And so as soon as I was out the door of that cab it was Mr de Zayas this and that. But. A difference. Four Seasons employees are intelligent, graceful adults. There was no discernable script. They surround you in a warm embrace and you feel more at ease under such circumstances.
It's easy for so many to feel unease traveling, which can often be stressful, where money is being exchanged for nominal services. (Thanks for holding that for me - here's five dollars!) All that is put away at this hotel by the self-assuredness and facility of the staff.
The rooms similarly embrace it guests. Comfortable linens, down-filled chairs and sofas, soft carpets, flat screens, extraordinary linens, furry bathrobes - yes, the Four Seasons invented bathrobes in hotel rooms, and have somehow stayed ahead of the game. (They also invented the phone in the bathroom, but there's only so much you want to do there.)
Of about 220 rooms, there are only two "standard" rooms, these two have no water views; but if you book one of these you're very likely to be upgraded. Hotel rooms are on floors 22-29; condo rooms, for extended stays or for those who require kitchen, are 30-39; 40 and above are residential.
Almost every hotel I've visited on this trip is a condo hotel. As a guest paying a lot of money for one night, I like to feel special about it, and certainly don't want to feel second class. The Four Seasons Miami does a great job disguising all other floors - you'd be unlikely to really think anything but that all 70 floors weren't just guest rooms. I liked that.
Views encompass the bay looking out over South Beach, Fisher Island, Key Biscayne, Brickell Avenue, south to Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, and west into Miami. And also down, down, down: to the pool deck, with its extraordinary wading pool dotted with a couple dozen palm trees set on stone platforms.
This sensational shallow pool is good for floating. Take one of the blue rafts, lie back, and gaze upward at the irrationally tall buildings, the occasional turkey vulture, squint away the bright sunlight, and pretend you're floating atop a surreal oasis. Else, a huge heated pool and large hot tub are there for more conventional dips.
Where to Eat
Bahia--which made the Four Seasons reluctantly hip-- is also here on the pool terrace. Besides its cool fountain, this otherwise nondescript outdoor bar and eatery achieved unexpected national renown after a 2004 New York Times article reported it had become the new Miami hotspot. And why? There was nowhere else to go. For local residents and business people getting out of work along Brickell Avenue, this was the place to be. It still is on Fridays from 7pm to midnight.
Work-Out, Look Good
The Four Seasons-owned Sports Club L.A. on the fourth floor is without a doubt one of the top hotel gyms in Miami (perhaps the best - I'll know in 2 weeks when I've seen them all). It's a topnotch facility, with separate studios for pilates, yoga, aerobics, and spinning, with complimentary access including classes for guest. If you prefer--why not--you can arrange training sessions in your room. There is also a full service spa, Splash, with 10 treatment rooms; as well as a salon, and a gaggle of meeting and ballrooms.
It's Not South Beach
That said, please don't stay here if you want beach or buzz. One would choose the Four Seasons Miami precisely to be away for the beach pace and to gain access to the rest of Miami. Or because you're a service junkie. Or an NBA player - all teams visiting the Heat stay here.
The Four Seasons is a world-class hotel. But it has a world-class neighbor, the Mandarin Oriental, which was Miami's first truly luxury hotel when it opened six years ago. They attract a similar clientele. So, which is better? I'll tell you soon, as I visit the Mandarin on Thursday.
Now I'm checking out of the Four Seasons and I'm off to the 1954 Morris Lapidus-designed Miami Beach classic Fountainbleau Hotel. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.