Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Weekend in Las Vegas, Part IV

Sunday, June 24th

- Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat
- Hash House A-Go-Go
- The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
- 7:30 drinks at Mix Lounge atop THEhotel at Mandalay Bay

I woke up Sunday morning with more than fawns and bluebirds on my mind.

I knew my swimsuit was hanging in the guest bathroom, and I knew the backyard swimming pool was beckoning to me.


When Amy got up and started the coffeepot, I made up my mind -- I needed a swim along with my cup of fabulous coffee. So I did the only thing I could do -- I put on my swimsuit and headed downstairs!

I literally fixed my cup of coffee, put it on the patio table, and walked directly into the pool. Ahhhhhhhh, heaven!!!

Here's the thing about a pool in the backyard -- it's yours. And it's private. It doesn't matter how fat you are or how unkempt your hair might be -- this pool is not open to strangers, and no one but you is in it. You can act like an idiot, or you can behave like a goddess. It doesn't matter, because no one is going to break into your water-logged reverie.

Dang, *dang*, that is one fabulous way to start the day!

I was pretty lazy as a result, and we didn't get out of the house as early as we had originally intended. At least we didn't totally scrap the whole plan for going to the Mirage to see the Secret Garden. As usual, Amy drove right up to valet and had the bright yellow Solstice whisked away, and we made our way through the casino toward the outdoors. In general, I liked the Mirage. It was my first time walking through there. The music playing inside was good -- I recall hearing the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett. It kind of had a Miami-Vice-party vibe to it, in a strange way. Very tropical in general, which I didn't expect from seeing the towering edifice from The Strip.

Once we were out back, we turned slight right and headed up the path to the Secret Garden. I was very surprised that they didn't offer Amy a local discount. That makes the Secret Garden pretty darned pricey, in my opinion. We walked up a path, across a bridge, and were stopped by an employee. He made a bunch of us stand there for a while, waiting for more visitors to gather up behind us. I saw the most children I had seen in Las Vegas while standing in line. There were little kids everywhere; it was almost like Disney. The path was covered and had fans and misters blowing on us, so that was nice, but we didn't smoke. We *could* have smoked, but we didn't. I read the very short brochure about the Secret Garden being an "experience," not an animal show, and then the employee told us that this was the only place we could smoke. He gave a very brief rundown about what to expect inside, and then he let us in....

... Where we were stopped under the only canvas-covered shade in the whole place so another employee could tell us pretty much the same things that were covered in the brochure. This is an experience, not a show. Um, OK, we get it.

Then she turned us loose, and everyone left the misted, fanned, canvas-covered shady spot to go stand in the direct sun next to the water, where nothing was happening. Amy and I stayed in the shade for a few minutes, so we could see the dolphins being prodded from their back pool to the front one. Once a handler slapped a fish on the water surface, those two dolphins zipped out of the back and directly to the slapping fish. Ah ha! This experience is called, "Feeding dolphins fish"!!!!

I'll be honest -- this part was pretty boring. We left the big pool and went to the little pool where the baby dolphin was swimming with his mother and two other females.

*That* was cool. And it wasn't even *really* cool yet -- at this point in the day, they were just swimming in circles! The handler explained that the mom is kinda old, so the younger females help out. Also, the mother is teaching those younger female dolphins how to mother; Duchess is the most successful breeder in the Siegfried & Roy dolphin habitat!

We checked the downstairs windows to see if we could see the baby from under the water, but there aren't windows at the small tank. I *did* notice, however, that the big tanks with the male dolphins is WAY WAY WAY *WAY* cleaner and easier to see through than ANY of the tanks at the Miami Seaquarium. It's like night and day. Literally. You can't see anything through the murky, dirty water at the Miami Seaquarium. At the Secret Garden, I could count the bumps on the fake coral reef way off in the middle of the big pool!

After watching the cute little baby dolphin swim several laps around the smaller pool, we wandered over to the actual Secret Garden part of the Secret Garden, where the exotic cats are kept. I have to admit, that is the most vegetation, and the most *dense* vegetation I've seen in all of Las Vegas. And the "theming" really reminded me of the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

And while the shade is, indeed, better than the direct desert sun, it was still stinkin' hot, as all those big cats can attest. OMG, those poor kitty cats! They didn't want to *move*, it was so hot! I'm sure that the big rocks are artificially cooled, but honestly, we all know how hot it is in Las Vegas. Those kitties don't want to move!

