I traveled to Las Vegas just to escape from Chicago. The saddest winter of my life was behind me and the idea of removing myself from the Windy City for two days sounded like a good plan. Besides, I already bought a ticket for the huge fashion show two months ago, so I was ready to “…travel to a city fully prepared to hate it…” for the second time.
You can eat, gamble, have fun or get married…
I’ve already been in this city ten years ago, and I didn’t like anything about it. In that time I helped my friends sell their jewelry at a huge jewelry show, and we worked from early morning to the late night five days in a row. “Locked” in the huge, closed hotel space without windows and fresh air, I was constantly tired and frozen (the air conditioners worked brutally).
One of the bigger Las Vegas wedding chapel. Many of them a very small
On the other hand, outside of our hotel’s walls was a city I truly despised. I didn’t like loud, drunk people on the streets or the zombies hypnotized by gambling machines. I hated Vegas’ cheap enjoyment options: casinos, hotels and long, dirty, dark corridors, plus numerous replicas of every famous attraction in the world.
Just in case – The Holly Bible in the hotel drawer
The idea of being in the area whose main purpose was gambling and superficial fun was unattractive to me. I hated the fact that this place, in the middle of Nevada’s Mojave Desert, wasn’t built organically and naturally, but just for the purpose of entertainment and money.
Inside of Luxor black Pyramid hotel
That was, apparently, hate at first sight. Now I am returning to the city and reuniting with memories I thought I lost forever.
The Pharaohs in the entrance lobby of the Luxor complex
But, to my surprise, nothing bothered me or annoyed me. Moreover, everything was nice and enjoyable. I was cold again (for some reason I though Las Vegas must be warm in March), but besides that everything was pleasant. I even won $3 on a slot machine!
A typical slot machine area: colorful carpets, sounds of machines and people hypnotized by gambling
Things were actually fun and funny: the Bible in the hotel’s room drawer, express wedding chapels, people lying down along the hotel halls with their heads stuck in massage tables, musicians, dancers and actors on the streets. The city looked much different from the decade ago: It was more dynamic, more structured, modern and bright.
Statue of Sphinx beside Big Pyramid, part of Luxor Hotel Casino
The glittering Las Vegas Strip, the city’s heart, and soul, was fascinating, full of life, light, and joy. For two days I didn’t stop walking, passing, like all other curious guests, from one hotel to the another, watching and exploring. I was in awe of architecture, of the real joy, glitter, enthusiasm and vibrant energy every place had.
Right in front of Lyxor ‘Black Pyramid’ Hotel Casino – palms, sculptures, expensive cars…
Las Vegas was actually a fun place to be, a joyful, even humorous city. Or maybe I needed that amount of light and glitter in my life and Las Vegas just consoled me with his full intensity and beauty.
Camelot-themed ‘Excalibur Hotel’ on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip
For a couple of seconds, I felt as if I jumped like Alice into the Wonderland because everything around me just shrunk. I stood in front of the mini reproduction of New York with the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge.
Excalibur Hotel – Camelot Castle is associated with the legendary King Arthur
There was an imitation of the Great Pyramid of Giza and the 110-feet-tall statue of Sphinx. There was false (and small) Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.
Las Vegas intersection. In the background is the MGM Hotel with picture of David Copperfield
There was also a huge, complete imitation of Venice and the Venetian Grand Canal with a romantically blue sky and authentic Venetian gondolas.
‘Excalibur’ is linked to neighboring New York-New York Hotel by overhead pedestrian bridges
They floated beneath bridges, beside cafes, under balconies, through the vibrant Venetian streetscape while singing gondoliers swept tourists down the Grand Canal for a romantic ride.
This Big Apple-themed hotel features several towers built to resemble the New York City
“This is the city of beautiful illusions, the city of deception where everything was possible,” I thought. “The art of copying and imitating was at its highest level. This was a living theater, the constant performance that never ends.”
Glamorous Monte Carlo Hotel
For those two days, I took Ubers many times. I asked every driver whether he gambled, and every one of them said no.
Many of the largest hotel, casinos and resort properties in the world are located on the Las Vegas Strip
One from Ethiopia admitted that he did gamble after he moved to Las Vegas, but very soon he gave up because he lost a lot of money. After that, he decided to get serious and instead of losing, start earning money.
This classic, Roman-themed ‘Caesars Palace’ hotel is on the west side of the Strip between the ‘Bellagio’ and the ‘Mirage’
The only person who told me that she enjoys gambling was a woman — my last Las Vegas Uber driver. She drove me to the airport and during our drive we had an intriguing conversation.
A little lake in front of Cesares Palace
She told me that she used to gamble a lot, together with her husband and her mother. They made a lot of money before, but not anymore. She told me a gambling secret: “As soon as the living standard goes down, hotels adjust that we get less money on the slot machines!”
The Las Vegas Strip. You can see it in the distance the replica of Eiffel Tower in Paris
Then she mentioned that her mom is now terminally ill. She became very sad and added that her mom needs care all the time. That’s why she moved her to her apartment.
This French-themed ‘Paris Las Vegas’ hotel is located on the Las Vegas Strip with a half size of a real Eiffel Tower in Paris
But there a new problem came up — she has to work all the time to provide everything her mom needs. She pays a woman to be with her for a few hours, but the rest of the time the old woman spends with her 16-year-old grandson, my Uber driver’s son.
Beautiful hand painted frescoes in the Venetian lobby
“I don’t, know what to do. My husband left me. My mother is dying, she is going through agony, I am leaving every day my son with her. It is so hard, and I feel so sorry for her and for my young son. He already told me that this emotionally is so hard for him.”
The centerpiece of the Grand Canal Shoppes entrance hall ceiling
I was surprised that she was that open with me. And I was thankful.
Lobby of Venetian hotel – this grand gallery connects the reception area and the casino
“Do whatever you need to do!” I said suddenly. “Do what you think in your heart is right! Don’t delay anything, don’t waste any minute, because you don’t have the time! Don’t do anything you could later regret! Don’t wait for anyone and don’t wait for anything! Have a peace with yourself now and you will have peace later! As for your son – don’t worry about him. The youth have power to overcome almost anything! He will maybe grow up faster than his peers, but that will help him later in life. Now he is finishing being a boy and he is becoming a man! A good and strong man! I am telling you: You will very soon be proud of him!”
Street of Venice – architectural replica of Venice. This beautiful blue and romantic sky is just a painting…
I noticed that she deeply exhaled.
I didn’t know what happened with me in that moment. I didn’t know how I was so sure that I had the right to say something like that to this woman. I didn’t know why I was so sure that my words were true, but I felt in my heart that I was telling her the right stuff. I was her messenger.
“Why didn’t I meet my messenger?” Tremendous sadness overpowered me with that thought and I stopped talking.
No trip to Venice — or The Venetian — would be complete without a graceful and romantic glide down the Grand Canal in an authentic Venetian gondola
We slowly arrived at the Las Vegas airport. She pulled over her car, turned to me and said: “Thank you, thank you for everything! God blessed you!”
“God blessed you too!” I said.
Everything looks like Italian Venice – old fashion houses, lanterns, pavements…
I boarded the plane, sat down on my seat, and then, somewhere high above Nevada’s Mojave Desert, I thought: “Maybe this time my Las Vegas trip was truly good!”
St. Mark’s Square at the Grand Canal Shoppes is surrounded by restaurants and shops
~ Photos and text Milica Puric ~ ©