HotelCrush: a vehement, furious, downright pathological appreciation for hotel design and culture
We love hotels. We love room service. We love poolside cocktails. There is nothing more decadent than a trip to a hotel, the epicenter of our social circles and respite from our daily life. They are destinations in themselves, with the acumen of the location converged in the design and the sensibilities of its inhabitants. Hotels are daydreams made real, with amenities at your fingertips and a dip in the water just steps away. More than temporary homes, today's hotels aspire to be just like home - whatever home it is that you are looking for.
FEATURED HOTEL REVIEW:
A modern day gingerbread house for local Hansels and Gretels, the Mondrian London is the aggressive new disco ball illuminating the Southbank neighborhood. The entrance opens to a scattered hive of seating areas and eclectic lounge spaces, the seeming handiwork of a billionaire outfitting his private jet. Our visit slipped into twilight over wine and a selection of snacks at the hotel's signature Sea Containers bar. With a view of the Thames, we settled in for a good catch up with a dear friend and fell into that rare space between cities filled with the best of both.
3/23/12: hollywood, spaaah
It's with great anticipation and a tinge of desperation that we storm into an appointment at a new spa. Like the delirious aroma of good perfume or the tingle of a delicious new bubbly, we seek, crave, and devour novelty. The backlog of knots to work through as our excuse, we booked an 80-minute custom massage at the Argyle and a plunge in the Turkish hammam. For those familiar with Los Angeles, the Argyle Salon & Spa is located in the hotel we will always call The Argyle, though it is DBA an alias called the Sunset Tower. Our arrival signaled the refreshing appearance of an orange juice, and we were escorted downstairs to the quiet blur of the Argyle's spa suites.
We love the bright and easy waiting rooms of most spas, with their cucumber-spiked water and delicious brownies (well, at Bliss), but we also love the decadently anti-social treat of having our own suite for the duration of our visit, stocked with Arcona products. After settling in, our masseuse (and cruise director for the afternoon) supplied us with an icy washcloth, a scoop of coconut brown sugar scrub, and a quick immersion on how to operate the Hammam jets. We love a good steam and the hammam did not disappoint, smothering us in a wall of hot water vapor as we lingered under the cold tap. Twenty minutes was our ration of dizzying heat, and we were back in our suite ready for a reset.
We remember the best massage of our life like our first trip to Europe, and we're happy to report that our masseuse at the Argyle was competitive with the EU. A good massage is rigorous without being painful, relaxing while still effective. Working each knot one by one, our masseuse eased our muscles back into place, leaving us refreshed and numb with relaxation.
2/12/12: hollywood, yummy, campaign champagne
Any excuse to sip bubbly will do, so it was Grammy weekend on which we leaned for a pleasant drenching of champagne and dessert. The setting was Primary Wave at SLS, a hotel that nearly verges on a lifestyle for a brigade of patrons who rely on staples like cotton candy foie gras and liquid nitrogen-chilled cocktails. It was a quick tour through and we were sated...until next year's crop of novelty stirs our cravings.
Party Lobby and Patio Dessert Table:
Paella and Dessert:
1/16/12: hollywood, yummy, campaign champagne
There's something delicious and irresistible about a new champagne. The best ones are tart and dense with bubbles that pop on your tongue, with just the slightest linger of sweetness. Which is why when we tried the Moët & Chandon Imperial 2002 (in adorable mini bottles) we were hooked. The setting was awards season Hollywood and the party was a modern day Gatsby indulgence - towering vases of white flowers, dramatic chandeliers, bites of crabcakes and foie gras, shrimp and lamb. But it was the champagne bubbles buzzing on our tongue that stood out as sensational, and for that we are ever wiser.
12/27/11: palm springs, hotelcrush
Our last visit to Palm Springs plunged us through the kind of thrilling, dizzying heat tempered by a glass of lemonade and a lazy poolside lounge chair. But the Earth must frustratingly rotate, and therefore we're stranded every six months in a frosty skid called Winter. We grudgingly make the best of it, bundling in bright coats and stormy boots, stirring marshmallows into our hot chocolate. But we never forget our luxuious summer afternoons, and for that we repatriate (with more layers of clothing) to the Parker Palm Springs.
The Parker is a rare intersection of abundance and minimalism, flawlessly styled and yet devastatingly quiet. Outside lounges mellow into gardens, buildings recede into the trees. The sense is there that if you need something, only then will you see it. We took a walk to the pool and spent the afternoon reading on a lounge chair, buzzed in the sunshine, happy as the bunny that had crossed our path.
