Allegretto Vineyard Resort | Paso Robles, CA

When someone mentions the California Wine Country, I’m pretty sure Napa Valley is the first place that comes to mind for most people. However as some wine lovers are aware, there has been a quiet evolution going on in California’s Central Coast for the past decade or so that is offering a viable alternative to Napa Valley…if you are not already aware of this area, let me acquaint you with the Paso Robles Wine Region.

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The Paso Robles Wine Region is located approximately equal distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles and is home to more than 200 wineries, most of which are family owned and operated, and has the perfect climate for producing award-winning premium wines. The Paso Robles AVA {American Viticultural Area, a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States} is acknowledged for its wide range of grape varietals including ZinfandelBordeauxCabernet Sauvignon, and most recently the Rhône varieties, including the first Syrah planted in California. Paso Robles is also receiving recognition for its original Paso blends that are unique to the area.

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Lumière Hotel | Telluride, CO

Okay, I’m going to let you all in on my little secret…I’m in love with Colorado! There I said it. And Telluride in particular. I have been seduced by Telluride’s beauty and charm ~ the historic western town with its adorable boutique shops, art galleries, and trendy restaurants; I’ve been awestruck by the stunning mountain peaks, reminiscent of the Swiss Alps, that loom over the town boasting its flowing waterfalls and rainbow colored mountain-tops at sunset. A vision so striking that it can take your breath away.

This former mining town is now a well sought-after vacation destination, and while we all know this region to be a snow skier’s paradise, it offers some pretty spectacular summer adventures as well. So you can imagine that year-round this quaint town is quite active with visitors. This is something you may want to consider when deciding where to stay.

As my readers have come to know, I am always searching for that hidden gem ~ a luxury hotel that offers something distinctive and represents its region. In doing my research for my visit to Telluride, one hotel kept coming to the forefront ~ the Lumière Hotel.

The Lumière Hotel is an intimate 29-room luxury hotel and residences located in Mountain Village which sits approximately 800 feet in elevation above the town of Telluride. The two distinct towns are joined by a gondola system which provides a free and convenient form of transportation with generous daily operating hours from 7am to midnight.

In my opinion, there are some distinct advantages to staying in Mountain Village. Staying in Mountain Village allows you the convenience of parking your car for the duration of your stay while utilizing the gondola system to get to downtown; or should you want to explore the surrounding area, Mountain Village allows you the ease of coming and going without dealing with the issues of fighting the tourist traffic downtown, or trying to find a parking space. I made the mistake of driving directly into downtown Telluride before checking into Lumière and, due to some road work, I encountered some serious gridlock in the tiny town. So you can imagine my delight when I found out I could abandon my car until my departure.

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Property

The truth is that Mountain Village is a town unto itself. Located in the public plaza of the village you will find restaurants, shops, entertainment, even a liquor store and such services as financial firms and realtors. There are several accommodation options, such as condo residences and a couple hotels. And with a quick gondola hop over to the next station, you’ll find a market as well.

Lumière is conveniently located in the heart of Mountain Village steps away to the gondola, restaurants, bars, shops and the public plaza. Yet, Lumière has the distinction of being set just outside the public plaza, that can become quite congested during peak seasons. This position gives Lumière all the conveniences of being in the midst of Mountain Village and yet allows its guests an opportunity to step away from the crowds of the plaza when desired.

This luxury boutique hotel is all about providing personalized service, attention to detail and creating a welcoming environment. In 2016, the hotel was purchased by Clare Afman and Susie Schaefer-Russel, who had both been existing members of the executive management team at the hotel. Under their ownership, the hotel has received many accolades and has quickly become one of Telluride’s top luxury hotels.

I had the pleasure of meeting Clare and her husband, Bas Afman, Asst. General Mgr., who both exude a warm and friendly demeanor. In watching them interact with the guests, it is apparent that their main objective is to make sure each guest is taken care of and has an enjoyable experience, and this is a principle that is followed by all the staff.

I experienced this do whatever it takes attitude, when upon my check-out, Bas took on the role as my Valet in pulling out my car and loading my luggage. I found it refreshing that he was willing to assist me in that manner when apparently the regular Valet was not available. This type of conscientious service is what you can expect at Lumière.

Check-in

As I turned into the Mountain Village from the main road, I was in awe as I drove by some stately homes scattered along an expansive pasture with the gorgeous San Juan Mountains in the background. As I continued driving towards the core of the village, the expansive landscape began to condense into multi-story condos, residences, and hotels offering ski-in/ski-out accommodations and I eventually found myself at a roundabout in front of the Lumière Hotel.

I was immediately greeted by a friendly Valet who escorted me to the fourth floor where there is an intimate greeting area. A discrete desk tucked in a corner serves as the reception, as well as, the concierge desk. To me, it felt more like being a personal visitor than an ordinary hotel guest. The whole process was a simple and pleasant experience. Complimentary wi-fi and online access to The New York Times is available throughout your stay. 

