Santa, Sleighs and Igloos in Finland

Do you believe in Santa Claus? What if I told you that the letters you address to “The North Pole” actually make it to a small town in Finland, where Santa and his helpers sit at their desks and read each and every letter? You probably won’t believe me, thinking it was a made up kids story. But really, it is actually true and I have seen it with my very own eyes!

I flew to a city called Ivalo, in northern Finland, located inside the Arctic Circle. Even in April, there was snow as far as my eyes could see. Reindeers appeared wandering around the alpine forests, as I took a 30-minute shuttle ride to Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland.

Most people say they have never heard of Lapland, until I mention the “igloo hotel.” The iconic photo of a village dotted with glass igloos glowing against the twilight sky in wintery wonderland, has appeared across many social media posts. I had only dreamt of going there myself someday, and here I was.

igloo resort finlandThe shuttle dropped off the passengers at a log cabin used as the reception area. We fetched our keys and were told to use the sleighs kept outside to carry our luggage to our respective cabin rooms or igloos.

While it was snowing heavily outside and temperatures dipped under 30F (“unusually warm for this time of the year” they informed me), I dragged my wooden sleigh to my cabin.

laplandThere are three kinds of rooms at the resort. The first and most popular are the glass igloos, available in two sizes – sleeps 2 (with toilet, no shower) or 4 people (with shower and toilet). The igloos have limited space to store luggage and almost no privacy, since they are made entirely of glass. Though you have to walk through the snowy cold weather to get to the igloo, once inside, it is nice and toasty.

The second option is to get a log cabin. Here, you can get a very comfortable king size bed, kitchenette, breakfast area, as well as a personal sauna. Now, that’s luxury! For those who cannot decide between the igloo or the cabin, there is the Kelo Glass Igloo, which combines a cabin with an igloo, so you get the best of both worlds. Store your luggage in the cabin, enjoy a nice hot sauna, and sleep in the igloo at night.

kakslauttanen_kelo-glass_igloo_rgbPicture yourself lying in bed, looking at the sky, while the Aurora Lights dance around in their green, orange and red hues. That is the main reason to come here. In Lapland, you can see northern lights almost every night from August-April, in their full splendor. The resort also offers activities “Aurora Hunting” on snow mobiles or reindeer sleighs.

During the day, guests can enjoy winter sports such as cross country skiing, dog sledding, hiking, riding snow mobiles, and more.

dsc06915For lunch, there is always all-you-can-eat soup (two choices) and homemade breads. Dinner at the restaurant is also quite good. The menu features local ingredients and Lappish dishes, such as reindeer stew, Alaskan crab, grilled salmon, and stewed cloudberries.

reindeer & salmon

The resort is actually quite large and worth exploring for a few hours. First, you want to visit Santa’s house. Here, resident Mr and Mrs Claus live, meet guests and participate in activities through the season. The Celebration House is where Santa throws elaborate parties. It is also used for weddings and events. There are other small workshops, an ice chapel, and of course, the local wildlife. Couple of dozen reindeers live on the property.

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is one of it’s kind. It was started by a visionary, Jussi Eiramo. While on vacation, he discovered this patch of beautiful area where he could camp and see the Northern Lights almost every night of the year. So, he opened a souvenir shop about 40 years ago, then made ice igloos for people to stay at, and later designed the first glass igloos using unique Finnish technology.

Today, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is a bucket list destination for those who seek adventure, romance and off the beaten path travel. It is a place where families flock to in the winter to celebrate the holiday season, party with Santa, and enjoy the essence of the North Pole.

Hotel Genova – Treasure of Turin

When I was told that I was going to be staying at a Best Western Plus hotel during Turin Epicurean Capital, I didn’t expect much, mainly because I rarely find anything interesting about chain hotels. But Hotel Genova contradicted all my beliefs!hotel genova Turin

First of all, this hotel has been a family owned business since the 1880s. According to the current hotel manager and owner, Dr Fabio Borio (his grandfather bought the property after World War 2), it was originally an inn with a restaurant with just a few rooms.

The name “Hotel Genova” can be confusing, since it’s not in the city of Genova, or anywhere close to it. I discovered that the name came about because it was on the way to Genova. Back in the days, when people left Turin to head towards the Italian riviera, they would stop at Hotel Genova for a meal.

