Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hollywood Hospitality revisited: The Langham Huntington Pasadena

Have you ever checked into a hotel and felt like you were entering your own home?  I felt that way from the instant we stepped out of our ride from the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.  The Valet AND bellman were expecting us and greeted us by NAME, and guided us to the front desk while the luggage was carted away.  How'd they know?  Ohh...they had our luggage out and read the tags before the passenger door even opened.  Fabulous!

The Langham Huntington Pasadena was built as the Hotel Wentworth in 1907, but construction setbacks, the Great San Francisco Earthquake, and torrential weather delayed the opening, and the venture shut down after its first season.  Enter railroad tycoon Henry Huntington.  Huntington purchased the property in 1911, and after renovations and extensions, plus the addition of the now-iconic central tower, opened for business.

Having been sold to the Sheraton Hotel Corporation in 1954, it remained flagged as a Sheraton for years until being closed in 1988 for major renovations and repairs.  The lanai and cottages that were a part of the property remained open while construction began and was reflagged as the Ritz-Carlton Huntington until it was sold in 2007 to the Langham Hotels for $170 Million.

Enough history, onto the property herself!

We had arrived there on a Sunday, thinking it'll be a slower than normal day.  Boy were we wrong.  As stated above, the bellhops helped us out of our ride and hauled our luggage inside.  Check-in was a breeze, and I was again greeted by name as I stepped up to the counter.  Having stayed at Langhams before, especially this one in particular, I have become accustomed to this.  If you are fortunate enough to have Colleen take care of you, you will have nothing to worry about, she is one of the finest people the Langham employs, always going above and beyond for the guests,  Once I got my keys, up to the room we went, that first stay was in a Club King room on the 8th floor, with access to the renown Langham Club.

Once in our room, we started unpacking and checking out our digs.  It was a very nice room, classically furnished with an amazing bathroom, needless to say there was space to stretch out.  Susie's favorite part was the free wi-fi that comes with the room.  While we were unpacking there was a knock on the door.  One of the concierges came up and brought a plate of fresh fruit and a huge bottle of Evian...along with a tray of K-cups of tea for our in-room Keurig machine, bottles of honey and fresh lemon wedges.  "We heard you coughing at check-in and just wanted to help you out in getting better".  I was amazed.  I went though that entire tray in 8 hours.

We had arrived at the hotel a bit early, so me and Susie decided to check out the pool.  Because there was an event sponsored by Netflix there that first visit, there were plenty of celebrities to be seen getting sun by the pool and hot tub areas.  The pool is heated year round, and from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the poolside bar is open for business.  We stayed and relaxed with the stars for about an hour.  It was amazing, never in a hundred years did I ever think I'd be sipping bubbly in a hot tub with John Stamos and Andrea Barber.

Back in the room, I sat down and took stock.  It was very nicely appointed and a good size (550 Square feet for the Club King Room, other stays ranged from the 415 Square foot Deluxe Patio Room on the first floor, to the slightly larger 450 square foot Deluxe Premier Room on the 6th floor during my last two trips), with killer views of the gorgeous courtyard on one side, or the pool and tennis areas on another side, to the horseshoe gardens facing the west.  As usual when I travel with Susie, a rollaway is already placed in the room and turned down for the night, which she loves (and strangely enough, thinks they are more comfortable than the regular beds).  The bathrooms are completely covered in Italian marble and stock with Chuan Spa amenities (which are some of the greatest bath products I've ever used).  This hotel really goes out of the way to make their guests not feel like they are staying in closet sized accommodations.


Twice I've had the luxury of using the Langham Club.  That first trip we had walked in right as the Club Concierge was setting up for the Club's dinner presentation, so we got in right in time for the last of that day's afternoon tea service.  I love this tradition, and Susie and I have made it a twice every winter ritual (the first was at the Langham Huntington, the most recent was at the iconic Langham London, the first day they rolled out the Holiday Tea Service for 2016-2017).  The Club is actually in a quiet little nook of the 8th floor, with plush seating arrangements and plenty of options to quench one's thirst, or grab a quick stomach settler before dinner downstairs in the Royce Steakhouse.  Some of the perks include computer work stations, complimentary pressing of 3 garments, and the above average higher than all else concierge services the Langham properties are known worldwide for.

During my most recent stay, Cherilyn, the Service Stylist, took myself and a co-worker on a tour of the hotel, telling us more about the history of the property, and showing us all OVER the resort.  From the acclaimed Chuan Spa (#1 Spa in Los Angeles, according to LA Magazine), to the award winning and incredibly mouth-watering menu at the Royce, to the outdoor and laid back vibes of the Terrace Cafe, or to the mellow and dark Tap Room, there's something for every sort of guest that stays within these hallowed walls.  My coworker was so blown away with the property, she has begun selling it at a MUCH faster pace than I have, even though it IS my go to resort for anything North of LAX or in the Burbank/Pasadena area.

