When describing Hotel Valencia, it is quite difficult to draw parallels with any other hotel in the area of San Jose, California, or even elsewhere.
This gem of a hotel opened in June, 2003. It is smack in the middle of the largest mixed-used project ever built in San Jose – Santana Row. It stands amidst the buzz of activity of a pedestrian-friendly main street, surrounded by a unique blend of upscale haut couture shops and boutiques such as Gucci, Burberry and Escada.
At night, a steady pulse beats with trendy restaurants and bars welcoming the hip and chic crowd of Silicon Valley. They fill up open spaces, plazas and courtyards that are lined with curbside landscaping, wide sidewalks and intimate seating areas.
During our brief stay, we couldn't resist joining in and grabbing a seat under a big oak tree, people watching while at the same time enjoying the sounds of free concerts, observing chess players move around large chess pieces on a huge sidewalk chessboard. We even met an undercover cop who filled us in on San Jose's excellent record for its effectiveness in combating crime and keeping its streets safe. Did you know that San Jose in 2005 was named The Safest Big City in America based on FBI crime data from 2004?
The visionaries behind Santana Row is Federal Realty Investment Trust who, with imagination and foresight, reincarnated a dying single-story outdoor strip mall and converted it into something unique with beautiful old elegant European features.
Hotel Valencia's 212-room dazzling design is the brainchild of Los Angeles designer, Dodd Mitchell, of dMd Associates – a leader in the world of hospitality design and a former Hollywood set designer.
Mitchell collaborated with architects from 3D International and the resulting property embodies a picturesque Italian/Mediterranean style infused with old-world elements, incorporating such features as step-out balconies, arched ceilings, polished concrete and beaded-chain walls. There are also custom-made beds that are wrapped in seven layers of Egyptian cotton linens topped with a lush mink throw, down-filled leather club chairs and ottomans in each of the rooms, as well as ebony-stained plantation shutters and live palm trees. a built-in irrigation system, luxurious bathrooms with imported virgin white marble competing with the faux rice-paper screen sliding doors, twenty-seven inch televisions – more like a home than a hotel.
According to Mitchell, Hotel Valencia reflects a philosophy that nature inspired with its creative uses of the elements – water, fire, wood and stone.
He didn't have to twist our arms to savor Hotel Valencia's distinct romantic ambience. We wrapped ourselves in lush white bathrobes and enjoyed a brief lounge on the balcony, munching on croissants and pastries that we picked up from the French bakery minutes from the hotel's front door. This usually was preceded with a dip in the hotel's outdoor heated pool and hot tub that overlooks the heart of Santana Row.
During the early evening hours we enjoyed meandering in the open-air rooftop wine terrace, Cielo, where such weekly events as sampling of California wines and various cheeses have proven to be extremely popular. Cielo also provides a great wedding venue where you have a spectacular panoramic sunset view of the Santa Cruz Mountain.
For added culinary indulgence, our days ended with a visit to Hotel Valencia's Citrus, where we had a choice of steaks, chops and other goodies, and where we delighted in enjoying the very popular gathering spot of the ultra hip lounge that is opened from 5:00 p.m. to late evening.
For those contemplating exchanging wedding vows at the Valencia, besides the rooftop wine terrace, celebrations can also take place in the four-thousand square foot open-air courtyard on the third floor, or in various other ballrooms. Hotel Valencia has an experienced and knowledgeable wedding co-coordinating crew who work with couples helping them select the package best for them – Classic, Premiere or Platinum. There is also an extensive banquet wine list with a wide culinary grab bag of selections ranging from Grilled Norwegian Salmon and Shrimp, Grilled Chicken and Shrimp, Double Australian Lamp Chop stuffed with Texas Quail, Steak and Shrimp and several others.
As for those guests seeking the ultimate in pampering and rejuvenation, the hotel offers the first free-standing spa in the Continental United States, the Ayoma LifeSpa. As explained to us, Ayoma LifeSpa is a personal sanctuary for healing and rejuvenation, where treatments, cuisine and exercise programs are tailored to individual needs.
Incidentally, one of the "coolest" things about the Valencia is the incredible deluxe continental breakfast that is included in the price of your room.
I have also been informed that there is a farmer's market on Sunday mornings, as well as musical performances and cooking demos that frequently take place on weekends. Close to Hotel Valencia are the Triton Art Museum in downtown San Jose, the Santa Clara Mission and the Intel Tech Museum. The Santa Cruz beach is a forty-five minute drive south. Close by is Los Gatos and Campbell – both quaint towns.
More information is at the Valencia Hotel's website.
Norm Goldman is editor and publisher of Sketchandtravel.com. Lily Azerad-Goldman is an artist.