The Oaks at Ojai, Ojai, California
The annual Spa
Magazine Spring Event , which yours truly never misses, was certainly a star-struck affair featuring headliner spas and cosmetics companies gathered at the posh Montage Beverly Hills Hotel.
The Diva samples a new treatment from Terranea Spa (one of the spa sponsors), it felt so good
Sheila Cluff, owner/founder The Oaks at Ojai, promotes new menu and cutting edge treatments offered at her spa.Sheila showed her chef’s yummy, 52.6 calorie dessert, a divine chocolate mousse made with tofu. The Oaks at Oaji, www.oaksspa.com.
Miraval Spa also showed its “ground breaking treatments” offered at the Tucson, Arizona resort. www.miravalresorts.com
Mii Amo at Enchantment, a destination spa in Sedona Boynton Canyon, gave out this little sampler, along with information on its new “Journeys”: Healthy Body Balance, Rites of Passage and Mii amo Master.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs in SoCalm a 150-yea-old rejuvenation spa promoted the red clay mud baths, underground moisturizing cabes and massages done under oak trees. www.glenivy.com.
The Huntingon Spa at the Langham Huntingon formerly a Ritz Carlton (where I’ve spa-ed happily in the past), talked about the spa’s facelift and the Chaun Body + Soul philosophy that incorporates traditional Chinese medicine (acupuncture and cupping) for a holistical experience. www.thehuntingtonspa.com.
Until last night I was unfamiliar with Kohler Waters Spa. I’d heard of the company but dnot the spa which is actually 10 years old and focuses on, you guess it, water treatments that cleanse the mind and body. www.destinationkohler.com.
One healthy getaway I am very familiar with, The Spa at The Grand Del Mar, touted the variety of natural therapies gleaned from resources of near by Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve (which we checked out and hiked through on our last visit). This is one fab spa with top notch treatments. www.thegranddelmar.com.
And the host hotel, Montage, escorted guests to their spiffy spa for a salubrious hand, exfoliation treatment.
La Quinta sets off a magical charm when you enter the Spanish-style lobby to register, everybody’s so nice, the atmosphere so relaxed and you feel more like you out of the country than just a 2 hour drive away from Los Angeles.That’s a view from the Freeway.
I just posted the whole article, save for a review of Morgan’s–the resorts fine dining restaurant, which is worth the drive from LA just for dinner–on my examiner.com site, plesase check it out: http://www.examiner.com/x-23074-LA-Insider-Travel-Examiner
I’ll give you a few highlights:(The decades old resort has nearly 800 guest rooms of various sizes and shapes, all with flat screens, fireplaces, some balconies,some patios, some private pools and Jacuzzis, all charming and comfortable and priced from $199 in season to a $5,000 for the top suite).
What’s to Like:
Bedding down in our Starlight Casita (the maids made a special welcome swan out of towels) with a balcony providing magical mountain views and privacy for relaxing or enjoying room service breakfast. Great fritatas and perfect scrambled eggs.
Swimming in the clean, warm pool that’s just a few steps down stairs from our bedroom. Took a photo but it got deleted, bummer. But trust me, the pools are great.
Transcendental atmosphere framed by snow-capped mountains, fertile with grapefruit trees, stately palms, plants, flowers with musical accompaniment of chirping birds.
Lots of action with locals flocking for drinks and/or dinner. Lots of hotel guests, energy, yet plenty of privacy.
The nice people at the resort.
Dislikes: the $27 resort fee; the $25 entry fee for the Spa if you’re not getting a treatment; the chintzy towels provided in the room for use at the pool. Need big,fluffy ones.
Factoids: Once a maven for movie stars and moguls from Frank Capra to Greta Garbo, La Quinta Resort & Spa provides the perfect escape from LA, or out of town. You can fly into Palm Springs Regional Airport, to LAX or drive (go to www.google.com for map from your area).
Location: 49-499 Eisenhower Drive,La Quinta, CA. 800-59-3828, www.laqunitaresort.com
I’ll be reviewing Morgan’s at www.thediningdiva.wordpress.com and at my examiner.com site, because it’s too good to share space with.
