Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas!

(31st January – 09th February, 2016)

Visiting cities with our setup and our available budget is generally quite rare, but with Las Vegas we decided to make an exception.  Right from the start we knew that we wanted to visit and really experience Las Vegas with all that it entailed.  There may be lots of cities in the world but there is no other place that quite compares to the crazy world of Las Vegas. We had to see if for ourselves and what awaited us was well beyond what either of us could imagination.  Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas!

When a drug dealer knocks on your door in the middle of the night…

…then you know where in Las Vegas you’ve landed – specifically in a Hotel in the 2nd row. Naturally we couldn’t quite afford to stay at one of the fancy hotels directly on the boulevard so we checked into the Super 8.  It was only a couple hundred meters from the strip but is considered a second-row hotel where not everything is as shinny or glitters.  The staff warned us right away to remain on the main roads and not to take any “short-cuts” at night.  We should be safe if we stuck to the main roads and avoided any alleys or small side streets where you don’t know who or what is hanging out. Hmm, interesting spot we’ve landed here we think. Since we didn’t fit into the parking garage we asked the desk personnel where the best spot to park would be, after all we have our bikes chained to the back and lots of stuff locked in the boxes on the roof, but better safe than sorry.  We were parked directly in front of the hotel on the main road – not a good spot, explained the friendly man at the front desk.  A much better place would be to park in rear courtyard of the U-shaped hotel, directly next to the swimming pool. It is brightly lit the whole night and lots of windows look out onto the parking lot. Besides with the bikes locked with the heavy chain the boxes locked with multiple locks someone would need some heavy equipment so we would be safe from a smash and grab thief.  So, we moved into our not so fancy room and headed off to supper in the adjoining casino of the Hotel which offers excellent food and unbelievably inexpensive prices.  Eating out in Las Vegas was, contrary to our expectations, relatively inexpensive.  The many casinos compete to get people to come and it is especially cheap with the 2nd row casinos.  We really enjoyed an excellent steak at an unbeatable price of $10 USD and brewed on-site craft beers for $2 USD!  The included (rather Spartan) breakfast was also served in the casino – quite a surreal feeling to walk through the blinking, ringing casino first thing in the morning – Las Vegas Live!

On our second morning, we discovered another side of Las Vegas. Just before breakfast we went out to get a few things from the Landy only to discover that something was very different.  It took us a moment to realize that the bikes were no longer in their appointed spot. In fact, they were gone!  We couldn’t believe our eyes, we thought they were safe where they were.  Someone must have spotted the bikes and then came back with a big bolt cutter to cut through our chains – in the brightly lit courtyard, and of course no one saw anything!  Somewhat shocked we stood a moment trying to take it all in, the cut straps the pieces of steel chain links and the empty bike rack. Bloody Hell! We went to the reception to complain only to receive the most cursory of apologies. Even after we told them that we were told to park there by an employee after asking for a safe place to park it didn’t seem to faze them in the least.  The hotel is, after all, not responsible for any damages or break-ins to vehicles parked on their property – and that was that.  They did call the security chief of the hotel who, unlike the front desk staff, showed at least some sympathy. He also informed us that the tip of parking in the rear of the Hotel was a particularly bad one, it would have been much better to park on the main road where there is a lot more foot and auto traffic. In the back, it is simply too quiet.  We thought for a moment that perhaps the front desk guy was conspiring with the criminals to give such bad advice.  The security guy provided us with a form so we could inform the police, though the chances of getting our bikes back were probably close to zero. We went to the police anyway and spent the morning at the station – which was quite the experience in and of itself – and the rest of the day angry and depressed at the loss before we cut our losses and let it go.  After all there wasn’t too much we could anymore anyway.  Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to bring the bikes in the first place as we hadn’t used them nearly enough.  We certainly learned our lesson!