After *lots* of watching kitty cats and Alpacas (poor Alpacas!!!!), Amy and I went back to the pool with the baby dolphin, and there we snagged a lovely bench in the shade at the far end, away from most of the crowds. The handlers were just finishing feeding the females and the baby some fish, and this is when it got *really* interesting. That baby was feeling *so* frisky!!!!! He was zipping around the pool at a breakneck speed and he kept leaping up out of the water in awkward, cute, semi-dolphin flips! He was *so* dang cute!!!! Amy and I laughed out loud many times at his escapades. He was just so wiggly and happy!!!!

And then -- and *then* -- something bit me on the butt.

I'm not kidding!

I was sitting on the bench, and all of a sudden, something bit me! I stood up and said, "Ow, something bit..." and then it bit me AGAIN!!! I said, "OW!!!! Seriously, something bit me! Ow, ow, ow!!!"

Amy was really nice, and she followed me to the ladies' room -- all the way on the other side of the big pool, so it was a pretty long walk -- with me complaining like a big baby the whole way. Something bit me! What *was* that? It stung! It hurt! Ow! Oh, my poor derriere!!!!

By the time I got to the ladies' room, of course, the biting thing was long gone. And as much as I tried to investigate, it's really hard to look at your own tush even in the comfort of your own spacious bathroom at home. It's impossible in a public restroom stall! At least by that time, the stinging was beginning to abate.

Although, honestly, I could have watched that baby dolphin at play for hours longer, we threw in the towel and called it quits. And of course we laughed about my sorry condition. I am the only person I know who can go to Las Vegas, pay to see the Secret Garden, and get chased out by a biting insect.

Before we totally left the Mirage, I made Amy take a detour to see the giant fish tank behind the check-in desk. WOW! The pictures on the Internet do *not* do it justice. I don't know *nothin'* about fish tanks, but that thing is huge and FILLED with exotic, colorful fish. Amy and I both wondered about that big, ugly, vicious-looking eel, and if it was going to eat the pretty fishies. Pretty!

Then we wandered out to valet and requested our car. Once again, we were in the midst of misters and fans, and Amy pointed out that she thinks the exterior of the Mirage looks a bit dated. She said it looked 80's to her. It was the first time I'd seen it, though, and I didn't think it looked dated. I thought it looked really Disney, but not necessarily dated. It was bright and tropical and themey. Heck, I thought it looked less dated than the Polynesian.

*Far* less dated.

And the music was still pretty darned good!

When Amy's bright yellow Solstice came, we headed out into the Las Vegas traffic. I *did* notice *lots* of people heading out with their suitcases. I guess Sunday is check-out day even in Las Vegas, huh? They all looked happy and tired.

We headed toward the Hash House A-Go-Go, which has the darling tagline, "Twisted Farm Food." That makes me think of tornadoes, of course, which is probably what they intended all along. Paul *loves* the Hash House A-Go-Go. I think it's his favorite restaurant in all of Las Vegas, and he was *really* looking forward to this lunch. In fact, I was looking forward to it, too, because I've read the raves and reviews. Even the menu is mouthwatering. What's not to love?

Well. Hmmmmm...

Amy and I got there before Paul, and we walked across the sweltering parking lot to get inside, where we were informed that it would be a twenty-minute wait. That's not too long, is it? Nah! So we would wait. But all the benches in the waiting area were full, and there was no way I was going to go wait outside. After just a few seconds, Amy and I looked around the bar area, and we went back to the hostess stand. We asked a hostess if we could please sit in the bar -- I think Amy literally said, "Could we please sit in the bar while we wait?"

And the hostess looked around and said, "Oh, yeah! We're not as busy as we were an hour ago. Go ahead and sit in the bar!"

So Amy and I made our way to one of three empty tables and sat down. I had just put down my purse and camera, when a brute addressed us. This nincompoop was a bartender with self-esteem issues. And he yelled in an obnoxious tone across the entire bar at us, "HEY, GUYS, YOU CANNOT SIT AT THAT TABLE UNLESS A HOSTESS SEATS YOU THERE!"

Being Southern, being polite, and being quite taken aback at being addressed in so rudely and obnoxious a manner -- my sister and I honestly gaped at him for a couple of seconds before Amy protested, "But the hostess... the hostess *told* us to sit here."

