It started the minute I was greeted by the W San Diego Hotel's valet. A beautiful young woman, with a friendly welcoming smile opened my car door and my "W" experience began!
There wasn't a moment that I wasn't surprised, captivated, and thoroughly enthralled with the way the "W" captured the casual comfort and beach culture that makes San Diego one of the most quintessential Southern California cities. This place is like none other in all of its amenities.
As you enter the lobby you realize that you've found a place where "high touch" meets "high tech," and you can't wait to see, feel and taste what's next!
The visually stimulating "technowall" over the lobby bar is a grouping of ten individual television screens measuring six feet high and five feet wide. The video showed a surfer riding the big blue Pacific waves, a vision of perfect symmetry in motion. When I'm at the beach I always feel a tremendous sense of awe and wonder at the ocean's magnificence. This virtual reality "technowall" instantly, gave me the ocean experience I craved.
So without fighting for parking, or being mobbed by tourists, I was getting my beach fix just by entering the W San Diego's lobby. The warm and inviting beach colors greeted me like the call of a friendly seagull. The plush sofas and extravagant window seats invited me relax and enjoy the exhilarating beach sensations The sky blue of the chairs and the sandy beige stripes accented by golden tones and sunny images made me feel like a perfect Southern California day. I began to believe that "W" stood for Wow!
As I checked-in, I admired the dramatic round entryway that led me to the reception area. Behind the desk was a clear resin wall embedded with floating shells that served as another visual seascape. As I looked up, I was captivated by the soaring ceilings and sheer drapes that framed the lobby décor. It was a grand mixture of textures and natural fibers that are usually found in luxurious Mexican retreats but a strong influence of American Modernism eclectically integrates the colors and lines creating a marriage of substance and style.
What happened next for us was that our exuberant valet couldn't wait to take us up to our room! I've never met someone so genuinely happy to be working at a hotel. It appeared as if the W was her home, and she was completely thrilled that we were going to be spending time enjoying her private beach resort. In fact, every hotel staff member we met made us feel like honored guests and it was their pleasure to serve us.
I had the opportunity to talk with Rob Stirling, Director of Sales and Marketing for the W San Diego and asked him about the refreshing enthusiasm each employee exhibited. He told me, "We made a point to hire people that never had hotel experience but loved being with people. We didn't want our staff tainted with how things 'should be done'. It was important for us to have people who loved our hotel and thoroughly enjoyed serving our guests. It's part of what makes us so unique."
Again I felt that soothing, cool sea breeze that always gives me a sense of well being and happiness. I felt privileged to be experiencing one of America's preeminent leisure destinations. The grandeur of the ocean always leaves me speechless. The first ten minutes of my stay at the W San Diego did the same.
The sensations and pleasures of this hip and upscale hotel continued to astound my husband and myself! San Diego is often compared to the Mediterranean Riviera and the mod touches of the décor of the hotel, combined with the ethnic and rustic weaves truly captured this ambiance.
The next big surprise was our room. I didn't know what to think.
The walls were a deep sea blue and were dramatically contrasted against striking white furnishings. The beach-like slated window treatments cast a hazy, misty, light into the room. I could almost smell the comfort of the night sea mist rolling in. But my thoughts of an afternoon nap were abruptly interrupted with my valet's grand gestures to get my attention. She wanted to make sure I was aware of all the amenities this room offered.
But I did notice that if you were there for business, the hotel didn't miss a beat with all of its high tech amenities. There was a large desk, two telephones, one with a dataport and speakerphone capabilities, for all those required conference calls. There was a high speed internet broadband access line available, that's also wireless. No need to waste your time at your computer. The phone by the bed was cordless.
"Nice touch," I thought. I always hated being held captive by a telephone cord when I wanted to roam the room, answer the door, or gaze out the window, especially if I could see the ocean!
Above the desk, where there's usually a mirror or painting, hung a huge black board, equipped with eraser and white chalk. Our valet signed her name... Carly, and told us to call her if we needed anything.