Not having enough excitement for one day we learned something more about what it means to be in the 2nd row in Las Vegas.  Sometime in the early morning hours we were woken buy knocking on our door.  Not really understanding what was going on we first ignored it but then we heard it again. Maybe someone was confused with which floor they are on, we thought, and Gary went to look.  Though it was no hotel guest standing in the doorway as expected but a totally wacked out guy with a bag full of pills in his hand. “Hey man, wanna buy some Diazepine?” he mumbled almost unintelligibly “What? Seriously! NO!” answered Gary surprised and annoyed, before closing the door in his face. We were so shocked by the whole affair that it didn’t even occur to us to call down to the reception and report the matter.  We could only shake our heads and think “What was that?” and decided that should someone knock on the door again to simply ignore it.  Welcome to the dark side of Las Vegas!

Play time at the Paris

Apart from our bikes being stolen we had a nice, even fantastic time in Las Vegas. We never really thought that we would end up spending so much time there.  The interesting bit is only 2 km long, which shouldn’t have taken too long to see, we thought.  So, we figured that on day one we would go left down the strip and the next day to the right and that would be it – though we were way, way off.  The first day we didn’t get far at all, after only a few meters we made it as far as the Hotel and Casino “Paris”.  I had thought that modern casinos were all relatively the same, more or less Schick and generally boring.  Though as we stepped through the doors of the Paris it was clear that Las Vegas is totally different than what I had experienced before.  Like two country bumpkins we stood rooted to the spot with open mouths, we were transported to another world! In France! Paris copied with all the trappings including the Eifel Tower!  We strolled under a wonderful artificial sky with French ambiance past game tables, machines, fine French restaurants, boutiques, and ended up on a quaint little lane with cafes.  We actually felt as though we were strolling outside on a beautiful summer evening! Left and right were shops with delicious French pastries, cakes, and of course fresh Baguettes! We certainly hadn’t expected that. We were enchanted and excited by the atmosphere and explored every corner. With all the tasty snacks around we were soon sitting at a Café, having given in to temptation despite the exorbitant prices, with two artfully decorated and delicious tortes. After our delicious snack, we figured we could head towards the tables and perhaps try our luck, after all we are in Las Vegas and when in Las Vegas one should also gamble! Before we started, however, we set ourselves a fixed budget of $200 USD for our entire stay.  Should we have bad luck and lose everything in one go then that would be that, no more money would be spent, our self-made iron hard rule!  We looked around a bit and I realized that I was a bit fascinated with the Roulette tables. I had never sat at a table and gambled before, at most I may have put a few coins into one of the machines but I always lost interest pretty quickly.  At the tables, it was quite different. After watching a few rounds I finally decided to buy $20 USD worth of chips. I really had no idea how to play but apparently, it’s also not necessary. 10 USD is the minimum at this table and so I spread 10 chips throughout the available numbers.  The wheel was spun, the ball let loose, and betting was closed…and: The 11! Direct hit! My 1 dollar chip on the 11 had just multiplied by 36! How cool is that and on the first go! I jumped up and cheered! On to round two, and again Bullseye! I couldn’t believe it – I am a genius! If it was going to be so easy we needed to spend more time here and fill up our travel fund!  The Croupier laughed “Yes, this is Las Vegas”, he said. “A lot of people win the first time…” “and then they are hooked” completed another player at the table. My run of luck continued and my mountain of chips increased proportional to genius strategy. As I hit the $80 USD mark Gary suggested that we stop while we were ahead. “No, no I can make it to 100!” I exclaimed full of excitement.  Gary rolled his eyes. “Well that was quick”, he commented. “I didn’t realize that you were such a gambler.” “Me either.” I realized and spread my chips across the table once again.  And then it happened, as it had to: My streak of luck ran out and I lost more than I won.  With only $60 USD left reality began to settle me down a bit and we decided to make off with what we had.  But boy was that fun! And no too shabby either: $40 USD won my first time; dinner was saved! In the meantime, it was late afternoon, time had just flown buy and we hadn’t even made it 50 meters down the strip.  3 days (what we originally planned) was definitely not going to be enough…

