Glittering sights of Las Vegas will dazzle your senses
IS there anywhere in the world you could turn to your travel mate and say: "It's three in the morning, want to do lunch?"
It's possible in Vegas. There will always be an extravagant buffet overflowing with food at any time of day.
Vegas pumps 24 hours a day, seven days a week and in the summer, despite the searing heat, the crowds are so deep, walking on the footpath becomes a slow shuffle.
But heat doesn't matter much in Vegas as most of your time is spent in air-conditioned hotels and cool cavernous casinos.
Inside the hotels' cool interiors where fake and false rule, you could be anywhere in the world.
"Paris would be nice," you might say to your mate and then check into the Paris Vegas where a replica half-sized Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe are part of the façade, right in the heart of the strip.
Inside the hotel, under a bogus Parisian sky complete with counterfeit moonlight peeking through spurious scudding clouds, we sat at Le Cafe, a fake alfresco French bistro and ate cheeseburgers (forgive us) and looked out to false French facaded buildings, atmospheric lamp posts and evocatively cobbled streets.
A small stretch of the imagination and we could have been in Paris (apart from the cheeseburgers).
Vegas is stupendous. This dazzling, astounding, glittering city is not the least familiar with reality.
We can scoff at Vegas, make snide remarks about its extravagances (and we do), but I reckon Vegas can be summed in three little words. It is fun.
The fakery at the Paris Vegas is good, but it's outdone by the fakery at the Venetian Hotel, which does fakery so spectacularly it features American gondoliers serenading chubby Bermuda-short-wearing tourists in motorised gondolas as they glide down phoney canals lined with counterfeit palazzo which house Mexican restaurants.
What's not to admire about that?
Vegas began life in 1905 but drifted along without interest for about 40 years.
After the Second World War, the Mafia turned its eyes to the small desert town. Then things changed.
The gangster, Bugsy Siegel, turned developer and built the Flamingo Hotel for about $6 million and other gangsters came with even more money. The rest is history.
If you can get up very early in the morning, you might have a chance to walk the relatively empty streets, but be careful, walking in Vegas can lead you places you have no intention of going.
Street escalators and overhead bridges force you into casinos (doing brisk business at 7am) and hotel lobbies you had no plans to visit.
Still, it becomes a mini adventure and you'll discover sights not on your itinerary, but which nevertheless delight you. (In the Luxor Hotel, we became so lost we ended up downstairs in the children's creche).
The casinos are for the dedicated gambler only - most visitors go for the shows, some even take in a Wayne Newton concert. The casinos overwhelm the senses.
The blinding lights and flashing machines make you stumble about like a drunkard, and the constant ding of the slot machines makes its insidious way inside your brain.
The ding is still there when you lay your head on the pillow in the quiet dark of your room at the end of the day.
Best to enjoy the shows, the food, the extravagance…the fun of it all.
And never forget the free theatre that passes you by day and night - local tourists wearing cowboy hats with chubby bums squeezed into Bermuda shorts.
Better than an Elvis concert.
MUST DO ACTIVITIES IN VEGAS
1. Take a taxi out of town and visit the Liberace Museum. Gawp at his glittering costumes, outrageous jewellery and unbelievable cars.
2. Don't stop. You may never start again. If you do just one thing in each grand hotel, you'll cover a lot.
3. Get in front of the Bellagio fountains. In the middle of a vast lake in the front of the hotel the fountains spray, shoot and dance in perfect choreography to Frank Sinatra.
4. Better still, stand in front of the glass wall of chocolate fountains inside the Bellagio.
5. Do at least one buffet. Breakfast at the Wynn will fuel you for a week.
6. Take the roller coaster ride on top of the New York New York hotel. Warning: the ride lasts minutes, the queue could take more than an hour.
7. Get to the old part down town at night and watch the outdoor mall's ceiling explode with laser lights.
8. Take in a Cirque du Soleil show. It's synonymous with Vegas.
9. Watch the free show outside the Treasure Island hotel
10. Get married. Renew your vows. Why not? You're in Vegas.