Like every other staff person I’d met at both Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and Four Seasons Westlake Village, he seemed happy to tolerate my enlightenment inquiries.
A day at the pool might seem like a dream for busy business travelers and even vacationers with kids on the go, so most of the time we settle for splashy stolen moments or a few laps between meetings and feedings.
But not pool attendants. They get sunshine on their shoulders from dawn until dusk…and with it some sensibilities worth sharing, I found, during a recent sweep of the Southern California hotel swimming pool scene. And it wasn’t just those tossing towels who exhibited a sense of Zen in La La Land. I met a number of people in the hospitality world who were celebrities in the field of friendliness.
Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
Frank Sinatra, who sang “L.A. is My Lady,” considered orange to be the “happiest color.” The splendid Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills splashes a little orange around its pool deck like bottles of Aperol around a bucket of Bombay Sapphire. Orange umbrellas and large planters are potted poolside and even the adjacent open-air fitness room has an orange covering, like a large Veuve Clicquot champagne label, which creates an invigorating citrus glow below.
Being on the fourth floor, the pool gives glimpses of both mountains and the cityscape below. No wonder Michael the pool attendant I met bright and early still had a sunny attitude despite a 90-degree day in L.A. on deck.
“There are definitely worse ‘offices’ to have,” he joked while spreading a bright, white towel across a chaise lounge next to the azure water.
“Ever jumped in for a bit to cool off?” I asked.
“I’ve thought about it,” he said with a smile. “But I haven’t done it. It’s like looking at that last piece of pizza. You think about eating it, but you know you shouldn’t do it. But we tend to do things like that these days, don’t we?”
“’YOLO,’” I suggested. “’You only live once.’ Isn’t that what the kids say?”
“Age is only how you feel from the neck up,” Michael countered.
It wasn’t pizza but a shrink-wrapped fruit plate which was left in my room at the health-conscious Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills when I’d checked in. The fresh gift came with a hand-written welcome note signed by April Semler, the hotel’s guest relations assistant manager. I wrote my own thank you note in response and, just before I checked out, attempted to drop it off by handing it to a woman at the concierge desk in the gorgeous, artistic, flower-filled lobby.
“Can you tell me where I should leave this card, so it gets to the right person?” I asked.
The woman assured me she’d get it to the right place…and then looked at the card. “That’s my name on the envelope!” the woman remarked.
“In that case, I guess it will get to April quicker than I’d expected,” I joked. “It’s just a thank you note for the fruit plate I found in my room.”
April lit up and insisted she was so touched by the gesture. “Wow! You don’t know how much this means. It’s so nice to hear you enjoyed the fruit. I always wonder but I don’t always get feedback, so thank you so much!”
After the warm, fun exchanged I had with various team members at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, it was even harder to leave the beautiful, boutique-style hotel, which felt more like a European stately home in the South of France than luxury lodging in California. It felt like a personal palace.
After all Hollywood royalty greets guests out front in the form of a life-sized statue of Marylin Monroe statue in an iconic pose. A small Krigler perfume shop sells bottles of the celebrity scents of Princess Grace Kelly and her To Catch a Thief co-star Cary Grant; Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis; and Ernest Hemingway and more.
Then guests are treated to the bursting beauty of famed floral designer Jeff Leatham’s colorful creations in the lobby.
The visuals of the subsequent stately sitting rooms with European art are special and this “sense of arrival” extends all the way to the guest rooms where unlocking the door from as many 16 stories up reveals a bright, crisp, clean view to the balcony and the Hollywood Hills or sunset on the skyline.
Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village
Experiencing and achieving higher enlightenment seemed readily attainable at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village. Though it was only a 30-minute drive from up from Beverly Hills, the setting in the Santa Monica Mountains between Malibu and Santa Barbara was an escape to wellness and reinvigoration.
An expansive, 40,000-square-foot spa with high ceilings and quiet spaces led to an outdoor pool area surrounded by luxury cabanas and loomed over by a Japanese pagoda in the adjacent garden. Yoga and open-air wellness programs are conducted there and the site is home to the California Health and Wellness Institute.
