Visit The Beach

Le Merigot is a charming European-style boutique hotel and spa overlooking the sand and surf in Santa Monica, California. Anticipating good weather, and the luxury and service that heralds the only Mobil “Four Star” and AAA “Four Diamond” property in Santa Monica, Dave and I drove across the desert from Las Vegas to the beach for a romantic getaway.

Le Merigot's lobby foretells poshness.

Located at 1740 Ocean Avenue, a main thoroughfare, Le Merigot Beach Hotel and Spa was easy to find. As soon as we entered the driveway the parking attendant alerted the valet who whisked our luggage upstairs. Check-in took exactly two minutes. Being December, the lobby reflected the warm, festive sights and smells of Christmas. I noticed a table with stacks of USA Today, the New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. “Please help yourself,” the reservation specialist told me. “They’re complimentary?” I asked, surprised. “Yes, welcome to Le Merigot”.

Dave and I took an elevator to the fifth floor. Our room was spacious with a balcony that wrapped around the corner of our building to provide panoramic views of the coastline and the islands beyond. Thick glass doors opened onto a patio with a table and chairs and a lounge. The horse-shoe shaped design of the property maximizes ocean views while taking into account a restored 1920s apartment building directly in front of it on the sand. Both of us breathed a sigh of relief. This was a wonderful place to relax.

Enrique arrived with our luggage and offered to fill our ice bucket. At Le Merigot guests do not get their own ice. “What does Le Merigot mean?” I asked him.

He smiled and said, “Le Merigot is a very old word for 'something by the sea'. An old Frenchman told me that. The word isn’t used very much anymore.”

Seaside slumber in
king-size featherbeds.

Feeling well looked after we surveyed our room. The king-size feather bed looked so comfortable with a pristine white Frette down duvet and mounds of pillows. Elegant in its simplicity, our room featured a writing desk and sitting area as well as an armoire with a television connected to local and cable stations. There was a CD player/radio/alarm, and a hardback copy of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Movable Feast”.

The lighting in the bathroom was spectacular. It is one of the few times when I have looked in a mirror after four hours of driving and thought, "I look better now than when I left home this morning." That is a sign of exceptionally flattering lighting. There was also a large illuminated magnifying make-up mirror and a host of pure Nirvae botanical products. Of course, the highlight of the sand and rust alabaster marble bathroom was the yellow rubber duckie wearing goggles and holding a surfboard. Lots of fluffy white towels were neatly stacked, and two thick white terry bathrobes with matching slippers were hanging in the closet.

A bowl of Gala apples and vibrant oranges were painting-perfect next to a large bottle of Evian and two wine glasses. The air was crisp but the sun was out, sending glistening streaks across the blue Pacific. From the balcony we watched the Santa Monica pier with the ferris wheel, win-a-prize games, and food stands. Further to the right we spied turreted white tents that were set up for the Cirque du Soleil’s Cavallo, a horse-themed extravaganza.

To the left of the apartment building white sails dotted the horizon. It was a clear day, perfect for exploring Santa Monica. Walking along the beach was an option but we decided to do a little shopping at the Third Street Promenade. During the warmer months walking from Le Merigot would be inviting. In winter driving seemed the wiser choice.

In Santa Monica public parking lots are easy to access, and free for up to three hours. The Promenade is closed to cars, making the shopping experience easier and less stressful.

Le Merigot's marble bath.

Much to our surprise we found a Lush bath products store. Heretofore one had to buy their pampering products abroad. Our Christmas shopping continued with Anthropologie, kiosk vendors selling unique scarves and jewelry, Urban Outfitters, AX Armani, and Guess mixed in with Barnes and Noble and a variety of restaurants. There were movie theaters playing everything from foreign films to blockbusters. By the time we finished shopping it was dark.

