Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms
Most business travelers who came through California’s famed Silicon Valley – birthplace of the tech revolution of the 1980s – will certainly remember the old Radisson Hotel on Sunnyvale’s famed El Camino Real.
Sunnyvale’s version of the Radisson was very 1970s: Dim in places, somewhat frumpy, devoid of a true California personality. Yet, even more important for business travelers, the old Radisson was woefully behind the times, lacking in the cutting-edge conveniences that the ‘running’ and the ‘wired’ require in order to make their quota.
However, all that’s changed after the face-lift this haggard old edifice received. In April (2008), the final touches on the multi-million dollar renovation of the former Radisson property in Sunnyvale was completed and the doors were opened on The Domain Hotel.
The Domain formally took over the reins from the Radisson in December 2006; after the proper municipal permits were acquired, a six-month renovation was launched culminating in a grand-opening party on April 17th for over 400 people.
The Domain is part of Joie de Vivre Hospitality (translated, it means “the joy of life”), which serves as the largest boutique hotel chain in California. Joie de Vivre is the literal embodiment of the vision of founder Chip Conley – this chain of hotels known for comfort and practicality, noted for an undying commitment to the needs of the traveler.
“Our vision is to create a unique Casual California style hotel that focuses on bringing the outdoors inside,” General Manager Khaled Kaawar says, referencing The Domain’s mission statement. “This project has focused on building state-of-the-art meeting and event facilities that can accommodate large groups while also offering innovative guest rooms with amenities like flat-panel televisions and wireless internet access – these contemporary, simple and honestoffice spaces that you can actually sleep in.”
The Domain extends the over-all mission of Joie de Vivre properties with finesse and grace, as a sharp and diligent staff provide effortless behind-the-scenes support to the array of lawyers, computer programmers and software engineers that regularly use the place as their home-away-from-home.
Simply, The Domain is about providing a comfortable and high-tech home for business travelers accustomed to a fast-paced schedule that affords no time for tasks like hunting down a place to write (imagine still needing a place to write because that hotel room you’ve just plunked down 200 dollars for doesn’t have desk-space for both a laptop and a legal pad!).
The Domain is comprised of a collection of 136 rooms all meant to accommodate the weary business-traveler who needs a soft place to rest before the work day calls back. The best part of a Domain room is all in the bed: Ultra-comfortable Sleep Number Beds allow the individual to set the firmness of the mattress to accommodate personal needs. The importance of these amenities can’t be over-stated, since so many business travelers struggle with bad backs and neck strain (the unfortunate result of long-hours hunched in front of a computer screen). In addition, beds are out-fitted with loads of extra pillows of varied size and firmness which let you sleep or watch television in absolute luxury. And speaking of televisions, don’t expect those stumbling old dinosaurs of yesteryear. Instead, at The Domain, travelers are greeted with unbelievably clear 32-inch flat-screen televisions that boast clarity of picture and clarity of sound. The advantage here is that you don’t have to blast the sound to hear the show, as these sets serve as a hearty reflection of the best of Silicon Valley know-how. Additionally, rooms come out-fitted with a plush bedside chair and dual bedside lamps that feature positional dimmer switches (these lamps similar to those at the Galleria Park reviewed above– a wonderful feature that gives you extra light for reading or for the midnight-snack television hour). Investigating the ‘basics’ further, the lavatory is clean and spacious, with lather-bath soaps and plenty of towels – with textured tile on the floor that doesn’t leave you scrambling for your balance as you plod out of the shower. Also, extra-long closets come with two sliding mirrored-doors that allow you to dress and groom without being pressed against the sink in a steamy bathroom. Finally, any review of The Domain would be remiss if it failed to mention the desk space: A long desk extends the length of the front wall and offers ample room for a laptop, open brief case and papers. Each room is wired for high-speed internet (as is the entire hotel), and people on deadline can work at their own pace in their own room without having to use the bed as a desk (as so many hotels force you to do). In sum, the rooms at The Domain are about utility with style – posh but ever-so-practical, a statement about keeping up with the times as Joie de Vivre elevates to meet the 21st-century landscape.
Going beyond the rooms…a host of intangibles flow together to make this the choice for lodging in the Silicon Valley. Patrons will quickly notice the spacious lobby: Chairs and ottomans strategically located offer a place for small groups to meet and chat (while also providing a place for an out-of-the room coffee break). However, The Domain’s commitment to helping people do business while on the road is personified by the array of meeting rooms that grace the first floor. Five full-size meeting rooms carry the potential to serve myriad business-planning needs (from education or healthcare-based seminars requiring a ‘classroom-style’ setting to smaller-sized conference rooms that would be perfect for arbitrations or mediations: The sound-proof walls and instant-computer access giving a state-of-art sheen to The Domain’s brand new design). The Domain also features an on-site restaurant (Bytes – its moniker in step with the rich computer history of Sunnyvale and her sprawling Valley). Bytes is quite unique in terms of hotel eateries, and anyone who stays at The Domain is going to want to give this place a try. In short, Bytes is about small plates and big drinks – the idea of the restaurant to provide modest-sized meals and generous cocktails (with some mega 60 ounce drinks that can be shared by the whole party). The Domain’s on-site chef, Brigido Pacheco, has engineered a classy transition from that typical heavy/fried hotel fare one often encounters, the Bytes’ menu favoring more health-conscious meals. Entrees such as the grilled salmon with Veracruz rice and the oven-roasted chicken breast with artichokes and steamed green beans glisten with flavor – these satisfying meals that fill you up but don’t leave you belching. The dessert list is decadent, delicate and creative; bluntly, the melty chocolate soufflé cake and rice pudding with sour cherry sauce would be permanent fixtures in any North Beach coffee house. Finally, The Domain houses a first-floor Business Center that permits travelers who aren’t equipped with their own laptops to check email and use the internet for free (with a flat-screen TV mounted so you can catch the news as you click and serf). The Business Center feature mirrors the totality of Joie de Vivre’s bigger vision – rather than nickel-and-dime a guy at every turn, the hotel’s managers have instead opted to present this as a complimentary service (something that makes a bigger statement about heart of The Domain than any reviewer could).
LOCATION: This is a key Silicon Valley city and The Domain is the jewel of the neighborhood. Located off of The Lawrence Expressway and 101 South (within 60 minutes of three major metropolitan airports), The Domain is on El Camino Real and within walking distance of several restaurants, a convenience market and a bar – with these establishments just a few moments away you can devote the day to the demands of the job. In addition, the noise level in the area is modest (even on weekend nights), and it’s likely you won’t be disturbed by neighborhood rowdies or urchins prowling about the street.
EXTRAS: The extras here include free and ample parking (directly adjacent to the hotel or in the spacious underground garage which is serviced by an elevator).
PLUS: An in-room refrigerator; notable California wines in the Bytes’ lounge; complimentary fitness center, Jacuzzi and pool; suites featuring private Jacuzzis; complimentary shuttles to and from local corporate offices; and free in-room Wi-Fi/high speed internet.
PRICE: Ranging from $99 to $399. Price based on availability, room-size and day of week.