Going from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas in a few hours, talk about a crazy contrast! After discovering the National Park by day, we drove to Nevada in the evening. The road was, once again, long and desert, and it was already night time when we saw Las Vegas glow at the horizon. Arriving in Vegas by night, surrounded by neon lights, that was something!
We had booked a tower suite in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, aka the ultimate cliché resort where you can admire some of Britney’s scene outfits, hold the elevator door to drunk ass 40 year old women and listen to some loud Aerosmith music in the lobby. This hotel is clearly made for partying: the clientele itself is a mix of frat bros and old people who don’t want to be old, the suites contain various facilities which include anti-hangover face care and a cable to play music from your own device throughout the room. But as we found out, it also involved a lack of comfort and cleanliness: in our suite, we found a few “souvenirs” left by the previous occupants, which got us wondering how thoroughly the room had been cleaned. When, the next day, we encountered the (very rude) personnel of the pool, we decided it definitely wasn’t for us and packed our bags. No way we were going to stay there for our second night!
Once we were back in the car, we decided to go have lunch and look for another hotel for the night. And since we were homeless anyway, we decided to go explore Downtown Las Vegas.
If I base our judgement on the delicious sandwiches we had at Eat., I’d call it an amazing idea! They were cheap and delicious, which is pretty rare in Vegas. Unfortunately, anything else than that sandwich was quite dodgy Downtown: old people living in crappy apartment buildings (old people! In a city where the average temperature is 40°C!), grown up crack addicts dressed like teenagers, and an awful lot of cops. In Vegas only, we witnessed 3 arrestations!
Meanwhile, we booked another hotel room thanks to the fabulous last minute deals on booking.com! This time, we went for classics and picked the Mirage, one of the Las Vegas Strip’s famous hotels, with its waterfall and its gold-tinted windows. The fact that it was located on the Strip was also a strategic choice for us, as it would make it much easier to have a glimpse of Vegas’ must-sees in the few hours we still had.
We quickly dropped our luggage in the room and went straight to the pool for a dip and a few 9$ beers! It was nice, not too crowded, not too busy (weekdays in Vegas can be a treat!) and it allowed us to witness an amazing sunset. Around us, all the lights began to shine, as the city was getting ready for another night of craziness.
I gotta tell you something: to be honest, I’m not a fan of Vegas. The 24 hours we spent there were more than enough. But once you’ve had a few drinks, you know… it’s pretty cool. There’s many things to do and see, it’s loud, and shiny, and everything’s blinking around you, but I find it amazing to just watch. Being an observer of it all and going with the flow.
We didn’t have enough time to discover the whole Strip, but we still managed to visit the Paris Las Vegas, the Bellagio, the Venitian, Caesar’s Palace, the Flamingo…
We gambled, just a little bit, because duh. We drank, we walked, we laughed… I had good time. It’s just one of those things you have to try once in your life, if only to go browsing the local Sephora with a beer in your hand.
After this little night walk, it was already time to go to bed, as the day after had a lot of driving involved…
A few hours of sleep later, we stuffed everything back into the car and got back on the road. The next big stop was our hotel near Sequoia National Park, but we still had a lot to see in between! Starting with the Hoover Dam, which is the dam that provides electricity to the WHOLE city of Vegas! Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to visit the dam itself (apparently you can take a lift all the way down – HELLO CLAUSTROPHOBICS!), but the “free” vista was good enough for us ;)
Time to hit the road again, West bound! Our next stop is in another casino city nearby, Primm. Primm is basically a village made of casinos and hotels, in the middle of nowhere, with a weird vibe and dirty carpets. Pretty much like Vegas, but without all the luxury and the glam. In Vegas, you can eat at Nobu right in the middle of a casino; in Primm’s legendary Whiskey Pete’s, you can also do that, but at McDonald’s. Which also has its charm, I guess :)
In the casino itself, though, you can see something that Vegas doesn’t have: the car Bonnie & Clyde were driving when they got arrested (and killed). Kudos, Primm! It’s pretty impressive to see this old timer, riddled with bullet holes, with the smashed windows and Clyde’s original death shirt (morbid, much?) topping off the experience. The place also provides visitors with a few videos about the gangster lovers, and a timeline explaining the history of mafia and casinos – Boardwalk Empire fans, this is for you! Bootlegging, money laundering, links with Hollywood… it’s a fascinating aspect, and a big part of this area of America’s history.
It turned out to be a perfect way to stop and stretch our legs!
After that, our next stop was Calico Ghost Town. As the name says, the city was abandoned by its inhabitants, and is now no longer a city, but in the silver mining time, Calico was glorious, with several thousands living and working in the area.
It felt like a real privilege to be able to walk around these old saloons, grocery stores and shops, visit the sheriff’s house and walk up to the station. Be warned, though: it’s a pretty touristic attraction (the entrance costs 10$ I think)! But it’s so well kept and charming that I immediately loved it.
I could have stayed there for hours, going from house to house, unfortunately we still had a long way to go and we still had to have lunch! So we stopped et a dinner nearby…
If you ever drive on the interstate 15 in that area, you can’t miss Penny’s 50’s diner: boards announce it on the side of the road for miles ahead! And I’m glad we followed them, even though the Philly Cheesesteak we ordered wasn’t great. The place itself is worth the detour: a real diner, with fifties chairs, open 24/7, and where the lady at the bar calls you ‘honey’. The lovely cook even insisted that we taste his cilantro sauce, and damn, that one was delicious.
And on the menu, I even found a pretty cool quote…
Next week, I’ll tell you all about our excursion in Sequoia National Park, and our way back to the California coast!
Have a good weekend and enjoy Halloween :)