November/December  2006 




“That’s about all I remember, as it didn’t take long for the combination of soothing steam mist, successive waves of light, and fluttery massage movements to set me adrift.”

In the late 1930s, Bing Crosby had a vision: that the coastal village of Del Mar, California should have a nice place to race horses. Thanks to Bing and a raft of Hollywood stars who came along for the ride, the small town of Del Mar – located two hours south of Los Angeles and just up the road from San Diego – has a nationally renowned racetrack, the ability to attract celebrities, and a taste for luxury. Gwyneth Paltrow, Michele Pfeiffer, and Seabiscuit have made appearances here, although only two of the three stayed at L’Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa.

auberge-2Close to the Del Mar Racetrack, L’Auberge stands where the Casa Del Mar, (erected in 1885 but almost immediately burned to the ground in 1889) once stood. The Stratford Inn rose up in its place and became an instant hit with film stars from a nascent Hollywood. The Stratford lasted into the 40s, giving way to the Hotel Del Mar, which hosted Crosby cohorts like Bob Hope, Clark Gable and Lucy and Desi. By 1969 the Hotel Del Mar’s halcyon days were over and that landmark too was demolished, paving the way for the resort’s eventual metamorphosis into L’Auberge.

Owned by Destination Resorts, a national consortium of independent upscale accommodations, the hotel has made a point of recalling its glamorous past, with the Desi Arnaz Library, the Crosby Ballroom, and the Durante Pub; the corridors are lined with black and white photos showing Hollywood royals playing golf or stars like Dorothy Lamour at the races. On its 5.2 acres, L’Auberge has two pools, a Jacuzzi, tennis courts, a recently renovated fitness center, a pair of rippling lily ponds harboring a family of ducks, and a private pathway winding down to the beach.

By day, most of my stay was spent lounging on a poolside chaise. Tucked under a heavy canvas umbrella with the ocean rhythmically murmuring behind me and piano standards piped out around me, I read peacefully, enjoyed lunch in my chaise and alternated between the Jacuzzi’s roiling heat and the main pool’s languid tepidity. In the evening, I beat my partner at a hearthside game of backgammon down in the lobby, where a pianist serenades visitors, before curling up with my room’s own fireplace glowing.

auberge-1Guests can take meals on the outside terrace, but real dining at L’Auberge takes place at J T Taylor’s, an eclectic restaurant overseen by executive chef Paul McCabe, who has cooked at the James Beard House and for a number of Hollywood celebrities. McCabe’s cuisine is diverse yet distinctly French-accented, with rich sauces and earthy flavors. Many of the dishes feature organic produce and hormone-free meats, but not all, so ask before ordering if these are issues for you.

We began our meal with a fresh salad, in which tender balls of prosciutto mingled with the light peppery bite of baby arugula and delicate slices of honeydew. For an entrée, I turned to coffee-encrusted buffalo tenderloin dipped in a chocolate gravy and accompanied by a hash of diced potatoes, buffalo cubes and bits of squash, arugula and tomato; my companion enjoyed a serving of filet mignon in a tangy red wine reduction enhanced by scallops.

Many of the kitchen’s seasonings come directly from the courtyard herb garden, which surrounds diners beside two of the waterfalls that help mute the sounds of downtown Del Mar.

The waitstaff didn’t even blink an eye when we asked to transfer our dessert out into the Durante Pub. Here the lobby’s grand fireplace opens cozily by the bar and we sank, sated, into a pair of wingback chairs while we lingered over three creamy pots de crème —espresso, chocolate and butterscotch.

When it came time to indulge the rest of our senses, we were told that many couples sign up for dual massages in the terrace Cabanas. But I elected to find my way down to the spa where I could lose myself in a dimly lit, aromatherapy-scented netherworld.

The Chardonnay Vitalite Wrap

Getting exfoliated is a tricky thing. One the one hand, few treatments can match its invigoratingly refreshing feel. On the other hand, my skin’s a bit sensitive, and sometimes I can be dealt such a thorough scrubbing that I feel I’ve had a close encounter with steel wool brush. L’Auberge’s Chardonnay Vitale mixes pure cane sugar with chardonnay grapes—the highest in anti-oxidants, they say—for a heady but ever so gentler rubdown. That’s followed by a tight cocooning beneath six layers of warm towels, leaving your feet free for a tantalizingly brief reflexology massage. After that, ducking out for a quick shower readies you for a 50-minute full body massage.

Vitamin Sea Facial

auberge-3Pollution, relentlessly sunny days, and life in Los Angeles can be hard on my fair skin, pushing it to the edge of dehydration all summer. I was all set to try out the popular Pearl and Caviar facial, when my therapist took one look at me and vetoed it. “I’m going to do our Vitamin Sea treatment on you,” she informed me. “It’s very hydrating.”

That’s about all I remember, as it didn’t take long for the combination of soothing steam mist, successive waves of light, and fluttery massage movements to set me adrift. But when I returned to consciousness after resting under the influence of a vitamin rich serum and a seaweed infused mask, my skin was calmed and fairly glowing.

Special Events and Packages

According to a recent study conducted by the resort, most of their guests come from close by, mainly Southern California. For those in the neighborhood wanting to pop by to sample a taste of what’s on offer, L’Auberge has begun featuring a monthly event they’re calling D’vine Wednesdays, during which women only are invited over to J Taylor’s for discounted glasses of Chardonnay and complimentary Chardonnay Vitalite ‘teaser’ treatments. Live entertainment and hors d’oeuvres are also included. For those who want much, much more, there’s the Millionaire for a Day package. It includes a one- night stay in the Presidential Suite, the services of a personal butler, transportation to and from the airport in a stretch limousine, a champagne and chocolate covered truffles greeting, gourmet dinner for two from J Taylor’s, breakfast in bed, spa pampering for two (choice of a 50-minute Caviar & Pearl Facial, 75-minute Spa Manicure, Aromatherapy Facial and Massage, or an 80-minute Cabana or In-Room Massage), daily amenity, taxes and gratuities all included for $2,000. This getaway can’t be booked online, so call to inquire about availability.

L'Auberge Del Mar Resort
and Spa

1540 Camino Del Mar
PO Box 2889
Del Mar, CA 92014




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