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Friday, January 23, 2009

Viva Las Vegas

Have arrived back from nearly a week in Las Vegas. Hurrah!
I went there for the annual sales & marketing conference. It was the third time we'd been to Vegas. I heard the recession is hitting the place hard. There didn't seem to be fewer gamblers in the hotel's casino, but the stakes were lower.

I'm proud to say I once again departed without having spent a cent on gambling, but Las Vegas fleeced me in other ways. The prices! Now the dire plunge of the pound has had some bearing, but the prices really were extortionate. Two pastries and two coffees in an average coffee shop: twelve pounds. Six drinks in a bar: sixty-eight pounds.

Now the first time you go to Vegas, it is simply jaw dropping. Amazing. These photos are from the Palazzo adjacent to our hotel The Venetian, and the shops at the Forum. Both have artificial skies and curious lighting along with Roman statues and fountains (The Forum) and "St Mark's Square" with gondolas and Venetian glass shops (The Venetian).

The hotels along the strip are themed with gaudy facades and attractions intended to lure you inside. Once inside, they look remarkably similar with acres of slot machines and gaming tables. The same pasty faced people from the night before could be seen gambling when we got up early for breakfast and had to trudge through the casino each day.

Smoking is permitted in the casinos which comes as a real culture shock now. And to compensate, the hotels tend to waft around revolting and cloying perfumes to try to mask the smell.

Vegas seemed to me this time an anachronism. In these times of recession with companies going bust daily, a place where everyone's hopes and dreams lie on the throw of a dice seemed foolish and empty.

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