I just got back from Vegas yesterday. It was my first time on the West Coast. We got up early on Saturday to check our luggage and go through the long lines and familiar security checkpoints at the airport. I bought Kind bars and water and braced myself for the six hour flight to sunny Nevada. I’d packed as light as I could. My suitcase only contained clothes and toiletries. In my purse, I had my medicine, my phone, money, lotion, and a pair of earbuds I’d bought when I got my snacks.
By the time we’d boarded the plane, I was all set. I turned on my music and got lost in the beats, getting rid of any anxiety I might have had about taking off. I loved being in the air. I loved looking out the window to see an expanse of blue skies and clouds. Below us were houses, trees, roads, cars, fields, mountains, lakes, rivers, and people going about their daily lives. For a short while, I was distant from everything that held me down on the ground. If nothing else, flying reminds me that miracles are real.
When our plane finally touched the ground, I felt the heat. Nevada was definitely warmer than home. There was air conditioning coming through the vents, but I still felt the difference. I listened to my music and waited for people to start filing out of the plane because I SERIOUSLY needed to pee. When I got inside the airport, my first stop was the bathroom. And then walked around, amused at the fact that there were slot machines set up around the airport the way coin operated kiddie rides are set up around the mall for toddlers. Five minutes in Vegas, and I was already seeing levers and neon lights. There was also a Vegas gift shop with a lit up sign (where I bought three keychains for ten dollars). It all screamed “welcome to sin city!” I did feel welcome, and I was quite excited.
Walking through the airport, we passed animal sculptures, like a turtle, bunny and iguana that looked like they were made out of dessert rock. I couldn’t resist taking a picture or two. We got on a monorail that brought us to the area that had our luggage, met up with our family, and took a shuttle to the hotel. Along the way, we passed various landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, all structures of themed hotels that I would later see in more detail. When we got to the MGM Grand, I welcomed the cool air conditioning and cushioned seats that let us rest while we waited for our room keys. When it came time to go up to our rooms, it felt like we’d officially arrived.
The room was nice, but I was little disappointed that I’d have to sleep on a sofa bed. I didn’t think it would be comfortable and I was right, so that wasn’t great. Outside the window, we had a nice view of the strip with its cluster of large hotels. We could see the mountains in the distance and the sky was blue and clear. The first night, we ate at the MGM Grand buffet. The food was good and I sampled a bit of anything vegetarian. My favorite things there were probably the mac and cheese and the apple tart.
On day two, we went to eat breakfast at the Pyramid Café at the Luxor. To get there, were did quite a bit of walking before we got to a location that let us take the monorail. The weather outside was actually not too bad that day. The heat felt nice and not too overwhelming. I got to see everything from New York, New York to Paris to a castle, to the pyramid. It was nice to be outside amidst the palm trees and the bustle of tourists. When we made it to the Luxor, we got to walk through the massive, black pyramid and made our way to the café. As with most tourist attractions, we had to walk through the casino to get to the restaurant, and the casinos were filled with the smell of cigarette smoke. This wasn’t the best for me because I have asthma and had to cover my face with my scarf whenever I walked through them. The café was near the casino, but was far enough that the cigarette smell didn’t really travel there. I ordered iced tea and a churro waffle that had cinnamon, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and caramel. It was sooo good. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Later that day, we walked to the Venetian which is probably my favorite hotel in Vegas. It is an absolute fairytale. The architecture leading into the building is beautiful, with lovely columns and painted ceilings. In the shopping area, the ceiling is sky blue and is painted with white clouds, giving the illusion that you are outside, walking along a street in Italy. There were cute (though overpriced) shops and a variety of restaurants selling pasta, wine, and cappuccinos. There were people dressed in Victorian costumes and singing opera music, as well as people going on gondola rides along the indoor river. It was lovely.
Back at the MGM, I’d also managed to get a quick look at one of the wedding chapels. It was beautiful and there were pictures of famous (and I think non-famous) people kissing and in love. The chapels themselves were elegant and had a sacred feeling to them that I didn’t expect to find in the city of casinos, cigarettes, and liquor.
Later that night, we stayed at the MGM to eat at the Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill for my grandparents’ wedding anniversary. The staff was nice and the food was scrumptious. They gave us garlic and buttered bread and the water I drank was cool and refreshing. I ordered the mushroom ravioli and it was delicious. I wasn’t so hungry, but was super glad to have leftovers to bring back to my room.