Later, my husband and I sent each other chalk messages and drew funny cartoons. I'm still smiling at how mischievous it felt to write on that big black chalk board!
Carly enjoyed our sense of play and felt compelled to show us where the hidden high tech drawers were to store our belongings, or forget that we left them behind. Her laughter was contagious. But the "piece de resistance" was the shower door. She proudly pointed to a round open hole. "As you can see, the glass door has an open hole so when you turn on the water you don't need to get wet." Her demeanor was as entertaining as a day at the beach!
Carly left us to explore the rest of the hotel. She told us to visit the health club called "Sweat", and "Wet" that was complete with an outdoor dipping pool. She was proud to let us know that there was no added charge for the use of these facilities. But we were only staying the evening, and I didn't want to waste a moment on the treadmill, when I could be enjoying a cocktail at San Diego's premier nightspots! My daughter is a senior at University of San Diego and she's bragged about the rooftop bar, "BEACH" as "THE" stylish place in town. Being from Las Vegas, I was curious to see what could possibly make a roof top bar so special.
I quickly found out and nightlife for me will never be the same! The "Beach" takes the Cabana culture to a whole new level. It's an outdoor rooftop sand bar, on the fifteenth floor, where you can feel the breeze of the sea air and dig your toes into a heated sandy floor - if you desire. I quickly found a canvas beach chair that rocked, tossed off my sandals and dug my toes playfully into the warm sand. I loved the sensation of the soft white grains sifting between my toes without the flies and smell of seaweed interrupting my pleasure.
It was dusk, so the large lava fire pit was unlit and the private tented cabanas were empty. But I let my imagination wander as our waitress told me about the nightly outdoor movie screenings and the party atmosphere on the weekends. Guess I'll need to ask my daughter for all the details, or better yet, come back myself on a weekend night! I'll let you know what I find out.
Midweek the "Beach" turned out to be a casual friendly place, where we met another couple and shared libations. Our new friends, Mr. and Mrs. Johnston were also from Las Vegas. Like us, they were escaping the desert heat. As we toasted to the cool weather and our serendipity meeting, I discovered the Johnston's were world travelers. Curiously I asked what they thought about the W San Diego? Without hesitation Elena Johnston replied, "It's truly one of the finest places we've ever encountered. I love the robes and the rooms are the most comfortable we've seen. You know, we've never stayed at a W before - but after seeing this one, a W hotel will be our preference."
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation with the Johnston's so much that we invited them to dinner. I had talked to a couple of my girlfriends who live in San Diego and they told me it was a "must" to dine at "Rice", the W's signature restaurant.
"It's the best in town." The word was out to all the locals. So we agreed to meet at Rice - 7p.m.
But the restaurant's décor was only a backdrop for the soothing ambiance created to savor its key ingredient -.the food! We each tried a different appetizer and entrée that included a Sizzling Vegetable Tempura with Citrus Ponzu and Salmon Crab Cakes with Chile Ailoi. My inveterate curiosity led me to order the grilled Tuna with Crunchy Gazpasho and Almond Rice. It was succulent. As I tasted my husband's Miso Glazed Swordfish with Mango Cilantro Rice, I realized that the chef's desire to delight our palettes' was authentic. After sharing a banana ice cream dessert, our attentive waiter presented us with a large and fluffy white spectacle of cotton candy. Again, the surprise presentation momentarily took my breath away. Nibbling on the airy, sweet and decadent sugary treat left me feeling as uninhibited as a child savoring her last frolic at the beach. Our dining pleasure wouldn't be complete without a warm recognition for the excellent service.
The W San Diego is more than a hotel. It is an innovative and inspiring place that makes you delight in life and appreciative for such a spectacular hotel experience. Because the W San Diego is part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts International, I wouldn't miss an opportunity to have this experience at any one of their 725 properties around the world.