Destination: Langham Huntington Hotel PasadenaStately resort amidst a posh SoCal neighborhood

Nestled in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains in Pasadena, California is the historic Langham Huntington Hotel. With a history dating back to 1907, the hotel has gone through many transformations, including name and ownership changes, along with a complete rebuild in 1991. Although the current building is relatively new, it emanates charm and grandeur straight out of the early 20th century.

From the moment you turn from residential South Oak Knoll Avenue into the hotel’s entrance, it’s immediately apparent the property is gorgeous. The lobby is exquisite and filled with seasonal flowers in shades of pink. It also emits a fantastic floral scent, which one can smell upon immediately entering (and which, I discovered later, is the Langham’s signature fragrance, strategically piped through the ventilation system). The trick worked, and I found myself at the gift shop upon checkout forking out for a bottle of their ginger flower room spray. The scent, incidentally, is also available as a candle or as an air freshener oil with reed diffusers.

Grounds are impeccably kept, with flowering trees and many water features. I enjoyed walking around the 23-acre property, through the Japanese garden and across a beautiful wooden bridge that runs between two wings of the hotel. I often got lost trying to find my room through the labyrinthine corridors, but I didn’t mind, as there seemed to be a new surprise around every corner.

My stay was for two nights, on a Wednesday through Friday. I’d been to the hotel before for dinner and brunch, but had never stayed over as a guest.

My Deluxe King room was spacious, with plenty of natural light from the large windows. Décor was in shades of gold and navy. The king-sized bed was comfortable, and there were plenty of pillows. I found enough outlets for all of my electronics, and the small desk next to my bed was fine for my laptop. Closet space was adequate, and a valet next to the closet kept my jacket in fine shape.

The bathroom was spacious, with a small tub/shower combination. I’m a sucker for a deep soaking tub and would have expected my room to be so equipped. Counter space was plentiful, and lighting was decent for a hotel bathroom (which is typically abominable). I particularly appreciated the attached lighted magnifying mirror.

Amenities are by Laura Tonatto, an Italian perfumer, with a scent made exclusively for the Langham’s Chuan spa. The fragrance is pleasant and slightly powdery, but not overpowering. There’s an array of products on the bathroom counter that go beyond the normal luxury hotel setup. Not only is there bar soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion, but also talcum powder and body scrub. Other goodies included a sewing kit and vanity set.

Central to the hotel’s two main wings is an Olympic-sized swimming pool, dating back to 1926, which the hotel claims is the first of its size built in California. The pool was sparsely populated when I was there; only a small family with two children were in the water. I enjoyed the relative quiet as I basked in the sun, my face shaded by a large umbrella.

Recently opened is the Langham’s new spa and fitness center. Although it’s a bit of a hike (it’s located in a separate building near the front entrance), the facilities are first-rate, with plenty of cardio and weight machines. I especially liked the fitness studio, where one could stretch in private when class is not in session. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the spa services. I hope to do so on another visit.

As beautiful as the Langham Huntington Hotel is, unfortunately it falls short when it comes to service. While the valet and front desk staff were friendly and efficient, I was shocked when the bellman delivered my luggage (after a 20-minute wait) and dropped it unceremoniously in the doorway then abruptly turned and left, without asking me where I wanted it or if he could place it on a luggage rack.

Later, I meandered down the pool for lunch. After waiting about 15 minutes for a server to come to my deck chair, I walked over to the outdoor bar and ordered food. I explained that I was allergic to gluten, and ordered a salad without the accompanying wonton. More than 30 minutes later, a server delivered my salad with a wonton was sitting on top.

The lack of understanding about food allergies seemed to carry over to the Royce Restaurant, where my group dined for dinner. We were served several dishes family-style, and I explained my food allergies to our server ahead of time, to which he replied, “don’t worry, you’ll get something to eat.” Subsequently, each dish that was brought out contained breadcrumbs, or something that contained flour. When I politely asked if I could have a Caesar salad without croutons, he pointed to the one already sitting on the table and said, “Just pick the croutons out of that one.” I explained that wasn’t possible, since the wheat had already come in contact with the lettuce, and he went off in a huff and finally brought me another one.

At breakfast the next morning, the wait staff at the Terrace restaurant somewhat made up for the shortcomings of the others, as they were polite and attentive. As a bonus, their menu lists gluten-free items to make it easy.

All in all, the Langham Huntington Pasadena is a gorgeous property with first-rate amenities. It’s only a shame the service wasn’t up to par. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for a weekend getaway or a fantasy wedding, as long as you insist you get the kind of treatment you’d expect from a five-star hotel.

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