If there was ever a pool at which to find philosophy, I figured this was it, so I emerged from my cabana. I confess I had been in there drinking a mango craft beer while watching Sunday afternoon NFL football. Smashmouth, gridiron action is hardly a peaceful endeavor, but I kept the volume way down as not to conflict with the pool’s subtle spa music a group of women – seemingly a mother and her adult daughters, were poolside crunching Caesar salads between being called in for treatments. In front of the neighboring cabana, a woman was nursing a gin and tonic from a pink flamingo floating drink holder while her I-phone played the Garth Brooks song “Friends in Low Places” at a volume level a little louder than my Rams vs Giants game had been playing.
“What is the secret to serenity?” I asked a pool attendant named Seven, who, in his white uniform, squinted in the sun before responding.
“There is no secret to serenity,” Seven said. “You have to just let it happen.”
When Seven excused himself to stepped away attentively tend to a guest with more tactile needs, Jackie, another pool attendant who’d been standing nearby, was nice enough to elaborate.
“In my experience here at Four Seasons, serenity for some is laying out…and for some serenity is working out. They can do both right here,” she said. “I used to play soccer so, for me, when I feel sad, I go to the gym.”
“Better than going for the gin,” I replied with a smile.
Four Seasons Westlake’s Spa Store
It wasn’t the scent of gin but nevertheless an intoxicating aroma I smelled when walking from the pool though the spa at the concluding my time on the cabana couch. A man named Akram was attending to the spa store desk and he, like every other staff person I’d met at both Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and Four Seasons Westlake Village, seemed happy to tolerate my enlightenment inquiries.
“That is an aromatherapy scent of eucalyptus. It opens the senses,” he explained. Then he gently advised me I could take home the scent with me in a bottle of a ShowerSpa mist by European Spa Source. “It turns your home shower into a spa experience.”
Naturally, I wanted to savor the scent and re-experience the hotel’s healing hue over and over…and had come to understand the sense of smell was the most powerful pathway to recreating a memory.
Akram’s colleague at the counter quickly produced a few bottles to choose from and was very patient as we all debated the merits of me buying the straight eucalyptus scent or one blended with lavender. “Lavender is more calming while eucalyptus is invigorating,” Akram advised.
So, I bought two bottles…and my shower at home takes me back to Westlake Village every day.
Bites of Wisdom
I’d fed my mind and senses, but my stomach was asking to be included, so of the Four Seasons Westlake Village dining options, I chose Coin and Candor, attracted by its stylish circular bar and view. The restaurant, with its panorama immediately visible upon entering the lobby, is an open-air, California brasserie.
It’s all veranda overlooking yet another garden with pergolas beside a massive, peaceful rock waterfall, which is dramatically lit at night. Avocado hummus with peanut salsa macha, cilantro, mint, and grilled naan bread and other low-calorie but big-flavored menu items such as shrimp ceviche with organic, locally-grown vegetables; and street corn kept me in a transcendental-type state otherwise I would have had to be dragged away while clutching, kicking and screaming when it was time to leave the hotel.
I sweetened my sad departure with a cup of grab and go gelato from the gourmet coffee counter across from the front desk. Because it is a health and wellness-oriented hotel I was slightly embarrassed (but very impressed) when the woman behind the counter actually remembered my two favorite flavors from the previous day and scooped me combined servings of strawberry white chocolate and s’mores.
I was in such bliss between bites that while checking out I asked the front desk attendant if he’d ever tasted the gelato from the counter across the lobby?
“I haven’t,” he admitted.
“Oh my god you must,” I told him.
While he smiled and nodded I, in my satisfied state, silently decided before I left the hotel I would, when our business at the desk was completed, as a gesture of gratitude, go and surprise him with a serving of gelato. While he printed my paperwork, I asked him slyly, “If you ever were to have gelato, what would your flavor be?”
“I don’t know,” he initially answered and then concluded. “Green. I guess if I were to have some gelato, I would choose green gelato.”
“Yes. Green. I’d have green,” he confirmed.
“That’s the strangest answer I’ve ever heard. Instead of a flavor, you chose your gelato by color.”
He nodded with no hint of irony.
I shrugged and crossed the lobby where, back at the coffee counter, I purchased a combination cup of mint and pistachio, which the friendly attendant promised to take over to him. I figured it would create some confectionary karma.