HotelCrush: a vehement, furious, downright pathological appreciation for hotel design and culture
We love hotels. We love room service. We love poolside cocktails. There is nothing more decadent than a trip to a hotel, the epicenter of our social circles and respite from our daily life. They are destinations in themselves, with the acumen of the location converged in the design and the sensibilities of its inhabitants. Hotels are daydreams made real, with amenities at your fingertips and a dip in the water just steps away. More than temporary homes, today's hotels aspire to be just like home - whatever home it is that you are looking for.
12/6/11: bliss, spaaah
We at HotelCrush are deeply opinionated, but we're also about objectivity – and fairness. After last spring's fabulous Father/Daughter Spa Day, it was just a matter of time before we pulled together something equally fabulous for Mom. Our proprietor of choice was Bliss Spa Hollywood, the only Bliss to serve champagne, and therefore the BEST Bliss. Drai's rooftop lounge was closed for lunch, so we found a sunny table outside at Delphine and dug into bistro fare (a salad for her, a Croque for us). Of course a party isn't complete without party favors, so we handed her a Bliss bag of our faves: Lemon and Sage body butter, High Intensity hand cream, and Glamour Gloves ("Ooh! those gloves that I use after putting hand cream on?? Oh I SO need these...")
And then it was off to the spa. We've road-tested the Triple Oxygen Treatment, Fully Loaded Facial, and Elemis Tri-Enzyme Facial, but wanted to do something luxe and patently Bliss for mom. We booked her into the Youth As We Know It Facial, a nourishing anti-aging fog of collagen and relaxation, while we opted for our standard Blissage75, a 75-minute knot-tamer fortified with a paraffin foot pack and a full-on hemorrhage of Blood Orange & White Pepper body butter. It was her first time in the spa portion of Bliss, so we were excited to introduce her to the decadent backstage. "The brownies are absolutely drop dead," we warned, pillaging two at a time. Settling into the comfortable couch, we chatted over sips of bubbly, wished each other well, and plunged vehemently into the last perfect hour of rev and renewal.
Our skincare needs are simple. We like products that work. We also like products that smell good, feel good, and aren't crazy expensive. But overall, we're content with anything that does what it says it's going to do, and smitten with anything that does more. So when our friend P started raving about Arcona products, we were curious but cautious. "Organic" can mean potent, nutritious, and nourishing, but it also has the connotation of being wussy, hokey, and second-rate. Our experience at Arcona was revitalizing in itself, but we were more invested in how the products we were given improved our skin in the long-term. With all of the other products on our shelf for a month and a half, we gamely took the Arcona challenge. And we're THRILLED with the results.
A good face exfoliator is hard to find. It can't be too rough (small, evenly shaped particles work best) and it must be dense enough in particles to excavate properly. Our discovery of Arcona's Cranberry Gommage was everything we wanted – a thick, viscous paste that dislodges blackheads and a comforting cranberry scent that reassures our skin we're not too harsh.
This cleanser is by far the best we've tested this year, easing even our favorite Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash off the shelf. We love the gentle fragrance and smooth lather, which can only be described as medicinal in its healing properties. Our face feels cleaner, softer, and more revived with every use.
Oily skin and heavy creams don't mix, but even oily skin needs a boost of nutrients. Rich with antioxidants and as natural as a leaf, this serum hydrates without overpowering or congesting pores. The wonderful scent tinged with coconut reminds us of Hawaiian vacations and warm ocean breezes.
It seems every skincare line has their requisite oxygen cream, and it's no wonder given the benefits of oxygen in promoting cell turnover and skin hydration. Like many oxygen products, this one has a slight laboratory smell, that we don't mind, given the improvement in our skin's overall tone over the course of a month.
We're not 16 anymore, but we sometimes feel like it when we look in the mirror and see a suspicious new growth on our face. But for that we now have Arcona, whose line of organic products is reinforced by a searing acne-defeating solution that dries problem spots and discourages new ones from forming. Yay!
