When We’re Not Reading…

May 13, 2012 at 3:09 am (Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

My Daughter, Ayla, at the Zoo

… We Go On Adventures.

Today we went to the Houston Zoo and Hobbit Hole Cafe.

The Houston Zoo is a great place to take kids.  When I was a kid it was free, but it wasn’t nearly as nice as it is now, and frankly, I’d rather pay money to enjoy my experience and see the animals enjoying their environment than go to a free zoo without shade, no amenities, and sad-looking creatures on display.  The Houston Zoo of 2012, is beautiful.  Paved (but not crappy concrete) walk ways, gorgeous fountains and statues, lots of shady spots and places to buy drinks and snacks (but they still let you bring drinks and snacks into the park, kudos and brownie points for that), and relatively happy looking animals.

The only animals that don’t look happy are the obvious ones… lions and tigers who should probably have more space, even though their habitats are quite large, and the injured animals that are being rehabilitated.  The lions and tigers are too cool for school, as most cats are.  They look grumpy and bored.  Although the male lion did a lot of showing off, he posed for the cameras and even roared for us, he also got pissed off when we wouldn’t go away afterward and peed on the glass.  There is no way on God’s green earth you can convince me that the lion did not piss on that glass directly in front of us on purpose to give us a lesson in privacy and manners.  It was done in the attitude of ‘You came, You saw, I even showed off for you, NOW GO!’  As for rehabilitated creatures, there’s a bald eagle there named Liberty who has a cast because she was found in 2000 with a bullet through one of her wings.  Her habitat is open to the sky, but she has no ability to fly.  Beautiful bird with a sad, sad tale.  Her cast today was neon green, which I thought was a cute touch.

I was looking forward to the otters because Ayla loved the otters at the Dallas Aquarium last year.  They had a female otter that just swam and swam and swam in circles the whole time we watched.  She did tricks and Ayla just giggled and laughed and thought it was the most wonderful thing she’d ever seen.  The otters today were sleepy and looked oh so cozy snuggled on top of eachother.  At that point, Ayla looked pretty sleepy too, so it wasn’t a disappointing moment at all.

But the big deal for us today were the giraffes and elephants.  Ayla’s room is mostly decorated with these wonderful beasts and we’ve been spending a lot of time the last few weeks going over their names because without being reminded she calls them dogs.  I really wanted her to make the connection between the live animals and their artsy counterparts on her walls and in her books.  Lucky me, I got the reaction I wanted once we got home and she recognized the animal above her changing table as a giraffe with the most wonderful level of awe ever.

When she is older, I plan to get a zoo membership.  We will be homeschooling and I think weekly outings to the zoo and the museums in the surrounding area will be a great addition to her library visits and lessons. (http://www.houstonzoo.org/membership/)  For $94 a year I can get free admission all year for my entire household, plus discounts in the gift shop and special events, and a whole lot more.  I’d say its a worthy amount to put towards Ayla’s “tuition.”

After our Zoo adventures, we went to the highly praised Hobbit Hole Cafe.  Granted, I know Ayla was tired and pretty much done for the day and this could have affected my experience a great deal, but man that place does NOT live up to its hype.  Hobbit Hole, sounds wonderful and bookish, and foodie fabulous, right?  Well, the food was good, nothing to get all hot and bothered about, but nothing to complain about either.   I had a Gandalf Classic (sandwich with mushrooms, avocado, and swiss cheese, I paid extra for onion rings (which were excellent).  Despite the large sandwich, I could have done with more onion rings… $1.99 for 5 rings, I don’t care how delicious, I want a bigger pile of rings… after all, I DO eat like a HOBBIT!  Other than the wonderfully named sandwich menu, though, nothing else was hobbit-esque or Lord of the Rings fashioned, other than the movie posters on the wall at the entrance.  Most of the people around me (not my table, but in the cafe at large) were eating enchiladas.  They’ve also got Jamaican dishes on the menu that, according to the Jamaican who was sitting next to me, don’t taste how they should.

Still, good food, but not worth going back to due to the awful service.  Long wait at the door, long wait at the table, long wait for silverware once food started arriving, long wait for straws, long wait for food that wasn’t ordered with the other food, long wait for, well, everything.  In addition to the long wait, we were crammed against other tables and lots of traffic.  My chair was literally being crushed by the chair next to mine… and they were randomly assorted plastic lawn chairs.  We were sitting at a square table slammed next to a circular table and I had the unfortunate luck at sitting in the awkward joint area, while I prayed the chair behind me didn’t slam into my back from people coming up the patio ramp to the front door.  On top of all that, those chairs (put there to create an aisle where there wasn’t one and give people waiting at the hostess desk a place to sit) were being used by servers to set plates of food down because the plates were too hot to carry and too heavy to juggle (Anyone hear of tray service? Sorry, too long a server at a tray service only restaurant makes me cranky about people carrying plates diner style with their sleeve dipping into my food.  Its gross.)  When we were done, the server had us tally up our meals and food on the back of a bill and figure out what we owed ourselves.  I’m assuming they don’t have a system in which you can easily split checks, I get that, but don’t ask me to do math on an 8 top, that’s your job.  I can say that because I’ve waited tables with the best of them.

Once again, the food was good, but over all I’d only go back if I was in a group and somebody else wanted to go.  It’s not on my list of places to return, but I feel like it should have been, because I’ve read so many glowing reviews (one even states that if you don’t like the establishment you’re just a terrible person).  I fear they get the vast majority of their business from the false promise of their fabulous name.  So people who love it… what did I miss?

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