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.

Great Golf at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa

Deep in the heart of Texas, you’ll find a gem of a Texas golf vacation resort at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio. This beautiful AAA Four-Diamond resort defines the “full-scale destination resort” moniker with 27-holes of championship golf, a luxurious spa, a fun-filled water park, award-winning dining and much more to keep the whole family entertained. All of this fun in the Texas sun is situated around classic accommodations reminiscent of a grand ranch house.

You really never need to leave the secluded setting of the resort with all of its wonderful amenities and dining. It’s easy to forget that you’re in charming San Antonio, with all of its own wonderful attractions. The resort is adjacent to the family fun destination of SeaWorld of Texas and a short drive to other top San Antonio attractions such as The Alamo, San Antonio’s River Walk, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park.

But for those of us who love golf, the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa offers up a golfers delight at the Hill Country Golf Club. With 27-holes, a wonderful practice facility and the challenges of Texas hill country design, you’ll understand why the course was named one of the top 10 new public course in the U.S. by Golf Magazine when it opened up. The facility has also garnered attention as one of the top golf venues in the Conde Nast Traveler Golf Poll.

Award-winning golf course design firm Arthur Hills and Associates took great care to not only take advantage of the undulating terrain that they got to work with in South Central Texas but also took great care to preserve the natural landscape. The result is three different 9-hole golf courses, each with its own splendid character.

From the moment you arrive at the clubhouse, you’ll get the country club treatment. Sharp attendants take care of your every need before you head out to one of the three 9-hole courses to get your round started. The Oaks, Creeks, and Lakes Courses feature undulating meadows, wooded ravines, and a layout that challenges both your strength and your mind. The beautiful ponds partner with the strategically placed bunkers and grassy hollows to test your game on each hole.

Each nine plays to a par 36 and ranges from 2300 – 3500 yards based on the four tee choices. The different sets of tees accommodate players of all skill level and the course is particularly “women-friendly”, winning a prestigious award on Golf for Women magazine’s Top Fairways list. It’s difficult to pick a favorite of the trio, so hopefully you’ll have the opportunity to play a few days and get to experience all three at least once.

The Oaks Course plays to 3,438 yards from the black tees and offers a nice balance in length of holes. As the name implies, you’ll have towering oak trees to contend with so be sure to study the holes from the tee. There are definitely preferred sides to the fairway as you set up for your approach shots into the par 4 holes. Don’t just pull the driver out on the 400-yard par-4 holes…you’ll need to think your way through all holes at the resort and a lesser club off the tee may be the right play.

The 420-yard fourth on the Oaks will certainly challenge your strength and accuracy. You’ll need to be long and accurate off the tee in order to set up for an approach over a creek to a difficult green. The fifth and eighth may be the easiest par 3 set of all the nines, although a short tee shot on the fifth will cost you a penalty into the creek so be sure to use enough club. You’ll finish your side with a nice downhill par 5 and an opportunity for birdie as you approach into a huge shared green with the Creeks closing hole.

Another good tip to remember when playing at the Hill Country Golf Club is to definitely keep the ball below the hole on your approach shots. Downhill putts aren’t much fun and you’ll find three-putts the norm if you aren’t below the hole. That’s probably true on most any course but it feels even more pronounced in the Texas Hill Country.

In 2005, the resort reconfigured its original 18-hole course to accommodate a new 9-hole course to bring the facility to a 27-hole track. Many of the new holes are found on the 3429-yard Creeks Course. This nine has some great character and an opportunity to score on the opening two holes before being challenged with one of the toughest par-3 holes on the golf course, the 222-yard third. Par is an excellent score on this demanding hole.

You’ll then face the ‘creeks’ in the Creeks Course beginning with the beautiful par-5 fourth, a true three-shot route to the green at 538 yards and water protecting the green. The difficult seventh earns the number one handicap on the side and with good reason. A creek runs along the left and in front of the green on this dogleg left. You’ll finish up with a tempting downhill par-5 and an opportunity to hit a big drive off of a high-plateau tee. Water and bunkers protect the massive green but you may have the green light to swing away on your approach if you keep it left.

The Lakes Course is the longest of the trio, checking in at just over 3500 yards from the back tees. You’ll face your first stern test on the long par-4 third. Keep your tee shot left to have an angle at the tough green protected by sand on the left and a lake long and right. You’ll have fun on the short par-4 fifth, where your best bet is a long iron or hybrid off the tee to the right side of the fairway leaving you a wedge over a creek to a severely sloped green.

After the easy fifth, you’ll face four demanding finishing holes. The sixth is the first of two tough par-5 holes on the Lakes side. The tee shot has a dangerous lake on the left and a dry creek bed that twists from the left of the fairway and then right through it. Your second is to a narrow landing area before you’ll approach the well-protected green with water on the right. After a demanding par-4 seventh, you’ll tee it up against tall trees on the par-5 eighth, a 560-yard sweeping dogleg left. Stay right off the tee or you’ll struggle to the green.

