Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, Nevada

Leaving the Grand Canyon and the snow I take the long journey to the Hoover Dam. The sun is high in the sky as I approach  Hoover Dam and it feels great to be back in the warmth. Without realising it the Dam is accessed via the bridge (in the picture) then a winding road leads down to the entrance. I’m a surprised not by the height of the Dam although it is an amazing piece of engineering but by the attention to detail of the building both inside and out. I thought it would be very industrial, I was wrong. It took 6 years to build opening in 1936 and was originally called Boulder Dam. Boulder Dam it was designed during the Great Depression and therefore a time perhaps when jobs were scarce and labour was plentiful but the Dam reflects elegantly the Art Deco era. If money was an issue for such a project it certainly doesn’t show. There are brass Hoover Dam handrails, doors and finials. The floors are covered with the original marble which would have been an extortionate cost and decorated with cut inlays. 

I pay to join the Hoover Dam guided tour alongside the museum and film entrance fee. The tour which takes me down in an elevator to floors within the Dam. Here I see the organised decorative machine rooms and tunnels which we walk along and look out of the shutters in the Dam wall. The guide points out markings on the wall, where and how the concrete was cast and is very knowledgable. I spent an hour on the Dam tour. I also watch the film and visit the museum which explain the colossal build that was undertaken and the thousands of people who worked in shifts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I learn that the concrete still has not completely set and that many people lost their lives working on the Dam.

Outside in the sunshine I walk along the top of the Dam. The Hoover Dam was renamed in honour of President Hoover. At the half way point on there are markings that show where the states of Nevada and Arizona begin and end highlighting that the Dam is in two time zones. There are toilets on the Dam road too which would not normally be worth a mention except for their ornate Arc Deco interiors. The Dam its self is only a small part of the construction I observe here. The overflow system which has only ever been used twice is humongous and can be accessed outside for free. 
I leave the Hoover Dam for the half an hour drive to Las Vegas. I am staying here for one night at the New York New York Hotel. Whenever I have talked to people in the past about Las Vegas most of the comments have been you have to visit it, well you do. It is wonderfully fake. I enter the hotel and find myself in a mini town. I’d never have to leave the hotel, ever. I’m surrounded by casinos, shops and bars. The air is filled with smoke and noise. I take one of the multiple elevators to my room and note that only certain elevators will take me there. My room is on the twelfth floor and as I approach the window I hear the familiar sound of click, click, click as a rollercoaster passes by window before the riders screams on their descent. I leave the hotel and see the rollercoaster from the outside that circles the building as well as the Statue of Liberty. This is the start of a seven mile evening walk around Las Vegas in which you have to plan ahead how to cross the roads. My walk takes me along the Strip to The Excelsior (a Disney castle style hotel) and the Paris Hotel where I see the Eiffel Tower, towering over me alongside a faux hot air balloon.

Further on I see The Venetian, a hotel with gondolas at the front on a mock canal. I’m surprised when I enter the hotel to see daylight. There are high ceilings painted as blue skies with fluffy clouds which are illuminated. The stone floor reflects the light and I feel my brain is confused by the brightness as I know that outside the dark evening has settled in. I walk on through the alley ways and see that the canal is now inside too. As I mentioned earlier there is no need to leave a hotel. The Venetian is the same with not only casinos, shops, bars but a canal too. In fact the places are so big it’s hard to find the exit and I think this was part of their planning.

Leaving the Venetian I cross over to the strip to Caesars Palace with its headless statues and horses outside and continue on to The Belligio Hotel for the lights and water fountain display in time to music (a must see) and then the walk back to my hotel for the evening.

The next morning I long for some quiet after a busy evening and I am guided back to the Paris Hotel for breakfast. I observe that as soon as I leave the hotel there is no quiet space here. Music is played outside each hotel or building, the street is noisy and I smell the cigarette smoke that has been pumped out of the buildings. I talk to a lady who tells me she never sleeps when she visits Las Vegas as she’s convinced the casinos pump oxygen in the air to keep people playing.

My visit to Las Vegas was worthy of the time. I do think that everyone needs to visit to see how amazingly plastic (including some plants outside) it is. For me the best part of the trip was to the Hoover Dam. I recommend the tour and learning all about the history of this fantastic construction.


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