If It Was Good Enough For Marilyn

center court with construction wall behind

The center courtyard, Piestewa Peak in the background, fake ivy-covered construction wall cutting across the green

Although I absolutely LOVED my time at The Boulders in June, when I headed to Phoenix in September I wanted to stay a bit closer to my son’s house. Remembering the tips I got from my SuperShuttle drivers, I checked to see if I could get a room at the Arizona Biltmore. I remembered them telling me that the Biltmore had Marilyn Monroe’s FAVORITE pool. It is a historical site as well, with the architecture and grounds designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (who consulted on the design). I could indeed, and there was even a “special” rate. Keep in mind that this ‘special’ rate was more than half again as much as I paid per night for The Boulders. That fact will become important in the telling. Although it was a bit more than I’d hoped, it was for fewer nights so I figured it would all be fine.

outdoor restaurant with view

sitting in the outdoor restaurant, enjoying the view

Let me say that the grounds are GORGEOUS! The architecture is stunning. All the people working there (with one exception) were lovely, friendly and helpful. The pools are stunning. The views are sensational. Every grouping of rooms has its own pool and gardens and signature. I was staying in the Terrace Court section of the resort. There are many maps out there on the internet showing the grounds of the resort. I was given one when I checked in as well. It would have been helpful to have familiarized myself very carefully with the aerial view right from the start. I didn’t and maybe it would have helped, but maybe nothing would have helped. Anyway, the Terrace Court was pretty much as far from the check-in desk as you could be and still be on the grounds. 🙂 (That is a slight exaggeration but not a complete fabrication.) Even so – it wasn’t far. Once I understood the layout, and once I found my shortcut, it looks farther from things than it is.

left walkway to Terrace Court

the LEFT walkway to Terrace Court. Construction on the right, Piestewa in the background

I got in around 1pm Arizona time, 4pm ET. I wanted to get to my room, have something cold to drink, maybe a small nosh to eat, and relax. I was only carrying my bag and my rolling carry-on luggage – not too much to handle on my own. The sweet young thing at the check-in desk gave me a map and told me to head to the right once I was outside, and then continue bearing left to get to the Terrace Court. That would have worked. But unbeknownst to the check-in clerk, the grounds on Friday afternoon no longer resembled the grounds on Thursday night. They have begun digging up the gardens in the center of the grounds. At the point where I should have headed left, there was a construction wall up. I kept heading straight. I ended up in Ocatilla. I knew I was not in the right place but I really didn’t know how to get to where I needed to be. The ground crew and room staff were very concerned, and wanted to help but, alas, they did not speak English and my Spanish was not up to this task. (Hola Paco, Como esta usted? really doesn’t get you very far in most day-to-day conversations.) I could tell by their reactions that I was nowhere near where I should be. I backtracked and found a walkway that led left but it appeared to end at a wall. I figured I had nothing left to lose so I walked that way. Lo and behold – there was a walkway to the right, along the construction wall. I followed that and made it to my room. I was hot and cranky at this point. All I wanted was to relax.

the hidden right turn

Does it look like a through-way to YOU?

I always check out my room before I unpack – bathroom, safe, doors, locks. I couldn’t lock the balcony door. I’m not stupid nor am I incompetent. I was pretty sure the door was broken. I called to the front desk. They assured me they would send someone to help me with the door. Indeed, it was probably only about 10 minutes or so before 2 men came to help me with the door. It took them only 5 minutes to realize they could not help me – the door was indeed broken and they’d need to drill out the entire lock mechanism. They called down to the front desk and explained that I should be given a new room. So I sat and waited for the next person to come help me.

Terrace Court courtyard from above

Terrace Court courtyard from above

This was Pete from the bell staff. Pete is a star. He alone made up for all that happened so far and that would happen after. He was upbeat, funny, helpful. We walked down the hall to another room. We went in, checked the balcony door. He headed out and I walked into the bathroom. Where there was water running. Loudly. Except – there was no water running. Just the sound of water gushing down. I ran to the door and shouted down the hallway to Pete, who was still in sight. He came back. He heard the water. He suggested that it was the people above me taking a shower. I said, possibly, except we are on the top floor and there is no one above me. He acknowledged this and we both looked around trying to figure out where the water might be. I said “this is not going to work for me.” He said, not a problem, we’ll get you another room. I’ll be right back.

Terrace Court courtyard

Terrace Court courtyard

Ooooookay. So much for kicking off my shoes and making a cold drink and eating a nosh. Another 10-15 minutes and Pete returned. He led me to a room on the other side of the building. The first 2 rooms had views of the interior grounds, which are lovely, but under construction, whereas this third room had a view of Piestewa Peak. It also had a view of roofs and roads but Piestewa is a magnificent sight, and exactly the kind of thing I WANT on my vacation balcony. Pete and I checked every door. We turned on the shower, we turned on the bath. We turned off the bath and the shower. We flushed the toilet. We hardly dared to look at each other. I went to try the room safe. It was locked. A room safe should be left open when the previous occupants leave. Pete called for security, because locked room safes were beyond his authority. At this point we could do nothing but laugh. I mean really??? For what I’m paying per night for this fabled hotel and nothing in the plant is maintained properly??? I told Pete he owed me a drink and that if I had to change rooms AGAIN he was going to owe me chocolate and flowers. He smiled triumphantly and said “I’m on top of this” and handed me two drink vouchers.

terrace court pool

terrace court pool

Two security men arrived, one of whom it turned out was the head of security. They fiddled with the safe. Nothing. They fiddled more. And again. Finally AHAH!!! The safe OPENED!! It was, of course, empty. So with all 3 men watching me, I locked the safe, and then reopened the safe successfully. Finally!!! It only took 3 hours to get me a room where everything worked. I waved goodbye to my entourage and finally unpacked. I locked the door with a do-not-disturb on the knob, changed my cloths, grabbed my snack and went out onto the balcony to stare at Piestewa and read my book.

