I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally be in Southern California, a place we have been going back to, every year, for the past 8 years. But one of the places I was looking forward to the most? To get to the fab Rancho Valencia, 20 minutes north of San Diego in Rancho Santa Fe. Recommended by a lovely twitter follower (See? With an active community, advice goes both ways), it looked stunning. And I can tell you one thing… it did NOT disappoint! The only Relais & Chateaux in Southern California, Rancho Valencia has been on the sexiest hotel lists for years, especially after its recent renovation.
– Did I try to engage the hotel via Twitter? Did the hotel interact with me and made me feel welcome/special?
I did, and must confess it was difficult to get a response from the hotel at all. This changed on the second day of my stay, and over the weekend (which was quite interesting as most hotels ‘disappear’ on Saturdays and Sundays). Not the case here at all!
– Has the hotel tried to gather any personal information (e.g. preferences) prior to my stay?
They did, but as usual, I had no special requests.
– The wow factor! What was the hotel decor style?
Well, well, well. Arriving and seeing those fab cars parked by the entrance was well noted. Why? Because every guest at Rancho Valencia has the opportunity to drive a Porsche during their stay (on a first come, first served basis, obviously). You need insurance for this, and you need to bring your insurance details with you. We didn’t (as we don’t really carry them in Europe, where the cars are insured and not drivers), and being the weekend, we couldn’t really figure out a way to get some specific insurance to use in the USA (our rental car one obviously didn’t cover it). It was a shame we weren’t told this beforehand and if you do go, please check as it is certainly part of the experience.
– How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?
We were escorted by a team member to the reception, which was lovely and quiet. I love sit down check-ins and loved ours. We were also offered a glass of ice tea, which was very nice. We were also asked what time we would like turn-down service, which I thought it was really clever and useful – everyone has different schedules, and while some people have dinner at 6pm, I personally don’t, so turn-down at that time wouldn’t work for us.
– Was I addressed by name once reservation has been located? (it is all about the small details, some others are outstanding with this, and I love it, like I do when I board an airplane)
Yes, Ms. Silva O’Reilly was our name during the stay, so we both got called this a lot, which was rather fun for Mr. O.
– Did I get an upgrade from my confirmed pre-booked room type?
I did indeed. We were upgraded to a 1 bedroom king suite or casita.
– Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?
Yes, throughout our stay, I must say people were lovely. This isn’t a big hotel, with roughly 50-something rooms so it does get quite personal.
– Luggage – how many people did I have to tip before the luggage made it safely to my room? This is cultural, I know
As the casitas are all spread around the property as stand-alone rooms – they “don’t do corridors and halls at Rancho Valencia’ – we followed the hotel’s golf cart to our room and were helped by a staff member as we had an obscene amount of luggage.
– Wi-fi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?
WiFi is complementary and worked very well during our stay.
– First impressions – décor, size and wow factor
Wow wow wow. We had a lovely 1 bedroom suite with its own patio and jacuzzi. It was beautifully decorated and looked like the place one would never leave. And we hardly did.
– Welcome amenity
We had a letter with a fruit basket and some water, which is always a nice touch. But a nice surprise? To have a whole drawer full of chocolates and snacks (replenished every day) as well as a complimentary mini-bar (non-alcoholic drinks only).
– The bed
Our bedroom was lovely and the bed was a dream. It was a bit high for yours truly, requiring a little hop every time, which made it quite fun.
– Closet/Wardrobe – proper hangers or those annoying ones where you need a PhD to get them out one by one? This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand them.
We had a full closet, off the bathroom, with space for all our clothes and luggage. Everything was nice and tidy and actually away from the bedroom, which is a great idea.
– Iphone Charger/Dock
The room had an iPhone 4 charger indeed, but something even better in this department.. wait a little bit 😉
– Bathrobes and slippers
They were wonderful and I used them for once, after showering and when retreating to my outdoor patio.
– Coffee and Tea
Indeed – I didn’t use it, but checked it had a state of the art illy coffee maker.
– Free bottled water
Water, and any soft drinks you would like (a good selection of over 10 different options) in the complimentary mini-bar. Waters were also replenished at turn-down service.
