By Phyllis Steinberg
Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. I left mine in San Diego. This coastal city has something for everyone. For me, it offers world class resorts, gourmet restaurants and breathtaking views of dramatic cliffs winding around the sea. For my husband, it is a place to enjoy the horse races at Del Mar Race Track, a San Diego Padres baseball game at the new Petco Park or a polo match at the Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club. Not to mention the San Diego Chargers football team. And my children love all of the exciting activities from the San Diego Zoo to SeaWorld and playing in the sand and swimming in the beautiful beaches.
There are many choices when it comes to accommodations in San Diego from bed and breakfasts, to lavish oceanfront resorts and luxurious inland properties with beautiful grounds and luxurious casitas. On my recent visit, I had the opportunity to stay at two different types of resorts, Rancho Valencia, an inland property renown for its gorgeous grounds and spacious casitas in Rancho Santa Fe, about 25 miles north of San Diego and the La Jolla Hilton Hotel, nestled in a mountain overlooking the sea, a 20-minute drive north from San Diego’s downtown area.
The area on which the Rancho Valencia Resort is located was originally discovered in the early 1900s and owned by the Santa Fe Railway Company. Their original intention was to plant and harvest eucalyptus trees to be used for railway ties, but it was determined that the wood was too soft to hold railway spikes so an architectural firm was hired to develop a community of country estates. Among those who built there were screen idols Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, who purchased 800 acres in the area and planted 300 acres of Valencia oranges. Rancho Valencia Resort opened in 1989 and has been the recipient of numerous national awards ever since including the Number Two Top American Resorts by Conde Nast Traveler in 2003.
A group of elegant casitas featuring spacious living rooms with fireplaces, kitchens with wet bars and roomy dressing and bathrooms surround the resort. There are 18 hard tennis courts laid out among magnificent foliage. It also has the Rancho Valencia Restaurant, which is wonderfully romantic and comfortable. The restaurant, a favorite of the locals, has an extensive menu and impressive wine list set amongst an abundance of live palms scattered throughout with fresh flowers gracing every table and white-washed beamed ceilings. A fireplace warms guests on the occasionally chilly Southern California evenings. The continental cuisine is enjoyable with an emphasis on locally grown fruits and vegetables together with freshly caught seafood from local waters.
The La Jolla Torrey Pines Hilton offers vacationers another stunning view of coastal California. Located next to the Torrey Pines Golf Course, the resort hotel overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the golf course. The views of the setting sun are spectacular and the dramatic sea cliffs and nearby beautiful mountains and coves are reminiscent of the French Rivera. The hotel is located near Birch Aquarium at Scripps, a wonderful exploration of aquatic creatures of every size and type. Be sure to bring your camera to photograph this beautiful setting.
The Torreyana Grille Restaurant in the La Jolla Torrey Pines Hotel is not to be missed! This gastronomical gem is located on the lower level of the hotel and features an elegant setting with fountains of water spraying down the center of the grill. Dark woods and an open kitchen bringing tasty delicacies, one after another, to tempt the most serious of foodies. Executive Chef Larry Banares or “Chef Larry” as he is known on his daily cooking show on ABC was voted “Chef of the Year” by the American Culinary Federation Orange Empire Chef Association. Chef Larry continues to shine on the food horizon with his constantly evolving menu of eclectic dishes.
One of the best ways to see the popular sights in San Diego is to purchase a ticket from the Old Town Trolley in San Diego. The trolley tour makes eight stops and you can get on and off and see all the sights and get back on when you are finished exploring each area. The narrated tour is two hours long and takes passengers to the San Diego Zoo, Sea Port Village, area museums and to Coronado with an opportunity to visit the famous Del Coronado Hotel where the movie Some Like It Hot was filmed. A new stop on the trolley tour is the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum. Here, you can go aboard the former aircraft carrier that was used in many military expeditions and wars.
Restaurant Nine-Ten in La Jolla, located in the The Grande Colonial Hotel La Jolla, has evolving California cuisine that embraces the bounty of seasonal products from local farmers and ranchers. I enjoyed a wonderful meal at this outstanding La Jolla eatery. When you are finished dining, take time to explore the area which is located on Prospect Street. Here, you will enjoy upscale shops featuring haute couture boutiques, Persian rugs and world-class jewelers. The ever-popular Crab Catcher La Jolla Restaurant is also located in the area and features delicious locally caught seafood.
If you are into bargain hunting, try the Carlsbad Premium Outlet where more than 95 name-brand discount outlets are located from Tommy Hilfger and The Gap to Banana Republic and Polo. There is a Waterford discount shop as well in the mall. The mall offers up to 70 percent discounts off of retail prices.
Photos by Phyllis Steinberg
For more information on San Diego, log on to: www.sandiego.org
For the Carlsbad Premium Outlet, www.carlsbadcompanystores.com
For the Trolley Tour, www.trolleytours.com
Torrey Pines Hilton and Torreyana Grill, www.lajollatorreypines.hilton.com 858-558-1500
Rancho Valencia, 858-759-6216, www.ranchovalencia.com
Restaurant Nine-Ten, La Jolla, www.thegrandcolonial.com 858-964-5400