We had missed the sunset, but tomorrow there would be another opportunity to watch the sun sink below the horizon. So, it was back to Le Merigot, a JW Marriott property with a unique twist — dogs are welcome with guests. And not only are they allowed in the rooms with their masters, the hotel owns a charming yard next door that serves as an exercise and bathroom area for pets. As we got out of the car a young couple with a Golden Retriever puppy pulling them down the driveway towards the yard, smiled and said hello. They were one happy trio.

Club Meg, the luxury pet program is named in honor of Le Merigot’s resident canine, Meg Ortloff, General Manager Sig Ortloff's yellow Labrador Retriever. There are no restrictions according to a dog’s size or weight, only manners. The hotel offers a variety of leading brand dog foods as well as Barkley’s Beef and Rice Bowl with long-grain rice, roast beef, carrots and brown gravy. Pets receive an amenity care package with a water bottle, bowl and a Frisbee in a carrying case. Mobile grooming is offered as well as pet sitting and pet walking. An on-call veterinarian is also available.

Cezanne, Le Merigot’s fine dining restaurant was our choice for dinner. It had been voted Best L.A. Hotel Restaurant by Angeleno Magazine which was a tremendous honor considering the competition. Dave and I ventured downstairs to the dining room over which evening supervisor Hoss Hapezi graciously presides.

He welcomed us to Cezanne with Turkish Blood, a drink made with champagne and 30-year-old Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port (not on the menu). The taste of Port deliciously dominates the champagne, a combination Hapezi credits Hungarian chef George Skorka with creating.

Seated at a grand banquette, sipping Turkish Blood while listening to pianist Robert Carpenter’s beautiful, energetic version of Anything Goes on a baby grand piano by the window assured a romantic evening. From our vantage point as well as the many tables in the intimate dining room neon lights from the Santa Monica pier against the dark, glistening water added to our reverie.

Cezanne Surf and Turf.

I started with Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare ($12) and a Chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley ($95 a bottle, $27 per glass). The tuna tasted exceptionally fresh and light with capers, sitting atop slices of ripe avocado. Four crisp crackers added an artistic flair. Dave started with the Crispy Shrimp with Jalapeño Pepper Jelly ($13) and the Chardonnay. Two dipping sauces accompanied the appetizer. A basket of homemade sourdough French bread with triangles of sweet butter tempted us, but we reminded each other that our main course was going to be formidable.

Also listed among the hors d’oeuvres were Lobster Bisque ($11), Terrine of Foie Gras with Brioche ($15), and Oysters on the Half Shell ($12). Salads included a Mesclun salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and St. Maure Goat cheese ($10), a Caesar with baby romaine ($9), and a Radicchio, fennel and arugula with Dijon vinaigrette ($9).

Open since 2000 Cezanne has gone through three chefs. Executive Chef  Desi Szonntagh is currently accepting well-founded accolades for a savory California cuisine with French accents. The restaurant boasts a large international wine selection. And, for travelers wishing to order in, food service is available 24 hours a day.

Robert Carpenter, a classically trained pianist who likes to add a touch of jazz began playing Time After Time. Dave’s Special of the Day — Surf and Turf, an Australian lobster tail with, as he said, a melt in your mouth filet mignon accompanied by tender asparagus, carrots, and green beans arrived. For our main course Hoss Hapezi recommended the Grgich Hills, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley that proved the perfect compliment for both of us.

Moroccan Rack of Lamb with
Provencale Lamb Stew & Riso Pasta.

I ordered a specialty of Chef Szonntagh, the Moroccan Rack of Lamb with Provencale Lamb Stew and Riso Pasta ($38). The lamb chops were rare and tender. Along with the savory stew and Riso pasta I was impressed with the flavor, quality, and presentation of the food.

The menu also offered Wild California Salmon with Honey Shallot Glaze and Baby Articoke Barigoule ($26), sautéed Jumbo Shrimp with Porcini Risotto, Ginger Red Wine Sauce ($28), Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Chanterelles, Swiss chard Israeli Couscous, and Pinot Noir Essence ($26).