Guest Rooms

The Lumière Hotel consists of 11 hotel rooms and 18 residences ranging from 1-5 bedrooms which include 3 Penthouses (see descriptions here).

All the units are designed in the same mountain chic contemporary style with rich wood-beamed ceilings, warm fabrics, nice artwork and fun splashes of orange accents creating an upscale residential environment. The hotel rooms offer a King or Queen bed with a kitchen bar offering a coffee maker, microwave and mini Sub-Zero refrigerator, while the residences offer a full chef’s kitchen including a Wolf range, full-sized Sub-Zero refrigerator, washer/dryer and pantry. Many of the rooms can be connected to create larger living spaces for family or friends to stay together.

I stayed in a one-bedroom residence (#60) on the sixth floor that had a large deck and incredible views of the San Juan Mountains during the day and golden sunsets each evening. The 1000 sq. ft. unit has a cozy living area with a sofa sleeper, a dining room, extra half-bath, full kitchen and spacious master bedroom and bathroom with a steam shower and soaking tub. It was an incredibly comfortable and enjoyable setting. After being on a road-trip for many days, I also appreciated the fact that the unit had a washer and dryer so I could refresh my clothes. I can see how this set-up would be extremely convenient for families staying for a week or more at a time.

I had the opportunity to tour the property with Clare and was able to visit the 5-bedroom Penthouse Suite. As I entered the Penthouse, my first view was of the expansive domed window-wall showcasing a stunning panoramic view. The large, open concept living room, dining room and kitchen is an open invitation for a group gathering. As I was wandering around the suite, I kept thinking about how extraordinary it would be to share this space with family and friends for a fun vacation or holiday. I was also impressed by the fact that Clare mentioned they try to incorporate items from local artisans in an effort to support their community.

Dining

Breakfast:

Included with your stay is a generous European-Style Continental breakfast served in the bar of the hotel restaurant, Bijou. A nice display of pastries and fruit are left out for self-service and there is the option of ordering additional hot items. As an added treat, I really enjoyed sitting in the courtyard each morning chatting with the other guests and I can imagine that it must be extremely cozy in the winter months to sit inside by a roaring fire.

Dinner:

Bijou Restaurant & Lounge, located on the lobby level of the fourth floor, offers an intimate dining experience. Find a quiet table or comfortable spot on one of the comfy sofas indoors by the fire, or head outside to the patio to enjoy the seasonal menu focused on local, sustainable and organic ingredients. The friendly and inviting atmosphere of Bijou is a perfect place cap off your day. Happy Hour menu from 5.00-6.00pm. Dinner seating from 5.30pm–9.00pm

The great news is that you have limitless dining choices (see here) because you can walk to the center of the village or take the gondola into town. A few specific suggestions that come to mind are Allred’s {located at the top of gondola} for fine dining, Tomboy Tavern {located in the village} casual dining and Brown Dog Pizza {located downtown} casual dining, but there is so much more available.

Amenities

Albeit on a smaller scale, this quaint hotel offers all the amenities as its larger hotel counterparts.

Spa/Fitness/Pool:

  • Massages/Yoga/Pilates in the privacy of your luxury suite.
  • Fitness Center offers: spin bike, treadmill, elliptical and stair master along with some free weights, medicine balls and yoga mats.
  • Hot tub, warm plunge and cold splash pools and sauna.

Skiing

Conveniently located with ski-in/ski-out access to the base of Lower Boomerang trail next to lift four at Telluride Ski Resort, Lumière has partnered together with Black Tie Ski Rentals to create a seamless ski valet and equipment rental experience for your luxury ski vacation.

Alternate Activities

Winter activities are only a small part of what Telluride has to offer. The Concierge is happy to suggest and make arrangements for many other activities throughout your stay such as hiking, biking, fly-fishing, ATV rides, jeep tours and so much more.

Since my visit was during the summer months, a jeep tour to the top of Imogene Pass which goes through the ghost town of Tomboy was suggested to me….and what a wild ride it was! But the payoff was the stunning view from 14,000 feet high.

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Pet Friendly

DSC_3288I have to say that I think Telluride is the pet friendliest town I have ever been in and Lumière is happy to accommodate your well-behaved pup. They will welcome your dog by providing him/her with a dog bed and bowl along with all-natural dog treats. And for no other reason than her stunning good looks, here’s Bella that I met in the village.

In Summary

To use the term “good things come in small packages” fits perfectly when describing the Lumière Hotel. This quaint hotel offers huge benefits from its luxury accommodations, excellent service and friendly staff  to its rich amenities and great location.
I guess the same can be said about the small town of Telluride, offering exceptional winter and summer sports, fun festivals, great restaurants, fine art galleries, shops and more. Together, the combination of these two entities offers an unforgettable experience and lasting lifelong memories.
The Lumière is perfect for a fun adventure getaway, family or friends gathering, or spending the holidays in the comfort of sheer luxury. I can only speak for myself, but I could get used to this small-town mountain lifestyle.
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Belmond El Encanto | Santa Barbara, CA

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Discretely nestled in the foothills overlooking Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean you will find an enchanting hideaway called the Belmond El Encanto. This property exudes glamour and elegance in an understated manner and offers a sophisticated comfort that is captivating from the moment you arrive.

