Today's list comes courtesy of Jennifer, who gave me the idea. Thanks, Jennifer! I love all the other ideas, too, and will find a way to fit them in!
It was really hard to choose from the many, many glorious trips I've been lucky enough to take so far. So I decided to pick places that I fantasize about returning to.
The Oaks at Ojai - Ojai, CA
No designer track suits, no fake boobs, no cell phones. From the second you shed your bag and clothing in your "cottage" at this spa (which is no flashier than a Motel 6) you feel your blood pressure starting to drop. You put on your suit and slip into the big rectangular pool that forms the centerpiece of the Spanish-hacienda-style property, ease onto a body raft, and let the desert sun warm your bones. Then you lounge poolside with glass after glass of frosty water (there are carafes everywhere), reading magazines and dozing until it's time for Veggie Break or Fruit Smoothie break. Soon after, your digestion is better than it's been in years. For fun and virtue, you also have your little schedule, handily provided at check-in, so you know when it's time for Broadway Musical Dance class, or Relaxation Yoga, or Aquafit (which involves some very special pool noodles) and when it's time for the fabulous meals, served family style so you whoop it up with interesting women, and totaling not more than 1,000 calories a day even though you are somehow stuffed to the gills with their clever combinations of fresh veggies, fruits and whole grains (even sublime desserts like banana splits and apple turnovers.) In the evening, you can attend one of the hilariously-themed (I don't think that's intentional) "programs" such as "Bra Fitting Techniques" or "Appetizers For Your Next Cocktail Party" or "Cruise Jewelry Shopping." Or you can glide from dinner table to massage table and finish out the evening being rubbed in aromatic oil and pummeled with hot stones. It's your choice, darling. By the time you're done, all the gals will be gathered around watching today's movie with their carefully portioned bags of popcorn. But maybe a late-night dip in the jacuzzi sounds more alluring: after all, it's still 90 degrees outside. In the morning--if you don't sleep in--you'll be able to hike into the glorious Ojai foothills at sunrise, and follow it up with fresh-baked muffins.
Galiano Island - The Gulf Islands, British Columbia
David and I went here as part of a trip to Vancouver and Victoria. We loved it all, but Galiano Island was its own slice of heaven. The Galiano Inn is about 10 steps from where the BC Ferry disembarks, and our balcony overlooked the ocean. Dinner at the Inn featured all local produce and wines. We took a boat tour and were surrounded by orcas and verdant green islands. Then a hike in the light rain under a canopy of trees, with no sound but the scratching of small waves over the pebble beach, as a seal watched us from just off shore. My favorite part was walking around the island, picking wild blackberries, and standing on a rocky point where we could see a couple getting married by the lighthouse. At night we lit the fireplace in our room and drifted off to the sound of its crackling and a CD of a local harpist.
Read and see more about our Galiano Island trip on www.samanddavid.com.
Rottnest Island - Perth, Australia
As the Australian branch of my family knows, I was smitten with every place I went in that country. But the day on Rottnest was truly magical. We took a one-hour ferry ride from downtown Perth to a place only locals go, an island populated with the world's only quokkas--a marsupial like a tiny kangaroo (or a giant, soft-eyed rat--hence the island's name.) They are everywhere, and practically tame--I even fed one. The water is baby blue, the sand like sugar, and the snorkeling pristine. The whole island is fully traversable by bike, and it should be--no cars are allowed. I can still feel the wind in my hair as I sailed down a hill in the late afternoon with absolutely nothing in sight but David and the ocean. And I can't forget the sumptuous warmth of a ridiculously simple but divine creation: the baked bean pasty (like a turnover, with beans and cheese inside) from the Rottnest Bakery, which I sampled directly after emerging from the cold, fishy blue. As evening fell, I watched the folks who were there for a week traipsing from the local grocery back to their cottages, bare feet sandy and wine in hand, and wished feverishly I could stay there forever.
See more Rottnest photos on www.samanddavid.com.
Costanoa - near Santa Cruz, CA
I read about it in Vanity Fair, I think. I liked that it was described as "camping for people who would never consider camping." That would be me. Call me high maintenance, but I like my vacations with plumbing. Costanoa is a "campsite" on a wild stretch of Hwy. 1 that does not permit commercial development, so there's nothing else for miles except driftwood-covered beaches and redwood forests. Each "tent" features windows with screens, a platform bed with heated mattress, down comforter and a mosquito canopy. Plushy robes and a basket of spa goodies await your trip to the "comfort station," which has outdoor showers and spotless bathrooms with heated floors for those late-night treks under blazing stars. In the morning, you stumble out of your "tent" and walk 100 yards to the "general store," where a hot breakfast and superb coffee await you--all included. And if this is too much roughing it, you can stay in the "lodge," with your own bathroom and a private hot tub. During the day, we strolled the empty beaches and hiked through the silent woods--gawking at giant banana slugs--and at night we admired the stars from our Adironack chairs while sipping local wine from the general store.