I didn't tell a soul. My children were away with their dad for the summer, my girlfriends were off "doing their own thangs" as they say, and my worrisome mother was preoccupied with another one of my siblings, so what did I decide to do? I decided to run away for the weekend and fall in love with – LIFE – and myself all over again. I already knew where I wanted to go.
The Four Seasons Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe, New Mexico
I first visited the resort in January during a ski trip. I did not have the pleasure of staying as a guest, but I was sent to heaven temporarily for Chef Andrew Cooper's communal dining experience at Terra Restaurant. After enjoying one of the best meals of my life with complete strangers (the purpose of communal dining is to connect people) I toured the entire property and vowed I would be back – I added it to my bucket list.
As luck would have it, the weekend I was free, the resort was providing two wonderful excursions and BOTH were on my list.
Why the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado?
Set on 57 unspoiled acres tucked gently into the Sangre de Cristo foothills, just 10 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado offers an unconventional way to experience one of Condé Nast Traveler top-25 cities of the world. That's the way they describe themselves. I, on the other hand, describe it as, simply, heaven on earth. The view was spectacular, the bed slept like a dream and the staff and guests were truly the happiest people I'd ever met. How could they not be? The Four Seasons Rancho Encantado is a paradise.
One of Santa Fe's most intimate resorts, the 65 adobe-style casitas each display a contemporary interpretation of traditional Santa Fe design. Stucco exteriors in soft, earthy tones with rich chocolate wood trim lead into the casitas with oversized windows, square-cut wood beams, polished cement flooring, stone detailing, and kiva-style fireplaces, all of which spill into the indulgent bathroom with deep soaking tubs and heated floors. The luxury amenities do not end there. The casitas are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, plasma screen televisions, and his-and-hers closets and dressing areas. Private terraces with fireplaces and plush furniture tempt you to lie outside to take in the views of the Rio Grande River Valley, the peaks of the Jemez Mountains and the wilds of New Mexico, which stretch to the horizon in all directions. You honestly don't have to leave the resort at all, you have everything you need right on the property. The food at Terra Restaurant is to die for, the grounds are impeccable and there is a friend on every corner.
Rio en Medio hiking tour
I was able to immerse in the culture and history of northern New Mexico while using the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe as my luxury base. The Adventure Center, which opened in January 2013, arranges customized tours for guests to experience a variety of unique excursions with knowledgeable guides from Adventure Partners.
The property's setting just outside of Santa Fe proper lends itself to prime positioning for these adventures – ranging from mountain biking and hiking to white water rafting, fly fishing and cultural treks to Chimayo and Taos. My "adventure partner" for the day, Jack Emery, led me on the Rio en Medio hike to the waterfall.
Being my first-ever hiking experience, it was truly challenging, and many times I thought I couldn't go on. But Jack, who I learned is seeking his advanced degree in mental health, was patient and very encouraging – not to mention fun. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of times that I secretly cursed the happy dogs scampering by, the energetic kids going around the slower-moving me or the older hikers who made it look like a cake walk, but I also used their strength as a motivational push to get me "to the waterfall or bust!"
Jack probably lost count of how many times I asked "Are we there yet?" but I can't forget how many times I called for the man up above to help me get through it or ease my burning thighs. Now don't let me scare you off, I was just wayyyyy out of shape.
That day I was the star of my own imaginary documentary called "When the City Girl Trades in Stilettos for Hot Pink Sneakers" – so yes – I went through a couple of growing pains. First I heard it, then I saw it, then I fell in love with. The beautiful waterfall seemed to rain down a ticker tape parade for only me, whispering, "Welcome, you made it." It was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Show-stopping Tailgate at Santa Fe Opera
Recognized as one of the top opera destinations, Santa Fe takes the spotlight every summer as visitors travel from around the world to experience the renowned Santa Fe Opera. I was lucky enough to be one of those visitors who experienced the magic of "Dr. Sun Yat-Sen" and dine on a 10-star meal. Is that too many stars?
The evening began with a chauffeured drive from the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado to the opera. An opera aficionado took us on an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour, then led us out to the parking lot to our epicurean tailgate party set under an exclusive tent. Four Seasons Sous Chef Marcos Aguilar served us a gourmet meal against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains. It was magical, to say the least.
The four-course dinner was inspired by the origin of Dr. Sun-Yat Sen with global influences incorporated into the dishes. Chef Marco said he chose to mix in a little flavor from his Mexican roots. We dined on Coconut and Shrimp Soup, Lettuce Wraps, Ahi Tuna Rolls, Sea Bass and Cilantro Broth, Beef Skewers and Orange Chicken Lollipops. If that wasn't enough, we had Black Cherry Mandarin Canton for dessert and perfectly-paired wine selections. After enjoying the performance in the astoundingly magnificent outdoor setting, we were whisked back to the resort to enjoy Après Opera at Terra Bar. My original bucket list was to live out my Julia Roberts/ Richard Gere "Pretty Woman" at the opera fantasy, but I walked away with much more than that. Not only did I have a handsome date and a "New Mexico chic" dress to die for, I met eight strangers who all became friends by the end of the night.
More around town
An added bonus to my trip was the fact that the Spanish Market was in town! The Spanish Market is a popular event for residents and visitors alike, featuring handmade traditional art from hundreds of local Hispanic artists, as well as on-going live music and dance, art demonstrations, and regional foods. I had two ways of getting there. I could be chauffeured into town by a driver in one of the resort's six-passenger, GL 450 SUVS, or I could drive myself in one of the courtesy Mercedes Benz convertibles offered to Four Seasons guests who want to explore the area alone. To let my hair fly in the wind while driving the SLK350, E550 or SL550 was tempting, but I chose to ride into town with a knowledgeable Four Seasons staff member who told me where to find the best places to eat, attractions I definitely should not miss and anything else I needed to make my trip a pleasant experience.
FYI, not only did I find some great jewelry at the Spanish Market, I visited the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a number of shops in the local Galleria and enjoyed some great drinks and a monster burger at the Coyote Café. Afterward, I retired to my luxury resort quarters to relax and reflect.
Did I ever want to leave? No, but I had to get back to my reality. Will I ever return? Absolutely. I love that "loving feeling" and the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado is a place to fall in love over and over again.
Copyright 2014 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.