So as far as this Travel Agent is concerned, the Langham Huntington Pasadena is THE resort hotel to stay at in the North Los Angeles/Burbank/Pasadena area.  The attention to detail and care received are worth FAR more than the great nightly rates and package deals available.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mind-blowing Mountain Hideaway: Spending a pet-friendly weekend at the Waldorf Astoria Park City

I very rarely take a vacation INSIDE the State of Utah, where I live.  Usually, I'm on the first flight of the morning out of Salt Lake City to anywhere.  This was however, Mother's Day weekend, and I had just returned from the Los Angeles basin just two days prior.  Plus, I didn't want to subject my family to TSA screening this weekend.  So, as a shocker, I took Mom and the rest of us to the Waldorf Astoria in Park City for Mother's Day weekend.

The resort itself is nestled at the foot of the Canyons Ski Resort Area, just a few miles North of Park City itself.  Park City is a year-round destination, with world class skiing/snowboarding in winter (it held the most mountain-based events during the 2002 Winter Olympics), and amazing camping, hiking, and outdoors activities during the Summer.  The shoulder seasons of Spring and Fall offer slightly chillier temperatures, but with the changing colors during Fall, this area is an amazing display of Nature at her best.

So we arrived there on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon, just before the 4:00PM check-in time (the drive from our home took just under an hour), but that was no problem.  The valet quickly and efficiently offloaded us and sent us on our way in while he parked the Volvo.  The front desk is not your standard front desk setup.  It is quite simply, two executive office desks set off to one side of the grand and picturesque main lobby.  My Dad looked around asking "What are we doing here?".  I had to suppress a smile as I got us checked in and on our way, with expert and extremely courteous and friendly assistance from the front desk agent.

Up to the 7th floor we went, and into a spacious 1-Bedroom Bi-Level Suite.  Clocking in around 740 square feet, this suite is perfect for a family of 4.  Upstairs is completely private with a master bedroom/master bathroom setup (and what a bathroom it is!).  On the main floor you have the half bathroom downstairs, incredibly spacious living room (even with the sofabed pulled out and made), high vaulted ceiling, incredibly set out kitchen stocked with Viking appliances, dining area, gas fireplace, and a full size washer/dryer combo in the entry.  There was even a pair of dog bowls laid out for Buddy, filled with fresh water and food, with treats for him on the counter as well.  Oh, and you can't forget the balcony with the AMAZING views of either the mountains around you, or if you are on the other side, the resort spread out and valley view below.

Once we got our luggage delivered and settled in, we let the housekeeping staff do their thing with the nightly turndown service while we headed into Park City for dinner.  Upon our return (after gawking at the vintage Ferrari's that had pulled up to the Valet and taking Buddy, our Cocker Spaniel, for his evening constitutional) the room was dressed down for the evening and we unwound on the balcony (some of us later than others) and in the living room.

After my folks went upstairs, Susie and I took Buddy for another adventure, exploring the hotel and what it has to offer.  Off to one side of the Grand Lobby you have the Palette Gift Shop for last minute wearables, a few select Waldorf branded items, and often forgotten sundries.  Crossing to the other side of the expansive lobby and its massive fireplace, you have the Powder Restaurant.  We didn't get a chance to eat here during our stay, but I will go up and try it out here soon with some buddies on a day trip up the mountain.  Heading out the doors to the balcony that wraps around the double sided fireplace you get a breathtaking view of the resort and the valley behind,  NOT a bad view to wake up to.  Going down the stairs you are greeted by the warm flames from the firepit (wheres s'mores are constructed, toasted, and devoured nightly from 7:30PM to 9:30PM).  The heated pool and whirlpool are on the other side of the gate, and there was quite a crowd there that evening, despite the chill in the air.

There is also a range of spa options and fitness studios and the well equipped gym to keep your mind and body in shape during a stay there, as well.  There are weekly classes at the resort featuring yoga, kickboxing (yay!), Pilates, and other circuits and trainings.

Checkout the next morning was a snap and we were on our way in 5 minutes, with fresh cut roses for my Mom, and bottles of water for the ride home, and another treat for Buddy.

I book the Waldorf Astoria resorts quite a bit, especially this one, and now that I've stayed here, I can honestly say I will do a MUCH better job at selling it, as I do recommend this one, as I did the original Waldorf Astoria in New York City.  The price is not bad for the service and room you get, and the staff there are absolutely amazing, and really go out of their way to make you feel like you are home.

Photos by the author or by the Waldorf Astoria Park City Resort.