One of my all time favorite destinations is Cal-a-Vie Spa (www.cal-a-vie.com) located in Vista California, outside San Diego. It is literally heavenly. A group of girlfriends and I meet there every January, and I couldn’t wait for this years trip. After our whirlwind Asian adventure, I was looking forward to completely relaxing, with no responsibilities whatsoever. With Cal-a-Vie you literally arrive at the the airport, and they take it from there.
I booked a direct flight to SAN on Delta from JFK , as the flight time ensured I would arrive there by lunch time.
Delta is my carrier of choice domestically, and their Business Class service is generally pretty good. The flight to San Diego clocks in at around six hours, so I am always grateful for the extra room and amenities. For this flight they contacted me a couple of days ahead to take my breakfast order. I suppose this is to ensure no one is disappointed if their choice runs out.
They had a greek yogurt and granola option that sounded pretty safe. I ate it while watching Glenn Close in The Good Wife (very good by the way).
The seat configuration is roomy, and converts to a lie flat bed, but there is an irksome divider between the two seats that puts a real damper on conversation if you are flying with a friend (as I was).
The flight was smooth, and we landed on time. A driver and Cal-a-Vie representative were waiting for us in baggage claim, and before you know it we were on our way. The beauty of Cal-a-Vie is that many people come alone, and many in groups- but magically by the end of the stay everyone feels like old friends.
The ride to Vista is about 40 minutes, and we chatted all the way.
We arrived at around 1 pm, dropped our bags and went right to lunch.
People always rave about the weather in the San Diego area, and over the past five years, we have never had a less than perfect day. That being said, as we were getting ready to leave a big rain storm was moving in, but I have never experienced anything short of spectacular. The weather is so predictable that lunch is almost always served outside. The setting is lovely.
After lunch we headed to our individual cottages and got settled in. I have always been able to call the same cottage “home”. There is a very strong French influence at Cal-a-Vie. The owners are from Houston, but are passionate about all things French, and regularly go on buying trips to not just furnish the rooms and common spaces, but sometimes to also buy, disassemble and reassemble entire buildings on the property.
Simple, but cozy and inviting.
The staff at Cal-a-Vie are like magical elves- they operate under a cloak of invisibility, but are able to make sure everything is always just right. They even do your laundry every night which is just amazing. The dress code is relaxed to the extreme. Exercise clothes, bathrobes, “fancy” sweats are all you need. In fact, some people bring almost nothing and wear the gym clothes provided by Cal-a-Vie. It’s all about not having to think about anything but your own wellness.
Conveniently, if you feel you need to upgrade some of your workout gear, there is a very well stocked boutique right on premises.
The first day is generally spent getting settled, doing some yoga, or stretching, and scheduling your services for the coming week. The daily agenda always follows the same course.
Early morning (6:15) everyone who cares to, gathers for either the early morning hike or walk. This is my favorite part of the day.
I generally request almond butter and coffee in my room at 5:30 am just to get a little added boost of energy. Coming from the East Coast the early morning start isn’t too bad.
The hike varies each day, and gets progressively longer and harder as the days go by. It is always timed to be able to watch the sun come up, and the vistas are stunning. There are plenty of guides who can cut the hike short if you get tired. The conversation among friends make the time pass very quickly.
After the hike everyone heads to the dining room for breakfast. Every meal is complete with beautiful linens, flowers and whimsical napkin rings.
The seating is at large tables which allows for lots of opportunity for lively conversation.
After breakfast you are given your schedule for the day. The mornings consist of 4 50 minute exercise classes – keeping in mind there are many options to choose from, for all levels of fitness. Your schedule is just a suggestion and you can switch in and out of classes with no problem. There is a snack break in between just so your energy doesn’t fade. I usually concentrate on Yoga, Barre, strengthening classes- but they truly run the gamut.
At 1 pm, its lunch time! Again, everyone gathers outside and anxiously awaits the meal presentation.
Your dietary preferences are kept in mind, and substitutions can always be made. When you arrive you pick a calorie count for your stay- ranging from 1000 to 1800 a day (my level). The food at Cal-a-Vie is amazing. The Shrimp Taco Bowl is outstanding.
The Lobster Curry bowl is another favorite. They always like to have a rainbow of colors on your plate.
After lunch it is treatment time. The afternoon is spent having massages, scrubs, facials, scalp treatments, reflexology, manicures, pedicures and anything in between. There is literally a binder of choices. If you are not scheduled for treatments there is always the possibility of more exercise, sitting by the pool, or simply rest and relaxation.
The facilities are beautiful, and spotlessly clean. Even just walking the property is a sensory thrill.
By dinner time everyone is totally blissed out and relaxed. Dinner is always delicious, and usually over by 8:30. There is always an interesting lecture offered after dinner, but usually most people are too tired and retire back to their rooms for another day in paradise.
The next morning it all starts again!
This may seem like a love letter yo Cal-a-Vie, and in fact it is. It is a totally luxurious experience, truly a time where you feel completely taken care of. That is rare feeling as an adult with tons of obligations and responsibilities. At Cal-a-Vie there is nothing to worry about or think about other than your own well being. Enjoying it with friends is a total bonus. It is also a bit decadent, in an understated way. There is no deprivation- coffee and chocolate are ok! They even have their own Vineyard with wine tasting (and the opportunity to send bottles to your room if you like). Guests can come for either 3 nights, 4 nights or a full week. I have found that 4 nights is ideal for me.
Men are welcome at Cal-a-Vie, but in all honesty, I think it sort of detracts from the whole experience…
Sadly, it was time to head back to reality, and winter in Connecticut! In order not to leave too early, I booked myself on JetBlue home. This year JetBlue offered Mint service on this route, which it never has before. I was excited to try it, as I have heard great things.
Once I boarded, I made myself comfortable in my Suite. I loved the privacy and generous amount of space. I was greeted by Bernadette who gave me the full list of amenities and services that came with flying Mint.
I was super impressed. The service was so friendly and enthusiastic. I did not avail myself of any of the menu choices as I had my bag lunch packed by Cal-a-Vie, but people around me seemed satisfied with their meals.
The only negative I could come up with was the narrow selection of movies on board. I am guessing it is because JetBlue offers live TV- but I always love catching up on the latest movies while flying. The consistently strong Wifi on JetBlue is hard to beat though.
We landed back at JFK about 40 minutes early with our strong tail wind, but then had to wait that same amount of time for our gate to open up.
All in all, I can’t complain about a thing. It was a perfect respite from a hectic life- and I am already looking forward to next years stay!