A Four Seasons Hotel that most Uber drivers can’t find isn’t a good omen.
The Four Seasons Palo Alto is camouflaged at the end of a cul-de-sac of office blocks, all designed in that late 90s functional vernacular so familiar to anyone whose sat in slow moving traffic on the M4.
Perhaps lacking the bespoke build that allows a hotel to be all it aspires to be – and makes it memorable to Uber drivers and guests alike – the lobby feels functional rather than spectacular or welcoming. The reception desk is situated off to one side at a right angle. You’re confronted instead with a quick service coffee counter and a fridge of healthy bites. A couple of conference rooms complete the ‘could be anywhere’ vibe.
Downtime for Silicon Valley’s visitors must be limited. The lobby café is functional rather than welcoming, with a few high stools at a counter where you can perch and scan emails.
There’s a restaurant with a good reputation – but half a dozen chairs and a small shelf system of books half-heartedly fill the narrow corridor leading up to it. And although the restaurant has a good reputation, it looks out on the turning circle at the front of the hotel. California cops are clearly more discerning than the normal doughnut-munchers, as there were four having brunch when Lusso checked it out.
There’s a neat little gym, a small beauty salon and a small swimming pool with a deck up on the roof. This gives you a bit more space to chill, but only metaphorically: the poolside is hot with limited shade. And swimming, even in May, feels like sticking your face in warm bath water.
The hotel is also smack next to a major freeway just as it joins and ribbons around another. So, while your mind might be on higher things as you sit by the pool, you’d do well to bring headphones to escape the realities of earthly traffic.
Consequently, the view from your room is a choice of the turning circle out front, or of the ribbon of freeways out the back (which separate you from an IKEA).
Of course, the views that Silicon Valley cares most about are written by analysts, so maybe none of this really matters.
Bedrooms? Well, they’re bedrooms. There are no 4-poster beds, no sunken fire pits. No flair, nothing to hate, nothing to love or remember. The bathrooms have a bath, a shower, what else can you expect? Toiletries? Yes. L’Occitane. Coffee machine? Yes, of course.
The rooms have carpets, of course – but they could be taupe, could be olive, could be anything, really, it’s hard to remember the décor is so bland. The walls are harmoniously coloured, of course – could be mink, tan, khaki or stone. It’s equally hard to remember. The beds are big, the sheets are fresh, so how much do you care – you’re staying at the Four Seasons.
Everywhere feels like it was recently renovated, but without passion. In fact, the only passion in the bedrooms was a result of the lack of sound proofing. On any day, you can hear people flushing toilets upstairs – okay, that’s a lie. It’s not the flushing you hear it’s the peeing of a hot post-flight stream of pee into the water. Then you hear the flushing. But on the night Lusso stayed, your correspondent was entertained by the desires of the couple next door. Did you know that some people like to have quite detailed conversations during sex? (Or maybe it was an investor telling the person beneath them how lucky they were. And since all relationships are a collaborative process, they’d better bend over and take it. )
In a place like this, then, the staff have to make up for the lack of physical grandeur. And they do, almost. Room service and the guys on the door do a good job. They’re helpful and always ready with an interested question or a harmless aside about the weather. With their trilbies titled at a jaunty angle, they have a happy Californian vibe and a sunny outlook to match the weather.
The Four Seasons is always going to be good and far better than most other places you can stay. And you’ll pay for it. But is it the best option? Is it the smart money choice? Strangely, there are very few great places to stay in the area. It’s clean, the service is good. And you’re about a 20-minute walk from downtown Palo Alto and in another 20 minutes you can jog onto the Stanford Campus.
So, what, then, besides from the location, is the best thing about staying at the Four Seasons? Probably telling people you’re staying at the Four Seasons.
Chris West stayed as a guest of Four Seasons, Palo Alto. 2050 University Ave, East Palo Alto, CA 94303-2248