Several friends and I were planning a late November trip to Las Vegas for some months. Life, lack of time and lack of cash slowly whittled the group down to just me. "So what," says I, "I'll just go by myself. There's lots to do and I can keep my own schedule." My birthday being November 25th, I just made it a present to myself. The trip to Vegas started and ended the same way, with a quick and relatively pleasant trip through customs. No nude-o-scope, no enhanced pat-downs, just a wave through the metal detectors followed by quick plane rides between Calgary and Vegas. Getting to and from the resort was equally easy. THE ROOM I stayed in the West Wing of the MGM Grand. These rooms catch a lot of flack for being small, but for me there were just right. My room needs are small and a bed, a desk, WiFi and a bathroom are all that is required. The bathroom consists of distinct stalls for the shower and toilet separated from each other and the sink/vanity/front door with frosted glass. This is fine if you're by yourself, or if you're one of those weird couples for whom bathroom privacy has long vanished; I wouldn't recommend this room otherwise. A quick inspection revealed no bed bugs. Given that it's been a hot topic here (and I was also warned to do this by one of my seatmates on the plane) I thought I'd mention it. I don't think the TV got turned on once. The MGM Grand has "free" (via the resort fee) WiFi, but it was what I'd have paid for WiFi anyway, so I didn't consider the fee an affront. Plus I got a "free" drink out of it. The only downside is that the hallway from the central elevators to the West Wing elevators is about 200-250 yards long and my room was smack dab between them. I got a lot of exercise this weekend. FOOD I'm not a buffet sort of guy. The thought of spending an hour in a line up for all-you-can-eat does not appeal to me. I like specialty restaurants. Lunch on Thursday was at Manadalay Place's Burger Bar, which keeps being rated as Las Vegas' best burger joint. My Kobe beef burger was very very good, better (slightly) than the one I had at Le Burger Brasserie my previous trip. The rest of the meal (onion rings and a milk shake) were good, but not spectacular. The service was meh. Breakfast Friday was at Paris Las Vegas' La Creperie. I grew to love these on a previous trip when I stayed at PLV and wanted another taste. They're good, but the fact that it was so crowded I couldn't find a place to sit down soured the experience somewhat. Friday night I wanted something small but high end so I ended up going to L'Atelier de JoÃ«l Robuchon, which promised a $49 prix fixe meal in under 15 minutes (I was in a rush because I was going to the Roger Waters concert). It was damned tasty, which is a good thing for a one-star Michelin restaurant. You get all three courses at once and the portions are small. This is what I wanted though, so I wasn't worried. I ended up sitting next to some high roller at the bar who knew everyone on the staff by name (and they knew him), which was a little surreal. Saturday afternoon I woke up at the crack of noon and wandered over to The Miracle Mile to try the Earl of Sandwich's holiday turkey sandwich everyone has been raving about. $7 bought me the single most delicious fast food sandwich I've ever had. Seriously, I damn near went back for another on Sunday. Saturday night I went to Onda Ristorante at the Mirage for their $40 Prix Fixe menu. Now after the small portions of Friday's Prix Fixe menu at L'Atelier, I was expecting less. Instead I got much much more. The appetizer (Braised Seafood Sausage) was super rich, making it very filling. When the main course (Seared Monkfish & Maine Lobster) arrived, I had a tough time finishing it, it was so good and so much richer than the appy. I think I was as close to having a heart attack as I've ever been in my life, it was that good. When the chocolate cheesecake showed up, I literally could not have more than a single bite of it. I ended up taking it to go. Note that while this is advertised on their website, it's not pushed at the restaurant itself - you need to ask the server. To their credit, I didn't sense any difference between my service and that of others paying much much more. It was all high-end and very professional. Sunday morning for breakfast I had my leftover cheesecake. Cheesecake for breakfast? In my defense calories in Vegas stay in Vegas. A late lunch before my flight out was at at Wolfgang Puck's Bar and Grill And I had hand-cut potato chips with truffle sauce and blue cheese. That was followed by a delicious club sandwich. Tasty, but the memory of yesterday's holiday sandwich lingered like an old lover. I fear the club sandwich just couldn't compare. The restaurant is basically pub-fare, but with the quality turned up several notches. DAYTIME ATTRACTIONS MGM/Mirage has a promo where you pay $54 and get to see three of their attractions. I picked Bodies, Titanic and The CSI Experience. My first exhibit was Bodies, which is just the thing if you want to walk away feeling death's icy grip around your mortality. We are so very very fragile. The have a large container near the lung exhibit for smokers to throw away their cigarettes. The good news - it's not staged, all the cigarette packs are from real viewers, and they get plenty. The bad news: They have to keep it from getting more than half full, lest people steal cigarettes from it. The ugly news: People with hands and arms small enough to fit. Bodies is very informative, but don't go if you're squeamish. After a half hour rest in the food fair, I proceeded to Titanic. I've seen most of these artifacts before (I think most were at the 2001 Seattle exhibit), but it was still moving. The Luxor, having a ten-year contract, was able to do a fantastic job replicating parts of the ship that the roving version cannot. It was well done and moving. But then, I'm pre-disposed to enjoying anything related to Titanic. The CSI Experience describes, in a fairly dumbed-down way, how a real CSI lab works. There's video cameos with several of the original CSI cast (and it was filmed awhile ago - William "Gil