By Don Braunagel, Ron Donoho and Jamie Reno
(page 1 of 3)Sometimes a romantic getaway can take place right in your backyard (don’t take that literally, please). In other cases, looking for leisure with your love may take a few hours’ drive. One way or another, we present three locations within driving distance that can aid in the rekindling—or inflaming—of your affair of the heart.
In North County, we took stock of the Four Seasons Resort Aviara. Farther north, we checked out Hotel Bel-Air. And a little farther north, we checked into El Encanto in Santa Barbara. Read along to gather information for your own getaway—or just have a little vicarious fun.
CarlsbadOccasions like Valentine’s Day cause hearts to pulsate faster, but romance flowers in all four seasons. And it blooms particularly at the Four Seasons Resort Aviara, the rolling, luxurious complex just inland from Carlsbad. The resort offers a tantalizing menu of theme getaways, among them the Romance Package, which includes an overnight stay and dinner in Vivace, the site’s superb restaurant.
You can add to the amour with a sensual session in the new Couple’s Suite, the highlight of a $3.5 million renovation that doubled the size of the Four Seasons spa and fitness center. The two of you enjoy side-by-side massages (choices range from shiatsu to seaweed), then lollygag in an intimate lounge featuring a marble fireplace, a multihead shower for two and an attached private patio area with heated whirlpool. Snuggled in your provided robes, you’ll experience one of those “Life doesn’t get much better” moments.
If you’re inclined to work out before or after, the fitness center is the equal of a private club, and the cardio machines each have a TV with earphones. For outdoor physical activity, the resort houses a 7,007-yard championship golf course designed by Arnold Palmer, a tennis center and two sizable swimming pools. One wisely is designated “the quiet pool” for those who prefer serene, low-splash surroundings.
Since Aviara rests on a bluff above the Batiquitos Lagoon, most rooms offer an overview of nature’s splendors, from mountains to ocean. Facing the Pacific, we were lucky enough to catch a sunset with the elusive green flash. All rooms and suites have the class and elegance typical of the Four Seasons chain, and though they look traditional, they’re admirably equipped for the modern world. Phones have a built-in second line for a modem, laptop connections to the Internet are available at two speeds, and the television includes video game and Internet options. Executive suites include a printer for laptop hookup.
Difficult as it may be to leave the comforts of your room, it’s easy to explore the resort’s five levels and 200-acre grounds. You’ll find the elevators are about the zippiest around—seconds from button-press to “ding”—and then you can stroll about or take a readily available shuttle to the tennis and golf areas or, offsite, to the nearby Batiquitos nature trail. Walk the mile or so along the shore and enjoy the fruits of a dredging project that revived the glistening lagoon and its flora and fauna (they’re depicted in an Aviara room guidebook).
The food of love, Shakespeare notwithstanding, is often not music, just food. At Vivace, though, food is not just food. Executive chef Pascal Vignau oversees the creation of daily gourmet goodies, with an emphasis on Northern Italian and Mediterranean. The menu also features selections dubbed “alternative cuisine,” which means they’re high in flavor but low in fats, calories and such. Prices are surprisingly reasonable for an upscale restaurant, with an ever-changing three-course prix fixe dinner a bargain at $36. Save room for the signature dessert: warm bittersweet chocolate melt, much more ambrosia than alternative cuisine. And if, like me, you too often drip something on yourself while eating, you’ll love Vivace’s big napkins.
Throughout the year, Aviara hosts afternoon teas, Friday seafood buffets and Sunday evening jazz concerts accompanied by an array of chocolate desserts. On July Fridays, the jazz shows move outdoors. In short, at Aviara, you can find romance for all seasons.
IF YOU GO: Four Seasons Resort Aviara is in inland North County, at 7100 Four Seasons Point Road, Carlsbad. Guest rooms run $395-$505; suites are $875-$1,950; and the presidential suite goes for upwards of $4,200 per night. For more information, call 760-603-6800 or go to www.fourseasons.com/aviara.