I walked away from my ordinary life and for two glorious days I am enraptured by the extraordinary, casual elegance of the Estancia Hotel & Spa in La Jolla, California.   The minute I turn off the freeway and into their entry driveway, the sound of soft, crunchy gravel under my tires welcomes me into a world that feels like my own private equestrian estate.

The Estancia Hotel and Spa in La Jolla,
California is an enclave of privacy.

I am in awe of the property, which is situated on 9.5 acres.  It’s amazing how a simple left turn off the busy California freeway lands me in such a beautiful place.  I enter a historic California coastal ranch that is alive with the rich history of low rise adobe structures that connect by open-air arcades, luxurious gardens, and all surrounded by sweet smelling eucalyptus trees.  This picturesque setting is complete with the Pacific Ocean breezes that immediately set me at ease.

Arriving at Estancia, I feel like I have come home to my own private retreat where wealthy ranchers knew what hospitality meant.   To my surprise, I discover that the hotel is built on the site of the former Black family La Jolla Stables.  The old world elegance is visible: wrought iron railings, arched doorways, picturesque clay tile roofs, and cozy fireplaces — exactly how I imagine life in Old California, a time when breathing fresh open air, and feeling connected to natural surroundings is what is expected.  Those were the days when adventure was found in exploring your environment.

Estancia is an adventure in comfort and style
near Torrey Pines Cliffs and the Pacific Ocean.

Every space surrounding The Estancia articulated this adventure.  The property is relaxing and quiet but not remote.  Five minutes away I discover hand gliding cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean.  Gliders take off from the steep crevices of the Torrey Pines cliffs and sail through the air with the blue sky and darkened waves of the ocean as a backdrop.

About ten minutes from the hotel is the Torrey Pines Golf Course, a Robert Trent Jones paradise that hosts the PGA Buick Invitational.   Another ten minutes down the street is the famous La Jolla Cove, where seals sun on the rocks and the pristine beaches — what a secret delight.  But if the adrenaline rush of hang gliding or relaxing at the beach is not your style, great shopping at UTC Mall is right across the street.

The true adventure of my weekend awaits me inside the Estancia walls. I check the attention to detail: The Mexican Talavar terra cotta lobby floor is custom-made. The lobby walls and around the fireplace are covered with an old Italian technique called Integral Color Plaster.  It’s a time consuming painting technique that’s all hand trowled-blending. The painter uses various colors to create a soothing rich modeled quality with a subtle finish.  All the exposed beams and the fireplace mantles are made of indigenous California Douglas Fir. 

My new adventure not only indulges my senses but enriches me with artistry.

The Old World charm of Spain greets me in the garden outside the lobby.  In fact, the word estancia is Spanish for estate.  The three brick buildings that are part of the hotel are each modeled after the original structures from the original horse farm, also of Spanish architecture.  The business center is modeled after the Caretaker’s Cottage, the lobby is a recreation of the farmhouse, and the bar and restaurant are a replica of the tack room.  The white bricks built into each building are actually from these original structures.  The Historical Society preserved the bricks even though the buildings were torn down.  Everywhere is the passion for the past blended with a modern desire for excellence.

Estancia's modern business center.

The business center is for corporate retreats and business meetings.  In my past life I’d spent many hours in business meetings, but Estancia has redefined meetings by raising the bar to a whole new level of ergonomic technology.  They designed a special room called the Learning Theater, a 125-seat amphitheater that’s incredible!  I’d never seen anything like it in all my 20 years with Corporate America.  The chairs are ergonomically designed for comfort.  I remember the old adage, “the brain can only remember what the seat can endure!”  This place could hold your attention for days! With as much care as they have taken to preserve the history of the Rancher’s Estate, the passion for excellence is shown in every executive meeting room and elegant ballrooms.  What an adventure it would be to have a business meeting, charity function, or special event in these rich surroundings.

I am not the only one who has this idea.  As I turn to walk back into the lobby, I am greeted by an entire team of professional basketball players.  Purple and gold Los Angeles Lakers jerseys file by me as they gather for the bus for their practice session at the new sports pavilion at the University of San Diego.  Wow, are they tall!

Estancia has 210 ranch-style rooms . . .

I can’t wait to see what the guest rooms are like. There are 210 ranch-style rooms with every amenity of luxury. My room has a braided rug with egg shell painted walls.  The golden chiffon curtains drape the full length windows overlooking a Spanish courtyard and fountain.  An autumn colored chair in the corner with a leather caramel ottoman awaits relaxation with a good book. The black cabinet that houses the television looks like a period piece from the rancher’s living room.  The bed is warm and inviting with a white hounds tooth duvet and a horse blanket of grey and gold draped over the side. The gold borders around the room are painted with rich gold fleur de lis designs. The bed pillows are green, gold, and cream plaid; the small throw pillows were a matching green and red striped.  The linens are a 316 count Turkish cotton.  I love sheets that are so soft and comforting that they tease you into cuddling and taking a nap.

. . . with bedrooms overlooking Spanish courtyards.

