Travel around the world without leaving Las Vegas
By Renée LiButti
Like the all-you-can-eat extravaganza that is a Las Vegas buffet, the city itself is filled with a smorgasbord of cultural offerings. Wander the ever-busy Strip and its outlying areas and you’ll discover pubs, bistros and beer halls that will make you feel as though you’ve crossed the Atlantic. In addition to food and drink, there are boutiques that embody the wide world of fashion – and the same applies to venues for art, architecture and theater. So if you want to experience the charm of countries like France, England and Germany, stay right here. They’re all in Las Vegas!
Vive la France!
The sexy dancers of "Crazy Horse Paris" at MGM Grand have come to Las Vegas directly from Paris.
Eating, to the French, is about more than filling your stomach. It’s part of the cultural heritage. Prepared with pride as well as indulgent ingredients, French foods should be adored (that means no guilt, s’il vous plaît) and shared among family and friends.
Las Vegas has wholeheartedly embraced French cuisine. Visitors will chance upon a French eatery – whether it’s a bistro, brasserie, café or pâtisserie – in nearly half of the resorts on the Strip. Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace, Fleur at Mandalay Bay, the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at Paris Las Vegas and Andre’s Restaurant & Lounge at the Monte Carlo are just a small sampling of the places that serve first-rate French fare along with the seemingly elusive “joie de vivre.” In the Jean Philippe Pâtisserie at Bellagio, mouth-watering pastries are also turned into veritable works of art.
To not experience French food would be to not experience France. In fact, when the dancers in the MGM Grand’s “Crazy Horse Paris” suffer a hunger for home, they turn to food.
- 8:30 a.m. Start your City of Light morning off right – with a croissant. The staff of Bouchon Bakery at The Venetian specializes in “viennoiseries,” which are croissants and other puff pastries. Before you order, take a second to inhale the butter-scented air. C’est magnifique!
- 10 a.m. Las Vegas, like Paris, is a wonderful shopping city. Stroll through the Wynn and Encore Esplanades, which are blossoming with high-fashion French brands including Cartier, Chanel, Dior, Hermès and Louis Vuitton.
- 12:30 p.m. Drop by the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. The current display is “A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney.” Peruse the collection for Impressionist Claude Monet’s haystacks and modernist Marc Chagall’s whimsical wedding on a village street.
- 1:30 p.m. Let your hunger pangs lead you to Comme Ça at The Cosmopolitan. A simple French brasserie with modern flair, the menu offers everything from hors d’oeuvres to three-course meals featuring quiche, steak tartine and croque madame.
- 3 p.m. Bienvenue à Paris! The heart of French Las Vegas resides at the Paris Las Vegas resort. See all of its iconic sights. There are replicas of the Arc de Triomphe, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and La Fontaine des Mers at the Place de la Concorde. At sunset, get on a glass elevator in the half-scale reproduction of the Eiffel Tower. You’ll bask in spectacular views of the Strip and the Fountains of Bellagio.
- 7 p.m. Based on the French novel written by Gaston Leroux, “Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular” at The Venetian is a riveting tale of love and terror. The famed Paris Opera House comes to life each night in this unforgettable presentation, complete with pyrotechnics and a 2,100-pound crystal chandelier.
- 9 p.m. The crème de la crème of French dining in Las Vegas is Joël Robuchon Restaurant at the MGM Grand. Robuchon, the world’s most decorated chef, was named France’s “Chef of the Century” by the restaurant guide “Gault Millau.” He creates a new multi-course tasting menu for each season. It’s an expensive meal, but worth every dollar – as this is a foodie’s ultimate flight of fancy.
- 10:30 p.m. With a heavy stomach and light head, make your way to MGM Grand’s “Crazy Horse Paris,” where you’re sure to be seduced by the exquisite French dancers – n’est-ce pas? In a wonderfully cheeky way, the opening number, dubbed “God Save Our Bare Skin,” features the cast outfitted as members of the British Royal Guard.
“I go to different French bakeries here to feel more in touch with my French roots,” says Boa Angora, who hails from Dreux in Northern France.
“When I miss too much my country, I go buy some good bread and pastries at my favorite French bakery, some good cheeses and butter at the International Marketplace, and I savor my French platter in front of a French movie,” says Lady Pousse-Pousse, who was born in Normandy and raised in a small town called Créteil near Paris.
All 12 members of the troupe have come to Las Vegas directly from the Crazy Horse Cabaret in Paris. They trained in classical ballet and a variety of other dance forms at the best academies and conservatories in the country. Onstage, they embolden the female form. That’s another element unique to the French – a sensual as opposed to sexual expression of “l’art du nu,” the art of the nude. Each vignette, which combines intricate choreography and stunning light displays, is often likened to a “living picture.”
