Las Vegas leaves no one indifferent. You either love it or hate it. There are many travelers who do not want to hear about getting into a city built 115 years ago in the middle of the desert, eccentric, noisy, oversaturated with lights, neon, music and sex. It is a destination that has no middle ground. Slot machines even in the toilets, quirky weddings in the wee hours of the morning, endless buffets or the tallest Ferris wheel on the planet (167 meters). Its excess absorbs you.
As Valentin, a man from Madrid who has lived in Las Vegas for 10 years, tells us: “If you’re lucky, you can get to Las Vegas with $ 20 and come back with $ 20 million.” Surely there is no other destination in the world so generous. What is certain is that, when landing, one must forget about prejudices, open the mind and allow oneself to be carried away to a place where nothing is what it seems. If anyone knows about that, this is Valentin, a local Civitatis guide in “Sin City” and in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.
How does a Spaniard end up living in Las Vegas?
When I was little I watched a lot of movies of the American West, with its open, desert and rocky landscapes and its huge ranches, and each time I told my mother that one day I would go to America to earn money to buy a very big house. I was born and raised in a 40 square meter apartment in the Latina neighborhood of Madrid and that feeling of freedom stuck with me.
The American dream…
If something like. Proof of this is that today I live precisely in the western United States, in Las Vegas, and, by the way, I bought a house, and quite a large one. Well yes, a dream come true.
When did this adventure start?
A long time ago. I left Spain in 1990 with the purpose of learning English and having the experience of living abroad. I didn’t have high expectations then, but as I was learning the language, I started working in restaurants to pay for my expenses and discovered my passion for cooking.
Yes. Actually, a large part of my life has been spent in the kitchen as a head chef in Las Vegas or Miami. However, 10 years ago I decided to turn things around and set up my own business in the tourism sector, specializing in travel services. tours through the city of Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Today I have to say that I know this country very well, since in all this time I have lived and traveled in different parts of the United States, mainly in California and Florida.
Las Vegas is the best invention of the last 50 years
Any other place in the USA that you recommend?
Seattle, in the state of Washington, is a city with a lot of life, very hospitable people, it is a not very well known destination that surprised me and that I always recommend.
And what convinced you to stay in Las Vegas?
It was a job opportunity to be part of the opening of a restaurant at the Bellagio hotel, where they organize the famous fountain and light show. To be honest, at first I didn’t really like living here, but little by little I was discovering the surroundings of the Mojave Desert and I adapted quite well. I’m not going to deny that it was also influenced by the fact that in Las Vegas he earned twice as much as in San Francisco. And I no longer tell you comparing it with Spain. The truth is that I have a lot of affection and respect for this city, since it has given me everything I have. It is a city that has something special that ends up seducing you. For me Las Vegas is the best invention of the last 50 years.
If I decide to make my first trip to Las Vegas, what are the five essential visits would you advise me?
The priority is to make a tour nightlife on the Strip and the downtown to understand the idiosyncrasy of the city and how its economic engine starts up. The second, visit the Grand Canyon (essential) leaving very early in the morning, making stops at Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. The third, spending a couple of hours on Fremont Street, where the city was founded in 1905. There are classic casinos such as Binion’s, Golden Nugget or Fremont Casino. The fourth suggestion would be to go see one of the Cirque du Soleil shows. The fifth recommendation, as a farewell, would be to organize a dinner in a good restaurant in the evening overlooking Las Vegas Boulevard. For example, at the Eiffel Tower in the Paris hotel, overlooking the Bellagio fountains.
In Las Vegas you can also enjoy the best shows like Cirque du Soleil
Is everything as excessive as they paint it?
More than excessive, I would say ostentatious. It is part of the philosophy of the product and the show of the Americans for the Americans: the bigger and more spectacular, the better. They are like that. It is the american way of life, as they say. They think that something small is unreliable and has no value. A clear example of what I say is in those drinks king size two liters. For little more money they have the greatest. Or the hotels in Las Vegas, which are immensely large, because it is a business designed not only for cultural tourism but also for congresses and convections, whose turnover exceeds 10 billion dollars a year.
Everything is based on money …
Indeed, money moves everything. It is the dream that everything can. You just have to think that there is a slot machine in the casinos with the name of Megabucks, which connects more than 750 machines whose jackpot is accumulating and, when the numbers have given the respective benefit to the casinos and the company that owns the devices, spits the “mega” award. With a simple play of $ 20 you can win a jackpot of up to 20 million.
Does it make sense to travel to Vegas if I don’t like gambling?
Of course it makes sense, the game is already somewhat less popular than it was years ago. In Las Vegas you can also enjoy the best shows such as Cirque du Soleil, musical events of all kinds and, in the future, with the creation of the Raiders stadium, you will be able to attend American football or ice hockey games with the Golden Knights. There are also museums for those who prefer culture: my favorite is the curious mafia museum.
What is the best area to stay?
It is best to stay in the Las Vegas Boulevard area, between the Wynn and Mandalay Bay hotels. Depending on your budget, you can choose cheap establishments like Luxor, Tropicana or Excalibur, or high-end establishments like Bellagio, Cosmopolitan, Wynn, Cesar Palace Venice, etc. The options are almost endless.
The most prestigious chefs on the planet are exhibited here
Tell me a place to eat
At the Ellis Island hotel, good BBQ ribs with their own beer is highly recommended. Anyway, we must bear in mind that we are in the mecca of international gastronomy. The most prestigious chefs on the planet such as Gordon Ramsey, Julián Serrano and Thomas Keller, among others, are exhibited here. By the way, the Spanish chef José Andrés has two restaurants in the city: El Jaleo, for Spanish tapas, and China Poblana, a kind of fusion of Chinese and Mexican food.
All in a big way …
Yes, as is. In fact, a great way to start the day in Las Vegas is by having breakfast at the Bellagio hotel pastry shop, where it is possible to contemplate the longest chocolate fountain in the world. Guinness World Record, with a four meter drop in cascade. Its exquisite crepes and croissants are reminiscent of traditional French delicacies.
Say I want to get out of town
That is highly recommended. Apart from the mythical Grand Canyon, you can make very interesting excursions at a reasonable distance from the city of Las Vegas. In fact, it is surrounded by natural beauties. Perhaps its surroundings are one of the most unknown attractions of this trip. Neons are too dazzling and do not allow us to see the wonders that lie beyond. First, about 45 minutes by car, to the northeast, is the Valley of Fire, the Valley of Fire, a natural national monument and a fascinating visual spectacle, with its reddish earth the color of fire that makes you think that you are in another planet. About two hours west of the city, are the Valley of Death, Death Valley and its desert landscapes, one of the driest places on the planet and in which heat records have been broken in recent years. Other options are Bryce National Park, which resembles Turkish Cappadocia, and Monument Valley, Monument Valley, the true Navajo land sanctuary. The latter is a getaway that I constantly recommend, although it does involve a long journey of about six hours.
Anyway, everything that happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas …
That was before, today what happens in Las Vegas takes seconds to get on Instagram.