The Property

The property has a vast history with the original craftsman-style cottages being built in 1912 to serve as housing for students and faculty in the area. In 1918, the property and cottages were converted into a hotel to serve the growing tourism market. In addition to the original craftsman-style cottages that still occupy the property today, several Spanish Revival style cottages were built on the property over the years which explains why the property has two distinct architectural styles.

@2016 Susan Edel

In 2004, the property was sold to the Orient-Express Hotel Group {now known as Belmond Hotels}, based in large part on their reputation for restoring historic properties. After a seven year and 130+million dollar renovation, the hotel re-opened its doors and is currently (2016) the only Forbes Five Star hotel in Santa Barbara.

The serene grounds consist of seven lush acres of mature plantings which include some Eucalyptus trees originally planted in the 1870’s. As you stroll down the brick walkways between the bungalows, you can’t help but be enraptured by the hanging foliage from the trees, colorful Bougainvillea, dense plantings, water features…and, oh yes, the glistening Pacific blue ocean beyond.

An arbor covered with 100-year-old Wisteria vines and a lily pond are located toward the front of the resort and is used for special events. During my stay, the area was set up for a wedding. It was quite romantic with the chairs flanking each side of the lily pond and the altar set up under the arbor…and the resident ducks don’t seem to mind the visitors.

Check-In

On arrival, you are greeted by the valet who escorts you into the main building. Upon entering, there is a small, nondescript front desk where the business of check-in is quickly conducted…and then you turn around.

As you move past the entrance, your eyes feast upon what I can only describe as a warm and inviting, upscale residential-style living area. One corner of the large room is a cozy area with rich, dark wood-paneled walls, a cushioned reading nook and an alluring fireplace; while the larger area is bright with white wood-paneled walls, small conversation seating areas and floor to ceiling glass paneled doors that fold back to expose the large outdoor patio and crystal blue ocean beyond. It feels sophisticated and decadent, as well as warm and comfortable all at once. I found it extremely welcoming.

Guest Rooms

The guest rooms are a unique aspect of this resort and what makes the property so desirable. There are 92 units {70 bungalows + 22 suites} scattered throughout the 7-acre property, ranging from standard bungalows to specialty suites {too many different categories to describe, click {here} for descriptions}. Some of the units are stand-alone, while others might have several units attached or an upper and lower unit.

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The bungalows each have their own characteristics and charm, some still have the original 1920 era fireplace surround and offer unique details that give the rooms their abundant charm. All bungalows are designed in a clean, contemporary style with the same upscale residential feel as the lobby. The renovated bathrooms are large and most with double sinks, large rain shower-heads and tubs, along with radiant-heated floors and luxury amenities. Plush robes and slippers are provided and the quality of the fluffy cotton towels feel quite indulgent.

Each guest is welcomed with a complimentary bottle of wine from one of the local wineries. In general, a white wine is offered in the Spring/Summer season and a red wine is offered in the fall/winter season. Each room offers a coffee maker, mini-bar amenities and complimentary wi-fi.

I stayed in room #2601, which is a spacious unit located on the lower level of a two-story bungalow. The room is bright with two sets of French doors and a patio. A seating area in front of the fireplace creates a cozy place to relax. I would definitely recommend this bungalow as I liked its size and location; and although I was on the bottom level, I didn’t hear anyone walking around upstairs, I only heard them when they came down the exterior stairs.

Other units that are highly requested are the Hummingbird {#1001} and Wishing Well bungalows {#1201/#1202 ~ there really is a historic wishing well on property}, as well as the Oaktree Suite which arguably offers the most private setting on the property. Bungalow #401 has a large private deck and an original circa 1920 fireplace surround that I thought was charming.

Something to note is that due to how the bungalows are situated on the property, most bungalows have garden views, with a select few bungalows offering peeks of the ocean. I did not have an ocean view but I found the garden views very pleasant. A hammock near the wishing well looked quite inviting for a nap or a leisure read, but unfortunately for me, I never made it there.

Dining

Dining at El Encanto is a pleasurable experience for both hotel guests and locals alike. The Dining Room offers an elegant indoor setting for a more refined dining experience, offering California-coastal cuisine paired with a sophisticated wine list.

@2016 Susan Edel

The Terrace offers spectacular ocean views and outdoor seating for a relaxed atmosphere and has an inviting ambiance with lamp-style heaters, sophisticated outdoor furniture, friendly service, and is a perfect place to plant yourself for a leisurely evening of lively conversation, or maybe a romantic tête-à-tête. But let’s not kid ourselves, the lead attraction here is the stunning view of the Santa Barbara harbor and Pacific Ocean beyond.

