My husband and I spent the last week in Las Vegas. It was fun to get away with friends, to take a break from life and worry, and to enjoy being together in a new place. We’d heard lots about Las Vegas from friends who’d gone, so we had some idea of what to expect. But not much. Really, we felt like four hillbillies venturing out of, well, the hills, as we navigated airports and security and customs.

Travelling can be a pretty intimidating process these days. I mean, you are standing in a line, shoeless and beltless and purseless … expecting, I don’t know, lice powder for your hair or something.

I haven’t travelled in a while.

And then, Vegas. Land of slot machines and naked women, where everywhere lingers the smell of cigarette and cigar smoke combined with the heavily flowered scent of carpet cleaner. Where people walk down the street with huge drinks in their hands. Where hustlers wave pictures of naked women for sale, wave them right in front of your face as you are walking down the street, and where people actually take them, the pictures, and put them in their back pockets. And where there is no choice but to step on all those naked women who had been dropped on the sidewalk, to walk on a carpet of women dropped like trash.

And where billboard vehicles advertise more sex, more entertainment. Where everywhere, someone has a hand stretched out. Where drunks sleep it off in elevators and on stairs and in corners. Where people will do anything, wear anything, say anything, just to get you to stop and look and, hopefully, pay.

This is the Vegas that slapped me in the face. This is the Vegas I didn’t like.

But there were things that I loved. I loved spending time with my friend Debbie at the discount mall the first day, figuring out how to navigate public transit, and listening to our fellow passengers talk about what they’d seen and what they wanted to see.

I loved the Venetian hotel for its quieter atmosphere, and I loved the hand blown glass flowers on the ceiling of the lobby of the Bellagio. I loved watching the Bellagio fountains from the window of our hotel room.

I loved sharing homemade nachos with my husband in the century old El Torvo Hotel at the Grand Canyon, and I loved buying my Kokopelli earings there, the ones Lonnie and Lyndon made fun of. And I loved this sign, above the toilets in a Grand Canyon hotel. I mean, really? Is this a problem there?

I loved watching the zip line riders at Freemont Street, especially the seventy-five-ish-year-old woman who rode with her daughter and granddaughter, and I loved the supper buffet at the Golden Nugget. And I loved sharing it all, the weird and the wonderful, with our friends.

I loved my last day in Vegas. Lyndon and I spent the day walking and seeing things we wanted to see but hadn’t yet had the time for. We walked the strip on last time, leaving early in the morning before the hustlers and the crowds. We ate bacon and eggs at Johnny Rockets in the food court of the Venetian hotel. We wandered through the Bellagio one last time, looking for the art gallery with the Monet exhibit.

Oh my, the Monet exhibit. That was a treasure. I wandered through the three small rooms, with the self-guided tour phone pressed to my ear, and I almost cried at the beauty and the history that surrounded me. And my sweet husband walked over and he held my hand for a minute and he didn’t rush me, because he knew what it meant.

And we wandered all the way to the other end of the street, past the M&M store and the Coca Cola store, and we ended up in the Rainforest Cafe at the MGM Grand for lunch, where we shared an Ultimate Chocolate half-size desert that was enough to feed us and our three boys.

And we had one last afternoon nap in our room on the ninth floor of the Flamingo hotel, and we spent one last evening on the strip. We watched the volcano erupt in front of the Mirage, and we caught the last half of the pirate show at Treasure Island, and it was a beautiful, warm night. And we watched the gondolas one last time at the Venetian, and spent a happy hour in the Peter Lik Gallery, gazing in wonder at his amazing photography.

But when it was time to come home, we were ready to come home. We’d seen and experienced and laughed and wondered. Made memories. Shared fun and escaped life for a while.

But coming home. That is always good.