My husband and I stayed at the Elm Hurst Inn and Country Spa in Ingersol Ontario, and truly enjoyed our stay. It was certainly a quiet hotel, and had crisp, clean rooms to accommodate us. We were there for a Christmas party and the decorations made the Inn look that much more picturesque in the snow and lights.
Of course, I’ve never once spent the night at either of those places.
My experience with hotels is usually focused on “let’s see how little I can spend without getting bug bites.” It’s rare, to put it mildly, for me to even consider forking over $400 or more to sleep in a bed – even if it’s a great bed with high thread count sheets.
But oh, how I love a little taste of luxury.
So I cheat.
It’s not actually cheating, per say, but I have found that luxury hotels offer more in the way of luxury than just an overnight stay. Specifically, I like to indulge in the spas and restaurants of these fine hotels.
The best meal I’ve ever had was at Seasons Restaurant, the restaurant located on the seventh floor of the Four Seasons Chicago Hotel. Your typical bread basket came in the form of a bread display, and my perfect white table cloth was removed of all crumbs by a small golden contraption resembling a straight edge razor. The food was beyond divine, and the service was extraordinary.
One of my dining partners asked what beverages were available and our waiter responded with “what would you like? If we don’t have it, we’ll get it.”
I am not a hard core foodie, but I could become one after eating at Seasons Restaurant. And I would use words like “caramelized” with reverence and love.
The bill came up to about $125 per person. That bought us a four hour dining experience, four gourmet courses and a dessert coated with actual gold flecks.
We left the Four Seasons and retired to our $69 per night hotel room with full bellies and angelic smiles.
I’ve never dined (or spent the night) at The Ritz Carlton in Orlando, but I have spent more than one day there soaking in the lap of luxury. I go to The Ritz for their spa.
The Ritz offers a full spa menu – everything from pedicures to massages – including the massages that involve someone walking on your back. Of course, there are dozens of places to get pedicures and massages for less money in the Orlando area.
What makes The Ritz unique is that one spa treatment (even if it’s just a pedicure), gives you access to their entire spa and facilities for the day. I lounge on a comfy couch in one of their relaxation rooms before my “treatments”, and then enjoy a leisurely sit in the steam room afterward. I might also take a dip in the pool or relax in the sauna before heading off to the showers – which are private and well stocked with amenities.
I might pay just over $100 for an hour long massage, but I typically spend several hours unwinding in an environment of luxury and opulence.
When I’m done, I head home to my own bed where I sleep for free – and boy, do I sleep well.
The great thing about luxury hotels is that they excel at service. That means that you will never be treated like an interloper while enjoying their non-guestroom amenities. For a few hours, you’ll be treated like a star, without having to pay a star quality room rate.
Photos courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel and Ritz Carlton Orlando Resort Grande Lakes
CELEBS SPOTTED: Clare Danes, Christopher Lloyd, Lindsay Lohan, Lily Allen, Demi Moore, Anthony Kiedis, David Cook, Robert Deniro, Dita Von Teese, Jesse Spencer, Josh Hartnett, Eliza Dushku, Zac Effron, Rosario Dawson, Leonardo, DiCaprio, Katy Perry
Originally built as apartments in the late ’20s, Chateau Marmont in Hollywood became a hotel in 1931 and it’s been a celebrity hot-spot ever since. Infamous because it’s where the late, great John Belushi died in 1982, it’s never stopped the stars from hanging out.
Everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Jim Morrison to James Dean to Lindsay Lohan has spent time at the Chateau Marmont. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have even recorded songs there.
The founder of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn, once said, “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” I don’t want trouble, really, just to live it up in the manner to which I’d like to become accustomed.
There are 63 rooms, cottages, and bungalows at the Chateau, many of which have full kitchens. Yeah, there’s something to be said for apartment buildings that have been converted into hotels. Since the hotel was built to be earthquake-proof (and has survived quite a few of them), the walls are all rather thick – even soundproof – so if you’re looking to host a party, this might be the perfect place.