Balcony view of Piestewa Peak

View from the balcony – Piestewa Peak

My son was joining me after work. I told him I would meet him in the lobby because I didn’t think he would EVER find his way to the room, given all the wrong turns I took, especially because it would be after dark by the time he came. He called to tell me he’d arrived and that he’d just given the car to the valet to park, because he didn’t feel like dealing with finding the self-park garage. I met him in the lobby and escorted him back to the room with only one wrong turn on the way. It was dark, and that walkway that appeared to end in a wall was tricky to see.

palm trees with shadows

I loved the shadows

We were both very tired. We knew we wanted to head out hiking the next day, and we had plans for eating out to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, so we thought we’d simply take advantage of our free drink vouchers and eat in the hotel, although neither of us found the menu all that appetizing. We found our way to the outdoor restaurant with no problems. We had a pick of tables. We sat. And waited. A hostess came by and apologized and said things were busy and gave us menus and took our drink orders. That was the point when we noticed our drink vouchers were for “up to $15/drink” and most of the drinks were over $20. Seriously? I no longer remember every single detail (thank goodness for that) but dinner was a flop. Our waiter, when he finally showed, was terrible. Service was worse. We needed water desperately and I got up to try to tackle someone somewhere to give us water. On my search I ran into one of the security men from the safe episode. He promised to get us water. When our check finally showed up, I had my son figure the tip and bill it to the room. We were both disgusted with the whole meal and with everything up to that point. As we started away I asked if the drink vouchers had been applied. No, they had not. We turned and went back and I cornered the waiter. I explained about our drink vouchers, that the hostess had taken them, but that they should be applied. He not only applied the vouchers but he comp’d us the drinks completely. Honestly – at that point it had reached the point for us of ‘well yeah you’d better comp us’.

room service

Room Service

We headed back to the room. I HAD laid down a trail of breadcrumbs so we could find our way back but it was very dark at this point and there were NO LIGHTS along the construction wall. We took that misleading walk to the wall and turned right into the dark and were nearly run over by the room service bicycle. Thank goodness he saw us because we weren’t expecting him. We got back to the room totally astounded at the terrible grounds conditions and the crummy meal. The room was nice but we were both a bit disgruntled when we went to sleep.

paradise pool

Paradise Pool (early in the morning, before the crowds)

The next morning we wanted to get a relatively early start so we could have breakfast before we headed out for a hike. I picked up the phone to call the valet to have the car readied. No dial tone. I switched to another line. No dial tone. THE PHONE DIDN’T WORK!!!! Pete and I had not thought to check THAT! At that point I thought this is simply the pits. I’m paying nearly twice for this room for what I paid in The Boulders, where everything was exquisite. This is a fabled historic ballyhooed hotel and NOTHING WORKS. We headed to the front desk. My son went to get his car and I headed for the concierge. I went through the entire litany of misery. I figured they owed me something at this point. Indeed, they did end up comp’ing me an entire night stay. Part of me feels they should have been sending fruit trays and flowers to us as well but I suppose I shouldn’t be greedy.

paradise pool from the cabana

Paradise pool seen from the cabana

As I was talking to the concierge my son came up. Pete had guessed that he was my son and asked him if I had gotten the chocolates that Pete had sent me. My son, who had seen a candy bar I’d brought with me, said yes. When my son relayed this whole story I went out to Pete and said “Chocolates? You sent me chocolates? I never got them.” He said “Not only did I send you chocolates but I sent you a cupcake as well!” Jumping to the end of THAT story, because I had a do not disturb on my door and because my phone was out of order, room service had no way to tell me that they wanted to make a delivery. For the want of a phone the cupcake was lost. Needless to say, when we returned later that day we had both chocolates and cupcake in the room. AND a working phone.

view outside our door

The view from the balcony walkway around the courtyard

From Saturday night on I have no complaints about the hotel. Things worked as expected. They FINALLY put up signs directing people around the construction so that you could find Terrace Courts without having to use a GPS. They also mounted lights all along the construction walls so that you could see oncoming traffic in the narrow walkway. What we also realized in the daylight was that had we turned LEFT once we were outside and bore to the RIGHT around the gardens, we’d have gotten to Terrace Court with no problem. They like to send you to the RIGHT because all of the stores are on that side. 🙂 We ended up using the left walk for the rest of our stay.

lights and a sign

Look! A sign AND Lights!!

On Sunday I rented us a cabana for the day. We made a run to the local Walgreens after breakfast and I made sure we had extension cords so we could power all of our electronics while we were at the pool. (My son wasn’t really on vacation – he had work he had to be doing. While I was lounging in the refreshing water and napping on the chaise, he was working away at the table.) The pool food and service was wonderful – as far from our Friday night experience as possible. The cabanas at the Orlando Hilton give you more food and drink, but the Arizona Biltmore cabana has its own bathroom. 🙂 That IS a plus.

Terrace court pool in the afternoon sun

Terrace court in the afternoon sun

By the end of my stay I could see why Marilyn liked the Biltmore so much. I didn’t swim in HER pool – I was quite happy with the Paradise pool and the Terrace Court pool. I’d like to see what they end up doing in the middle court. It had beautiful gardens. I saw the broken up walls and churned up clods of dirt. Pete assured me that he had seen the plans and it would be spectacular. He told me I would have to come back when it was completed. It’s a possibility, Pete, it’s a possibility. 🙂

leaving Phoenix

Leaving PHX

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