Sunday, February 16, 2014

Girls Getaway to Rancho Santa Fe

Part two of my Southern Californian jaunt was at Rancho Valencia in Rancho Santa Fe, the only Relais
& Chateaux property in Southern California. This resort just underwent a $30 million renovation and it shows. Each casita is outfitted with oak flooring, vaulted ceilings and antiqued French limestone bathrooms. I love the spacious counters, vibrant tiles and handcrafted furniture, much of it custom-made in Mexico.

It may sound strange, but perhaps the coolest and most memorable amenity is the Neorest toilet in each casita. Sensors in the bathroom recognize when you enter and the lid automatically lifts. The seats are heated and an automated bidet is built into the toilet, with multiple cleaning and drying settings. It might seem a little too high-tech at first, but the buttons are really easy to navigate.

We had our own Jacuzzi and two fireplaces, one indoor and one outdoor. Turn down service brought robes, slippers and chocolate caramels from a local chocolatier. The same chocolatier makes the fleur de sel caramels served as mignardise at the end of dinner at Veladora, the more formal restaurant at Rancho. While outdoor dining is available (and you can see so many stars!), it was quite chilly in the evening so we opted to dine in the plush booths beside the fireplace. Veladora means “candle” in Spanish, and there is plenty of candlelight here. A Damien Hirst collage of real butterflies splashes a kaleidoscope of greens, blues, oranges and yellows across the back wall. This color palette inspired much of the design throughout the resort.

The main building, or clubhouse, hosts a reception area with a spacious courtyard and fireplace with the same Spanish Revival themes of vibrant tiles and rustic wood seen throughout the resort. During the big renovation, the whitewashed finish was removed to create a warmer dining experience in Veladora. The clubhouse is home to both Veladora and The Pony Room, a more casual restaurant serving food from the same kitchen along with excellent cocktails. Both restaurants serve delicious California coastal fare, utilizing incredibly fresh and flavorful produce and seafood.  

Breakfast is maybe my favorite meal at Veladora. Definitely try the acai bowl with granola, bananas, bee pollen and shredded coconut if you’re looking for a light and sweet start to your day.

Definitely book a spa appointment for all the ladies. I chose the balancing blue lotus facial for its healing properties using algae, bamboo, lotus and other plants. After cleansing, exfoliation and extractions, I had two masks applied to my face, for purifying and hydrating my skin.
After my treatment, I opened my eyes to see the sun streaming into the room and took an energizing outdoor shower while basking in the sun, then rehydrated with lemon-infused water and a green juice of apples, kale and celery that’s also available at Veladora.

Another fun aspect of Rancho Valencia is the prevalence of fitness classes. From yoga and pilates to
spin and tennis classes, there’s something for everyone. It’s so much fun to take classes with friends, whether you’re looking to sweat or just stretch with hatha yoga. The new yoga pavilion has retractable doors set in the middle of a tranquility pond so it appears to be floating. I enjoyed a vinyasa yoga and ballet sculpt class here, the latter of white left my glutes and quads sore for days! I was especially impressed that small group classes are available with the pilates reformer at no additional charge, which is very rare. There are only four reformers, so these fill up quickly, but it can be a fun way to do pilates with a girlfriend.

Don’t miss tennis either. Whether you’re an old pro or brand new, there are plenty of courts to practice on and Tennis Magazine has ranked Rancho Valencia the number one tennis resort in the country for several years. You can even get a private lesson with a pro, and I guarantee you’ll see immense improvements in your game if you do! I hadn’t played tennis in nearly six years but Eduardo helped work on my ground strokes and taught me a side spin serve that I will definitely practice when I get home. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or treating yourself for a “just because” girlfriend getaway, this resort is worth every penny. Surrounding yourself with the beauty of nature and relax or exercise as much as you want. Everything you could possibly need is right at your fingertips and it’s hard to leave the resort, although we did venture out to Del Mar to run into the Pacific Ocean.

Author Amber Gibson is a Food/Travel Writer, Model & Actress from Chicago. To find out more about Amber, 

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