Downtown sign

X marks the spot

In my personal opinion, America is the land of excess :- the houses are bigger than anywhere I’ve ever seen, the shopping maĺls are bigger, the people are much, much bigger and most of all, with a few isolated exceptions, the food servings are bigger than those found anywhere else in the world! And nowhere more so than Las Vegas – across every one of the above categories.

Gondola ride anyone?

Gondola ride anyone?

Vegas is Disneyland for adults. A playground where every sense is overloaded by the sights, the smells, the sounds. Where excess is celebrated. Yes, the Eiffel Tower might not be exactly the same size as the one in Paris but even in Venice you can’t take a gondola to your room (on the second floor of your hotel!!) and I’m pretty sure that even with all the riches of Rome, Caesar himself could not have afforded to have built a palace to rival the one found here. The floor space of the hotels are best measured in acres rather than feet, from the “Fabulous Flamingo” where it all started (although it has lost a bit of its lustre of late) to the “Grande Dame” of the strip – the elegant and graceful Bellagio with its beautiful dancing fountains, instantly recognisable from the “Oceans” movies. Each hotel has something distinctive to encourage their visitors to empty their wallets and purses, of course gambling is the quickest way and the continuous growth and development of the resorts is testament the old maxim “The House ALWAYS Wins”. But Vegas is a shopping Mecca with the malls vying for your attention with their own fantastical displays of extravagance and excess. From the hourly indoor rainstorm that takes place in the Miracle Mile Mall to the Legend of Atlantis played out by giant animatronics in the Forum shops at Caesars Palace as the crowds are drawn in past the icons of fashion:- Gucci, Fendi, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vitton, Christian Louboutin and the rest too numerous to mention.

Topless titillation ;-)

Topless titillation ;-)

No matter what time of the year you arrive in Vegas, you could be forgiven thinking that you had arrived during Halloween due to the number of people dressed in some sort of costume trying to eek out a living on tips for taking your photo with them although some of the most astonishing things seen worn are often by the visitors themselves as they get into the Vegas mood. As the sun goes down, the city really comes to life as drab exteriors are painted in dazzling lights that you cannot help but stop and stare and take a photo or two.

The sunset also brings out hordes of a peculiar breed of short, brown beings that line the streets and eagerly attempt to thrust “call girl calling cards” into the hands of every single passer by (I’m not being racialist here, these people all seem to be of Hispanic / Latino / Mexican origin and are short and brown ….. that’s just a statement of my observation). They are a scourge that force you to run the gauntlet with your hands in your pockets with your head constantly shaking side to side as one after the other slaps and flicks the cards indignantly glaring at your unwillingness to accept their offerings. No one is immune from them as my wife and children discovered when we visited as a family and my daughters unwittingly ended up with fistfulls of pictures of naked women before figuring out the evasion procedure!

Things looks so much better painted by light – apologies to the South Africans undergoing load shedding ……….

 

But the greatest evidence of excess is in the food and drink portions. Where else in the world can you buy a beer or cocktail for ONE person in a 72 fluid ounce serving??? (That’s just over 2 litres for the decimal world!!!). I’m (almost) wise to their approach and on this my 9th visit (what can I say – companies just keep on hosting conferences there!!) I had a couple of places in mind where I knew what to order from the menu such that I wouldn’t be leaving sufficient to feed a small African village behind on my plate at the end. As I pulled up a chair at the bar in Margaritaville (I highly recommend indulging in a Margarita here as soon as you arrive – it’s become my “first night in Vegas” ritual to set the scene for the rest of the stay) – I heard the bloke next to me heave a despondent sigh as he shifted his belt out a couple of notches. I glanced over and noticed that he was about a third of the way through the starter portion of “Volcano Nachos”.

Now the thing about Vegas is that things are often quite literal and when they describe something as being a “Volcano”, then you need to be prepared to face a pretty big mountain of food!!

“Struggling?” I questioned with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah mate” he responded with a broad Geordie accent. He continued, on the verge of tears

“and my main course arrives in a couple of minutes!!”………… – I hate to see a grown man cry in public.

I had a little sympathy for him as Heather and I had encountered this monster meal on a prior visit when our concerted joint efforts over the space of 45 minutes ended in defeat, with the two of us in a food coma for the next couple of hours.

The taste is NOT worth dying for (click image for menu)

The taste is NOT worth dying for

And in case you think this is an isolated example, I will point you in the direction of “The Heart Attack Grill” on Freemont Street – a place I ate (just the once) so that you don’t have to – trust me, you will thank me for warning you off this place – they proudly hold the Guinness Book of Records for the burger holding the highest number of calories – and then they doubled that!! If you weight OVER 350lb, you eat as much as you want for free ………..nope, I’m not making this up!!

If you click on the image to the right, you will see their menu – where the “Octuple bypass burger” can be ordered with a couple of extra slices of bacon ………40 slices extra to be precise!!!

Everything is cooked in lard here and they boast of being one of the only places in the USA still able to source (from Mexico) Coke made to the original recipe using pure cane sugar (and what else I ask??).

 

So my advice to all of you out there that have not yet visited the USA and are planning a trip – forget Washington D.C. –

Las Vegas is the capital X in the land of X.S.