Enchanting El Encanto in Santa Barbara

IMG_1688The first time I visited Santa Barbara’s newest luxury resort, El Encanto, I didn’t want to leave. I was only there for 24 hours, yet I enjoyed every minute. The stunning Orient-Express Hotels, Ltd. property opened in March 2013, after over seven-years of extensive restoration.

Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. is a luxury hotel company and sophisticated adventure travel operator since 1976, when it purchased Hotel Cipriani in Venice and then shortly thereafter recreated the celebrated Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, linking London, Paris and Venice, along with other European cities.

Today the Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. brand embraces 45 hotel, cruise and luxury rail businesses in 22 countries, including distinctive properties such as Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg, Hotel Ritz Madrid, Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro and Maroma Resort and Spa on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.  The company also operates six luxury tourist trains, three river cruise operations and one of New York’s most iconic restaurants. www.orient-express.com

During my one night stay, I visited El Encanto’s infinity pool, had an elegant afternoon tea, enjoyed a healthy breakfast made by renowned chef Patrice Martineau and later relaxed with a one-hour spa treatment.

The themes running throughout the resort are hummingbirds and Monarch butterflies. El Encanto is located along the butterflies migratory path. As a tribute, the resort is offering a deal – Monarch Butterfly Migration Package from October 15 through March 15, 2014. Rates start at $570 per night and include luxury accommodations, a ‘Diamond Dusted Monarch’ welcome cocktails, a ‘Healing IMG_1722Cocoon’ spa treatment, and a $60 daily breakfast credit.

With Autumn Approaching

Schedule a day at The Spa at El Encanto to experience and learn the secrets of eternal youth with an 80-minute session created with hand-picked sage from the lush gardens at El Encanto. The restorative $240 treatment features a body scrub, relaxing massage, and soothing scalp therapy to stimulate circulation and kick-start cell renewal for an all-over fall glow.

 Seasonal Delights

IMG_1680Chef Patrice Martineau at El Encanto’s Dining Room and Terrace has designed an innovative fall menu that incorporates contemporary California-coastal cuisine infused with Asian touches and French flair. Working in Japan, he favors Japanese herbs, including wasabi and burdock. Many of these are planted  in the Chef’s garden ready for his daily picking. The menu incorporates local uni and prawns, to Silver Mountain Aged Cheddar courtesy of the hotel’s very own Holstein cow, Ellie.

Savor and Sip Afternoon Tea

Having once supervised the culinary offerings at The Savoy in London, Chef Patrice Martineau has introduced an exquisite “High Tea”  from the china to the freshly made French pastries. Porcelain artist Lissi Kaplan hand-painted each china tea set. When I experienced the afternoon tea, I has a choice of  loose leaf green, white and black teas while indulging in traditional delicacies including raisin-saffron scones, clotted cream, homemade preserves, savory egg salad, and crisp cucumber sandwiches.  The tea begins daily between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. and starts at $20 for the ‘Light Tea’ service. Reservations are required 24 hours in advance.

Enchanting Treasures

My children and I enjoyed strolling around El Encanto’s seven-acres. We found five unique and colorful ceramic pigs hidden throughout the property. We inspected the Chefs Garden, and pointed out the numerous hummingbird feeders. Afterwards, we took another dip in the heated swimming pool and gazed out at the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands.

To learn more about El Encanto – go to http://www.elencanto.com/web/ele/el_encanto.jsp

Amtrak’s Surfliner ride from Santa Barbara to LA

IMG_1796After a relaxing stay at the exquisite El Encanto Resort, the thought of getting into my car for a two-hour drive home, possibly in some traffic, didn’t excite me. I was thrilled to be taking the Amtrak Surfliner  home.

My family and I were invited to experience the Orient Express’ newest 5 star resort, the newly renovated El Elcanto. We drove up on a Sunday together. After enjoying a decadent afternoon-tea on the Terrace, swimming in the 85 degree infinite pool and touring the grounds of the resort, my family needed to drive back home, due to work and school obligations. As I watched them leave the driveway, I went back to my cottage and slept well.

The next morning I ate a dazzling California-style breakfast prepared by Executive Chef Patrice Martineau. Later I enjoyed a marvelous facial by Kelsey Webb at the El Encanto Spa. Afterwards, El Encanto staff members arranged for a car to take me down to the Santa Barbara train station. It’s only ten minutes away. The staff happily printed out  my boarding pass for me for my 2:04 p.m. departure.