The names of Arcona's products (Magic White Ice, Magic Green Ice) have us wondering if Merlin is back in business, but we've been assured that the science behind this serum is no fool's gold. Gels are more easily palatable for oily skin, and this immensely hydrating formula delivers a thick boost of Vitamins B-5, C, and E, leaving you the envy of every scarred smallpox survivor.
10/4/11: bliss spa, spaaah
We've mentioned before that we are blisteringly DIY about some things (manicures, lemonade, VIP birthday cakes) but there is one thing we absolutely cannot do for ourself: a massage.
And for that we go to Moeul.
We discovered Moeul last spring on a day when the knots in our back and neck were so tight that it was reminiscent of a car accident injury, and, again having one of those weeks, we booked in for a reset. With the enthusiasm of an aesthetician performing extractions ("got one!"), Moeul defeated the knots between our shoulder blades with deep Shiatsu and Swedish massage, rewarding our muscles with an application of cooling peppermint oil.
We don't get massages for relaxation, so the balance of our Blissage was active (and sometimes downright forceful). But the reward is a month knot-free, until the ravages of our punishing desk chair converge on that spot in the middle of our back...
The Sitting Room in the Ladies Locker Room at Bliss Spa Hollywood (those missing brownies were ours...):
The Sitting Area and Lockers in the Ladies Locker Room at Bliss Spa Hollywood:
The Sitting Area and Vanity/Sink Station:
The Steam Showers (Left) Sauna Area (Right) and Locker Room Amenities at Bliss Spa Hollywood:
Carasoin is a beautiful spot located on Robertson Blvd. next to Newsroom Cafe. Appointed in tapestry wallpaper with lacquer sidetables and comfortable beige couches, the waiting room has both the formality of a living room and the comfort of a lounge. We were warmly welcomed, and offered tea or water both before our treatment and after.
Located off the main corridor, our treatment room had a luxuriously high ceiling and a black box theater feel. Deliciously scented candles (pomegranate?) gave warmth to the space, and the treatment bed was appointed with a sheet and full duvet, with a piece of chocolate on the pillow.
Some spa treatments are as old as time (massage anyone?) and some are dubiously cutting edge. Leaning heavily on technology, Carasoin's signature Intraceuticals Oxygen Facial with Rejuvenate serum would have been considered plastic surgery fifteen years ago. Involving a machine that delivers a vitamin-rich antioxidant serum to skin through a stimulating, deeply penetrating blast of oxygen, the Oxygen Facial promises rejuvenation and hydration, and it delivers.
Our treatment began with a Eucalyptus cleanse and warm foot rub, then proceeded to a second cleanse and Pumpkin Enzyme scrub. Spiced like gingerbread and slightly tingly, the pumpkin scrub combined the efforts of jojoba beads to physically remove dead skin cells and fruit enzymes to chemically address them. We moved next through a series of gentle extractions (so gentle that we fell asleep) but we revived sufficiently for the hyperbaric oxygen spray. Lasting approximately fifteen minutes, the machine's nozzle mowed the surface of our face with a fine spray of oxygen and serum. We loved the cool smothering of oxygen, (though it did tickle our neck).
We were told at the end of treatment that the serum would absorb fully in the next day, and we're happy to report that our skin feels tighter and looks clearer.
Maybe there is something to science, after all.
9/8/11: bliss, spaaah, yummy
Don't get us wrong, we at HotelCrush love to delegate like the best of them. (Dress hems? Tailor. Driving? Taxi. Cooking? Well...usually take-out.) But there are certain things when absolutely nothing else will do, and that's when we take matters into our own hands.
Spa music can range from the perfect – soothing Massive Attack ambient at Le Posh Salon, to the tolerable – light jazz covers at Bliss Hollywood, to the absenting – classical piano at Ciel. But this is what we'd recommend:
In the way that muzak strives for the specific talent of non-polarizing mediocrity, every spa has the choice of making a statement with their music selection or making music as forgettable, disposable, and unconscious as breathing.
We love the latter. Make us forget how critical we are of slow folk covers of fast hit songs or pop so light it disperses before it reaches your ear. Melt each selection seamlessly into the next, without the jolt of "this is the sixth song, must be about halfway through." Make us remember why we booked an hour, music or no music, with you.
