The Don Cesar Hotel – the Pink Palace

On a recent December visit to the Don Cesar Hotel and Resort, our group met with Resort Host and Certified Concierge, Ronald MacDougall. As concierge, Mr. MacDougall assures that each guest has the finest experience during their stay at the Don Cesar. In his position as concierge, he has assisted many of the VIPs that have visited the historic pink hotel on the Gulf of Mexico in St. Petersburg, Florida. Those guests have included Mariah Carry, Carole King, Mick Jagger and Jimmy Buffet, as well as many of the visiting Presidents.

Our private tour began in the main bar and lounge, which at this time of the year is beautifully decorated for the holiday season. The majestic dark wood bar, couches and large leather chairs make this the perfect place to sit back, relax and imagine yourself in another era, the early glory days of the Pink Palace.

The story of the Don Cesar Hotel or Pink Lady, as Thomas Rowe liked to call the hotel, begins at the beginning as all good stories do. It was a vision of Thomas J. Rowe to create a monument to a lost love.

This part of the story begins in London where rumor would have it that the young Thomas Rowe, while attending a university, attended the opera “Maritana” where he became infatuated with the female lead, Lucinda, a beautiful Spanish opera singer.They met each night after her performance beside a fountain in London.

Plans were made to elope. On the night that they were to leave, Lucinda did not show and Rowe was left waiting by the fountain. Her parents were made aware of the pending marriage and forced Lucinda to return home to Spain. Lucinda was reported to have died at a young age, but sent this letter to Thomas containing this passage. “Time is infinite, I wait for you by the fountain to share our timeless love,…our destiny is time. ” Well, if it didn’t happen that way, it should have.

Returning to the United States, Thomas Rowe built commercial buildings in New York. He later moved to Norfolk, Virginia, there he met Mary Lucille, the daughter of a rich landowner. Thomas married Mary and began the life of a socialite.

At the age of 47 with his health declining, Thomas Rowe elected to relocate to a more hospitable climate. Leaving his wife in Virginia, he decided on Florida and in particular St Petersburg, Florida, which was experiencing a real estate boom. Arriving with $21,000.00, Rowe began purchasing property.

Real Estate development was hot in the early 1920’s and Thomas Rowe partnered with another former Norfolk socialite and land developer, a Mr. Page. He and Page formed the Boca Ciega Land Company for the purchase of land.

Mr. Page developed the land on the north side of Johns Pass and the family still lives in Madeira Beach.

Rowe amassed a small fortune and while visiting an isolated stretch of undeveloped beach in the area known as Pass-A-Grille. Pass-A-Grille was named for the 18 century “grilleurs” who dried fish on the white beaches. This was a very remote and rugged landscape. Access from the mainland was by a wooden bridge. On these white sands beside the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico, Thomas Rowe envisioned his dream resort. Against the advice of many in his circle, Thomas Rowe purchased 80 acres on these shores. Soon a residential subdivision was built and each street was named for a character from the opera Maritana.

In 1926 construction began on his dream resort. Rowe hired architect Henry DuPont to design the project. One obstacle that had to be overcome was the massive structure would be sitting on sand. A floating foundation was devised and its success is reflected in the fact that the foundation has not shifted in the past 82 years.

Another obstacle was transporting construction material. The bridge as earlier mentioned was older and manned by an older bridge keeper who was not always reliable, opening the bridge when he was in the mood. Construction material was placed on a barge and brought to the site bypassing the bridge.

A railroad strike that year drove up costs of construction and after finishing the exterior and interior of the resort, Thomas Rowe ran out of money to furnish the hotel. A backer was needed to save the venture. H.P. Churchill would provide the money, but he had a stipulation. He would name the manager. It was agreed and the Don Cesar had its Grand Opening in 1927, with the some of the wealthiest people in America attending.

It was lavish and plush in the Grand Lobby. Thomas Rowe had constructed a replica of the fountain similar to the one where he,as a student, would rendezvous with the beautiful Lucinda. The fountain would be the first thing that guests would see after climbing the entry stairway into the lobby and was the center- piece of the resort. Modeled after the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach, the Don Cesar Resort was a vision, standing on the sands of Pass-A-Grille. Thomas Rowe liked to call the hotel the Pink Lady.

The main entrance into the resort was on Gulf Blvd. with two lion statues and a sign stating “Come All Ye Who Seek Health and Rest. For Here They Are Abundant.” The original staircase is hidden, but is located where the Ice Cream Shop is now situated on the first floor.

