While at the hotel front desk checking out we completed our usual vacation ritual: we mailed ourselves a postcard. Even if it is just a short visit, we do this to remind us of what an excellent time we had, because as we all know, the memories of a vacation often fade much quicker than the sunburn. In whatever time it takes, either a few days or weeks, for the ___ (fill in the blank with the appropriate country's postal system) to deliver our postcard to the doorsteps of our home, our vacation refresher arrives. We typically use a picturesque postcard of the one thing that will remind us most of where we've been and what we've enjoyed. We try to keep our message succinct, and in this case, it only needed to say nine necessary words, "Sweet dreams from The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa."
Like chocolate, the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa has an equally rich and luxurious history. On February 23, 1929, Albert Chase McArthur, an architect, builder and former architectural student of Frank Lloyd Wright, and Frank Lloyd Wright, his consulting architect, christened this to be the jewel of the Arizona desert. With its 39 beautifully landscaped acres it quickly became Phoenix's premier destination resort.
During this project, Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian concrete block was used extensively. This was a concrete block that was poured on-site using local indigenous materials and was often poured into a mold that had a decorative geometric motif. Frank Lloyd Wright was once quoted as saying, "I believe in God, only I spell it nature." In the only remaining hotel he designed, this massive architectural creation is reminiscent of a Mayan temple and uses a repeated organic form of a crosshatch design inspired from the trunk of a desert palm tree as the main focal point. This design is known as "The Biltmore Block" and was created by southwest sculptor Emry Kopta.
The Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa also has the largest banquet and conference facilities in Arizona and has won many prestigious awards. With its numerous extensive renovations, this resort remains as a Four Star tribute to natural beauty melded with outstanding architecture. Many places claim to be influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural style, but this resort is the real thing that guests return to year after year.
For example, the up lit second level elevation in the Mayan temple-like resort lobby draws your attention upward to the 376,000 shimmering 4" x 4" gold and copper leaves that were hand applied to the two-story 38,000 square foot ceiling as they reflect both natural and artificially created light. The backlit glass "Biltmore Blocks" throughout this huge space provides soft indirect lighting while perpetuating the geometric palm tree motif.
Often, these Biltmore Blocks, the signature of the Arizona Biltmore, are interchanged and rotated to create various geometric patterns throughout the entire resort. The warm earth tones of gold, green, taupe, yellow, rust and tan give a soothing calm to the numerous conversation seating areas, carpeting, rugs and wallpaper.
The desert colored high-backed chairs create what Frank Lloyd Wright would call, "a room within a room" and provide intimacy while still amid the hustle and bustle of the huge lobby. Sturdy copper tables in various shapes with glass or granite table tops anchor heavy woven fabric covered chairs, while low wide leather ottomans resting within niches soften the texture of the gray poured concrete block walls and create volume.
Wood craftsman and mission-style furnishings and textiles provide a sense of luxury while resting on carpeting and area rugs with repeating geometric shapes. Brightly colored blue, green, orange and red original geometric stained glass windows provide fun splashes of color.
Our cottage was one of the original structures built on this now sprawling maze of "Biltmore Block" buildings and well tended lawns and gardens that comprise The Arizona Biltmore complex. Throughout, room service attendants can be seen using tricycles with huge baskets to make their speedy deliveries of champagne or snacks to the many Biltmore guests lounging in their rooms, or reading the complimentary newspaper on their private patios. Inside our cottage, heavy mission-style furniture and southwestern art filled the interior of this 500 +/- square foot suite. A crisp white painted concrete fireplace proudly showed off the signature Biltmore Block accent motif as it anchored the room and drew all eyes towards it as the main focal point.
A huge tweed lounge chair invited me to rest and soak in the experience while drinking a glass or two of white wine. A very well stocked honor bar, television access to the internet, and cable television could easily keep people hostage in their room so they would never venture forth and experience some of the many planned daily treats, like fresh s'mores by the fire pit in the evening, cigar rolling classes, or complimentary wine tastings where your wine is poured by the winery owners themselves. With impeccable housekeeping constantly pepping up the room every time we left, we were easily impressed, especially at night when we found two gorgeous hunks of Godiva chocolate awaiting our return.
Remember to not feed the friendly, yet, aggressive Arizona birds, lest they scarf down your entire meal as they flitted from palm tree to fichus tree and back. My wife enjoyed her cinnamon French toast with almonds as I thoroughly enjoyed my Mediterranean Frittata plump with artichoke hearts, olives, mushrooms and other tasty veggies.
On our second day, we overslept, quite possibly due to the intoxicating Godiva chocolates, and found lunch at The Biltmore Grill to be equally as pleasing as we enjoyed a BBQ tuna burger with loads of ginger, and Thai shrimp salad served outside on the patio. While we ate, we watched children playing chess on a large outdoor chess/checkers board set up in the bright green grass. As they laughed, we demanded to have the recipe for the breadsticks with kalamata olive aioli dip. Two words to describe the dip: Oy veh! As usual, service was top-notch at this restaurant that's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
This fenced, outdoor shaded pavilion was a mecca for kids of all ages. Everything from pool tables, foosball, air hockey, slides, ping-pong, an agility course, swings, and a jungle gym were there to entertain. Not to worry, the ground was covered in a squishy, recycled tire material that would cushion any accidental fall quite well. The chain link fence walls were covered with a natural desert scene complete with saguaros, barrel cacti, Biltmore Sprites, and Biltmore Block structures that complimented the building architecture and Biltmore Block theme. We quenched our thirst from the outdoor water cooler, successfully tested the very cool outdoor walkie-talkies and bid farewell to this tactile treasure that was chock full of kids.
Lastly, we again perused one of our favorite shops at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, The Wright Home. It was here that we easily could have splurged $3,000 on 7' tall stained glass totem poles with Frank Lloyd Wright inspired designs that we absolutely loved. We seriously toyed with spending $300.00 on a real concrete AZ Biltmore Block, but decided that we'll get one on our next visit.
In summary, this was a great trip to an ultimate destination resort. Yes, like many people we overheard, we can easily see ourselves as yearly regulars at The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa since there's so much to do that we didn't even get a chance to attempt. Never fear, not all of next year's vacation are planned. Well, at least it was until we learned of the chocolate induced sweet dreams from the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa.
By Kim and Donald Tatera, Jetsetters Magazine Southern California Correspondents.