Set up: My best friend from university (Linda) and went to Vegas to celebrate 25 years of friendship (as of last September). We are both marriage and individual counselors (her full time, me part time but with a full time job in Human Resources). We both like slots, Scrabble and good music.

The trip started off a little rocky, when upon opening my front door at 4:30 am (up and showered, ready for the trip to the airport for a 6 am flight) I found a beat up and bedraggled kitty - barely able to limp in the door. I made sure DH saw the wounds and knew where the emergency vet was. He graciously drove me to the airport and then headed back to attend to the scrapper while I had an uneventful, and short flight to Montreal. Linda's airport shuttle from Kitchener and flight from Toronto were on time so we was able to meet me an hour before our 11 am flight to Vegas, Note to anyone traveling out of Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport - bring a book - there is nothing to do.

Flight left on time-ish, and had in seat entertainment units so we were very happy. We managed on Scrabble game en-route (a continuation of a series of games lasting over 25 years). A short nap and we were in Vegas - whoo hoo. Baggage claim in T2 was VERY quick, taxi line up went fast and we were enroute to the Imperial Palace. Took the tunnel - spent too much - will never take the word of a taxi driver over Trip Advisor again.

The line up to check in the hotel was long, but the folks in line were friendly and there was lots going on to keep us amused till we got our room keys. We were in 6150 - it overlooked the pool and was in what must be the quietest part of the hotel. We rarely saw any other guests and heard nothing in our room. The room was 'deluxe' - meaning it had queen vs. double beds and a beige decore. It was clean, no plumbing issues and it had a lot of hangers - important for 2 women. Our only issue during our 5 night stay was housekeeping missed us on the Tuesday. Quick note re. elevators - we had no issues. We used the bank of elevators that was nearest our room, which had to be accessed in a very convoluted manner from the first floor by going by the parking entrance and then down a corridor of hotel rooms - they were fast going both directions and usually you were the only person on there.

Back to day 1: We dumped our stuff off and ran to the casino - first beers, first cigs and first slots - and first losses for me. The big wheel at the IP did not like me one little bit, and Elvis refused to sing a note. We trucked around the casino for a couple of hours and decided to head to Freemont for the evening. We caught the Deuce and wound up on the top deck in two mysteriously empty seats. Turns out the lady behind us had a lot to say to someone only she could see. She was very upset at some perceived racial discrimination and proceeded to cuss out whoever she was speaking to for the whole trip. She was no threat to us, and made us both feel very grateful that we weren't cursed with any disorders that made us so angry and frustrated.

We had a great dinner at Grotto at the Golden Nugget, $75 for two salads, two pasta dinners and two glasses of wine. The pasta was lovely, service was very attentive and the view of the pool area made us feel like we were dining 'al fresco'. We finished up with coffee, then gambled our way down the street. The slots were kind and we both pretty much broke even (which equals a win for me ļ). The Plaza was a pleasant surprise, with their excellent lounge band and good drink service. We hopped back on the bus at 1:45 and were in bed by 2:30 - a record 24 hours of straight excitement for us! Day two to follow.

Day 2 - Must Order that Tracking Collar

Day 2 started off way too early - 5:30 am Vegas time my body decided it was time to get the show on the road. Fortunately my mind knew better - so when sleep continued to elude me I got up and took one prescription back pain pill, two non prescription and lots of water. Next thing I know its almost 10 am and Linda is cheerfully waking me up to get to breakfast! She went downstairs for a coffee while I showered up and headed out. Neither of us are 'fussy' so within 20 minutes we were en-route to Harrah's for the breakfast buffet with our coupons from the IP slot club. It is worthwhile asking for the book, even if you are already a slot member - even though they might hem and haw about giving it to you at first. Not sure why they make a fuss - any freebies build customer loyalty!

