guitarist's simple Spanish folk melody serenaded me
as I sipped Cabernet Sauvignon. The stars were popping
into the autumn night sky, the adobe fireplace was blazing,
and the rocking chair I'd settled into was divine. Here
at the Mustangs & Burros patio bar at the Estancia
La Jolla Hotel & Spa, I was having one of those
perfect vacation moments. The serene set up was just
one of the comfortable spots on the 9.5 acre property
where guests can either zone out and relax or join in
and meet other fun-loving visitors for conversation.
a couple of natives who had walked over from their nearby
condo and I had gotten into a lively discussion about
the California political scene. They called Mustangs
& Burros their living room, and were devoted fans
of the burgers and rich desserts on the bar menu. Later,
as the guitar player packed up and I considered calling
it a night myself, the patio scene ramped up with the
arrival of folks from all over the country who were
staying at Estancia for a week-long pharmaceutical company's
computer training session. Joan from Dallas and Doris
from North Carolina invited me to join them on the couch
in front of the fire, as we shared stories of travels
around the United States. They raved about Estancia's
state-of-the-art Learning Center Complex (where they'd
been spending most of their days), and also insisted
I order a margarita the next time I hit this bar. I
had to admit, the Mustangs & Burros Margarita Menu
(featuring 9 different versions of the cocktail) did
look tempting, and the guests downing the concoctions
that filled big colorful glasses seemed to be having
a fabulous time, but I was more impressed by the hotel's
domestic wine list which offered a great variety of
well selected California vintages by the glass.
matter where my friend Kristin and I wandered during
our stay at Estancia, the laid-back friendly atmosphere
is what made our stay so appealing. We spent most of
our vacation day at the spa, chilling out from Los Angeles
city life. Kristin went for the heated outdoor pool,
cardio and weight machines at the Fitness Center, while
I relaxed in the Jacuzzi garden, going from hot soak
to lounge chair as I caught up on reading a stack of
many months' old New Yorker magazines I'd packed from
In the spa's relaxation room, as I cuddled up in a soft chenille robe on a luxurious chaise, I had yet another friendly encounter. A group of women from a Southern California insurance firm were being treated to an Estancia two-day stay by their boss. The outing was in place of the company's annual picnic and these gals could not have been more pleased with the change in tradition. They'd been picked up by limousines from their homes, had already gotten facials and manicures, and were now glowing and on their way to massages. There was no question in their minds that they would lobby for Estancia to be the company retreat for next year.
I indulged in the spa's signature Healing Garden Treatment. Cynthia, my masseuse, wrapped me in a refreshing body mask made of papaya and eucalyptus extracts, then expertly massaged away any tension that could possibly be left in my Jacuzzi soaked body. When she had finished the treatment I relaxed in front of the outdoor garden fireplace, biting into a juicy pear and sipping lemon water
a perfectly sublime afternoon.
The coastal ranch design of Estancia is homage to the fact that the grounds were formerly an equestrian estate. Our comfy double room was an ingenious blend of homey-chic with 18th century ranch accents, including barn style doors and a brown horse blanket at the foot of the bed. Modern splashes of color gave the décor a sophisticated edge: a sheer tangerine curtain opening to the beautifully landscaped courtyard (featuring cactus and palms) and vibrant avocado wall accents in the bathroom. The room's luxury touches of Terry robes and custom made shower gels, shampoos and lotions which were scented with extracts from locally grown plants (bergamot, lemon, and cypress), kept us feeling pampered even when we weren't at the spa.
The highlight of our stay was dinner at Estancia's Adobe El Restaurante. Chef Chris Bennett, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy who worked at award-winning restaurants up and down the coast, has created a brilliantly inventive and seasonally changing menu with Mexican accents. We splurged on the lobster stuffed scallops, surf & turf (filet mignon and lobster), swordfish garnished with black lentils, and grilled heirloom tomatoes. It was a complete flavors-bursting-in-our-mouths experience, served stylishly along with a flight of red wines (a sample of 3 California vintages), which was chosen by the sommelier to complement our menu choices.
We took our time through dinner on the restaurant's heated patio that overlooked the courtyard, where a mariachi band was playing for a party to celebrate the last night of the pharmaceutical company's training week. The lighting on the courtyard perfectly accented the fountain, palm trees, and folks happy to have completed their computer training and now enjoying an outdoor Mexican buffet. As Kristin and I finished dinner by sharing a luscious caramelized banana desert, I caught sight of the women from the insurance company I'd met earlier at the spa. They were seated inside at a long table, laughing it up. It felt great to be sandwiched between the festive courtyard and the giddy group of vacationing gals - all of us part of a free-flowing Estancia party.
If You Go:
Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
9700 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA 92037
Room rates start at $209
Spa packages available
Facilities for conventions, business meeting, seminars, and special events