It sounds cliched to say it but, from start to finish, Las Vegas is a total assault on the senses. It’s around a five hour drive to travel from the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders, to the self-styled entertainment capital of the world. The valley basin on which the city is built is surrounded by mountains on all sides, making for a genuinely surreal moment as you turn a corner to see the city suddenly looming out of the desert like a shimmering mirage; you can’t quite believe your eyes. As it pulls into focus that sense of disbelief only increases; all the major landmarks of the world crammed so tightly into an area so dense you’d be forgiven for thinking from this distance that Vegas was small. The reality of course is anything but.
Our stay in Vegas was a short one, intended primarily as a stopover from our previous few nights in the Grand Canyon as we made our way west towards Death Valley in typical American road trip fashion. The Southwest of the country is tailor-made for road trips like this and is really the only way to get around, although it does present something of a double-edged sword; it allows you to see so much and yet somehow it still never seems quite enough.
Arriving in the late afternoon and keen to explore, we headed for our hotel and starting point, the Wynn Encore. The Encore is one of the newest resorts on the boulevard and a little sheltered from the chaos that lies just a few hundred yards down the road. It is one of a number of new developments which casts aside the themed experience of Caesars or the Venetian in favour of a more modern and contemporary style. The views of the strip here are pretty breathtaking, although a word of caution; half of the Encore sits very much in the shadow of it’s sister hotel the Wynn and so while some rooms come with a view to write home about, some are less than impressive.
The strip itself is literally buzzing with activity and it’s kind of impossible to not find it slightly infectious. Any tiredness felt from the day’s travel was wiped away in seconds and we must admit we were happily swept up in the 24/7 culture that makes Vegas, Vegas. Wandering from resort to resort you really do lose all sense of time and place – which is of course, the whole point.
For all the completely over-the-top decadence and luxury that Las Vegas has to offer, it’s the Venetian that really stands out for us. With it’s picture-perfect blue sky ceiling and marble interiors, the decor is lavish to excess. The highlight of course, is the grand canal which runs through the second floor of the hotel and out into the grounds. A scenic gondola ride here is significantly cheaper than the real thing (although unlike their authentic Italian counterparts these are motorised) and is a great way to to see the designer stores and boutiques which run alongside.
It’s easy to be skeptical about Las Vegas and to be honest, everything you’ve read and seen is probably true. After all, we’ve just described a $16 gondola ride through a hotel, which in any other setting would seem completely ludicrous yet somehow in Vegas it just works. Yes, it’s touristy. It’s expensive. It’s fake. It’s brash. But for all that so utterly and madly unique that it is worth experiencing, even if it’s just for a few sleepless hours.
Patches & Flash