For a light meal, The Bar offers appetizers and a limited menu. Live music is performed on Friday and Saturday nights.

A special treat offered each day at El Encanto is the Afternoon Tea located at The Lounge. Enjoy scrumptious pastries and scones made from scratch while sharing special time with friends or family. This is such a perfect way to celebrate a special occasion or enjoy some one-on-one time with your favorite person. Reservations are recommended.

In-room dining is an option as well. As much as I enjoyed dining on the terrace, and as much as I wanted to explore the local eateries, I had brought my girlfriend on this trip and quite honestly, sometimes you just want to curl yourself up in a comfy robe, kick your feet up and chat the night away. It felt quite self-indulgent!

Spa

As you enter the spa reception, the elegant design is quite impressive with its soothing colors, marbled walls, and delicate orchids throughout. The full-service spa offers seven treatment rooms as well as one couple’s room with a vast array of treatments including water therapies for a full pampering and relaxation experience.

All hotel guests are welcome to use the spa facilities including the relaxation lounge, steam rooms, and showers at no additional cost. The spa is open to the public for day use, so do make reservations for any treatments you desire.

This elegant spa is a perfect way to relax and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.

El Encanto also offers a state-of-the-art Fitness Studio with treadmills, exercise bikes, and ellipticals for those who cannot miss their cardio workout.

The saline pool is perfect in its simplistic elegance. The beauty is in the exceptional and vast ocean view beyond. Sitting at a certain angle, it may even feel that the pool spills into the Pacific Ocean. The pool is open year-round with cabana service on the weekends. A perfect way to spend a lazy day on the American Riviera.

Activities

There are endless possibilities for staying active throughout your trip in the Santa Barbara area. Starting at the resort, here are a few of the top activities that come to mind:

Bike Riding: The resort lends their guests complimentary regular or electric bikes, the electric bikes are a nice perk with the surrounding hilly terrain. I had never ridden an electric bike before and I found this such an enjoyable way to see the Mission and ride around the surrounding neighborhood with such ease. It was quite pleasurable. A bike ride to State Street or the beach, approximately 1 mile away, is a popular excursion as well.

Tennis/Golf: For tennis and golf enthusiasts, the El Encanto will make arrangements for you to play at a local club.

Shopping: A visit to State Street is a must when visiting Santa Barbara. State Street is lined with both unique shops and national brand stores, restaurants, galleries and much more. This is a fun way to get a feel for the city and spend the day. For additional excursions, visit the quaint and charming towns of Montecito and Summerland for adorable shops and restaurants.

Old Mission Santa Barbara: The historic Old Mission Santa Barbara is a highly regarded attraction for this area. Founded in 1786, the mission’s magnificent architecture makes quite a statement and the collections of colonial-era art, sculptures, artifacts and gardens are worthy of your time.

Wineries: Santa Barbara’s growing wine region is becoming a destination in itself. There are numerous tours offered or drive yourself around this beautiful region and explore the local wineries {listed here}.

Beach: And of course, there’s always the beach. Santa Barbara has a long stretch of sandy white beach perfect for spending the day playing in the surf and building sand castles.

As an added convenience for transportation, the resort has a house van and offers their guest complimentary rides within a five-mile radius.

Summary

This property is truly a five-star retreat without any pomp and pretense. It’s a secluded hideaway that feels more like staying in a luxurious guest house than at a hotel. This resort has a casual elegance that is warm and inviting, and yet feels like a decadent splurge.

The property is child-friendly but in my opinion, it feels better situated for adults. I think this property would be an ideal romantic get-a-away, girl’s spa vacation, family or friends reunion site or even a business retreat. Fido is also welcome as this is a pet-friendly resort.

For a secluded retreat offering sheer luxury and spacious comfort, I think you will find this sanctuary a pleasant escape from the ordinary.

L’Auberge de Sedona | Sedona, AZ

Discretely nestled along the banks of Oak Creek in the breathtaking Red Rock region of Sedona, ArizonaL’Auberge de Sedona has created a secluded, luxurious and tranquil setting located steps from Uptown Sedona.

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Property

The configuration of this property is situated such that it starts creekside then dramatically elevates up the hillside, offering guests the option of staying either by the tranquility of the creekside or on the hillside that offers panoramic Red Rock vistas. The property is intimate with a serene ambiance that almost feels like a well-kept secret from the rest of town. However, when you’re ready to explore all the unique shops, galleries and restaurants, you are just steps away.

One of the most appealing aspects of this property is how much it has to offer. There are several distinctly different accommodations available, an on-site spa/fitness and pool, award-winning dining options, wine bar, and an Artist’s Cottage. It’s no surprise why this resort has been named one of the top hotels by Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Zagat Survey and has received the Award of Excellence from DiRoNa and Wine Spectator.