In the midst of all this, I had gone on Twitter when I first heard about the tragic shooting in Orlando. My heart broke when I turned on the news and saw that forty-nine people had been killed at Pulse. This was a safe space for LGBT people and someone took too many innocent lives. A lot of the victims were no older than me and they had their whole lives ahead of them. I watched the coverage on the news and cried when I saw the candlelit tributes, heard people sing in solidarity, saw the rainbow flags that were held in the air, and heard the names and saw the faces of some of the victims.
There were people who survived the shooting but lost their best friends. I’m tearing up as I write this because it’s just so sad. It’s even more upsetting that this happened to people in the queer community who were in a place where they felt safe to be themselves. They were having a regular, fun night and then this happens. I am endlessly praying for the injured and for the loved ones of the victims.
My heart was heavy for the rest of the trip and it still is. It’s even sadder because it’s Pride Month. I really hope that one day we can live in a world without terror and violence. I believe that love really does win. JK Rowling says we have the power to “imagine better.” I hope we can imagine a better future, and I hope we can create it.
I thought about what happened in Orlando, and I thought about Sandy Hook and Columbine and Colorado and all of the terrible mass shootings that have taken place in the States.
There are more good people than bad people. Anne Frank was able to believe that, and I believe it, too. I also believe that we can make this world better, and we can help each other, and we can heal.
I sat in my hotel room, cried, and sent prayers and good thoughts to all affected. I carried what happened in Orlando around in my heart for the remainder of the trip.
The third day, I went down to a frozen yogurt place located in the MGM and ordered iced tea and the Congo, a crepe with bananas, Nutella, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. It was so, so yummy. I waited a while to get it because there had been a lot of people who ordered food there, but it was worth the wait. The cashier was friendly and her happy energy was contagious. When I got my food, I sat at a little table and enjoyed each sweet bite. I couldn’t finished the whole thing, which meant more leftovers for me later.
After breakfast, I walked a few feet over to an art gallery and looked around at paintings and beautiful nature photographs. Good food and art? It was like a perfect morning for me! Afterwards, I went over to the Cirque Du Soleil gift shop. Outside it, there was a fake dragon that roared every few minutes while clips from the show played on little TV screens hanging above it. I looked around at the masks, t-shirts, purses, CDs, juggling balls, mugs, silly hats, and magnets that were colorful and fun. I ended up buying a Cirque Du Soleil DVD (next best thing to seeing the show live, right?) and a chocolate bar. (The chocolate was pretty good. I haven’t watched the DVD yet). Happy with my purchases, I went back to my room to put my crepe in the fridge, ate my chocolate bar, and drank some sprite.
Later that day, we all got together to eat pizza. Afterward I got to see the Jabbawockeez dance show. It was funny, interactive, and a wonderful show of dancing, skits, lights, audience participation, and cool visuals. I don’t really like audience participation in shows, but I wasn’t one of the people plucked from the crowd, so I enjoyed seeing other people being put on the spot. I wouldn’t have liked it much if I had to go up there. Still, the show was a unique experience and great fun.
The day after that, it was our last full day in Vegas. I slept in, took a bath, and wanted to rest up before travelling home the next day. I got a sandwich from Starbucks and a couple of things from a little snack shop, and hung out in the hotel room alone for a few hours when everyone else went out. I felt good, but also homesick and my stomach had been hurting a bit since the day before. I’m still not sure why that was. I did go out later that evening and walked along the strip. My parents met up with friends and I went over to the New York area to look around Hershey’s chocolate shop. I saw jumbo sized candy bars and jewelry and with silver Hershey kiss pendants. There was a bakery section with pastries, chocolate cannolis, and big cookies. There was also a chocolate Statue of Liberty sculpture.
Outside the shop, there was an outdoor section with little tables, chairs, and trees that resembled a New York City park, complete with a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge. A woman was there singing with her guitar. She sounded good and I like to support artists, so I put a dollar in her jar and listened as she sang a Carrie Underwood cover. It was nice standing in the shade and listening to the music with the little group of people who were listening along with me. Afterward, I walked over the bridge and went to Starbucks to get a nice, cool bottle of water. The singer had reminded us to stay hydrated, and I thought it was a good idea to follow her advice. It was a lot hotter than it had been a couple of days ago.
