sojourneys


Andaz West Hollywood, California

The Andaz West Hollywood, situated on the fabled Sunset Boulevard, is a jewel in Hyatt’s crown, and a model of what hotels ought to be — bereft of stuffy check-in counters with staff rooted to their station and in their place, welcoming hosts equipped with tablet PCs to process check-ins and who multifunction as concierge-extraordinaire.

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The overall feel of the place, from the architecture to the lobby decor to the guestroom furnishings exude an urbane, contemporary vibe without crossing into pretentiousness.  Hence, guests feel relaxed, welcomed, and at ease.

Andaz in Hindi means “personal style” and the host who checked me in thoughtfully asked if this was my first stay at the property, and when affirmatively informed, proceeded to switch the originally assigned room that was to face Hollywood Hill to one on a high floor (the 12th) that faced the city–a magical sight of the Sunset Strip at night with its glittering and shimmering lights, and on a clear day, the silhouette of downtown Los Angeles beckoning in the horizon.

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The View King room I was so thoughtfully assigned to was one of the most spacious I’ve stayed in, and generously appointed.  In addition to a study desk, there is a section by the floor-to-ceiling window–partitioned by heavy curtains–a chill-out area featuring a chaise lounge and loveseat sofa. With the exception of alcohol, guests are free to partake of the minibar that is stocked with organic tea, orange juice, soda, and snacks.  The bathroom features delightfully-natural toiletries from Mill Valley, CA-based Pharmacopia.

There is an adequately-equipped gym on the mezzanine floor, but the best-kept secret is the rooftop pool offering panoramic views of the surrounds, from the gated abodes of the wealthy on Hollywood Hills to the gleaming towers of downtown LA and everything in between.

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All-in-all, Andaz West Hollywood has been one of the more distinctive Hyatt properties I’ve stayed at, and I look forward to being able to return in the near future.

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The Hyatt Regency Suites Palm Springs, California

When I select a hotel, a few factors are primary in my consideration: location, facilities (gym and pool), and value-for-money.  The Hyatt Regency Suites Palm Springs acquits itself admirably on all three accounts.

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Located in downtown Palm Springs, the hotel is a stroll away to the quaint, eclectic collection of shops–from art galleries (there seem to be so many in Palm Springs!) to cafes to salons that line North Palm Canyon Drive as well as adjacent arterial roads–and a short drive to nearby attractions such as the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (a two and 1/2-mile ascent to the peak of Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness abroad the world’s largest rotating tramcars) and the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, a veritable capital of consumption, in neighboring Cabazon.

Rooms-wise, this is an all suites hotel, and upon check-in, I was upgraded to a premier king room, for which I was glad, because the living area windows of the regular rooms of the atrium lobby hotel face the corridor.  The room was spacious with a separate living and sleeping areas separated by a walkway and the bathroom.  There is a 42″ flat screen TV in both the living and bed rooms.  Bathroom amenities feature the standard White Ginger collection from Portico Spa, although it may be time for Hyatt to update the toiletries to something more contemporary.  The balcony was spacious with a splendid view of the surrounding hills and golf course.

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A well-equipped gym greets fitness fiends.  There are elliptical trainers, treadmills, and weight resistance machines that target some of the core muscles, as well as free weights in the form of dumbbells.  The outdoor pool was heated to room temperature when I was there during the Christmas holidays, making it quite inviting.

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The only downside of the hotel is that it is fairly old.  The decor is starting to look dated and stuffy, and the bathroom especially could do with better lighting.  The need for an update aside, the staff are friendly and efficient, and the well-appointed and fairly comprehensive amenities combine to make guests feel welcome and comfortable.  And at US$102 a night (including taxes) during the December season, I thought it was value-for-money.  For Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum members, parking, Internet, and in-room bottled water charges are waived.

