Old Biltmore Carries On

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The Biltmore Hotel, nestled among the affluent residences here, evokes images of old-world elegance and famous celebrities. In its heyday, the hotel's guest register included the likes of the Vanderbilts, the Roosevelts and Hollywood's elite.

Today, the property caters to a variety of guests, from conference attendees to wedding parties. But it is also an excellent place to begin or end a cruise vacation. Located five miles from Miami airport and 15 minutes from the Port of Miami, this 280-room landmark offers cruisers a welcome respite between the plane ride and the embarkation process.

The Biltmore's architectural centerpiece is a 15-story, 300-foot copper-clad tower modeled after the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain.

Entering the hotel's lobby is like stepping into another world. Here, Mediterranean revival-style accents include large Italian marble columns, floors and decorative ceilings. The lobby also supports a magnificent hearth at one end and is home to several tropical birds in stone and brass birdcages.

The Biltmore Hotel was built in 1926 and was considered a major social and cultural center of Miami. However, its success was short-lived as it became a casualty of the Great Depression. It was taken over by the federal government and served as a military hospital from 1942 until 1968.

In 1972, the Biltmore became the property of the city of Coral Gables and remained unoccupied for many years. In 1987, the city reopened the Biltmore Hotel, and in 1992 it was taken over by a multinational consortium led by Seaway Hotel Corp.

The property, an affiliate of Westin Hotels & Resorts, was designated a National Historic Landmark by the federal government in 1996.

Last summer, the hotel completed an extensive upgrade of all guest rooms. The work included new carpeting, bedspreads, European feather beds, draperies and furniture. Rooms feature armoires, safes, minibars and fax machines. This completed the second round of refurbishments. A $55 million restoration process was completed in 1987.

The pool at the Biltmore is almost as famous as the property itself. It is considered to be the largest pool in the continental U.S., accommodating 600,000 gallons of water and measuring 22,000 square feet.

Canary Island palms, coral stone, grass walkways and plants all make for a tropical atmosphere poolside. The area also features a grill restaurant and private cabanas.

The Biltmore offers two restaurants. The Courtyard Cafe is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and features a Caribbean/Southwestern cuisine. The 110-seat La Palme d'Or, formerly the Biltmore's Il Ristorante, opened in October and serves French cuisine nightly.

The restaurant hosts Michelin-rated guest chefs from France each month in a program called Le Tour des Toques. The program, cosponsored by Air France, enables guest chefs to prepare signature dishes, which are then featured on the restaurant's menu for a month. Chefs visit the first week of every month and hold an interactive culinary demonstration and lunch for locals and members of the Biltmore's wine club, known as the Cellar Club.

The hotel also has an 18-hole championship golf course, 10 tennis courts and a full spa and fitness center.

Meeting facilities include two main ballrooms, the Granada and Alhambra, and 21 meeting rooms ranging in size from 400 square feet to 4,000.

Biltmore Hotel
Phone: (800) 727-1926, (800) WESTIN-1.
Web: biltmorehotel.com.

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