Dec 20, 2011

Far Niente Fabulous

Carmel Valley Vista
Abs and core class at 7 a.m.; fitness hike at 8 a.m.  Yoga, pilates, spinning, tennis clinic----  I'd like to say I got up and did one of them each day during my three day stay,  but no, I stayed in bed and drank coffee by the fire until about 11 each morning--it is vacation after all.  But I'm seriously impressed with the Carmel Valley Ranch and how motivated their guests must be to create such an ambitious daily program. Did I mention the apiary? Yes, 60,000 honeybees call Carmel Valley Ranch home and after your morning sweat, the resident lavender farmer and bee keeper, John Russo, invites you to suit up for a hive visit. Yes indeed, there is something for everyone round the clock on this 500-acre property.But what's really great about this place is the Far Niente, as they say in both Italian and French, the fine art of doing nothing, which happens to be one of my favorite holiday activities, and Carmel Valley Ranch has mastered Far Niente.

The adorable Roxy
Tree swings hang from gnarled, mossy oaks and are even lit up at night for under the stars play. Roaring fire pits with comfy chairs dot the property, and S'more ingredients are at the ready. A library has books and chairs and scrabble; and the outdoor infinity jacuzzi is heated to a cozy 105 degrees. Of course there's also a new full service Spa, if pampering is your pleasure. The friendly staff welcomes guests to wander, like discovering a friend's house for the first time, looking at pictures on the walls and wedding albums on the tables. And Roxy, the resident bulldog who roams the lobby each day, is an excellent greeter, and a slow moving tank of a dog that is, I'm certain, the Queen of Far Niente.

Outdoor heated pool and jacuzzi
Big Sur Sunset
The onsite restaurant could use some variety, but the breakfast is fabulous, and the truffle fries are divine. Every time I ate a bowl, I committed to that morning hike, but the comfy bed in my spacious suite trapped me for an extra hour or two. When I did leave the property, I was even more convinced I had found heaven on earth. Just 15 minutes from the vibrant colors and sea-edge hiking trails of Point Lobos; just 15 minutes from the chic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea with its galleries and restaurants; And a scenic one hour drive from Big Sur, Carmel Valley is ideal, stretching east from the sea, and a sun-filled throwback to simpler times, with rolling hills, weathered barns, and lazy horses. 

Apparently there is great wine tasting around here too, but I never made it. I felt so at home at Carmel Valley Ranch, I popped open my own bottle each night in front of the fireplace in my room and read. That's the beauty of this place---however you choose to far niente, it's guaranteed to be just what you wanted. I'm looking forward to coming back in the fall, maybe for that avoided hike, when the lavender is in bloom and the pool water temperature is a little higher.

Carmel Valley Ranch, One Old Ranch Rd., Carmel, CA 

Kickin' it by the fire

Nightly S'mores
Hiking in Point Lobos

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