Cabo San Lucas
Casa Celina (TTT Property #T1258)
May 21, 2007 – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
“Mi querida, tus ojos claros como el mar; te amo con todo mi corazon!”
(Oh, my love, I have no idea what you are saying, but kiss me, you fool!”)
Is it just me, or is everyone who works here just ridiculously good-looking? I’m watching the young hombre whose job it is to rake the sand borders of the walkways into Zen-like patterns. (I stepped into one by mistake yesterday and felt like I’d marred his masterpiece.) Handsome, calm, and comfortable in his work; he is perfectly cast.
As are the charming young men and women in the Fitness Center who offer you a chilled, rolled towelette for your sweat-strewn face. Right out of central casting—or “Zoolander”—and I wonder if one of them is going to shoot me the Ben Stiller “Magnum” stare. How to respond?
But this is not Zoolander; this is Las Ventanas al Paraiso, and this environment exists on a much higher plane. The staff here has the intelligence and the grace to match its perfectly chiseled collective cheekbones, so as a guest, you needn’t worry about a thing. Far niente, as they say in Italy.
I approach the concierge desk in the open-air lobby and am greeted by a prize-winning smile with miles of white teeth offset by Deny’s deeply-tanned face. All my questions about golf courses and dinner reservations are answered seamlessly by the lovely staff members as the breeze ruffles their shiny, perfect hair. I’ve landed in The Land of The Handsome, and am not quite prepared for it. Somehow, I must upgrade my act. (Starting with a shower, at any rate).
The light here is endless. I’m on a chaise on Kathryn’s patio at Casa Celina, gazing at the Sea of Cortez and palm trees and bougainvillea for days. It feels like it’s about 4 o’clock, but as I glance at the clock I’m shocked to find it’s 7:20pm.
Just enough time for a quick stroll before dinner. Walking the grounds of Las Ventanas at twilight one finds art and magic everywhere. A tree made of hand-thrown pots lighted with marble candle holders…a circular Zen garden with a beautiful round boulder spilling water from its top…up lit royal palms playing sentry to pebble-studded pathways bearing ancient mosaic patterns…open hallways with high thatched roofs, thrilling sconces and Aztec tile art on the walls. Fire. Rock. Earth. Water. Air. But most of all—Peace.
Iron lanterns beckon through water-laced steps on your way to the sea. Now, a free-form pool bordered by candlelit lanterns with a single stone bridge under which to swim. It’s a feng shui triumph. The architects truly cared about how guests here would embrace and react to this visual feast.
As the grounds welcome you, so, too does the sky over Baja. It’s bathed in the most delicate shades of pinks, blues, yellows and soft greens. To the west, a knife has sliced open the sky, and out spills the golden blood of the universe. Raw nature sends a chill up my hungry spine. It’s dinnertime in paradise.
|Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Property #T1258|
I’m seated by Oliver-with-the-endearing-face at the open-air Sea Grill, where Mexican classics are the order of the day. Just as I order a Californian chardonnay (I still think chardonnay gets a bad rap) there’s a popping sound behind me. A car backfiring? But there are no cars anywhere near here. “Uh oh,” go my suspicious New York antennae. But before hitting the deck and covering my head, I take a quick look over my shoulder.
The darkened sky is lit up with expansive pink, gold and green fireworks! Why? Because it’s Friday, and they look pretty. In fact, as I look around, there’s plenty of fire…in the candles on the table, rising from commanding torches, and issuing forth from spherical ornamental urns.
It’s also in the eyes of my fellow guests, as they contentedly hold hands across the tables in their matching white spa outfits. (Note to self: purchase something white and flowy tomorrow.) They speak gently with each other, sometimes glancing at the sea, or (depending on their hunger factor) eagerly watch the show going on at the open wood fire oven where spanking-fresh vegetables and seafood are being grilled.
Of the three fresh fishes of the evening, Oliver recommends the parrot fish. Done! I enjoy my wine and let the place sink into my bones a little bit. Eating here is like dining in a really luxurious gazebo. The chairs, happily, are truly comfortable, with ample cushioning; designed to help you relax. (Unlike those hard-as-rock wicker bistro chairs all over Europe that are designed to keep you moving right along after you finish your snails).
