Tuesday 9 August 2011

Not even one Cornetto, though

"Call that a bathroom? Why, it's only three times bigger than mine at home - pah!" That's what happens when you've been paraded through the swankiest suites of five flash hotels in the space of two days. Luxury fatigue: it's a sad condition.

All that said, there's no not being blown away, stunned, astonished and simply gob-smacked by The Venetian. It's the size - 3,000 suites, 10,000 employees - and the success - takes more in a year than the entire Las Vegas strip combined - but mostly the concept: recreate Venice, canals and all, indoors. It's bizarre, but so well done that it's fascinating, and easy to see how people spend all day there indoors under its permanently blue sky, wandering the shops, taking a gondola ride, watching the street entertainment, eating in one of the 30 restaurants - and then, of course, popping downstairs for a flutter in the vast casino.

Of all that, I took the gondola ride with Luciano, a real Italian opera singer in a blue-striped tshirt and red sash who had to learn how to row when he came here but belted out a mean cliche - Volare, Santa Lucia - and when asked how this Venice differed from the real one said simply, "It's cleaner."

We also visited Ice World there: an exhibition of ice sculptures - Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Taj Mahal plus animals from dinosaurs to pandas and penguins - where I went down an ice slide (fast!) and was glad after half an hour to emerge from the -15 degrees, despite my big padded coat.

And then last night we were in the packed 15,000-seat theatre for a Cirque de Soleil show, Zaia, which was as spectacular as ever and left me feeling astonished and physically feeble.

There were other things today - cemetery with PO Box tombs as well as mini-mansions; old colonial houses; lotuses and white herons; and lots of delicious Portuguese food - but mainly it was all about the Venetian. Just as well really, as there was a tremendous thunderstorm this morning which dropped the temperature to a mere 25 degrees, but hoisted the humidity to 95%.

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