Fabulously beautiful and fun Casa Del Mar hotel in Santa Monica California
SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - The rooms at Casa Del Mar hotel look like your grandmother's house might look, assuming your grandmother was a rich socialite with a beach house and a flair for Spanish architecture.
This is intended as a compliment, by the way. There are a lot of super trendy spots all over the world with slick fixtures and fancy doodads and rooms that require a degree in civil engineering in order to turn off a g.d. light bulb.
Not at this place. Oh, there was a rather high-tech bath tub that actually had a drying function to it. When I got out of the bath, air started hissing out of the jets and a little panel lit up to say it was drying my tub. Because, you know, somebody might want to put fresh water in there.
That funny bit aside, I found it a stunning and beautiful property. It's an old beach house and said to be the oldest of the "grande dames" that line the beach south of the fun and colourful Santa Monica Pier.
You walk into the lobby and are greeted with ornate floor tiles in gold, blue and red and a soaring ceiling with dark wood beams and a pair of sweeping staircases that take you to the second floor check-in area/lobby. There's a huge mural of southern California's coast on one wall.
The lobby is enormous, with several sections for privacy. The main area has deep, comfortable sofas and a huge fireplace (hey, it was raining and around 16 degrees Celsius when I arrived Saturday night. Off on one side is a small library area and there's a big, beautiful bar that commands attention and is open and inviting. I didn't get a chance to try it out due to a coughing attack that I'm sure had the wait staff at the restaurant ready to call 911....
Behind the bar is a large sitting area for drinks or coffee or just gazing out the enormous windows that front Santa Monica beach and the Pacific Ocean. Bikers and skaters and people walking their dogs stroll past and you get fine views of the sea and the Santa Monica Pier and up north and west to fabulous Malibu and the craggy Santa Monica mountains.
My room was suitably posh but not over the top, with a nice, clamshell-shaped archway and an old-time looking shelving unit that held books and gleaming pieces of white coral and seashells. On the desk was a small, colourful Ferris Wheel, meant to invoke the real one I could see on the pier outside my window (see photo at left). And the light fixture in the bathroom had a base in the shape of a starfish. Better yet was the small green soap bar shaped like a turtle and the rubber ducky next to the tub, complete with a tiny mask and snorkel.
Fun, fun, fun.
The main restaurant, Catch, makes an unbelievably tasty pork belly with hardly a trace of fat and a fabulous black cod in mustard and balsamic like poached and soft enough to cut with a feather. A nice wine list, too. Be aware a waffle with local berries and a wild honey mascarpone will set you back $17 at breakfast. But it's a beautiful, sunny room overlooking the beach so why not live it up?
More to come from Santa Monica and L.A., including a great Santa Monica/Venice bike tour with the folks at the Pedal Or Not bike tour....