Check-In

The resort is tucked stealthily a level below the town’s main street, so keep your eyes open for the modest entrance sign which leads you down a narrow driveway. The driveway opens to a small round-about at the Lobby entrance. Vallet and Bellman are ready to assist you upon arrival.

The cozy lobby is warm and inviting with its reclaimed wood walls, leather chairs and artwork by local artisans. The casual elegance of the lobby is only enhanced by the staff in their professional ensemble along with their friendly and helpful demeanor.

Guest Rooms

A really unique feature of this property is the fact that it offers a number of distinctively different types of accommodations, offering something for everyone.

The property consists of 88 units which include Creekside Cottages, Vista Suites and Cottages, Spa and Garden Cottages, the Creekhouse, and a Lodge with 21 rooms.

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Photo Credit: L’Auberge de Sedona

Creekside Cottages/Suites: The Creekside Cottages are situated on the banks of Oak Creek offering a direct view of the flowing creek and are surrounded by lush trees and vegetation providing a comfortable shaded setting. These cottages have lovely creek views but do not offer direct views of the Red Rocks.  These individual cottages are luxuriously designed in a clean, contemporary style and feature wood-burning fireplaces, king-sized beds, cedar outdoor showers and large outdoor decks. I would say these cottages are perfect for the person who enjoys being outdoors and taking in nature ~ with these units you can sit on your outdoor deck and listen to the babbling creek as it flows by. These cottages are closely located to the creekside restaurant and lobby. The difference between the cottages vs. suites is that the cottages are a studio and suites offer a separate bedroom and living room. Recommendation for best cottages are #6 and #7 along with Creekside Cottage Suite #5.

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Photo Credit: L’Auberge de Sedona

Vista Cottages and Suites: In contrast to the Creekside Cottages, the Vista Cottages and Suites offer a completely different view, these individual cottages are located hillside with panoramic views of the beautiful Red Rocks but do not see the creek. The rooms offer the same clean, contemporary design as the Creekside Cottages with over-sized picture windows, gas fireplaces, soaking tubs, outdoor cedar showers and a large deck to enjoy the views.

As with the Creekside Cottages, the difference between the Vista Cottages and Suites are that the cottages are a studio and the suites are a one-bedroom unit. Another difference between these two categories is that the Vista Suites sit one row higher in elevation above the regular cottages. The advantage to the suites sitting higher is that you’re at a slightly higher elevation for the views {although both categories offer great views} but also that the suites have a little more privacy from their decks because the row of regular cottages below mask the view of the main entrance to the hotel where everyone comes in and out. The regular cottages overlook the main entrance. I would say that these room categories are perfect for the person who enjoys expansive views and enjoys witnessing stunning sunrises and sunsets.

@2016 Susan EdelI stayed in Vista Suite #94 and found it to be a great location. I woke up each morning and drank my coffee on the deck and watched the sunrise, and in the evenings watched the incredible sunsets. The Vista Suite I was in is one of the best rooms for that category and the best Vista Cottages are #87 and #88 – these are located towards the end of the row, not directly overlooking the resort entrance.

Spa Cottages: The Spa Cottages are located in the middle of the property between the Creekside Cottages and the Vista Suites. The rooms are located close to the on-site spa and offer an outdoor terrace to enjoy the garden landscape. These cottages don’t have views of either the creek or the Red Rocks. The Spa Cottages offer many of the same amenities as the other rooms with maybe a bit more of a residential flair to them.

Garden@2016 Susan Edel Cottages: The Garden Cottages are similar to the Creekside Cottages in design and amenities, offering wood-burning fireplaces but do not offer the outdoor showers and are located one row back from the Creekside Cottages. The Garden cottages offer a serene setting overlooking the beautiful landscape. Some Garden Cottages are pet-friendly.

Creekhouse: The Creekhouse is ideal for large gatherings with 2,500 square feet of communal space and five bedrooms – each with its own private bath. This house is ideal for wedding parties, business retreats and group reunions. To book this house you must go through the Sales Department.

The Lodge:@2016 Susan Edel Lastly, there is the Lodge. You could almost call this a resort within a resort. The two-story lodge offers a warm and inviting communal space {lobby} evoking old European charm with a large stone fireplace, wood-beamed ceiling and an antler chandelier along with 21 rooms consisting of standard lodge rooms and {2} suites each with their own patio or private balcony. At the time of my visit {March 2016}, the lodge was closed for renovation so I did not get to see it in its final state ~ the lodge has since re-opened. These rooms do not offer the same amenities as the cottages such as in-room fireplaces and outdoor showers but this accommodation would be perfect for the individual who enjoys being in a cozy lodge setting, or possibly if you are traveling with a group and would like to be in close vicinity to each other. The Lodge does not have a separate check-in, you check-in at the main lobby on property.