I went back to my hotel to charge my phone. Then I met up with my family a little later in the food court. I waited on line for twenty minutes at Tacos and Ritas and ordered cheese quesadillas with sour cream and guacamole. The wait was kind of long, but all the same, the food was good. I was tired, but considering it was our last night in Vegas, there was still one thing I wanted to see before we left—Paris.
My dad and I got on a Monorail and headed over to Bally’s where the Eiffel Tower was located. We walked past the casinos (and more cigarette smoke) and walked through the Paris section of the hotel. I looked around the shops and saw cute bags, brushes, jewelry, mini fashion designs, clothes, and post cards. Like at the Venetian, the ceiling was painted to look like the sky. I found a shop where things were reasonably priced and got a colorful pen and a notepad. In a restaurant, there were two guys playing a dual piano and singing. There were restaurants that sold gelato, coffee, macaroons and all kinds of yummy looking treats. The Venetian was prettier, but Paris seemed to have more food options. I would definitely want to try them when I go back, especially those macaroons.
Before heading outside, I stopped at the restroom which was also quite pretty. The walls and sinks were painted with flowers and the mirrors were round with golden frames. Afterward, we headed outside, and I realized we still hadn’t seen the Eiffel Tower. We did a bit of walking until we found it around the corner. It was so much cooler up close! I’ve never been to Paris, France, but this felt like the next best thing. It was beautiful and enchanting. The tower itself was impressive and huge. Back inside, one could take an elevator up to the tower to eat at the Eifeel Tower Restaurant. I didn’t eat there, but it has good reviews and I hear you need a reservation to get in. After taking more than enough pictures of the lovely tower, we went across the street to see the water show. It played every fifteen minutes, each time to a different song. We watched it once, and then a second time to get a better view of the show of water and lights. The second time around, the song was Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
The moon was shining with a handful of stars, but it was hot out. There were a few artists on the sidewalk selling caricatures. The palm trees swayed in an occasional breeze and there were lots of people out and about, and a lot of cars on the road. We went over to Caesars Palace to find the Coliseum, but I was disappointed to find that it was an entertainment venue, not a tourist attraction (like the Eiffel Tower and New York, New York had been).
I was super tired by the time I got back to the hotel. I washed up, finished packing, and got ready to sleep for two and half hours until I had to get ready to go to the airport. I couldn’t wait to get home to my comfortable bed, but I also didn’t want to leave. I had mixed feelings. I had done so much walking that day that my toe had started bleeding. I didn’t realize this until the morning when I looked at my toe, which I assumed had just gotten scraped a bit, and saw that it was covered in dried blood. It hurt a bit when I walked, so I kept on my sweat pants and wore slippers to the airport. (This was really convenient when I went through the security checkpoints).
I got some water and snacks and felt ready to go home. On the shuttle ride to the airport, I took a few last looks at all the hotels and palm trees. I said a silent goodbye to Vegas. I would miss it. I got out my boarding pass, found my seat on the plane, and took off for what would be an overall pleasant flight. There was a baby that cried on occasion, and I imagine it wasn’t so nice for the baby to ride on a plane. All the same, thank God for earbuds.
When we landed back in New York, I felt a little disappointed. I missed the palm trees. But I felt good when we got back to my hometown, and even better when I got back to my house. I missed my room. I missed watching my TV and using my laptop and being in my own space. And y’all, it goes without saying that I slept WELL last night. I slept in and it was wonderful. I did wake up a couple of times missing Vegas and the city lights. Still, I had a good night’s rest.
My foot is still healing and I’m tired and resting. That, and I wanted to talk to you guys. To anyone who might be reading this. I know this post is a bit long, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same. Now I’m back home and looking forward to new adventures, big and small.
I miss the West Coast. And the fact that I was there to miss it all is pretty wonderful. Vegas captured my heart. I also really prefer flying to other modes of transportation. (I hate riding in cars tbh). Now I’m home. And home is good.
So, yeah, that was my Vegas trip. I wanted to write it down. I wanted to have memories and I wanted to share it with you. Thank you, as always, for reading.