Summer might be over, but the Ambrose Hotel in Santa Monica, California, is a new boutique hotel that provides "ambrosia" for the soul all year-around.
Thank goodness it was too late to turn back! From the minute we turned into the front of the hotel, we were embraced by a wave of warmth and relaxation that answered our prayers. The truth was that this place was especially designed for REST and RELAXATION. It was a "non-hotel", which made us feel immediately at home, except it was even better because it had every amenity of a luxury five-star hotel, without the dreaded expense.
The first thing I noticed was that it was so quiet. Except for the wind chimes in the Zen garden and the sound of the sea breeze fluttering in the huge bright, red silk, wind flags that boasted three large red hearts swirling in the air, there wasn't another sound to be heard. Even the water fall in the rock garden was soothingly silent as it spilled into the Japanese koi pond.
We were greeted by two beautiful hotel clerks in grey striped blazers. You could tell they loved this serene environment and were proud to be working for this 77- room hotel. The peaceful foyer/living room was decorated with rich, dark cherry hardwood floors, with luxurious Asian carpets. I quietly smiled inside, looking at the comfortable rocking chairs and the cozy library, I secretly knew I had accomplished my goal of finding a place to relax - even if we were going to a college football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, another 45 minutes of traffic away!
It actually took me an extra five minutes to walk to our room as I read about each piece of art work. I didn't know it at the time, but this décor was part of the hotel's master plan to invite me to relax and forget about the stress of the LA freeways. Gazing at each different piece of art allowed me to enter another world that quieted and soothed my frayed nerves. I sensed my whole body beginning to harmonize with the luxurious elements that surrounded me, and I hadn't even been to my room yet!
As we put our key into the lock, and stepped into our room, we were again greeted with a tranquility and quiet elegance everywhere we looked. There was a dark wood multipurpose armoire/entertainment center that looked like a modern "take" of the turn-of-the-century Mission-style furnishings. But the hotel bathroom said it all. The bathroom floor was a rich blue speckled Gasgon floor, fresh Fretta robes hung invitingly on silver hooks, large Oriental bamboo stalks in a clear squared glass vase richly accented the limestone countertops. There were Japanese-style black lacquer boxes that housed a collection of tempting Aveda bath products. The mirrors were framed with a dark, cherry-stained wood that sparkled against the light gold and linen textured wall-coverings. My husband touched the wallpaper and commented that it made him feel at home.
But what really caught my eye were the window treatments, the piece de resistance! The soothing earth tones shaded our room from the brilliant afternoon California sunshine. But it was the accent of the Oriental silk threads artistically woven in a geometric pattern that created the illusion that the drapery itself was a cherished piece of artwork. The sheer thrill of knowing that someone had given such great attention to the finest detail made me feel that The Ambrose was an auspicious place.
In Feng Shui, the ancient art of Chinese placement, when something feels auspicious, you will have good fortune and experience a golden opportunity. This truly was our golden opportunity to rest, relax and rejuvenate ourselves. I took a moment and sent my girlfriend a wireless prayer, thanking her for the recommendation.
This beautiful place piqued my curiosity. I wondered who was responsible for building such an extraordinary place in the middle of a quiet Santa Monica neighborhood?
My husband's curiosity was satiated by the comfortable bed and the remote control in his hand. He had come for the thrill of watching the Bruin, UCLA football team and a quiet time of sports and flipping channels. After watching him flip one too many channels, my curiosity got the best of me. I gave my husband and affectionate hug and kiss and left him in the quiet comfort of our beautiful room. He absent mindedly gave me a wave with the remote in his right hand as I exited the room. It hadn't taken him long to relax and forget we ever had problems.
I wandered past the fitness facility. I was impressed. It had the latest cardiovascular and strength-building equipment I had seen in the most elaborate work out facilities. I was also told that yoga, Pilates, and one-on-one cardio fitness sessions with famed "Hollywood type" fitness trainers were also available to me. "Mmmm, maybe not this weekend," I thought, "but the next time I come back, it would be fun to use their expertise and stay fit while I traveled. That would be fun!" I watched as one of the guests was given a chilled towel after her workout. "What a nice reward," I thought.
I wandered back to the lobby hoping to find someone that knew how this place came into being. I waited while the hotel clerk was giving some information to one of the guests, "We're only ten minutes to Beverly Hills and Century City." That bit of information pleased me because I wanted to visit the famous restaurant, Frida's, in Beverly Hills.
The hotel clerk's pleasing voice continued to explain where the desired tourist attractions were located. "You're only five minutes from the famed pedestrian entertainment street, "Third Street Promenade", and the fashionable Montana Avenue. It's a quick 15 minute drive to the Getty Museum, 20 minutes via freeway to downtown LA, and it will only take you 20 minutes to the Los Angeles Airport." The hotel guests smiled and thanked her for expertly mapping out their day's explorations. It was my turn to request information.
