Parent Getaways Review
Claremont Resort & Spa, Berkeley
By Kathy Chin Leong
Perched atop neighborhood hills, the historic Claremont Resort and Spa reigns as the crowning jewel of Berkeley, home to the world renown University of California Berkeley campus. While we've known about the landmark for years, it wasn't until this past month that we experienced all that this 22-acre landscaped estate has to offer.
For starters, this blinding white castle is so panoramic, so huge, so massive and sprawling the eye cannot contain it all in a single glance. It looks like a front for a movie set. It features a whopping 279 guestrooms, including 16 suites. The sky-high ceilings in the deep entryway and lobby are larger than my 2,200 square foot home. There are several banks of elevators, so if you take the wrong one, you have to go to the bottom level and start all over again. When my husband Frank and I walked in, we felt like country bumpkins, for we stood agape and just stared at the intricate ceilings, artwork, and opulent lighting, saying, "Wow… wow…" in hushed Lilliputian tones.
If you have ever been to Hearst Castle, you would swear The Claremont shared the same architect. Opened in 1915, the resort is a landmark actually built to look like an English castle with turrets, bay windows, and coffered ceilings. The furnishings are ornate, custom-designed to fit an Old World theme with deep brown earthy tones, pink peonies on mustard wall-to-wall carpeting. Doormen, maids, and service personnel are everywhere you turn. When you come in or leave, Claremont staffers greet you formally and accordingly.
Our room, which ran about $420, was a relatively new suite with a bay window view of the San Francisco Bay, and at night, the lights of the water twinkled beneath the moonlight. Elegance is the code word here at the Claremont. Our room was spacious and comfortable with a sitting area couch, TV armoire with VCR and CD player, desk and chair for writing. And the queen sized-bed with a not-too-firm mattress and luxurious bedding was fit for a king.
Since the place opened in 1915, it has had numerous owners and has exchanged management hands several times. And there have been rumors of a unionization effort going on among the spa workers which has yet to come to a conclusion. Yet, despite the back room politics, our experience at the Claremont was restorative with a capital R.
The site has been updated several times to keep things afresh. Since December 200, new updates include: guestroom renovations, a new full-service spa, complete overhaul of the health club, and addition of the Paragon Bar & Café, a trendy restaurant with an city sleek motif.
Prices for the rooms hover between $155 and $600, depending on the type of accommodations you prefer. To make the most out of your stay, it pays to do your research and find out what amenities are included. For instance, at the Claremont, visitors get full access to The Club , the 10-court tennis and fitness center and two heated pools, children's wading area, and jet-stream hot tub and pools. This is a great value, for locals pay as much as $12,000 for a membership fee plus monthly dues.
I had an opportunity to take one of the fitness classes of which there are many, complimentary to guests.
The immense state-of-the-art locker room features oak paneled lockers, a sauna and jacuzzi. The highly hygenic locker room also has a swimsuit dryer, combs, hair dryers, lotions and potions for after-shower care.
Once you have taken a dip in the pool, it's time to go to Spa Claremont to indulge in your massage. In 1989, the hotel added a $6 million European-style spa with a dictionary's worth of services. The enormous 20,000 square-foot spa features 32 treatment rooms. The place is so large that it's a good thing your attendent walks you back to the lounge area after your treatment or you'll get lost.
My treatment called the Brazilian Rainforest Journey began with a botanical bath where a spa staffer poured a pitcher of diluted herbs and spices into the steaming bathwater. She later brought tea and juice for me to drink along with a fresh face towel immersed in freshly cubed ice so I could pat my forehead if I got too hot.
The 2 1/2 hour treatment continued with a papaya/pineapple scrub and body wrap, where you are slathered with a citrus-y lotion and delightfully mummified. A invigorating, yet relaxing massage at the conclusion of the session sent me on Cloud Nine. This treatment costs $325.
What you get at the spa is complete pampering, literally from head to toe. It is not too crowded in the quiet lounge area, and you can enjoy a magazine, something to drink, and some fruit as an enjoyable nibble before or after your treatment. The Signature Journeys are the spa's unique offering with each journey based on the native countries of the spa staff. For instance, the Phillippine Journey features coconut oil, and the Wine Country Journey starts with a Napa Valley red wine scrub.
If you are going to spend big bucks on a weekend at the Claremont, see if you can check in early and check out late! Then, take advantage of the many wonderful lounging areas throughout the premises, indoor and outdoor. Bring a book, sketch a flower, write in your journal… do those things you cannot find time to do at home.
The Claremont Resort & Spa is located at 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley. For more information, call 510-843-3000.
WHEN YOU GO, BE SURE TO…
*Call ahead to ask for an early check-in and ask for a late check out.
*Plan to spend as much time on the premises as possible.
*Bring your tennis racquet, workout clothes, swimsuit, romantic CDs, nice outfit for dinner.
*Make reservations at the on-site restaurant Jordan's for dinner or have the buffet breakfast there. It is wonderful.
*Book your spa appointments ahead of time.
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