I have stayed in some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts in the world and very few have equaled my stay at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, in Rancho Santa Fe, California, for complete understated luxury. I’m not a fan of big showy foyers, sparkling in gold leaf, which seems to be the lure for many modern day “luxury” travelers. I appreciate a more gentile, understated and timeless experience that is subtle, unnoticed, one that pampers guests in a quiet and sublime luxury. As they say, “Less is more”, and Rancho Valencia delivers this in heaps, befitting Southern California’s only Relais & Châteaux property.

I arrived at the gate of Rancho Valencia and was greeted like a returning guest, with a warm, friendly, “Hello Mr. Vogler”, from the smiling attendant. The double gates opened and I entered the lush, expansive 45 acre property in the warm golden glow of sunset reflecting off the Spanish mission design of the resort. I wound my way amongst the 49 private guest casitas to the car valet and reception, where I was again greeted by name. My bags were taken and I was whisked off to The Pony Room restaurant and bar for a sundowner cocktail overlooking the expansive lawn, sprinkled with croquet wickets and bad mitten birdies, remnants of an afternoon of guest socializing and gentile sport, as a half a dozen hot air balloons floated overhead, aglow in rainbow colors illuminated in the twilight.

After, I strolled bougainvillea adorned pathways to my casita and opened the door to a welcoming, luxuriously appointed living room filled with warm music and a soft light from the fireplace, as if someone were there, half expecting my partner to step around the corner welcoming me home. I made for the bedroom and, like resting in a cloud, I lay back into the high thread-count linens of the expansive king bed and drifted off to the best night’s sleep I’ve had in ages.

I awoke the next morning, refreshed, to find fresh squeezed orange juice and the New York Times outside the front door. I had a full day of activities ahead but couldn’t help but linger in this luxury, so I climbed back in bed, called room service and 15 minutes later was feasting on delicious, organic breakfast tacos, homemade guacamole and fresh salsa with a large pot of rich, aromatic, hot coffee to jumpstart my day. I decided on a little indulgence before starting my day in earnest, so I hopped out of bed wearing only a smile, stepped outside into the cool morning air for a hot tub soak in the completely private back yard of my casita.

At 9am I headed for my very first spin class, led by the handsome instructor, Mark, who didn’t go easy on this spin virgin. After, I felt every burning quad step on the way back for a hot soak in long bubble bath, proud of myself for completing the class and knowing the rest of the day I would be guilt free to eat and drink as I wished, so I ordered a succulent lobster wrap and champagne lunch from Rein, the pool bar, and spent a few hours in luxury, lounging poolside in a private cabana.

I wrapped up the afternoon with nearly four hours of heavenly indulgence in Rancho Valencia spa’s “Citrus Supreme” treatment – a full body scrub and wrap - followed by a 60 minute massage and 30 minute facial. I have never been able to nap during the day and as a frequent visitor to “The Insomnia Hotel” as I call it on social media when I’m wide-awake in the middle of the night, I rarely get a full night’s sleep, but in the hands of the spa professionals I drifted off to dreamland several times during this day of indulgence.

I emerged from the spa with radiant skin glowing as brightly as the late Southern California sun and meandered, leisurely, back towards my casita. The air was soft and warm, Magic Hour was fast approaching and I decided to take out the Porche Boxter I had reserved that morning for an afternoon drive around the resort at sunset – another indulgence offered by Rancho Valencia, courtesy of Porche San Diego.

I ended this incredible day savoring the delicious, gourmet cuisine at the five star restaurant, Veladora, starting with the fresh, locally grown, Farmer’s Market Vegetable Salad, followed by a succulent main of grilled Iberico pork loin in pumpkin puree, celeriac and black trumpet mushroom. Unsure what wine to pair with this exotic dish I put my trust in the extremely knowledgeable head waiter, Chip, who selected a wine pairing of a 2007 La Rioja Alta “Vina Ardansa” Reserva Temranillo from Rioja, Spain. Perfection.

I returned to my casita for a fireside night-cap by my private outdoor fireplace, satiated and relaxed from a day of pampering, before climbing back into those heavenly high thread count linens where I’d started this day of indulgence and quiet luxury at Rancho Valencia

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