Although the dancers greatly miss the comforts of home – including things like the Mediterranean Sea and not needing a car – they have adjusted well to a new way of life in the Nevada desert.
“This city is very special, too,” says Vicky Vendome, who grew up in Montpellier in the south of France. “Here, you don’t have any stress. Life is so easy and just fun, with lots of performers and amazing shows. Las Vegas is so attractive that it’s a visual overload.”
God save the Queen
British singing sensation Matt Goss is one of the star attractions at Caesars Palace.
The British have colonized the Entertainment Capital of the World. A quick scan of the city’s marquees reads like a “Who’s Who” of the United Kingdom. Superstars Elton John and Rod Stewart are resident performers in The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Productions such as “LOVE,” Cirque du Soleil’s mesmerizing tribute to The Beatles at The Mirage, and “Tournament of Kings,” a jousting contest packed with medieval merriment at Excalibur, are both smashing successes.
Matt Goss is another of Vegas’ hot expatriate headliners. Every weekend the London-born musician captivates audiences in The Gossy Room at Cleopatra’s Barge inside Caesars Palace. Although Goss rose to fame in Great Britain during the late ’80s as part of the boy band Bros, he was almost unheard of on this side of the pond.
“The fact that I was unknown in Vegas and about to start a new show was quite a daunting prospect for me. So it’s been pretty amazing to connect with an American audience,” says Goss. His swing-style act, which features a blend of his original material and covers of Rat Pack-era hits, is going strong after nearly three years. “Now I feel a connection to the city as well as to all the other shows and entertainers, and actually to the community.”
- 8 a.m. Feeling knackered? Too bad! You jolly well better get up and going. The tavern-like Queen Victoria Pub in the Riviera (look for the red telephone box in front of the hotel) is the perfect spot to tuck into breakfast. Try the Full Monty, which comes with two eggs, toast, rashers, bubble and squeak, bangers and a grilled tomato.
- 9:30 a.m. It’s tee time. Less than 10 miles from the Strip is the Royal Links Golf Club. The holes have been painstakingly re-created to resemble the venerable ones found on 11 different British Open rotation courses. This means you get to play St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Carnoustie and more, all in one place. Plus, there’s a castle-like clubhouse where you’ll find Stymie’s Pub. Grab a pint and enjoy beer-battered fish and chips here after your round.
- 1 p.m. If Las Vegas were to designate a “high street,” it would be the Strip. That’s where you’ll discover all the mainstays of the U.K.’s retail scene. Burberry is in The Forum Shops at Caesars. French Connection (FCUK) and Ben Sherman are housed in the Miracle Mile Shops. And don’t forget Stella McCartney Las Vegas in Crystals at CityCenter or the Alexander McQueen Boutique at Wynn.
- 3:30 p.m. You don’t need an invitation to tea at the Mandarin Oriental, but reservations are recommended. Nip into the Tea Lounge on the 23rd floor, where a classic English afternoon tea is served daily. Sip on a selection of loose leaf teas while noshing on finger sandwiches and divine pastries – including a freshly baked scone with homemade jam and clotted cream.
- 5:30 p.m. Travel back in time to experience the music and spirit of The Beatles at Saxe Theater in the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. “BeatleShow” offers spot-on vocals and a rollicking set that’s sure to invoke scenes of hysteria. Cheer and sing along to classics like “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Eight Days a Week.” [Alternatively, if you’d prefer going to a Beatles-themed show a little later in the evening, Cirque du Soleil’s “LOVE” at The Mirage plays at 7 p.m. It features original recordings of the band’s music paired with the avant-garde troupe’s signature acrobatics, dancing and giant props. The special effects are also remarkable. What more can be said? It’s brilliant!]
- 7:30 p.m. The Crown & Anchor, located just east of the Strip, is Las Vegas’ best known British pub. It’s open 24 hours, so you can you catch live broadcasts of Premier League “football” games along with the odd cricket and rugby match. The menu is laden with traditional favorites from pies and sausage rolls to a ploughman’s platter, and there are more than 30 imported beers on tap.
- 9:30 p.m. Put on your swankiest clothes and set off for Caesars Palace to listen to the smooth voice of Matt Goss. Hang around later and get your groove on. The Gossy Room turns into a nightclub, so the party continues long after the show ends.
Although Goss loves performing in Las Vegas, he misses being able to grab a quick pint in the odd pub back home. He also pines for the more “permanent” architecture that exists overseas.
“When Vegas got rid of the Sands hotel, it was tough for me because that was the mecca of the Rat Pack and ’50s chic. I wish they’d have just remodeled it and built around it, instead of destroying it,” says Goss. “[In England there are] buildings that have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s very humbling to walk past those knowing they’ve been there way before you, and will be there long after you.”
