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I’ve just returned from my first visit to Las Vegas, and I think I have finally got a handle on the place; I have watched too many films, TV shows, and listened to too many Americans recount the lore and mystique of the place. First thing: I enjoyed myself.

The reason for my trip was simple: I was in Los Angeles, and had a spare weekend, which I guess makes me the arch-typical visitor. The trip was about 4 hours (from Redlands, the far north east side of LA), and the road was busy all the way; there are plenty of stopping points, but only two towns of any nature (Barstow and…).

We stayed at the Luxor, for no particular reason – it is one of the most southerly hotels on the strip. Rooms were ok and large, but there was no wireless reception whatsoever, and it would be chargable. I did find two access points – outside a hairdresser on the way to the Mandalay Bay, and a cafe near Ceasar’s Palace (in the mall there). There is free access from both of the two Apple stores as well, of course.

Being in Vegas in early March isn’t as hot as it could be – in fact, overnight was distinctly chilly. But the air is still bone dry, and I could feel the impact on my throat and face; bring water and moisturizer. Distances along the strip are large; hotel to hotel is going to be at least 1/4 mile, and may be more. From Mandalay Bay to Bellagio is 1.5 – 2.0 miles, and that’s just the most southern 4 hotels on the strip. You can mostly get from hotel to hotel by indoor walkways and escalators, but it’s hard to avoid crossing the casino floors. This isn’t helped by the various resorts signing policy – you won’t ever see an EXIT sign, and signs from hotel to hotel, even ones under the same ownership, are only visible when you are always at the exit point. There are no direct paths across the casino floors either.

You’ve herd stories of $1 shrimp cocktails and $5 steaks? Yeah, right – you see the signs everywhere you go, but you won’t see the food. basic hotel buffet food may be slightly cheaper than the rest of the USA, but it’s certainly no better, and expensive restaurants in Las Vegas are still exactly that – expensive.

Contrary to the propoganda, you can spend time in Vegas and not gamble; ok, so I blew $10 on slots, and Liz did the same (only she got $50 return). There may be some advantages to joining your hotels slots club, but I didn’t do that. SO I’m ignoring this aspect.

There are two reasons to go to Vegas (for me) – shopping, which is average, and shows. As for the shopping, when you see so many expensive fashion stores all in one places, you soon realise that expensive fashion is way more tacky than cheap fashion (which at least has the twin virtues of trying harder, and knowing that it is cheap). There are effectively no book stores along the strip, but that is balanced by the two Apple stores, if that helps (it doesn’t). But the shows make up for it – you could easily spend a month just going to the shows you want to see, although expect to spens at least $50-100 each night. We saw the Excalibur show (knights and horses, pretty decent), and Penn & Teller.

Summing up, in the same circumstances (bored in LA), I’d go again, and I’d be willing to spend longer. I guess I’d be there for shows, relaxation (sleep and pools), and to explore the strip a bit more. I know there is more and better to do if you are a resident, but that’s it for me.

Best thing: you can buy a map of the strip printed on microfibre cloth; it doesn’t look like you are consulting a map, and you can clean your glasses at the same time!

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