Wining and dining in the Arizona Valley

The Royal Palms Resort in Phoenix was built by financier Delos Cooke in 1929 and is considered to be one of the country's finest resorts.

When the First Family recently stayed at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix, the red carpet was rolled out to the extreme. This lush resort is one of America’s finest. Delores McKay, the resort’s director of estate experiences, went to extraordinary measures to ensure every moment at this historic estate, built by financier Delos Cooke in 1929 and renovated in 1997, would impress the First Family.

The Bushes were in Phoenix for the final presidential debate, which took place in nearby Tempe. Ms. McKay conducted extensive research on Laura Bush, whose greatest passion in life is reading. So McKay sourced a vintage 1933 limited edition, three-volume set of Fydor Dostoyevskys’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” signed by the illustrator, Alexander King. Alongside this was a vintage 1906 edition of the works of John Keats. And if this wasn’t the epitome of literary delight, there was a custom handmade bookmark with Laura’s quote: “There is no magic like the magic of the written word.” The extent of this ultimate in personalization has established the Royal Palms’ director of estate experiences as a leader in the fine art of welcoming VIPS.

Aside from the monogrammed Royal Palms bathrobes for Laura, Barbara and Jenna (George received his on a previous visit), there was a custom handcrafted cookie jar with the inscription, “Laura’s Cowboy Cookies,” and lavish floral arrangements throughout the suite filled with yellow roses and wild flowers. Enhancing this well-choreographed presentation was the leather scrapbook designed for the First Family with 40 Bush photos from baby pictures of Laura and George to quotes from writers, philosophers and public figures. One of those quotes made history, as the President used it in his closing remarks at the debate.

Not to be overlooked was a custom humidor of 1942 pre-embargo Cuban cigars for the president, which just happened to be the same brand cigars that Winston Churchill smoked during World War II.

For those not privy to presidential status, superior service is still number one here. The new Mediterranean-inspired Alvadora Spa has a scintillating menu, offering treatments such as the Lavender and Aloe Quench massage (60 minutes) and the Royal Body Polish (60 minutes). If you want to enjoy the Royal Palms in presidential style, the Presidential Villa-with its light apricot, pearl walls and canopy bed with hand-caved frame and white satin bed accessories-can be reserved for $2,000 per night during the summer season (June 1-Sept. 8). And by the way, the Royal Palms Resort has a director of romance, Paul Xanthopoulos, a man with a heart who is responsible for planning more than 200 engagement proposals and as many weddings and birthdays!

While some may call this a rather effusive welcome, the truth is world-class resorts and hotels around the world are micromanaging special services for high-profile guests. And money is no object when it comes to making the correct impression. Excess has become synonymous with success. This is evident from the debut of stunning spas such as the new 65,000-square-foot Spa & Salon, set to open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in December and a gastronomic event celebrating New Year’s Eve at Les Ambassadeurs, the legendary restaurant fit for a king and queen at the Crillon Hotel in Paris.


In Paris, steps from the American Embassy, dinner at Les Ambassadeurs overseen by Chef Jean Francois Piege promises to be a dinner with culinary surprises. One such surprise is their tea presentation, exquisitely displayed on a rolling cart. Taking the tea selection process to a new level, the cart has an arrangement of potted tea plants, displaying varieties such as verbena and mint. Fresh tea leaves are snipped from the tea “pot” of your choice, then steeped and returned for the tea service. This is just one of the dramatic culinary events you might experience here. An evening of earthly delights unfolding in this 18th century ballroom costs $900 per person. But can you put a price on viewing the Eiffel Tower at the stroke of midnight with its glittering display of lights? The venerable Crillon with the best address in town-10, Place de la Concorde-has a mesmerizing view of it all.

Make It Happen:

€ The Royal Palms 800.672.6011

€ The Crillon, Leading Hotels of the World 800.223.6800

€ Bellagio, 888.987.6667

Pamela Price is the co-author, with Laura Kath of the fifth edition of “Fun with the Family in Southern CA.” (