Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Resort at Pelican Hill: Introduction and Villa Clubhouse

Pelican Hill Logo

Introduction
Why spend more when you can get better for less? It explains why I gave Guangzhou Shangri-La (1000CNY a night) the glowing review and then both the Island Shangri-La (4000HKD) as well as the Kowloon Shangri-La (2000HKD per night) mediocre ratings. Why spend two to five times more for a smaller, not as luxurious room, and negative attitude from the employees (especially at Kowloon)?

This thought has always bothered us. When we did actually once try to splurge at Ritz Carlton in sunny Dana Point, CA, we left feeling worse than if we did at one of our favorite hotels, the Guangzhou Shangri-La. How many times more did we pay? At least 8 times more. Both are highly famous luxury chains. So, off it was for nice hotels outside of Las Vegas.

Fast forward four years later and we have Pelican Hill in the LA Times on Sundays. The thing about constant advertising is that after a few weeks, you get the hotel stuck into your mind. WE did not. We saw these ads for another year and a half, until today.

Thanksgiving for any person in school, whether it be in college or K-12, was a long weekend. Thus, why not go somewhere? But all the Tripadvisor reviews basically had one saying- Pelican Hill was nothing special and not worth the money. We still ended up staying at Pelican Hill. The other options were simply too expensive for what they offered. Our offer? A two bedroom suite for 1450 and then 20 percent of that back to spend on food and other hotel charges.

So, off we went to Irvine. After picking up things in UCI, we went off for lunch in Newport Beach, but everything was CLOSED. Thus, we went back to Irvine and then had an unspectacular and oily lunch at China Garden. It was good for Irvine standards, but not Arcadia standards. Too oily.

Driving back to Pelican Hill made us drive across UCI again, and by then, the drive was beautiful. Elegant houses were everywhere- a sight to see. But we then decided to take the closest way to Pelican Hill Road, which was the BACK END. The entry to the road closer to the beach would bring you an awestrucking moment. Ours? A questioning, where were we, type of entry.

Pelican-Hill-Entry
(This was supposed to be how it was when we entered! Of course, not wacky in perspective...)

We had almost thought we were at the wrong place, but as we drove down the U shaped road, notes of Pelican Hill arrived, and thus we drove on. The oceanic views became even more picturesque with parts of Pelican Hill in the view. But parts confused us. The North Villas entry was first. Were we supposed to turn there?

South Villas Entrance

Of course not, as the South Villas entrance was actually the correct entrance, as it...

Signs

Was where the villa arrivals and clubhouse was. So, we stopped at the little guard shack (that is what it is called) and gave the guard out email for our reservation and asked if this was the right place (this made no sense as wasn't the resort with the villas? Or they were separate? (Actually, they were separated by Mar Vista, as we found out later). He then proceeded to say yes, and then a green sheet of paper with our last name and our dates of stay went into the car's dashboard.

Villa-Clubhouse-Exterior

After giving back our email sheet (later, as he forgot), we drove past the Pelican Hill gates and went to the Villa Clubhouse for check in, right next to the entrance. A lady was waving us by and we parked at the front of the clubhouse. They then moved it back to follow the car pattern for parking so our car would not stick out.

Entry to Villa Clubhouse

Afterwards, we checked in, but most of the party, including me, decided to sit down at one of the decidedly comfortable looking sofa chairs in the Villa Clubhouse "great room". The photo you see above was taken in manual mode. At first, it looked artistic with the underexposure but I decided to brighten the photo up using the curves feature in Photoshop. You see the result here. Quite grand and beautiful.

Fireplace

We decided to sit near the warming fireplace which was obviously taking center stage, and the new Christmas tree which was just put up according to the employees. I guess while I am talking right now, they are taking this tree apart. Boo hoo hoo. Oh well, you can still enjoy it here on the blog! :)

Bar-Area

To the other side of the Villa Clubhouse was the bar area which showcased many bottles of liquor and the like. I do not care at all for this stuff since I find it disgusting for one, and two I am not of legal age to drink it. Hi, bye. Show me some artfully crafted bottles of water instead (like my favorite Watsons Water or a glass Evian). (That want became true with a bottle of Pellegrino and Aqua Panna, but hey, those are only a 1.50 each at Fresh and Easy!!!).