The wicker waste paper basket accents the simple oak desk; the dresser in the entry way is made of a rich cherry.  A dark wrought iron floor lamp lights the corner of the room casting a spell of yesteryear.  The door to my room is a dark chocolate wood with slats resembling a stable door.  Every detail of design dares me to enjoy an adventure from the golden era of California, with today’s aura.

The bathroom is simple and refreshing.  The shower curtain is a soft, luxurious, white terry cloth, indulging my need to be pampered.  The shower head is oversized and it feels like I am standing beneath a fresh spring-fed waterfall during a summer rain.  The white free-standing sink gives the room an open and unique décor.  But the bath products adorning the sink say it all.  The shampoo is a Sorrento lemon scent that smells like it came right from the ranch’s lemon orchard.  The body lotion is smooth and silky with the fragrance of juniper, as refreshing as a walk in the woods.   The shower gel is perfumed with an invigorating citrus scent.  If their bath products are this extraordinary, I can’t wait to discover what their spa is like.

How can the spa be even more serene and relaxing than my room and the beautiful grounds?  The truth is that my spa adventure begins the moment I step onto the grounds.  Every where I look I see sprawling gardens of eucalyptus, lavender, and citrus trees permeating the air with opulent fragrances.  Only the real spa surpasses this sensual garden of Eden — another grand adventure greeting me!  

I knew that the spa is extraordinary when I am presented with the most fabulous spa robe I've ever touched, a soft, sumptuous, and fluffy chenille with oversized pockets.  I wrap it around me and I feel that I have died and gone to heaven.   The robe is only the beginning of the unprecedented adventure that redefined the meaning of serenity and relaxation. The spa treatments are exotic.  Soothing music and pure essences are integrated into all their services.  The relaxation room overlooks an outdoor courtyard with fireplace and cozy mattress seating.  You can have your massage in the ambiance of this intimate outdoor retreat.

It is a little cool this day so I stay inside.  My masseuse is wonderful, with her European expertise releasing the tension in every muscle of my body.   My entire being is soothed with the scent and caress of lavender massage oil.  For a solid hour I find adventure in tranquility.

Cocktails are at Mustangs and Burros, above,
with fine dining at El Adobe Restaurante.

My daughter and I had dinner at the Adobe El Restaurante.  Again, we were enchanted by the design of the dining room.  The room overlooked the Spanish Courtyard and it felt like we had our own private dining room.  As the night air crept through the windows we perused the extensive wine list.  We decided on a Markham Napa merlot that was fleshy and plump.  It’s aroma and flavor was a combination of blackberry, cassis, baked cherries, plums, chocolate, and a hint of mocha.  My daughter who studied in Aix En Provence, France , told me that merlot was French for “little blackbird.”  We languished over the magnificent and hedonistic taste of the wine that was captivating.  Our service that evening was impeccable.  The waiters were passionate about their restaurant and found great pleasure in serving their guests.  The food was a culinary delight. 

To start I had the Estancia House Salad that was butter lettuce, chino greens, heart of palm, vine tomatoes, watercress, avocado with sunflower dressing.  All of the produce was locally grown and it was succulently fresh and delicious.  My daughter tasted the Atlantic Froth which was a creamy blend of main lobster, with sweet corn and steamed sherry.  She was in heaven.  Our entrée was the grilled beef tenderloin tournedos.  They were prepared to perfection and served with baby summer vegetables and fingerling potato confit.  I found out that the flavor of the meal was so extraordinary because they use original combinations of ingredients such as chanterell mushrooms, braised oxtail, and saffron tomato broth.  The fusion of the fresh vegetable products and the intense flavors of the meat were a splendid combination.  We indulged in the Valhrona Chocolate Lava which was cabernet macerated berries with Tahitian vanilla chantilly.  It was a sweet succulent surprise. A magnificent cup of cappuccino topped off our evening.

Our adventure in dining at the Adobe El Restaurante was truly unique.  The ingredients the chefs used were fresh and more than satisfied our senses.  Their inventive culinary techniques and artistic presentations tantalized our taste buds.  We felt like royalty and neither of us wanted the evening to end!

Estancia's Zen-like pool and cabanas.

The truth is that business meetings, spa treatments, lavish gardens, a zen-like pool retreat, luxurious rooms and courtyards aren’t the only adventures at the Estancia.  The restaurants and lounges satiate the palate with cuisine and libations that give my dining experience, “the splash of excitement and a pinch of passion” that I read in restaurant reviews.  The adobe El Restaurante tantalized my tastebuds.  The Mustangs and Burros Bar has the best margaritas I’ve ever tasted. The outdoor setting of fireplaces, roaming guitar players, and the ocean mist at sunset takes my breath away. The Bodega Wine Bar & Library serves the widest range of California wines, from the northern vineyards of Napa Valley to the Central Coast and the southern region.  Actually, every second at the Estancia is an adventure of indulgence, inspiring and invigorating!

Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
9700 N. Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, California 92037

So, if you have the desire to redefine adventure in your life, I suggest taking that left turn off San Diego Freeway 5 and leaving your ordinary world behind — to discover serendipity.  You’ll find true adventure lies in connecting with the surroundings of Old World elegance and the passionate New World of the Estancia Hotel and Spa . . .   a singularly sensational setting!

— By Janice Wilson, Jetsetters Magazine Las Vegas Correspondent.