It’s lovely to observe nearly the entire sky as the stars appear and while wafts of garlic and grilled vegetables amble past my nose. A pity for Victorian women that it was thought unseemly for a lady to consume even one clove of garlic…no wonder they felt so repressed!
Not one person has brought his or her cell phone to dinner. A thousand hurrahs! I can’t explain how grateful I am to not be hearing some guy close a deal in Pittsburgh or some woman talking to her poodle in Peru. The elegance of Las Ventanas extends magically to its patrons, and the atmosphere is unmarred by ill manners. Even my small handbag merits its very own tiny table on which to fold its arms in its little lap.
The presentation of the parrot fish is magnifico! A stuffed ripe tomato, two sprigs of asparagus, a red bliss potato topped with sour cream on the outside and olive oil, cilantro and panela cheese on the inside; a sprig of fresh lemon thyme, a strip of curled, grilled zucchini, and a fiery jalapeno pepper blackened on the grill to snappy perfection. In the very center of the square white plate with the Aztec border, a perfect white onion presides.
I keep sighing out loud, which is uncharacteristic but unavoidable here (and a tiny bit embarrassing)—but that grilled, sweet onion is sheer perfection! And the chef knew to make it the center of focus on the plate, bless his Argentinean heart. So glad he decided to make Las Ventanas his culinary home. His name is Gabriel Kolocoff, and he’s been here for about six months, having formerly reigned at the kitchens of the Westin Regina.
|Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Property #T1258|
Oliver returns to the table to tell me a little bit about the parrot fish. That it’s a healthy fish, caught earlier in the day just a little north of here, and although it’s so pretty to look at underwater when snorkeling, it’s also extremely tasty. I couldn’t agree more. A vegan somewhere is regarding me mournfully for polishing off this little parrot, and yet, I eat on.
Fresh-baked pita bread had arrived earlier, with a choice of three extra virgin olive oils: straight up, chili-infused and garlic. That sound you hear in the distance is Rachael Ray seething with envy.
The lanterns hanging from the uprights of the ‘gazebo’ lend an African feel. Crash goes the surf. Lurch goes my heart. I realize I haven’t booked nearly enough time here!
A last, lingering look at the fire around me. Now the sky gives up its inky gloriousness. Under the care of these fine servers who clearly love their calling, it’s once again crystal-clear why Las Ventanas is at the tip top of the luxury ladder around the world. Before I’ve even thought of it, a Sharper Image reading light is brought to my table to enable me to take a few notes while nibbling on dessert. (Okay, scarfing.)
It’s Oliver’s choice again. Freshly grilled plantains with rampope sauce and real Mexican vanilla poured over them, with a dash of powdered sugar. This is a serious OMG moment. You really have to give thanks to the chefs who’ve figured out how best to use these fruity creations to their fullest potential!
And speaking of chefs, here he is now. Oh, come ON! HE’s as handsome as the rest of the bunch, and utterly dedicated to his craft. Chef Gabriel (even the name is dreamy) explains that the olive oils are his own infusions and that the tomatoes and other vegetables are from a small organic farm close to Cabo and that the vanilla beans are from the Baja state of Mexico. Or something like that. I’m just nodding, hypnotized.
By the time he leaves the table, I’ve plotted to barricade myself into Kathryn’s place, threatening “You’ll never take me alive!” to anyone who tries to extricate me from Casa Celina.
The Balinese have a simple way to meditate. They just sit quietly, and smile. No twisting, bending, grunting—they just sit quietly and smile. And that’s what I’ve done here at The Sea Grill tonight. And what a lovely meditation it’s been.
A busboy glides up to the table. “It’s dead,” he proclaims. I think he’s finally talking about my appetite, but he’s referring to the reading light. Yes, it is. Obviously time for me to head back to the villa. Will have to do double snorkeling tomorrow with the parrot fish, and will be in even further awe of their beauty now that I know how much those little guys have to give in the flavor department.
In the tremendously comfortable bed in Casa Celina, I daydream of the six little Mexican boys I saw earlier today, all about 8 years old, sitting in the back of a pickup truck, whizzing down Highway 1 towards Cabo San Lucas. In their matching orange t-shirts, they started waving and grinning at me in my little rented Nissan Tsuru. The smiles on these boys’ faces could not only stop traffic, they could stop world war. I wave back enthusiastically, then melt into sleep.
