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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel

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 spa.
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 wares.
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is a great "close to home" vacation getaway, a wonderful beach resort at your backdoor.