You’ll enjoy the amenities and facilities at the golf club, including GPS systems in the golf carts offering exacting yardages and handy tips. Prior to your round, you can make yourself comfortable in the locker room facilities before warming up on the fantastic practice facility with a wonderful chipping green, large putting green, and expansive driving range.

It’s easy to work up an appetite during a round and you should check out the fine food and setting in the clubhouse overlooking the courses after you post your score. The Cactus Oak Tavern serves typical yet tasty American cuisine, including burgers, salads, and sandwiches in a casual setting with televisions and a pool table. Take some time to visit the pro shop for great selection of resort golf apparel and equipment.

While golf might be the primary reason for your visit to the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, you should consider the reason why the resort chose to put the word “Spa” in their name. The answer lies in the extraordinary Windflower Hill Country Spa. Located across the resort from the golf facilities, the tranquil spa is a throwback to the late 1800s and early 20th century, including a conventional red barn. The “Tee Time” package is perfect for the golfer after a day in the hot Texas sun, consisting of the Golfer’s Massage and a rejuvenating mini-facial and pedicure.

The spa is reserved for the adults of the family, but don’t think for a second that there isn’t plenty to do for the entire family. The resort truly does have something for everyone to keep as busy or relaxed as they wish. You’ll be able to bicycle around the nature trails (bike and helmet rentals are available) or jog around the clearly marked trails. Since the hotel is a certified Audubon sanctuary, you’ll have the chance to see some of the 100 species of birds that call this place home. Let the kids play on the playground complete with slides, swings, tetherball, and volleyball set.

But perhaps the most fun will be had at the centrally located four-acre water park. Float on an inner tube along the 950-foot Ramblin’ River or play in the sand at the man-made beach. For some fun in the water, you can play water volleyball in the free form activity pool. For the adults, there’s an adult-only Texas shaped pool with waterfall or an adult-only hot tub in its own private grotto.

Hyatt Hill Country Resort- Like many of the resorts in the Hyatt family, the kids programs are second to none. Camp Hyatt is an award-winning children’s program that takes great care of your kids aged 3 to 12 while you head for the links or the spa. In the Texas spirit, the camp has supervised activities such as hunting for arrowheads, learning how to read the stars or indoor crafts. You can also give your youngsters a taste of the relaxation experience at the SPAhhhT Youth Spa, with facials, massage, body treatments, and nail services for the under-17 set. Teenagers will also appreciate the Underground Teen Space, a hangout spot to check e-mail, play video games, and slurp up a smoothie.

With so much going on outside, it’s no surprise that classic Hill Country accommodations are outstanding. The hotel’s Town Square is at the heart of the resort and is home to a century-old Live Oak tree. You can sit on shady Aunt Mary’s Porch in the morning while planning the activities of the day. Inside, the grand lobby tastefully balances the elegance of a world-class resort with the liveliness of a family vacation spot. The 500 guestrooms surround scenic courtyards and a peaceful serenity when night falls.

Of course, a world-class resort wouldn’t be complete without outstanding dining and The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort does not disappoint. If you’re in the mood for a good cup ‘o Joe, head over the Hill Country Coffee & Creamery. Enjoy pastries and juice in the comfy lounge chairs with Wi-Fi service. For something a little more hearty mosey on over to the Springhouse Cafe, serving a buffet breakfast. For lunch, there are scrumptious sandwiches, soups, and salads, while for dinner you’ll enjoy juicy steaks, perfectly prepared pasta and seafood. The Antlers Lounge is the Hill Country Hyatt’s signature restaurant, named for the chandelier made from 500 pairs of antlers (all naturally shed). Serving traditional Texan cuisine, you’ll enjoy some Bison Tenderloin while sitting near a welcoming fireplace and tables set for your privacy.

If you’re looking for something to do outside the resort, you’ll have plenty of choices including the 33-acre San Antonio Botanical Gardens with a special rose, sacred, and authentic Japanese garden. The San Antonio Zoological Garden and Aquarium is home to over 750 species, including kangaroo, rhino, and leopards. Go and visit Shamu, the Clydesdales, penguins, and dolphins at SeaWorld. For some great rollercoaster action, head on over to Six Flags Fiesta Texas where you’ll get quite an adrenaline rush from the rides known as The Rattler, Superman Krypton, and Poltergeist.

Guests are be able to pre-arrange all their activities before even leaving the house with Hyatt’s E-concierge program. From the comforts of your computer log onto http://www.hyatte-concierge.com, and you’ll be able to make dining and recreational reservations, as well as tee times, transportation, and more. For extra customer service, the Hill Country Hyatt participates in the Babies Travel Lite Program (www.babiestravellite.com). You’ll have all of baby’s needs delivered right to your hotel, from formula to diapers, and everything in between, making this a truly family-friendly resort.

The award winning Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa is the most welcoming of resorts, making you feel right at home in the most luxurious of settings. So, pack your bags along with your Stetson and head on over to the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa.

For golf information, please visit the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa website and check the Hill Country Golf Club website for special offers.

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.