They say if you have a heart filled with LOVE, no one can resist you.

That’s why the Rancho Valencia Hotel in Rancho Santa Fe, California is irresistible. 

This magnificent resort is imbued with LOVE from the second you step onto the property. Set amidst 40 acres of hills and orange trees north of San Diego, it’s minutes away from the scenic beaches of La Jolla and the thrilling excitement of the Del Mar Race Track.

The fragrant grounds of
Rancho Valencia resort .

Yet, once I arrived at this Mediterranean Old World - style of classical splendor, I fell so madly in love, I didn’t want to leave.  You see, my purpose in life is to travel the world, and seek out new adventures that are the quintessential essence of love and beauty.  As I entered the front lobby of the hotel, a loving sensation overcame my heart. My life was on purpose.  I had just entered Paradise.

The resort’s entry was bordered by Brazilian and California pepper trees.  I talked to the master landscape architect Jamie Ricardez, and he told me “The success of the gardens are the result of careful planning, combined with a willingness to go with the flow.” In confidence he told me that many of the plants were moved four to five times before finding their final homes.  Trumpet flower vines in red, orange, and pink surrounded the world-class tennis courts and garden.  An aura of lushness and grandeur enveloped me as I stopped to watch a hummingbird flutter its wings.  I silently observed the graceful choreography as she was suspended in mid-air.  Her long delicate bill nestled in the nectar of a large red tubular flower.  A honeysuckle fragrance perfumed the air.

Rancho Valencia Resort is a tennis haven.

Upon entering the lobby, the hotel clerk offered me a cool glass of freshly squeezed orange juice from the surrounding orange grooves. This small pleasure instantly awakened a refreshing healthy feeling of well-being. The bright orange reflection of liquid sunshine mixed with the sweet passionate citrus taste immediately enlivened my spirit. With each sip I felt embraced by the hotelier’s graciousness, warmth, and genuine concern for his guests.

My senses were aroused with anticipation as I awaited the bell man to show my daughter and me to our room.  My 23-year-old daughter, Kyra, loves sharing these adventures. We exchanged happy smiles and beamed with excitement as the afternoon sun reflected the brilliant colors of the rolling green lawns, splashes of hot pink geranium flower beds and the stunning views of the Rancho Santa Fe valley.  It was reminiscent of the rolling hills in the South of France, one of our previous escapades together.

The Rancho Valencia offers 49 suites.

Our bellman drove us to our suite in an opened air golf cart.  He explained that the hotel was a member of the distinguished Relais & Chateaux hotel group.  He pointed out that there were 49 guest suites that were all custom furnished.  He said that all the wall tiles were hand picked and specially made in Tecate, Mexico.  He proudly informed us that the logs for the columns were shipped from Colorado and the outside light fixtures were designs from a “designer cantina” in Guadalajara.  His voice then lowered to a confidential whisper, “I’m not suppose to say anything, but last week Michael Jordan, Woody Harrelson, Rene Russo, and President Clinton were guests of the hotel.”  My daughter’s eyes grew large.  She had just heard one of the best kept secrets in resort living.

The Grove Casita is customed designed.

We followed the bellman to our suite and pushed open the door to experience pure happiness.  The room reminded me of an early California hacienda but with a 21st Century high technology touch.  It had two wall mounted Plasma flat screen televisions, DVD players, surround sound speakers, gourmet coffee maker, safe, wet bar, and high speed internet access.  Everywhere we looked our private “Grove” casita was magnificently appointed with luxury and comfortable privacy.  The exposed white-washed beams, ceiling fans, cathedral ceilings, earth-tone stucco walls, and glazed tile bordered fireplace of this 850 square-foot bungalow was complete with plantation shuttered windows.

Your private terrace with personal spa.

I motioned for Kyra to come through the French doors of the living room to view our private patio.  The afternoon sun was shaded by a market umbrella and flanked by bright fucia flowered planters.  I was spellbound by the view.  The hillside was abundant with lush beds of impatients, agapanthus, hibiscus, geraniums, rolling lawns, and wildflowers.  The bouquet of beauty was an aphrodisiac.  I paused for few minutes and breathed in the afternoon delights of balmy sea air and ambrosia.  Out of the blue Kyra yelled, “Mom look up….look, there’s a Red Tail hawk diving!”  Out of the corner of my eye, I luckily caught a glimpse of this magnificent bird.  The morning doves cooed and a yellow finch chirped above my head.  From the smallest to the tallest, everyone felt happy at the Rancho Valencia.

The pool or your private spa?

