Sitting here at my computer with “The Letter Factory” blaring from the television and Cheerios crunching under my feet, my experience spending the last few days at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows in Santa Monica feels like a dream.
A dream come true, that is.
After a long summer of family visits and travel which included schlepping our two little boys across the country and back, my husband and I sorely needed some peace and quiet. When the Fairmont Miramar hotel agreed to host us for a couple of weekday nights, my father came to visit and watch the boys, and the planets came into the perfect alignment, we were given a chance to experience exactly that. No long drive, no air travel, no hassle. A true “staycation.”
The Fairmont Miramar is nestled among the palm trees at the western edge of the continent – on Ocean Boulevard at Wilshire in Santa Monica. This luxury hotel has existed in that spot in one form or another since 1889. In its current incarnation, the hotel consists of a ten-story tower, 32 bungalows, meeting rooms, a fitness center, a spa, and a restaurant.
The dream began when I checked in, solo, on a Wednesday afternoon. Every single person in the hotel, from the valet to the guests to housekeeping, was gracious and helpful. The other guests at the front desk seemed relieved to be checking in after a long day at a local theme park. Surrounded by the luxurious setting of the Fairmont’s lobby, I can see why.
As a guest of the hotel I was greeted by a bottle of champagne and strawberries to dip into a little pot of chocolate, in my ocean view room on the seventh floor overlooking the pool. My husband was not scheduled to join me for hours, and there was no way I was saving any of that chocolate for him. I did save the champagne though.
The room was small but just big enough for two people to co-exist peacefully. Indeed, it was romantically snug, with a very comfortable king-sized bed (squishy pillows), one small desk and one larger one, an adequate closet, and a comfy chair. (The doors to the bathroom were slatted like shutters, making bathroom privacy a little bit thin, which was okay for a couple who have been together for 12 years but maybe not so much for that first weekend tryst if you want to keep some mystery between you.) It was a thinking-man’s getaway, complete with a thesaurus and dictionary. The large flat-screen digital TV had decent speed when loading channels. In-room wireless is $13.95/day, which confirmed the idea that I should unplug for my stay there. Just as well. It’s not a true vacation if you’re checking your email constantly, right?
Same with driving. At $30/night for valet parking, we took full advantage and just…left the car there. In this location in Santa Monica, right across the street from the beach, the Santa Monica Pier, and the Third Street Promenade, the Fairmont is in walking distance of anything you need. We walked down to the beach, to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to do some shopping, to the movies. It seemed alien to not just hop in the car and drive somewhere, but after a while our limbs relaxed and our muscles got some exercise, and it was nice to not sit in traffic.
(Here’s something I learned about this hotel, and I wonder if it’s common. The valets pool their tips, so when you are accosted by 5+ smiling, friendly young gentlemen who all seem to help bringing around your dirty car with crumb-encrusted carseats in it, and you don’t know to whom you should give the tip, you can be assured that they share. )
In fact, we never really needed to leave the hotel itself if we didn’t want to. The Fig restaurant has a reasonably priced menu and a very cool happy hour starring $5 glasses of wine and a pricier selection of cheeses. I took advantage of the lovely on-site Exhale Spa, and we made great use of the pool area, which was crowded with children and families. Luckily, since our balcony overlooked the pool, we were able to pounce when we noticed some deckside chairs opening up. The pool area closes at 9pm, so late-night hot-tub soaking with a cocktail in hand was not an option. On the other hand, the lobby bar starts serving coffee, fruit, and pastries at 6AM, so you can get up with the sun and enjoy a light breakfast poolside.
Many of the guests we met or observed were from other countries and brought their young children, who seemed well-behaved and content for the most part. I saw the front desk clerk hand stuffed animals to two of the young guests, who were delighted. And it is a good deal for families if luxury and convenience are important to you. The hotel offers family packages: for example this season there was a special for a family of four that included the room, a meal, and passes for local entertainment for $500 a night.
As I mentioned, the hotel staff was friendly and helpful, and their vibe was infectious. There was a lot of activity in this hotel throughout the day, with business people coming and going, and nobody looking disconcerted or unhappy. The few glitches we encountered were handled swiftly. When we couldn’t get the TV to work, an engineer came right up and fixed it. When our key cards didn’t work on the second day, the front desk clerk brought us new ones within a few minutes.
Overall our stay at the Fairmont Miramar was perfectly decadent. It was a peaceful break from our busy lives, and we couldn’t have asked for a more convenient or luxurious location. I know I keep using the word luxurious, but it’s really the best word for it. It was exactly what we needed. Of course, the whole time we were there, we watched other people’s children and said to each other “We should bring the kids here.” Some other time.
[Photo credits: all but 2nd photo by Kim Tracy Prince, fig tree entrance by Joan S.]