As luck would have it, the timing could not have been worse; the economy entered what became known as the Great Depression. Fortunately for the hotel, an agreement with the New York Yankees baseball team was secured for housing the players during spring training which helped the resort stay solvent.

Thomas Rowe moved into one of the two penthouses in the Don Cesar. Everyday Rowe would station himself in a chair in the lobby, talking with visitors and staff and taking stock of the guests. Guests who did not meet a certain standard of dress or manners and speech were asked to leave the hotel. It was not an era of political correctness.

Then in 1940, Thomas Rowe collapsed in the lobby. He refused to be taken to the hospital, so he was moved into adjoining rooms 101 and 102. There he stayed until his death. Rowe attempted to get a will witnessed by his attended nurses, but they refused. This reported Will would have left the Pink Lady in the hands of the staff. As it happened, Thomas Rowe’s wife, Mary, gained control of the Don Cesar. The resort fell on hard times. Then in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a vacation at the beach was not as attractive. People became afraid of attack from the ocean and soon the guests stopped arriving. The U.S. government purchased the Don Cesar and converted the resort for use as a convalescent center for members of the US Army Air Corp. suffering from shell shock and injuries from the war.

One casualty of the transfer of ownership was the fountain in the main lobby. The manager of the converted building was concerned that one of the visitors would trip over the fountain and ordered it removed.

Later the Don Cesar was used for government offices and was finally left abandoned and fell into disrepair. A movement began to have the resort leveled and removed. A counter movement lead by local resident and activist June Hardy Young began to restore the Don Cesar. The later movement was successful and a new owner for the resort was located. William Bowman purchased the resort and in 1973, the resort was reopened. During the remodeling, a replica of the original fountain was placed on the fifth floor.

Our tour included the penthouses, which were vacant at the time of our visit, and the Presidential Suite where every President has stayed since 1940. The penthouses have a spectacular view of St. Petersburg, the gulf beaches and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Of course if you decide to stay in one these penthouses, it will set you back around $3500.00 a night.

The Don Cesar is a beautiful resort with two swimming pools, exercise room and a new spa. Opened just recently, the 11,000 sq ft Spa Oceana is a state of the art spa. Guests can have a massage, get in the whirlpool and sauna, and then have a lunch on the roof of the spa building overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

If you go, ask the reservationist if there are any specials. On our visit, we received a preseason rate and were very happy with our stay.

The resort is co-owned and operated by the Loews Hotels chain.

Big Apple Spa – Experience the Best Day Spas in New York City

Planning a visit to NYC? In the midst of deciding what Broadway show to see, where to shop, sleep, and eat, don’t forget a little pampering. A visit to a day spa is a perfect way to unwind and indulge during your stay. But there are countless day spas in the city. How do you tell which day spas are the best? Following are a sampling, including spas for the budget-minded and extravagant luxury spas.

One of the true originals, Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa on Fifth Avenue still commands a loyal following. The Red Door’s celebrity colorist brad johns defines color from around the world. Botox, Restylane and Juverderm services have recently been added and are performed by plastic surgeon, Dr. Bryan G. Forley, voted one of the “Best Doctors of 2005” in New York Magazine. Guests may enjoy their classic 50-minute massage for $105.

An exquisite day spa tucked away on the sixth floor of Takashimaya, the luxury Japanese department store on 5th Avenue, Barbo at Takashimaya is an intimate spa, featuring only two treatments rooms, and no plans to expand. While the products in the spa are from the German line, Barbor, the treatments themselves have an Asian influence. The Sea Creation facial ($250) is one of the spa’s most popular treatments – designed to regenerate the skin and boost cell energy. Make sure to order tea service after your service at the Teabox Cafe where more than 48 different types of tea are available.

Located on Broadway, Bliss Soho has been voted Conde Nast Traveler’s “Best Urban Day Spa.” The flagship spa was created by Marcia Kilgore in the 1990s. The atmosphere mixes a modern, tongue-in-chic approach to grooming with a vast menu of facials, massages, manicures, pedicures, body treatments, and more. There are two other locations at East 57th Street and Bliss 4 in W Hotel.

Hailing from the Peninsula Hotel, Cornelia Zicu is a star esthetician who now owns her own spa. Cornelia Day Resort is located in midtown and is the first in NYC to have a watsu pool massage treatment. The watsu takes place in warm-waist-deep water. The spa’s specialized watsu pool is heated to the exact temperature as the body. Because of the pool, the treatment is relatively unusual to the city.