Breakfast was excellent. The buffet was changing over to lunch slowly so there was a lot of food. Our server was great, even getting us bottles of water to take out with us, and we sat next to a hockey fan from Anaheim who was equally excited to meet someone who cared that the Stanley Cup Playoffs were on. The most impressive part of the buffet was the desert spread. The rest was very good including the low cholesterol options available - but those deserts rocked! Note that if you go earlier you get a huge array of donuts - later you get the luncheon deserts set out but they will cut you a piece of any cake or pie earlier in the morning.

After breakfast we headed to the Riviera to cash in our voucher for the Jay White show. Unfortunately the box office didn't open till later in the afternoon - so we just hung out and played slots. Drink service was good, and the machines were paying. I wandered off to the poker area in the back for some VP, and completely lost Linda. After much wandering and searching I gave up and settled back into my favourite 'free spin' penny slots. I figured I'd stay put in case she came by - and the machines were quite loose, so why leave? Turns out she did! When I 'disappeared' she went to Slots-o-Fun and Circus Circus for a while. No wonder I couldn't find her! We knew we had to line up for 'nearly Neil' at 6:30 so around six I wandered up to the bar near the theatre and found her! Earlier my free spin machine had kept spinning (it was the one where the fountain is wild and 3 gold coins get you into the bonus spins) so I was up $60 between it and the VP machine that actually gave me a little back. Thank goodness we are both easy going and independent - she had played a 'gypsy fortune teller' 21 line slot for 2 hours at Circus Circus and still got $40 out of it - so she was happy too. We had no problem getting great seats in a sweet little theatre, and the show began at 6:59. The audience was very enthusiastic, and largely older than us (60ish?). The table in front was a mom and dad with grown daughter in her 20's and her hubby. Mom was a HUGE Neil fan and she and her daughter obviously had an excellent bond - they made the show for us with their enthusiasm and affection. Jay is amazing - he sounds just like Neil, has a fast paced show and an excellent band. At one point his guitar players - who play weekends in a KISS tribute band - treated us to a quick version of 'I Was Made for Loving You Baby'. The show is 1 hr. and 15 minutes. I got our tickets through Ebay - a Vegas for Locals auction that I won for $25 for two tickets. I don't think I would recommend paying full price for the show ($49.95) and do NOT buy VIP seats - there are no bad seats in a theatre that size.

After the show we wandered up to the Venetian to cash in our $15 free slot play vouchers we received for signing up for a player's card on line. As compared to the Golden Nugget (where we received $10 free play, but had to follow a complicated series of steps to access it) the Venetian was a breeze! My $15 turned into $45 in the Avalanche penny free spin machine - and I was off to the races. Unfortunately the $1 hot dog Linda ate at Slots-o-Fun was taking it's revenge - so she headed back to bed early. I played on, but could not make much money. I had a lot of trouble with my contacts in that casino, and by the time I left my eyes were just streaming. I must have looked like my world was ending! I did notice an air freshener like smell in the casino - could be that was what was bothering my eyes along with the dryness and smoke. No matter - wandered back to the IP and remembered I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I don't know why but I just do not get very hungry in Vegas. Actually I do know why - I am a '80s' smoker. I am one of the fortunate who can smoke a while, then stop completely. I smoked heavily in the 80's and was a social smoker in the 90s. Since Y2K I only seem to smoke with friends from the 80s - so I went a bit nuts in Vegas with a 80's friend and the ever present 80's soundtrack (anyone else notice that?). Back to the IP, I grabbed a sandwich from 'Betty's' and out of consideration for my sleeping room-mate - ate it at a slot machine. It is gross eating in the casino, had I not been half in the bag I would have ate in the restaurant, but I thought it was a good plan for some reason. I sat down at a 'Best Things in Life' machine and played it for what felt like forever. I was almost out when I caught the bonus spins. In this game when you have a 'diamond' or wild card come up during the free spins the multiplier increases. By winning more free spins, I was able to get it up to a 12X multiplier. I cashed out $69 on a $10 investment. It was never as good to me again, but that one run was sweet! In bed by 12:30, hoping to sleep more than 3 hours.

