Royal Palms Resort & Spa
Royal Palms Resort & Spa
Address: 5200 Camelback Road
Web Address: http://www.royalpalmshotel.com
"HALL OF FAME"
Living in the East, the primary option in this country for warm weather in the winter is Florida. A two hour flight and you are soaking up the rays. But Florida has become very built up and crowded. Civilization has even begun creeping down into the Keys which has successfully avoided it for so long.
So, it was with great pleasure that I got to spend some time over the last few months in Arizona. With mountains as a backdrop, desert plants and colorful flowers and architecture that seems to blend into the landscape, there is a unique beauty about the state. Even in winter, the airport wasn’t overcrowded, driving was not a problem and there are still vast amounts of undeveloped land.
As a destination, Phoenix is less than 2 hours by plane from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego and 3 hours and 45 minutes from Chicago. Even the 5 hour trip from New York is doable for a weekend because of the 2 hour time difference going out. A 6:40am flights gets you into Phoenix at 9:10am. Recent round trip fares from the above were under $200, except New York at $259.
Located at the base of the Camelback Mountains, The Royal Palms Resort & Spais truly an oasis in every sense of the word. There is a sense of tranquility here that you will find in few other places. The sprawling hacienda style estate is meticulously manicured and has wonderful meandering pathways between buildings and around courtyards and fountains. Throughout the property there are intimate little nooks, some with fountains, some with fireplaces that are perfect for reading or quiet conversation. The lush gardens release intoxicating scents of citrus, eucalyptus and sage.
Built originally in the late 1920’s as a private retreat for a couple from New York, it first became an inn in 1948 and after passing through many hands over the years, it was purchased by an Arizona businessman in 1995 who set about restoring the property to its original glory.
Guests are housed in 119 casitas, guestrooms and villas. My estate guestroom was charming and decorated in a subtle Southwestern theme. Soft gold painted walls were offset with neutral wall-to-wall carpeting covered with a Southwestern area rug. A hand painted green armoire had a pressed tin inlaid design and colorful Southwestern patterns on the headboard and throw pillows provided a nice accent. The pillow top bed was covered in luxury linens and had a Southwestern throw on it. There was a comfortable reading chair with foot rest and a balcony with table and chairs overlooking a fountain below. The large bath had an oversized soaking tub with shutters that opened into the bedroom. Flat screen TV, DVD, mini bar and all the other normal amenities were included. In-room coffee was a French Press which was a nice touch.
The cozy Lounge with its dark woods, hand carved and painted wooden shelves and horseshow bar is a great place for a drink before dinner. Try one of the signature martinis. Sit around a fireplace in the bar or in the rear salon with its leather couches, antique lamps and fireplace. After dinner, someone “tickles the ivories” at the Baby Grand on the weekends.
An open kitchen, vaulted ceilings with exposed beams, ceiling to floor draperies, gold colored brick walls and tile floors with area rugs set the stage for Chef Lee Hillson’s wonderful rustic Mediterranean menu. Dine inside around a fireplace, on the back outdoor patio or on the front veranda where tiny lights twinkle in the trees and set a romantic mood.
This is a terrific menu oozing creativity and innovation. We shared an amazing escargot with caramelized onion ravioli, bacon lardoons and roasted garlic as an appetizer. Imagine though, these other choices; a roasted red onion and rosemary soup garnished with grilled sourdough and Harvarti cheese or seared foie gras with a puff pastry box filled with sweetbreads, apples and Madiera cream sauce. Our entrees were a perfectly pink and moist duck breast with duck confit, sage gnocchi and butternut squash and a pan roasted bronzini with onion marmalade, prosciutto, fingerling potatoes and heirloom tomatoes. The marriage of flavors and textures was just unbelievable. Dessert was an assortment of six decadent house made chocolates and a caramel cheesecake and vanilla crème brulee served with fresh berries and guava sauce. Good wine list earning Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Not particularly lengthy, but good choices and reasonably priced.
Appetizers: $11-$23, entrees: $25-$38, desserts: $11-$16.
There were at least three people outside in the courtyard at all times to greet guests and help with directions. In fact, at one point they went to Mapquest and printed me out directions to my next stop. When I initially arrived, the bellmen noted I had no luggage (delayed at the airport) and offered to get me a set of toiletries. Throughout my stay, I was greeted by name by the staff wherever I was on the property. My room had fresh fruit and a dish of candies when I arrived and chocolates, a weather forecast and the next day’s activities were on my pillow at turndown. There were candles in the room for the romantically inclined, my newspaper arrived at my door early in a canvas bag and our restaurant server was pleasant, knowledgeable and enjoyable. I wanted for nothing!
From $399 winter, $359 spring, $169 summer, $339 fall
WHAT OTHERS SAY…
AAA Four Diamond recipient
“What Phoenix living is all about” declare devotees who frequent this “absolutely beautiful” “old hacienda” “hideout” in a “central location” on “stunning”, “serene” grounds; a “helpful, informative” staff, an “amazing” spa with “great special touches” and “outstanding” fare at T. Cook’s Mediterranean restaurant help create a “luxurious experience”; but watch out for “some undesirable rooms” – “if you have a casita, you’re in business.” ZAGAT
“Have anything, you’ll love it all” assure acolytes of this Phoenix “jewel” in a “boutique resort” whose “exceptional” Mediterranean fare and “excellent wine list” are served by “stellar” staffers in “romantic” digs with “fireplaces everywhere” and “lush”, “impressive grounds”; the “expensive” tabs are unsurprising given the “one-of-a-kind” “dining experience”, but you need not “wait for a special occasion”, what with the “incredible” breakfasts, lunches and brunches whose slogan could well be “same quality, lower price.” ZAGAT
WHILE YOU ARE THERE:
On the property, there is a good size mother of pearl tiled pool and outdoor hot tub with beverage, lunch and snack service. The complete fitness center is open 24 hours and the Alvadora Spa offers the full range of spa services utilizing herbs, flowers, oils and minerals indigenous to the region. There’s even a Watsu pool with an 8-foot grotto waterfall shower in a private garden terrace that you won’t want to miss. You can enjoy croquet on the lawn, rent bikes to explore the area or walk/run on local paths.
Off property, the concierge can arrange golf, Hummer tours, hot air ballooning, horseback riding and river floats. The Desert Botanical Garden offers the world's finest collection of arid-land plants from deserts around the world. The Phoenix Zoo is the largest non-profit zoo in the country with over 1,300 animals and the Phoenix Art Museum is the largest in the Southwest, with world-class exhibitions and a collection of over 17,000 works of American, Asian, European, Latin American and Western American art. For baseball fans, the Arizona Diamondbacks play at Chase Field, the NBA Phoenix Suns and the NHL Phoenix Coyotes play at US Airways Center and the NFL Arizona Cardinals at Cardinal Stadium. Shopping, of course, is another diversion and the red rocks of Sedona and the Grand Canyon are only a few hours away and a great side trip.
Tucson: 2 hours
Sedona: 2 hours
Grand Canyon: 3 hours 42 minutes
Las Vegas: 5 hours