by Monica Conrady
hen a family reunion took us south to the Los Angeles area, we decided to revisit Long Beach. My husband, in his Merchant Marine days, used to make port calls there and I would often meet him when his ship docked.
Back then, we would stay in a modest, but pleasant motel downtown. This time around we thought wed try the Hotel Maya, Long Beachs stylishly revamped waterfront resort. We were not disappointed.
The location of the Maya could not be better facing the legendary Queen Mary.
The former Coast Long Beach Hotel was taken over recently by the Joie de Vivre group of San Francisco, well known for its collection of boutique hotels. In fact, Chip Conley, the founder of Joie de Vivre, is a Long Beach native son.
The location of the Maya could not be better on the peninsula, right on the water, facing across the bay to downtown Long Beach, with the legendary Queen Mary to its right. The five buildings, surrounded by lush, tropical gardens, have a distinctly latin flavor, with vivid colors, hand-carved wood doors and much bronze and copper used in the décor.
An attractive pool area features five curtained cabañas which float or appear to float on a moat.
The first thing we did was leave our car in the lot, where it stayed for the duration. With such a great location, we did not need it. A waterside footpath led to the Queen Mary in one direction and to the downtown area in the other direction. We could walk or else take a water taxi to the various attractions.
Our spacious bay-view room had its own balcony, an inviting king bed piled high with down pillows, and luscious aroma-therapy toiletries in the bathroom. After partaking of morning coffee and breakfast pastries on the balcony, we set off for a days jaunt.
Although we had visited her before, we took a nostalgic tour of the Queen Mary. It seems there is always something happening or going to happen there a festival, a concert, a celebration; she may no longer be Queen of the Atlantic, but theres still a lot of life left in the old girl.
We walked over to the Aquarium of the Pacific, a fascinating place to explore. The Shark Lagoon gets a lot of attention, as do the sea otters and puffins.
We took the free shuttle to the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) where we passed an enjoyable couple of hours. Its billed as the only museum in the country dedicated exclusively to presenting modern and contemporary Latin American artworks.
Later, we strolled down Pine Avenue, where wed spent many an evening in the past, deciding where to eat. Depending on the cuisine, you could be in Italy, Spain, Greece, Japan, the Middle East, or even New Orleans.
But now, our new favorite place to dine is at Fuego, the Hotel Mayas own fine restaurant. The elegant dining room opens onto a large patio with stunning views. The menu features a good choice of Latin dishes as well as a lot of fresh seafood.
Sitting outside in the balmy night air, with the twinkling lights across the bay and soft music playing in the background, you could indeed be South of the Border.
Hotel Maya: Tel. (562) 435-7676; www.hotelmayalongbeach.com,
Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: www.visitlongbeach.com.
Elegant Seating Area at the Hotel Maya
Monica Conrady photo
View of the Queen Mary from the Terrace
Monica Conrady photo