SANTA MONICA AND THE WESTIN LAX:

After spending a week in San Francisco and five days in Beverly Hills, we decided to conclude our trip with a relaxing five day stay in Santa Monica (http://www.santamonica.com).

Santa Monica sits perched on the Pacific Ocean at the crossroads of Pacific Coast Highway and California Interstate Highway 10, a mere eight non-freeway miles from Los Angeles International Airport and within close proximity to all of LA’s most famous landmarks and attractions. It is a great spot to walk on the beach, take in all of the rides and fun at the pier and do some shopping at the 3rd Street Promenade.

 

JEWISH COMMUNITY:

Pacific Jewish Center is a unique Torah community, located in the Venice/Santa Monica vicinity of Southern California. In the 1950s, “The Shul on the Beach” was part of a thriving Miami Beach-type Jewish coastal community. Over time, suburbanization and the introduction of air-conditioning took their toll. The community was down to one shul (this one) and no minyan. In the late seventies, Rabbi Daniel Lapin and Michael Medved joined together to begin a revitalization campaign which had a tremendously positive effect not just on this Shul, but on literally hundreds of mostly young people seeking to raise the level of their Jewish observance. The Rabbi and Michael merged with a handful of elderly Jews who were struggling to get a morning minyan and keep the shul. Shortly after an arrangement was made between the established congregants and the new members, the morning minyan and Shabbos services were humming with young and old voices alike. What might have been the extinction of a historic Jewish landmark became a vibrant community with a new breath of life.

Over the past three-plus decades, Pacific Jewish Center has grown into a community with a local core of approximately 50 families and friends, plus hundreds others who attend our weekly programming. Membership includes families with children of all ages, elderly couples and singles, young singles and many visitors.  

 

DOUBLETREE EXPERIENCE:  

Just a short walk from the pier you will find the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Santa Monica (www.SantaMonicaSuites.DoubleTree.com). When you check into this all-suite hotel,   a warm DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie awaits you. You are only three blocks away from the beach.

The two-room suites provide room for work or for the whole family. A private bedroom and separate seating area with a sofa bed means that everyone can have their own space. You can watch a movie on one of the two 55 inch flat-screen TVs, or surf the web while you make a snack. A wet bar with microwave, refrigerator and coffeemaker gives you some of the freedom of being at home.

We especially appreciated their outdoor pool, which was kind of a game breaker for us. You can unwind after a busy day with a workout in the fully equipped fitness center, or relax with friends over a pre-dinner drink in the Jazz Loft bar. You can grab a bite at the Fourth Street Grille, or a coffee and a snack to go from Cafe Pronto. Top marks go to this hotel for its breakfast service, which runs from 6 am to Noon on weekends and until 11 am on weekdays. The buffet has some nice choices, but I especially appreciated the polite staff who made any type of egg request on your mind.

I was thoroughly impressed with the unique free shuttle service to points of interest in Santa Monica provided by Santa Monica Free Ride. This souped-up four seat golf cart runs seven days a week, from Noon to 8:45 pm. All you need to do is send a text and allow 10 to 15 minutes for pickup. It was great to leave the car at the hotel, which offers a super valet parking service, and save money on any taxi or Uber expenses.

General Manager Brian Murphy told me that the hotel is about to undergo a significant renovation job and by next year they will become a full Hilton property.

The hotel has elevators leading to every floor, easy wheelchair access to the pool and health clubs and handicapped lifts for the pool and whirlpool.

 

THE LOEWS:

Meanwhile, after experiencing a Loews resort in St. Petersburg, Florida last winter, we were excited to check out the Loews Santa Monica (https://www.loewshotels.com/santa-monica).

This hotel has 347 luxurious guestrooms including 21 suites (all including white noise machines). There is 17,000 square feet of indoor function space, with ocean views, an Eco-friendly full-service spa offering organic treatments and the Ocean & Vine restaurant, which serves locally caught seafood and fresh farmers’ market produce.   There is also the Bar Belle Lounge, a tribute to Santa Monica’s famed “Muscle Beach” female body builder Abbye Stockton. There is Wi-Fi in all guestrooms and public spaces.

Located at 1700 Ocean Avenue,   you can consider the sound of waves to be the soundtrack of your stay. Here, you can stroll along miles of perfectly maintained beaches and take in front-row views of the Pacific Ocean. We spent the day at the two-tier pool deck overlooking the sea, the perfect place to soak up the sun as you recline on a comfortable chaise. While you unwind, enjoy extras such as Evian Mist, chilled fruit and tropical smoothies thanks to some signature poolside pampering. In the summer, the attentive poolside concierge delivers all that and more. A soak in the Jacuzzi represented a nice treat. The pool itself is so beautifully heated that I just did not want to get out.

After a workout at the very spacious fitness center, you can relax in the Eucalyptus steam room or spoil yourself with an Aroma Massage or Pure Fiji Guava Anti-Aging Nourishing Wrap at the Ocean Spa.  Very soon, the hotel will begin offering outdoor workouts on a grass setting at the beach. If work is calling, they have a full-service Executive Business Center. If you prefer to return emails poolside, there is Wi-Fi.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch and some smoothie’s poolside via the Blue Streak Restaurant, where you can enjoy sandwiches and snacks served with a side of stunning Pacific views every day from 11 am to 10 pm. 

The hotel offers 12 ADA rooms, one of which is a suite. Some rooms are hearing accessible and some have a roll-in shower feature. As demonstrated by the tour area Director of Public Relations Jaclyn Slifer gave me, there is a ramp at the pool deck to get to the lower Ocean Terrace area with fire pits, and the elevators take guests right to beach access, where another ramp leads straight to the beach.