Day 3 - New Day, New Songs to Get Stuck in My Head

Well I doubled my sleep time - sort of. Up at 4:30, then lounged in bed dozing till 7ish. I was downstairs with my Baily's and coffee playing VP when Linda joined me to go to breakfast. Today was 'Paris' day - off to see what all the fuss is about. We were in line by 8:15, and it was not too bad - we were half a dozen people outside the entrance to the 'interior' line when we started. 20 minutes later we had our seat and were off with plates in hand to explore. By the time I finished with the fresh fruit, ham, eggs and waffles there was no point in visiting the crepe station - something to look forward to next time.

We gambled a while in Paris (I love saying that), with Linda learning VP and me flitting about looking for an ATM disguised as a slot machine. She did fine - up $10 after an hour of 'learner' poker. I finally did OK on Alien (a recurrent theme on this trip - Aliens = $$ for me) and the Munsters $.25 machine. I got the bonus 'match game' and hit three 'Hermans' for $80 - not a big win, but enough to cancel he days losses so far.

Eventually we moved on to the Planet Hollywood. Linda needed a gift for her step-daughter so we hit Sephora, then checked out the shops. After multiple applications of hand cream from the cart vendors we 'slid' into the casino for a bit. WOW - what a change from the Aladdin. The shopping area is the same, but the casino is completely transformed. I loved the vibe - much less frenetic than the IP! Monopoly (not the community game, the individual progressive) was paying there - I hit multiple bonus rounds and took out $45 playing two cents a line on a penny slot. Eventually we extricated ourselves and made our way back 'home' for a nap. Except - it was too tempting to play a bit more at the IP while Linda caught up on her beauty sleep. No big wins, or losses - went up to get changed then off to the Mandalay Bay for Mamma Mia! After taking the monorail, walking across to the Excalibur, taking the tram, then hiking through the hotel - we got to the will call office just before 5. The House of Blues is just across from the Theatre so we shared Voodoo Shrimp (nicely spiced but nothing too special) a goats cheese salad (very good) and the Spinach and Artichoke dip. Coffee for me, and a beer for Linda - total bill was around $50 I think. Just the right amount of food - and we were off to the show. Our seats were excellent - we were just behind and to the right of the sound/light man - looking right at the middle of the stage - I think it was section DD. I got the tickets half price on an email offer from the hotel - so the view felt even sweeter. I had no idea what to expect but for me the show went from mildly entertaining to hilarious with 'Chicaquita' - those ladies can sing and are so funny. The comedy is broad and played for every laugh they can squeeze out of the audience. The more people laughed the more you could hear them singing too - just a great show. And long by Vegas standards - it went well over two hours including the intermission.

After the show we gambled a lot more, before we began the long journey home. The Casino at the MB was pretty good - Linda found a lot of fun penny slots with great graphics and I scored with a 1 cent 'Barkin Bucks'. I got stuck in front of the machine waiting for a drink - and waiting - and waiting. I had to put a second 20 in, then it went nuts - I got the 'fetch' bonus, the family bonus and was making my money back when the waitress appeared. Her first tray had been knocked over by someone walking in to her. She was fine - and very apologetic about the delay - she joked that it must be the bright red outfits that make the waitresses so hard to see. I tipped her extra, she deserved it for having such a great attitude. The trip home seemed much faster this than the trip to the hotel - except that we could not stop the Abba songs playing in our heads! But it did stop the Neil Diamond soundtrack that was in residence earlier.

Day 4 - Almost Like the Real Thing

Another early start to the day - I'm drinking coffee in front of the newly installed Top Gun machines when Linda comes down around 8 ish. These machines are quite fun, the have high backs and speakers in the headrest so the game actually vibrates. It was a bit jarring for early morning play, Linda had to retreat to the goldfish for some peace and quiet, but I eventually found a volume button and turned it down a bit. It's a fun game if you hit the bonus rounds - not much payout otherwise.

