What would you do if you struck it rich during the Gold Rush era? Perhaps build a hilltop castle for your wife and daughter?
That’s precisely what Kansas farmer William Thornburg did when he struck it rich, purchasing 13,000 acres of land above Oakland and creating what is now the Claremont Club and Spa, a Fairmont Hotel. This chic property is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In honour of the landmark hotel’s centennial, Fairmont Hotels purchased and renovated the former independently-owned property that boasts an imposing view out to Oakland, San Francisco and beyond. I had the chance to spend a few nights here recently while exploring Oakland and was impressed with the mix of interior design styles, rich detailing and relaxed country club atmosphere.
Over the years, the charming property has faced fires, rebuilding and was even lost in an unlucky game of checkers, eventually becoming an independently-operated hotel until 2015.
The Claremont also has a long-standing history of being a social and tennis club with 1,200 members currently enrolled. Hotels guests also gain access to the fitness center and classes, steam room, tennis courts and lap pool.
The hotel has three dining options: Meritage (breakfast and dinner), Limewood (lunch and dinner) and Bayview Café (inside the club, with a health-conscious breakfast menu plus sandwiches and smoothies). The Claremont literally sits on the border between Berkeley and Oakland.
Meritage is the Four Diamond-rated signature restaurant, its menu including seafood and an expansive steak selection, utilizing local and artisanal ingredients sourced from across the US. I much enjoyed their Berkeley Bowl at breakfast, filled with all the healthy stuff: steel-cut oats, quinoa, flax, chia seeds, pearl barley, almond milk, fruit compote and house made granola.
Limewood is a casual spot that showcases regional cuisine, helmed by a bar team that create an inventive selection with a twist on the old classics.
For an after-dinner cocktail, it’s the Lobby Lounge & Bar: on a clear day you’ll get a sweeping view of the San Francisco Bay too.
The tastefully-decorated rooms are outfitted with lovely chandeliers, artwork on the walls, windows that open to allow fresh mountain breezes and a very welcoming soaker tub in the large bathroom. All the usual Fairmont touches are here: from luxury linens to toiletry amenities (Le Labo’s Rose 31 line).
Rooms come equipped with free standard wifi (ultra high-speed service at an additional $10/day) and a cozy, tech-friendly desk. There’s plenty of room to make yourself at home here and I slept well from the first night, likely due to flight delays and rush hour across the Bay Bridge.
The Fairmont Spa at The Claremont
If you can pull yourself away from Oakland and Berkeley’s shopping and historic sights, book in for a massage at the hotel’s spa. Sooth your mind and soul inside one of over 30 treatment rooms with a team of amazing massage therapists that can perform East-meets-West style massages, Vichy body treatments (energizing wrap, salt glow, body scrub), foot treatments, facials and nail and hair services.
I reserved a 50-minute essential aromatherapy massage (80 minutes also available). As soon as I entered the calming spa, I was shown the hydrotherapy and deluge showers, whirlpool, eucalyptus steam room and relaxation room, where guests can sit back and sip a hot tea while reading the latest gossip magazines (a sneaky indulgence for many, including myself).
My masseuse Amy took me to a dimly-lit massage room where she had me select from a range of essential oils to be used during my session of bliss. Once she got to work, it was a combination of pressure-point massage and traditional soothing strokes. She checked in regularly to make sure the pressure and massage bed temperature was to my liking.
There was a moment towards the end of the session where I simply melted away. It was a pivotal moment of the massage as Amy explained that she was closing my massage off with a gentle motion at the bottom of my feet. Whatever she did, I was simply brought into another world — exactly the intention of the massage ritual.
Claremont Club and Spa, a Fairmont Hotel is located at 41 Tunnel Road in Berkeley.
I was a guest of Claremont Club and Spa, a Fairmont Hotel for the purpose of this feature. Opinions, as always, are my own. Non-watermarked images courtesy of Fairmont Hotels.