In the lap of luxury

  • by Roberto Friedman
  • Tuesday November 20, 2018
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The Clement Palo Alto is a luxury hotel adjacent to Stanford University. Photo: Courtesy The Clement
The Clement Palo Alto is a luxury hotel adjacent to Stanford University. Photo: Courtesy The Clement

Our favorite hotel down the Peninsula invited us back for an overnight stay, so we returned to The Clement Palo Alto a few weeks ago. It's a different sort of luxury hotel, as you'll see.

Our first stop after checking in was a visit to The Museum of American Heritage, 351 Homer Ave. in Palo Alto, to see their current exhibit "Vintage Toys: It's Child's Play," a collection of antique pedal cars, trains, toy sewing machines and more (through Feb. 17, 2019). There we enjoyed the seriousness of purpose given to creating a toy: typewriter (1950s), telephone (1921), mixer (1960), American Skyline building set (1950s), and plush squirrel (late 1800s). In the section "Electrical Toys for Boys," several toy train sets operate at the push of a button.

The museum also has early examples of Monopoly, Sorry!, Scrabble, and the Lobby Board Game (extract political favors! Milton Bradley, 1949), as well as samples from the Matchbox 1-75 series of model cars (1953-61, London). To match the miniatures, there's a real life-size 1915 Model T Ford parked in the open garage. (Open Fri.-Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m., free.)

Andy Warhol, black-and-white negative John Sex with snake at Christopher Makos studio and on the street (1983). Photo: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts  

We found "The Blue Trees" (2018) by artist Konstantin Dimopoulos in the plaza surrounding Palo Alto's City Hall. A water-based, environmentally safe, organic colorant has temporarily dyed a small brace of trees a striking cobalt blue. The installation remains until March 2019, following which we are assured the trees will gradually revert to their natural state.

When we returned to The Clement, we had a friendly chef grill a burger and chicken breast for our lunch while we reclined in a cabana on the roof deck. For this is the essence of the place: we're invited to have our meals whenever we like, wherever we like, in the dining room, living room, outdoor terrace, or in the privacy of our own suite.

Then we crossed El Camino Real over to the Stanford University campus, site of our grad school years, and strolled down Palm Drive to the Cantor Arts Center, free and open to the public. There, the "Contact Warhol: Photography Without End" show was attracting a lively audience. It celebrates the museum's archive of contact sheets, photos and negatives acquired from the Warhol Foundation, supplemented by a few silkscreen paintings.

It's slightly absurd that the 3,600 images from this archive should wind up here, as Andy Warhol had no ostensible connection with Stanford. But the exhibit is a good West Coast ancillary to the gigantic Warhol retrospective going on right now at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC. Both shows bring Andy out as a very gay artist, and the Cantor show even has a section entitled, "Gay Gay Gay," with photos of his lovers and other hunky nude male models (through Jan. 6, 2019).

The Anderson Collection, housed in a sparkling new museum next door, is showing "Salon Style II: Collected Marks on Paper" (through Feb. 18), "Spotlight on Elizabeth Murray" (through March 25) and a reinstallation of its own permanent collection, all very worth seeing, free, and open to the public.

Back at The Clement, our suite had been stocked with treats we had requested: chilled white wine, premium gin and roasted almonds. Here is the real luxury of this place: it's like having a private concierge attend to all your desires. The multilingual staff was unfailingly helpful, cheerful and polite. When we asked for copies of the Sunday New York Times, two copies were brought to our breakfast. On a previous visit, we had our shoes shined.

A quick swim in the serene rooftop pool and soak in the hot tub, then dinner included such delights as Roasted Colorado Lamb Loin with white bean cassoulet, Seared Black Angus Fillet with fingerling potato salad, and appetizers Seared Day Boat Scallops and Duck Rillettes. Service was impeccable. When Pepi wanted the Foie Gras appetizer with Fig Mostardo, but for dessert, he got it. It was like hotel magic.

Back upstairs, our bed had been turned down, candied orange slices left on the pillows, shades automatically drawn. The ambience was luxurious. We can't think of a time when we've been better taken care of.

Correx box

Correction from The New York Times: "An article on Thursday about the winner of a Powerball lottery jackpot misstated the odds of winning the prize. They are one in 292,201,338, not 292,201,338 million." Oh, much better odds.