Carmel Valley Escapism: Your Guide to Luxe Post-Inauguration Recuperation

Carmel Valley Escapism: Your Guide to Luxe Post-Inauguration Recuperation


Just because the reality of the T-word becoming the leader of the Free World has finally set in, doesn't mean you have to accept it. Eventually, yes, you should, if only to understand what you're up against when you become an activist for equality, respect, and kindness toward all. But until then, there's Carmel Valley. Go for a weekend to recuperate and regroup from the election. Who knows what realizations will emerge from your forthcoming clarity. Cal-Exit, anyone?

Villa at Bernadus Lodge & Spa(Courtesy of Bernardus)


Bernardus Lodge & Spa—a petite four-star property with a vineyard, lush wedding garden, and a central lawn for bocce and croquet—unveiled its new villas in August. The 1,250-square-foot quarters are luxuriously appointed with free-standing hammered copper tubs, private outdoor showers, and outdoor fire pits—take it from us, there's no political turmoil that can't be temporarily forgotten when there's a warm fire, an uncorked bottle of the house sauvignon, and a pretty sunset over the adjacent vineyard to enjoy. Moving from flames to water is a good way to organize a relaxing evening; in the event that you can't possibly draw your own bath, call on the resort's Bath Butler, who will create a path of rose petals to the tub, draw the water at a perfect temperature for a prolonged soak, and leave a selection of vinotherapeutic bath products from Eminence and Zents for you to apply at will. (Confession: We squirreled them away in our luggage for next-level showers at home.) Après-bath, make your way to the four-poster bed with its crisp white sheets, cozy feather top and countless downy pillows for—what else?—your first solid eight hours of shut-eye since the political upheaval took a turn for the worst.


You could probably make do with the complimentary homemade hummus, fromage from the Marin Cheese Company and buttery crostini in your room, but you'd be missing out on Lucia, the lodge's signature restaurant, where chef Cal Stamenov has created a special menu that puts his fresh California spin—much of the produce he uses is picked from the property's two-acre culinary garden—on his esteemed mentors' culinary stylings. A tribute to Eric Ripert of New York's Le Bernardin, for instance, includes a simple and elegant yellow-fin tuna carpaccio with Bernardus garden herbs and local olive oil, while the hearty Coq au Cal, composed with red-wine braised chicken, root vegetables, and buttery egg noodles, is an homage to chef Philippe Jeanty, formerly of Etoile at Domaine Chandon in Napa. Here's a novel idea: Save the hummus et al. for a picnic on the hiking trail instead.


Earn the spa treatment you've booked by tackling the hills at Garland Ranch Regional Park. Don't let the mild-to-moderate elevations fool you. Taking the Buckeye Nature Trail to the Sky Trail and then up to the ridge—if the water tower is in view, you've made it—is one heck of an uphill grind (and by "one heck of a" we mean "moderate but lengthy"). There's plenty of shade as you make your way on well-maintained paths through oaks and manzanita. You'll eventually get a bird's-eye view of the entire valley, and you may even be able to pinpoint your villa at Bernardus, which is less than five minutes by car from the park. Block off two hours for the round-trip hike, maybe a little longer if you decide to have a picnic with the provisions from your minibar.

Warming room at Bernardus Spa


Having endured 10 months of a knock-down, drag-out presidential election, your soul is probably in need of some fine tuning. A 90-minute massage would probably do the trick, but just in case your out-of-whack meridians require a more exacting fix, try the Tuning Fork Ritual at the Bernardus Spa instead. Vibrational therapy is widely used in Europe to vanish tension from the body. In this treatment, medical tuning forks calibrated to the 136.1–hertz sound of the "mystic syllable" Om, are placed on various acupuncture points on the body. Whether you're highly strung or down in the dumps, the tuning forks should readjust your energy to a more-grounded state. Be prepared to experience everything from a mild emotional mulching to, well, zilch. The treatment ends with a light 20-minute massage using fragrant rose oil.

Refuge sauna


The next stop on your path to post-election wellness is Refuge, a co-ed hydrotherapy spa. Its recommended four-step thermal cycle claims to flush the body of toxins, boost immunity and increase metabolism. Don a swimsuit, rent a robe and get ready to do some puddle jumping. Step one: Heat up in the dry sauna or eucalyptus steam room for six to 10 minutes. Step two: Take a cold plunge in a pool the temperature of a Nordic river—make sure your shoulders are submerged and that you stay that way for at least 10 brutal seconds. Step three: Relax by one of the fire pits for 15 minutes. Step four: Soak in a hot tub for as long as you want. Repeat the cycle three to five times for best results. We recommend a night visit (Refuge is open until 10 p.m. daily) because there's nothing like a wide-angle view of the galaxies to remind you about the eternal bigness of everything that ever was, ever.

Tancredi & Morgen


There's not much shopping to be done in Carmel Valley Village (it's mostly populated with restaurants and winery tasting rooms), so if a little retail therapy is part of your restorative regimen, you'll probably burn a little cash at Tancredi & Morgen, located closer to the seaside town of Carmel, about 15 minutes by car from Bernardus. The small shop is a gypset's dream come true, with boho goods from around the world, including antique Chinese wedding blankets, French hotel silver, Santa Rosa church candles and handmade Belgian linen clothing. The last time we were there, we picked up a midi-length gray linen frock, which we wear as a long tunic over dark skinny jeans or as a billowy dress with plenty of breathing room. Either way, it's a chic and comfortable uniform for humanity's newly minted, pro-kindness, America-was-already-great, nasty-women emissaries.

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