Originally, the hotel had only 20 rooms. Over the years, the family has added floors and contemporary style rooms, bringing the number of rooms up to 88. Because of this, each floor is done in a different fashion, with staircases, carpets and decor representing many decades. Guests can see that no two rooms at the hotel are alike. For example, on the fifth floor – known as the Parisian floor, there are all attic rooms with wooden beams. My room looked like it was out of a children’s story book, with slanted roofs and all!

hotel genova turinThe fourth floor has more elegant rooms with high ceilings, glass chandeliers and huge baths. The room I ultimately stayed in also had a 2-person jacuzzi tub right in the room! There was also a small patio with beautiful views of the city.

genova hotel turinThe third floor of the hotel has contemporary furniture but wooden floors dating back to the 19th century, and the second floor was originally the piano nobile or the main floor of the original building back in the 1800. Walking around the hotel can be quiet interesting, as one may discover   original stained glass windows, paintings, antiques, and world war memorabilia.hotel genova turin

Now in 2016, the hotel has modern features such as free WiFi, spa, Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, music room and salt room, beauty center and gym. There is also a delicious breakfast buffet served in the basement.

The hotel is centrally located across from Porta Nuova station. It is 5 minutes walking distance to Via Roma, the hub of shopping, restaurants and cafes, as well as to most tourist attractions.

Hotel Genova is truly a charming family-owned boutique hotel that is now part of the Best Western Plus family.

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Cherry Blossoms at the Ritz

The exact time of the blooms may be hard to predict with the March weather in Washington, D.C., but it is the season at the Ritz Carlton already!

As soon as I walk through the elegant lobby, the scent of cherry blossoms embodies me with happiness. The hotel’s signature scent, Sakura (meaning cherry blossom in Japanese) subtly fills the air as cherry blossom flower arrangements brighten the public spaces. Downstairs in the conference area, an incredible hand-painted mural depicting a wind-blown cherry blossom tree set against a metallic gold background is perhaps the most photographed location at the hotel. When visitors come to D.C., they want to take home a memorable moment with the backdrop of the blossoms, even if they didn’t get to see them in bloom.

ritz carlton dc

Located off the main lobby is Westend Bistro, a vibrant modern bar that serves lunch and dinner. I was told that it took the mixologist months of perfection to create the house drink, Sakura cocktail. A pale red colored gin-infused drink arrives in a cold martini glass. It has layers of flavors starting with sweetness of cherries, boldness of Sakura tea, to dryness of the gin and bitterness of grapefruits. It is flavorful in a way that one could drink a few glasses and only later realize the alcohol content.

cherry blossom cocktail

Westend Bistro under the supervision of Chef de Cuisine Adam Barnett was named Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants for 2015, so I have to try the food. The Kabocha Squash Salad arrives as a hearty, healthy treat with baby kales and spinach, grilled honeycrisp apples, pumpkin seed granola, and hazelnut vinaigrette.

I arrive in my room to find a card made with recycled paper at the desk. It says “a cherry tree has been planted in your honor.” The Ritz Carlton Washington, D.C. partners with the National Arbor Day Foundation‘s  Cherry Blossom Give-A-Tree program. Guests can purchase an overnight room package that includes the tree donation.

give a cherry tree

Afternoon is a time to experience high tea at the Lobby Lounge. Over Cherry Blossom Festival, they offer a lovely Sakura blend tea that is especially designed for the hotel. Notes of bergamot, black currant, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, soft vanilla and white musk are complimented with, well of course, cherry blossom flowers. The tea is served in a traditional Japanese cast iron teapot (tetsubin) and cups, with sliced lemons and rose petals on the side. It is refreshing and deep, without an overwhelming floral presence.

Tea comes with a surprise dessert amenity that is not listed on the menu. Homemade little cherry tart square and chocolate covered cookie sticks resembling tree barks with cherry flowers, placed in a Japanese vase look too beautiful to eat. This presentation is worth taking photos of, even if you are not a dessert person.

high cherry tea at the ritz

cherry chocolate barkAfter enjoying all the cherry blossom themes at the Ritz Carlton, it was time to explore the festival related events in the area. The hotel’s concierge guides me to a list of events including parades, runs and banquets organized by the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Book your stay now at the Ritz Carlton!