Boasting a “wet lounge solarium,” Great Jones Spa, located in Manhattan, features hot tubs, cold plunge pools, and saunas, which are available to guests up to two hours prior and one hour following spa treatments. Their 60-minute Swedish massage is offered for $130.

Offering affordable serenity in Manhattan, Haven, located on Mercer Street, is a cozy neighborhood day spa with a hospitable environment. Services include body therapy, facials, hand and foot therapies, waxing, and massage packages. One-hour Swedish massages run $115, while the “80 minutes in Haven” facial treatment ($150) leaves guests glowing.

For those who are seeking more than just a pampering treatment, Juva on 56th Street is a medical spa offering therapies which tackle issues such as sun spots and acne. Under the medical supervision of Bruce Katz, M.D., the Juva products used during treatments provide long-lasting benefits with mineral essentials and surpass normal spa techniques.

Designed to impress the most jaded spa goer, Juvenex combines Asian, European, and American spa remedies which are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Walking through its doors, guests are transported into another place with unusual saunas, plunge pools, and the Jade Igloo – made from 20 tons of semi-precious stones. The spa is open to women only, daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and for couples during the evening from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Go for something truly unforgettable with a visit to the Spa at Mandarian Oriental, affording great views of Central Park and featuring amenities such as the “Heat Expereince” rooms. Considered one of the best hotel spas in New York, services are pricey, but luxurious. Bamboo, natural stone and gold leaf set the tone for an amazing Manhattan spa experience that focuses on rebalance and an enhanced sense of well-being. The spa’s latest addition is the Thai Yoga room, designed especially for their exclusive Thai Yoga Massage.

How To Live Longer And Stay Healthier Thanks To An Asian Spa

The word ‘spa’ comes from the name of a small town in Belgium, and the ‘spa’ industry has been a phenomenon that has grown at ever increasing speed over the last decade. Now every major hotel worth its salt has a spa and leisure complex in place and operating as part of the facilities on offer in order to tempt a discriminating guest to cross the threshold. Many of these spas are truly luxurious pampering palaces offering myriad means of massage, beauty treatments, steam rooms, luxurious baths and much more.

Asia has taken to the spa concept and plays host to some of the finest and most sumptuous in the world. These can be found in India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand, the Philippines, China and Japan. The Banyan Tree in Phuket is listed by Britain’s Guardian Newspaper as being amongst the best fifty on the entire planet.

In Thailand the notion of spa is a blend of ancient tradition comprising massage and meditation and herbal baths and steam rooms. Before the arrival of allopathic medicine from the West the Temple was the centre of learning. The monks fulfilled the dual role of doctors and apothecaries. Wat Pho in Bangkok retains the distinction of being the leading centre for massage in the Thai Kingdom. The therapists trained by this temple are experts in their field and quite rightly enjoy the honorary title of doctor.

There is however, in Thailand a different type of spa that came into existence in the early 1990s. Destinations such as Koh Samui attracted a younger and more health conscious tourist. To cater for the backpackers a couple of spas have come into existence that have focussed on detoxification and fasting programmes. These are not luxurious resorts attached to branded hotel chains but offer comfortable beachside bungalow type accommodation and embrace a philosophy that advocates good health and longevity. Today people flock from all over the globe to stunning locations such as the Health Oasis Resort in Koh Samui in order to be part of this remarkable health conscious philosophy. What’s more the same visitors return year after year to clean up and recharge batteries in order to better face the stressful lifestyle imposed by work and career in the big cities of Europe, America, Australia and Asia.

What then is this secret that lures the visitor to stunning tropical location? It is a five point programme that embraces firstly cleansing. This means getting rid of all those toxins accumulated by a western lifestyle and is achieved by cleaning the colon by means of enemas or colonics. Secondly we cleanse the body by breathing properly. That means it is necessary to inhale deeply, hold the breath and then release it for a specific number of times during the day. Where better to do this than in the clean air of Koh Samui? Thirdly comes a diet formulated according to blood group. This concept is based on the findings of Dr. Peter D’Adamo who is the author of the book “ Eat Right for your Type”. Fourthly comes the importance of exercise. A gentle regime of walking or more strenuous yoga is a must on a daily basis and the fifth and final step in this journey is meditation. All spiritual disciplines advocate spending a certain amount of time in quiet contemplation.

Many of us know about these techniques but need a gentle shove in order to incorporate them into daily life. Thus a nine-day de-tox at a Spa like the Health Oasis Resort [http://www.healthoasisresort.org] will teach you how to achieve healthy living and lifestyle; afterwards all you have to do is to take the new knowledge back home and incorporate it into your daily life.