 

DINING OUT:   

Santa Monica emerged as an international culinary destination in the 1980s and has remained in the top echelon of American dining thanks to local culinary innovators, a firm commitment to farm-to-table dining and year-round access to the world’s finest ingredients. The prominence of Santa Monica’s culinary scene has become a central part of the destination’s culture, and interactive culinary experiences offer an exciting opportunity for visitors to be authentically integrated into it.  

For an upscale, but not stuffy dinner with the ocean just outside, Water Grill’s  (www.watergrill.com) Santa Monica location  at 1401 Ocean Avenue offers a seafood dining experience for the adventurous at heart. The menu has an entire page just for the raw bar, featuring oysters from all up and down the east and west coast. For the seafood lover, there are a number of different whole fish entrees, such as European sea bass or New Zealand pink bream. For over 25 years, the Water Grill    has pleased the palates of seafood lovers in Southern California. Water Grill delivers a remarkable experience through its devotion and inspiration for seafood. Hailed as “the best seafood in Southern California” by the internationally recognized Zagat Guide, it consistently offers dazzling fish preparations of superior quality and freshness. 

On the night we visited the place was packed, with people happily waiting for a table. Everyone I asked told me that this is the best dining establishment in all of Santa Monica. I could tell this place was going to be good as early as the bread plate arriving at the table. Yes, the bread was that good.

We started off with a drink, the appropriately named Ocean Avenue, containing vodka, fresh strawberry & lemon juice, with tarragon essence and served over ice. Our charming server Alicia then provided some background on the menu. We shared an order of Baja Stone Crab to start and I had my personal favorite, a bowl of New England clam chowder. For the main course the Wild Black Cod Miso (sablefish), served seared with eggplant, blistered shishito pepper and red miso sauce, called out to two members of our party. This is a favorite fish of family members and not something you see on many menus. I had my eye on the Wild New Zealand Sword Fish, with marinated zucchini and caper brown butter.  In addition, I ordered some Yukon gold mashed potatoes on the side. I wish I could make them as good as this.

The original Downtown Los Angeles Water Grill was remodeled in 2012 and was well received by its guests. In 2013, the Water Grill Santa Monica opened. A third joined the family in San Diego’s Historic Gaslamp Quarter in 2015 and a fourth came on board in the fall of 2016 at the South Coast Plaza in Orange County. Restaurant number five arrived in Dallas, Texas in January 2017.  They all fall under the King’s Seafood Company umbrella.

 

BEACH BUTLER:

On a brief day visit to Santa Monica a few years ago we came across an outfit called Perry’s Café and Rentals (www.perryscafe.com). As tourists we wanted to spend time at the beach, but we did not bring our own towels, chairs or umbrellas.  Perry’s has been an integral part of the Los Angeles beach scene and an icon in the community for 40 years now. With nine prime locations throughout Santa Monica and Venice beach, including four open air cafés, they possess a large array of amenities.

Perry’s offers an assortment of beach and bike rentals, delicious foods with fresh ingredients prepared daily, and a variety of items to satisfy your palate.  You can  relax at one of their lounge areas, eat with friends, get pampered by our Beach Butlers or simply enjoy a bike ride. Oh yes, the Beach Butler.  We took the option for beach chairs, umbrellas, a wind block, a small table, towels, a cooler of iced water and a boogie board. Our “Butler” was Sheldon. He gave us his cell phone number when we were settled in and simply said to text him if we needed anything. We only spent few hours there, but this was indeed a paradise setting. The water was comfortable and frankly we cannot wait to repeat the experience the next time we go back.    For reservations just call 310-303-8493 or via their website.

 

WESTIN LAX:

  Rather than rush to checkout of our Santa Monica hotel to get to the airport for our return flight home, we decided to stay at the Westin Los Angeles Airport (http://www.westinlosangelesairport.com) for the final night. This is a beautiful property which many travellers use as a base for an entire trip.

Located just four blocks from LAX, The Westin Los Angeles Airport is ideally situated for your convenience. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, this sophisticated hotel puts you within easy reach of everything you need for a successful trip. Major companies such as Boeing, Raytheon and Mattel are just a short drive away, as are the quintessential Southern California communities of Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Marina del Rey and Santa Monica.

 I got the family settled in,  returned my Sixt Rent a Car vehicle only a few blocks away and came back to 5400 West Century Blvd. What a good decision this was. We had a deluxe corner king non-smoking suite, with a separate living room, a nice balcony and a large washroom. Both rooms were outfitted with white noise machines, something I sleep with every night of the year. Being next to an airport, this is a very bright move by the hotel. We had a small fridge, a hide-a-bed and a large sofa, a desk for me to write this very story on my computer and Wi-Fi connections for up to four devices. This was an absolutely fabulous setup which really helped us conclude our trip on a very positive note. The room also gave us access to the 12th floor Westin Executive Club Lounge.    Westin Executive Club Room guests and SPG® Platinum members enjoy exclusive access. It includes complimentary wireless high speed internet access, computer workstations, access to business news, and Starbucks® coffee 24 hours a day. Breakfast is served Monday through Friday mornings, and hors d’oeuvres are served Monday through Thursday evenings. The hotel does provide a shuttle to and from the airport every 20 minutes.

 There is a nice outdoor pool and whirlpool, 24/7 workout facilities, a top-notch business center,  accommodations for dogs up to 40 pounds, superb meeting facilities and several options of where to dine. The 1930’s-style Daily Grill Restaurant & Bar is inspired by the great city grills of yesteryear; it’s a great spot in which to toast the end of a successful day. Daily Grill features an all-American menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as an expansive appetizer and cocktail menu, available from 4 to 7pm daily.  We had a nice dinner there.

I would definitely recommend this place for more than a one night stay. They even have a shuttle to Manhattan Beach,

For more information call (310) 216-5858.