Villa Clubhouse Interior

We were going to sit for longer, but then check in was finished, and thus we were about to take a fun tour of the place! First, the tour guide took us to the pool, which was open for 24 hours and was heated (to 78 degrees? Don't remember exact temperature but it was not very hot or cold, just right). Cabanas were alongside and were also available for rent.

Exercise Room

She then took us to the fitness center, which had Precor and ________ brand equipment. All in all, quite nice. We would later find out free water was available here all day long, and so we took plenty. Although we brought water to drink, we took extra just in case if we ran out. We ran out quite quickly actually.

That was pretty much the end of the tour (other than talking about breakfast available and food available, and the holiday decorations). We were then whisked off with a bottle of chilled water per person (ha, they saw me looking tired...), and then it was off to the car to drive to the suite.

At the suite the butler was right at the garage to lead our car in, almost like a coreographed play. That however is a story for another day, the rooms. Onward with the Villa Clubhouse talk.

Villa Clubhouse

Villa Clubhouse

After taking some rest and going crazy in the villa taking photos (yes, I even took pictures as the butler was speaking for our tour. How impolite. No wonder why he never came back to see us :( ), we went to the Villa Clubhouse for fun in the pool as well as going crazy with the camera yet again. This time, the employees noticed. I asked them for a locker room key (there is no locker room attendant at Pelican Hill, and the keys are outdoors in cabinets), and off I went to the changing room.

Towels

The first thing I noticed as I went into the room was a shelf filled with Pelican Hill towels which were nicely rolled up for use. Very nice. Should have bumped the ISO up a bit, but I did not know how to use that feature before dinner at Pelican Grill. Sucks to be me....

Locker Room Bathroom

Looking back, this was how the sinks and towels looked like. The rest of the changing room were tons of toilets, two showers, and a locker room.

Locker Room

Here were the lockers. See, not many! But you see, most of the guests just went back to their villas afterwards and never used the villa facilities. Easier for them. If everyone did use the lockers, boy it would be crowded. That little space was changing room. The rest, which was plenty of space, was all toilets!

Each of the lockers had a bottle of water, towel and some hangers. I think there were also supposed to be a comb and slippers, but my locker did not have any. No one else used the lockers while I was there, so I'll never be sure until another visit.

Afternoon Pool

It was off to the pool, and inside the pool were glazed tiles which were quite shiny and beautiful. Similar to the tiles at Charlie Palmer but in a different color. Other families also used the pool and they all kept themselves separate. Some played games. Others simply lazed around. I swam and lazed around and made a big fuss with those white foam recliners you see in photo above. First I tried to make them a seat, which was unsuccessful as I toppled over several times, probably to the amusement or disgust of the employees. Next, I used the foam board as a raft and used my hands as paddles. Now that was relaxing and fun.

Handicapped Shower

Afterwards it was time to change again and take more photos, and so I did of the shower. Here's the handicapped shower. It is even fancier than the regular shower as it has a handheld showerhead along with the rainforest style showerhead which is already quite nice. Also, due to the shower being for handicapped use, the shower is larger almost by two times. Large...

Toiletries

What both of the showers do have are large pumps of the specially made for Pelican Hill shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel which are all made by Gilchrist and Soames, a great company which also makes toiletries for hotels like Mirage and the Ritz London. The smells are quite similar- in fact they use the same plants but in different amounts to say "with ______ extract" instead of "with ________ extract".

Dining Tables

Now, time to take some more photos. I was trying to make a nice depth of field with this picture. Did not work too well actually though.

Dining Table

So, I just took a picture of one table itself. See that little plant in the middle? I want that plant. So magnificent, just blooming outward. All the other ones I have seen of that variety just go upward. Pelican Hill, may I buy some of these plants next time I come here? Thanks. They are simply beautiful. I'm sure your other guests have some intentions of wanting them. They are not easily available elsewhere. (Although we just found a place that sells these...but it's only one out of many garden centers!)