And the dolt got even madder and yelled in an even more snide, sneering, and obnoxious tone, "WELL, I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU SAY! YOU CAN'T SIT IN THE BAR UNLESS A HOSTESS SEATS YOU HERE, AND SINCE YOU DON'T HAVE MENUS, YOU WEREN'T SEATED HERE AND YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE!!!!!!!"

I'll be honest, I was mad. I wasn't mad enough to go off on one of my tirades, unfortunately. I do *so* wish I had gotten that mad, but I was a little tired from the half day of swimming and watching dolphins play, and darn it, there was still a tiny part of my brain that was thinking, "Maybe this isn't as unpleasant as it seems on the surface. Maybe I don't really have to be a harridan to put this blackguard in his place."

Amy said to him, as she was gathering her things and preparing to dismount that tall bar stool, "Perhaps you should discuss this with the hostess, since she was operating under the conception that we *could* sit here."

The beast stomped off toward the hostess station with steam rising from his cretinous shaved head.

I struggled to get off my own tall bar stool, embarrassed (although I shouldn't have been), and struggling to disentangle my camera strap from my purse strap so that nothing hit the floor. By the time we joined the crowd at the hostess station, the villain was stomping off back toward the bar with his hands flung up in the air as if to indicate his distress at dealing with idiots like us, and the hostess was picking up menus and chirping at us cheerily, "Would you like to be seated now?"

And we looked at each other, and I think I am the one who first said, "No."

"No, thank you," Amy said, "I think we'll find someplace else to dine."

And I added eloquently (snort), "That guy is a jerk."

I didn't use any vulgarities. I'm so proud of me.

The hostess agreed with me completely and said, "Yes. Yes, he is. I'm so sorry."

Amy and I left the restaurant, made our way across the hot parking lot, and started the Solstice's air conditioning. Amy called Paul.

Paul was upset.

He *really* wanted to eat at Hash House A-Go-Go. And I can't blame him; he loves that restaurant, and he's eaten there a dozen times without once getting treated like a rowdy toddler by a bartender with a steroid-abuse problem.

And darn it, I was a guest in Paul's home. I wouldn't even *be* in Las Vegas if it hadn't been for Paul's generosity and loveliness. Paul *deserves* to get to dine in his favorite restaurant, and I shouldn't be a spoiled brat and complain just because one misogynistic cretin decided to spread his testosterone poisoning all over my lovely day.

By the time Paul got there, Amy and I were resigned to dining at Hash House A-Go-Go even if it meant swallowing our righteous indignation. Paul went inside and talked to the hostess. I think he also talked to the manager, and he procured a promise that we would receive stellar service from this point on, and an apology from the rude fellow in the bar.

We went inside, were seated immediately in the dining room, and got a lovely, lovely server.

A few minutes after making our order, the loud, obnoxious bartender came to our table in the dining room. He yelled, and I'm quoting, "HEY LADIES, I'M SORRY FOR THE MISUNDERSTANDING. THE HOSTESS SHOULDA KNOWN BETTER THAN TO TELL YOU TO SIT IN THE BAR!"

So I sat there looking at him with my most disdainful "you're an ignorant little bug" expression. I really, really, really *wish* I had gotten mad enough to say what I was thinking, which was, "OK, you're sorry -- for 'the misunderstanding?' But you're not sorry you were wrong, you're not sorry you berated us in public as if we were children, and you're not sorry you behaved like a numskull. Okie dokie. In the vernacular, you're an asshole, and you have single-handedly wrecked my dining experience at this dining establishment."

Mostly, I just tried really hard to pretend like everything was OK and I wasn't still utterly peeved at the whole thing.

The food was good. It was giant and it was good. I got a chicken salad sandwich and fries. The grilled sourdough bread alone had to be an inch and a half thick -- per slice. And the chicken salad itself was HUGE.

The waiter was good -- although he did make a few mistakes, he corrected them as quickly as he could and was really contrite about them.

The food was undeniably tasty.

But will I ever go back to Hash House A-Go-Go? No. The malignant bartender never really apologized. And to make matters worse, Paul paid full price for that meal. No one ever did anything to really make the thing right. That's just bad management, in my opinion. First of all, they hired a loud, blustering dunderhead to run the bar, and secondly, they did nothing to correct the wrong done to me and Amy when we went back to the restaurant after being treated so badly. That is a system-wide failure, and they won't get my business again.

Martha Stewart and Dr. Phil just love Hash House A-Go-Go.

In my opinion, they can have it.


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