The Diva, draped appropriately in silk and designer duds, felt right at home as she walked through the extravagant entrance of the Grand Del Mar, a $300 million, and 249- deliciously comfortable room resort situated in northern San Diego County.
Although its about as opulent as it gets, there is no sense of pretentiousness evident. Highlighted by a vibrant Mediterranean-Roman pan tiled roof and finely-tuned touches such as cast stone, copper, layered light, custom woodwork, glazed tiles, the resort conveys a surprising down-to-earth ambiance.
I usually pick up a sense of a place from the check-in experience—which moved seamlessly from arrival at the elegant entrance where the attentive valets whisked our bags and escorted us to our posh Palazzo suite–a magnificent two bedroom affair with a huge balcony overlooking the golf course and mountains.
We were welcomed with champagne and snacks set neatly on the wet bar which separated a little area with a microwave and mini-fridge. Upholstered ceilings—a décor touch new to us—hinted at the unadulterated opulence of suite. Marble counter tops, gold-colored fixtures, rich woods, Italian linens, a sumptuous sofa, comfy chairs, flat screen TV, king bed, two full bathrooms with tub, shower, big, fluffy robes, slippers and upscale spa amenities completed the leit motif.
After we unpacked we walked around the interior which was decorated like a Christmas wonderland with gorgeous Yule time trees, poinsettias and lavish decorations. Even the outside areas were decked out for the season with more Christmas trees and ornamentation. We checked out the spa, a comfortably lavish facility with men’s and women’s areas. The female side provides peace and serenity with a gorgeous fireplace warmed lounge area appointed with canopied lounges, steam, sauna, lockers, Jacuzzi and of course showers and toiletries (all complimentary for guests). The adjacent spa pool was so inviting we aborted our tour to go get our swim suits.
We took a soak in the oversized Jacuzzi, which is surrounded by cushy lounges, did laps and headed into our respective spa areas for steam baths. I picked up the extensive, uniquely-designed spa menu and must confess the prices were a bit shocking with facial therapies starting at $175 to $270 plus a 20 percent automatically-added tip. But then considering the source and the quality of the treatments you do get what you pay for. Our 90 minute massages (which we had the following day) proved among the 10 of the all time list of this spa snob-maven-diva whose indulged in pampering all over the world.
We had reservations for dinner at Amaya, the hotel’s three meal restaurant, and decided it was best to boost our appetites with workouts in the perfectly equipped fitness center. Trust me when I tell you this hotel takes attention to details seriously. This Diva isn’t easily impressed and can be known to be a tad edgy at times. Our first meal at the Grand Del Mar was dinner at Amaya—an atypical three meal a day restaurant with a sophisticated setting.
The experience proved flawless in every way, save for a slight problem with the air conditioning over our booth that left me chilly but was quickly remedied by the manager who brought me a shawl. Our meal was fabulous starting with Richard’s perfect martini and my glass of Lewis Chard. The food portion of the evening began for me with carpaccio of Balik salmon with candied onions and crème Fraiche and Richard’s Catalan-style shrimp with chile and lime broth, followed by braised short ribs cannelloni with beech mushroom ragout and a perfectly prepared veal chop and seared sea bass. We shared a cheesecake for dessert that was well worth the caloric splurge.
The next morning we participated in thehotel’s complimentary nature hike around the adjacent Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve. The 90-minute trek, led by a naturalist (Dylan) explores the natural wonders of one of the last remaining undeveloped coastal canyons in San Diego with its 500,000 year old soils of vernal pools to 140 million year old sedimentary rock deposits. We climbed and trekked through varying terrains lush with 500 plant species, sycamore trees, live oaks, scrub oaks, birds, brooks, and a boulder-studded waterfall with volcanic rock.
Dylan provided captivating narratives about the various Indians (La Jollan, Kumeyaay and San Digueno) that inhabited the area 7,000 years ago. There we are (Richard and the Diva poised on the hike)…
This tour is not to be missed. We spend much of the afternoon in the Spa where I happily succumbed to the magical movements of David who worked out my sore muscles with 90-minute Athletic enhanced with aromatherapy oils, hot towels and much TLC. It was amazing.
