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La Valencia – California
March 2, 2015
It was the midst of a dark British February, with the sun long since retreated behind a heavy blanket of cloud and our gloves wearing thin, that we decided it was high time for an impromptu escape.
Enter La Jolla – a Mediterranean-style village in Southern California – with a bevvy of shiny boutiques and a quirky art scene. Barely half an hour’s drive north of San Diego and centred on a sandy cove occupied in equal measure by surfers and sea lions, it fulfilled our desire for a sun-soaked escape within easy reach of the airport.
Dubbed “The Pink Lady”, La Valencia Hotel is a landmark estate built in 1926 with a name for fame. Sister property to the sprawling Rancho Valencia and a member of the Preferred Hotel Group, La Valencia is intimate by nature and looks directly over the picturesque cove.
It is said that Madonna favours this very spot and that there is a string of A-list celebrities spotted here on a regular basis, which comes as no surprise; the hotel epitomises boutique with 112 elegantly decorated rooms, a sense of familial comfort and subtle service. It is a charming staple in La Jolla’s hotel scene, emanating old-world European style with a warming colour palette and a rainbow of flower gardens surrounding the pool. A partnership with the local Monarch Gallery sees an array of contemporary art take to the walls on a rotating basis.
Rooms come in three categories: Vintage, Classic and Ocean Villa, all decked out in a similar style. We found ourselves in the Riviera Suite, which had its own thickly carpeted lounge area leading to a bedroom with high ceilings and a balcony swooning over the Pacific. It is a cosy suite, clad in neutral caramel and cream, with up-to-date amenities and a king-size bed dressed in the softest Italian Frette linens. While there is no real need for change here (everything is kept in exceptionally good nick), La Valencia’s latest endeavour will see a trio of iconic suites take shape, each and every one catering to the modern, independent traveller. The crème de la crème will be the Sky Suite, with tiptop views over the coastline and a similar old-world meets modern décor.
Also recently revamped, THE MED Restaurant serves up an array of coastal cuisine on an alfresco terrace with sunset-hued walls, cast iron garden furniture and cream parasols, where intricate mosaic details enhance the European ambiance. Stateside sensation, Chef James Montejano, plates up a slew of Mediterranean-inspired treats, from grilled octopus drizzled in fig olive vinaigrette to fennel pollen quail and traditional paella – not to mention the obligatory artisan cheese and charcuterie plates, served alongside a bottle of red from the signature vault.
In celebration of eight decades spent curating the very finest labels, the hotel has recently launched a Wine Dinner Series whereby seasonal menus are paired with rare, renowned wines. Out front, Café la Rue is a prime spot for quick, modern European bites and elaborate cocktails. The laid-back setting – inspired by the art of hotel legend Wing Howard – makes it for perfect people watching along the polished high street.
By way of active pursuits, there is surfing (lots of it) and diving amidst the kelp forests nearby, whilst golfers can nip up the coast to the famed Torrey Pines. However, in actual fact, we simply do not get around to leaving town. Content with the local scene, we mooched the day away, dipping into local art galleries and lingering at trendy cafes.
Eventually, jetlag seduces us and we drift to sleep with the French doors cast wide, the tinkle of silver and mellow jazz carrying on the breeze, and the distant thunder of the waves. La Jolla translates directly as “the jewel”, and with the casual luxury of La Valencia to rest our heads, it made for the ultimate Hollywood getaway.