Las Vegas, however, is a city known for reinvention and Goss embraces that, as he himself is a star reborn. For all their differences, the two countries are remarkably similar. Goss admits he has a great deal of respect for the national pride that Americans show. Of course, wherever he goes, he carries the spirit of his homeland.
“I feel proud to be living here and working here,” says Goss, “and I also feel proud of my own country.”
Ich bin ein Berliner
German magician Jan Rouven performs death-defying stunts in "Illusions" at the Clarion.
In October, everyone is German. Oktoberfest in Munich is the mother of all drinking festivals – it’s when Germany is awash with beer. And Las Vegas is just the city to get on board for the world’s largest kegger. Although Oktoberfest in Germany officially ended Oct. 3, the partying continues here through the end of the month.
“I’ve never made it to Oktoberest in Munich, which is strange, but I was always working,” recalls Jan Rouven, the first German magician to headline Las Vegas since Siegfried & Roy. He’s been invited to do a ceremonial keg tap on Oct. 21 as part of the celebration at Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas, a replica of his homeland’s most famous beer hall. “How great is that? I never made it before, but now that I am in Vegas I can go.”
Rouven was born in Frechen, near Cologne in the middle of Germany, and he grew up in the city of Kerpen. He recalls a village-like setting – old houses and narrow, winding streets – as well as 50 different kinds of bread and “little sweet cafés,” where you could sit outside in the evening after work.
- 8 a.m. Achtung baby! It’s time to rise and shine – and find a car. You’ll need to drive a good distance to get to the German Bread Bakery, which is located in Summerlin. Breads, rolls and pastries are made by hand according to old German recipes. Try a fresh-from-the-oven kaesetasche (a cheese Danish) or apfelstrudel (apple strudel).
- 10 a.m. Return to the Strip and pay homage to two of Germany’s greatest exports: Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn. A statue of their heads is nestled in the greenery along the sidewalk between The Mirage and Treasure Island. Give it a little rub for luck. Then, tour Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. The legendary illusionists are now revered as much for their efforts protecting the planet’s endangered animals as they were for their eye-popping stage spectacles.
- Noon No kitsch here! Since you won’t have much time for shopping, make tracks for The Forum Shops at Caesars. It houses two of the world’s best-known German fashion brands: Hugo Boss and Escada.
- 1:30 p.m. Ready for a spot of lunch? It’s not set in an alpine village, but Cafe Heidelberg, just a few blocks east of the Strip, is an enchanting German market and restaurant with a history that spans 35 years. Standouts on the lunch menu include Bavarian potato soup, various sausage combinations and schnitzels.
- 3 p.m. Germans appreciate unique architecture. Instead of a long city tour, spend a few hours surveying the urban CityCenter complex. German-American superstar architect Helmut Jahn designed Veer Towers. Leaning five degrees in opposite directions, the two identical 37-story high-rises are strikingly modern. Also, be sure to call on The Cosmopolitan, which is owned by Deustche Bank. A drink in its elegant Chandelier Bar is not to be missed.
- 7 p.m. Prepare to be stupefied during Jan Rouven’s show “Illusions” at the Clarion. A wunderkind of sorts, he performs a series of complicated stunts, like an underwater escape, at a pace that will take your breath away.
- 9 p.m. A fitting way to end the night is at Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas, the faithful reproduction of the centuries-old beer hall in Munich. With Oktoberfest still in full gear, you can partake in traditional beer stein holding contests, Jägermeister spankings and live Bavarian-style music. Plus, indulge yourself with the city’s best pretzels and sauerbraten, a German pot roast.
NOTE: For men only – if you’re curious, at Main Street Station in downtown Las Vegas, you’ll find the urinals in one of the men’s restrooms are mounted on a piece of the Berlin Wall.
Rouven moved here two years ago following a pair of successful engagements at Fremont Street Experience in the annual Oktober Fright Fest. Last July, his show, “Illusions,” opened at the Fame Theater inside the Clarion, which is situated just outside the heart of the Strip.
“No feathers, no rhinestones, no top hat. It’s very MTV-ish,” says Rouven of his show’s edgy atmosphere. “That’s what people like. There are death-defying stunts, contemporary music, a young cast – everything is up-to-date. It’s Vegas-style.”
Magic is highly regarded in Germany. Rouven credits Siegfried & Roy with creating the magic boom there.
“They became world stars in Vegas and they are from Germany,” says Rouven of the legendary performers. Siegfried even came to see Rouven’s show shortly after it opened. “He sent a big flower bouquet with champagne. There is a German community in Las Vegas, and I think maybe he’s a little bit proud of me now.”
Few places have the vibrant appeal and diversity found in Las Vegas. These countless cultural attractions certainly cement the city’s role as the Entertainment Capital of the World.