We left our ten year old son with relatives. We normall y feel a littl e guilt y when we leave Jordon behind, but in this case we had not a single ounce of guilt . I was ready for a romantic get-away and for the opp ortunity to spend a coupl e days focusing on Dino and on meeting my own needs without having my att ention diverted by the necessity of att ending to our 10-year-old’s wants, needs, or compl aints. There had been a lot of business matt ers to att end to and deadlines to be met; the break was over-due. Those few days were going to be all about adult time, specificall y me time!
We have often had vacations and holidays on the Monterey Peninsula, and Carmel Beach is one of our all-time favorite family destinations. However, we had never been to Carmel Valley and were pleased with the warm March sunshine, especially since the nearby coast was enclosed in heavy fogs that weekend. Bernardus is only 15-minutes driving time from the beach, but its microclimate that day was suitable for basking in sunshine as opposed to the goose-pimple weather down on the beach.
We checked in late on Friday afternoon and were immediately charmed by the experience because upon arrival we were offered a complimentary glass of Sauvignon Blanc, which was marketed under their own label from the Bernardus vineyards that stretched over the local hillsides. I am normally by choice a Chardonnay girl but the delicious, richly flavored wine provided a perfect kickoff for the romantic weekend to follow. We were delighted to discover how lovely and spacious the room was, with vaulted ceiling, fireplace, a lounge area, and a comfortable bed — king size, of course. Our room was on the first level with a sliding door that opened on the area’s beautiful gardens. The room was complete with complimentary beverages including bottled water, coffee & tea service, and (best of all) a bottle with more of that Sauvignon Blanc.
We were pleased with the spacious shower and I was especially delighted by the huge soaking tub. The bathroom had plenty of room for me to spread out the contents from the suitcase of toiletries that I had brought with me. Some of my personal bottles, sprays, and dispensers remained unopened because the bathroom was equipped with a selection of spa lotions, shampoos, and soaps from Aveda, which is one of my favorite product lines for hair care and body essentials. Perhaps the most impressive touch was a vase full of freshly cut beautiful pink roses. As the evening wore on, a flip of the switch set the fireplace to blazing, warming the room and brightening it with its soft light.
Our first full day began with a visit to one of Bernardus’ eateries, called Wickets Bistro, which is an elegantly casual dining area where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast for two. The juice was fresh squeezed; coffee amazing, our breakfast was perfect. It was soon time for a 50–minute massage at the onsite Spa Terre where a gifted masseuse gave me one of the best massages I ever had in my life. She made the event an interactive experience, listening to me describe what I wanted and then giving me the deep-tissue massage that I had hoped for. The massage itself was only a part of the total experience. The spa included a private heated pool that clients could enjoy before or after services. A fireplace in the midst of the area added to the bright cheery atmosphere of the place. A host of small details set the spa apart from most others I have been too.
Complimentary teas, coffee, fruits, and nuts were available, plus books to read and magazines to peruse. Each client was given a soft robe and slippers. The spa was like an oasis — a place set apart — for embracing life at its most delightful,sensual, and fulfilling level. The massage became a pièce de résistance of the entire weekend because it set the perfect tone and created a means through which I was able to really put away pressures about deadlines and demands from my business. By the time it had ended, I’d become perfectly relaxed and was prepared to enjoy my time with my husband and to fully appreciate the beautiful surroundings at the lodge, gardens, and the surrounding Carmel Valley region.
Dino and I went on a short hike through a valley located in a nearby park. Our path led by the side of a gurgling stream and through green and plush woodland areas. The surrounding mountainsides were dramatic and made me think that Carmel Valley was like a Napa Valley Meets the Ocean scenario. Dino, whose family is from Hawaii, said he had the feeling of being on a tropical island. We decided to take the short drive to Carmel Beach where the waves were rolling in softly and the sand was powdery white. The temperature dramatically changed so after about an hour we were ready to go back into the sunshine of the Valley.
We decided to dress up and have dinner that evening at Bernardus’ elegant Marinus Restaurant that received high Zagat-ratings. Zagat noted that diners would find the place to be “food heaven in Carmel Valley,” and further referred to its “superb” service. The menu was referred to as Cal-Regional and featured dishes made from organic and seasonal products grownand raised on local farms, as well as regional seafood. The dining area was intimate in size, quaint and beautiful with a roaring fire and a majestic view through large windows overlooking Carmel Valley. As we dined, the sun was setting in golden fire across the valley. The menu offers a six-course Chef Tasting Menu with optional wine parings, but we elected to order from an extensive menu that listed courses from light to heavy. I included the maître d’ recommended wine paring for each dish chosen from the restaurant’s cellar that has more than 1,575 different labels. I love starting off with bubbles so the maître d’ brought a glass of Ayala from France. My meal began with an unbelievable Porto Bella Soup prepared with goat cheese and white truffle oil. Another dish was a Crab Salad that was to die for, fresh and light with just the right amount of zesty flavor. The service was White Glove First Class. Each of our dishes came out together and were served by two separate servers with a detailed explanation concerning its ingredients, sauces, and preparation. Each pairing was exquisite and impressive especially since three of the wines were from the Bernardus Winery. The entire experience was memorable and we both didn’t want it to end.
Following dinner, we strolled through the lobby and were delighted to find a pianist in the lounge area. We learned that his name is Martin Headman. Dino is a music enthusiast and we were so impressed with the quality of his playing that we remained listening in rapt attention until closing time. Not only could Martin play every request, without sheets of music, but he performed each piece with quality, style, and flare at levels that were mesmerizing. My favorite piece that evening was one he himself had composed and dedicated to his wife. The informal concert provided a perfect ending to a day that had been filled with extraordinary pleasures.
Sunday was the final day of our brief but wonderful get-away. Following another delicious breakfast, we ran about the grounds for a final time, checking out the pools and the croquet court. We toured the garden areas between the buildings and the vineyards. Fountains, huge trees, and lovely foliage flowing through sculpted landscapes resembled the elegance that you might expect to find on the grounds of an English manor. We dashed about taking pictures and selfies that we then posted on Facebook to arouse the envy of our friends.
We returned home and reunited with Jordan with big smiles on our faces; the get-away had done its work. That night I went to a birthday dinner and everyone told me how relaxed and healthy I looked. I felt more youthful than ever thanks to this marvelous place in Carmel Valley called Bernardus.