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Hotel Metropole
Avalon, Catalina Island, CA 90704
310-510-1884

Hotel Metropole Home Page

September 2006

Welcome to www.weloveourlife.com. This is our page dedicated to our experiences while staying at the Hotel Metropole in Avalon on Catalina Island, CA.


Accommodations Amenities Food Bar/Lounge Service Attractions Dining Nightlife Weather Tips

Accommodations

We stayed in one of the premier accommodations available at Hotel Metropole. Our room (#320) was located on the third floor, and opened onto a sizable balcony that overlooked Crescent Avenue (the main street in Avalon), the ocean, and the Casino – a magnificent view.

The room itself was massive and contained a king-size bed, table and two chairs, TV, DVD player, fireplace, couch, stuffed chair, and desk and chair. There were shutters that opened into the bathroom over the double whirlpool. The bathroom was a generous size and also included a large vanity, toilet, and shower. The décor was casual with hints of blue, and the woodwork was distressed.

Although the room was very large, the sheer size of it almost sacrificed some character, as it appeared more like a hotel room. A weird thing was that it seemed every working light had its own switch, and it was difficult to figure out what switch worked a given light. The balcony was a nice size and contained table and chairs, and we spent quite a bit of time out there reading, relaxing, and drinking in the gorgeous view. All in all, this was a very nice room, but perhaps a bit devoid of character.

Inn Amenities

There are very few pools on Catalina, and the inn did not have one. But it did have a roof-top Jacuzzi in a quaint corner surrounded by chaise lounges and plants. A glass wall permitted a nice view of the harbor. We ended up not using the Jacuzzi like we planned to because: a) the water was far too hot, and b) there weren’t any working jets. So that was a bit of a disappointment.

There was a computer with Internet access, but it cost $5 per day (we paid for access). It seemed one had to ask for everything, Lori saw the computer on a trip to inspect the rooftop Jacuzzi, and we had to call to inquire how to access it. An agreement to pay the fee and a password were required. We would have thought that would have been explained at check-in. There were separate, darker towels to be used with the rooftop Jacuzzi. Again, those had to be requested and signed for. If they were not returned, a fee was charged to the guest. As far as we could tell, that was about it for amenities, although they did store our bags when we arrived too early to check in, and when we had to check out hours before our trip back to the mainland (it would seem most of the hotels on the island offer this service as well).

Inn Food

The hotel did not have a restaurant. Continental breakfast was included. The reviews we had read prior to our visit weren’t strong on Hotel Metropole’s continental breakfast, so we skipped it and went elsewhere. There were vending machines with drinks, but they were expensive ($2!). The one thing that was free was ice. There was a minibar in the room with the usual fare.

Inn Bar/Lounge

The hotel did not have a bar or lounge; we brought our own. Of course, there are plenty of bars to be had in Catalina, as well as several stores that sold beer, wine, and liquor.

Inn People/Service

We have to be honest – we were disappointed with the people we encountered at Hotel Metropole. When we first arrived, it was 11:30 a.m. and we knew it was too early to check in; we were merely hoping to store our bags until later. First of all, they couldn’t find our reservation, and as Lori started digging around for it, they found it. Then they reminded us our room was not guaranteed to be ready until 3 (which we knew). They did store our bags and gave us a claim check for them. The staff on duty at the desk seemed to be very young and inexperienced, and we were surprised by this. We had just come from spending several days at a very well-run inn and the service was quite a let-down from where we had been. There is one person who stood out, and that was Jose, who delivered our bags. Every time we saw him, he smiled and said a few nice words. Of course, Jose was quite a bit older than the crew at the desk. On the day we checked in, we were sitting in the tub when Lori thought she heard a banging sound. We shut off the tub and after ascertaining it wasn’t our door, we ignored it. When we got out of the tub, we heard the banging again and it kept getting louder. We finally determined it was the room beneath us, and upon further investigation, we saw they were renovating the room and making quite a racket. The noise finally stopped at 6 p.m.

The following morning at 8 a.m. the banging resumed, must to our chagrin (we had been asleep). We understand it is sometimes necessary to renovate while guests are in residence, but the hotel seemed fairly full and we thought banging around loudly at 8 a.m. was downright rude. Keith picked up the phone and called the front desk. They said they would put a stop to it. A few minutes later the banging ceased and we relaxed. Just as we started to drift off, the phone rang, and it was the front desk wanting to know if the banging had stopped. We realized at that point it was futile to even think about sleeping any longer.

The rooms at this hotel are expensive and the facilities are very nice, but we think that management may want to consider staffing the front desk with staff who are a bit older and more mature and would have the common sense to know that having a vendor install carpet at 8 in the morning when the hotel has few vacancies is not a way to ensure repeat visits.

Area/Attractions

Catalina is a magical little place, and we enjoyed the time we had there. Although it is indeed California, it seems to run at a slower pace and the people are very friendly. We were pleasantly surprised by our experience and highly recommend it – it is well worth the extra effort it takes to get there. We took four tours with the Santa Catalina Island Company; please see our itinerary for further details. We did see some of the wild bison that live on the island during one of our trips.

Walking around the town of Avalon is easy, since it’s flat. There are plenty of interesting shops in which to browse, and a multitude of dining options. The beach is right in town. Take a walk towards the Casino and beyond it you will find Descanso Beach Club – a beach with water sports and a bar/restaurant on-site.