All accommodations on property offer:

  • Complimentary high-speed Internet
  • Daily newspaper delivery (upon request)
  • Gilchrist & Soames hair and skin products
  • Italian linens
  • Down bedding and pillows
  • Nightly turndown service
  • Complimentary coffee/tea selection
  • Voicemail
Dining

One of the most magical aspects of L’Auberge is the unique dining experience it offers. There are a variety of options that offer a little something for everyone. The creekside restaurant and bar is a local favorite because of the fine dining and unique setting offered.

Cress on Oak Creek: offers fine dining and provides an almost fairytale setting with its outdoor, creekside setting.

Creekside Reserve: is the most romantic outdoor private gazebo, canopied in dripping ivy and a crystal chandelier. The perfect place to celebrate a special occasion or to pop that special question!

Etch Kitchen & Bar: Etch offers a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere with tapas style dishes and a variety of great libations.

Chef’s Table: For the true “foodie”, reserve the Chef’s Table for the ultimate culinary experience.

Wine Cellar: Not to be missed is the award-wining Wine Cellar, a recipient of Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” 22 consecutive times.

L’Auberge’s dining experience has been named “One of the Top Ten Restaurants in the Southwest” by Condé Nast Traveler, and one of the “Top 100 Al Fresco Dining” spots in the U.S. by OpenTable.

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Upon entering the L’Apothecary Spa your senses are immediately awakened by the fragrant offerings presented at the apothecary bar. An interactive station allows you to select ingredients, herbs, oils and local botanicals to create personalized bath soaks and body scrubs to be used in your treatment or to take home with you.

This full-service spa offers a variety of treatments* and wellness classes to rejuvenate your body and spirit. Experience the spa’s more unique offerings such as a moonlit meditation, daily yoga and hiking the stunning Red Rocks around the property. Be sure to visit SpiritSong, the highest point on property, for a little spiritual rejuvenation.

*With only 4 treatment rooms, reservations are highly recommended.

Located next to the spa is a nice fitness room consisting of treadmills, stationary bicycles and weights available to all guests. The room has a cottage style feel with french doors overlooking the pool.

Unique to the Property

A few special events that are unique to this property are:

The Artist in Residence Program: This program brings local Sedona artists on property to interact with guests to share their techniques and artistry and offers some art classes that you can participate in. You will find the local artisan’s artwork throughout the resort.

Summer Music Series: The resort offers an exclusive summer music series featuring talented singers and musicians every Friday and Saturday evening in May and June. The live music is complimentary and open to the public. Quite a treat to experience an intimate musical performance in a beautiful setting.

Guided Star Gazing: Sedona offers the perfect environment to explore the night sky and L’Auberge takes it a step further by providing an astronomer to guide you through the brilliant star formations.

The resort also offers a car service within a two-mile radius of town.

In Summary

I found L’Auberge de Sedona to be a lovely, serene property offering a true luxury experience along with a plethora of unique activities that reflect the flavor of this incredibly beautiful region. The staff is friendly, professional and always willing to help. The Bellman are happy to tote you around the resort in the golf carts to get you from one location to another. I found all staff members to engaging and interested in my well-being at all times. You won’t find better service than this in Sedona!

L’Auberge de Sedona offers the idyllic location from which to explore Sedona, visit the ever-growing Verde Valley Wine Trail, or to just relax and pamper yourself on property.

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Opening Soon: Sun Cliff ~ A Private Luxury Casita in Sedona AZ

I adore serendipity ~ luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.

This is exactly what I experienced while on a trip to Sedona, Arizona. Upon the recommendation of a friend, I went to visit a couple for what I thought would be a leisurely encounter…however, as I approached the property gate and read the sign ~Opening Soon Sun Cliff, A Private Luxury Casita ~ I knew serendipity had intervened and I was in for far more than I expected.

After parking the car and exchanging some pleasantries, I was invited inside for a tour of the casita by the proprietors {and now new friends}, Kate and Tom Joy.

The property has been owned by Kate’s family for decades and has a rich and fascinating history. After inheriting the property, Kate and Tom took on the challenge of renovating the Sun Cliff Casita.

They anticipated taking on a simple remodel that would update the look and function of the casita, however, once the renovation began and their impeccable attention to detail got the best of them, the simple remodel turned into a complete renovation that now offers all the amenities that you would expect to find at the finest luxury resort.

Kate and Tom have committed themselves to preserving the property for generations to follow, as well as offering all of us the opportunity to rent and experience this beautiful casita set among Sedona’s stunning red rock landscape.

The panoramic view alone is reason enough to visit this property but the amenities of this luxury casita will make it an over-the-top experience fit for any celebrity.

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View from casita.

It was important to Kate and Tom to preserve the history of the home and many original items have been incorporated into the design of the casita. Decorative pieces of carved art and collections of Native American pottery and Kachina’s belonging to Kate’s Aunt {Sally Anne Wooster – the previous owner} are displayed throughout the casita.

The casita offers a comfortable living/dining room with a cozy Kiva fireplace, extraordinary views and a large slider allowing for an indoor/outdoor living experience.

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The casita was designed to optimize the view from all locations througout the house.

