The New Las Vegas
After one night experiencing vintage downtown Las Vegas at the retro El Cortez, it was time to step it up at The Venetian on the glitzy strip. I've been to the real Italian city, so I figured it might be hard to avoid rolling my eyes just a bit. It just seemed comical to attempt combining casinos with Venetian landmarks like St. Mark's Campalile. You can't take the Rialto bridge and put it over a street. I was pretty sure gondoliers and neon signs would clash.
But my last visit to Las Vegas was in 1980. I was in for a pretty big surprise when Don and I approached the recreated landmarks driving down the strip. I couldn't stop grinning and gasping.
"This is crazy! This is so fun!"
I still feel a little like I'm "playing grown-up" when valet parking. But when you want to play "rich grown-up" just come to The Venetian. If you want to be "cool" on top of being a rich grown-up, then don't bump into people while staring at the painted ceiling!
More Art for Staring
There was no way I could snobbishly critique the painted ceilings or the marble floors. This stuff was pretty grand. It didn't feel like a movie set or a carnival façade. I wanted to grab a European and say, "What do you think?" But in truth, most of the people rolling suitcases towards the reception desk appeared to be from somewhere like Nebraska.
To the Room!
Don and I were pretty excited to just hunt for our room. And that took a while, since there are 4,049 suites. I had to stop at smile at the sweet lion head, carved on the beam outside our door. When we opened our room, my grin grew larger as I took in the 650 square foot suite. Our twenty-dollar vintage suite at El Cortez was their lowest rate. Our luxury suite at The Venetian was the lowest promotional rate of $149. (not including tax and fees) We could have stayed a week at El Cortez for that, but we didn't have a sunken living room there. Or 3 TVs and a remote for the shades, or a scanner and printer.
Bed and Bath
The suite décor may not be "my style" but it had a fun and flashy feel that made me want to stay put. I was determined to try out every conceivable spot for luxury lounging. Even for a brief moment!
But it was beautiful outside, so we left our comfy suite to wander before dark. To me it was more fun watching the gondolas than riding in them. It's funny how many people look awkward in the seat facing the singing gondolier!
The rooftop pools looked very inviting, especially if you wanted to rent a cozy spot like this for lounging. The weather was perfect and I would have been happy to spend an hour or two with a book and pina colada, but there was so much to see!
There was more inside exploring to do. There were waterfalls with flowering trees. And there was shopping, under the fake glowing sky.
A Quick Margarita Stop
The fake skies at The Venetian made me lose total track of time. The late afternoon painted ceiling made us decide it was time for a margarita at one of the canal-side tables at Canonista. The echoing voices of passing gondoliers entertained us, but we had the added fun of watching the security guard (dressed in Italian police uniform) use a pool net to scoop up the cell phone for a nearby diner.
So we didn't gamble a penny. The Venetian is the only casino/hotel I can think of where you are allowed to ignore the gambling world. However, Don and I did stop for glass of wine in the casino Bellini Bar. With the game stuff behind us, we enjoyed a very fun chat with David the bartender. He gave us some very yummy nibbles of carmel -corn and spicy crackers while he shared about growing up in Las Vegas. We were thrilled to talk with someone from Vegas and I think he was pleased to chat at all. Everyone else at the bar was absorbed in electronic bar games.
St. Mark's Square
For dinner we made reservations at Canatello's, one of the restaurants in the recreated famous Venetian Plaza. Once again we were under a fake sky that allowed dusk to linger...forever, while musicians performed near sidewalk cafes. The whole thing felt a bit like a distorted dream... a fun dream.
Good Food and Drink
We sipped Chianti and feasted on great Caesar salad, minestrone and prosciutto pasta. Watching gondolas in the nearby canal, and people watching on the Piazza was the best part of dining "outside". But when I peeked inside at one point, I wasn't sure where the best table would be. The restaurant was huge and festive...and it's one of about 10 restaurants to choose from!
Before heading back to the room, Don and I stopped to rest the camera on the bridge railing for a photo with the timer. Luckily we didn't have to fish the camera out of the canal, or that would have been our most memorable experience.
What was most Notable?
The overwhelming size! My feet felt like they'd spent a day at Disneyland when I went to bed. But I think I will also remember being so pleasantly surprised at how much I could enjoy the reinvention of one of my favorite cities. Perfect weather outside (and in) didn't hurt!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!