Midnight in… Paris?
My eyes may have burned from the resident cloud of cigarette smoke, but I could still see. Was this a colossal joke? Goofy replicas and caricatures of iconic French art and architecture clumsily strewn around a… a… casino? In the distance, and over the glittery chimes of slot machines, a cocktail waitress drawled, “Bonjour y’all! Draaanks? Draaanks?” I glanced over at Josh, who proudly stood- shoulders out, head raised- and smiled like he just presented me with the Klopman Diamond. “Don’t you love it?” he asked. “It’s just like Paris!” He knew it wasn’t. I slowly turned to face him. With my mouth agape and doing little to conceal the bewilderment, I managed to sputter, “This. Is. NOT. Paris.”
Admittedly, that first introduction to the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas eight years ago was unfairly destined for failure. For one, a mere three years passed since I left my wonderful, yet abbreviated, Parisian life, which I enjoyed greatly. I was homesick for it. Despite, Josh’s honorable efforts to engage my interests and make me feel better- you know, like a great significant other would naturally do- I initially rejected Vegas’ attempt to transport me to Paris. This imposter was an insult.
Fast forward. A few months ago, when Josh stumbled onto a great bargain at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, we both snickered, recalling my snobbish meltdown years ago. This time around, I happily accepted his proposal for an impromptu stay there and the chance to, with a slightly more rational mind, explore the unfiltered American perspective of Paris. The opportunity sounded like the perfect research project for a Francophile such as yours truly.
Have you ever seen Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris? It’s one of my favorites, and upon request, I could recite the film in its entirety. The movie follows a writer named, Gil (Owen Wilson), and his penchant for nostalgic thinking and his unrelenting desire to live in Paris during the Jazz Age. Throughout the film, Gil believes he is able to time travel to Paris in the 1920s and mingle with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Pablo Picasso. Shenanigans and revelations ensue. That was my feeling revisiting Vegas’ version of Paris last week for vacation. If it weren’t for the slot machines to remind me, I might have believed that I too climbed into a Peugeot and traveled to a wacky variation La Belle Époque (France’s golden era of the early twentieth century) to debate philosophical politics with Emile Zola and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec at the local cabaret.
The Paris that Vegas wants us to experience mainly personifies the era during which the Moulin Rouge was at its apex of notoriety. Cancan dancers aside, that type of festive façade makes sense for a setting like Vegas, which prides itself as being the archetype of American party culture. Why would its establishments be anything less entertaining or provocative? This place is not the Paris I know, nor should it be. It’s Paris through the looking glass. The glaring truth I ignored years ago, was that Vegas-Paris is simply meant to be fun, and that’s it.
Did I enjoy staying there? If you injected me with truth serum, I would tell you that I actually didn’t mind Vegas-Paris at all. In fact, it was fun. I did enjoy it. Sure, some aspects prompted a few private eye rolls, but we’ll talk about that later. For every cliché, there were nice touches to make the experience feel slightly more authentic.
The accommodations and amenities are fair: great location on the strip, comfy beds, clean bathrooms, friendly/helpful staff, and decent food options that aren’t strictly French, but do align with the overall ‘Parisian’ theme. Yet, compared to the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, and Planet Hollywood, which all offer high-end retail, the shopping at Vegas-Paris is somewhat pitiful. Most of the stores are filled with bedazzled Eiffel Tower replicas or “Pardon My French” signs. You’ll find yourself in a tchotchke metropolis. If you like that, then you are in the right place! I did find an adorable mug that I wanted but sadly missed the chance to buy it. It’s the knickknack that got away. C’est la vie! Additionally, the pool is underwhelming and cramped. For those who want their time in Vegas to be kid-free, this is a friendlier place for families, so take note. Most of my pool time was spent dodging small feet to the head. Kids are only so cute until their toe is in my eye.
If you first experience Paris through the Vegas lens, perhaps you’ll be disappointed that the city isn’t actually a giant cabaret. If anything, the souvenirs available in the actual city are vastly better. This I guarantee. Save your pennies and buy an Eiffel Tower replica while you are near the actual landmark. Vegas-Paris will surely entertain the average Francophile, but that’s about it. I doubt it’ll evoke any sort of nostalgia. I felt little connection between Vegas-Paris and the city of lights itself. I mainly appreciated the copious Eiffel Tower reproductions and the enchanting sound of Josephine Baker singing in the distance. That is a subtly pleasant touch you won’t notice in the main casino, but if you sneak away towards the conference center, I guarantee your ears will be pleased. At any rate, the next time I deeply crave a Parisian experience, I’ll go to the actual city. I doubt Vegas will mind; it will rendezvous with my money again soon enough.
À la prochaine!
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