of the price we would have paid elsewhere - especially in Europe.

I have returned to Vegas twice more over the years and now feel its time to get back again. My best tip for European visitors arriving in the summer, which is low season in Las Vegas, is not to make advance hotel reservations. If you tune in to local radio when you arrive, you hear numerous casinos competing with each other by making really great offers. On two separate visits, I got a high-class room in a casino for a fraction of the normal price, with a free or reduced-price show and free gambling thrown in!

Las Vegas is a great vacation destination for a short break and I'm ready to go back.

Las Vegas - An Englishman's Experience


Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Las Vegas []



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