24 Hour Room Service: Cal Neva Nevada, USA
Saturday 22 July 2006
There's one name that dominates the Cal Neva Resort at Lake Tahoe: Frank Sinatra. There are pictures of him everywhere, and his music is played in all the public rooms. Forty-two years ago, he owned this resort, which straddles the California-Nevada border (hence the name). There was a time when Dean Martin was one of Sinatra's partners, and he would joke that "Frank had the casino and I had the men's room".
The singer probably would have continued to own it if there hadn't been unfortunate connections. The Nevada Gaming Commission ruled that the Mafia don Sam Giancana was more than just a sleeping partner and that Sinatra should lose his gaming licence because of the relationship. Nevertheless, the Sinatra association has made it a place of pilgrimage for fans of Ol' Blue Eyes ever since. Guests come to see those pictures - and, with luck, stay in the bungalow that was his home every time he played there. They can also gamble - but only on the Nevada side of the hotel. You can swim in the pool with your head in California and your feet in Nevada - or, if you like, cross the state line by standing inelegantly with legs apart in the main lounge.
Most intriguingly, you can take a tour along the tunnel that Sinatra had built under the hotel, so that he could walk from the showroom stage to his bungalow without anyone seeing him. Supposedly, the hotel also has its own ghost - a weeping Marilyn Monroe, who decides when the lights should be turned on or off.
If you can't manage to book the Sinatra or Dean Martin bungalows - not to mention those used by Monroe or Giancana - there are several others on site. Alternatively, the seven-storey hotel tower offers the comforts you expect from an American hotel, and the kind of views that you don't.
The hotel has a large swimming pool, Jacuzzi, health spa and a gift shop crammed with Sinatra merchandise. It plans to reopen the showroom soon - as built by Sinatra, who also commissioned its murals, telling the story of entertainment.
Cal Neva Inn, 2 Stateline Road, Crystalbay, Nevada 89402 (001 800 225 6832; www.calnevaresort.com). On the north shore of Lake Tahoe, with skiing in winter, swimming in summer, beautiful all year round.
Time from international airport: the closest is Reno, an hour's drive away. There is an occasional bus, but most people use taxis ($85/£50). There are no direct flights to Reno from UK; the best connections are from San Francisco.
There are 200 lake-facing rooms, as well as chalets and bungalows, all with large beds and spacious baths.
Keeping in touch: the hotel is installing an up-to-date messaging system. There are direct-dial phones.
Freebies: the usual toiletries, plus a coffee machine.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Lake-view rooms start from $109 (£63); cabin from $119 (£69).
I'm not paying that: directly opposite is Lake Tahoe Biltmore Hotel (001 800 245 8667; www.tahoe-biltmore.com), with double rooms from $39 (£23).
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