Dec 23, 2011

Spanish Fantasies and Zorro

Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara
I've been reading a lot of books by the great  Isabel Allende lately and finished Zorro a few weeks ago. The story takes readers from Southern California (Zorro's birthplace) to Barcelona, in a swashbuckling adventure that reveals the history and backstory behind the legendary masked man. As a daughter of Southern California, I am charmed by the Spanish history that reigns in the region, the characters of legendary novels, and by the architecture left behind. So imagine my delight when I pulled up to The Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara. This hacienda style oasis on the Pacific Ocean, backed by the Santa Ynez Mountains, is a fantasy come to life. The red barrel roof tiles popped against the white stucco walls and the bright blue December sky, and it wouldn't be California without a palm tree or two. I couldn't help but wonder if it's here where Zorro comes to take off his mask, set down his sword, take a break from carving his trademark "Z" and sip champagne. Once inside, I felt like a character in a Spanish romance.  "Welcome, Senorita," I swear I heard whispered when I opened the door.

Stairway to a romantic suite
Despite the old world feel, the beamed ceilings and terra cotta tiled floors, the Four Seasons is a modern and seamless five-star resort that caters to high-class clientele. I know the employees were there---someone fluffed my bed and turned on the heating beneath my tiled bathroom floor (beyond indulgent)---but I never saw them, until I  needed them.  When we wandered in from the parking lot, lost in the dark with no one in sight, lugging our bags,  a young man with a cart came to the rescue, out of nowhere it seemed, to guide us to our room.  Swish Swish Swish.

Normally I like to get off the hotel property and explore, but the Four Seasons Biltmore gives you plenty of reasons to stay. The property is huge, with winding paths with overgrown tropical foliage that provide enough privacy to make sure you forget where you are for a moment or two.  There is a fitness center, pool, Spa, a bar, restaurant, tennis courts, golf, and plenty of quiet courtyards, which could only have been more enchanting had there been a guitar plucking swashbuckler sitting in a corner, composing musical poetry.  Scrolling iron balconies and splashes of color from the abundant flowers added to the romantic appeal of the hotel, and for one of the very first times in my life, I felt my camera could not capture what I saw.

Across the street, guests are invited to visit the private Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club with a pool overlooking the Channel Islands and Butterfly Beach.  There is also a restaurant upstairs...a nice place to watch the sunset. If you prefer to put your sand in the toes, public access to the beach is just across from the hotel and is a peaceful place for a morning walk.

Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club

The small village of Montecito is just a mile a way and there you'll find shops, some good restaurants and bars, and plenty of real estate offices whose inventory boggles the mind. The Four Seasons Biltmore is pricey. Room rates start at $350 and soar from there. Count on expensive menu items, and drinks too, and my pet peeve in hotels these days---a charge for internet access (archaic). But for a special occasion or celebration, or if you just need to take a break from your superhero life for a while, nothing beats a siesta at the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara. The invisible yet omnipresent staff will take good care of your cape.

Just don't be surprised if you see a black mask on the table beside you, and find a "Z" carved into your beach towel.

Palm trees and balconies

Butterfly Beach across from the hotel

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