I looked at the young woman behind the counter and hoped she knew the answers to my questions. "I don't mean to interrupt your work, but I was wondering if you knew who is responsible for this remarkable place?"
The young woman smiled broadly as if she couldn't wait to tell the story. She politely excused herself from her post and invited me to join her in the living room.
We stopped in the foyer for a cup of herbal tea. She gestured for me to sit in the cozy Fireplace Library. I sat in front of what should have been a large coffee table, but it was transformed into a huge Zen sand box, complete with a large wooden rake, and three artistically placed crystal balls. As I waited for the hotel clerk to bring our tea, I picked up the rake and gently traced swirling lines in the soft white sand.
Deidre was involved with every aspect of the hotel's development. She wanted to steer clear from the sleek and edgy boutique hotel from the '80s and '90s. Instead of a bustling bar scene, she choose to offer sunset receptions with organic wines and Elixir Tonics and Teas.
Her excitement was contagious as she told me that Ms. Wallace was an avid photographer and writer of poetry. As I sipped my tea, my new friend paused for a moment to make sure she had my total attention. She continued to tell me that Ms. Wallace also appreciated interesting architecture and the relationship between people and their physical surrounding. As I looked around the "Living Room" and thought about my husband resting in our room, I found myself smiling at our relationship to these physical surroundings. The whole place was a refreshing change for any "road warrior". Both of us had our share of traveling around the world for work and never experienced anything quite so remarkable.
The young clerk continued to tell me how Deidre loved to photograph people in a compelling architectural space enjoying "blissful moments." I wondered if she would rather photograph me having tea in the Asian garden, or my husband on the chenille duvet cover with a remote control flipping channels? The truth was that both of us found our own bliss in The Ambrose's natural environment.
Deidre Wallace's story fascinated me. I found myself feeling a new connection to this incredible building. The afternoon had quickly vanished. I thanked the hotel clerk for her graciousness and started back to our room.
We had to eat, get ready for the game and drive to Pasadena, and it was almost 5 p.m.! The hotel offered in-room dining from the Zagat award winning restaurant, Drago's, but we didn't have time for a luxurious in-room dining repose. I quickly called the restaurant and explained my dilemma. I wanted to experience Chef Celestino Drago's gourmet food but we had to be on the freeway in twenty minutes or we'd miss the kickoff.
This was one of the most amazing moments of our weekend. The Maitre 'd found the most incredible solution to our problem. "No worry," he replied, "Choose what you like from the in-room dining menu, and I fix for you a tail-gate party." His broken English with an Italian accent made the idea passionately romantic. I jumped up and down with excitement. What an incredible way to have dinner at a college football game!
Dressed in our comfortable jeans and warm ups, we picked up the food from the famous restaurant Drago's on Wilshire Blvd. A pang of regret hit me when I saw how beautiful the restaurant décor was. I wished we had the time to enjoy this ambiance. "No worry," I thought, we were headed for a memory making opportunity that would be picture perfect. We arrived at the Rose Bowl in perfect time to sit on the side of the 18th Green, with our five-star dining experience laid out before us. We started out with Antipasta of Red Beet Carpaccio with goat cheese panna cotta. The taste was sumptuous. What followed was a Beef Carpaccio Endive Salad, with black truffles and parmesan cheese. We savored every bite as we watched the crowd pass us with their hot dogs and beer. Our main course was a combination of Gargenelli con Salsicce e Rapini, Pecorino Toscano and Roasted Free-Range Chicken, with garlic rosemary sauce and grilled vegetables. This gourmet repast from Drago's Sicilian roots, savored at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena was an unforgettable memory. Just when I didn't think that life could get any better than that, I discovered a tiny surprise in one of the unopened containers. The pastry chef had included a chocolate layered cake with powered sugar frosting. The only thing that made the evening even more memorable was that UCLA won!
Driving back to The Ambrose Hotel, my husband and I were filled with thoughts, and long forgotten feelings of fun and adventure. We had shared our table with the savory delights of Celebrity Chef Celestino Drago, a winning UCLA college football game, and the experience of resting and being rejuvenated by a world-class hotelier, Deirdre Wallace.
We now know what it means, "to feel our bliss." For us, The Ambrose is more than a hotel; it provided an experience and a connection to something far beyond a weekend getaway, or a place to sleep. My husband and I both agreed, The Ambrose Hotel was, "ambrosia for our souls."
- By Janice Wilson, Las Vegas Correspondent. Read the Jetsetters Magazine feature about the Los Angeles Orpheum Theater.