I love love love the new Beauty and the Beast movie. One of the best parts, of course, is the Beast’s library, so I wrote “Belle Would Be Enchanted by These 10 Lovely Libraries in Hotels” for USA Today 10Best.Read All Entries
the claremont hotel club and spaaaaaaa
Some travel destinations are, apparently, meant to be. For me, recently, it was the Claremont Hotel Club and Spa.
My daughter had to be in Berkeley a couple of weekends ago and I offered to drive up the coast with her so we could have a mother-daughter road trip and also spend some time with my sister and her family, who live in Northern California. I invited my sister for a spa day to celebrate her new Master’s degree (yay, Sheila!) and asked her to choose a place.
She immediately texted that she had always wanted to try the Claremont. I told her I’d look into it and – voila! What shows up in my inbox an hour later? A press release from the Claremont about their new Beat the Heat summer package! A sign? I mean, seriously, what are the chances?
Sara and I checked into the hotel, which has a beautiful, old-world charm that makes it feel like you’re back at one of those seaside resorts from the golden age of travel. But with wi-fi.
The hotel, perched high above San Francisco, has a glorious, storied past (be sure to read about the woman who was awarded free drinks for life), beginning with a farmer who struck it rich during the Gold Rush and moved his family out to California to build a castle. Since then, legends like Louis Armstrong and Count Basie have entertained in the Garden Room and thousands of guests have added memories to their own personal histories.
After touring the grounds, which feature three mineral-treated outdoor pools, Sara and I spent the whole evening in our cheery room because it was so comfortable and had such stunning views (hello, Golden Gate Bridge), we couldn’t rationalize leaving. We stretched out on the beds and snuggled in for Season 2 of Orange is the New Black.
We ordered mozzarella sticks and the movie package (popcorn, peanut M&Ms and Diet Coke) from room service and, although it was definitely pricey, we were too content to stress over it. The waiter brought the snacks and, when he returned with the mozzarella sticks, he apologized profusely for not bringing them at the same time, which hadn’t bothered us at all, and he gave us another movie package for free! Now, that is exceptional service!
The next day, we met my sister for lunch on the scenic deck of the hotel’s Paragon restaurant, where we gobbled up dishes like shrimp and watermelon salad and grilled chicken Caprese sandwiches with garlic fries. Soooo good.
After a teary goodbye to Sara (well, I cried), she headed off for her new life and Sheila and I headed to the spa. I have to give a big shout-out to Janelle at the front desk there for basically performing a miracle the day before when I went to confirm our appointments and they were completely screwed up (from our end, not theirs). Without blinking an eye, she asked me to just give her a minute and she somehow worked the schedule like a Rubik’s cube – “expert level,” Sara added – and got us exactly what we had originally wanted.
So, now, here she was, welcoming us for our appointments with special goody bags filled with spa products, and it was all I could do not to give her a big hug.
Sheila and I quickly donned our robes so we could hang out for some sister time, and then she was picked up for her hot stone massage and I was escorted to my Lomi Lomi, a traditional Hawaiian treatment in which therapists use plumeria and fresh ginger oils to accompany long, full body strokes.
As a spa aficionado – ooh, I think I should add that to my business card – I like to try new treatments, and this one was so relaxing and just different enough. Rather than focusing on one body part at a time (I’m usually listing in my head, “right leg,” “left leg,” etc. and get sadder as I know we’re approaching the last area left before my massage is over), Lomi Lomi is more free flowing, and therapists often incorporate the whole body with each stroke, using their elbows, wrists and knuckles in addition to fingers to rid the body of toxins and negative energy, and bring a sense of balance and harmony. Basically, it left me feeling like mush, my preferred post-massage state.
Once Sheila and I had gone through our own signature spa ritual, which involves a lot of smiling at each other and purring and sleepy-eyed comparisons of our treatments, we headed for the showers. Janelle’s colleague, Tiffany, who also deserves a shout-out, had recommended we tried the Deluge, which features 30 gallons of water pouring down on you. It was awesome.
We then spent a few minutes in the eucalyptus steam room, which is one of my favorite places because it is the only time my head and sinuses actually feel clear.
From there, we took real showers, and let me tell you this was the best shower I’ve ever taken in my whole 55 years on earth. I know you’ll think I’m exaggerating – until you try it yourself. You can choose from 10 showerheads which each hit different areas of the body – I, of course, turned them all on – and, if we hadn’t been in a little bit of a rush to get dinner and get me to the airport, I’d probably still be in that shower right now.
As I sit here typing this now, with that soothing pillow wrapped around my neck – thank you again, Janelle! – I am trying to encourage my muscles to remember how relaxed they felt that day. And I’m totally understanding why someone would write about leaving their heart in San Francisco. I bet it’s still luxuriating in the spa at the Claremont Hotel.