Travel abroad without a passport in Sin City

Complete with an Eiffel Tower and air conditioning

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— This was going to be the year that I finally got my chance to travel abroad.

Now, world events have conspired to scuttle my ship once again. Don't get me wrong -- I'm pretty well traveled.

This was going to be the year that I finally got my chance to travel abroad.

I've been to Hawaii, a few places in Mexico and to Tonawanda, N.Y.

Of the three, Tonawanda is most like a foreign country.

I was thinking of visiting Tuscany (not Tuscany, New York) this summer, but we've decided it's too close to Iraq for comfort. And it's hard to know these days, how Europeans would accept us.

That and the fact that Osama is still out there somewhere, and they've got SARS in Asia. It looks like we'll be staying on this side of the pond again in 2003.

Luckily, I've discovered that it's possible to visit several different foreign countries within an easy 12-hour drive of Steamboat. They've got Paris, Venice and Cairo right there in Las Vegas.

They are all within a few blocks of each other on the Strip, and you don't have to put up with many foreigners in order to visit (just the ones who crowd into the hotel elevators with you).

Not only that, but they have much better swimming pools than almost any place in Europe. And name me a foreign country that has all-you-can-eat buffets.

I dare ya.

We stayed at the Luxor, which is the fourth largest hotel in the world and shaped like one of the pyramids of Egypt, only with a mega laser coming out of the top which can be seen from as far away as Los Angeles and outer space.

The Luxor has a complete reproduction of an Egyptian museum containing all the treasures of King Tut's tomb, all lovingly re-crafted out of the finest American fiberglass by skilled Egyptologists.

I fully intended to visit the museum while we were there, but we only had three nights, and the museum (like everything in Vegas) was on the far side of the casino. Every time I set out to visit old funky Tut, I found myself sitting at a slot machine trying to win a BMW coupe while knocking back a few cold and complimentary Nefertiti Lagers.

Maybe next visit.

Truth be told, next time I head for Sin City I'm going to stay at the City of Light -- make that Paris, Las Vegas Mon-soor.

This is one classy place with a third size Arc de Triomphe (The names and dates of Napoleon's victories are inscribed on the monument so you can get an appreciation for French history), a half-scale Eiffel Tower and plenty of fountains with spouting fish.

True, they don't have the Mona Lisa at Paris, Las Vegas, but they do have a replica of the facade of the Louvre on the far side of the casino.

All this, and no snooty Parisians to say "Je ne parle pas Anglais, vous ete un cochon Americain. Pah!"

At Paris, Las Vegas, they've got an indoor French village with air conditioning and characters dressed in striped shirts and berets that make it seem just like the real thing. There is a singing bread vendor who rides his tricycle down the lane, his side baskets stuffed with crusty loaves. And another faux Parisian strolls along playing tunes on his little accordion.

Now why would I spend 15 hours in a cramped airplane eating peanuts, to have the same experience?

We didn't have enough time to visit the Venetian Resort on this trip to Vegas, but I'm told it has canals and gondolas just like Venice, Italy, with one notable exception.

At the Venetian, the water in the canals is chlorinated and not stinky like the real thing. This sounds like a big plus to me.

We could be going back to Vegas as soon as June 1 when the noted French standup comedian Jeff Foxworthy is scheduled to play Paris, Las Vegas (tickets are $75).

You know Foxworthy, he's the one with all the Parisian jokes.

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you can order a bottle of Pouilly Fuisse without giggling, if your family pet is truffle-sniffing pig who wears a beret, and if you shop Super Target for specials on escargot, you might be a Parisian."

I'm so excited, I'm brushing up on my conversational French.

"Pardonnez mois, monsieur. Avez vous le Gray Poupon?"

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