I have been to Venice three times – 2001, 2002 and 2003. On that last occasion, I got engaged to my wife. I think back then I had hoped to go to Venice once a year, but in 2004 I didnt make it – so we went instead to the Venetian, Las Vegas, on the night after our wedding. I love the Venetian – as a ‘Venetophile’ (I just created that word, but I bet it already exists) I was always absolutely amazed at the incredible level of detail the designers went to to produce this amazing tribute to La Serenissima. It’s utterly unbelievable – this is not some disney-like mockery, this is some serious, serious cash.
We went there again recently on our Vegas weekend, and I still absolutely love it. I had to sketch there. I sat outside and drew the Rialto bridge – an improvement on the original, as it has a moving walkway for those who simply cannot bear the thought of using their feet for walking – beside the canal while gondoliers sang below the bridges. The sketch on the left is a detail of the Doge’s Palace, which provides the main entrance to the casino, complete with a Bridge of Sighs (which I didn’t draw, sigh).
Inside, there is an immensely grand entranceway complete with richly decorated painted ceiling. We’ve stayed in the hotel suites and they are wonderful. We had dinner at Canaletto in St Mark’s Square (which unlike the reall Piazza San Marco was largely pigeon-free, except for one which had found its way up from the blackjack tables and was scrounging breadcrumbs). The main attraction though are the Grande Canal Shops (it might be ‘Shoppes’ – Vegas apparently believes that spelling adds authenticity…), with the Canal running through it. There’s a sketch of it below. As with most Vegas hotel shopping, the boutiques are high-end and a little out of my spending range. This is however the home to that shop from that Michael Jackson / Martin Bashir program, Regis Galerie. You know, the one with all the gaudy nonsense, where he was wandering about the store pointing at this painting or that ugly sculpture, saying “woohoo! woohoo! do i have that one? I’ll take that one, yeah, and that one. Ohh, I saw a ghost, I’m scared now, woohoo…” You do see a lot more Jackos in Vegas now, by the way. They are catching up with the Elvises.
The Venetian isn’t Venice itself, of course not. Venice is unique. But for sheer effort and faithfulness of detail, it’s quite a remarkable place.