It's not for the faint-hearted, but even those who detest extensive neon lighting and unrelenting garishness will find a soft spot for this city of the perpetual weekend in the Nevadan desert.
Because we had the foresight to book about five months in advance, we were able to secure a room in OAP Central, The Flamingo on Las Vegas strip for about £115 for two of us for a four night epic.
We crawled into the city, our flame red Dodge Avenger inching past landmarks like the MGM Grand, New York New York casino and the legendary fountains of the Bellagio.
The pavements were crammed with all kinds of curious creatures that form the spectrum of humanity; it was like Noah's sodding Ark for delinquents. Tramps and vagabonds battling for supremacy over the bubble-gum stained pavements in front of McDonald's, rich kids sweating the previous night's champagne indulgence into the doorways of Gucci and Prada, studded motorheads chewing on leathery cheeseburgers at the Harley Davidson casino and bumbag-wearing retirees on holiday from their Florida sheltered accomodation, trying their luck at a game of craps and sucking faces after a few hours at Margaritaville. All were there, all were hopeful.
After throwing our stuff in our pink-fluff bedecked room, we headed out to join the masses, clucking in annoyance when small children and pensioners got in our way. Long gone was the slow, easy stride we'd picked up from the desert. We had a session to get on with. Didn't these slow pokes know there was FREE CHAMPERS to be had on the casino floor?
After submitting ourselves to a screening for the pilot of a TV show at the MGM Grand (the show, starring McLovin of SuperBad, was okay, but a little too try-hard with the jokes) we made it to the glitzy, ritzy and snazmattazmic Bellagio and slid onto the faux leather stools in front of the penny slot machines, trying not to flag down the gliding waitresses too enthusiastically.
I fed the machine a $1 note and slowly tapped the 'Place Bet' button, making sure the 1 cent light was lit. Finally, after losing a dismal 43 cents thanks to my paltry bets, my peripherial vision detected a middle-aged blonde woman picking her way towards me, red-lipsticked mouth stretched into a smile that didn't quite meet her eyes and order book at the ready.
'Drink, honey?' she asked.
'Yes please', I showed her my teeth and said in the hesitant Hugh-Grant-in-Four-Weddings-manner that foreigners associate with every Briton that ever lived, 'erm... Would it be alright if I had a glass of champagne please?'
'SURE! 'Course you can hun', she beamed, properly, genuinely now. 'You want the same sweetie?' she looked at Leah, who was aghast at my request for such extravagance. 'No problem, I'll be right back. Love that accent'.
|living the high life|
When our bums got sore and we tired of winning scraps on the machines, we made our way to Caesar's Palace where a suited and booted man named Jesus stood guard at the gates, armed with nightclub fliers for tipsy girls on a mission to spend as little green as possible. HELLO.
Despite our jeans and jumpers combo, Jesus flagged us down and furnished us with little pieces of card that entitled us to free admission to PURE, Caesar's nightclub, with free drinks until midnight. Now, under normal circumstances, we're not the kind of girls who go and do MTV-dancing in dark, anonymous nightclubs where banter is out of the question and the primary aim for most attendees is to attract a mate. But, open bar.
A friend from home was also in town and planning to make a beeline for the same club later that night. So it made sense to go, load up and leave like the casual Cinderellas we were when the clock stuck twelve. How bad could it be?
It was a master remix of a night out in Watford, Chingford, Newcastle and Glasgow rolled into one atrocious bump-and-grind session. The women wore tight bodycons (even those with a few extra lumps and bumps had ill-advisedly managed to winch themselves into one, doing that shallow, quick breathing thing to ensure their lung capacity stayed at a minimum and they didn't tear their side seams) with deep necklines. Ankle-breaker heels on, hairspray threatening to breach health and safety regulations, faces frozen somewhere between trying not to shart and utter disdain for anyone that dared to so much as glance in their direction.
Then there were the men. Oh, the men. Some of their shirts where buttoned lower than the girls' necklines, occasionally revealing a perma-tanned peck, but more often than not, a gristly moob. Their eyes hunted the women, searching, waiting for the first wobble that signalled the free drinks were working on lowering their inhibitions, and hopefully their pants too.
Leah and I commandeered a table at the edge of the dance floor and enjoyed our new powers of invisibility. We tried to get as many drinks to our table as we could, racking them up for when they would no longer be free and doing some fantastic comedy R'n'B dancing to the poorly DJ'd music. I bumped into my chum from home, Jeremy, who was thrashing out some shapes on the dance floor and adding his own rap to the smoke and music that swirled above our heads:
'Yeah we're in Vegas! Whaddya make of us? Yo, don't be hatin' on us! We're just happy to be here, don' want no freakin' fuss!'
(Or something along those lines.)
Then I headed for home, weaving my way out of the throng, through the casino, onto the road and into the Flamingo where I fully expected to open the door to a slumbering Gassonimator. SHE WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN. Awol! How could this be? Perhaps she had been talked into a game of Craps, misunderstood the concept and required assistance and a well-planned exit strategy. Should I contact her relatives? The A-Team? Call a plumber?
No, it transpired that that evening, she was simply more double hard than me and had continued to happily trundle along the Strip, muttering to herself, ordering more complimentary drinks and writing abusive messages on Facebook.
What a trooper.
|crab legs, prawns, grilled fish, salad, mexican rice, sausage|
|nachos, salsa, sesame ball, roast beef, bun|
Vegas, the most excessive city in the nation of excess, offers unlimited buffets for every tastebud, every wallet, every fancy.
A welcome pack from The Flamingo in our room contained vouchers for a discounted meal at Flavor's buffet located in Harrah's Casino, so we decided to head over and fill our boots.
|sushi, fish, prawns|
I managed three plates and then a dessert plate as well before I admitted defeat. In the battle against Abha and the buffet, this time, the buffet had triumphed.
|watermelon adds balance|
The next couple of days were lost to Vegas where most buildings have neither a clock or windows, travelling out to Fremont Street on the Deuce, watching free shows outside Caesar's Place and the Bellagio, gawping open-mouthed at cowboys in town for the Rodeo at the Convention Centre and catching Mardi Gras beads at the Rio casino. It was during Rio's Show in the Sky performance that a pudgy, scrunchied she-beast very nearly gouged out my right eyeball, such was her desire to take home some strands of the cheap gold beads herself.
TWENTY CENTS A BET. That was how I began rolling, Leah clucking in disapproval next to me but egging me on too. My risky stance paid off for a few jubilant minutes, taking my winnings up to a dizzying $15 before the House began to claw back the cash.
Hey ho, that's how Vegas goes. For small fry like us anyway. Leah had somehow managed to transform her 30 cents in credit to $5.45 in real cash and was buzzing with glee that she'd now be able to purchase her dinner as well as a pack of sanitary towels. Some people might have riches, others fame, we're happy with the smaller pleasures in life.