Seaside Luxury and History at Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows

The Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows is kind of like two charming hotels in one. At times it is a modern and classy beach-front resort. And other times it can be an elegant and secluded retreat, sheltered by gardens, a 90-yr-old tower, and a giant 130-yr-old fig tree. I guess it depends on your mood, but however you look at it, the hotel makes a memorable getaway and is one of my Southern California favorites.

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The Fairmont is a luxurious ocean-front hotel 

My recent trip to the Fairmont began when a friend and I pulled into a hidden, hedge-lined driveway across the street from the Santa Monica Pier. We then parked beneath the giant fig tree, handed the car keys to the valet and stepped into seaside luxury.

As we strolled through the palatial lobby, I sensed the history and appeal of the place. I could see why the Fairmont has been a happening hideaway for Hollywood hipsters and guests since 1921. As we made our way to our private bungalow, we past a stone pond and waterfall, surrounded the property’s gated pool area, lush green lawns and vegetation and a jungle of palm trees.

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The historic bungalows are plush, secluded and serene

At our room we found serenity and more luxury. Tucked in a corner of the grounds, in the Miramar Gardens, the roughly 400 sq-ft Signature Bungalow featured a comfy king bed, humungous Flat screen TV, office desk with Internet, espresso machine, mini-bar, and spacious bathroom with extra-deep soaking tub. The room also boasted a peaceful patio, overlooking the pool and gardens.

After lounging in the bungalow, we headed to the pool area for a swim and some sun. While sipping iced tea and relaxing on a cozy recliner beneath swaying palms, I read about the 300-room Miramar’s fabled history.

Built in 1921 as a private mansion by John P. Jones, a former U.S. Senator and founder of Santa Monica, the Fairmont Miramar quickly became a celebrity hangout, where the well-to-do could escape crowds and be pampered by the ocean. In 1924 the six-story Palisades Wing was built to provide apartments for extended-stay guests, such as actress Greta Garbo, who lived here for four years.

In the 1930s, private bungalows were constructed and actresses such as Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe, and public figures like Eleanor Roosevelt and aviator Charles Lindbergh became regulars. Today, the Palisades Wing is still around, and the 32 poolside bungalows have been restored to former grandeur and are separated from the two main hotel buildings by gardens, ponds and fountains.

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The giant, 130-yr-old fig tree is a Fairmont Miramar landmark

Another hotel landmark still standing is the magnificent 80-ft-tall fig tree that welcomes guests at the main entry. Planted more than 130 years ago, the tree is the second largest of its kind in California. The tree is so beloved that hotel’s signature eatery was named FIG Restaurant (www.figsantamonica.com).

Utilizing fresh, local and organically grown ingredients straight from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, FIG features an intimate private dining room and a bar area for casual dining.

Our meal at Fig began with a delicious albacore tuna crudo appetizer, with ginger slaw, corn crisps and aji amarillo. For a main course I had a tasty curry-flavored plate of seared eastern scallops with spiced cauliflower, melted apples and fennel. My friend went with the succulent bone-in 18 oz ribeye steak, with spicy butternut squash and salsa verde. For dessert we split a divine chocolate fudge cake.

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The hotel’s signature Fig Restaurant renown for great steaks, seafood and fresh local ingredients

After dinner, we walked across the street to the beach and strolled along the sand toward the lights of Santa Monica Pier’s iconic Ferris wheel. In the morning, we enjoyed a great breakfast at the Lobby Lounge, overlooking the waterfall and a Koi fishpond.

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The hotel is located across the street from the world famous Santa Monica Pier

The Fairmont Miramar also boasts a state-of-the art fitness center; a clothing and gift shop; a tiny, tasty chocolate store; a barber shop; and Exhale, a full-service spa with therapy services and fitness programs, mind and body classes, yoga, steam room, sauna, lockers and showers.

The Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows is located at 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90401. For more info and reservations, call (310) 576-7777 or visit: http://www.fairmont.com/santamonica/

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Greg Aragon, Writer Greg's Getaway

Greg Aragon is a travel writer from Pasadena, California. For the past 15 years Greg has authored “Greg’s Getaway,” a popular travel column that covers the globe. In the course of writing Greg’s Getaway, Greg has traveled to more than 25 countries in search of exciting destinations, people, food, drink and culture. From Alaska to Zermatt, Greg has experienced the thrill and beauty of traveling to the fullest. Along the way he has dog sledded on glaciers, drank with sea captains, danced with hula girls, dined with royalty, sung with street performers, wrestled with pigs, jumped from airplanes, conquered rapids, panned for gold, rode a rhino, slept in trees and much, much more. When not on the road, Greg enjoys strumming his old nylon string guitar and playing basketball.