Our Vegas culture shock started at the airport. The zig-zag line for a taxi reminded me of DisneyWorld, but there were no kids waiting; it was hundreds of adults on their way to the Strip. One taxi after another whisked people away to the surreal world of casino gambling and luxurious hotels. As we rode through the crowded streets to the Palazzo Hotel, I told our taxi driver that I always ask for the lowest floor possible when I stay at a large hotel, because I don't want to be trapped on a high floor if a fire breaks out. He must think he was riding with a modern-day prophet, because the very next day the Monte Carlo caught on fire. The entire hotel was evacuated and the Strip was shut down till the fire was controlled. Luckily, the Palazzo (where we were staying) was a half-mile away and there wasn't even any smoke near us. The fire was actually at the back of the Monte Carlo, facing Route 15, not the Strip.
We thought the Palazzo hotel room was beautifully appointed, until we met a couple in the airport who said they much preferred the Venetian because it was brighter, more cheerful, and more elegantly appointed. They felt the Palazzo was stiff and dark and the rooms were somewhat bare. Since we didn't see the Venetian rooms, we can't say. We liked our room a lot. The bath had a glass-enclosed oversized shower with an adjacent soaking tub (complete with loofah and lemon-verbena scented bath salts); a double-sink vanity and a separate toilet room. The lighting in the bath was not the brightest, but that's the worst I can say. It's almost a joke that our suite had 3 TV's (1 in the bathroom, 1 in the bedroom and 1 in the living room). Who stays in the room? C'mon, now, does anyone go to Las Vegas to watch TV in their room? The rooms are not cheap, but we thought we got a good deal at $249/night, since the usual rate is closer to $400.
Guy was disappointed in the casinos. He expected to see well-dressed clientele. Instead, people were dressed in jeans -- not even always nice jeans. There aren't as many high rollers as there used to be in days gone by. It's a lot of people like Guy and me with a couple hundred for entertainment. When it's gone, it's gone, and the gambling ends. So Vegas is changing its image. Now they're not just a family vacation spot, they're also trying to be the culinary capital of the world. Famous Chef restaurants are popping up all over the place. And they're not cheap. Not wanting to drop a couple hundred on a meal, we ate in the Palazzo Grand Lux (run by the Cheesecake Factory) one night, and Canaletto (in the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes) the next night. The Grand Canal Shoppes are upstairs on the retail level, and I was surprised at how pleasant the place is. First of all, they have a pseudo-canal running through the entire area, complete with Gondolas and singing Gondoliers. People were lined up to take their $30 rides. In the section that is supposed to be a replica of St. Mark's Square in Rome (who would know, I've never been there), 3 restaurants with patio dining empty onto the square. Canalleto is one of them, and we asked for and got a patio table. In the middle of the square, shows are performed on the hour. Costumed singers give authentic Renaissance-period performances and then mingle with the crowds. It's quite charming, and creates a festive mood. It doesn't hurt to see the bright painted sky above, either.
We had tickets to LeReve (a very visually stimulating show) and I had visions of walking forever to get to the Wynn Hotel for the show. Instead, an escalator in the Palazzo took us to a walkway that led right to the Wynn and the theatre was a short walk inside the hotel. I noticed that other hotels were joined together by walkways also. Since we were only there for 2 days, we didn't get to see as much as we wanted. On our second day, we took a taxi to the Silverton Casino across town to meet some old friends that we knew from St. Lucia. It was so good to see them and get caught up on the last 15 years.
Will we go back? Yes, when we can get together another couple hundred that we can lose and when we can find a cheap hotel/air package. For now, we're pretty broke.