Downtown Los Angeles -
Ritz & Relaxation
By Paul Rubio
Up until a few years ago, Downtown Los Angeles was the city’s Achilles Heel, an urban wasteland riddled with crime and grime. But thanks to large-scale investment and optimistic intervention, downtown is now in the process of an Extreme Makeover, emerging as a rejuvenated princess in the land of glitz and glamour, ready to take on the world with a new attitude. The anchor of this redux? The Staples Center (home of the L.A. Lakers) and the surrounding L.A. LIVE area, which has attracted the likes of the Ritz-Carlton, loft developers, and restaurateurs looking to create a new type of L.A. experience.
Exiting the 110, downtown’s nips and tucks are immediately obvious. Eclectic coffee shops have replaced crack houses, funky lofts have moved in where sketchy, abandoned towers once stood. I had not ventured to downtown L.A. in a decade, simply because I had no reason to! But it was already clear, I now had much to discover.
I pulled into driveway of The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, where a number of valet attendants showered me with attention and assistance (www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/LosAngeles, 213.743.8800).
The lobby of the Ritz was small and simple, the check-in process short. Like some of Tokyo and Shanghai’s greatest hotels, the focus at the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles lies in the room product and the stunning panoramas from the upper floors, which actually house the hotel. In fact, the 123-room Ritz-Carlton begins on the 22nd floor and ends on the 26th, with the neighboring JW Marriott hotel comprising the lower levels and then spilling over to an entirely second building. The Ritz’s speed elevators lead directly to floor 22 and to the floors with amenities available exclusively to Ritz-Carlton guests (like the rooftop pool, the 26th floor gym, and the Club Lounge).
The rooms parlay a remarkable evolution of the Ritz-Carlton brand, with a contemporary yet refined interior design. I had seen the Ritz truly break out of its traditional comfort zone on my travels to Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Barcelona; it was refreshing to see this new product style implemented here on the home front. The exceptionally well-appointed furnishings boast clean symmetries, channeling attention towards the wall-to-wall panoramic window, lined with a sumptuous day bed, peering over the Hollywood Hills and greater Los Angeles. The mega bathrooms are separated into three sections, most notably a wet area where a rain shower and oversized jacuzzi sit side by side, encased in glass, with perfect views of L.A.
It was one of those rare times that I was so captivated by my hotel room, I suddenly lost the desire to do anything but enjoy an inspiring read or a glass of champagne in my temporary Zen den and forget the world around me. So I went up one floor to the Club Lounge with the simple task of getting that glass of champagne. But when I got there, I was utterly and completely seduced by my surroundings. The Club Lounge was big and beautiful, teeming with celebrities, famous basketballers, and decorated with elaborate food presentations that quickly instigated pangs of hunger. So, it was now official. I gave myself the rest of the day off to simply enjoy haute living at the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles’ Club lounge - to eat far too many goat cheese stuffed peppers, sample some fine imported cheeses and French macaroons, eavesdrop on the A-list, chat with the Lakers’ competition, relish in birds-eye views of the city tableside telescopes, and, of course, indulge in one too many glasses of champagne! After several weeks on the road, this good life at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles was no doubt a divine intervention.
I began the following morning with a swim on the hotel’s rooftop pool, and an extended hot tub session to combat the chilly breeze. I then met friends for lunch at Kerry Simon’s highly acclaimed L.A. Market Restaurant (www.lalive.com/eat/lamarket, 213.743.8800), located on the lobby level of the adjacent JW Marriot. Simon’s fresh comfort creations, like my “LA market green salad” with crispy shallots, shaved asparagus, poached organic egg, and topped with rosemary grilled shrimp, epitomize the farm to table trends of modern American cooking.
A few cocktails later, it was an afternoon of much deserved R &R at the Ritz’s first class spa pampering palace. The sparkling snow-white spa provides the full throttle fabulous spa experience. The vanguard relaxation room boasts oversized reclining chairs and frilly, draped couches for delicious tranquility before and after treatments. The Eucalyptus steam room facilitates the ultimate in stress relief. The treatment rooms are stylish and cozy, unlike the stale, cosmetology office-types I’ve seen in way too many hotels. Indeed, I was ready to conquer the world after my 80-minute deep tissue and definitely ready to venture out into greater L.A.!
All Photos Courtesy of Ritz Carlton Los Angeles