Like the best hotels, the Parker is a microcosm of comfort, dense with casual luxury and smothered in attentive service. Though we love the comfortable bed and the gorgeous bath amenities, our favorite decadence here (and at all hotels!) is room service. Breakfast here is not to be missed, and for that we rely on our standing order – a split of the lox and bagel plate and crisp Belgian waffle with berries, followed by a deliciously satifying nap.
No small amount of luxury lingers next to the vanity:
12/7/11: we are la
Sunbathing in December may seem like a monopoly of the Southern Hemisphere, but its invigorating effect is not limited to Bon Aire or Rio. An afternoon soaking in the sun is just what the body needs, and it's easily had if you are in temperate Southern California. So march outside, park your towel, and push your sunglasses over your eyes. The sunshine vitamin will leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready to conquer your next assignment.
Our heart beats fast, fast, and faster for the glittering displays at Bendel's. The jaded will say that only diamonds will do, but our taste runs extravagantly broad and smothers anything shiny and highly refractive. Thus our meeting with the Holiday jewelry collection was swift and furious. We love the Buckle Up baby bangle and matching ring, as well as the Holiday Stone Cluster bracelet and the Locked Up Bracelet. But this being the season of giving, we left the store with just two pieces – one for us, and one for our lovely friend M.
The Henri Bendle Buckle Up Baby Bangle and Ring:
The Henri Bendel Holiday Stone Cluster Bracelet and Locked Up Bracelet:
12/5/11: bliss, spaaah
We at HotelCrush are deeply opinionated, but we're also about objectivity – and fairness. After last spring's fabulous Father/Daughter Spa Day, it was just a matter of time before we pulled together something equally fabulous for Mom. Our proprietor of choice was Bliss Spa Hollywood, the only Bliss to serve champagne, and therefore the BEST Bliss. Drai's rooftop lounge was closed for lunch, so we found a sunny table outside at Delphine and dug into bistro fare (a salad for her, a Croque for us). Of course a party isn't complete without party favors, so we handed her a Bliss bag of our faves: Lemon and Sage body butter, High Intensity hand cream, and Glamour Gloves ("Ooh! those gloves that I use after putting hand cream on?? Oh I SO need these...")
And then it was off to the spa. We've road-tested the Triple Oxygen Treatment, Fully Loaded Facial, and Elemis Tri-Enzyme Facial, but wanted to do something luxe and patently Bliss for mom. We booked her into the Youth As We Know It Facial, a nourishing anti-aging fog of collagen and relaxation, while we opted for our standard Blissage75, a 75-minute knot-tamer fortified with a paraffin foot pack and a full-on hemorrhage of Blood Orange & White Pepper body butter. It was her first time in the spa portion of Bliss, so we were excited to introduce her to the decadent backstage. "The brownies are absolutely drop dead," we warned, pillaging two at a time. Settling into the comfortable couch, we chatted over sips of bubbly, wished each other well, and plunged vehemently into the last perfect hour of rev and renewal.
12/3/11: it's not going to happen
The faint memory of a sweltering afternoon spent cooling down in a rooftop poolside cabana has kept the Renaissance Hotel peripherally alive on our radar. A hotel at Hollywood and Highland was never going to be anyone's favorite, but surely it couldn't be horrible, and yet...that's what it disappointingly has become. A recent night culled the following impression:
We are impressed that such conspicuous mediocrity made it out of the gate unchecked, but as our favorite graphic novel Ghost World says, "It's so bad it went all the way to good and back to bad again."
11/30/11: bliss, yummy
It goes without saying by this point that we've tried a good 50% of the Bliss product line, from the disturbingly lush Blood Orange & White Pepper body scrub to the glossy, moisturizing Youth As We Know It cream. But two products have powered us through November, assisted by the requisite water and oxygen.
Bliss Problem Salved 20-in-1 Wonder Balm: There is nothing glamorous about a chapped, runny nose, save the minty tingle after applying this amazing balm. Meant for everywhere except the lips, this nose chapstick (and prescription vitamin D supplements) invigorated our pale, vampiric physiology and snapped us out of a seasonal cold without the red-nosed, bloodshot, party-hangover-like aftermath.
Bliss Fabulips Lip Balm: Is it possible to go through a tube of lip balm in two weeks? Yes, it is. Or at least, we're 3/4 of the way through it and we're just shy a half-week. This is possibly the most addictive, enslaving product Bliss has released to date. The buttery, faintly coconut-scented texture glides effortlessly across the lips, resting protectively between you and the elements attacking you (ie the harsh, 60-degree weather). We would say that this product is not for the sensory-addicted, but it totally is for the sensory-addicted, and we've just ordered another three tubes to carry us through, you know, January.