The train was eight minutes delayed due to a freight train trying to pass. At 2:10 p.m. it arrived. Everyone IMG_1757in the train station, built in 1904, walked onto the platform and into the various train cars. I followed other passengers up the stairs and found a window seat to admire the Pacific Ocean views. There was a foot rest, fold out tray and my comfortable chair reclined back.

The conductor scanned my e-ticket before we rolled up to the Carpenteria station 15 minutes later. Along the way, I took photos of beaches, multi-million dollar Montecito homes and the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel.

We smoothly stopped in Carpenteria and picked up a few people, before we continued on our journey to the Ventura station. Kids waved to us as our train went by. The 20 minute journey to Ventura was mostly all ocean viewing. Everyone in my train car was quiet. We all enjoyed hearing the horn sound out every few minutes.

IMG_1769Passing oil rigs in Carpenteria and wonderful nature trails along the cliff, as waves gently crashed along the shore. Couples stopped along their beach walks to admire the beauty and length of the train.

We clickety-clacked along the 101 freeway before passing Mussel Shoals. Workmen were working in the center of the freeway. We passed flocks of seagulls standing in shallow water and a long line of RV’s parked along the coast. Trees of every species passed by my window: California pines, Queen palms, Nobel fir.

A motorcyclist kept pace with our train right before Ventura. He turned and waved.

The ride was fairly smooth and so picturesque. I’ve never appreciated the California coast line as much as I did riding the train. When driving on the freeway, cars, trucks and motorcycles pass by and distort your view. On the train, it’s a moving picture of California’s quintessential lifestyle.

Flocks of pelicans soared overhead as we approached the Ventura Fairgrounds and train station. After a brief stop we slowly rolled out of beachIMG_1777 viewing Ventura to the more inland route to Oxnard. The conductor said it would take us 12 minutes. With the ocean in the far distance, we passed the Pierpont Tennis Club. Next fields of green cabbage, lettuce, and orchards of citrus fruit. Workers were harvesting the fresh produce for the local farmers.

There is a Café on the train, however I brought my own food and didn’t want to miss the view. Restrooms are on located near the stairway.

At Oxnard, the sign stated Elevation 61 feet. There is a large bus depot next to the train station. Oxnard’s annual Strawberry Festival is May 18 and May 19th. We passed a lot of strawberry fields on our way to Camarillo in ten minutes.

Next stop, Moorpark in 10 minutes. Now we cruised by industrial parks  and then fields of beans, groves of lemons into the Santa Rosa Valley. Horses in corrals rested under tall eucalyptus trees. More lemon and orange groves and workers harvesting acres of crops. Arriving into the Moorpark station we passed a skateboard park and elementary school.

IMG_1787As the doors closed we were headed to Simi Valley. Arrival time about 15 minutes. The views weren’t as pretty as earlier on the journey. We passed a batting cage, Law offices and cars lined up at a signal along Los Angeles Ave. Passengers boarding the train started talking on their cell phones and others blared music so loud into their earphones, that I could hear the heavy metal music six seats away.

The Southbound train’s next stop was Chatsworth, ten minutes away.  The topography is beautiful rolling through the Santa Susana pass.  Rocks and boulder are dominated by high, narrow ridges and deep canyons. The rugged natural landscape was a striking contrast to the developed communities of Moorpark and Simi Valley. We even went through our three tunnel. Inside the car the lights remained on, yet outside was pitch black. According to a website, the first tunnel is 7,369 feet long. It was constructed in 1900 by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company and completed in 1904. Construction of the tunnel began in 1900 by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company and was IMG_1789completed in 1904. It made it easier to transfer crops and livestock to market.

We traversed through another shorter tunnel before seeing more Rocky peaks. In fact, the third highest point is called Rocky Peak. It gets its name from the many large craggy boulders that dot its surface. It’s quite beautiful and unique to another landscape we rolled past. Rocky Peak has been prominently featured in many classic films.

IMG_1792Cruising through the last tunnel, we saw Equestrian estates and track homes in Chatsworth. It was the first time another train passed by my window. The Chatsworth station had the nicest arrival sign. The depot offers passengers a Transportation and Movie History museum to explore.

Next stop, Van Nuys with a 15 minute travel time. We passed the Van Nuys airport and watched the private jets, small planes and helicopters take off and land.

