Leaving Las Vegas

If there’s one word I would use to describe Las Vegas after my first visit, it’s ‘fake’. From the Venetian bridges to the voluptuous breasts, this is a town built primarily to pretend to be something it isn’t. That’s not to say that some of the fakes aren’t very well done – the half-size Eiffel tower at the Paris, the small section of the Grand Canal on the second floor of the Venetian, and, indeed, many of the breasts. (These, in contrast, tend to be larger than the real thing).

The hotels are vast, and include sufficient restaurants, shops, streets that you hardly need to leave them at all, which is, no doubt, the idea. Some of them, such as the Bellagio, would be quite superb if they weren’t spoiled by acres of garish and sometimes noisy slot machines, which deprive them of all dignity. Interestingly, most of these seemed not to be much used, which may mean they’ve gone out of fashion, but is probably an indication that during the week of the Consumer Electronics Show, most people aren’t primarily there to gamble. Or that the ridiculously high prices of hotel rooms that week are not appealing to those who only gamble at the slot-machine level.

Las Vegas is a place that everyone should visit once, if only to see how low we can fall, but that nobody should be made to visit twice. The thing that keeps the whole thing in proportion is the fact that from the main ‘strip’ you can sometimes get glimpses of the spectacular mountains in the distance, the beginning of some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery on earth, which reminded me that in the overall scale of things, the city is a comparatively small blot on the landscape.

Zion National park, a few hours’ drive from Vegas

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser