Travels without Journey

By Nancy Chuda founder and Editor-in-Chief of LuxEcoLiving and co-founder of Healthy Child Healthy World

I don’t know about you but I am really tired of wasting precious time looking for hotel deals on the Internet. Between all the ads and household interruptions…. like the one that just happened. My 7 month old adopted Labrador puppy JOURNEY  just chewed the laces off my knock-off Nike Air Jordan’s. Help!

Photo Credit Grace Reynolds Journey “Tug Not War.”

I don’t have time to pack or even fill my hybrid with enough gas to drive to Costco to buy toilet paper and find travel deals. Between the enormous shopping carts and I hate to say it, even the size of the people match the size of their carts…. I just need a break! Two nights somewhere close to the kennel so Journey can be reached within thirty minutes if need be and where WE, as a couple (married 31 years) can just relax.

Once in a great while relaxation becomes tantamount to all else. Not easy to do unless you can find a way to slip out of sight and into a paradise of sorts where every ephemeral need is met. Unlike other world class resort hotels, the Montecito’s Four Seasons Biltmore sets a standard both past and present for magical moments and everlasting memories.
It was easy to get a reservation mid-week and the best part were the rates.

 

If I were to pick one of the most beautiful places in the world to observe a sunset, I would have to say, sitting poolside at the coveted Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club overlooking Butterfly Beach at the prestigious Four Seasons in Montecito is a LuxEcoLiving4U premiere destination.

Nestled on the California coast between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara is graced by sunny skies and a mild year-round climate – earning its reputation as the American Riviera.

It all began with the influence of Ty Warner who has made enough Beanie Babies, toys for tots, to fill the entire state of California. And they can be recycled.The renovation of the Four Seasons Biltmore’s guest rooms and cottages has been a labor of love that has taken more than four years and over 500,000 subcontractor hours to execute. Renovations began in February 2003 and were part of the overall multi-phase Biltmore renovation program of 130,000 square feet and $180 million completed in May 2006. It has been accomplished with a high regard for historical accuracy and meticulous attention to detail in order to restore the Biltmore to its heyday as one of the world’s grand hotels.

The Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel is a Green Crowned Jewel experience

Heritage is something to be proud of. And Santa Barbara has plenty of landmark buildings including the Santa Barbara Mission which is priceless.

Ty Warner’s grand scheme and persistence paid off.  The Biltmore conjures memories of a bygone era of lives well lived in Montecito’s wealthy enclave.

One of the most fascinating people who has added greatly to the heritage of the community is a woman named Ganna Walska whose Lotus Land Garden is a must see!

We were luck to get a reservation mid-week and were treated to a magnificent tour of the gardens.

It’s a dream! You don’t have to be rich just thankful that others who have more spread their wealth so you can enjoy it.

Montecito is the place where money did and still does grow trees and people relish their lavish gardens surrounding their homes that even today can barely be seen from behind magnificent masonry walls. There’s a scent so familiar from the pungent blossoms of roses, hybrid tea varieties, and the orchids that trellis the entrance, Spanish revival architecture, that spans thick cool walls welcoming travelers from near and far.

Locally grown orchids are a signature at the Biltmore
The magnificent Spanish Revival architecture upholds Reginald Johnson’s original designs when built in 1927

There was a time in 1927 when the train, a main means of transportation, stopped to enable passengers to unload their suitcases (sans wheels). Imagine the well dressed women, wearing  dresses and gloves, hats of course, and men in well tailored jackets, fedora hats, and shoes with laces. No sports apparel allowed at the entrance. Ties must be worn for dinner. Thank God for recycled flip flops and hemp shorts!

And bathers wore swim caps at the beach and in the pool. I brought my new Speedo Hydro Designed Sillcone cap and made quite a splash! Not the one with the stars and stripes. Journey got that one in the backseat of what use to be my very clean car.

Water ballet performed at the original Coral Casino pool

The Biltmore gained its reputation at a time when the very wealthy elite from the east coast discovered the lush California tropics of every species imaginable, verdant landscape that dotted but did not overwhelm the pristine beaches.

It was just about mid-morning that I began to miss Journey. Especially walking through the magnificent landscaped gardens and thinking what a mess he would make of all those perfectly manicured pathways.

We adopted Journey and won the dog lottery

 

Yet even today, the Santa Barbara Four Seasons Biltmore remains as a singular landmark destination ensconced in its originally built Spanish Colonial architecture and gardens that consumes the curiosity of any passer-by. And on tracks not far behind its magnificent grounds one still hears the sound of an engine and the train’s whistle blows reminding us of a time when stellar first-class service on board  could rival almost any four star hotel.

As time stands still which rarely happens in a fortnight, our two-night stay was nothing short of a divine intervention; stress melts away beginning with a signature spa treatment for two. I had a Honey Grapefruit Ginger Sugar Scrub followed by a relaxing massage.

And this is where the Santa Barbara Biltmore gets all of my kudos. FANTASTIC!

A special massage for two with organic oils as the sun gradually sets

Clothed in “the” Biltmore robes and slippers (just like the ones Journey ate for breakfast) we were greeted and taken to a private treatment room adjacent to the rose garden and overlooking the sea. A warm fire welcomed us as did the freshly brewed ginger tea.

Is this real? I remember saying to myself. Why can’t we relax? Is it okay not to be reading emails and texting?

Two massage tables spaced between the room with clean organic cotton sheets and towels welcomed our presence. Together as husband and wife we experienced a synchronized massage given by excellent therapists using only organic, sea blended botanicals. The essence of rosemary and scent of lemon combined with the purest of pure oils made way for deep relaxation. It also reminded me of a recipe for chicken my brother Jon use to make that would send us over the moon. It was so good!

As the ocean air filled the room accompanied by the softer sounds of a low tide, we recovered our senses warmly wrapped in our robes and slippers and were safely escorted to another private room for even more relaxation. I checked my pulse to see  if I was still in the world.

Surrounded by sounds of the sea I have to say, that this spa treatment enlightens the senses. Touch is so important for the human body as are scents that are natural and not repugnant due to chemical additives. For one to experience a pure sense of wellness it is important to know that the products that are being used are naturally comprised. Having that assurance added greatly to the rest of our stay.

Our room was simple yet well appointed. It was so clean that it appeared never to be used. And that is quite an accomplishment for any hotel. Best of all, I checked with housekeeping to discover that they use safer non-toxic cleaning products.

The large white tiled bathroom offered many of the same spa amenities. Environmental conservation and cleanliness is also a signature of the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotels. And the feel of the soft white bed linens and comfortable pillows made for sound sleep.

But at one point during the night I did wake-up anticipating that Journey needed to pee. Sort of a seventh sense one develops with a male dog.  I was half asleep when I heard my husband doing what husbands do in the middle of the night.

Using nature as a palate for color the interiors of every room and suite reflects beauty and comfort. So much comfort that I was beginning to become an accessory myself. I couldn’t move from the comfortable chair which overlooked our private patio and garden. I was being infused with the writings of the french author Colette.

At dusk, a golden light swept across the bedding which had already been turned down for the night. A beautiful floral arrangement and basket of fruit had been gifted to us. The citrus accompanied by may favorite, green apples, help to prepare our appetites for a gourmet meal.

Bring it on! Let’s taste!

Under the culinary design of Executive Chef Alessandro Cartumini, the Bella Vista, showcases organic, Italian-inspired California coastal cuisine.

 

With an ambiance that beckons relaxation, expansive views of the sea and a heated outdoor terrace, it is next to impossible not to want to plan every wedding anniversary here at the Biltmore’s Bella Vista.

Beginning with several sample courses we enjoyed a variety of the chef’s inventions using only locally caught fish, and  organic lamb.

Spring lamb on a bed of assorted organic vegetables from Santa Barbara’s open market

Room service is must! Please! Just once a year let me experience a bed tray without having a sore throat or a migraine .

And by all means breakfast is by far the most welcomed and enjoyed of all meals especially when the table rolls in and the piping hot coffee served in polished silver gleams in the morning sun against the backdrop of a cool but sunny Montecito morning.

Freshly squeezed nothing beats California grown organic oranges from Ojai Valley

I know I am my mother’s daughter. She always boasted about the famous hotels she stayed in throughout the world and how she loved the simply divine breakfast arrangements and service. There is no prep time for this meal. Robes and slippers and a willingness to turn off all electronic gadgetry, I’ll get my HuffPo fix later but for now I will welcome a freshly printed (the ink makes me sneeze and I don’t like the word Dioxin) copy of  The New York Times which will always be “All the News That’s Fit to print.”

What makes Ty Warner’s hotel his home away from home? I think it is the lushness of the property which boasts a variety of trees some dating back to the thirties. Celebrated by an array of birds and pollen spreaders, bees and hummingbirds abound. Ty keeps tabs on the property and often stays in his own cottage. And I am pretty sure he keeps his dogs on his other property… but I could be wrong.

If nature doesn’t awaken the spirit in terms of the greenery and amazing landscape which amasses so many different varieties of plants and flowers, the only other option is to swim laps in the hotel’s private and well reserved Coral Casino pool.

The prestigious Coral Casino Beach Club and Pool is off limits unless you are guest of the hotel.

This is where the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara claims and will retain it’s lifetime reputation for the ultimate experience in LuxEcoLiving luxury.

You enter what appears to be more sensual and alluring than the sea itself. The pool, famous for it’s history and athletic events which spans decades, is so enticing. The cool, slightly heated temperature brings bathing to new sensory heights. The water plus the length in which it is consumed by swimmers, mostly club members who pay a very lofty price to join (membership applications are now backlogged) becomes a once in lifetime opportunity. And deservedly so!

On our last day, we had Ty’s favorite Cabana # 24 for the entire afternoon.  We each had a key to this beautifully appointed private space but refused to move one inch. Sitting above the pool and gazing directly out to the ocean covered by canvas and hearing only the muffled sounds of the fabric as it wafted in the wind, I began to think that although times have changed, nature hasn’t. The same sounds, smells and experiences of being seaside and pampered by a much younger and hipper staff; college students who could literally do without their Facebook correspondences for just 5 hours, brought a sense of deep tranquility and appreciation for life…. at the Four Seasons Biltmore. It just doesn’t get better. It’s the best.

Oh yes it does. Next time I’m going to sneak Journey in just for a peak. Not a pee.

Wouldn’t this little Beanie Baby make a great toy for Journey?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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