Leaving Joshua Tree early, we headed North for Nevada and the bright lights of Vegas. Coming from an island as tiny as Britain, I love the scale of road travel in America; the vast expanses of uninhabited landscape, the breadth of the sky, the way the road stretches ahead to the horizon. We pass tiny hamlets, a couple of clap board houses with beaten up trucks and lazy dogs outside, and I wonder who would choose to live out in this heat-cracked wilderness. We pass oddities too; an enormous wind farm with rows of windmills that seem to extend endlessly in every direction, a diner whose main draw seems to be giant concrete dinosaurs in it’s parking lot and road side hoardings offering everything from health insurance to pizza to real estate.
As we get closer to Nevada, the heat intensifies. Turning onto the infamous route 66, we jump out for a photo op next to one of the road signs and I feel the ground sizzling underfoot and the skin on my arms tingling. I expected Vegas to rear suddenly out of the sand in the distance like a mirage but it doesn’t, it almost creeps up on us until we are in it’s midst, frantic and exhilarating after the solitude of the desert. We pull onto the strip and suddenly we’re right there in the Vegas of a million postcards, the instantly recognisable fountains and neon and, floating high above the strip, the bright blue balloon of the Paris hotel in Las Vegas.
Our van is too big for the underground car park so we circle around the back, via several inevitable wrong turns, passing a lone Michael Jackson impersonator smoking a cigarette. The walk through the cavernous casino takes at least 15 minutes; through walkways paved with plastic cobblestones and lined with Parisian cafes and fountains under a painted blue sky. After five nights sleeping in the roof space of the camper van our room, with it’s two double beds, seems like unimaginable luxury and I feel suddenly exhausted at the sight of it. We head downstairs and feast on a sharing plate of cured meats, cheese and olives, chunks of fresh baguette and huge bowls of pasta before falling into the softness of clean pillows and straight to sleep.
The next morning starts with a breakfast of the most ridiculously creamy, cheesy crepes; which bear no resemblance whatsoever to actual French crepes and probably contain about a squillion calories each but are completely delicious. After breakfast we head out to the pool, which sits in a courtyard in the shadow of the ‘Eiffel Tower’ and proceed to spend the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing but read, swim and drink overpriced cocktails until we can no longer escape the shade and head back to get dressed for the night.
The Vegas strip is hot and loud and electric bright. I love the energy of Vegas, the lights and the heat and the bustling crowds, the excitement and anticipation. We wander down the strip, soaking it up and taking hundreds of pictures. We sit behind curtains of crystal beads and drink cocktails adorned with gold leaf, and eat wasabi fried chicken and sticky rice in the Blue Ribbon sushi bar. We embark on a search for Komodo dragons and shake hands with drag queens. We get guest list tokens for Chateau at the Paris, and negotiate stairs and stern bouncers to emerge from the lift doors into a rooftop garden nestled between the legs of the Eiffel Tower, an open air dance floor overlooking the Bellagio fountains at it’s centre. We dance and drink and make friends; and the night ends at around 4am, wandering back to the room through the darkened casino, my shoes dangling from my hand.
We stayed and partied at the Paris hotel – I highly recommend it if you’re travelling to Vegas!