The staff greeted me with “It’s a beautiful day today!” when I arrived at the hotel, maintaining the charade that there is another kind in this magical place. The recently renovated property, which is nestled in the hillside between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, originally opened in the 1920s. Carole Lombard and Clark Gable are said to have sojourned here to escape the rigours of extreme wealth and fame; it still feels like the sort of easeful American Riviera refuge one should visit via convertible with one’s coif wrapped in an Hermès carré. (Alas, I arrived via Hyundai rental.)
Here, bunnies bob about the hotel’s three hectares of terraced gardens: a fantasia of streams, palms and citrus trees abloom with cottontails as fluffy and white as the local gardenias. Even the hotel’s resident cow (yes, there is one; her name is Ellie) is pampered with regular massages, baths and hoof pedicures (when she isn’t busy providing dairy for the hotel’s restaurant) to ensure her supreme comfort. When I visited, I was pregnant and feeling (appropriately, as it turns out) Holstein-like, so I partook of a treatment of my own at the hotel spa.
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Treatments involve ingredients as recherché as Patagonian seaweed, kaolin clay and local Cabernet- and Pinot-grape seeds. I opted for a facial and spent an hour I wish I could relive getting lathered in propolis (used by ancient Egyptians to embalm mummies—now used, evidently, to embalm the middle-aged) and royal jelly (the substance secreted by honeybees that is used to nourish and nurture the queen bee)—all products courtesy of Beverly Hills facialist Linda Ross. I floated back to my room, my complexion feeling as fresh as a California gardenia.