We love Ciel with the torrid revelry of a summer soak on a remote beach. We love a day of pure floating – a relaxation massage, a drench in rooftop sunshine (and SPF100), and a dripping, thoroughly indulgent steam. And like a good plot, the ambience follows suit. Adorned in opulent lighting, beveled mirrors, and polished lacquer, white has never felt so refreshing.
Design: Simple, but not too simple. The stark, glowing white is pacified by textures – the gloss of the mirrors and softness of the faux fur blankets on the tufted couches and leather setees in the waiting room.
Atmosphere: The atmosphere is sparse and minimal, as restrained as SLS can manage (which given the ornamentation of the lobby borders on moderation). Everything is lush and comforting - a shower that flushes you with six jets of water, a steam room opaque with soothing vapor, a drawer in our locker with a razor and lens cleaning wipe.
Waiting Room Amenities: We love the treats, meticulous spears of pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew, or strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry. The chocolate is dark and salty or pale olive and green-tea flavored (our new fav). Melon juices or cucumber-mint water satiate thirst, books like SLS's own or "Trench Coats" (a history) bridge the time before or after treatment.
Locker Room Amenities: Every supply in your morning arsenal is here, save makeup. The room is sparkling white and made for dawdling, with plenty of mirror real estate and at least four kinds of hair styling products.
World Class Hospitality: We were welcomed three times- with a watermelon juice shot upon arrival, a dark berry (pomegranate) sugared gelatin square in our locker, and a glass of rosé following treatment.
The Fitness Center and Entrance to Ciel:
The Hallway to the Locker Rooms and The Fully-Stocked Vanity:
The Locker Area:
Like the Mandarin Oriental and the spa at the Standard Miami, there are certain spa destinations in our future that we've plotted like bank heists. Ciel Spa is on our roster for the end of this month (August), and our full-on consumption of amenities, run through the fitness center, and dip in the rooftop pool will soon be reported here, as fast as a 50-minute massage reaches "time"..
We initially planned our visit to Arcona Studio in Santa Monica with our good friend P, who canceled due to her needed appearance in Beijing. P is an Arcona superfan and raves about their line of organic, nourishing skincare products (which we admit have lovely packaging), so we booked our deep cleanse for the morning after our DC flight. Since plane air has the same effect as the vacuum seal on a lb of ground supermarket coffee, we were looking forward to a bit of reviving. Our 50-minute session included two exfoliations, LED therapy, and the best shoulder and neck massage we've ever received during a facial. After treatment our skin was tingling (literally) with refreshment, and we promised to diligently use the suite of Arcona samples handed to us at the end.
...we're hot on the heels of a new Balzac, two tubes through our favorite Blood Orange + White Pepper, and coming off a sensational in-home massage. We scheduled two hours with Aiko Spa and made it a morning with our good friend J (who came bearing lattes) and those instant cinnamon rolls that come in the pop-open tube (just watch us try those from scratch...er)
We threw the French doors open for some sunshine and converted our office into a temporary massage room. After J's session, we settled in for the knot-unwinding so dearly needed. Mai-Linh worked out the muscle stress accumulated through our numerous bad habits, reversing the imposition of our desk chair on our strained posture. The hour flew and we were so thoroughly reset, that a frozen Snickers seemed the next prudent decision.
Which, for anyone indulged in chocolate or massage, such sensible choices are well-reasoned.
7/04/11: hollywood, bliss, spaaah
Happy 4th of July! Oh my. The brownies, the champagne, the smell of blood orange + white pepper. . . and a luxuriously satiating Elemis Tri-Enzyme Facial from our favorite Hollywood spa. This 60-minute resurfacing treatment brutalizes dead skin cells and restores hydration. The two peels were so swift and results-oriented that we could see a difference right after and overall improvement in skin clarity for nearly two weeks. A side benefit of this facial? The wonderful aromas of Elemis's famed skincare line, with enough ginger and mint to revive the laziest of holiday afternoons.
