Las Vegas, United States of America

The MGM Grand and Las Vegas by night

The MGM Grand and Las Vegas by night

James Cooper, director of the Stansted Park Foundation, with the model    Picture: Habibur Rahman

Railway model depicting life in Rowlands Castle during the Second World War now on display

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John O’Brien saw the dark side in Leaving Las Vegas and Hunter S Thompson chased the American dream in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But no-one summed it up quite like Elvis in Viva Las Vegas.

If you haven’t been there, then what follows will have you either scrabbling for your passport or swearing you’ll never set foot in this modern day Sin City.

We arrived at The Monte Carlo Hotel as the sun set. But as one source of light diminished, Vegas’s own started up as the world’s largest collection of neon was switched on.

Despite the fact we’d been travelling 16 hours and our body clocks said 5am, we immersed ourselves in all that night-time Vegas had to offer.

Walking down the strip on your first night is a real experience as there is so much to see. My daughters reckoned the fountains at the Bellagio were worth the visit alone.

They stood in the same spot occupied by Brad, George et al in the film Ocean’s Eleven, while a dancing cornucopia of lights and water were accompanied by the haunting voice of Andrea Bocelli.

It was the only time in our whole visit that there was complete silence from the Vegas throng.

We couldn’t go to bed without playing the slots and tables and I was very impressed with the Monte Carlo casino. A friendly crowd and patient croupiers ensured the girls didn’t feel idiotic and helped them to their first Vegas win before it was time for bed.

The bedroom in the Monte Carlo was huge, the beds sumptuous and the bathrooms spotless, with the deepest bath I’ve ever seen.

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready for Vegas ‘day style’.

We decided to tackle the North Strip and duly set off. Caesars Palace had The Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum and the Lost City of Atlantis, while Paris brought the Eiffel Tower and a Parisienne street experience.

Then there was Treasure Island and the sinking of the Black Pearl pirate ship and we finished with The Venetian and a Gondola ride on the canal complete with singing gondolier.

A whirlwind tour of the world in one day. No wonder so many Americans don’t have passports.

Having girls with me meant that at some stage we were going to shop – a thought that made my wallet curl up in fear. However Las Vegas has the solution here too. Outlet malls at both ends of the strip included Ralph Lauren, Armani, Ted Baker, D&G and Boss to name but a few. The even better news was prices you can only dream about at home.

Our evening saw us ‘doing a Vegas show’ – I can only describe Jabawockeez as a much more talented version of Diversity, the dance group from Britain’s Got Talent.

The next day brings the South Strip and the Statue of Liberty and roller coaster at New York New York; The Sphinx and giant pyramid of Luxor; sharks in the Mandalay Bay aquarium and lions with cubs in The MGM.

Any last night in Las Vegas has to involve Fremont Street. It represents everything that you have ever thought about this gaudy, fascinating city.

The neon level was cranked up tenfold as we entered old Vegas. This is where it all started and with Binions Horseshoe, The Fremont Hotel & Casino, The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino & The Golden Nugget all still there it’s a step back in time. Beer, foot-long hotdogs and street entertainers all set to a thunderous Queen laser show – it’s a kinda magic you will never forget.

ESSENTIALS

Ron’s trip to Las Vegas was arranged through Southsea Travel@21 in Albert Road, Southsea. Tel (023) 9212 4990.

letsgo2.com has 4nts room only at the Mandalay Bay, one of the Strip’s luxurious hotels, from £585pp for departures between March 1-31 2012 from Gatwick, flightds with Delta

For more information on Las Vegas, go to visitlasvegas.co.uk

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