We saw a lot more cars, trains and billboards. We were told the train might fill up with commuters, so place our bags and items in the overhead shelf.

The conductor came by to tell me my stop at the Burbank airport was next and would take about six minutes. I packed up my things and got ready to leave my relaxing journey. The train only stops for a minute or two, before closing its doors and heading out to its next depot and final destination, San Diego.

I longed for the tranquil and serene views of pulling out of the Santa Barbara Train Stations and rolling along the coast, yet enjoyed the unique views that each city offered along the train tracks.

7 Destinations for Mother’s Day

IMG_1615Mother’s Day is approaching soon. What should you get that special lady in your life? It depends on what interests your Mother. Is she active? Does she enjoy being pampered? Is she a Nature lover?

Here are 6 of my favorite spots that your Mother will enjoy to experience on her special day.

1. Beach-Loving Mom

Book one night at The Beach House in Hermosa Beach. Across the street is the Hermosa Cyclery to rent a one speed cruiser bike for $7 an hour. Take a ride along The Strand. The 22 mile paved path winds from Will Rogers State Park in the Pacific Palisades to the Torrance County Beach.

Sit out in the sun at Good Stuff along The Strand for lunch of salads, sandwiches and burgers. Back at the hotel, grab a few beach chairs, beach toys and a boogie board. Enjoy the beach as the sun is starting to set.

Take Mom to Manhattan Beach for  dinner at MB Post. Soulful Chef and co-owner David LeFevre createsIMG_1633 fun small plates to be shared around he table. Start with a great glass of wine  and a cheese plate. A fresh fish, Diver scallops or meat dish will satisfy her appetite. Save room for one of his sweet and savory desserts.

In the evening, Jay Leno usually performs on Sundays at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach.

www.beachhouse.com/hermosabeach-hotels.html – 1300 The Strand  Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. (310)374-3001.

Hermosa Cyclery – www.hermosacyclery.com

eatmbpost.com – 1142 Manhattan Ave  Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 (310)545-5405.

Comedy and Magic Club Hermosa Beach – www.comedyandmagicclub.com

2.  Relaxed Mom

Drive or ride the Amtrack train up to Santa Barbara to enjoy the newly opened El Encanto Resort and Spa. Book a Vitamin Sea Facial for Mom IMG_1695with Esthetician Kelsey Webb. It’s an amazing experience. Mom will walk out completely relaxed, appreciative and content.

Reserve a seat out on the Terrace for High Tea from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  Sit among eucalyptus groves overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands while enjoying a Traditional or Bellini Tea. Bring your bathing suits, because the infinity pool is the perfect temperature. It’s tranquil and serene.

Stay overnight in one of the beautifully renovated suites or cottages. Take Mom for a divine dinner prepared by Executive Chef Patrice Martineau. His French dishes are spiked with a delightful Japanese fusion flair. www.elencanto.com. – 800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara – (800)393-5315.

3. Whimsical and Adventurous Mom

img450_LLH_day_ofA drive down to Carlsbad will put a smile on the face of  this type of mom. The colorful LEGOLAND California Hotel just opened. The 250-room, three-story LEGOLAND Hotel showcases three room themes: Kingdom, Adventure and Pirate. It’s the perfect complement for the mom who enjoys playing with her children, riding on amusing rides, and cheering at shows at LEGOLAND California, LEGOLAND water park, and SEA LIFE Aquarium.

If Mom gets tired, the outdoor pool area at the hotel features a gradual incline 5-foot-deep swimming pool and offers a plethora of lounge chairs to cool off after a day at one of the Parks. visitcarlsbad.com or LEGOLAND 1 Legoland Dr  Carlsbad, CA 92008 – (760) 918-5346 – california.legoland.com.

4. Palm Springs Loving Mom

For the mom who longs to play golf or lie in the sun and relax with a favorite book on her special day, Palm 2.1_splashtopia_1280x394Springs offers over 130 hotels and resorts, and over 100 restaurants.

Book a night at Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa. Children will enjoy the newer Splashtopia, featuring a 425-foot lazy river, two 100-foot water slides, a cliff-side Jacuzzi, and a sandy beach. Splashtopia also features unique water-play zones with fountains and sprinklers for the kids.

If the noise level gets too loud, mom can saunter over to the refurbished adults-only Azure Pool with its sleek decor and elegant teak furniture. Poolside service has an attentive wait staff  that will cater to her every need with great food and signature drinks. www.rancholaspalmas.com – 41-000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage – (866) 423-1195.

