By Bill Rouleau, Special to   Published Mar 29, 2008 at 5:29 AM

Editor's note: Bill Rouleau and Paul Jonas joined publisher Andy Tarnoff in Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training this year. They arrived a few days before Andy, taking that time to golf some of the area's best courses (that will be featured during Travel Week in May) and stay in one of Arizona's finest hotels. Here's Bill's story of his experience at the Acacia Restaurant Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, the most stunning property this Milwaukeean has ever visited ...

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- When we sheepishly pulled up to the Four Seasons entrance in our rented Nissan, we were immediately greeted by the doorman. He quickly dispatched a bellhop from the phalanx of employees outside the lobby, who grabbed our bags and a valet to park our car. As I walked through the lobby, feeling rather out of my element, I realized that it was going to be difficult for me to do a review of such an amazing place without touching on issues of class.

The guest receptionist greeted me warmly in lightly accented English, and after we took care of all the pertinent details asked for the proper pronunciation of my name, which was then presumably phonetically entered into their database.

Our room was on a second story walk-up. Paul and I just started giggling when we opened the door. I later learned that this was their standard Casita room, but what stood before us was the greatest hotel room either of us had stepped foot in. Cool stone floors greeted our golf weary feet and led to a large common room.

Immediately to the right were double doors leading to a full bathroom. And by full, I mean you could sleep a family of four in it. A wall length vanity perched above double sinks flanked a large bath and a glass enclosed walk-in shower. Monogrammed terrycloth robes hung on the wall adjacent to the waterworks. Behind a single door in this room was the toilet, and on the wall of the toilet was a telephone (which always creeps me out a little, but I'm guessing that Elvis would've really appreciated this feature).

Beyond the bathroom, just down the hall was a bar, fully stocked with goodies of both alcoholic and snack nature as well as plentiful soft drinks and clean water, highball and Tom Collins glasses. Real glass glasses! Next to the bar was a full size walk in closet containing an extra table, iron / ironing board, valuables safe and loose wooden hangars. The trust felt so nice, staying in an actual establishment that didn't nail every single thing down.

All of this led to the great room, a king-size bed was offset by a large chest of drawers capped with a 32" flat screen television. They also provided an I-Home, one of my current favorite gadgets. I recently picked one up for my own home use because it allows you to wake up to the song of your choosing while charging your iPod overnight. Very cool, and here it was just like home. The corner of the room was dominated by a fireplace that was beautiful, but quite excessive in the 80 degree weather. Much to our homophobic relief, a pull out couch sat across from a couple of well-stuffed chairs and a desk/media center.

For me though, the real treat was the enclosed porch, which overlooked our own private vista. Scrub brush and multihued fauna interspersed with the scree and flanked the Saguaro cactus and massive boulders the color of rust. Two of the most comfortable chaise lounge style chairs were aligned next to a weathered wooden table. Patio furniture or not, this stuff was more comfortable than most of my own furniture at home, and that of my less bohemian and more well to do friends' sofas, as well.

That sums up the physical reality of the Four Seasons, but the rest of the weekend was a journey into a place I do not enter very often -- the world of the extremely well heeled. Both Paul and I have spent most of our professional careers in the service and retail industry, and Paul plays in a very well-traveled local band (the 5 Card Studs) that is no stranger to Milwaukee's higher-end hotels. So it was with a sympathetic eye that we noted how the Four Seasons corporate philosophy leaves no stone unturned when it comes to customer service.

To put it mildly, they go the extra yard. If you are a dedicated hedonist, this is your home. As Paul observed, there is no "NO" in the vocabulary of the Four Seasons staff.

It seemed that every employee we encountered was at least bilingual and worldly. Every member of their staff looked us in the eye, and many greeted us by name, which is a little unnerving at first, if like me, you are more used to staying at the Econolodge. When I called the front desk , I heard, "Good afternoon, Mr Rouleau." When the valet pulled our car around, "Do you need directions Mr. Rouleau?"

Lost in thought, walking along the breathtakingly beautiful pathways, viewing more species of cacti than I have ever seen -- even at the Domes -- my reverie was interrupted by the well meaning employee asking if I needed an ice water or anything else. Not sycophantic, but professional and attentive to the nth degree.