It’s Saturday morning, and much as it pains me to leave the Casa, I hop into the Tsuru and head for the other Cabo…Cabo San Lucas; about 20 minutes down the coast. Buying a last-minute straw hat at a stand for extra sun protection, it’s then time to board the La Pez for a mid-morning snorkeling and sightseeing trip.
The crew is jolly aboard the La Pez, and before long we all find ourselves singing along to an 80’s mix tape featuring Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax”. It’s as good as any ice-breaker can be, and I meet two outgoing couples—Lisa and Ken Ruch from Beloit, Wisconsin, and Carol and Dan Baer from Illinois. Lisa is a fountain of information, and answers my burning question: “Does it rain at ALL in Cabo?” “Five days a year,” she replies confidently.
They tell me about this resort they visited here in Cabo that has king-size four-poster beds right on the beach, and show me digital photos they took of those decadent beds where butlers bring you your pina coladas and anything else you might want while you sprawl the day away.
These two couples met because one’s son married the other’s daughter. And they don’t let that get in the way of their merry-making one bit. Admirable, non?
|Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Property #T1258|
It’s about a half-hour’s sail to Playa Santa Maria under perfectly sunny skies. We flop into the water like a school of wayward flounders and check out the vibrant sights below. The parrot fish show up right away to admonish me for forking their cousin last night. A slight twinge of guilt. Luckily, there seem to be many thousands more right here who managed to escape the plate.
Oddly, there seem to be lots more fish right by the boat than there are at the reef—about a ten-minute swim away. The water is brisk, and some snorkelers return to the boat to don their wet suits. Without one, I last about 30 minutes before my pinky fingers turn white with cold and I hang it up.
Back on the boat, the 80’s dance tunes are still cranking and lunch is being served: ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches and a respectable guacamole dip with chips. Drinks are now free-flowing, of course, and for dessert there’s bananas, apples and pears.
Now we’re heading back to the dock, with the all-important stop at El Arco and Lovers’ Beach…a stone’s throw from Divorce Beach, as anyone who’s had one too many shooters one too many times can tell you. It really is quite spectacular seeing these formations for the first time. Jet skis zoom by, kayakers are making their way carefully between the rocks, and the beach has about 10 or so people enjoying a sunbath. This is where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, making it even more geographically interesting.
It’s all very enjoyable, but it’s probably time to get out of the sun for a bit. Back to Las Ventanas for a wonderful workout in their state-of-the-art fitness center with the extra-thick yoga mats and a private nook in which to practice your pilates moves. A luscious swim in one of the seven pools–I choose one that’s totally shaded and am the only one in it. A soothing shower at Casa Celina and it’s already time for dinner.
Saturday night, I arrive at The Restaurant a few minutes early, and it’s no problem for the hostess. The table is a few feet from the pool, and two classical guitarists are playing the sweetest version ever of “I Will Survive.” And—miracle of miracles—my fellow diners not only listen respectfully, they applaud afterwards! And this happens after each and every song. Tremendous respect to the patrons for clapping, and to the musicians, who usually go so under-appreciated, for enhancing our dining experience.
The bread arrives—no less than six different types—some with mixed nuts, others with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese—and two types of crispy lavosh. My favorite is the lavosh with pistachio, parmesan cheese and cumin. One could make an entire dinner out of it. Butter is salted and unsalted and arrives wrapped in cones of cactus leaves bound in twine.
Down swoop three types of salt—fleur de sel from England, pure pink salt from the Himalayas and the third, from France, is also a type of fleur de sel. My favorite is the English fleur de sel with its larger crystals and distinctive bite.
Sandra, the sommelier, suggests the Casa Madero from northeast Mexico, and it’s crisp and delicious.
The starter course is a generous portion of perfectly prepared white and green asparagus surrounded by tiny halves of red and yellow tomatoes, roasted Indian almonds, two quail eggs, 2 vertical potato crisps and a sprig of fresh Italian parsley. The white asparagus, contrary to popular belief, is not only grown in France.
My server Heriberto says that this delicate and flavorful white asparagus is in fact grown locally in a small area in the Tropic of Cancer called Mira Flores. Every vegetable on my plate is grown there and is certified organic.
