It was an ex-hippie friend of a friend in Woodstock who first piqued my interest in Sedona. There were two easy ways to experience true blissful beauty and spiritual renewal, he told me: Take mushrooms, which he giddily offered me, or visit Sedona. Being steadfastly drug-free and wanting to get rid of this guitar-strumming busker (it was 1989, not 1969, after all), I told him I’d put Sedona at the top of my “must visit” list (well, not in those words), and ushered him on his stoned-out, merry way. Like most of my spiritually thirsty, wanderlusting, 20-something friends, I was on a quest for self-awareness, and I figured those mystical vortexes were as good a place as any to look for it. Soon, though, motherhood beckoned and my astral interests waned; my trip to Sedona was put on the “maybe someday” list.
“Someday” came last November when I got the opportunity to visit L’Auberge de Sedona, voted the No. 1 hotel in Arizona by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler in 2012 and 2013, honored with a coveted spot on Condé Nast’s Gold List in 2014, and currently ranked No. 2 among resort hotels in Sedona on TripAdvisor. The resort, which boasts “breathtaking red-rock vistas and creekside tranquility,” underwent a three-year, $25 million renovation, completed in 2011, that included the redesign of 26 lodge rooms, 31 creekside and garden cottages, and the addition of 30 spa cottages and vista cottages and suites. Though the Sedona visit I’d envisioned so many years ago included dusty red clay, wind chimes, and Champa incense—and maybe some semblance of a spiritual being with a baritone voice like the “Burning Bush” in The Ten Commandments, except nestled in a red-rock vortex—the Sedona visit I got was much different, in all the right ways.
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From the moment we stepped onto the 11-acre property, we—and all the other guests—were treated like royalty, starting with the cold bottled water we received upon our seamless check-in. The heat of Phoenix had given way to a slightly cooler, breezier climate, though, thanks to L’Auberge’s unique location on the banks of Oak Creek. Inside my very spacious, rustic yet elegant creekside cottage, tea and a freshly baked scone were waiting on a table by a ready-to-light wood-burning fireplace. I opted for opened windows and fresh air instead, as it was not quite fireplace weather.
The cottage’s vaulted ceiling and warm recessed lighting created a soothing ambience, and made up for the just-okay shower and bathroom (in the more modern Vista Suites, you can take a Jacuzzi bath while gazing at the red rocks), and the king-size bed, outfitted in Fili D’Oro Italian linens, was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on (which I did, for a pre-dinner nap).
Our group met for an alfresco dinner on the creekside patio, which was to be followed by some stargazing. I must say, despite the fact that I’m not into creeks—or woods, or mosquitoes or crickets—I was Zenned-out by the lovely sycamores and the calming cadence of the moving water.
My filet mignon—medium rare to perfection, per Executive Chef Rochelle Daniel—was delicious and the wine selection impressive, but the evening was cut short by an unexpected downpour (Sedona gets 280 sunny days per year), which quashed our stargazing plans and sent me hobbling through the sodden wooded grounds to my bright and cozy cottage, with Creedence’s “Run Through the Jungle” playing in my head.
All was well—perfect, actually—again the next morning, when I received an ultra-relaxing, customized facial at the full-service Spa at L’Auberge. My facialist was more than skilled—she was gifted. I’m not sure how many hot, steamy towels she used during my treatment, but the spa’s laundry bill must be astronomical. The experience was, in a word, sublime.
Aside from the spectacular red rocks themselves, which just never get old, there’s lots to enjoy in the area. Among the delights of my trip were a Verde Valley wine tour, macaron-making at the resort’s Creek House, a customized tasting menu at the award-winning L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek, and a multi-course wine-pairing dinner at nearby Italian farm-to-fork restaurant Dahl & Di Luca—prepared by local-celeb Chef Lisa Dahl and served upon rose-petal-strewn tables. Of course, you must do some shopping, and there are many stores and shops in the area. And don’t miss nearby Tlaquepaque, an arts-and-crafts village-cum-shopping mall fashioned after an authentic Mexican village, where you’ll find everything from $5 fridge magnets and keychains to jewels and art that easily exceed five figures.
Though my husband was not with me on this trip, I saw lots of canoodling couples at L’Auberge, and I imagine that a more romantic vacation—or honeymoon—destination in the Southwest would be hard to come by.
Details: During low season, lodge rooms start at $225; Vista Suites from $395 Contact: www.lauberge.com