The evening was spent over a much anticipated, leisurely dinner at the award-winning Addison, a fitting showcase for noted chef William Bradley’s culinary skills dramatized by iron and glass doorways trimmed with 22 karat gold accent, 20 foot high pyramid ceilings, and a limestone fireplace imported from Italy.
The restaurant receives regular raves not only from the media and pleased clientele, but the hotel staff each who are treated to Bradley’s multi-course menu. “It’s awesome,” beamed the valet who drove us from the hotel to the Clubhouse where Addison is situated. “You are in for a treat.” And we were.
You can opt to let Chef design a 7-course personal feast or choose your own selections. We opted for the latter. It was all good from Richard’s Martini and my Lewis Chard (okay I love the stuff) to the amuse bouche—a fondue of Parmesan, champagne and cream with curried yogurt spiced with orange– and beyond. We tasted each other’s courses: butter baked salmon, rack of lamb, Japanese Hamache, Dover Sole, and pear confit ad black fig brulee with English bitter toffee. Each serving impeccable save for one episode where my salmon tasted like it fell in the salt shaker—apologies were proffered and a replacement made.
I should point out that seasoning is left to the chef. No condiments are on the tables. None needed as recipes are fairly fussy and well sauced. Prepare to dine well and shell out at least $100 per person for a decent sampling with wines (of which there are many with a savvy sommelier (Jesse Rodriguez) to make suggestions and do pairings.
The Grand Del Mar sits inland just jorth of San Diego. On site diversions include a Tom Fazio-designed championship golf course, tennis, the 21,000 square foot Renaissance-style spa, four swimming pools, and hiking, cycling and fine dining. Please check out the slide show as photos are definitely worth 1000 words. www.theGrandDelMar.com , 5300 Grand Del Mar Court, San Diego, CA. 858-314-2020.
I treated Richard to a two night stay in a villa at Grand Champions in Indian Wells, California, for his birthday, complete with spa treatments and a World Series win by the New York Yankees. Well, it just happened that the last game was played on his birthday eve and we ordered room service so we didn’t miss an at bat. Glad we opened a bottle of fine champagne, too, because it was an apt celebration to our team’s victory and the beginning or myhusband’s birthday bash.
I booked him a “Gentlemen’s” facial and deep tissue massage at the hotel’s Aqua Serena Spa (www.aquaserenaspa.com) and while at it an Anti-aging ritual and deep tissue rub for myself, especially since anyone celebrating a birthday gets a free 50 minute treatment when accompanied by a companion who purchases one (so it’s half price essentially, and all were well worth it.
Took him to dinner at Sirocco Restaurant at the Renaissance Esmeralda, next door to Grand Champions) on his birthday and again we lucked out with a price fixed $35 tasting menu that was superb from appetizers to desserts with a glass of wine each thrown in plus yummy desserts.
I had proscuitto and melon, we both had pastas, risotto, Mahi Mahi) and an amazing creamy dessert with fresh fruit .We splurged on a big uttery bottle of Rombauer Chard which made a perfect accompaniment. Also sat on the fireplace warmed patio prior to dinner where he enjoyed a perfect martini an me a so so glass of wine. The pre-dinner drinks and dinner set me back about $200 but he’s worth it.
And what’s more we stopped at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa on the way back to LA where I’m a slot machine member and I actually won. The casino gives you credit for play and I had enough for the lunch buffet, which is quite an amazing spread for $11 per person. We rode home happy.
Call me the Spa Queen, fitness diva or pampered princess but I love spa breaks especially the week-long kind offered at the salubrious, luxurious, ultra-serene Golden Door in Escondido, California where I’ve been recharging my batteries on yearly treks for over 20 years. The Japanese-influenced, transcendental sanctuary set in a valley framed by gorgeous mountains is simply the best of its kind barring none.
And that’s the truth, why else would the rich, famous, beautiful faces flock there –many to get in shape and look their best for their movie roles or awards ceremonies.
It’s always fun to run into a celeb and I have from Sally Struthers and Joyce DeWitt to Pat Kennnedy and beyond. Whether a luminary or ordinary (but rich enough to afford $8,000 a week), the 40 female guests who frequent most of the Door most weeks of the year save for a few men’s weeks, bond during the 7-day retreat. Unfortunately the ties usually melt shortly after.