Cabanas

Here are some of the cabanas. Not exceedingly nice compared to others I have seen, like at Wynn or Encore.

Sunset Pool

And by that quickly, the sun is setting. This picture of the pool would have been desktop worthy if those towels, left by other guests and not tended to by the employees, were taken away! Maybe if I did not include the small cabinet for the pool staff it might have looked even better. Who knows...

Sunset Newport View

Time to enjoy the sunset from the Villa Clubhouse. And so, I tried to take plenty of pictures, but it was hard due to the fencing and height of the walls. Plus, a group of girls had just gone up the stairs and I was blocking them with this giant camera facing outward. The D90, with the kit lens, is simply very intimidating. With the lens hood attached backwards, or forwards, it is even worse.

After another two hours we set off for Thanksgiving dinner at Pelican Grill. That was a fun experience with the crispy quail salad! Crispy quails are quailicious. :) The turkey wasn't the memorable dish; it was the crispy quail salad.

Small-Pools

The next day, before the walking tour we made up, we headed to the Villa Clubhouse again for some more bottles of water. (Really, they should just leave a case of water in the fridge for each guest, like what hotels in Asia do with two big bottles of water everyday for guests). Above you see a kiddie pool, and then a heated jacuzzi. Nice, simple designs in each pool. We also saw some guests having breakfast, but they didn't tell us if breakfast was free or not, so we just enjoyed the free cereal and milk in our room instead. The guests outside also just had cereal and milk and no hot items, so maybe it was free? But brunch was 30+ dollars on Thanksgiving. Breakfast would probably be the same, and it didn't look like much to eat.

Cabanas Closeup

We also went in and took a closer look at a cabana. So close, in fact, that the mirror made the camera take a picture of itself! Now blurred off, of course.

Morning Pool Panoramic

I also went to a corner of the pool hopefully to get a nice panoramic view of what you will see in the pool. Good photo or bad? Rooftops and the ocean. And, some parts of Newport Beach.

Morning Pool

Or maybe you would enjoy this photo more, with me kneeling down in order to capture this photo with a Pelican Hill pool employee.

Villas

I decided to get a bit crazy and walk on top of a wall to take some pictures, as simply put, we were not high enough for a good view of...the view. Here you see some villas- mainly three bedroom villas as far as I can see. The third one to the right has a green driveway, which was quite weird as most of the villas had no green in their driveways, but some just randomly did. Far to the right is Newport Beach, far far away.

Newport Closeup

Do you see Newport Beach now?

Newport-View

Maybe this is better. However, as you can see, it was a bad Photomerge of two photos. Need tripod to make sure that a sweep of photos align together. Now I have one :).

And that was pretty much it for what we did at the Villa Clubhouse. Not much, other than getting bottles of water, checking in and out, and enjoying their pool and exercise facility once. There were things like gelato and breakfast that we never ended up trying out. Next time, maybe?

And next up, our villa. Two separate posts, as I took 20 crazy photos of the kitchen. As airpearl of Airliners.net said, you get crazy with your own camera when you have a space to yourself.

Read the series in order:
China Garden- Irvine (Lunch Day 1)
The Resort at Pelican Hill: Introduction and Villa Clubhouse
The Resort at Pelican Hill: Three Bedroom Villa #805
The Resort at Pelican Hill: Three Bedroom Villa #805 Kitchen
Pelican Grill- Newport Coast (Thanksgiving Pre-fix Dinner
The Resort at Pelican Hill: Second Day Thoughts
Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza- Costa Mesa (Lunch Day 2)

Enjoy!

The Resort at Pelican Hill
22701 Pelican Hill Road South
Newport Coast, California 92657

2 comments:

Impromptu Diva said...

i love love love your photos... if only i could take photos like that.
i live in san diego but my husband works in irvine... he said he'll take us there to see the place... your pictures convinced me that i should listen to him

EatTravelEat said...

Impromptu Diva,
Happy New Year! Thanks for the compliment. To me, it's all about imagination, and as long as you have a camera that can perform nicely and do what you want it to do, you are free to create anything you wish!

Yes, it is a good choice to listen to your husband :). Will be a relaxing and enjoyable experience!