I whispered a quiet thank you to my heart for leading me to such a beautiful place.  But my serenity was jolted by another large gasp from my daughter!  “Look Mom, we’ve got our own private outdoor spa!  What a great place to relax under the stars with a glass of wine.”  She was overjoyed with her newfound hydrotherapy pleasure.

I looked down at my watch, where did the time fly?  We needed to hurry, get showered and dressed for dinner, or we’d be late!  But the word “stress” was an oxymoron at the Rancho Valencia.  Even the huge walk-in closet in the Casita contributed to our ease and comfort.  It was big enough to iron our clothes, and the separate dressing room gave us the room to try on new outfits, or keep a wardrobe pressed and clean for a year.

Bath in the Del Mar Suite.

The bathroom was a spa for the soul.  The oversized Jacuzzi tub was complete with specialty bath salts that soothed away the aches in my travel worn muscles.  The steam shower opened my pours and resuscitated my spirit.  Standing under the large shiny silver rain shower head was like being in a lush green tropical forest caught in a summer rainfall.  I giggled with fun as the pulsating rhythm of the warm and gentle rain shower fell over my face and body caressing away every worry I felt.

It’s a little know fact, that when two girls get ready for a “night out” tempers can fly if they have to your share the same bathroom, but not at the Rancho Valencia. This bathroom was spacious enough to host a cocktail party for ten; and between the bubble bath with scented salts, the steam shower that had designer soaps, lotions, and amenities, the oversized fluffy towels and white plush robes, not to mention the separate make-up vanity, we ceremoniously coiffed and applied our make-up singing and laughing with sheer bliss.

We left our “happy” suite, “dressed to the nines”, refreshed and ready to enjoy our next Valencia adventure — dining.  But before we entered the restaurant we took a moment to take pictures in the Fountain Courtyard.  It was a cinematographer’s dream.  The courtyard was perfectly adorned with many large mazeta pots abundantly over flowing with pink, orange, and bright red flowering bougainvillea.  Everywhere we looked our eyes rested on beauty.  There were shrubs that included purple lantana mixed with dark purple sage that were set against bright yellow Mexican marigolds, rockrose, lion’s tail, and my favorite, the monkey flower; joy bloomed abundantly with a gardener’s delight.

Relais & Chateaux fine dining.

We entered the dining room and were graciously seated by the expansive windows that lined the restaurant.  We ordered an aperitif as we watched Divine Love in motion as the sun sets dramatically. Her fiery golden rays sweep the sky, leaving the magnificent views of the outside gardens bathed in the painted light reflections of reds, orange, pink, purples and mauves.  We raised our glasses and toasted to Love, being irresistible!

More feelings of love cascaded around us as each appetizing course surprised and delighted us.  For starters we were served a plate of Hawaiian Sashimi Crisps, with Marinated Japanese Cucumbers Wasabe, Sunrise Papaya-Mango Salsa, Fresh Coriander and Sweet Pea Shoots.   This quiet explosion of delectable tastes awakened our appetite.  Yet it was the Maryland Blue Lump Crab cake with Sun dried Apricot and Mango Chutney, Key Lime Butter, and Popcorn Shoots that made us slowly savor every memorable morsel.  Love emanated from every spice, each fresh ingredient and recipe used to prepare and serve our meal.

I ordered French Cut Prime Beef Rib Eye with horseradish whipped potato, sautéed baby spinach, with Brand Calvados pepper cream sauce.  It was amazing!  Kyra sat on the edge of her seat enamored with the fresh moist tastes of her Alaskan Halibut prepared with sweet pear tomatoes, baby artichokes, crab whipped potatoes and tomato concasse beurre blanc.  We now know what love tastes like.

But True Love was found in our desserts!  I had the Julian D’anjou pear Napoleon with crispy phyllo wafers, maple chestnut cream, chestnuts, and rum sauce.  I was in awe.  Kyra became “twitter pated” after she devoured the flourless Chocolate Soufflé that was served with Roasted Express Sauce and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake.  We lingered over a cup of Cappuccino trying to decide what we enjoyed the most.  The answer was . . . EVERYTHING!

The comfy suite are in many styles.

That night as we turned off our lights and sunk into the luxurious bedding our hearts were brimming with the sounds, sensations, the careful attention to detail, the gracious service, the award winning cuisine, the stunning accommodations but most of all for the lasting memory that was etched in our souls….”a heart filled with love is irresistible.”  As I curled up under the comforter, warmed by the day’s delights, I heard the Night Owl chanting . . .

“who . . .who . . . who? . . . who?”

I couldn’t resist.  I jumped out of bed and whispered back a heartfelt, “thank you…..thank you….thank you!”

— By Janice Wilson, Las Vegas Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.