  • Walk across the street to The River for dinner or brunch at the popular California Bistro – Aqua Pazza restaurant. They offer outdoor dining on their water-viewing patio and special value menus that will appeal to every family member. www.acquapazzabistro.com

5. Mountain Mom800px-Lake_Arrowhead_Village,_California

Mom will enjoy getting away from the frenzied pace of the city, while driving up to an elevation of 5,106 feet in the San Bernardino National Forest. Treat Mom to a special Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet at the Lakeview Terrace at The Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa. Sit along the shores of picturesque Lake Arrowhead, with plenty of fresh air and clear-blue sky.

After brunch, go for a hike or walk with Mom to the Lake Arrowhead Village to peruse the quaint specialty shops, and outlet stores such as: Jockey, Bass, Famous Footwear, and Coach.

Before leaving book Mom a massage  at Spa of the Pines inside the Lake Arrowhead Resort. Kids and Dad can don bathing suits and swim among the pine trees. Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa – http://laresort.com/ 27984 California 189, Lake Arrowhead, CA  92382 – (909)336-1511.

6. Ojai Yoga Mom

Send Mom to one of So Cal’s best all-inclusive destination spas, The Oaks. The staff offers guided hikes into the nearby hills and mountains, water IMG_1532aerobics and calming yoga classes.  Treat her to a day or 2-night stay. The Oaks provides a well-rounded 1,000 calorie a day food plan that consists of three meals, snacks and beverages. The varied menus feature natural foods, fresh fish and poultry, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, homemade salad dressings and soups – all without a touch of additional salt or refined sugar used in the preparation. Many meals feature freshly-grown herbs from their special gardens.

From May 10 – 17 is a  MOTHER-DAUGHTER special. Receive a 40% discount off program rates for each daughter sharing a room with Mom. Ends Friday, May 17, 2013 at noon. Book early, as this is a popular time!

Founder Sheila Cluff “The Mother of Aerobics” since the 1950s, has owned this wonderful resort since the late 1970s. Her daughter Cathy now manages the resort, while Sheila and her husband Don travel the world educating people about fitness, health and gratitude. Her latest book, Living Your Dream is a must read for every mother.

The typical Oaks guest at The Oaks is a fifty-year-old woman who just wants to relax and take in all the positive, nurturing elements of a healthy lifestyle. If this sounds like your mom (or You) this will be a memorable gift. http://www.oaksspa.com – 122 East Ojai Ave. (800)753-OAKS.

7. Beverly Hills Mom 

Baldemar Fierro - Montage Beverly HillsWould your mom like the red carpet treatment for Mother’s Day? The Montage Beverly Hills is offering the quintessential gift. Start with a heavenly brunch by celebrity chef Scott Conant. Bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Marys will be served for $22. Call to make reservations at (310)860-7840.

If Mom would prefer an Afternoon Tea served in hand-painted china with exclusive artisan tea varieties, small bites and divine desserts. Tea is served every Friday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Reservations are (310)860-7940.

For a light lunch, Mom can sit up at the rooftop at the Conservatory Grill near the pool and receive a complimentary rose and chilled glass of Rose wine.

Here are a few of the Spa services that they are offering for Mother’s Day –

·       Mother, Manicure and Mimosa: Treat your Mother on this special day for a Montage Manicure, while sipping on a Mimosa. She will also enjoy access to the rooftop pool, Fitness Center and Spa Montage facilities. $65 per person.
·       Mother’s Day of Indulgence: Delight in a day devoted to mom with the ultimate gift of relaxation:  a day at the lavish Spa Montage, which includes a 60-minute massage and 60-minute facial, Montage Manicure and Pedicure, poolside lunch at our rooftop Conservatory Grill and all-day access to the pool and Spa Montage facilities. $565 per person. Lunch is received in a credit of $50.
·       Mommy & Me Spa: Mom knows any day is good if it includes bonding time with her daughter. This package, designed for girls ages 5-12, includes a Montage Manicure and Pedicure and a Paintbox Manicure and Pedicure. Children will also receive a special braiding at the Kim Vo Salon. 225 N Canon Dr  Beverly Hills, CA 90210, (888) 860-0788
Show your appreciation to Mom everyday. On Mother’s Day pamper, spoil and love her even more.

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