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A full kitchen, washer/dryer and business center provide all the conveniences of home.

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Wake up to stunning red rock views from the spacious master bedroom…

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…then treat yourself to an aromatic steam shower, or step outside for an outdoor shower or maybe a dip in the hot tub while enjoying a roaring fire.

What defines this house, in my opinion, is the outdoor living concept and the views! With three outdoor fireplaces, built-in BBQ area, two outdoor tubs and plenty of patio space to lounge, you will find yourself getting some serious rest and relaxation for self rejuvination. Whether it be coffee in the morning for sunrise or cocktails in the evening for sunset, the landscape will take your breath away.

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At the time of this print {March 2016}, the property is not yet open to the public as final details are being implemented but it won’t be long! Once the property opens, I intend on staying there to experience all it has to offer and I will then permanenetly add the property to my site.

The adult-only, one bedroom casita will be rented nightly. Stayed tuned, I will share the opening date and how to contact the property to book your stay!

 

Once there was a land and all were free, to live, to be, each in its own way, yet in harmony. A nurturing river snaked below while might fists of stone stood guard, and silently kept it so. I know, for I have walked this land and this land flowed back into me. It was then that we became one, and it was then, when I too, became free.

~ Sally Anne Wooster ~

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Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn | Sonoma, CA

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa, located in the Sonoma Wine Region of California, is a unique property that sits atop a natural, thermal mineral spring that was discovered by the Native Americans in the early 1800’s.

The Native Americans considered this site sacred healing grounds and as word spread over the years, a hotel was developed and people began to visit the property to “take-in the waters”. The thermal mineral spring is still active and a defining spa element at the hotel to this day.

@2016 Susan Edel

While this property is no longer the newest and trendiest resort in the Sonoma/Napa wine region, there is something to be said about a resort whose history runs deep and who has earned their rightful stature over the decades as a destination spa resort. There is a respective grandeur to the property that can only be derived through time due to a commitment to quality and service. This hotel’s allure is its rich heritage and to this day, is one of the only luxury spa resorts in the country with its own source of thermal mineral water.

Property

The California Mission style architecture of the main building, built in 1927 after a fire destroyed the original structure, has a serene and tranquil ambiance that is echoed throughout the property.

A historic water tower with a beautiful scrolled SMI monogram stands proudly over the main building. The beautiful and inviting lobby has great detail in the large wood beamed ceilings, carved corbels, wrought iron light fixtures and large fireplace.

Although the resort is located only a mile from downtown Sonoma, the beautiful grounds along with the large majestic trees that inhabit this property create a private oasis that makes you feel as though you are in an isolated sanctuary. Once you enter the resort, there is no need to go beyond as it offers a state-of-the-art spa, gift shop, afternoon wine-tasting, and Michelin rated restaurant…although the charm of Sonoma’s downtown square should not be missed.

Guest Rooms

@2016 Susan EdelThe Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn {SMI} offers 226 rooms with most of them still utilizing the hotel’s original antique headboards.

As a complimentary welcome to each guest, a bottle of  Trinity Oaks Wine is placed in each room. This is not only a nice gesture for the SMI guest but it’s also a nice gesture for the environment as Trinity Oaks plants one tree for every bottle of wine purchased. This is one of the ways SMI maintains it’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Love it! That’s a win-win in my book.

The resort offers a variety of accommodations, ranging from the quaint Fairmont Rooms to the Signature Suites located throughout the property.

The Fairmont Rooms are located in the main historic building along with the Lobby, 38 North Bar and Santé Restaurant. These rooms are considered the entry level rooms on property. They have been nicely renovated and are the smallest in size, there are no balcony rooms but some do have fireplaces.

Something to keep in mind with these rooms is that there are some rooms on the first floor in this building that are located by the entrance and have windows facing the walkway to the lobby where all guests arrive and walk in and out of the lobby. If you are someone who appreciates a little more privacy, I might suggest asking for a second floor room. Otherwise, consider upgrading your room to a Deluxe category located in some of the separate buildings on property. See description of the guest rooms {here}.

@2016 Susan EdelI stayed in an ample Deluxe room located in one of the separate buildings on the third floor with a small balcony facing the foothills. My room faced toward the front entrance but it was set back enough which made for a pleasant setting {room 361} and I found it quite peaceful. The rooms are clean and the interior design is stylish in keeping with a historic property.

There are 60 suites on property ranging from Junior suites to Signature One-Bedroom suites. The suites are scattered throughout the property located in a quiet and serene setting. The suites are very nicely decorated and have a lot of charm and character.

My favorite suite is the Mission Suite elegantly decorated with a four-poster king size bed, separate seating area with a wood burning fireplace and a two-person oversized jacuzzi tub. All of these suites feature patios or balconies with French doors, arched doorways and Saltillo tile accents. See descriptions of all suites {here}.

