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June 14, 2021

Window on the World Column | Grandmas Gone Wild

With the world starting to reopen, we were hoping to have a bit of a newsie reunion. Several of us from the newspaper industry had remained friends over the years, enabled by the easiness of social media and genuine friendships that survived the test of time and variation of lives and locations. After the dire lack of vacations in 2020, it was time to revisit some fond connections.

A Vegas trip was planned to see one of my besties. She had relocated from Salinas a while back and it was time to catch up. Initially I had thought that there would be several on the “Newsie Girls Gone Wild” adventure in Sin City; but it whittled down gradually to a manageable party of three; a triangle of ladies of a certain age we fondly called “The Grandmas” — because we are.

Staying at the new Circa property off Fremont Street set me off with a certain exhilaration, since it boasted no less than six swimming pools, not to mention a multi-sports screen the size of an airplane. How bad could that be? Though the room rates were certainly up there with the best of them, I love to be in the water wherever I go, so water it was.

Curiously enough, my Vegas friend is just finishing up her first book about “Common Courtesy,” which, sad to say, was a bit lacking in the new Circa hotel. The hotel guests should have been feeling lots of love from the largesse of their room rates, but this was not the case. No coffee pot in the room, no service of any kind actually (my friend never did get the fresh towels she requested from early in the morning until late at night). Though hotels will certainly blame the coronavirus for about anything these days, I think not cleaning a room should serve to provide a discount for the paying customer. Nobody asked, nobody checked.  

I was, understandably, upset to note that I ran out of toilet paper on my last day. If you are not going to service a room, you had better at least stock it for the duration of the stay. As a former hotelier, I know how the small stuff can really mount up to big chunks of displeasure over the course of a few days’ stay. And nowadays there are customer service hot spots like Trip Adviser to really get “The Displeased” going.

Circa does have lovely pools, no doubt about that, and the largest screen for sports you have ever seen. However, unless you pay a gazillion dollars (no discount for the hotel guest), you will not be able to use anything except the scarcely populated chairs that are not right next to the water (with no shade cover on the chairs at the weekends). We had enquired about renting a cabana for the day and that was an obscene $4,000.

Not all the pools were open all the time, so guests were jammed into small spaces of water on too many occasions, which is not a great idea for the Covid-phobic among us, let alone general policy that the masked police were fond of informing everyone near the water; but never mind the super-spreaders actually inside the 3 feet of water. The cabana sheriffs wouldn’t even let us put our towels on the chairs of an empty cabana because we hadn’t paid to play.

The scene didn’t inspire huge feelings of love from the resort to the guests. They only seemed to care that you were spending more money than you had already. “Well, that’s Vegas,” you might say. But Vegas or no, you do have a tremendous choice when it comes to booking a hotel and they should be mindful of that, once the novelty of their property wears off.

My friend had booked a special twilight cocktail hour in the Legacy Club at the hotel with panoramic views of the City and expensive cocktails to boot. The Foot Police had elected to bestow the difficult rule-enforcing task upon a very slight young hostess. She needed to tell the well-intentioned patrons of the Legacy Club that flip-flops and tennis shoes were not to be worn on the upper decks. Oh, that poor chick. Since most people go to Vegas with only those items of footwear in their luggage, she was in for a long night.

Fortunately, the manager cleared my expensive Sketchers for lift off and we were finally allowed out on the roof, though we did not get the benefit of the reservation we had made; but were successful in stealing An Other’s seating situation when they failed to appear. It seems as if you have six minutes to appear for a reservation in Vegas and then it evaporates. Sometimes, the reservation is not even a proper reservation. Apparently, only a suggestion?

Everything continues to be fast and furious in Las Vegas, corona or no. Taking in the color of Fremont Street on a Friday night — few masks, let alone mask police in sight — I found it interesting that I no longer feel comfortable in a crowded situation. I do not want to be in spitting distance of anyone, let alone a mass of marauding folks that, perhaps, still believed Covid was just a hoax. At my urging, we took off down the side streets and found ourselves in a rather magical city garden bar, complete with fairy lights and your own private seesaw, if you knew how to find the secret entrance in back.

I found myself squealing with joy from delight as we bounced each other up and down on that old flashback from childhood. Moving on, again off the beaten track where restaurants were touting a 90-minute wait, we discovered another gem for dinner — a classic old-style establishment, the kind that have signed photos of old crooners on the wall and dark wood paneling. I devoured what was likely the best pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy to ever cross my path. It also boasted lovely customer service, quite the antidote to our poor customer service impressions previously. The following night, we devoured possibly the best Italian food I have ever enjoyed, again off the Strip.

If you are headed to Sin City for some fun in the sun, make sure you do research before you go. Newest does not mean best. Check out the reviews on Trip Adviser, where I shall be positioning my review, right after I have contacted the management at the resort; not to complain, but to give them the opportunity to do better. When we know better, we do better? “Grandmas Gone Wild” had a super time catching up in this wild of wildest cities. And now it’s back to work and to a relatively more peaceful world of fixing a broken septic and paying bills.

Lucy Jensen
Soledad Columnist

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