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AVIA Long Beach, California
December 30, 2011, 3:29 pm
Filed under: California, hotels, Hyatt | Tags: , , , , , , ,

AVIA Long Beach, now part of the Hyatt stable of hotels, enjoys a strategic location astride downtown Long Beach on one side and mere strides away to The Pike at Rainbow Harbor and the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center on the other.

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The excellent location aside, during my check-in on Christmas eve, I found the front desk staff unfailingly polite and friendly, and I was upgraded to a Grand King guestroom, a contemporary, well-appointed facility whose highlights include a feature wall with swivel flat-panel TV that can swing to face the living or sleeping areaa, and a spacious white marble bathroom displaying toiletries from the bamboo creme collection of Pasadena-based Lather.

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Although the property has a modest collection of 138 rooms, the sun-lit lobby that adjoins the all-day diner (AVIA Kitchen) and bar (AVIA Lounge) invites in plenty of natural light that expands its confines.  The fitness facility, comprising only five cardio machines and a set of dumbbells, is disappointingly small.  The rooftop pool however boasts delightful views of The Pike as well as the surrounding business area, including the historical Queen Mary–a luxury ocean voyager-turned WWII troopship-turned floating hotel.

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Altogether, I found my stay very agreeable, and certainly look forward to being welcomed back by the hospitable staff and to be able to further explore the beautiful City of Long Beach.



The Renaissance Agoura Hills
December 29, 2010, 7:01 am
Filed under: California, hotels, Renaissance | Tags: , ,

The Renaissance Agoura Hills Hotel is described by Marriott on its website as “lavishly appointed.”  While I think the adjective is a bit of a hyperbole, the hotel is indeed comfortable, with all the amenities one would expect of a four-star property.  The location is excellent, near large multinationals and colossal malls (The Oaks and Camarillo Premium Outlets) alike.

The lobby is spacious, and leads to an outdoor swimming pool (the weather was too wet and frigid to permit a dip) as well as an adequately-equipped fitness center that was divided into two rooms (one for cardio equipments such as treadmills and ellipticals, and the other for weight resistance machines).  The rooms view out into the hills that form the base of the Santa Monica mountains, drawing in peaceful serenity.

The sheets were clean and comfortable, and front desk staff friendly and efficient.  All-in-all, the Renaissance Agoura Hills would make a great springboard to Los Angeles’ constellation of attractions.



Universal Studios – The Rest of the Pictures
April 25, 2009, 4:32 pm
Filed under: California, USA, vacation

Universal Studios is more accurately a sprawling theme park incorporating a suite of working film and TV production studios with multiple state-of-the-art sound stages and minutely-reproduced production sets.  The most awesome of the production sets, in my opinion, must be that of the 2005 War of the Worlds set (yes, the one starring Tom Cruise).

Here are some others…see if you recognize them.

A Christmas show just for the kids (and kid-at-heart).

But even amidst the pyrotechnics and hum-drum, there are still areas of pristine tranquility.



The Houses of Wisteria Lane – On the set of Desperate Housewives

One of the highlights of the Universal Studios tour is surely the set of the fabled Desperate Housewives.  Here, set designers have recreated a microcosm of American suburbia on steriods with its ensemble cast of zany characters including Terry Hatcher as Susan Mayer, Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, Marcia Cross as Bree Van de Camp, Eva Longoria Parker as Gabrielle Solis, Nicollete Sheridan as Edie Williams, and others.  Do you recognize any of the houses here?



Picturesque Mission Bay, San Diego
February 6, 2009, 2:47 pm
Filed under: beaches, California, USA, vacation | Tags: , , ,

Nestled just south of San Diego along the Pacific Ocean in a picturesque enclave, Mission Bay is part of the recreational Mission Bay Park, the largest artificial aquatic park in the United States.  The total land area, including the water catchment, is about 4,235 acres (17.14 sq km), placing it the 9th largest municipally-owned park in the country.  I stayed there for a couple of days, and took these pictures from the vantage point of my hotel balcony and along the docks of the bay.