The desert village that became a major metropolis was always entertaining, no matter what your vices were.  Yes, Las Vegas, the land of gambling, sex, prostitution and all things sinful has become a grande dame with many seriously beautiful, elegant, glamorous oases.

Each trip I take, to this every changing city, has new adventures, hotels that stagger and food that doesn’t take second place to any major city or chef.

If you read travel articles which I do religiously, for my work and to see the ‘take’of other travel scribes, in  the last few years, lists are the ‘in’subject And I’m one of the bearer of the good news for various publications.

From beaches, islands, restaurants, hotels, swimming pools and even the best airport loos, there are lists and it seems mandatory to have #10,.

Since this column is about Las Vegas, it seems  the number 10 may have some meaning.

When I’ve asked friends if they read all ten choices, the answer has been, no ,most of the time.  And time is an issue.  Everyone seems to be rushing about.

So I have selected a single city, not the world, and have no more than 4, on any of my list of lists.

 

CHRISTMAS DECOR IN GRACIOUS  (yes, gracious) LAS VEGAS..Christmas decorations in Las Vegas 2014..

Two hotels that I adore,  tied for #1 with their amusing, clever and rather expensive decorations.  But the oohs and aahs, probably make the CEOs of these two hotels, Bellagio and Wynn, feel that it was worth the several $100.000 plus, plus.

Bellagio never fails to show off in their incredible large space  just past the reception desks and in a garden area.

1. The first time I was in  Sin City at Christmas time, while Bellagio, was still owned by Steve Wynn,  Martha Stewart was climbing a ladder putting final touches on the Xmas tree and dictating the other elaborate decorations  for the entire, extraordinary  scenery. This year, sans Martha, there are  arbors of lit trees, penguins that nodded, an igloo that enchanted the little viewers and a few massive magnified golden tree decor balls. And if you wondered where all the ponsiettas went when you tried to find some, the were the cover of the marble flooring of this massive area.  How glorious it was.

Number 2, is Mr. Wynn’s, Hotel Wynn.  Obviously, this man has exquisite taste  and elegance . This Eastern born man was the first to feature a major art gallery in Bellagio. Now with Wynn, there isn’t one factor that has been left out.  It’s totally lovely.  As for Xmas, it must have been  a dream of a talented person who designed the snow scape. The colourful flowered spinning carousels  had the required totally flowered  horses, no two were alike. The floating stars and other decor was staggering -so beautiful. It shouldn’t be a great surprise since this hotelier and high end aficionado raised the bar in Las Vegas, bringing a new chic and grandeur to Las Vegas over a decade ago.

 

FOOD

One can’t write a list col without attaching a few restaurants. In Las Vegas, you’ll find eponymous named eateries of some of the world’s top chefs.  However, on this trip, I discovers two more favourites to add to my list and inches to my waist line.

#1.  The new Cromwell Hotel is a sophisticated, classy experience . And in this hotel on the second floor is, Giada,.  Walking down the stark white walls with the occasional niche, I knew this was going to be my kind of place.  And indeed it was.  While we waited, we were told that there was a booth where guests could take some ‘selfies”which would be emailed to you.

The staff was so endearing and friendly. When I asked if I could purchase some of the marvellous pieces on the shelves, I was told it wasn’t for sell but the sweet receptionist did tell me where I could purchase a few.  But who has time in L.V.?   So much to do, so much to eat.  And  the waiting list to reserve has already reached weeks in advance.  Giada which opened in June 2014 , is owned by a TV channel chef and author of 6 cook books.  What took this stunning young chef so long to open?  Well,with all this other chores, living in Los Angeles and her children, there didn’t seem to be much time.  But Giada Delaurentis, as in Dino, a relative, finally came to L.V.

I travel and eat a lot and there have been few restaurants that are so unique with recipes that are sublime.  As we sat at a curved banquette starring at the Strip’s neon signs, happily  our waiter, Guisesppe helped with our ordering.  So we shared handmade lemon spaghetti with marinated shrimps followed a crusted broiled rare steak and best of all, who ever heard of raving about cauliflower…well these roasted flowers were sensational.  So sated that I unhappily had to  say no to the wonderful looking desserts. But that was due to the homemade bread, so exquisite that I just kept on nibbling on the rosemary bread baked in a ramekin plus  the amazing flat bread.  There wasn’t one error or complaint that I could talk about.  This eating experience was as close to perfection as could be.