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Dock Yourself at Blue Haven Resort and Marina

Tucked away at the northeast side of the island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos (TCI) is a boutique resort where you can have your entire family over for a destination wedding or a family getaway. While most tourists stay at one of the large resorts (Sandals, Beaches, etc) in Grace Bay, the solace traveler may prefer the quieter residential neighborhood where Blue Haven Resort and Marina is located. Its easy to rent a car and drive to the property, which is only a few minutes from restaurants and attractions.

First glimpse from the lobby of the white sandy beach and turquoise water is enough to take your breath away. The resort overlooks the mangroves directly in front and to the open Atlantic water on the right. The property, designed in elegant Caribbean fashion, was built as a condominium complex, but after the economic downturn, it was converted into a hotel.

blue haven resort TCI

Every room at Blue Haven is a fully equipped condo with separate bedroom and living areas. A modern looking kitchen and dining area is perfect for those who like to eat in during those extended stay vacations. King size bed and walk in closets, a bathroom large enough to fit a New York City apartment, and a private balcony with cozy lounge chairs – why would you ever leave?

Blue Haven is not an all inclusive resort (although meal packages can be purchased), but there is grocery store and deli where you can pick up breakfast, salads, sandwiches, coffee, juices, as well as fresh ingredients to cook with. For fun, lay by the infinity pool, play bocce ball, or watch a movie under the starry skies. Pamper yourself with a massage or facial at Elevate Spa or burn off those rum punches at the gym.

blue haven resort TCI

There are two additional restaurant on the property. SALT is an open air, casual eastern where you can walk into with sandy feet, and cricket playing on the background television is a subtle reminder of the English influence on the island. Taste the local flavors such as conch fritters, jerk shrimp and tuna tartare with a backdrop of the marina. For a more refined evening atmosphere, have dinner at Fire and Ice, a locally acclaimed restaurant serving Caribbean inspired international cuisine.

blue haven resort

You cannot visit the third largest barrier reef in the world without indulging in water sports. Located at Blue Haven are Big Blue Unlimited, a water sporting facility that offers stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, kiteboarding, snorkeling, diving, private boat charters, biking and cultural eco-tours across the islands, and Caribbean Cruisin that organizes day trips to other islands, North and South Caicos ferries, fishing charters and Jet Skis right off the hotel’s lagoon.

blue haven resort

The marina at Blue Haven is one of the only two on the island that can accommodate yachts, sailing and deep sea fishing boats arriving at the official port of entry into the Caribbean. Blue Haven Marina is an Island Global Yachting (IGY) destination, offering gas, utilizes, customs/ immigration and all hotel amenities to the guests.blue haven resort

Blue Haven Resort is one of the newest properties on Turks and Caicos, and the ideal place to relax in sand, sun and water anytime of the year. Don’t just dream of it – go!

Book your stay at the Blue Haven Resort now with TripAdvisor

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Mediterranean Oasis: The Grand Hotel Miramare

When deciding where to stay in the Italian Riviera, think like a real estate agent, “location, location, location.” Imagine standing on a private balcony enjoying the cool sea breeze of the Gulf of Tigullio and the panoramic views of coastal Italy. Picture waking up and walking out onto a terrace to see Mediterranean style buildings, fisherman preparing their boats, million dollar yachts in the port, and families playing on the beach. Take a breath of fresh air, mingled with the aromas of caramelized Italian cappuccino and homemade marmalade filled croissants. Welcome to The Grand Hotel Miramare!

Santa Margherita, Italy The Grand Hotel Miramare is a historic award winning 4 Star Hotel, in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy. Your imagination becomes reality as the Italian word miramare means panoramic view. The white fresco building, dating back to 1904, with aqua marine shutters, can be seen for miles off land. The front façade and its floral décor are not the only features that leave a lasting impression; the engaging staff, elegant accommodations, delicious meals, and a strong historical presence make this hotel the preferred lodging location in the area.

