Destination: California Wine Country: Napa
Auberge du Soleil
For years I had heard that this was one of the most romantic hotels in the country, and when I finally visited four years ago, I was not disappointed. Set in an olive grove on thirty-five hillside acres with an exceptional view of vineyards, “Inn of the Sun,” as its name translates, consists of the main house (with two rooms and an award-winning restaurant), a spa and fifty individual maisons. Provence and its art de vivre clearly inspired not just the name of the hotel but the splashes of sunny color within the rooms, which adds warmth to the contemporary design.
My favorite rooms are the hillside ones with fireplaces and patios with views, but all have amenities like flat-screen TVs in the bedrooms and the bathrooms and extra-large tubs. Special touches include the walking trails that wind through a sculpture garden and to the pool area, and a concierge who will arrange anything from horseback riding to helicopter tours.
The spa, which is accessible only to hotel guests, offers indoor or outdoor massages, depending on the weather, and it’s worth arriving early for an appointment to soak in the heated, infinity-edged pools that overlook the valley. If you want to soak in the same views but are not staying at the resort for spa time, book lunch or dinner at the acclaimed restaurant and ask to be seated on the Auberge’s gorgeous dining terrace which is one of the most romantic spots for a meal. Rooms from $500.
Reality feels distant when you reach this Auberge Resort, tucked into the green canyon between Calistoga and St. Helena. Cedar cottages include indoor and outdoor space, with a terrace, a fireplace and plenty of privacy. It’s hard to believe that all of them are actually movable structures, but that was the only way for the property to receive permits to develop this site, which was once a trailer park. Up the windy path is the Bathhouse, where a thermal pool and soaking tub accompany mud treatments and massages. The pool and gym overlook the surrounding canyon. Activities can include flora walks, wine tours and Ai Chi (yoga for two, performed in a private ninety-eight-degree soaking pool). Rooms from $525.
Editor’s Note: I spent a wonderful girls’ weekend here for a friend’s birthday two years ago. Ten of us flew in from Hong Kong, L.A., New York and London for two nights. The hotel arranged a dinner in the private dining room; we also booked the private dining room at the French Laundry. It was the perfect mix of activities and relaxation because we spent time lounging by the pretty pool, with its vineyard views (the pool restaurant served a great club sandwich with fries); shopping in St. Helena, a town that’s just the right size for an hour or two of shopping for clothes and home accessories; and touring wine country with a fantastic wine guide. The birthday girl booked one of the two-bedroom cottages, which came with a hot tub and a living room, so we had a common place to gather away from the other hotel guests. I recommend it highly for a girl’s getaway, especially in the fall, when the weather in the Caribbean, Mexico and the Southeast is iffy because of hurricanes. MELISSA BIGGS BRADLEY
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