Caesars, Sphinx and Co – Spontaneous Weddings, Gamblers and Total Craziness

After our spectacular fist afternoon on the strip we were looking forward to experiencing more of the crazy world that is Las Vegas.  Everything that we experienced in the following days and nights exceeded all our expectations by miles!  From the Egyptian pyramid with Sphinx in the Luxor Hotel to a Medieval castle in the Excalibur to New York alleys. From Rome via Treasure Island to Venice Italy including canals with Gondolas!  We visited the multi-level M&M’s shop, admired the water fountain show at the Bellagio and the glamour and glitter at the Cosmopolitan.  That and so much more you can find in Las Vegas.  During the day, it was grandiose and overwhelming but at night it was simply unbelievable! Everything blinked and glowed, there was something going on everywhere, a 24-hour party atmosphere the whole year long. We could definitely understand how sudden marriages happen here or children get conceived.  You are in a constant state of “intoxication” carried away on the ambient energy that the strip seems to exude.  We found it awesome!

Showtime

Naturally, we couldn’t let the opportunity to see a show pass by and so we decided to see something appropriate to Las Vegas, that being “Zumanity” in New York, New York. We didn’t really know at the time what awaited us we only knew it was the only 18+ show that Cirque du Soleil has and that it’s pretty much all topless. As we soon found out it wasn’t a cheap middle class show of half-naked people jumping around on stage, no, this was a world class Circus act packed in a rather tiny costume. Zumanity was absolutely amazing, quite possibly the best show that we have ever seen and one we would highly recommend. We were totally excited and thought that the entry price of $80 USD worth every cent.  Though I must say that I was really happy we didn’t buy the expensive tickets because they chose folks from the first 5 rows to participate in the show, and some of them were so embarrassed by the experience that they lost all ability to speak. I would have not only lost the ability to speak I would have turned beet red!

An Unexpected Family reunion

By chance Gary’s uncle Real and aunt Bella, that he hadn’t seen in over 10 years, just happened to be visiting Las Vegas at the same time we were.  They invited us to visit them at their vacation rental, which we naturally accepted.  Our original 3 days turned into 10; Las Vegas, against all our expectations, turned out to be a holiday for us. Holiday from camping, from the cold, wind and weather, from constantly cooking outside, packing, from being alone and the quiet of the outdoors – the complete opposite to what we normally do – and apparently exactly what we needed after so long on the road! We enjoyed the time together and visited fantastic – and as already mentioned very inexpensive – buffets (especially the buffet in the Mirage was a culinary highlight), and when we didn’t eat out we got to enjoy an excellent home cooked meal by Aunty Bella!

Bad luck at Gambling, but good luck in love 🙂

Of course, we didn’t only stick to playing Roulette, but the dream of filling our bank accounts with winnings burst pretty quickly. The next time I played my investment was gone within 5 minutes – yeah, that’s how it happens with gambling… Gary tried a few times at the Black Jack table but never managed to find a winning streak.  Though even without a big win it was very interesting and fun to dive into the crazy world that is Las Vegas. Our play-budget was nothing in compared to the sums of money we saw passing over the tables. Thousands, and tens of thousands were played (and won) in one go as though it were pocket change. On our last evening, I tried my luck again at Roulette. This time at Caesars Palace, one of the most beautiful Casinos in Las Vegas. There was a lot going on at the casino and most of the tables were full so we had to wait before we could get a spot. I put my $10 USD minimum bet on the table, just to experience the electric atmosphere one last time, besides I had figured that the bet would be gone after one turn.  Though this time it was different, I didn’t expect that I would have such an exciting game.  I would win at bit then lose almost everything, then win again before losing almost everything to be rescued by a win at the very last moment.  With my $10 bet I played for over 2 hours.  In that time, we witnessed an unbelievable amount of money being won and lost. Someone set $500 on a single number and within seconds it was gone.  We watched thousands of dollars instantly lost and won.  Huge bills were pulled from pockets and without a word played. Thousand lost? No problem there was plenty more where that came from.  Often, we couldn’t believe how much money would be played on our little table. After over 2 hours of nail biting play I had enough and left the table with exactly my original $10. Nothing lost but also nothing gained except a lot of fun, and that’s exactly the point after all!

More photos on Flickr: Las Vegas