I went there Easter Sunday for a glorious week of atonement (no alcohol, healthy food, lots of activities that egins with earling morning mountain hikes followed by a full menu of exercise classes, personal training, gym, swimming, volleyball, pilates, and Yoga with lots of personal pampering in-between like massages, facials, foot and hand treatments, body scrubs, herbal wraps, hair care, makeup, steams, saunas and more for one albeit stiff weekly price–worth every gold coin.
Anyhow the Door just announced super summer specials you can’t afford to miss. Check it out:
SPIRITED WALKER® with Carolyn Scott Kortge June 14 – 21. A simple walk around the block can turn into a journey of discovery.
EXPRESSIVE ARTS WEEK with Judith Greer Essex June 21 – June 28. Art-making puts life’s issues in perspective so you can experience life’s joy.
WATER WEEKS July 19 – 26 and August 30 – September 6. Bring out your “inner mermaid” while strengthening and toning.
INNER DOOR WEEK with Annharriet Buck July 26 – August 2. Draw on supportive group energy to achieve life-altering insights.
LABYRINTH WEEK with Dr. Lauren Artress August 2 – 9 (Special Rate: $6,000) (Bring A Friend does not apply) The labyrinth has been celebrated through the centuries for its power to quiet and focus the mind.
Hot, hot, hot . . . Cooking Week with Chef Dean Rucker!!
GOLDEN DOOR COOKS AT HOME with Executive Chef Dean Rucker August 9 – 16. Become a Golden Door At-Home Cook. We’ve built an entire week around your training!
EAT WELL. MOVE DAILY. BE HEALTHY with Drs. Wendy and Jason Bazilian August 23 – 30. Science, culture and philosophy of eastern and western medicine and nutrition blend to help you improve your health.THE “FITPACK” AND ”YOU” BOOK WORKOUTS with Joel Harper September 13 – 20. Work out with the celebrity fitness trainer and creator of the famous “FitPak” and New York Times best-selling “YOU” books workouts. $7,750
AND–Bring A Friend. Share a week with a friend or family member and you both receive an additional $500 discount. Friend’s name must be referenced at time of booking.
3-or 4-Day stay. (Bring A Friend does not apply)
3-Day Spa Interlude August 16 – 19 $3,625
4-Day Spa Interlude August 19 – 23 $4,725
Fall Special October 11 – 18 $6,000 (Bring A Friend does not apply)
Thanksgiving Week November 22 – 29 $7,495
Holiday Special December 6 – 13 $6,000 (Bring A Friend does not apply)
New Year’s Week December 27, 2009 – January 2, 2010 $7,495
All Other Weeks In 2009 available at the 2007 rate of $7,750
Check it out www.goldendoor.com.
- A peaceful, remote sanctuary, discreetly tucked away on 377 acres of rolling terrain, five miles north of Escondido, California
- World-class spa facilities, including nine treatment rooms, an herbal wrap area, hydrotherapy tub, sauna, steam room, and hot tub
- Asian-inspired architecture and philosophy, inspired by the ancient Japanese Honjin inns, famed for their gracious welcome and guest care
- 40 spacious and comfortable guest rooms, each with private patios and uniquely restful amenities that foster serenity
- Meticulously landscaped grounds, complete with traditional Japanese gardens, koi ponds, and a million-dollar antique collection
- Premier fitness facilities, including 3 poolside aerobic gyms, a hilltop gym for private fitness sessions, a new 4000 square foot Fitness Pavilion housing a 2000 square foot equipment gym, spinning gym, and additional aerobic gym; two swimming pools and a Kiatsu water therapy pool; tennis courts; and solarium
- 20 miles of switchback hiking trails, winding through avocado groves and ponds, suitable for all levels of expertise
The Divaonthego just spent the night in a gorgeous suite at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills and loved it! Stylish, and elegant with an old world charm, the Montage redefines luxury from a seamless check-in to the every, perfect, minute detail–save for a balky flat-screen television.
The 201-room, Spanish Colonial Revival-style hotel sits smack in the center of Beverly Hills’ Golden Triangle—a premium area of upscale shops and restaurants—and pretty much caters to the type of clientele those establishment attract ie: wealthy and wise world travelers. In fact Mr. Kasikci personally selected the clothes hangers to accommodate his bespoke attired guests. Okay a bit over the top, but this is one discerning managing director.
