I feel like my life's been all work and no play lately.
However, thanks to another assignment from AskPatty, I got to feel like I was getting a little bit of downtime last week, courtesy of the Ford Motor Company, which held a launch of its new 2013 Fusion in Santa Monica -- and arranged for me to stay there overnight...
...at the gorgeous Casa del Mar, which is right on the beach. Here's the view from my guest room window:
Back when I was a professional meeting planner, I toured Shutters on the Beach, which was, at the time, Santa Monica's only hotel located right on the beach. I fell in love with the place. While the lobby was huge, it felt intimate, like a family beach house on Cape Cod (that is, if your family is the Kennedys). I admired the luxurious furnishings and the sumptuous bathroom fixtures (because my favorite thing to check out on these hotel tours was the dream bathrooms in all the best hotels).
Most of all, I loved the whimsical little touches, like real books on the shelves (which could be exchanged for other titles, if a guest preferred), toys strategically displayed and rubber duckies for the whirlpool tub.
I never booked an event there, because the meeting space did not work for my employers... but I have spent the last 18 years longing for an opportunity to stay there.
Alas, the rack rate for weekend guest rooms at Shutters starts at $550 -- and that's for a room WITHOUT an ocean view. We've never been able to justify spending that kind of money to stay so close to home.
Casa del Mar Luxury
A few years ago, the owners of Shutters opened Casa del Mar, right next door. Needless to say, I was pretty happy to learn that Ford would be putting me up there. It's right on the beach like its sister hotel, but has a different look; instead of Hyannisport, think George Clooney's Italian villa:
And you still get unabashed luxury, as you can see from this shot of the four-poster bed and fainting couch in my ocean-view room:
My room had the same kind of selection of books and toys I remember from my tour of Shutters...
Guests at Casa del Mar don't have to fiddle with dinky little drip coffeemakers - instead, you get the full Keurig treatment...
And yes, you still get a rubber ducky to play with in the oversize whirlpool tub...
Santa Monica Dining
After checking in, I was directed to a lunch buffet on the veranda. I only ate salad, roasted vegetables and a little grilled chicken - but there was also sea bass and fennel crusted chicken, and a lovely array of dessert.
I have to say that the dressings on those salads were really good. The Caesar dressing had the right combination of cheese and anchovy. The surprise was the balsamic dressing on the arugula and grilled asparagus salad, which had a lemony tang to it. (Note to self: find a recipe for that!)
I cannot tell you about the dinner at Casa del Mar, because Ford usually transports their guests offsite for the evening meal, and our hosts promised us a special treat. Needless to say, there is a lot to choose from down there, from Chez Jay to Whist (both within walking distance).
Ford had indeed arranged something special: a drive up PCH to the Annenberg Community Beach House for a buffet meal catered by Wolfgang Puck.
I've already written of my admiration for Hollywood's favorite chef. He was nice to my kid. It almost doesn't matter how good the food was.
But the food was good. From the passed hors d'oeuvres (like the truffled figs pictured at right) to the braised fennel salad to the dessert buffet... All was delicious.
And you could not beat the ambiance.
Back to that Tub
But to be perfectly honest, I could not wait to return to the hotel for a bath in my room's "hydrothermal massage tub." I had not thought to pack any bath supplies, but didn't need to, as the bathroom included a lighted glass cabinet with all sorts of wonderful cosmetic and grooming items for sale.
This is described on the Shutters website as a "privately curated apothecary." I just thought of it as a bathroom minibar.
I splurged on a lavender and chamomile bath bomb for relaxation and had a good soak - all while watching my favorite shows on the small HDTV screen mounted above the sink. I wondered if the remote for that TV was waterproof. Fortunately, I did not end up having to test it.
I slipped into one of the two Frette bathrobes available in the room and resumed my TV viewing on the BIG HDTV above the desk, but not before getting a little freaked out by the noise that was emanating out of that tub. It turns out, it has a drying cycle. Pretty cool.
I checked out the following morning, enjoyed a lovely buffet breakfast on the veranda, and spent the next several hours driving the Ford Fusion (review to be posted soon on AskPatty). I finished my drive in time for lunch (a similar buffet, but none of the salads this time included that amazing lemony balsamic dressing). I picked up my car from the valet and drove home. And while there is no place like home, I have a feeling I'll be spending my next 18 years hoping I can go back to Casa del Mar.
DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation for this post about Casa del Mar. I just like staying in five-star hotels and then boasting about it.