The flavors burst like last night’s fireworks as we’re treated to a Spanish rendering of “Hotel California”—appropriate, since The Eagles built the very same in nearby Todos Santos. Glancing around, I’m surprised to find the restaurant fully-occupied, because the service feels so relaxed and unhurried and the level of conversation is so reserved.
|Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Property #T1258|
Heriberto is no slouch. He knows his stuff and imparts his wisdom graciously. I particularly adore the packet of polenta, wrapped in a holly leaf. My snapper is actual red snapper, as billed, and is presented in such a fascinating way! With the artful placement of some fin-shaped crackers, and bordered by wavy pools of yellow mole sauce, the fish appears as if it’s still in motion.
That’s the work of Chef Pablo Losa from Mexico City. His tenure here at The Restaurant has been about a year so far. He’s been written up in magazines like Traditional Home if you care to check the back issues and find out more about the depth of his resume.
I get this tip from the friendly couple from Beverly Hills who are sitting at the next table. They’ve been staying in Cabo for many years at places like The One and Only Palmilla and The Marquis, but now that they’ve discovered Las Ventanas, there’s only one place for them. The service, the sensuality and the setting have stolen their hearts.
Jorge, the assistant manager (who is—naturally—quite handsome) stops by the table and we chat about the place and the clientele. He says that sometimes the patrons get up and dance to the guitarists, taken by the sheer romance of the environs, and at other times the tables can even get rather boisterous.
I feel lucky to have come here at a time when the diners are mellow, plugged into the experience (and not their pda’s) and are truly enjoying their stay and the vast mental and physical elbowroom this place offers.
The pina colada cake tempts sorely, but after three different breads, I manage to resist. Nice Beverly Hills Couple tells me about the wonderful movie nights on the beach here. The staff brings a flat-screen t.v. to your hammock in the sand. You pick which movie you’d like to see, and they’ll set it up in surround sound for you so you don’t even have to wear headphones! How heavenly is that? Just remember to reserve early, since there are only five spots.
You can also gather, if you wish, on Tuesdays and Fridays here at the Sea Grill beginning at 8 pm for a tour of the galaxy. You’ll huddle with other celestial seekers to view the planets, stars and the moon through the powerful on-site telescope.
The couple also points out the lighted pathway which leads to the private dining cabana on the beach. Needless to say, ultra-memorable experiences must happen under that canopy. If I were to propose to someone, this is where I would do it—for a guaranteed affirmative.
Ricardo Y Raul are finished with their break and return to their guitars. They hail from Mexico City and are billed as “Hermanos de Luna– Twin Brothers of the Moon.” They carefully launch into “The Bolero”, lighting up the terrace and our lives with exquisite song….awash in firelight.
|Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Property #T1258|
As the bolero crescendos, as if on cue, a surprise tray of amusements finds its way to my table: a square of crystallized apple gel, a meringue puff, a tiny Madeline, a smoky chocolate bon bon and a raspberry tart.
The surf crashes, my heart tumbles with love, and the Moon Twins softly begin a most gorgeous version of “Desperado.” Audible sigh. Following it, I ask if they know anything by the Spanish master Villa Lobos. One brother does, one brother does not, but they vow to learn a piece from the guitar god very soon.
Nice Beverly Hills Couple are getting sleepy and wander off to their suite. It was so pleasant chatting with them. And now, after I pay the bill, two girls from Kansas City hail me over to their table. They have a running bet as to what I do for a living, having watched me scratching out a few notes, dining solo. The one who bet all her money on “writer” wins big.
They have a small business together and are taking a well deserved break and are immersed in the scene and enjoying themselves immensely. We agree vehemently that this is SUCH a different Cabo than the town that bears the same name 20 miles down the coast where tequila shooters are now sliding down the sticky bar at Cabo Wabo. We gab for awhile until gravity pulls my eyelids low, and then it’s time to call it a night.
But not before Sandra the sommelier asks me how my meal was, and wonders if I’d like a peek at the La Cava. Of course! It’s an elegant wine cave stocked with 5000 select vintages of the world. There’s a table which can accommodate up to 20 people for dinner under the domed ceiling anchored by a wrought iron chandelier. Another fine venue for a special occasion or to pop a certain question.
Then it’s back up to Casa Celina and that beautiful bed and those wonderful blackout draperies that allow one to sleep in just a little…..or a lot.
Breakfast on Sunday is taken on the terrace without fanfare, just enjoying some tea and the view from one of two comfortable chaises.
