If you were a novelist, say, working on a book set in Heaven, and you needed to do some background research, a good place to start might be The Grand Del Mar resort and spa just north of San Diego.
The Grand Del Mar is both extravagantly luxurious and deeply uncool, which is precisely its charm. If your idea of paradise is the kind of sleek designer décor that makes you feel dowdy by comparison, or a staff that seems constantly to be judging whether you’re impressive enough to merit that Margarita or massage, then The Grand Del Mar is not for you. But if you could do with an eternity of feather-soft beds and heated patios and champagne by the hot tub? Then giddyup, baby: You’ll agree with me that the Grand Del Mar is as close to Heaven as any of us are likely to get here on Earth.
The Grand Del Mar is both extravagantly luxurious and deeply uncool, which is precisely its charm.
At first, I had my doubts. Everybody was so solicitous, so helpful, so nice that my New York self was suspicious. Even my California self was suspicious: Were they laying it on so thick because they knew I was a world-famous reporter for Insider’s Guide to Spas?
But my 25-year-old son, there as my guest and totally anonymous, had the same experience: throughout the resort, in the café and at poolside, he was treated like royalty by everyone from the housekeepers to the waiters to executives who, if they see you looking lost, not only ask if you need directions but escort you to your destination.
The effect is to make you feel that the world is wonderful just because you’re there, and isn’t that the way travel should always be? Your smallest wish is the command of the staff, as in one night when we were finishing dinner on the lovely outside terrace and remarked that the evening was turning chilly, whereupon an enormous heat-lamp was instantly wheeled tableside.
The theme of The Grand Del Mar is Renaissance, reflected in both the opulent décor of the resort and the treatments at the luxurious spa. In fact, the spa’s signature treatment is called the Renaissance. You’re slathered with warm mud, wrapped in a sheet, and cradled on a waterbed-like table. The effect is profound: You feel like you’re returning to the womb, to be reborn in an herb-infused shower followed by a stretching massage.
I also relaxed with a wonderful Art for Art’s Sake 90-minute facial, including scalp and neck massage, and assuaged my guilt with an early morning canyon hike led by a naturalist. And then I did plenty of lounging by the adult pool (separated by an entire huge building from the family pool), which included genuinely strong margaritas delivered to right to my chaise—by a waiter who, on Day 2, remembered my name.
The spa’s signature treatment is called the Renaissance. You’re slathered with warm mud, wrapped in a sheet, and cradled on a waterbed-like table. The effect is profound: You feel like you’re returning to the womb, to be reborn in an herb-infused shower followed by a stretching massage.
The food at the resort’s second-tier Amaya restaurant—the Five-Star Addison was completely booked on the Friday night of our visit—was similarly ambrosial, from the watermelon gazpacho to the butterscotch brownie sundae, washed down by selections from the top-flight wine list.
Our heavenly experience at The Grand Del Mar was a very hard act to follow, a weight that fell on the shoulders of Rancho Bernardo Inn, a short skip down the road . . . read more about Rancho Bernardo Inn here.
Pamela Redmond Satran
Pamela Redmond Satran is a novelist and an entrepreneur who lives in Los Angeles.