five-one-oh

Living local, urban design, sustainability, landscape architecture, and places in the East Bay. Design that works where it is.

Puttin’ On the Ritz

View from Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

After a spectacular day on the coast, we decided to stop at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay to enjoy the sunset and a cocktail. Upon arrival, we paid $10 for valet parking, the only option, and headed directly for the ocean terrace by the fire pits. We had Manhattans that cost an astounding $17.50. Each. And they were worth it – not because they were particularly special but because of the view. Let’s talk about the view.

The squashes at the resort entrance were one seasonal touch that fit with the locale

The squashes at the resort entrance were one seasonal touch that fit with the locale

Photo by the Athens Group

Photo by the Athens Group

The Ritz Carlton is everything I don’t like and yet, I liked it. It’s a bit of Scotland on the California coast…because we need California to be Scotland? No. So, the resort features Scottish architecture? No. The hotel is an imposing, shingle style, turreted affair that’s supposed to “evoke the magnificence of 19th century seaside lodges”. Northeastern seaside lodges. The Hamptons come to mind. Okay, it’s a magnificent northeastern style seaside lodge set within a pair of Scottish golf courses with staff walking around in plaid knickers. The Ritz Carlton is not an example of regional design.

Why did I like it? I’ve spent a lot of time on the California coast and the beautiful view from the cliffs overlooking the ocean is never diminished. It can be foggy (and it probably will be), it can be windy, it can smell like the brussels sprouts growing on the bluffs, the beaches can be littered with brown seaweed covered in sand flies, and it is still the most breathtaking place I’ve ever been. The California coast is like a beautiful girl, hair tangled, barefoot in sandy jeans and a faded sweatshirt. The view from the Ritz Carlton ocean terrace on a clear day was like seeing her in a green velvet gown and high heels. It’s not the way I want the coast to be but I can’t help feeling glad I saw her that way.

Ritz Carlton HMB Ocean TerraceRitz Carlton HMB NavioAfter shaking off the sticker shock of the cocktails, we sallied forth to Navio, the restaurant at the resort, with a plan NOT to eat barely acceptable food at very expensive prices. The dining room is lovely and we were given a table at the window. We ordered conservatively, (two women can get away with significantly less food than a traditional couple) and ate a perfectly acceptable dinner for under $100. The service was good. The food was good. Nothing was memorable but the view. After we got back to Oaktown, I checked out Michael Bauer’s 2013 review and can say I think Navio has improved since his meal, but I won’t deny that the restaurant is not a good value.

The Ritz Carlton made me feel sorry for people who think the coastal experience is something they can buy. Without a deeper relationship with the shoreline, the Ritz Carlton is nothing but a fancy, out of place resort. Next time, we might still stop in for a cocktail at the Ritz, but afterwards we’ll head up Highway 1 to our favorite Half Moon Bay taqueria for dinner.

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2014 by in Local Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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