The sky has already darkened. The wind pounces on us from between the gaps in buildings like a well-timed jump scare. This is typical in Los Angeles, of course. As soon as the sun leaves our sight, nature gives us the cold shoulder. But we—my friend Kristin and I—press on, greatly motivated by the fact that we’ll soon reach a sanctuary that’s welcoming and warm, in more ways than one.
People say that Christmas in California doesn’t really feel like Christmas, and while a part of that is true, I do have to say this: I love Christmas on the West Coast. The folks here really, really go all out to compensate for the lack of snow. The Grove transforms into a little winter wonderland, complete with absolutely stunning lighting installations, Santa’s workshop and an enormous tree. (Really, try looking up for more than a few minutes. It’ll give you a neck cramp). Beverly Hills lights up so beautifully, too. And if you’re lucky enough to be in Disneyland during this time of year, I mean, you’ve hit the Christmas jackpot.
“Have you ever been to the Biltmore during Christmas?” Kristin asks before gushing about just how beautiful it is this time of year. I don’t doubt her for a second. The 97-year-old hotel, on a regular, non-Christmas day, is grand and stately, with a warm, old-world charm that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. You have to remember: this is where Hollywood luminaries flocked for lavish parties and dinners. That kind of glamor never really goes away.
These days, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel is a popular wedding destination for lots of architecture-lovin’ couples. (You must have a tiny itch for gorgeous, ornate interiors if you decide to tie the knot at the Biltmore). In fact, there’s someone getting married there tonight. When Kristin and I come round the corner, we spot a bridal party milling around by the entrance. “It’s probably a wedding,” I note the obvious, as we weave through the crowd of well-dressed guests and step into the warmth of the hotel lobby. Yep, I think, nodding to myself. Yep, it’s beautiful.
Every corner of this storied Los Angeles building looks like something out of a storybook. Think: life-size nutcrackers, meticulously decorated staircases and stunning poinsettia displays. Oh, and the tree. That tree! It just fits so beautifully in the midst of the old-world architecture. So you can see why the Biltmore is a magical place to celebrate the holidays.
We stroll down the main galleria, and turn into the Rendezvous Court, where a pianist riffs on Christmas songs that are changed a little, but still so easily familiar. Beautiful, fleeting notes flit up and down the piano, swelling between the travertine walls and vaulted ceiling. Kristin and I exchange smiles as we slowly meander down the baroque double staircase (which, by the way, is spruced up with a garland adorned with gold-and-red baubles and ribbons).
Afternoon high tea service is just about wrapping up, and waiters are scurrying around to clear out empty teapots and dessert trays. We settle ourselves discreetly at one of the tables that has yet to be cleaned, and I let my eyes roam. I’m not sure if it’s the smell of pastry hanging in the air, or all this festive decor, but looking around, I’m suddenly overwhelmed by a very specific kind of nostalgia. It’s the kind I feel whenever I watch a cozy, outrageously cheesy Netflix Christmas flick. Like all’s right with the world. Like all is very, very merry.
Want to sip on a hot cuppa while taking in the holiday decor? Click here for more info on Afternoon Tea Service at Rendezvous Court.