6/27/11: bliss, spaaah
...latest crush is the Blood Orange + White Pepper body scrub and body butter from our friends at Bliss. What had started as a spa party favor this spring has turned into a tumultuous, raging Blood Orange habit we can't pry ourselves from. Each evening the tasks (like shaving) that we stave off until the last possible
nude photoshoot moment have become a bloody orange treat. So at this particular juncture in the week we're settling in to a jacuzzi bath in the double tub, a glass of champagne from our haul of Mumm 187mL, and a satisfying lather of blood orange sugar scrub. Now maybe we'll just have that lick...
5/25/11: hollywood, spaaah
A visit to a new spa is like a new crush - the rush, the anticipation, the comparison to ones prior. Our curiosity was piqued on many drives down Sunset Blvd. as we watched Le Posh Salon grow out of an unwieldy streetcorner on a frantic rush hour corridor. We hesitated on the bright neon sign outside, but we're not one to judge on externals alone. The interior is stunning - bright, spacious, full of light, and frosted with the kind of orange you want to paint on your fingernails and wear as dangly earrings.
We were greeted with a glass of Veuve (just our style!) and called leisurely to our appointment with Tisha, the massage coordinator. Music in spas is a topic we'll cover later, but we were wholly impressed by the ambient music selection during our 60 minutes. Blissful, soothing, but neither too organic or too sycophantic-female-singer. The deep pressure and tension-relieving strokes of Swedish massage had us nearly asleep and our hour felt luxuriously longer.
We followed our massage with another glass of Veuve and a pedicure with Malvina in the brightest pink we could scavenge. Good pedicures in Los Angeles are a dime a dozen, but a truly outstanding one is as rare as Laurent Perrier by the glass. Our feet looked and felt amazing after ("are those still ours?") and the perfect polish lasted for weeks.
4/14/11: hollywood, bliss, spaaah
There is nothing more luxurious than a day wholly to yourself in the middle of the week. So when we made plans with our father on his vacation day off, we texted that morning, "Standby, making plans. Text you in an hour." Of course we were up to no good. After railroading through a cancellation in the Bliss roster, we texted: "Putting you in a Blissage 3pm. Am scheduled for a Triple Oxygen Facial 3:15".
So father/daughter spa day was on, and we made plans for lunch at the rooftop pool prior. Absolutely nuts over the ceviche in the hotel restaurant, we opted for the ceviche tacos and a Sauv Blanc (indulgence day, remember?) while Dad chose the fish tacos and a Chardonnay. It was a sunny, warm day and the views breezed for miles. "This is so nice," he said. We agreed. We live in the same city, separated by the gulf of two freeways and a ferocious amount of street congestion. But that's hardly an excuse.
Lunch was a fast, leisurely two hours, and then we blew in to Bliss. "Checking in," we said, introducing our father. "Let's get you flip-flops!" they offered, ushering him backstage. We asked if they might offer him some Youth samples, then headed to the locker room to grab a quick steam shower and sip a glass of their complimentary champagne. Our facial was soothing, leaning on the Porefector gadget for extractions, an oxygen peel, and a blast of pure oxygen from which we kept stealing small huffs.
We met in the hotel lobby, fresh-faced and tension-free. "Thank you sweetie! I feel great." "Did they offer you champagne?" we asked, the concerned host. "They did!" he laughed. "I didn't have time to drink it before so I saved it in my locker for after." (Ahh, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...) And we walked outside for the short drive home, promising to see each other soon, promising that we would do this again sometime. And certain we would.
4/05/11: hollywood, bliss, spaaah
There's good, and there's heart-racing, chest-pounding, toe-tingling FABULOUS. We were back at our favorite Bliss spa for a drop-in massage (can't seem to plan ahead) and landed a 3pm with Moeul. He introduced himself enthusiastically and, legally blind, led us to the room with the use of his white cane. We guided him to Naked, our body butter of choice, and settled in for the tension-taming of our life. Moeul had a sixth sense for the knots in our neck and the tightness in our back, and through a miasma of Thai, Shiatsu, and Swedish techniques, we emerged a brighter and infinitely more balanced being. There are some knots you just can't get yourself, and it's those for which we're ever devoted to a humble and profound master named Moeul.