Later in the morning walking the beach I smile because the waves here have such a colassal weight to them that when retreating, they carve out delicate diamond and basket weave patterns in the sand. Even the waves here are artists! If I could cover my walls in these patterns, I’d be ecstatic.
But maybe this sheer metric tonnage is why I haven’t merrily flung myself into the sea like I’d normally do right about now. The antennae are up. This surf is magnificent—deafening and massive—and the undertow is beyond serious. I’m walking past an outcropping of rocks about a mile down the beach from Las Ventanas, and a man in an official-looking uniform waves his hands wildly and shouts “Peligroso!”. I immediately run closer to the shore. He’s right—it wouldn’t be any fun at all to be dragged onto those rocks by the rollicking Sea of Cortez no matter how pretty it is. Later on I find out that most people swim between 2 and 4 o’clock, when the tide isn’t pulling quite so insistently.
Back safely to the chaise and protective umbrella, I notice my feet look as though I’d applied glitter to them with a glue gun, so sparkling is this sand. Chillout music from the pool area relaxes me into a deep, shady sleep…and l my soul repairs itself happily as birdsong and surf riff off each other.
Post-nap, and back in the villa, I admire the raised platform bed with the soothing green bedcovers, the wood-burning adobe fireplace, and the hand-made Mexican crafts resting on counters and hanging from the walls. Ditto the Conchuela limestone floors inlaid with pebble mosaics and the latilla-shaded terraces with the personal telescope for late-night stargazing.
I should also mention that Casa Celina is a two-bedroom casita, with a separate keyed entrance to the second bedroom and bath for maximum privacy, should your guests desire it.
|Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Property #T1258|
The living room is anchored by two potted palms and a wood-burning fireplace with a television above it. The ceiling is in keeping with many others on the property, with long peeled slender limbs laid side by side across the entire surface; the design is called “latilla”. Overhead rafters also lend an earthy feel, as does a heavy hand-carved Mexican mirror over the couch.
A wide wall of windows with heavy draperies leads to the balcony where there are two chaise longues and a built-in couch for relaxing, overlooking bougainvillea and the sea in the distance.
There are Mexican handicrafts atop a pillar and resting on counters. The living area carpeting is a mossy green with floral designs. On the couch perch round ornamental pillows that echo the spherical rock fountains of the gardens and even the round potatoes you’re served in the evenings.
The dining area features a dining table and chairs, topped with a footed leather bowl holding carved wooden spheres with polished wood inlay.
Walking towards the kitchen from the dining area, there are multiple Mexican carvings on the wall for visual interest. The kitchen sports gray marble counters and glossy white cabinetry, hand-thrown pottery on the windowsill and state of the art stainless appliances. (You won’t even need a converter here if you come from the U.S.).
Entering the bedroom through a heavy carved door, we have another wall of windows leading out to the terrace and an armoire with television, dvd player and cd player. The “headboard” is actually a mirror image of some of the pebble mosaics that pattern the walkways on the grounds, and is the focal point of the room. A large round mirror, two side tables with sturdy lamps and a bench complete the furnishings.
The ultra-large bath conceals two spacious closets behind wooden doors. An appealing soaking tub is front and center, with separate commode and shower facilities behind heavy frosted glass doors.
An extra-long vanity bears two sinks with colorful hand-painted Mexican tissue and soap holders and cotton jars, plus pillar candles and a floor-to-ceiling mirror.
Before checking out the other part of T1258, I’ll note that if you desire privacy in the mornings, there’s a beaded necklace that hangs on the front doorknob. Hang the necklace on the outside of the door if you want “privado.”
Now we enter the other side of the villa. There’s a hallway filled with closets on the right, and the marble bath on the left. The same nice big soaking tub is here, and from this super soaker you can see the view of the balcony and beyond if you like. Or, simply close the wooden shutters to bathe privately.
In the bedroom, two pretty platforms with white covers look every bit as comfortable as the master bed, with green and beige patterned pillows, soft headboards and pleasing art on the walls. Another wall of windows leads to the patio with two comfortable chairs and a built-in couch from which to view the cactus gardens below and the ocean in the distance.
