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The Luxe List: Old World Charm Meets Modern Standards of Excellence at Santa Monica's Le Merigot Hotel

Luxury Travel: Hotels: On occasion my friends and I like to leave our husbands, children, jobs, housework and worries behind and get away for some "girl time." You know, those quick but ever-so-necessary power vacations when the most difficult decision you'll make is what to order on the menu, which spa treatment to choose (first), what size shopping bag you'll need for your retail therapy session, and who's wearing what so you don't clash.

A recent girls' getaway took me to Le Merigot, a JW Marriott Beach Hotel and Spa in sunny Santa Monica, California. This quaint French-inspired hotel, impeccably located mere steps from the beach and Santa Monica's famous ocean boardwalk, boasts a clean and breezy European architecture with an air of sophistication - sans pretention - that sets it apart from its counterparts along the beach corridor.

A key luxury brand within the Marriott hotel family, it didn't take long for me to understand why Le Merigot is among the highest ranked AAA Four-Diamond hotels in Santa Monica and a 4-Star Recipient from Mobil/Exxon.

Amid a boutique sensibility, this charming seaside property has a long list of amenities that make it well suited not just for a gaggle of gals looking for some well-deserved "me time," but any traveler that seeks beautiful and luxurious surroundings, impeccable service and a wide array of creature comforts.

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Rooms You'll Remember
With 175 guest accommodations ranging in price from $340 to $1200 in three categories - superior, deluxe and premier - including 15 sensational suites, Le Merigot's horseshoe design maximizes the number of deluxe and premier rooms that enjoy beautiful Pacific Ocean and pier views, with others offering mountain range vistas.

The rooms, themselves, are informal yet decidedly stylish and well appointed. Plush "Cloud Nine" feather beds, pillows and duvets, 300 thread count Italian linens, and a terry cloth robe and slippers come standard in each. Also thoughtfully designed with the business traveler in mind, rooms also include a large desk and work area as well as an ergonomic desk chair, task lamp, office supplies, and oversized lounge chairs. All rooms also feature 37" LCD TV/VCR/DVD entertainment, high-speed Internet access, customized voice mail, video-on-demand, fully stocked mini bar, in-room safe, marble bathrooms with lighted make-up mirror and fine Bare Escentuals toiletries.

I stayed in a deluxe guestroom, which boasted a shockingly large private patio with ample space for many to sunbathe, lounge and sip cocktails amid the sunshine and cool ocean breeze. The room also had an AM/FM iPod clock stereo and a coffee maker with provisions. Premier accommodations include all of the aforementioned benefits but also with 560 additional square feet of space. These rooms provide a separate seating area with a plush couch, chairs and coffee table. Ranging in size from 475 square feet to 850 square feet, the "Malibu" and "Catalina" suites include a separate parlor setting, which is ideal for small business meetings or intimate events.

Amenities a Plenty
Yes, there is round-the-clock valet service, elegant restaurant and in-room dining, a fabulous full-service spa and fitness center, heated pool and sundeck, gift shop, lobby cocktail lounge, and a business center with ATM available on-site at Le Merigot (all of which I took full advantage of), but the conveniences don't stop there.

Nary a need is unmet through the property's copious amenities, which also include 24-hour mending and pressing of clothes, complimentary shoe shine, newspaper, and evening turndown. Other services include cell phone rental, 24-hour in-room dining, translation services, and an "At Your Service" one-stop shopping department. Still more, the property offers child care, car rental and limousine arrangements, and express check-in and departure. A concierge desk is available to answer your every question and make desired arrangements, whether for show or event tickets, tours and sightseeing, golf or tennis, restaurant and spa reservations, champagne, caviar, chocolates, cheese and fruit trays, flowers, balloons and gift baskets.

Through its Club Meg Pet Program, Le Merigot will also pamper your small pooch during the course of your stay. This pet amenity package includes a water bottle, bowl, Frisbee in a carrying case, special pet menu (also addressing those with special diets), on-site mini dog park, mobile grooming service, pet sitting and walking, and on-call veterinary services.

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Spa-tacular
Le Merigot has allocated no less than 6,500 square feet to its spa and fitness facilities, which attracts a number of celebrities that live in the area or regularly stay at the hotel. Stars spotted at Le Merigot include Eva Longoria, Courtney Cox, Gladys Knight, Hal Linden, Anthony Hopkins, Suzanne Somers, Ed Begley, Jr., Keanu Reeves, Ron Howard, and Shaquille O'Neil.

Throughout The Spa at Le Merigot, which is replete with lovely hand-painted murals, trickling fountains and aromatherapy essences that duly set the mood, there are eight treatment rooms, including a couple's suite and room devoted to spa manicures and pedicures.