This hotel has a very pet-friendly policy, providing dog beds and other amenities for your furry friends, so feel free to bring them {pet fee applied}. I will admit that this is one of the main draws for me because of how accommodating the staff is and the roomy grounds…the concierge even arranged for a dog sitter {additional cost} to take care of my dogs one day while I was away from the resort. It was very convenient and quite comforting knowing that my dogs were being cared for.

WiFi is provided throughout the resort and in-room at no cost to Fairmont President’s Club members {Fairmont’s Luxury Loyalty Program}. It’s a free program so be sure to sign up before your stay to take advantage of all the benefits it offers.

All rooms offer a coffee maker with an assortment of complimentary coffee and teas, and a mini-bar {at cost}. Complimentary coffee is also offered each morning in the lobby.

Dining

There are several dining options on property.

Breakfast/Lunch: The Big 3 Cafe offers hearty style meals for breakfast and lunch. Located on the corner of the Inn’s ground, this is a local favorite as well. Apparently their lemon pancakes are a must! Casual attire.

Late Lunch/Evening: The 38º North Lounge located off the lobby offers small plate dishes for a lite fare, mid-afternoon through the evening. I ordered a few small plates and made a dinner meal out of them. The full service bar also serves over 50 varieties of wine by glass. Casual attire.

Dinner: Santé Restaurant, a Michelin rated restaurant, is the Inn’s premier dining room serving local produce, meats, poultry and seafood. Wine Country Casual attire. Reservations recommended.

Other Options include the seasonal poolside dining at The Water Tower, Sonoma Golf Club Grill and In-Room dining that can be delivered to your room or anywhere on property. I had lunch one day delivered to a seating area in the lobby ~ a great way to relax and people watch.

Spa/Fitness/Activities

The heart and soul of this property is the 40,000 sq. ft. Willow Stream Spa which has been rated among Travel & Leisure’s top 25 spas. You know you are at a true destination spa when you see more guests walking around in their snuggly, white cotton robes and rubber slippers than in street clothes.

Today, the spa has developed into a first class destination which includes approximately 25 treatment rooms, mind and body health sessions, the bathhouse, salon and fitness center. This location is now one of the only luxury spa resorts in the country with its own source of thermal mineral water.

The majority of the spa’s public spaces, treatment waiting area and bathhouse is co-ed. There is a comfortable seating area in the waiting room with a fireplace, and a healthy snack bar. The co-ed bathhouse is just off the main seating area and offers mineral water sitting pools, steam and sauna rooms, and exfoliating showers. There are separate locker rooms for the men and women.

Along with the indoor bathhouse, there is a large resort pool, and two outdoor mineral pools. One of the mineral pools is known as the Watsu Pool where you can book a wonderful floating massage. Even if you don’t get the massage, I highly recommend just floating in it for awhile. The water temperature is kept in the mid 90’s and music is piped in under the water. Float sticks are available and this was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever had. I honestly would have slept there if I could have.

@2016 Susan Edel

There is a complimentary fitness center for all guests offering weights, exercise bicycles and treadmills along with the option of booking personal training sessions, yoga classes and more.

Complimentary guided hikes are offered daily throughout the picturesque Sonoma Valley foothills. The resort also loans bikes on a complimentary first come/first serve basis to guests which is a perfect way to head downtown to the Sonoma Square for lunch and some shopping. For the more serious bike enthusiast, scenic Sonoma Valley bike tours through the Wine Country can be booked for an additional fee.

You forgot your workout gear you say…well no worries, with the Fairmont Fit program and as a member of Fairmont President’s Club, guests have complimentary access to Reebok workout gear and footwear, which is delivered directly to the guest room for use in-room, in the gym or to enjoy in the great outdoors. 

Disclosure: The resort does not charge a resort feehowever, there is a $39 charge to use the spa mineral pools and bathhouse unless you book a spa treatment. In my opinion, it’s worth it because you can use the steam room, sauna, minerals pools, and other spa amenities. The outdoor resort pool is available to all guests.

Tennis/Golf

For tennis and golf, SMI guests have access to one of the oldest, private membership clubs in California, the Sonoma Golf Club.  The use of this club is exclusive to its members and Fairmont guests only.

Unique to Property

Aside from all of the above, this resort also offers:

Wine tasting every night hosted by a different winery in the Lobby from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm.

A car service is available to drive guests to the downtown Sonoma Square for a meal or shopping.

Summary

You have many choices when visiting the Napa/Sonoma wine country, so what is the draw of this property over some of the others ones in the area?

Well, this is a true destination spa resort with its own thermal mineral waters, the resort is steeped in history and has been operating under the Fairmont brand since the 1990’s offering personalized service that has been consistent for decades, not to mention that any hotel that has been operating for a century or more speaks for itself.

If you are looking to treat yourself to a nice escape and to enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation, as well as being in the midst of the charming Sonoma Valley, this property is a great choice. New and trendy can be nice, but a resort rich in history offers a warmth and comfort that can only be earned over time.

Property Fact Sheet

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