10/28/11: campaign champagne
There is something smoldering about the downtown of Los Angeles. It's vacant at first sight, with uplit buildings and quiet streets. It looks like it was built for a population three times its size. But it's raucous with history, and spread beautifully thin. Loft parties, basement speakeasies, and rooftops frosted with city lights. And something new that we'd like to share.
In the heart of Pershing Square, a beat shy of the Biltmore, is a gorgeous building from the early 20th that is home to Perch, a sprawling French bistro on the top two levels. Summer was as far from our memory as a dip in the Parker Palm Springs pool, but we toasted a warm fall evening on the patio with a bottle (or two) of bubbly. We ordered a post-concert supper of Beef Bourgignon Deconstruit and an apple tart (dessert is a mandatory component of HotelCrush).
But mostly we fell for the view:
The Beef Bourgignon Deconstruit and Apple Tart:
10/23/11: campaign champagne
In addition to the iconic hotel bar, there are certain lounges that scream low-key glamour and off-the-clock indulgence. Usually positioned in well-trafficked retail neighborhoods, these spots are just as much journey as destination.
Cipriani Dolci – Grand Central Station: We're deeply smitten with Grand Central Station and the gorgeous Main Concourse. Our favorite stops at GC include the Transit Museum Store and the subterranean mezzanine food hall, but our top scenario to wind away an hour is over a martini (Ketel, twist) at this lovely bar overlooking an afternoon's worth of transportation logistics.
Neiman Marcus: If you're avoiding New York City and sunning on the West Coast, we recommend an afternoon cocktail at Neiman Marcus's lovely Rotunda Bar in San Francisco. White, bright, modern Gilded Age style greets you, along with comfortable plush seating and an afternoon tea service featuring your mandatory glass of bubbly. The bonus? A couple glasses of champagne makes the wait for a fitting room a bit smoother.
Bergdorf Goodman: Back to New York. (You knew you couldn't stay away that long..) Sometimes you find yourself stranded in Midtown during a flash downpour with no chance of a cab. Moments like these were made for Bar Americain at Bergdorf's, situated off the lower right-hand corner of Central Park and vigorously far from public transit. You'll find a warm restaurant bar finished in the dark wood paneling that subtly declares, "We're downright timeless."
The Rotunda Bar, Cipriani Dolci, and Bar Americain:
A proper sensory addict, we wouldn't think of throwing a party without choreographing the music. Like a road trip without snacks, or a pool day without lemonade, there's a mood and an ambience infused by a good soundtrack that keeps the party in the clouds. Here are our favorites for an eternal drenching of summer:
1. Roads Must Roll - Boom Bip
2. Flip Ya Lid - Nightmares On Wax
3. The Shanghai Shuffle - Mochipet
4. Babylon of the Orient (Instrumental) - The Shanghai Restoration Project
5. Transform - TJ Rehmi
6. Chemnitz - Transglobal Underground
7. Ocean Beat - Tosca
8. Les Professionnels - Air
9. Recurring - Bonobo
10. Purrfect - Funky Porcini
11. Composure - B. Fleischmann
12. Change Down - Bonobo
13. Child's Play - DJ Cam
14. Air Giant - Transglobal Underground
15. You Are We Am I (Blue Mix) - TJ Rehmi
We're the opposite of "shopaholic," those ravenous Sex-and-the-City women whose sense of self-worth is derived from the momentary pleasure of a designer handbag or pair of shoes. In fact, women like that downright creep us out. But every so often we come across something so stunning that it deserves a second glance, a further inspection, and a bit of hard-earned want. So now we'll do a little sharing.
Gray is really no one's color, a shade disappointingly forgettable given its stunning parents Black and White. But pop it onto a curve-hugging silhouette with a sweetheart neckline and salacious red lining and it becomes positively exotic. We love this "Thora" dress from Agent Provocateur because it's the picture of decorum...until you turn around.
We're far more into experiences than things and can't see ourselves following through, but perhaps if we're in the neighborhood we might stop in for a fitting...no harm in a little tease?
We admit we don't make enough time for our hometown. It's a beautiful place, casual in style, effortless in approach. Santa Monica is the definition of "don't sweat the small stuff" and we love its breezy, bright, oceanfront palaces. But like any hometown, each visit has the tug of a bungee cord beckoning repatriation. Two glasses of bubbly and we were safely back in the Hills, coddled by oak trees and the familiar breeze of the Santa Anas. The following are souvenirs.