Hoss came by to see how we were enjoying our main course. When we told him how much we appreciated the music he told us that Robert Carpenter used to play at the Waldorf in New York. He explained that every Monday Cezanne invites a different winery for a wine tasting event. Thursday night was Bistro Night, featuring steak and French fries.

Vahlrona chocolate souffle with
Crème Chantilly & Espresso Sauce.

An exceptionally efficient wait staff kept water glasses full and courses coming. For dessert we splurged with the Vahlrona Chocolate Soufflé with Crème Chantilly and Espresso Sauce. Delectable. For a future time there was Crème Brulée, Opera Cake — layers of almond cake, coffee butter cream and ganache, and cheesecake with fresh raspberry coulis (each $8.50).

To leave our palates with a fresh, crisp sweetness Hoss brought us each a glass of Joseph Phelps, Eisrebe, Napa Valley Ice Wine. Ice Wine is rare and exceptionally delicious.

When I Fall in Love ended and it was time to say our goodbyes. Hoss introduced us to Robert Carpenter, a man who clearly loves what he does. We got his new CD “a little this…a little that” so that we could enjoy Cezanne’s charming, upbeat ambiance at home.

The accommodations proved to be as comfortable as they appeared. We ventured out onto the balcony into the chilly night air to appreciate the Queen’s Necklace as the glittering, multicolored lights outlining the coastline are called. Then we sank into the featherbed for a truly fitful night’s sleep. At 11 a.m. the next morning I was looking forward to a Hot Rock massage at The Spa Le Merigot. Its reputation among Hollywood elite included visits from Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston (before the split). That was a recommendation in and of itself.

The next morning brought more blue water and clear skies. We headed back to Cezanne for breakfast, and the cool, crisp sea air outside on the veranda with colorful blue umbrellas over tables with blue and white checked tablecloths and cobalt water goblets. 

Jessica Etheridge, a young woman who moved to Santa Monica from the East coast six years ago, welcomed us and took our order. “The orange juice and grapefruit juice are freshly squeezed,” she told us enthusiastically. She described the thick Applewood  smoked bacon, and recommended the Belgian Sourdough waffle with raspberry butter and toasted almonds. Our appetites were back.

Dave and I ordered and sat back, enjoying the ocean and listening to the soothing sounds of water trickling down a Zen rock fountain. Birds flew over to a bird feeder across the courtyard. It was a very pleasant way to start the day.

Beachside Eggs Benedict.

Coffee and juice arrived. Jessica’s suggestions were good. Both the orange as well as the grapefruit juice had flavor and natural sweetness. Dave’s Belgian waffle ($10.75) and my Eggs Benedict with Citrus Hollandaise and asparagus with Canadian bacon ($12.75) arrived.  The Eggs Benedict was good but the waffle was great. Dave also had the Applewood smoked bacon, which was memorable. Next to my delicious asparagus were country-style skillet potatoes with red onions and yellow bell peppers. Very delicious. Along with hot Vermont Maple syrup Jessica brought an assortment of imported Austrian d’arbo preserves.

There were more dishes that looked intriguing. The Buttermilk Meyer Lemon Pancakes with Vermont Maple Butter and Syrup ($9.75) and the Parisien — freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, Crepes with Fromage Blanc and Fresh Market Berries, coffee, milk, or tea selection ($16.95) would be considered the next time.

Spa Le Merigot

Spa Le Merigot at the beach!

Dave took a walk along the beach while I ventured downstairs to The Spa Le Merigot, the boutique hotel’s 6,500 square-foot, newly redesigned, spa facility and gym. This happened to be the day they were re-merchandising an impressive assortment of imported product lines, including Kneipp, Epicuren, and Pevonia Botanicals.  Aromatic candles were burning. The girl at the reception desk walked me over to a chair and said my masseuse would be right with me.

Nina, my masseuse turned out to be an extremely nice French woman, married to an American. She led me to one of the eight treatment rooms, and after a brief discussion and the realization that I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders she asked if I wouldn’t rather have a Deep Tissue massage. A Hot Rock massage is wonderful, but Deep Tissue seemed like the right choice, and as I discovered an hour and a half later, it was exactly what I needed.

