OK, so Vegas is totally mad. You kind of know it in advance, but it's still much madder than you can imagine! I mean, it's in the middle of a desert - something you only appreciate when you fly there...
We took a taxi from the airport and the driver immediately noticed our 'foreign' accents. Turns out he was from Georgia (Russia - in America and especially in Las Vegas, you have to qualify every location you mention) and had worked in London for years before winning a green card in the lottery - to come to Vegas - how ironic is that! He was amazed to hear we were coming to a Library convention - double checked I had the right place in fact.
As we drove, he pointed out all the big hotels and what to see there and I jokingly asked where were all the bookshops. With a concerned straight face he suggested that they were "probably off the Strip somewhere." "But," he continued, "I'll tell you something crazy... I once had a lady get in my cab and ask me to take her to the library - can you imagine that?" I felt I could actually, though I was tickled that a for a Vegas cab driver (who must see some stuff) this was crazy! Welcome to Vegas!!
When you arrive at any Vegas hotel, you have to walk through banks of slot machines just to get to the Reception desk. Again, you kind of know this, but nothing prepares you for it. Most hotels have a VAST range of machines and tables - ours had a sports betting area too.
But there were bargains to be had in this wonderland...
Now, did I mention the heat? Happily you could walk from enormous hotel to enormous hotel without ever venturing outdoors. We only went out to cross the Strip (having 'done' one side) and even then I had to wait inside until the lights went green!
The hotels were amazing. There were flamingos in the Flamingo (duh); dolphins and Siberian tigers in the Mirage; a Forum and Trevi fountain in Caesar's Palace (honestly, this was amazing - lit and air-conditioned as if it were evening - which was quite confusing for your body at 10.00 in the morning!) and gardens in the Bellagio (actually they were great and I was sorry I'd not organised to have a Lola event there to celebrate the imminent publication of Lola Plants a Garden).
I was feeling well just a bit superior when I came to the Cosmopolitan's Chandelier Lounge
All that said, it was a relief when (my 'touristy' day over) I began to meet with librarians and other booky friends. Most were as thrown by the whole place as I was. One fabulous woman I met at dinner said she didn't try to make any sense of Vegas, she just used it to help imagine what Alice must have felt like when she dropped down the rabbit hole into a surreal other world! It's nice to know your tribe!