Casa Del Mar Hotel entrance:
Casa Del Mar lobby bar:
As we prep for our Miami trip with a wish list ten hotels strong, we're reminded of our preferred approach to travel. We've been on tours with frighteningly fast-paced schedules, 8am bus call times, and agendas more ambitious than the UN General Assembly. But at the end of the day (and years later) we remember one, maybe two stunning stops from that day. The Coliseum in Rome, the Gallery of the Uffizi, the delicious risotto at La Giostra. And thus all of the rushing, the photo stops, the picturesque drives, the 4th and 5th Basilicas – these all have evaporated.
When we travel, we edit. We're not about quantity, we're not about exhaustion. Whether we have three days in a city or two weeks, our approach is the same. Marinate as deeply as we can in the things that excite us the most. We've sunk afternoons sipping lemonade poolside or on city rooftops, we've slept all day and slipped from lounge to lounge all night. We indulge our interests unapologetically ("You went to Florence and you didn't see David!" Answer: "Saw it ten years ago. Done.") and nod to culture when it suits our taste (We can't go to London without a stop at the Tate Modern).
It's this self-editing, this absorption of the routine along with the irreverant, that makes us excited about travel. We're as voraciously addicted to design as they come, and nothing makes our heart race like consuming a new hotel, a new poolside lounge, a new gallery, or turn at chocolate ice cream. We're in it for the culture and city beat, the throbbing center of inspiration for all the Davids and Michaelangelos we haven't seen.
Our skincare needs are simple. We like products that work. We also like products that smell good, feel good, and aren't crazy expensive. But overall, we're content with anything that does what it says it's going to do, and smitten with anything that does more. So when our friend P started raving about Arcona products, we were curious but cautious. "Organic" can mean potent, nutritious, and nourishing, but it also has the connotation of being wussy, hokey, and second-rate. Our experience at Arcona was revitalizing in itself, but we were more invested in how the products we were given improved our skin in the long-term. With all of the other products on our shelf for a month and a half, we gamely took the Arcona challenge. And we're THRILLED with the results.
A good face exfoliator is hard to find. It can't be too rough (small, evenly shaped particles work best) and it must be dense enough in particles to excavate properly. Our discovery of Arcona's Cranberry Gommage was everything we wanted – a thick, viscous paste that dislodges blackheads and a comforting cranberry scent that reassures our skin we're not too harsh.
This cleanser is by far the best we've tested this year, easing even our favorite Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash off the shelf. We love the gentle fragrance and smooth lather, which can only be described as medicinal in its healing properties. Our face feels cleaner, softer, and more revived with every use.
Oily skin and heavy creams don't mix, but even oily skin needs a boost of nutrients. Rich with antioxidants and as natural as a leaf, this serum hydrates without overpowering or congesting pores. The wonderful scent tinged with coconut reminds us of Hawaiian vacations and warm ocean breezes.
It seems every skincare line has their requisite oxygen cream, and it's no wonder given the benefits of oxygen in promoting cell turnover and skin hydration. Like many oxygen products, this one has a slight laboratory smell, that we don't mind, given the improvement in our skin's overall tone over the course of a month.
We're not 16 anymore, but we sometimes feel like it when we look in the mirror and see a suspicious new growth on our face. But for that we now have Arcona, whose line of organic products is reinforced by a searing acne-defeating solution that dries problem spots and discourages new ones from forming. Yay!
The names of Arcona's products (Magic White Ice, Magic Green Ice) have us wondering if Merlin is back in business, but we've been assured that the science behind this serum is no fool's gold. Gels are more easily palatable for oily skin, and this immensely hydrating formula delivers a thick boost of Vitamins B-5, C, and E, leaving you the envy of every scarred smallpox survivor.
10/4/11: bliss spa, spaaah
We've mentioned before that we are blisteringly DIY about some things (manicures, lemonade, VIP birthday cakes) but there is one thing we absolutely cannot do for ourself: a massage.
And for that we go to Moeul.
We discovered Moeul last spring on a day when the knots in our back and neck were so tight that it was reminiscent of a car accident injury, and, again having one of those weeks, we booked in for a reset. With the enthusiasm of an aesthetician performing extractions ("got one!"), Moeul defeated the knots between our shoulder blades with deep Shiatsu and Swedish massage, rewarding our muscles with an application of cooling peppermint oil.
We don't get massages for relaxation, so the balance of our Blissage was active (and sometimes downright forceful). But the reward is a month knot-free, until the ravages of our punishing desk chair converge on that spot in the middle of our back...
The Sitting Room in the Ladies Locker Room at Bliss Spa Hollywood (those missing brownies were ours...):
The Sitting Area and Lockers in the Ladies Locker Room at Bliss Spa Hollywood:
The Sitting Area and Vanity/Sink Station:
The Steam Showers (Left) Sauna Area (Right) and Locker Room Amenities at Bliss Spa Hollywood: