Stretched out on my velvet chaise lounge before my fireplace, eyeing my king-sized canopy bed and mile-high ceiling, it was hard to imagine going home. I’m sure most visitors to the Hotel Les Mars in Healdsburg, California, feel this way. During my three-night hosted stay, Les Mars impressed me again and again.
The 16-room hotel, opened in 2005, perfectly blends antiques, modern comforts and personal attention. The Louis XV vibe starts with the lobby furnishings. An offer of champagne at check-in amplifies the French feel. Just off the lobby, a library full of walnut-paneled bookcases will lure bibliophiles out of their rooms to prowl the titles downstairs.
Exploring the Rooms at Hotel Les Mars
Each room at Hotel Les Mars is a little different. Mine was huge, with the aforementioned chaise lounge and extremely comfortable bed covered in Italian linens.
A television hidden in a Louis XV armoire serves as a microcosm of the hotel’s style: old-time beauty married to modern ease. No gathering firewood – flip a switch and you have a fire. I also loved that the windows open, unlike those of many hotels. Each room comes with its own personal library of books.
Much as I loved the bedroom, the white marble bathroom was even better. Especially the hydrotherapy tub.
At a reception my first night in Healdsburg, the Les Mars general manager and I animatedly discussed bath salts. Brian Sommer told me the salts are made at Matanzas Creek, 30 minutes away in the southern end of Sonoma County. Sommer originally dreamed of a spa apothecary board where the guest could “dial in the scent that’s right for you.” But that got a little too complex, so he finally narrowed it down to three scents: lemon verbena to revive guests, lavender for relaxation and rose for romance.
“I researched all this,” Sommer told me. “Rosehips are an ancient aphrodisiac used in ancient Egypt.” Or maybe your muscles are sore from biking the vineyards, and you’re not in the mood for romance. Sommer had the perfect answer for that as well. “Lemon verbena stimulates rejuvenation in your joints,” he replied.
I am a bath addict, so I took at least four baths in my three days at the Les Mars, threatening to plunge California back into its drought while I tried all three flavors of bath salts. Housekeeping even refills the little glass apothecary jars if you use up a scent.
Food and Drink at Hotel Les Mars
A restaurant called Chalkboard is attached to the Les Mars. I didn’t have a chance to eat there, but two friends said they had an excellent dinner.
Chalkboard prepares breakfast for hotel guests. Every evening guests come home to their rooms to find a breakfast order form hanging on their doorknobs. A continental breakfast of yogurt, croissant or an apple crisp is included with the room, as is a choice of at least four newspapers. Guests can pay extra for a full breakfast. The hotel accommodated my write-in request for a vegan breakfast with fruit and oatmeal. My chaise lounge turned out to be the perfect place to lounge with my big wooden breakfast tray.
You can order coffee with breakfast, or go downstairs and help yourself to a cup starting at 6:30. Breakfast is delivered between 8 am and 10 am. Guests choose a 15-minute timeslot, such as 8:15-8:30, for meal delivery. The Les Mars offers wine and cheese in the lobby in the evenings.
The Personal Touches at Hotel Les Mars
Beside the antiques and luxury, the most noticeable thing about Les Mars are the personal touches. Not only did the staff always know my name, they had an uncanny knack for knowing my whereabouts. “How was Barn Diva?” a front desk person asked as I returned from dinner. “Are you CIA?” I countered.
No. It’s hospitality training, not spy skills. “Customization is number one,” Sommer told me. “We’ve thought of all the details ahead of time.” Once guests reserve a room, they can expect hotel staff to contact them at least twice before arrival to learn about preferences and help them make restaurant and activity reservations. “We don’t want them to worry about a thing,” Sommer explained.
Hotel Les Mars most impressed me with their attention to detail when I returned to my room the last night of my stay. I have a caffeine dependency, and was secretly worried about my 5:30 a.m. departure when coffee service didn’t start until an hour later. Les Mars anticipated my anxiety and surprised me with a Nespresso machine sitting on my bathroom counter. Awesome service.
The hotel staff also impressed me my last night with its problem-solving ability. I woke at two a.m. to hear noises outside. I staggered over to the window to see a rope outside my window, stretching from the roof to the street. Was I about to be the victim of a heist by the world’s loudest bungling burglars? I called downstairs and found out that I just happened to be in the route of Chalkboard’s annual grease trap cleaning. Not only was a 16-room hotel’s front desk staffed 24 hours, but the night guy offered me the opportunity to switch to a quieter room. He came upstairs with a key, and minutes later I was in an equally comfortable bed down the hall.
The real measure of a hotel, business, or even a person is how they deal with situations when things don’t go right. Turns out, Les Mars manages the rare feat of being lovely and gracious 24/7.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.