Hotel Miramare: Pesto alla GenoveseTemperate weather of the Mediterranean brings guests to the city of Santa Margherita Ligure, a seaside resort in the Province of Genoa. Located in Northwestern Italy, foreign visitors are drawn by its geographical proximity to popular locations in France and Tuscany. Locals and visitors from afar come to Santa Margherita Ligure, which is easily accessible by car, train, boat, and plane. Clientele of The Grand Hotel Miramare visit the Basilica of Santa Margherita that dates back to 1968, and the neighboring city of Portofino; they attend cultural events, and jazz and classical music festivals. Water lovers jump into sailing, rowing, boating, and diving into the fabulous emerald green waters of the area. Then, if time and energy permit, there is walking, hiking, running, horseback riding, tennis and golf as well. The hotel staff is certain to recommend the Circolo Golf and Tennis Rappallo, one of the finest golf courses in all of Italy.

Hotelier, charming gentleman, and city socialite, Andrea Fustononi, stops by the front desk and greets guests “Buongiorno!” creating an intimate family hotel atmosphere. It is inspiring that this highly successful owner of one of the oldest grand lodging destinations on the Italian Riviera, preserves the intimacy and charm of the family owned hotel by personally greeting his guests.

When the activities of the day draw down, weary tourists and sports enthusiasts return to the care of the resort’s personnel, who greet them by name and immediately propose a relaxation filled evening of pampering and in-house dining sure to give the mind, body, and palate an unique and pleasurable experience.

Hotel Miramare: RestaurantTrust the gentle hands of the professionals at e’SPAce, a richly jewel hued indoor full service spa retreat. e’SPAce also extends massage services to clients in a peaceful outdoor gazebo retreat in the Great Park, amid the lush greenery, oleanders, camellias, lavender and other aromatics. Ready to wind down, but still awestruck by the outside views, then dress appropriately, that would be swimwear, and stroll to the Mediterranean Garden, where the patron, spellbound by the views of flora, fauna, mountains, and the gulf, favor unwinding in a poolside lounger, while sipping a refresher from the pool bar, or taking a dip in the saltwater swimming pool.

Conclude the day with an enchanting dinner at Ristorante Les Bougainvillées. The stark white stucco against the contrast of intricate fresco paintings on the ceiling creates a classical Italian aura. The dining room is a formal setting, but diners may choose to dress at a level of formality that suits their style. Regardless, the service of the wait staff is warm and diligent to all guests. The menu of Les Bougainvillées features the traditional cuisines of Ligure including Trofie pasta, Focaccia Recco and the exceptional Pesto alla Genovese, made with the light buttery tasting olives of the Ligure region.

Patrons retire to the comforts of their private space decorated in hues of pale white, blue and grey. Renovated old world luxury waits in the oversized rooms showcasing delicate refined furniture and minimal fanfare. Unwind after the nightly turn down preparations have been completed and slippers set out.

Hotel Miramare RoomWhat makes The Grand Hotel Miramare so special? It is an exquisite establishment perfectly positioned in a stunning location. Genuine conversation with management and personnel exemplifies unwavering commitment to excellence in the patron’s experience. Get superb recommendations from Andrea Fustononi about anything in the city, whether local attractions or a community staple, like Seghezzo, the 100 year old family owned grocery store. Guests are impressed by the personal attention and consideration given to them, and like countless other annual lodgers, look forward to their next stay at The Grand Hotel Miramare.

~ Words & photos by Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious. Follow her on Instagram@jadenlie

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Hotel Byblos: Jewel of Saint-Tropez

Hotel Byblos, a 5 star sprawling paradise of unimaginable delights, is everything its reputation suggests. Located in Saint-Tropez, in the South of France, the resort has a Mediterranean sleepy sea-side village appeal and its terracotta and stucco like exterior painted in brilliant colors of salmon, mint green, and gold are perfectly striking. Make no mistake; there is nothing “sleepy” about Hotel Byblos as there are more than enough amenities to keep guests totally engaged.

