Monday, December 26, 2011

Hotel Re-Review: Alcazar Palm Springs

As I've written before, one of our holiday traditions is for Alisha and I to sneak away to Palm Springs for a night or two while the kids stay with their grandparents in Santa Monica. It's a great time to recharge and relive being married without children (more on that later on).

In the past, we've stayed at the Peppertree Inn, with great results. But this year, when I went to make our reservations, I discovered that the Peppertree Inn had changed ownership, been remodeled, and was now Alcazar Palm Springs. With anticipation and nervousness, we set off to try the new Alcazar. Would the changes be an improvement? Or would they detract from a much beloved experience?

Two hours later, we drove up to the Alcazar in its familiar location in downtown Palm Springs. We were pleased to see that the trademark gates (complete with stained glass pepper tree) were still in place; clearly the designers wanted to rebrand, but weren't going to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The word Alcazar comes from the Spanish term for a type of castle (I had to look this up--the only Alcazar I remember from my youth was the hen-pecked General Alcazar of Tintin fame). I can see why the new owners selected the name. The remodel gave the hotel a clean, white look, vague reminiscent of a castle. The exterior landscaping had been remodeled as well. Whereas the old Pepper Tree had a classic California Mission style, the new Alcazar had a much more modern touch.

It was particularly striking at night; here's a picture I took when we returned from dinner at Pomme Frite:


The grey rectangles in the background are actually continuous waterfalls over glass; the overall effect was elegant and attractive. Alisha insisted I take a picture.

Poolside, things remained much the same, with the same salt-water pool I enjoyed so much on previous visits, and the same great view of the mountains. Because of the relatively cold weather and packed schedule, I didn't get a chance to try out the pool. Next time.

We were in for another surprise when we got to our room. When we opened the door, it was clear that the remodel had focused on the rooms:


The entire room was white--floors, walls, ceiling, and bed. The desk was black. And the desk chair was clear acrylic:


The effect reminded me of both the Apple Store and the bridge of the Enterprise in JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot:


Once we got over the initial shock, we decided that the change was an improvement. Since we usually get a room with a Jacuzzi bath, one concern Alisha always had was the tendency for carpets to retain moisture and damp; the new white floors eliminated this issue.

Indeed, the gleaming white room serves as a very effective means of demonstrating the cleanliness of the hotel and the dedication of the cleaning staff. When you offer an all-white hotel room, you darn well better keep it clean. It's the same effect that many high-end boutiques aim for; walking into a gleaming white space just says "expensive."

The remodel also included large LCD HD TVs, which I definitely appreciated when I was watching a preseason Lakers-Clippers game.

The Alcazar also continues the Peppertree's tradition of providing a continental breakfast to guests. The selection was narrower (the old breakfast included bagels and cereals) but a bit more elegant (higher-end coffee cake, fresh blueberries). But when we're on vacation, we prefer a fuller breakfast anyways. As we often do, we got breakfast from the neighboring restaurant, Cheeky's (breakfast quesadilla for Alisha, bacon flight--six varieties of artisan bacon, only $4--for me). The owners of Cheeky's are the new owners of the Alcazar, along with Birba, a stylish pizza and Italian joint. All three now share the same minimalist design aesthetic.

The only two problems we encountered were some flakiness with the WiFi connection, and some rude guests in the next room over, who ran their Jacuzzi at 1 and 3 AM. That's never happened before, and I hope it never happens again. Presumably they were either vampires or bathing addicts.

All in all, the Alcazar is a worthy successor to the old Peppertree Inn, and we will almost certainly continue our traditional couple retreat in the future.

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