Back to Harrah's this morning for breakfast (19.95 for two with coupon). Back to the IP, as today was 'pool day' - not too hot, and the wind finally had died down after three days of gustiness. After the breakfast feast we felt a cig and a few slots would aid digestion - so we found two of the new 'Davinci Diamond' slots in the same bank and settled in. These are penny slots with the same 'explode and drop' mechanism as 'Kaboom' etc. It is not easy to get a bonus game and unless you score respins - you don't seem to make much money. I played determinedly until I did hit the bonus - then promptly watched my $20 disappear. When I looked for Linda she was gone, and a quick scan of the casino did not turn her up - so I headed upstairs. I gave napping a shot- failed miserably, so headed down to the pool.

Does anyone else find that when they close their eyes they continue to see slot machines and hear the noise from the casino in their heads? I just get completely over stimulated - but I love it.

Found Linda easily at the pool - grabbed a lounger and spent an hour getting toasted - tan wise, not beer wise. Headed upstairs for a quick nap - successfully this time - then headed out to the Pampas Brazilian Grill in the Miracle Mile shops. En route we stopeed at Bill's for a 'Big Elvis' set. Elvis was in fine form, and while the tables were full, the nearby slots had empty seats. Beer, WOF and Elvis - life was good.

Pampas is a really nice place! There was no problem getting a table, and the food and service were great. We started off with traditional brazilian cocktails, and a visit to the salad bar. The bar also has 'starches' and a traditional bean stew and a seafood stew. The drink was tasty, the food was fresh and nicely prepared - a great start. As soon as your 'button' is flipped to green they start bringing the meat - and there is a lot to choose from. I particularly enjoyed the chicken and the lamb. We had a nice bottle of wine, hours of conversation about life, work, interesting clients etc. - in short it was a grand evening. At one point the owner wandered over to say hello and chat about the usefulness of the 'yes/no' button in marriage counseling Dinner for two, with a bottle of wine was $110 after we used our $25 Restaurant.com gift certificate.

We wobbled over the Monte Carlo - where we gambled for a while before the Purple Reign show. Slots were not too tight, good drink service - I was happy.

The show was excellent. The voice is not 100% Prince, but the band rocked and the dancing (no dancer, just Prince) was excellent. Morris Day and Jerome also were very good. I highly recommend this show if you like Prince's music - the crowd was up, the music was fun and a good time was had by all. I noticed several tables had what looked like 'beer bongs' on them - tall glass tubes with a spigot to dispense a lot of beer to the table. It looked cool, not sure it would keep the beer cold long enough though - although the tables I saw didn't look like that was a concern ļ.

After the show we gambled some more (again, Aliens came through) then headed back home. Total tally for the day - 2 impersonator shows, too many cocktails and too much fun.

Day 5- Last day, then home again, home again jiggity jig.

Caesar's palace got our vote for breakfast this morning. With yet another coupon we headed over to experience their breakfast buffet. Caesar's definitely wins the prize for nicest buffet setting - it is located near the pool area and has banquet seating and tables - ask for a seat overlooking the pools. The line up to get in is not well organized, but the line was short and in a few minutes we had our plates in hand. The food was fine - nothing special, but nothing bad either. Not as much fresh fruit selection as I would like, but no serious complaints either. After breakfast we made our way to the casino to make our donations there. It was cold! Hard to relax and loose a lot of money when you can't stop shivering. I made a little on a 'Dancing Dolphins' machine (retriggered the free spins) then we headed out to cruise the Forum shops. Nothing called to us there as loudly as the slots were, so we headed over to visit the Mirage.

