His­tory Looms Large In Clas­sic Ho­tel By The Bay

Escalon Times - - NEIGHBORHOOD VALUES - By CARY ORD­WAY Cal­i­for­ni­aWeek­

Some­times a mod­ern, big-city ho­tel just isn’t enough – you want that spec­tac­u­lar old-world ho­tel on a hill drenched in charm, promis­ing some­thing way out of the or­di­nary for your es­cape from ev­ery-day life. The Clare­mont Ho­tel, Club & Spa is one of those places.

You’ve seen this type of ho­tel be­fore – maybe on the Travel Chan­nel or in the pages of a ma­jor travel mag­a­zine when they do their lists of the world’s best ho­tels. These kinds of ho­tels share a cer­tain sense of style and place, an el­e­gance that is ev­i­dent from your first turn into the park­ing lot. It’s the kind of place you pass by and re­mind your­self that this is one ho­tel you’d like to visit when time and fi­nances per­mit.

The Clare­mont has held its com­mand­ing view of the San Fran­cisco Bay since 1915 and in fact caught the at­ten­tion of fa­mous ar­chi­tect Frank Lloyd Wright, who re­ferred to it as “ of the few ho­tels in the world with warmth, char­ac­ter and charm.” The ho­tel, in fact, looks al­most like a cas­tle on a hill, a stately manor that seems more Euro­pean in fla­vor and com­pletely dom­i­nat­ing the sur­round­ing real es­tate. Walk into the lux­u­ri­ous high-ceil­ing lobby past the high-end re­tail shops and you dis­cover a quiet so­phis­ti­ca­tion that will be the hall­mark of your un­for­get­table get­away.

The ho­tel is tucked away on a 22-acre par­cel of prime view prop­erty just min­utes from down­town Berke­ley and the nearby Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia. Many of the rooms at the Clare­mont of­fer a panoramic view of the bay and down­town San Fran­cisco. There’s no mis­tak­ing where you are, yet you’re seem­ingly far away from the bus­tle of the big city. The ho­tel’s gar­dens and well man­i­cured grounds feel more like a coun­try es­tate that a big-city ho­tel.

We ar­rived at our room on the fourth floor to dis­cover a spa­cious unit with plenty of room for two queen beds, a desk area, an en­ter­tain­ment area with a 37-inch flat-screen tele­vi­sion and lots of open space in the mid­dle of the room. An easy chair was po­si­tioned for tele­vi­sion

view­ing. The win­dows were smaller than mod­ern de­signs, yet they al­lowed us to look di­rectly across the bay at the Golden Gate Bridge. The room had a more than ad­e­quate bath area with a closed-in tub/shower, mar­ble van­ity and stylish wall de­signs. The ver­dict: A com­fort­able, spa­cious room but just a small part of the charm of stay­ing at the Clare­mont.

A big at­trac­tion at the Clare­mont is the Club at the Clare­mont, where guests have ex­clu­sive ac­cess to re­cre­ational re­sources pop­u­lar with the Bay area elite. The fa­cil­i­ties in­clude two 25-meter heated swim­ming pools, an Olympic-size lap pool, a chil­dren’s wad­ing area, a jet-stream whirlpool hot tub and four saunas. There also is a 20,000-square­foot fit­ness area with the lat­est in state-of-the-art ex­er­cise equip­ment. Ten­nis courts are nearby and, when­ever there is sunny weather, they are in con­stant use.

For those who visit a lux­ury ho­tel sim­ply to be pam­pered, the Clare­mont of­fers Spa Clare­mont, named by Elle Mag­a­zine as one of the top 20 spas in the coun­try. This is not your runof-the-mill spa – you’ll find a 20,000-square-foot fa­cil­ity with 32 treat­ment rooms in­clud­ing sep­a­rate fa­cil­i­ties for men and women.

We did not sam­ple the for­mal din­ing at the Clare­mont – al­though the Mer­itage is re­puted to of­fer scrump­tious Cal­i­for­nia cui­sine ex­pertly pre­pared by Chef Josh Thom­sen – but we did stop by the Paragon Bar & Café for some light sand­wiches and drinks. This restau­rant seems to be quite a pop­u­lar place for Bay area singles and cou­ples to min­gle while they en­joy spec­tac­u­lar views of the bay.

The Clare­mont is well­si­t­u­ated for you to drive into San Fran­cisco, or per­haps take ad­van­tage of the BART train that will take you across the bay to where you can use trol­ley cars and cabs to get around down­town. But you might also con­sider spend­ing a lit­tle time right in Berke­ley, a city you’ll likely re­mem­ber as the cen­ter of the “counter-cul­ture” in the Six­ties that, to this day, re­tains that same in­de­pen­dent spirit.

To­day Berke­ley is quite a des­ti­na­tion for the vis­i­tor in­ter­ested in per­form­ing or vis­ual or culi­nary arts. Ad­di­son Street, for ex­am­ple, boasts live the­ater and mu­sic most ev­ery night. Restau­rants are plen­ti­ful, many fo­cus­ing on food that is fresh, lo­cal and or­ganic. Berke­ley also of­fers hik­ing and bik­ing trails along the bay as well as sev­eral re­gional parks.

His­tory buffs will find that Berke­ley fea­tures dozens of his­toric mon­u­ments and ar­chi­tec­tural trea­sures, many found on the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia cam­pus which is def­i­nitely worth a stroll while you’re in the area. Free cam­pus tours are held daily, seven days a week and the 90-minute walk­ing tours of­fer a great in­sight into cam­pus and stu­dent life at Cal.

UC Berke­ley has one of the finest botan­i­cal gar­dens in the coun­try where you will


TOP PHOTO: The Clare­mont Ho­tel, Club & Spa is in Berke­ley is even more im­pres­sive at night. BOT­TOM PHOTO: A ho­tel suite in the Clare­mont Ho­tel.

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