As you come over the crest of the freeway and look down into Las Vegas Valley giant hotels poke through a thick layer of smog. It's a suitable first view of that cesspool. It's an entirely overwhelming place that tries so hard to be accessible but still manages to intimidate.
We were staying at the Flamingo of course - that's where large parts of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are set after all. It's definitely the biggest hotel I've ever stayed in, it has a casino attached as well as a wildlife reserve, the stars of the show being around half a dozen Chilean Flamingos.
To get to your room you have to go through the Casino, which it just felt weird to roll a suitcase through. And does that mean children are allowed on the gaming floor? It wouldn't surprise me if technically children weren't allowed in the but Vegas being Vegas it matters so little that you can structure an entire hotel around that fact that such a thing would be overlooked.
So we ventured out and caught the fountain show at the Bellagio, which happens every hour. It's simultaneously tacky as hell but totally amazing like so much in this town.
Feeling overwhelmed and not quite sure what to do, it became obvious what needed to happen: get drunk. No blog post is complete without a Hunter Thompson quote and the one that kept going around my head while we were there was:
In this town they love a drunk. Fresh meat. So they put us through the turnstiles and turned us loose inside.
Generally speaking you can't drink on the streets in the States (or you at least have to pretend you're not drinking by putting it in a paper bag). In Vegas, beers are sold on the street and you carry your drink from Casino to Casino - all of which are joined up so you pretty much never have to step outside.
Then if you're gambling, they just give you free booze (we obviously should have gambled more).
So we found a happy hour, downed a few two for one cocktails and unleashed ourselves on Vegas which basically meant walking straight into a
titty booby bar. In my defence it's was called 'Twin Peaks' which is one of my favourite shows of all time and I had genuinely hoped that it would be themed according to the TV show, rather than breast implants.
Which is the other thing about Vegas - it's incredibly sleazy and sexist. Prostitution is rife and blatant with people handing out flyers and giant mobile billboards getting about advertising them. There were sexy dancing girls in the Flamingo above the gambling tables which I gathered were actually an advertisement for an X-rated burlesque show. And then there was just the way promotional type people dealt with you - it was all about if we were married?, would Ariane let me go to a sexy show? etc etc. For all of it's no-holds-barred/anything goes attitude, it's quite conservative in many senses and overwhelming hetronormative. You're not as crazy as you might think you are Vegas!
But I digress, the next stop was ribs for dinner at a Harley Davidson themed restaurant - that I must say were some of the best Ribs I've had - before bed after a big day.
The next day was my birthday. I'm definitely over the hill now. So it was breakfast at a 'Margaritaville' before heading off 'the strip' to the Gun Store where we made use of their firing range and arsenal of fully automatic weapons (not a flippant decision I might add, but perhaps the city's hedonism was starting to get under my skin).
Then to cool off a little we went to the Pin Ball Hall of Fame to play some vintage arcade games. Ariane mastered Tron, I racked up a few levels on Donkey Kong.
Then to CarnVino for a 8 course beef degustation, but not before a couple of Martinis at the bar. Dinner was amazing, the final savoury course being the 280 day aged t-bone that was pretty spectacular and we had the matching wines which we upgraded to the 'Executive' pairing that made for some pretty good drinking even if things were getting a little blurry towards the end.
The blurriness (unsurprisingly) continued into the next day where all we could manage was a Buffet at Bellagio's which is meant to be one of the better ones but we were too hungover and bloated from the previous night to properly enjoy it.
We ended our debauchery by going to a Penn and Teller show. I've loved them since I was a kid so it was great to see them live. It's half magic, half mad raging against the surveillance state and mystics. We loved it.
So there's my Vegas missive. There was loads we didn't see, but there always will be. I'd have loved to go to Circus Circus for example, we never went into Cesar's Palace despite it being directly opposite and by all accounts there's a booming art scene just back from 'the strip' that is also worth some attention.
Despite feeling like there is plenty more to explore, I don't think we're in any real hurry to return (not that we'd turn down the opportunity either). It's a fascinating place but not one you need a lot of time in I don't think, it's character is pretty shallow and easily absorbed.