I met Spa Director, Noemi Garih who extolled the quality of the products and treatments the spa offers. “We consider The Spa Le Merigot an oasis of tranquility offering treatments and services designed to assist our guests in feeling and looking their absolute best.”

Get a poolside massage.

To accomplish this task there are Swedish, Shiatsu, Aromatherapy, Pregnancy, and Sport/Deep tissue massages. There is Body Bronzing that includes gentle exfoliation, and the Silver Ion Mask Facial that utilizes ion electrons. Noemi mentioned that the Desert Heat Body Wrap uses Arizona desert mud to form a warm, soothing cocoon that rehydrates and nourishes the skin. The spa offers Herbal Baths to eliminate stress, strain, and fatigue. There are couples treatments, and even a poolside cabana massage.

The health club provides licensed and certified instructors who teach Yoga, Aqua Tone water aerobics, and the Pilates method. Le Merigot also offers private surfing lessons with a resident surfing instructor. There is an outdoor Spa Terrace deck overlooking the pool and the ocean. The gym features the latest in Cybex cardiovascular equipment, as well as Precor elliptical machines and treadmills.

Before reaching the elevator I passed Le Troquet, a charming lobby bar that stretches outside with comfortable couches and teak tables and chairs. It is perfect for meeting friends, having a quiet drink or even smoking a cigar. They serve hors d’oeuvres and a host of fine liquor brands.

Feeling relaxed and refreshed, Dave and I were ready to visit one of the most beautiful sights in Los Angeles, the J. Paul Getty Museum. The concierge at Le Merigot gave us the best route and told us the museum has ample parking.

Off we went for a wonderful adventure in art and architecture. The Getty sits high above Los Angeles at the edge of Bel Air overlooking both the city and the Pacific Ocean, all the way out to Catalina Island and beyond. Even if you are not an art aficionado, Richard Meier’s architecture as well as the sprawling gardens make the Getty one of  America ’s national treasures. There are European paintings, drawings, and sculpture, antiquities, illuminated manuscripts, as well as European and American photography. The day we went we saw a small collection by Cezanne, and a number of antiquities. The views were breathtaking. There are two restaurants at the Getty, one for fine dining, and the other, an extremely good cafeteria.

On The Beach In Santa Monica.

We headed back to our luxurious room for a rest. At our door we found copies of Angelano, L.A. Confidential, Los Angeles Magazine, and Conde Nast Traveler. It was so refreshing to find this array of fascinating, cutting edge material. Old friends had invited us to their home for dinner, and we knew there would be more delicious food and wine.

We considered placing our order for the complimentary morning coffee, delivered to our room, but decided to go back to Cezanne for breakfast before checking out. Both of us had enjoyed the food and atmosphere and wanted to sample a few more dishes.

Upon entering the dining room we were warmly welcomed back by Jessica. She remembered that we had begun with orange and grapefruit juice and we were only too happy to begin with them again. Dave ordered the Sunrise Quesadilla with chicken sausage, asparagus, cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs, salsa, and guacamole ($13.75). I ordered the Belguin Sourdough Waffle. It tasted so delicious the day before I chose it over the Buttermilk Meyer Lemon Pancakes. The Applewood Smoked Bacon was so delicious that we decided to share an order.

Our experience at Le Merigot was both comfortable and memorable. It is a charming boutique hotel with 10,000-square-feet of event and meeting space, 175 luxury guest accommodations, including 15 suites, the 6,500 square-foot spa and health club, and of course, Cezanne.  The European-style hotel is located nine miles north of Los Angeles International Airport, and is only 15 minutes from Malibu, or 20 minutes from Beverly Hills. Le Merigot’s employees make guests feel at home. Privacy is respected while attention to detail is rigorously followed. It was a pleasure to stay at Le Merigot Hotel and Spa. I would definitely stay there again.

— By Linda Lane, Las Vegas Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.