The spa services menu is extensive and impressive, with a great number of unique and tantalizing treatments from which to choose, from massages and body treatments to facials, skin and nail care. Massage and energy treatments range from hot stone and deep tissue to Swedish and aromatherapy to Reiki and Cranial Sacral. I personally opted for the hot stone massage, and I can tell you it was among the best I've ever received with a technician who clearly understands and reveres the craft. Among the facial choices are European, micro dermabrasion and caviar and pearl lifting. The spa uses Kneipp, Epicuren, Pevonia Botanicals, and Creative Spa brands as its primary treatment products, which are also sold in the on-site retail boutique.

A bounty of herbal baths and body wraps are also available to soothe, slim and detoxify, like the tri-crystal micro dermabrasion body polish and the blueberry soy slimming body wrap. Waxing, hand, foot, eye and lip treatments and nail services round out the spa's robust offerings. Special "manscaping" packages are also available among the mix.

If you're like me and love to spend a half or full day at the spa, Le Merigot can more than accommodate with spa packages ranging from $250 to $640 available for all occasions. The Bliss Package, for example, includes an aromatherapy massage, specialty facial, and manicure and pedicure. The Serenity Package, a popular choice I'm told, features anti-stress aromatherapy, a body wrap, Swedish massage, and plantomer facial. Between treatments patrons may enjoy such refreshments as tea, water, and fresh fruit.

Spa services include unlimited use of the fitness center, eucalyptus steam room, redwood sauna, and heated outdoor pool. Directly adjacent to the pool is the fitness center, itself, offering a plethora of Cybex strength and Lifecycle cardiovascular equipment. The center also offers Yoga and Pilates classes, personal training sessions and, for outdoor and activity enthusiasts, instructor-led group beach walks and mountain hikes, bicycle tours, and private surfing lessons. Divine Dining
Offering breakfast, lunch, Sunday brunch, and dinner, Cézanne Restaurant has both indoor and outdoor patio seating. The restaurant offers seasonal-focused daily specials along with a set menu rife with deliciously innovative dishes. The restaurant's cuisine also includes a special focus on the Marriott's "Fit For You" program designed to address healthy eating and dietary issues while also incorporating fresh and sustainable ingredients.

The menu at Cézanne, governed by Executive Chef Desi Szonntagh, is comprised of Provencal inspired dishes paired with eclectic Mediterranean and Pacific Rim flavors. Handmade Charcuterie is among the culinary delights. Having worked at fine dining establishments around the globe, Chef Szonntagh brings more than twenty years of dining experience to the restaurant-and it shows.

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Particularly enticing dishes at Cézanne include black truffle mac & cheese with lobster and crispy crust, roasted pear salad, and Alaskan ling cod with white beans. Meat entrée highlights range from the grilled Kurobuta pork chop with whole grain mustard sauce to the rack of lamb a l'ancienne with garlic thyme jus. The "fit for you" menu features miso roasted Chilean sea bass with asparagus and ginger soy dressing and spicy tuna tartare. If pate is your pleasure, be sure to try the house made duck pate with gherkins and stone ground mustard. Prices range from $5-$13 for appetizers and $24 to $38 for entrées. Cézanne also has an extensive international wine selection and delectable desert menu that I've no doubt will inspire you to indulge.

Those looking for a tasty libation inevitably find themselves at Le Troquet, the intimate lobby lounge and outdoor terrace. With an impressive selection of top-shelf liquors, fine wines and tapas to choose from, Le Troquet in ideal spot for cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and conversation with friends or colleagues.

Meetings and Events
While I was most definitely visiting Le Merigot for pleasure, I did take note of the more than 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space for conferences and banquets. Having inquired, I was told the property has 10 meeting rooms, a professional meeting coordinator and staff, full line of technologically advanced audio-visual equipment, and exceptional event menus for meeting breaks, cocktail parties, and full-course meals.

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Sizzling Specials
Le Merigot does, of course, regularly offers specials designed to maximize the vacation experience, whether for a weekend, a week or longer. The "California Cruisin' Package," starting at $389 per night includes a superior guestroom and choice of a Mercedes C Class or 3 Series BMW rental. The "Surfin' Safari Package," starting at $479 per night, includes a superior guestroom, a full-session Swedish massage, a two-hour professional surfing lesson, and one Blue Crush graduation cocktail. More information on these and other packages may be found on the Le Merigot Web site located at www.lemerigothotel.com.

In all, Le Merigot proved itself to be a stellar setting for a girls' getaway, with its ideal location on the beach and near the 3rd Street Promenade, distinctive combination of European flair tempered with an informal SoCal attitude, luxe accommodations, abundant amenities, and the sea of warm smiles and greetings from each and every staff member encountered during the course of my stay.

The Luxe List product, service and travel review editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for new and captivating "musts." Product submissions accepted via e-mail at Merilee@JustLuxe.com.

- Merilee Kern
JustLuxé.com's "The Luxe List" Executive Review Editor

Merilee Kern

Merilee A. Kern is a good life connoisseur who scours the luxury marketplace for new and innovative must-haves and exemplary experiences at all price points - the extreme high end to the affordable. The best of the best across all product, service and travel categories are detailed in her exclusive column 'The Luxe List' that reaches millions of affluent consumers each month through multiple print...(Read More)

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