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I awoke to a cool sea breeze dancing on my face and the aroma of freshly brewed espresso tickling my nose. I got out of bed, put on my fluffy bathrobe and stepped on the balcony, where I breathed in the incredible view of Pacific Ocean to my left and lush pool gardens below. It was a wonderful escape to the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica.
The getaway began when a friend and I pulled into a secluded, hedge-lined driveway across the street from the Santa Monica Pier. We then parked beneath a giant, 100-yr-old fig tree and stepped into seaside luxury.
Our first stop was a classy 8th floor guest room in the Ocean Tower. Overlooking the pool and beach, the room featured a comfy king bed, 42” LCD Flat screen TV, office desk with Internet, espresso machine, mini-bar, radio with iPod dock, a charming old-styled bathroom, and the aforementioned balcony, where we got a bird’s eye view of the historic pier and beach.
Once acquainted with the room, we headed to the pool area for a swim and some rays. While sipping iced tea and relaxing on a cozy recliner beneath swaying palm trees, I read about the 300-room Miramar’s fabled history.
Built as a private mansion by John P. Jones, a former U.S. Senator and founder of Santa Monica, The Fairmont Miramar Hotel has been a happening hideaway for Hollywood hipsters and guests since 1921.
In 1924 the six-story Palisades Wing was built to provide apartments for extended-stay guests, such as actress Greta Garbo, who lived here for four years. In the 1930s, private bungalows were constructed and actresses such as Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe, and public figures like Eleanor Roosevelt and aviator Charles Lindbergh became regulars. Today, the Palisades Wing is still around, and the 32 poolside bungalows have been restored to former grandeur and are separated from the two main hotel buildings by gardens, ponds and fountains.
Another hotel landmark still standing is the humungous, 80-ft-tall fig tree that welcomes guests at the main entry. Planted more than 100 years ago, the tree is the second largest of its kind in California. The tree is so beloved that hotel’s signature eatery was named FIG Restaurant (www.figsantamonica.com).
Headed by Chef Ray Garcia, FIG offers fresh, local and organically grown ingredients straight from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. FIG features an intimate private dining room and a communal table and pewter bar allowing guests to have a casual dining experience.
Besides FIG, the hotel boasts the Lobby Lounge, where we had dinner during our stay. Overlooking a Koi fishpond and waterfall, the Lobby Bar is located next to the main lobby and spills outside, providing a memorable summer dinner experience.
Our meal began with tasty-sweet Mojitos with mint and rum, and a couple delicious fish tacos with fresh fish, avocado, mango and cabbage. We then enjoyed homemade roasted tomato basil soup with crunchy bread. For a main course I had scrumptious shrimp scampi with white wine sauce and roasted garlic; and my friend devoured a tender bistro steak, with Hungarian sweet peppers.
After dinner, we walked a couple blocks to Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade, a European-styled walkway with hundreds of shops, restaurants and bars. In the morning, I worked out in the hotel fitness center and swam in the beach.
The Miramar also boasts a barber shop, and Exhale, a full-service spa and fitness facility with therapy services and fitness programs, mind and body classes, yoga, steam room, sauna, lockers and showers.
Besides all these amenities, the hotel is currently offering special packages such as the Romantic Coastal Package. This seaside-romance experience offers luxurious accommodations, a romance amenity delivered to your room, an intimate, dinner for two at FIG Restaurant, a cozy ride in Santa Monica Pier’s Ferris wheel, and breakfast in bed. Rates start from $499.
The Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows are located at 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90401. For more info and reservations, call (310) 576-7777 or visit: http://www.fairmont.com/santamonica/.
-Photo by Greg Aragon