It must be said though, that upon arriving at the hotel’s address, anticipation turns into a few seconds of bewilderment, as the entryway does not signal “world-renowned” hotel. Surprisingly, after descending a very impressive staircase, large glass doors lead into a modern estate, which honors its architectural past. Expansive windows, wide corridors, and well appointed sitting areas welcome guests to their Saint-Tropez home.

hotel byblos exterior

The hotel opens from mid April to the end of October. Peak months are between May and September when the entire beach town area is in full fashion. There are endless parties, nights that last until morning, and people waiting to get into their preferred venues. Like Saint-Tropez, at this time the entire vibe of Hotel Byblos is electric with energy.

hotel byblos balcony

As with this trip, some travelers may prefer to visit during shoulder months April or October when there are fewer crowds and shorter ques. The atmosphere of Hotel Byblos also becomes serene but still enjoyable. There are many amenities to compliment the most discriminating of patrons: an exquisite pool with a poolside bar and lounge, spa, fitness center, two restaurants, onsite coiffeur, boutique shops and more. The signature customer service of the hotel has no rival. It includes complimentary shuttle service to and from nearby beaches. Why, the gym was immediately made available to a guest who arrived ahead of the scheduled opening time.

room at hotel byblos

The magnificent pool around which the Hotel Byblos is centered adds to the coastal feeling of being on the French Riviera. It is maintained at a comfortable 28 degrees Celsius so patrons may enjoy it at their convenience. Surrounded by beautifully appointed gardens, the pool becomes a private oasis, and can be a nice alternative to going to the ocean waves.

Dining options are made easy as the Byblos has two restaurants of high acclaim. Guests will surely want to begin the day with a scrumptious breakfast at the B, a Mediterranean inspired bistro with indoor and patio seating. The endless choices include: mini waffles, madeleine, chocolate croissants, artisan breads, and more; delectable jams, spreads, and cheese compliment the exhaustive list of fresh baked goods. A pâte à tartiner or “spread” made of chocolate and hazelnut is a hotel specialty. The B’s accommodation of casual and formal diners and the presence of alfresco seating contribute to “a top of the morning” flair.

Rivea at hotel byblos

The Rivea restaurant is among the enterprises of the critically acclaimed Chef Alain Ducasse. This place is busy all the time and for good reason. With a tapas style menu drawing on Provençal, Spanish and Italian influences, there is something for everyone. Starters such as the traditional charcuterie platter, pizzetta with rocket and Parmesan, and herb cannelloni are flavorful and light. Selections for main courses include meat, seafood and vegetarian options. The lamb chop and fillet with summer savory chickpeas and panisse is perfectly prepared. Delectable chickpea panisse fries, a play on French fries, are crisp and fluffy. A palate tantalizing dessert of candied and frosted lemon with limoncello sorbet is tart, refreshing and shocking with the flavor of citrus. The commitment to local, quality natural French and Italian resources is a staple in the success of Rivea. Take, for example, the Minuty Rosé 2013 that is lovingly served by the restaurant, its pale pink color and floral notes originate from the little-known Tibouren grape, grown at the Minuty Chateau located on the Saint-Tropez Peninsular.

fresh pastries at B

At what venue does everyone wait in the same entrance line regardless of status, economics, or fame? Of course, it is the internationally acclaimed nightclub, Les Caves du Roy, of the Hotel Byblos, in Saint-Tropez. Les Caves de Roy is one of the world’s most exclusive nightclubs and is a place to be seen for everyone from Hollywood stars, billionaire business tycoons and families on vacation who are lodging at the Byblos. During April to June and September to October, the venue is only open on the weekends.

Hotel Byblos is a destination for wealthy discriminating lodgers as well as those among us who occasionally splurge in life. Rent the Byblos’ private villa and live like French aristocracy. Hire the hotel’s luxury yacht for a day and cruise the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. Step into the award winning Marrakesh themed spa and be lulled away by the services. No matter the fantasy, this world-renowned luxury resort is perfect for the traveler who craves chic hospitality and unparalleled lavishness.

~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious. Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie

Book your stay at Hotel Byblos on TripAdvisor

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Notable Alternative to Hotels in Nice

When considering lodging along the French Riviera one might think of high priced fancy hotels that only the rich and famous can afford. What if there were lodging facilities with more space than the average European hotel room: offering a nice bed, complimentary WiFi, free parking, and free breakfast in a more intimate yet traditional setting?  Does having an authentic French experience by staying in a Niçoise home and catching a glimpse of the life of the locals peak your interests?

If this sounds like the experience of your dreams, then strongly consider staying at a bed and breakfast in Nice.  Unlike the hotels that line Promenade des Anglais, the major street along the coast of Nice, these properties are found in residential areas.  Most of the bed and breakfasts in this region are not located in the city but in the countryside, and many are older homes.