There’s even a bath menu available! You can choose from either the sensual and romantic infusion of Amazonian Maracuja passionflower and black pepper oil, the rejuvenating thermal salts from Germany’s Leine Valley or the stress-relieving mineral-rich bath of Dead Sea salts with red and brown seaweeds and Yuan Zhi wild plant extract moisturizers to balance your energies. By the way, world-class champagnes and tequilas are also offered to enhance your unique bathing experience. Bath time is not likely to be the same any time soon.
But soon I’m due on the golf course, so enough admiring. I hop into my Tsuru and speed up Highway 1 about ten minutes north to the Palmilla Golf Resort, which has the distinction of being the only 27-hole golf course in Los Cabos. The unique blending of desert and sea offers a choice of the Arroyo Nine, the Mountain Nine or the Ocean Nine, with views of the sparkling Sea of Cortez.
Opened in 1992, this was Jack Nicklaus’ first signature course-design project in Latin America.
This Jack track sits among deep canyon arroyos and century-old cardon cacti. The daily trade winds are the reason I choose to play the Ocean Nine, and they certainly help to cool off as I tee up, as does the air-conditioned golf cart, which I find most amusing. Just sit in the middle of the driver’s seat and whoosh!– you get a nice cold breeze on the back of your neck.
Palmilla challenges even the most experienced players with its gentle slopes, wide fairways and large greens—with ever-present water and sand hazards to test your accuracy, or lack thereof. I find each and every sand trap with precision and spend much of the afternoon raking over, Zen-like, the carnage of my last sand wedge. Ommmmmmm.
I may have 5-putted the first two greens, as they are super-fast, and one must use a baby-soft touch. Try not to be distracted by the mega-mansions that line this lovely track and the kajillionaires sipping G & Ts on their balustrades smugly watching your next desperate shot out of yet another trap. (“Desperado” rings through my head).
|Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Property #T1258|
The first four holes go swiftly by, and it’s not until the fifth tee that I get stuck behind the Molasses Brothers. They play sooo agonizingly slowly, analyzing eeeeeach shot as if their very lives depend on it, that I get just a tad antsy waiting. As they play on, they start dragging even more, and by the 7th hole I’m contemplating laying an actual egg right here, just to prove a point.
Evennnnnnnntually, they finish their nine, and so do I, and although I haven’t made par on a single hole, I proudly count up my Mothers’ Day accomplishments: 1. Didn’t tip over the air-conditioned cart (though came mighty close!) 2. Didn’t get lost on the course and end up in the wrong arroyo and get bitten to death by a rattlesnake 3. Didn’t drive my ball onto a different fairway than the one I was aiming for 4. Didn’t cause bodily harm to any of the four Molasses Brothers 5. Didn’t pitch a single club into the Sea of Cortez
All told, lots to celebrate.
Post-round, there’s just enough time to hotfoot it to The Spa at Las Ventanas. The experience is sumptuous in every way. The pre-massage ritual involves a series of soaks, showers and saunas in order to ‘prep’ your muscles for the massage by relaxing them just so.
Monica is my gentle-as-rain Swedish masseuse and knows instinctively how to make a person comfortable. The room has an open archway to the outside, so as Monica thoughtfully applies aloe vera to my sunburned parts, I hear birds singing and feel a slight breeze. It’s so much nicer than being all cooped up in a windowless room somewhere in a city. (It’s hard to imagine being anywhere else, come to think of it, so firmly has this place embedded itself in my temperament).
After the perfectly performed massage with just the right ethereal music in the background, I thank Monica and the staff and wander down to the Sea Grill for my final dinner.
Oliver-with-the-endearing-face welcomes me with a smile and proclaims: “Tonight the Sea Grill is yours alone! Where will you sit?” I choose a table for two (the lady and her purse) closest to the sea. It’s breezier tonight, and all the weekenders have gone. Oliver mentions that the snapper is very good tonight, and I snap to it.
It arrives filleted, surrounded by fantastic grilled veggies, a stuffed tomato, small grilled potato and spices I can’t name from memory.
Fresh rosemary and thyme are cut by the waiter Fernando (yes, handsome—surprise, surprise) from a cigar-like rolled cactus paddle onto the fish. Three sauces are served to accompany the snapper—including a fresh guacamole that is totally out of this world.
Tomorrow I fear I’ll walk into my own kitchen, sit down, and expect the same taste sensations to magically appear on the plates and I’ll be bereft when it doesn’t happen. (What can I say? It’s tough to find fresh Mexican cactus paddles at the Von’s in Pacific Palisades.)