Junior Suites with a queen-sized bed, kitchen, and dining area start at $480 a night. A Two-Bedroom Suite with queen bed, twin beds, dining room, kitchen, and private balcony (overlooking the pool) begins at $835 a night. Bungalows range from $520-$1,800 a night.
And the Penthouse? You can get a one-bedroom with king-sized bed, living room with hardwood floors, formal dining room, kitchen, and two private patio terraces for a mere $2,200 per night. The two-bedroom penthouse includes working fireplace and goes for only $3,700 a night. The views from the penthouse? Spectacular. Sigh, yeah, when I’m rich and famous, I suppose.
The hotel features amenities such as a heated pool, free wifi, cashmere throws, maid service (twice a day, because clearly you’re that filthy), and even a 24-hour shoe shine. I don’t know about you, but that’s a long time to spend shining my shoes. I have things to do!
The Bar Marmont is famous for its ambiance and cuisine, as well as being one of the favorite places for celebs to be seen. Highly recommended you make reservations, of course, because otherwise you’re likely to be shut out and forced to hit an In-and-Out Burger, not that that’s a bad thing. But when you’re expecting high-class and cool, a burger joint may be a bit of a let-down.
If it’s good enough for the old-school stars like Clark Gable, as well as the newbies such as Katy Perry, the Chateau Marmont is good enough for you. And if it’s not, I don’t know if we can be friends when I’m all big and famous.
Top photo by Alan Light
All other hotel photos: Chateau Marmont web site
Jesse Spencer, Daylife.com
Katy Perry, Celebutopia.net
CELEBS SPOTTED: President George Herbert Walker Bush, Chrissie Evert, Gisele Bundchen, Adriana Lima, Salma Hayek, Kevin Costner, Jack Nicklaus, Forest Whitaker, Jim Carrey, Brooke Burke, Denise Austin, Pink, Billy Idol, Jennifer Lopez, Bruce Campbell, Jane Seymour, Katie Couric, Jason Alexander
Called the “Queen of the Florida Keys,” the Cheeca Lodge & Spa is located in the beautiful Islamorada in the Keys, and you’re likely to spot a number of famous people while staying there. It’s kind of a hideaway for the stars. Everyone from Salma Hayek to Katie Couric to even President George H.W. Bush has stayed at the Cheeca, and with good reason. It’s on a glorious 27-acre estate, full of luxurious views. NOTE: the Cheeca is due to reopen in December, 2009.
With rates starting as low as $250 per night, you’ll find the classic Keys style, mixed with West Indies decor…something the Cheeca calls “barefoot elegance.” There are 212 rooms, suites, and bungalows – you won’t be disappointed.
The new Oceanfront and Island View Suites give you over 840 square feet, gorgeous ocean views, hot tubs, rain showers for two…all very romantic. And the Spa is nothing to sneeze at, either. Lots of different packages for you to choose from.
Amenities include oceanfront pool, a wooden fishing pier, tennis courts, golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus himself, private beach, fitness center, Camp Cheeca (for the kids), biking, Starbucks and Tazo Teas in your room, wifi, and several restaurants to choose from.
Islamorada has amazing restaurants, and the Cheeca Lodge & Spa has some of the best. In fact, Florida Trend magazine calls the Cheeca’s eating spots one of “Florida’s 500 Best Places to Dine.” There’s Atlantic’s Edge, with delicious seafood and steaks, as well as a magnificent hot breakfast buffet. The Lobby Bar serves cocktails, and the Tiki Bar is a beachfront spot with a view of the ocean, as well as drinks and Bahama stone crab claws. Nikai is the newest restaurant, offering fresh sushi and Asian cuisine.
It’s no wonder the likes of Gisele Bundchen and Jennifer Lopez love the Cheeca. They get treated like the stars they are, and so can you. Think I’ll make it a point to head down to the Keys. I mean, I live in Florida…how have I never been there? Papa Hemingway awaits.