Just 2.5 kilometers outside Nice’s city center exists a secluded and charming estate surrounded by an abundance of aromatic flowers. Le Castel Enchanté, run by Alberto and his family, is an authentic French B&B. It sits high atop a hill at the end of a lengthy, narrow winding private road. The road is just narrow enough to fit one car, a true French experience.

Castel Enchante driveway

 

Entering the doorway of Le Castel Enchanté, has the feeling of being welcomed into a private home where your visit is excitedly anticipated. Alberto exclaims, “Bonjour madam,” with a big smile.  There is no formal check-in, just a quaint verification of identity and on to tour the estate. The building of Le Castel Enchanté has an old-time feel with modern day amenities as it was built in the 1850’s but restored over time.  The establishment was originally built as a hotel and named “Castel Enchanté” meaning enchanted castle.  In the 1960’s the hotel, which had its own restaurant, was downsized and later transformed into a smaller bed and breakfast by 1980.  The historical facility has been under the current owner Alberto’s care for just over a year and is thriving.  Its rustic feel and homely appeal delight visitors from all over the world.

Alberto at castel enchante Nice

Alberto carries the bags and escorts guests to their assigned accommodation, then gives a quick walk through of the chamber.  Each of the five rooms at Le Castel Enchanté has its own personality and name.  The room, Nemuphar is a soft salmon color with large windows facilitating great views and natural light. The wood furniture is of a rich hue and appears to be antique. Floor to ceiling french doors open into a second smaller room that has a single bed, full length mirror and ample space.  The suite is charming and easily accommodates a family of three.

Castel Enchante Room Nice

The suite has all the basic amenities a person would require. The floor of the bathroom is tiled in an ultramarine blue color.  The oversized bath towels are plush with high thread count and work well with the overall scheme. Shelving in the bathroom creates ample space to place toiletries, and the temperature of the shower water does not disappoint. Sufficient seating, wardrobe, coffee maker, iron, a mini fridge, and free WiFi bring together the essential necessities ensuring relaxation and comfort.  Before leaving, Alberto explains all about breakfast.

The remainder of the establishment is comprised of Alberto’s personal living space and common guest areas.  Breakfast is served in a semi-formal dining room in front of a fireplace reminiscent of home and a coziness that ignites emotions of being a member of the family.  During the colder months breakfast is served indoors but guests can enjoy cool Mediterranean breezes and views of Nice from the gardens while dining alfresco in the summertime.

Castel Enchante Terrace

Additional outdoor spaces on the property include patios and a swimming pool.  Loungers, benches, and chairs are abundant and allow the stunning nature and city views to be relished while relaxing. Many of the herbs and fruits that grow on the grounds make their way to the morning marmalades and juices. Fragrant flowers, towering trees, and creeping vines fashion an illusion that the bed and breakfast is no longer in a residential community but completely cut off and secluded, creating a sanctuary for your retreat.

Residential Area Nice, France

Le Castel Enchanté is a bed and breakfast for seekers of an authentic French experience in Nice, France.  Alberto’s attention to customer service and comfort during a stay at the Castel will be a delightful diversion from the sea of hotels in the touristy city center of Nice.

When visiting Le Castel Enchanté a car is strongly recommended.  February to March is a very quiet period.  In April there is a Lemon festival.  May rings in the Grand Prix race and international tennis matches in Monaco with many people staying in Nice.

~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious.  Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie

Book your stay at Le Castel Enchante now with TripAdvisor

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Some Like It Hot at The Del Coronado

Regarded by critics as one of the finest American movies ever made, Some Like It Hot continues to delight audiences 50 years after it debuted in 1959; in fact, the American Film Institute named it No. 1 on their list of the 100 best comedies of all time.

Filmed in 1958, the United Artists movie was shot on location at the Hotel del Coronado, Southern California’s landmark Pacific resort. The Del’s iconic Victorian architecture made it the perfect backdrop for the film’s 1929 setting, along with acting icons Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.