Quiet, gallant, endearing Oliver has to leave. He courteously stops by to say goodbye and to tell me that he’ll be in charge of the swimming pool bar tomorrow and can take care of any special needs I may have. (I half-expect him to end his sentences with “milady” so charming is he).
Thanks, Oliver, but the only pressing special need I have is to stay at Casa Celina for about another month of this decadent serenity. I polish off my glass of Casa Madera (from, of course, the first winery in Latin America) and glance down the beach. The pathway to the private dining cabana for two is lit up in the distance. As the ocean roars and the stars shine brightly above, a man stands. He asks his beloved to stand with him. They hold hands in the starlight for many minutes.
And I’m quite sure her answer is, “Yes.”
|Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Property #T1258|
Each night I have stood atop the enormous balcony where the flames leap out of giant urns in front of the Zen garden filled with teddy bear cholla—cacti that look like soft teddy bears standing at attention in the sand over the restaurants and the sea below.
I offer up a child’s pose to these seaside sentries and listen intently to the roar of the fire under the darkening sky.
It’s a ritual I hope to perform many times here in future visits to these crystal-clear windows to paradise.
It’s one hour and 58 minutes in the air by commercial carrier from LAX to Cabo San Lucas, so yes—you CAN do it in a weekend—especially if you’re not checking luggage.
It’s about a 20-minute drive from the airport to Casa Celina.
You won’t need to bring a converter for things like flattening irons if you’re staying at Casa Celina and are traveling from the U.S. (Hair dryers are supplied).
There are five championship golf courses in the vicinity, and the staff will be happy to assist you in booking tee times.
Great shopping can be found in nearby San Jose Del Cabo (15 minutes from Casa Celina) or the art town of Todos Santos (45 minutes from Casa Celina).
Road signs are all in Spanish, so brush up a little bit before you go—or at least know that “alto” means stop!
Gas stations are full service, so don’t worry if you’re not used to filling up in Spanish; the attendants will help you.
Bring a wet suit for warmth if you plan to snorkel for extended periods.
Always ask when it’s safe to swim, and make sure there’s someone who can watch you if you’re swimming alone.
It’s possible to get through an entire weekend without Mexican pesos if you absolutely need to. U.S. dollars are readily accepted as tips and in many shops. Of course, it’s more polite to arrive with pesos in your pocket.
English is spoken nearly everywhere in Cabo.
One of the championship golf courses in the area has recently removed a few of the holes on its ocean course to make way for golf villas. Individual lots are going for 8 million dollars apiece. Don’t think you can still get a “steal” of a deal like you could in 1975. Just a little reality check for you.
Remember to hydrate and bring your high number sunscreen so you can enjoy yourself to the max instead of spending your afternoons applying aloe vera to your sunburned shoulders.
Recent guests to Las Ventanas include Meg Ryan, Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, Bono, Jennifer Aniston, Simon Cowell, Martha Stewart and Kate Beckinsale. Kate honeymooned here with her director husband Len Wiseman. Brooke Shields was engaged here to Chris Henchy. Nick Lachey comes here to go deep-sea fishing. Now you know.
There’s SO much to do in Cabo….you can catch a panga (dinghy) to Lovers’ Beach at El Arco—or get there by kayak or glass-bottomed boat. Enjoy encounters with sea lions, dolphins and possibly whales in season on the way.
If you’re a diver, fill your log book with Playa del Amor’s Neptune’s Fingers and Sand Falls with their dramatic drop-offs and big pelagics like manta rays, to the marine preserve at Cabo Pulmo. Cabo Pulmo offers up to 100 feet of visibility and amazing encounters with a resident sea lion colony.
Surf’s up in Cabo, too. Test your skills on reef and beach breaks stretching from the mighty Pacific to the glassier waves found eastward. Three popular breaks are Acapulquito, Zippers, and The Rock. The Cabo Surf Hotel rents both soft and standard boards in case you’ve forgotten yours. Day trips offered by local outfits can take you to the challenging surf of Playa Cerritos, followed by lunch in the rustic town of Todos Santos.
Rent a Hobie Cat or a Wave Runner if you have the need for speed—or for the ultimate high—go parasailing or skydiving to get a bird’s eye view of Land’s End.