To get around Catalina, either rent a golf cart (cars are not available as they are limited on the island) or take one of the many fascinating tours. Catalina is also a destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. Hikers and campers enjoy the island, as 88% of the land is public and permanently protected. There are two ways to get to Catalina: either by boat or fly. Getting there is half the adventure. We took the a href="http://www.catalinaexpress.com/index.php">Catalina Express from Dana Point, which is a 90-minut ride. The seas were calm and we rode outside on our way over to the island. There is even a golf course on the island. We really enjoyed Catalina and hope to get back there someday.

Dining Catalina Cantina - 313 Crescent Avenue, Avalon, CA 310-510-0100
This is a great place to people-watch, and that’s exactly what we did. We settled ourselves at one of the outward-facing tables late on a Tuesday morning and watched cruise ship passengers stroll about in a myriad of interesting fashions. We started with margaritas. Keith had a chicken quesadilla and Lori had a shrimp quesadilla. We followed that with beers while we continued to watch the people. This place also has a great selection of tequila and we came back later the next evening for Keith to have a sip of one of his favorites.

Steve’s Steakhouse – 417 Crescent Avenue, Avalon, CA 310-510-0333
Steve's Steakhouse Home Page
We went to Steve’s for dinner. It’s on the second floor overlooking the main drag and the beautiful view of the harbor. We did not have a reservation (it was a Tuesday and we didn’t think we’d need one if we went early). We were given a table by one of the open-air arches with a great view, but it was 6 p.m. when we got there. The restaurant filled up quickly and it is definitely a good idea to make a reservation. Steve’s has a nice selection of wines by the glass, which is great if you and your dining partner are going for different things, as we were. Keith had shiraz and Lori had sauvignon blanc. Keith had a 6-ounce filet mignon – a beautiful cut of meat with a nice béarnaise sauce, an da Caesar salad. Lori started with steamed clams, and her entrée was Shrimp Avalon (scampi on garlic bread). The Potatoes Romano were a wonderful accompaniment. Our server was friendly and it was a nice experience.

Busy Bee – 306 Crescent Avenue, Avalon, CA 310-510-1983
We had breakfast one morning at the Busy Bee. This restaurant is mostly outdoor seating over the water (nearly all tables are covered by umbrellas). We both had eggs benedict with avocado (Keith added ham). We had our first fresh-brewed unsweetened iced tea of our California trip at the Busy Bee! This may not seem like a major feat, but we had been without one of our favorite beverages for five days. We returned to the Busy Bee the following day for lunch and for more iced tea. Keith had a chicken breast sandwich with BBQ sauce and Lori had a shrimp basket. After lunch, we had mai tais. We noted there was a classic rock station playing that we were enjoying (it seems the rest of Avalon insisted on listening to oldies – as in doo wop music). The servers at Busy Bee were really great. Unfortunately, they were only open for breakfast and lunch when we visited.

Antonio’s Pizzeria & Cabaret - 230 Crescent Avenue, Avalon, CA 310-510-0008
Antonio's Home Page
We had lunch at Antonio’s one day. The tables overlooking the water were full, so we ate inside at a window overlooking the water. Antonio’s has lots of memorabilia and dark wood inside (and the veritable doo wop music), and there are peanuts on the tables (and shells on the floor). We had some cold beer and split a small thin crust pizza and home-made potato chips with mustard sauce. Yum! Our server told us she worked at Catalina in the summer and Key West in the winter (sounds like she’s got a plan).

Armstrong’s Fish Market & Seafood Restaurant – 306 Crescent Avenue, Avalon, CA 310-510-0113
Armstrong's Home Page
Armstrong’s also overlooks the water and has seats both inside and outside. Our server was MIA so another capable server took over for her. We ordered a bottle of Little Rusack Chardonnay (CA) – our server told us they carried the wine expressly because it was owned by the Wrigley family (who also were responsible for the rise of Catalina). It was a very “big” wine but tasty. Lori had two appetizers: bay shrimp/crab cocktail, followed by the crab cake appetizer, and Keith had chicken teriyaki. Again, seating is limited, so reserve ahead to get a sought-after table with a view.

Joe’s Place – 501 Crescent Avenue, Avalon, CA 310-510-0491
This is a quaint little diner on the main drag in Avalon. We had breakfast there – omelets. There were some pretty cool murals on the wall, and it seemed like the woman at the cash register had been there forever (the kind of person who calls everyone “hon”). This is about as close as Avalon gets to fast food.

Nightlife

There is nightlife in Avalon, but you’re more likely to find it during the summer months. We went there the week after Labor Day, and already places were on their “winter” schedules. The bartender at Antonio’s told us there was karaoke at El Galleon, but when we walked over, the sign said no karaoke due to “winter hours.” This being California, we figured when the temperature dipped into the 60s at night they figured it was winter. We didn’t really go there for the nightlife, but if you look for it, you will likely find it.

Weather

We were there in early September, and the weather was beautiful. It was sunny and warm during the day, but it could get chilly in the shade. Nighttime temperatures were cooler (but not too cool). Catalina has a Mediterranean-like climate and does not receive a lot of rain.

Tips/Suggestions

Be sure to take several SCICO tours (depending on how long you are there). It gives you a unique perspective on the island. Definitely walk down to the Casino and take a tour if you can – it’s worthwhile and the building is stunning. Take a camera and expect to take a lot of pictures – the scenery lends itself easily to photography. If you are going by ferry, reserve your tickets in advance. You cannot take as much luggage to Catalina as you can check on a plane. Bags must be smaller in size. We took collapsible bags in our luggage and used them to carry what we needed to Catalina.