Marilyn Monroe at the Del Coronado

Says author and scholar Laurence Maslon, who released Some Like It Hot: The Official 50th Anniversary Companion in September 2009 during the 50th anniversary celebration at the Hotel del Coronado (published by Collins Design, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers in the US and Anova Books in the UK), “There have been a lot of movies shot on a lot of locations, but only a few marriages of celluloid and place can be considered truly legendary. Chief among those magical moments is the sight of Marilyn Monroe cavorting on the beautiful beach at the footsteps of the Hotel del Coronado.”

Plot

The Prohibition-era story follows the exploits of Lemmon and Curtis, out-of-work Chicago musicians who accidentally witness a gangland slaying. Making a run for their lives, the men disguise themselves as women and join an all-girl band traveling by train to Florida. Here, a ukulele-strumming singer, played by Monroe, catches the eyes of both men, but it is Curtis’ character who assumes still another identity – an unlucky-in-love millionaire – to successfully woo and win Monroe.

Lemmon’s cross-dressed character, meanwhile, is vigorously pursued by a bona fide millionaire, played by Joe E. Brown. The hilarious gender-shifting romantic romp is played out at California’s famed Hotel del Coronado, which director Billy Wilder found to be the perfect substitute for Florida in the Roaring Twenties.

Sunshine … California-Style

At least one Floridian was less than happy about Wilder’s decision to shoot the movie in San Diego. Miami Mayor Robert King High reportedly said it was “a sacrilege” to let Southern California play the role of Florida’s “Sunshine State.” This sour criticism was ably met by Coronado’s mayor, who wired back, “Some like it hot, but not as hot as Miami in September.” The mayor’s rebuttal also referenced Florida’s gnats, mosquitoes and hurricanes, none of which plagued the temperate island of Coronado.

Marilyn Monroe & Tony Curtis

An “Uproariously Improbable Set”

Like all American resorts, the Hotel del Coronado had endured some tough years during the Depression and World War II, but it was this period of benign neglect that helped preserve the resort, making it the perfect setting for Wilder’s 1929 story, which he co-wrote with I.A. Diamond. Said Wilder, “We looked far and wide, but this was the only place we could find that hadn’t changed in thirty years. People who have never see this beautiful hotel will never believe we didn’t make these scenes on a movie lot. It’s like the past come to life.”

Although at least one critic didn’t believe the hotel was real, describing The Del as “an uproariously improbable set.” The hotel’s 1888 Queen Anne Revival-style architecture does tend toward the fanciful, with rambling white clapboard, lazy verandas and red-turreted roofs, which an earlier writer had characterized as a cross between an ornate wedding cake and a well-trimmed ship.

Although only exterior scenes were filmed at hotel, the interior scenes do look very Del-like (right down to the placement of the lobby elevator and stairs). This probably explains why so many Some Like It Hot devotees – even after seeing the Hotel del Coronado for themselves – absolutely refuse to believe that the movie’s interior scenes were not filmed at The Del.

Favored by the Fans, Overlooked by the Oscars

The movie was a box office success, grossing over $8 million initially and earning several million more over the next few years – somewhere between $10 and $15 million.

Monroe’s financial deal – she received between $100,000 and $300,000, as well as 10 percent of the film’s gross profits – was a very lucrative arrangement in its day, and Some Like It Hot turned out to be her most profitable venture.

The movie was also a critical success. Variety called it the biggest hit of 1959; Monroe received a Golden Globe for her performance, as did Jack Lemmon. The film itself also won a Golden Globe for “best comedy.”

In spite of its financial success and public accolades, the film received only one minor Academy Award for “Best Black and White Costume Design.” Today it is thought that Some Like It Hot was just too risqué for 1959, when the big winner that year was Ben-Hur (also in the running for various Academy Awards were the likes of Diary of Anne Frank, Room at the Top, Pillow Talk and Porgy and Bess).

The Some Like It Hot story line is racy, and Monroe’s costumes are incredibly revealing, even by today’s standards (though, according to Wilder, Marilyn was not interested in fashion … as long as the costumes revealed “something,” she was satisfied). Ahead of its time perhaps, present-day reviewers marvel that the movie still comes across as such a wholesome film; this was Monroe’s forte: she was sexy, but childlike.

Although this is the Monroe film most shown on television today, the actress reportedly never liked her performance.

~ Story and photos courtesy of Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego. 

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