I love the Mirage casino - it was warm, subdued lighting, and played Beatles music. In fact if you sit at the bank of machines near the Ladies, just past the Revolution lounge it is good sound, and near the waitress station. I was in heaven. Unfortunately I wasn't making any money on the 'Sidney Omar' game I was playing - but I had my post-breakfast beer and was content. Linda and I both played MIB - and lost $40 each before wising up and moving on - then 'Slotsky', which was a lot of fun - especially if you hit the egg bonus - it just kept paying. She eventually headed home for a nap - but given my insomniac tendencies I decided to stay on. I played all my favourites, and was having a great run on the multi-level poker game - when I realized I was late! We had agreed to meet at the room at 4 to tidy up and head to the MGM Grand for Ka. Thank god Linda is the good friend she is - I arrived at 4:20 and she was looking lovely and not too put out. I was ready at 4:25 (dress with a built in bra, a little mascara and lipstick and a quick brush through the hair - what more do you need?) and we headed out. Quick monorail trip and we are at the box office by 5:15. We decided to eat at Wolfgang Puck's using the same strategy as HOB - split a few little things at a restaurant within eyesight of the theatre. We had the crab cakes, salad and a pizza - all were excellent. Two cocktails included - final tab was around $70 (without tip). With 45 minutes to go before the show, we gambled and lost a bit (avoid all games with 'jade' in the title!) then shopped in the Ka gift shop before we headed in.

Ka was Linda's birthday present from me - and a cheapish one as the tickets were 2 for $137. The theatre is gorgeous - done up like a sci-fi village set. Characters swing around the 'set' and drummers pound out a tribal rhythm. The 'camera/phone/smoking' prohibition is part of the show and well worth seeing onto itself - I'll say no more.

I know the reviews have been mixed - but I loved this show. I am a Cirque 'veteran' having seen all the shows except Love, Mystere and La Nouba - so I have a good idea of what to expect. This show delivered something different. It is a visual feast - the 'tricks' are a bit more low key for the most part, although I'm sure no less difficult to perform. They support the story rather than being the story onto themselves. The staging is very creative and the rather traditional story of separating from family and finding your own identity and love (with a dose of nature vs. mechanization) is easy for all ages to relate to. There were some very nice subtle touches and some very charming moments. It is a 'gentle' show in may ways, but it was a very fast 90 minutes for me.

The MGM was a money pit for us, so after the show we headed 'home'. We gambled a while a Harrah's then back to the IP. Linda went up to bed and I decided to have a night cap and give some of the IP slots a chance to give me back my money. They declined - so I was tucked in by midnight, a bit drunk, totally 'smoked out' and ready to go home - sort of.

The next day we were up at 7, packed by 7:30 and at Harrah's for breakfast at 7:40. We hopped into a cab and were at the airport by 9, and in the departure lounge by 9:45. Love the 'how to get through security' video. Linda's plane left 2 hours after mine, but she was OK with reading at the airport - which worked out well, as my plane was half an hour late so we had time for two more Scrabble games - which she won *sigh*. My flight was delayed 1.5 hours in Mtl. due to thunderstorms, and Linda's luggage came home two days after her - but other than that it was smooth traveling. Hubby was guest keyboard player with a blues band the night I got home so it was a major pet reunion followed by 3 hours of roaming around till I felt tired. His band played the next evening to a packed house at a local bar - up till 3:30 am that night. Thank goodness I was well trained in coping with sleep deprivation from Vegas.

Check out http://www.myspace.com/mytinycircus to hear DH's band - they are pretty groovy!

Kitty follow up: Dusty went back to our regular vet the Tuesday after I got home (vs. the emergency vet the week before). Unfortunately the emergency vet either forgot to tell my husband to refrigerate the anti-biotic, or he did not hear - so it became completely useless within a couple of hours. I came home to a very stiff, sore kitty who was puffy and hot where she was wounded. At the follow up it turned out we have the distinction of owning a cat with the biggest abcess the vet ever saw. They went back to clean it out, and after much kitty yowling the vet and assistant returned covered in - I'll let you imagine - holding the messiest looking cat you ever saw. She was shot up wth anti-biotics and pain killers and was well enough to go out for the first time the day aferthe visit, and eat two breakfasts! She is not pleased with being dosed 3 times a day with follow up drugs, and she seems a bit embarrassed by the large shaved bits covered with antiseptic and scabs - but she will recover to scrap another day. I should mention she is pure white, so she looks especially horrendous!