2008.05 | Las Vegas, NV | Our First Cadillac Vacation
For our first vacation of 2008, we chose Las Vegas as our destination, although we never intended to spend much time on the Strip. This was Kelly's first time in Las Vegas, but she's not a gambler (she does like 25 cent video poker machines), and actually gets quite stressed out by the ringing bells and flashing lights of the casino floor. Since I've been to Vegas on numerous occasions, and have already spent more than my share of late nights at the Blackjack tables, we decided that Las Vegas would serve as little more than a nightly resting place. We spent nights in the hotel, and mornings at the buffet, where we refueled for our day trips out to the natural wonders located just a "short" drive from the world's most surreal desert oasis.
We stayed at the Paris Las Vegas, in a room with a great view of the "other" Eiffel Tower, and the fountain show across the street at the Bellagio. It's not exactly the Ritz in the real Paris, but it's a decent hotel, and the Paris streetscapes on the first floor are great for strolling, or sitting to eat a touristy meal. What surprised me the most, we the number of French (and Quebec) tourists who actually stay here while in Vegas. I wonder if they thought the staff would speak French?
I spent most of my time in Vegas during the 90s, and I was surprised at how much the place has grown up in the past few years. Don't get me wrong, the "older" hotels still hide their shoddy construction and cheap materials behind a thin coat of paint, and flashing lights. But there is a new generation of mega-resorts (and even some with a more human scale) that were built with quality materials, have serious restaurants and shops, and keep out the riffraff by charging real money.
After our first evening of walking up and down the Strip, Kelly had seen enough. So we picked up some wine, cheese and bread from a "Parisian" bakery downstairs, and called it a day. The following morning, we took a taxi out to the suburbs to pick up the only Cadillac CTS car rental in town and headed out to Death Valley.
Along the way, we made a brief stop at the Amargosa Opera House, a lonely remnant from the days when mining in Death Valley brought wealth to the whole region. The mining industry has long since picked up and moved on, leaving the Opera House about 30 miles from anywhere. But thanks to the efforts of Marta Becket, the hotel and the Opera House are still open, and live theatre is still alive in one of the most unlikely places.
There are definitely better hotels on the Strip, but if you don't feel like dropping $400+ per night, you can't beat the Paris Las Vegas for location, and that even-better-than-the-real-thing Vegas style.
A stop at the Amargosa Opera House is a must for anyone driving from Las Vegas to Death Valley.