– Magazine selection – had some nice surprises and doesn’t happen often enough!
We had 4 magazines to choose from, including Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine, plus some local magazines.
– Power sockets in useful places – we have more and more devices and we know where we want them! By the bed, by the working area.
Oh yes! If you look at the photo of the bedroom above, you will see the lights on each bedside table. On each lamp, you could find 2 sockets, which were perfect for charging devices. Very clever indeed.
– First impressions – décor, size and wow factor
I love bathrooms and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. Spacious and with great light, it looked fab!
– Bath, shower and taps – I am looking for Duravits and Hansgrohes (or other fab brands) around the world. How fab was the shower? And a little pet peeve.. was I able to operate the shower without asking Mr. O for help?
The hotel has been recently renovated and everything was great. My only comment? It took a while to get the hot water going in the shower and I needed help from Mr. O to figure out the hot and cold. The shower head was OK, but could have done with a bit more power. What was really cool? The latest Toto loo (toilet). It did everything you could want.. except what you had to do yourself. I still feel very intimidated by these high-tech toilets and we did laugh at times when trying on the buttons, I must confess.
– Towels – yes, please! How many and how soft and lovely?
Towels were lovely and plenty.
– Toiletries – own brand, super brand, baby ones or proper ones? I shall find out!
Rancho Valencia uses Amala, a range especially designed for the hotel and its spa. I loved having handwash instead of soap (I do carry my own mini Molton Brown on longer trips as I really prefer it, and not so keen on having to open a new soap everyday..). Each basin had its own, which was a nice touch. I liked the shower gel but didn’t love the shampoo and conditioner.
– Amenity kit – I don’t want more sewing kits thank you very much, but I will need a shower cap.
We had everything we needed.
– Hairdryer – is it a human one, or just something stuck to a wall that only makes noise?
I used it and it was very good.
– Décor of breakfast room
Breakfast takes place at the Veladora restaurant (see photo below) which is absolutely stunning.
– The spread (inc yumminess)
Possibly one of the best breakfasts I ever had in the USA. I love both European-style and American-style meals, and must say that this was the perfect balance – certainly the Relais & Chateaux influence. The breakfast table was simple, but delicious – think mouth-watering crispy pastries, real bread, charcuterie and cheese, obviously cereal and cake and oh my, a new discovery: candied ginger (and other flavours).
– Cost (I have seen a hotel charging €75 for breakfast – a tad much, maybe?)
The “breakfast table” costs $15 and for an extra $5 you can add a cooked to order pancakes, eggs, waffles etc. Other options available a la carte. Very interesting concept indeed.
We enjoyed a dinner at Veladora, and another at the Bar, the Pony Room. This one, more formal than the latter, was absolutely full at night – the restaurant and the bar attract a lot of locals which make it a very lively place (a nice and pleasant surprise for us). I loved the concept of “California coastal cuisine” and never thought I would have octopus carpaccio this side of the pond. I tell you what.. I did and I loved it. Simon and the team really looked after us.
We adored the Pony Room (and the uniforms!). A place where we spent a significant part of our time – for lunch (outdoors), one dinner and after dinner both nights, we loved the light bites selection (lobster slides, yes please!) and great cocktails. It was a really lively place and also with great music. A winner.
– How good and reliable was the wi-fi?
The wifi was really quite good indoors and we didn’t have a problem at all.
– Did the hotel interact with me via Twitter during my stay?
They did, while I was in the property and we had a bit of fun.
Located 20 miles north of San Diego, a perfect base to explore the area. Also very close to Del Mar and Carlsbad (two words: Premium Outlets).
– Cost – rooms starting from…
Double rooms start from $600 and the 1-bedroom casitas from $850 per night. Don’t forget that it may include the Porsche (subject to availability) during your stay.
– Would I recommend it to my best friend?
Without a doubt.
– Would I stay again?
Absolutely. We loved Rancho Valencia. It was chic, understated and very relaxing.
Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Rancho Valencia during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. For more information about the hotel, visit its official website.