Yet, I found it difficult to get used to. I like to think of myself as pretty self sufficient, and am slightly uncomfortable being waited on. I would cringe a little on the inside watching the valets RUN to get cars or car keys from patrons. I wanted to say, " Bro, slow down, I'm on vacation, there's no hurry."

But that is my own issue.

Tipping became another great mystery to both Paul and me. We have both bartended for many years and know the importance of tips in a gratuity-based industry. We were both out of our element in this regard. It seems that it is self evident that valets and bellhops get tipped, but do you tip the woman that comes in to offer turn down service, what about the cabana boy? The man who brings you a bottle of water while you are contemplating the vast desert floor from above? Eventually, I thought to myself, "What would Tom Cruise do?" and remembered that line from Risky Business. You know the one, "Sometimes you just gotta say what the f**k" and we just started tipping everybody.

After that, it was easy sailing. As Paul wryly observed, there was great irony in patronizing an establishment that would never hire either of us in any capacity.

Our stay fell during a time of amazing weather, too. The Arizona climate was cooperative with its omnipresent canopy of brilliant cerulean skies which gave way to an amazingly bright and full moon. In the distance the Scottsdale lights glimmered orange and red and blue across the desert floor as far as the eye could see, set in between the mountain peaks which stood guard glowing in the moonlight above them.

The piece of land that this hotel was built on was formerly a barren piece of mountainous wasteland, but someone in the Four Seasons Empire had the foresight to imagine how truly fantastical this area could become and made this vision a reality. The smell of desert blossoms and the night mesquite fires wafted through the dry and cool air, making the entire grounds heady and extremely romantic. It made me miss my girlfriend Kate terribly.

Our early tee times caught up with me and I fell asleep watching the NCAA tournament and was still too groggy to take part in one of the many hotel events of the day, which was an astronomy walk and talk. That became my biggest regret of the stay. But Paul and I both regrouped later in the evening at the Onyx bar. Not much action on Easter weekend but we hung out with the bartender, Peter, an émigré from Prague and let him educate us about Scottsdale nightlife over a savory selection of nuts and snacks.

The bar, as with everything else at the Four Seasons, was tasteful and impressive. The back and front of the bar frame were pieces of cut and polished onyx which when backlit, shone through in amber, gold and caramel bands of color. The bar, itself, was a single plank of highly-polished and varnished mesquite wood. The Onyx opened up into a larger room with plush chairs surrounding tables opposed to banquettes which led around a corner to their amazing patio restaurant, Saguaro Blossom.

As to be expected in such an environment, drinks were not cheap, but the pours were strong. In my case, as I was drinking bubbly, they were also plentiful, and Peter offered me "top-offs." That's an offer I can never refuse.

After a kingly night's sleep, we decided to find our legs, so to speak. The consensus between us was that it would be foolish to neglect exploring all of the amenities that were offered and to dive headfirst into the pleasure. If you aren't a golf aficionado, you may find this hard to believe, but 72 holes of golf in three days after a four month layoff can leave you with aching hands, feet, skin and back, and we were no exception to this rule. I headed for the spa area, which was located beneath the main building set back from a grass courtyard and reflecting pool. Paul headed poolside and camped out at the adults-only pool, separated from the family friendly pool by half a level. Each pool was ringed by chaise lounges covered with plush beach towels and these were in turn surrounded by taupe cabanas.

As far as I'm concerned, pampering in my spartan life consists of the occasional back scratch I can con Kate into giving me and the sub $10 hot towel treatment I get after my haircuts at Jose's barbershop here in town -- so I was paralyzed by the seemingly endless menu of spa treatments available. There was "signature service" with hot rocks and nectar facials and golfers massage and reflexology, aromatherapy and mud masks.

There offered Swedish and shiatsu and Thai massages and a variety of Indian based treatments and wraps that I couldn't pronounce properly. In short, as with everything at the Four Seasons, there were more options available to a guest than anyone could possibly have the time for.

So what did I do? I folded like a chair under the crushing weight of indecision (and economy) and made my way through the fragrant air of the spa and into the clubby atmosphere of the men's locker room to take what Andy later told me was what his people call a shvitz. This was also to be the place that I would meet my favorite employee of the Four Seasons.

