In the space of a month, I visited two of the United States' major cities for the first time. First New York, a claustrophobic mishmash of steel, bagels, heavy traffic and achingly cool people that really is more or less the metropolitan equation for London too, so I felt right at home. Second was Los Angeles, a wholly different experience. Of course, in a nation like the United States, where every state is like a nation unto itself, it's stating the obvious to say that there would be a difference between these two extraordinary and notorious cities, but then again I am not above being unimaginative. So I will say that the palpable difference in how life is executed in Tinsletown (apparently they don't like this name) and the Big Apple is truly remarkable. This cultural ground zero is awash with high spirits, enthusiasm and generosity along with the good ol' American custom of free top ups. All of these were sorely needed considering the jet lag, and fortunately, at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, they were forthcoming in the nicest possible way.
Now the cynic in me is not exactly fast to give the benefit of the doubt tothose who work in service, but that may be a result of the inherent disingenuousness of many of London's 'luxury' establishments, but the Ritz-Carlton was different. Ask any GM what the most important part of any hotel visit is, and they will always say it is the arrival and general first impressions. So having arrived in a very pleasant BA flight into LAX, where the post-flight processing was absolutely ludicrous, I grabbed my car (see the Dashing pages for more on this) in a slightly grumpy mood and anxiously tried to familiarise myself with the wrong side of the road and alternative highway codes. But all was remedied by a welcome so warm, that the aforementioned maxim lived up to its full potential, as I immediately felt settled and welcome. The Christmas decorations were a bit cheesy in the 25 degree LA sunshine, but as a keen Noelophile I wasn't going to complain.
The room was extremely pleasant with a good view of the marina and Venice beach in the distance, the bed, impossibly comfy, and the bathroom was well stocked with the accoutrements that one tends to forget at home. Which is always helpful.
One particular aspect to this hotel's arsenal of hospitality tricks is the 'Club Lounge', which is a room for only certain guests who have paid for the access, but you eat breakfast there, you can go in anytime for an open bar and have snacks during the day, including a dangerous selection of cookies. To be honest, it was quiet, if you are looking for a place to read, to work and have a wonderful team of chatty staff fill some of the silence by asking what your day holds, then this is the place for you. But it isn't a place to hang out for long stretches of time, but was definitely a good place to go to if the room seemed a bit lonesome.
The trick to the hotel though is the staff. When everyone knows your name and wishes you a good day (which is different from engaging in unneeded conversation), you feel special, and all good hotels make a guest feel special. The Club lounge has a concierge and a team who are keen to familiarise yourself with what you want and make it readily available to you. Having visited for work purposes, having their guidance on directions and timings, in a city where getting around is famously problematic, they were an invaluable resource.
Tipping tests ones organisational skills, having plenty of dollar bills to hand, folded just so in your palm takes preparation. I think I over did it, but I don't think they cared. Sometimes I forgot but having sat down with the impossibly gentle and kind General manager Tony Mira, he informed me that among the staff he has passed out instructions that guests sometimes just don't know, so they cannot chase people for tips, which Americans are wont to do.
All in all, this 304-room hotel inverts the idea that luxury and informality are mutually exclusive. It is an attitude that will make staying anywhere else on your return trip to LA very difficult, as you leave wanting more. 5 stars indeed.