#2.  Usually when I go to Las Vegas, there’s one restaurant that is consistently wonderful.  However, Picasso in the Bellagio was being renovated so I opted for Sensi.  It was a very fine second choice. That said, very few come close to Picasso but the Hanger steak I had ordered was as I requested, on the rare side.  And my husband’s braised lamb medallions seemed to disappear in minutes. The atmosphere is casual chic with a windowed glass area for the centrally placed kitchen.  The only fault, and that goes for many eateries these days, is the volume of the music. Conversation seems an activity of the past.

 

THE SHOW AND THE MUSEUM AND SOME CULTURE 

ONE, by Cirque de Soleil based on Michael Jacksons songs and choreography was great for the under 45 age group.  We elders had the choice of holding our ears since the sound was beyond decimal count and hanging on to the trembling seats.  However, that said, the choreography and the lighting is always special in all Cirque’s productions.  Well worth seeing and trying to remember how it was to feel young again.

One of my cabbies loved Burlesque, a show taking place that week. Another cabbie, (I learn so much from drivers) was not so keen on it.  So we gave it a pass.I wish Celine Dion would have been there but we were a week too early as with another fav.  Rod Stewart. But this is certainly the epicentre for entertainment.

#1. Perhaps my most memorable visit was to ,The Mob Museum.  Not only is it a history of a desert that turning into the  biggest gaming city with the best shopping and entertainment, the facts or L.V’s beginning by a group of Mafia from the east, made this presentation well worth the expensive taxi drive since it’s in the old part of L.V. It’s a must see. And it’s so well done along with a staff that is anxious to answer questions.

#2. My husband’s favourite was the drive to and seeing the Hoover (formerly Boulder) Dam.  This amazing feat is startling and one of the wonders of the world.  Again worth the tour for 4 hours ( about $60) with explanations on the bus and a most interesting and informative inside tour. Just seeing the man made Mead Lake, the size of the State of Michigan, was yet another surprise.

SHOPPING

One can’t talk about L.V. without talking about fashion.  But there is only so much time on a 4 day visit to see all.

#1.I headed to my favourites which is Via Bellagio in the hotel and then to…

#2 Crystal Fashion Centre, next to the glorious Aria Hotel.  This mall..for lack of a better word, is splendid.  Every top designer has a shop there.  And since I have my  favorite designers, I immediately visited Brunello Cuchinelli.  After two hours of trying on and decision making, with the assistance of Katy, I came away with purchases (ah, at reduced prices,too) that I’ll have and wear for a very long time.  One needs several hours here. The only disappointment was their so-so Christmas decorations….a white bulbed horse, or maybe a deer on some silver on flowered flooring.

#3 The Forum at Caesar’s is another place to drop many dollars and with the lovely realistic painted ceiling, you do get the feeling that you’re outside and not missing the sunny day.  Again there’s just about every variety of shops and from medium to top end

#4 The Grand Canal shops at the Venetian Hotel is my final stop.  Not only is it fun to see the singing gondoliers on the indoor canal but also the gawking visitors.  Great cafes near the canal makes you feel as though you’re in the real atmosphere of Venice.  Barney’s, Ralph Lauren, various cosmetic and chocolate shop, make this a mecca for shopaholics.  What fun!!,

#5 ( Okay, I love shopping so I went to #5)….Across the bridge is Neiman Marcus…it’s an abbreviation of the big Neiman’s in Dallas etc.  However, there is great variety and I think all the sales staff had a lecture on how to please clients since every one…and there must have been 20 that I passed, said hello and how are you.  Enough already, I told one,  I’m going to have a sign made to place across my chest that says “I’m just fine and you have a good days too.”  The shoe salon is great as are the label togs on the upper level.

I never did mention gaming only because you can’t miss innocently walking by a casino.  They are everywhere.  I like the quietness of Wynn, I found a friendly slot at Palazzo and watched a lot of the cheering crowd at the Crap tables.

Sin city is sexy for many reasons from sensuous food to the very mini skirted young women and some very fit men in cool outfits. But don’t heed the phrase, Everything you do in Las Vegas, stays Las Vegas, except my purchases.  The bottom line is L.V. is a terrific long weekend get away.