Now, I'm not sure how this is possible, but throughout my many many years on this planet, I've never been in a steam room before. Plenty of saunas, but never I'd never taken a steam, and now I don't know how I've done without them. When I entered the locker room, the attendant, Sassan, sized me up and then brought me a robe and shower sandals, as well as a little wristband with a locker key attached. I deposited my clothes in the locker and then proceeded to the sauna and or steam room where, much to my horror, I got naked and hopped inside. Even when I was younger and had the body of an athlete, I was never a "naked guy" and was never comfortable rockin' it in the altogether in front of a bunch of dudes. So it was with a little bit of apprehension and embarrassment that I shed my robe and opened the heavy glass door to the steam room, where of course, an older guy was sitting on the second level of the bench seating directly across from the entrance.

You can imagine what I saw next. Fortunately, the experience improved quickly after that. When I figured out that this was, in fact, normal, the stilted conversation between the naked fat guy and the naked old guy became a little easier.

Now, if you've never taken a steam before here is what it is like: the door opens with a decided breaking a vacuum sound (think of any space movie when a portal opens and you get that whoosh). Immediately after you step inside, your first impulse is to flee, because it is so overwhelmingly hot and humid, but gradually after a few moments you start to deeply breath the mentholated steam, which burns your lungs at first, but then starts to feel like you have the lung capacity of an Olympic swimmer or a professional cyclist. Your body pours forth buckets of sweat and the steam generator hisses and issues forth billowing clouds obscuring your view across the tiny room.

After about five minutes, Sassan came in with fresh ice water with lemon and a fresh towel. I stayed as long as I could stand it then showered with their house brand of citrus avocado soft soap, feeling verrrry metro. I asked Sassan if my hunch was correct, and if he was Persian. This seemed to blow his mind a little bit, because he was in fact from Iran, and as it was slow at this time, we were able to have a really insightful conversation about the current scary state of things between our countries and our families and journeys that brought us to this well appointed point in our lives. We sort of lifted the formal guest employee veil and just had a normal conversation, very organic and interesting. I thought it indicative of the type of individual that the Four Seasons seems to hire -- people who have a wealth and breadth of experience, command of several languages and a professionalism which allows them to do jobs, which from the uninformed outsiders perspective, would seem to be menial. I mean, you couldn't pay me enough to do Sassan's job, I don't want to imagine the nightmares I'd no doubt have after seeing miles of naked male flesh. And yet he did it with vigor and the genuine enthusiasm of someone that enjoys their job.

Either that or Sassan deserves Daniel Day Lewis' Oscar.

Though the temptation was always nearby with 24 hour in-casita gourmet room service, the only thing I managed to eat at the resort was a pizza at the bar. This was no Vinchis or Jacks Original, as you may imagine. We chose a caramelized onion, jalapeno and rock shrimp pizza over goat cheese, which was fired in a wood heated Kiva oven -- and whatever that may be, it made for a wicked good eat. Paul spent Easter morning having a leisurely breakfast in the Crescent Moon, which along with the aforementioned Saguaro Blossom and Talavera comprise the troika on-premise dining spots. His choice of eggs was pretty standard fare in his estimation, but he spent the rest of the day raving about the chicken apple sausage that accompanied them and about the conversation that he struck up with a financial manager who seemed to have a good time telling Paul to give him a call "when he hits it big, because he only works with fat cats."

While Paul was getting his day off to a nutritious start I was, of course, feeding my new steam addiction and upon its conclusion, taking a shave in the most sumptuous and well-appointed men's room ever. It was like Willie Wonka's dressing room. Every notion and tonic and herbal face scrub and two different types of shaving cream and jars of fresh combs. My face never felt better. Sadly, knowing that this was my last steam, I walked out into the courtyard to discover that it was spilling over with children dressed in pastels searching for their Easter baskets and flipping out at the appearance of the Easter Bunny. It was quite a spectacle, and I wanted to watch, because I generally enjoy children, as long as they are someone else's. But single middle age dudes hanging out by themselves around children of privilege and the Easter Bunny? Probably not the best idea, so I headed off to the upper deck adjacent to the lobby, taking in the same glorious view I had seen the previous nights before but for some reason, hadn't seen during the light of day.

Knowing that checkout was inevitable, I soaked up as much of the ample ambience of this world class lodging and wondered if my travels would ever bring me back to this wondrous place.