So let’s start from the top.
Check-in—the parking valet alerts the front desk of our arrival so the minute we reach the desk we are escorted to our suite when the preliminaries are handled. Nice.
The room—a Garden Suite ($795 a night) with 625 square feet of living space furnished with two flat screen TVs, one designed for your Internet comfort, king-size bed with special pillows, large bathroom with two sinks, tub and great shower—stocked with aromatic Agraria toiletry (love the soap and body wash and moisture cream, but the shampoo and conditioner were harsh on my hair), big brown, cushy robes and slippers) and an inviting balcony overlooking Canon Garden.
The Spa—ah, what a 20,000 square foot treat. I had a 4 o’clock treatment so went an hour earlier to sit in the steam and mineral whirlpool that is all saline and no chlorine. The facility is understated elegant, nothing glitzy. The piece de resistance was Joseph, my therapist who treated me to the best massage ever—and this from a Diva with thousands of rubs to compare to. My treatment was a 60 minute Elements of the Earth Wrap which included a body scrub, clay body mask, and a deep tissue Shiatsu/Thai massage that left me limp and rubbery. I could barely make it back to my room.
But I did. My husband had a Scientific Rest Facial which is done in a retro Barber Shop designed to make you feel like you took a two hour nap. Well he sure appeared refreshed and had this glowing report: “Facials freak out lots of men. Not only is there the still-lingering pussy factor–a guy getting a facial!–but also the extra anxiety caused by having to enter a spa setting designed for women. Often a man tiptoeing into the spa will be the only male there. I have been that guy many times, so I know. But little did I realize that facials for men have a long history in this country, dating back to the railroad terminal barbershops that were commonplace in the 1930s and 1940s. There, men could get their shave and a haircut, along with what William Gornik told me was a treatment aimed at rejuvenating the harried (and sometimes hung over) businessman. It was called a “scientific rest facial,” William said, and it had the same result as two hours or more of sound sleep. I learned all this while seated in an updated barber chair at William’s Gornik & Drucker barbershop on the lower level of the new Montage Beverly Hills hotel. Here, this men-only facial is called a deep cleansing skin treatment, lasts 45 minutes, and costs $75. After giving me a critical once-over, William swathed my face in hot towels, applied an Egyptian clay mask, rubbed cocoa butter into my beleaguered skin, applied a two-handed vibration massage to face, neck and shoulders, painlessly plucked out blackheads, cleaned up sideburns, applied more potions and lotions, and left me both relaxed and alert.
Then it was off to dinner at Muse, a New York/European style restaurant with a super wait staff and chef. The room is a dark and handsome loft that overlooks Parq—the hotel’s three meal a day eatery. We started with fresh house made pasta with maitake mushrooms, Ahi appetizers and moved to a perfectly prepared salad and halibut washed down with a bottle of fine Testarosa Chard. For dessert we opted for a plate of yummy cookies.
After a stroll around the city, we headed up to bed for a great night’s sleep nicely cushioned by 100 percent down pillows.
The next morning—after a workout in the super fitness center which has everything this fitness fanatic could hope for– we decided to do something camp and strolled over to the world-famous Nate ‘n Al’s Deli a favorite hangout for Beverly Hills industry denizens and out of town celebs (Larry King sat in a booth near us). I had a disappointing bagel (not NY style enough) but Richard loved his fried eggs and potato pancake. The coffee passed muster (we are both very fussy about our cup of joe).
The Montage has an inviting rooftop swimming pool so be sure to pack a bathing suit, you’ll also need a bathing suit to use the coed mineral pool in the spa
Montage, 225 North Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-860-7800, www.montagebeverly hills.com.
Brochure rates: from $495 for Superior to $7500 for Presidential Suite. With this you get complimentary shoe shine using John Lobb polish applied by a certified John Lobb butler who took a 22 hour training course. We didn’t partake of this amenity but I can imagine.
Spa Treatment Prices: sticker shock here, $195 and up but if you have to ask… and well the therapists are truly hand-picked top notch.
Beautiful flowers placed in our suite by Ali, what a guy.