I spent last week visiting two extraordinary properties in San Diego:

The Grand Del Mar and Rancho Valencia. They are both five-star resorts, but each does luxury in its own way. The seven-year-old Mediterranean-inspired Grand Del Mar has 249 guest rooms, with rich furnishings like brocade upholstery, cut crystal lamps and burled wood dressers with burnished gold accents. The more than 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space includes a 10,000 square-foot ballroom, a outdoor event lawn that’s nearly as large, a 3,300 square-foot chapel and private dining in the resort’s wine cellar. Rancho Valencia, which recently reopened in time to celebrate its 25th anniversary after a $30 million property-wide renovation has 49 hacienda-style private casitas with fireplaces and sprawling patios. Their meeting space includes light-drenched event rooms--with details like open-beamed ceilings and turquoise fireplaces--that open onto terraces and patios; private wine room; a 8,400 square-foot croquet lawn and a garden with gently rolling lawn that can accommodate up to 500 guests.

You’ll be reading about both The Grand Del Mar and Rancho Valencia in future issue of the magazine, but I do want to share a glimpse into a few of the experiences I enjoyed.

 * The eight-course tasting menu at Addison, prepared by Grand Chef William Bradley, featured gorgeously plated dishes like a coddled farm egg served with stinging nettles and morel mushrooms; roasted duck in a coffee-miso glaze, paired with a spectacular Margaux du Chateau Bordeaux, and a trio of briny kumamoto oysters with preserved lemon, fresh horseradish and watercress.

* Among the amenities at Rancho Valencia are a pitcher of fresh-squeezed orange juice delivered to your room each morning and complementary use of one of three Porsches. We drove our Carrera to dinner at the nearby Searsucker restaurant, where we dined on perfectly prepared diver scallops, short ribs, more oysters and a very satisfying cocktail made with buttered-popcorn tequila.

So, what mind-blowing properties have you visited lately? I’d love to hear from you!

Meeting in an idyllic, natural setting doesn’t mean you have to give up a dynamic urban energy –at least not when you’re gathering in The Woodlands, a charming community located less than 30 miles from Houston and George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The town boasts a full social calendar, as well as all of the conveniences found in a more metropolitan locale. But it is shaded by acres of heritage trees, surrounded by neighborhood parks and centered around the sparkling waters of Lake Woodlands and The Woodlands Waterway. 

 

Science has proven what’s long been suspected: Being near water increases creativity and decreases stress levels. The sound of rocking boats moored at a marina, the sparkle and glimmer as the sun hits the lake, the feel of the water as it tickles the toes: It’s the perfect way to relax, recharge and reconnect. So, what better way to engage with your meeting guests and get the creative juices flowing than at a waterside resort!