Thursday, December 04, 2008

Ten Glorious Years

Outside it's 28 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind is howling and the snow lies all about, not deep but crisp and fairly even. Earlier on, we bundled Ethan up in all his layers and walked him outside for his first ever snowy experience - he seemed to enjoy himself and would have stayed out for longer if only his dad hadn't got a bit chilly. I suspect that the end of the street is as far as we're getting today - under the snow lies a blanket of ice and the county has sensibly demanded that all motorists place chains on their tires before setting out; and even if we were mad enough to drive we are chainless. Rachel is making brownies and I have chicken waiting for the pot. Ethan is napping. It is a perfect winter's afternoon, so what better time to hunker down and reminisce upon our recent trip to the altogether balmier clime of Las Vegas, Nevada?

For our tenth wedding anniversary we packed Ethan off to grandma's house and set off for the Mandalay Bay Hotel. It is not at all odd to spend two hours on a plane and find oneself in another world - yet when that other world is simply the adjacent state, you are reminded how vast and heterogeneous this country is.

Vegas has changed much since first I visited in 1994. At that time gambling alone bank-rolled the city and all other activities were heavily subsidised to that end, so that it was entirely possible to have a very inexpensive holiday in the sun, if one could only refrain from dropping one's wallet at that craps table... all you can eat buffets, free cocktails and steak and eggs breakfasts with unlimited coffee for a buck ninety-nine have stuck in my memory, alongside the Elvis impersonators playing to rows of blue-rinsed seniors more interested in the slot machines than the off-key rendition of In The Ghetto. It was tasteless, of course, but in a knowingly gaudy, seaside-fashion that one can revel in without guilt; it was good times and vane ambition. These days it's all decidely faux up-market, by which I mean nouveau riche and tasteless in altogether different way e.g. in the style of Paris Hilton; revenue is generated as much from michelin-starred restaurants, designer boutiques and ultra-lounges as from gaming and consequently there is no poor man's Vegas anymore (I suspect the blue-collar scene may have retired to downtown, but few tourists venture to the old heart of Vegas anymore). Could this just be a long-winded explanation for the fact that we spent a lot of money, an extended request for forgiveness for blowing Ethan's potential college fund on fancy cocktails and p√Ętisserie? Quite possibly.

On the positive side we had a thoroughly wonderful holiday. I spent a great deal of time in the hotel's wave pool, riding the faux surf to the faux beach, and caught something of an October tan; and Rachel and I kissed and slept and lounged around, safe in the knowledge that we would be undisturbed through 'til Saturday, when an amiable taxi-driver from Iran took us back to the airport and thence to reality and our beloved son.

P√Ętisserie at the Paris, Las Vegas. Far, far better than you might imagine.

A duck takes a quick dip in a fountain, no more or less out of place than everything else.

The spiralled entrance to Bally's Casino.

From Rome to Paris via Miami, perhaps.

You can't deny it's impressive.

It was something of a relief to find only happy-looking mammals in Siegfried & Roy's secret garden.

All of the above - and then I presented Rachel with this ring of the purest ginge!