To some a vacation means "distance"
- putting miles, preferably hundreds or thousands
of them, between you and home. To others, a wonderful
vacation can be closer to home. All that's required
is perhaps a beautiful view from a hotel window;
meals that don't have to be cooked; beds that
don't have to be made; phone calls, be they from
friends or business, that never come; and people
that care about your comforts and joys.
I found such a "wonderful vacation, closer
to home." The sky was crystal blue. The sun
was busy giving everyone a "warm" massage.
The ocean was alive with a rhinestone glimmer.
And I was in Santa Monica, staying at Loews Santa
Monica Beach Hotel (800-23-LOEWS, rates from $185/night).
Opened in 1989, Loews Santa Monica has 338 rooms.
About half of them face the beach and all of its
suites have beach views. You know you've escaped
the ordinary as soon as you enter the hotel's
lavish five-story lobby atrium. Before you are
rows of 45-foot palms rising toward a grand glass
ceiling. And as soon as you step inside, you're
virtually outside with an unsurpassed view of
the beach and the pier, all visible through an
expansive window at the far end of the lobby.
The U-shaped hotel surrounds a pool with plenty
of space for sunbathing and a lower deck for dining,
all with views of the ocean.
The hotel's décor is California modern with a
touch of art deco or retro. Its sand colored façade
with blue awnings and iron railings fits in well
with much of the other architecture in beachside
Santa Monica. And its an easy walk to the pier,
to Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, or to
Venice's Main Street. Worth a short drive is a
visit to Bergemont Station - a collection of art
galleries in a massive warehouse complex off of
nearby Michigan Avenue. And for $4 dollars, you
can buy one of the grandest vistas in the world.
That's the price of a ride on Santa Monica Pier's
Ferris wheel. Going up, you'll see Catalina in
the distance, ships at sea, sails closer to shore,
jets ascending from LAX, and the long sandy arch
of Santa Monica Bay with views from Malibu to
Venice. Coming down, you can watch children at
play in the arcades, families on the beach, couples
strolling the beachfront paths, bikers and rollerbladers,
and the even more athletic testing themselves
on ropes and rings on the beach. And at night
- well, it's romantic.
While Loews has an incredible ambience and a perfect
seaside location, it offers special amenities
not available in the "average" hotel.
You can order "comfort" items up to
your room like a chenille throw, a mini reading
light, a dvd player, room workout equipment, even
a putting green - gratis. And there's a "Loews
Loves Pets" program. The hotel allows pets
to stay without extra charge. When you check in
with your pet, they get a VIP gift and a welcome
note from the manager. There's even a special
pet room service menu. Have your fido try their
bow-wow burger. You get a puppy pager when you
check in and if there's any problem such as housekeeping
hearing your dog barking or another guest complains,
you'll be paged. The hotel has special cleaning
procedures for rooms that have had pets so you
would never know a pet had been in there.
There is a fitness center, free to guests with
a $10 charge for classes offered in yoga, aerobics,
or pilates. And, of course, there's a full menu
Their fine dining restaurant, Lavande, serves
a California-Mediterranean cuisine and has an
outdoor terrace with spectacular ocean views.
A rental shop shack, owned and operated by the
hotel, sits just at the rear of the hotel on the
beachfront path. There, you can rent a bike, a
boogie board, roller skates, or a bicycle-built-for-two,
and charge it to your room.
You can enjoy a stay at Loews Santa Monica almost
any time of the year except for the 1st week in
February. For the last ten years, the hotel has
hosted the American Film Market. Movie commerce
takes over much of Santa Monica during that week,
and Loews' hotel rooms, conference rooms, and
its 900-guest ballroom become storefronts for
studio and independent producers selling their
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is a great "close
to home" vacation getaway, a wonderful beach
resort at your backdoor.