Grissom" Petersen's hair hasn't gone gray yet). They walk you through one of three cases (mine was a waitress/aspiring actress who was found run over in an alley). It even follows a typical TV twist ending (she was dead long before the car ran her over). Naturally I solved the case. I sometimes think I missed my calling - If the evidence of TV police procedurals can be believed, I'd have been a really good detective or forensic scientist. Specifically the quirky one that drives their more straight-laced partner nuts. NIGHTTIME ATTRACTIONS Thursday night I saw Carrot Top . I got really good seats - middle-right, row D. Coincidentally, this was the side of the stage that CT stood for the majority of the performance. I know it's fashionable to rag on Carrot Top, but here's the thing - I've seen him before and liked him. This show started off with a female comic who has the talent to go far, but isn't there yet. Ten minutes of her warmed the crowd up for Carrot Top, who came out and did his act. Lots of weird props, lots of audio and visual effects, all handled with split-second timing. The man is funny, and his running crew knows their stuff. If you've got something against prop-comedy (i.e. visual puns), don't bother. Anyone else, put away your pre-conceived ideas and check him out. Friday Night I saw Roger Waters' The Wall Live at the MGM Grand Arena. I didn't think you could hide a 15K seat arena inside a hotel, but they managed it. Now I didn't have tickets for this and searches online in the weeks leading up to the concert were showing ridiculous prices. I figured I'd just wait until the last minute and try my luck at the box office. This seemed to be an odd idea to some people because there were a lot of scalpers working the crowd and people were using them. The scalpers had an odd technique, whereby they'd mumble that they had tickets so that only people very close could hear. Some held cell phones to their ear so that it appeared they were using them to people out of ear-shot. Security was out in full force, playing cat-and-mouse with the scalpers. I walked past all of them and got into the very short line at the Grand Arena ticket counter. Two minutes later I had my choice of seats in any of the three "classes". Being cheap I got some nose-bleeds (section 204 for those familiar with the venue) tickets for the regular price. The bad news was that I ended up sitting next to a guy even bigger and fatter than I am, so neither of us was very comfortable - Imagine pro wrestlers past their prime sitting next to each other in the coach section of an airplane. The concert? Awesome. They literally built a wall during the first part and used it to project images. And the images were very precisely computer controlled. Every time a brick was added, the image appeared, but not before it was set into place. In addition, the images did not appear on anything in front of the them - the performers and animatronics did not have images on them! The music was The Wall, in its entirety, played by virtuoso rock musicians bringing their A-game. 'nuff said. I had a great time. Saturday night I went to see Love, Cirque du Soleil's tribute to the Beatles. The Love theatre's seats completely surround the stage, which has multiple platforms that can be raised and lowered. The show started slow and then bursts into full on Cirque/Beatles glory and didn't let up for ninety minutes. I didn't think it was possible to beat KÃ (which I saw last February) or the Roger Waters concert, but it did. I will see this show multiple times, because I have every intention of returning to Las Vegas again, and I will drag any companion to see it, I want to share it so much. GAMBLING I generally play roulette or the slots. I'm under no illusion about my "skill" as a gambler, so these purely random games are my thing. For the money and time spent though, I think I'll stick with roulette and avoid the slots next time. It helps that I mostly won at roulette this weekend and mostly lost at the slots. I probably staked $800 over the weekend ($200/day) and walked away with $1000. Sure it's low roller territory for some of you, but for me it was a fun couple of hours filled with mild excitement, free drinks and the company of friendly strangers. One night I even found a non-smoking pit at the MGM Grand (which given the casino is one big area, is a little like being in the non-peeing end of the swimming pool. Still, every little bit helps). I walked away from the casino a winner, and that makes me want to come back again. ANALYSIS I think I'd like to go with someone next time. I'm starting to become an old hand at this and playing tour guide is something that appeals to me. It sucks that when my friends and I started planning this six months ago we has eight potential travelers. Assorted forthcoming marriages, and the lack of time and money that entails made them all drop out one by one (or rather, two by two). I'm a little sad that the vacation is over, but three nights is really the right amount of time for a trip from Calgary. Especially if you're by yourself. I probably could have done 15% more if I hadn't been sick (I had a head cold the whole time I was there). Thanks heavens for Dayquil, which allowed me to function. I liked the MGM Grand a lot (which is surprising since they kind of screwed my friends and I over on a previous trip - that's a story for some other time though), they run a tight and professional operation. I'm torn between making it my go-to resort, or if I should keep trying other venues to see if there are any better ones out there. I rather liked the time I spent in the Luxor, but I fear I exhausted all of it's attractions. While I enjoyed Carrot Top, he's not someone I'm going to see twice. Possibly the fact that I gambled enough to get onto M-Club's radar might get me some offers that will make the decision for me. I might even have enough points now for a blanket and directions to one of the nicer back-alley heating vents! Next time more roulette and less slots, a room closer to an elevator, and at least one companion to goof around with. Hopefully before my 44th birthday.