Have you ever planned a girls getaway with someone you never met before? It’s not the kind of thing one would do, but in my case I was excited about it.
Susan and I originally connected by email when we were both going after a publisher who didn’t pay us. As we exchanged notes, we found we had a lot of things in common beyond travel writing. We couldn’t get our schedules together to go on any press trip, so we decided to plan our own. With a lot of help from the Phoenix Area Tourism Board, Sanctuary at Camelback, Arizona Biltmore and The Boulders, it was quite an adventure.
We met in the car rental center of Phoenix Airport for the very first time. It felt like we had already known each other as we took the short ride to our first hotel, the Arizona Biltmore. Phoenix was having an unusual cold front accompanied by rain, but we took everyone’s word for the fact that it would clear up soon.
The Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria property, had put us in their newest wing, Ocatilla. The amenities here include a very well-appointed Executive Lounge and that’s where we had our first toast before heading to Wright’s for dinner. After choosing a Wright’s View (Stoli Vodka, St. Germain, raspberry, lime and sparkling wine) from the cocktail menu, I had a roasted beet salad with hazelnuts and feta, and Coq au vin with a mole sauce for a main course.
We enjoyed the dinner, but the chocolate soufflé for dessert was heavenly. We were also given the customary cotton candy (the day’s flavor was blueberry) before heading back to our rooms. We each had our own suites, complete with Jacuzzis.
The weather did not improve for our next day, but we had a leisurely breakfast as we learned more about the hotel’s history and some of its famous guests. We took a tour around the beautifully landscaped property before settling in for the day at the spa. I was nursing a sinus infection so I really enjoyed starting with a eucalyptus steam bath before my Dreamcatcher treatment, a truly dreamy massage that used hot towels and stones to relax my entire body.
After a few more hours of relaxation, we had dinner at another restaurant on the property, Frank & Alberts. We had a wonderful waiter, Latif, who introduced us to all of the restaurant’s comfort food – as well as a few interesting cocktails. It was hard to decide what I liked best, as we feasted on a variety of French fries, macaroni & cheese, empanadas and meatloaf. Susan said her choice was easy as she called the oversized onion rings one of the best things she’s ever eaten. The desserts were just as comforting, with choices such as Bananas Foster sundaes and Homemade Twinkies and Jam.
In the morning we were off to our next great hotel, the Sanctuary at Camelback. The weather was beginning to improve and Susan even hit the pool a bit. I instead went straight to the spa to check out their eucalyptus steam options. There I met Daphne, an attendant who made my every spa wish come true during the next two days, whether it was refilling the eucalyptus in the steam room, bringing me water in the hot tub or preparing my tea in the for relaxation, she was always there.
We went off property for a wonderful dinner at El Chorro Lodge, with Doug McKenzie of the Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, that included a dish I wish I could have more often, a Polenta Napoleon with quinoa and Carrot Pasta.
At Sanctuary at Camelback we had a very nice Casita (our favorite accommodation of the trip), with perfect views from the balcony and all the comforts of home. I was up in time to see a bit of the sunrise and it looked like it would be a warmer day. Breakfast at Elements restaurant was fresh and delicious and, after a tour of the property, I spent the rest of the day once again in the spa while Susan did a bit of hiking before joining me.
We were lucky we didn’t have to go far after all that relaxation, and watched the sunset with cocktails on the patio of the Jade Bar before yet another incredible Arizona dinner complete with Carrot & Millet Ravioli, sugar snap peas, shitake mushrooms and Yuku mint chimici. As tempting as the desserts sounded, we just couldn’t find room and were so relaxed that sleep seemed like the best option.
In the morning it was time to hit the road again and drive to Scottsdale, where we were staying at The Boulders. In this resort we had a smaller casita, but the property was just magnificent and the spa was larger and more equipped than any I had ever seen. I did my daily time in the steam room with eucalyptus and was excited about seeing more of the facilities the next day.
We decided to stay in and grab a burger in the lounge, so I could rest up. I was still hoping to be well enough to get a hike in before I left Arizona. Although that didn’t happen, I did get to thoroughly enjoy the Golden Door Spa at The Boulders. From the yoga class to the café to the (Olympic size) pool on the spa grounds, I had truly found my ultimate resting place.
I took full advantage of that place over the next two days for more spa time than I’ve ever had. Included in that time was a Lavender Zen Treatment that combined a scrub, warm towel wipe down. hot rose quartz stones, a massage with warm oil and a wrap while my feet and then scalp were rubbed with oil! It was all done with lavender-scented products and is my definition of heaven.
On our last evening, we had dinner at Palos Verde at The Boulders, where we sampled almost everything on the Tapas menu while tasting some good Arizona wines. The meal was very good and we reminisced about our Arizona adventure and couldn’t imagine that it had worked out better.
After many years as one of the top tennis writers in the country, Marcia Frost now devoting most of her time to travel writing, with a focus on food, wine and spirits. She has her own blog at WineAndSpiritsTravel.com and does weekly columns for Inspirato on Sonoma and Paris (two locations she visits often). Marcia also freelances for many other outlets, including Yahoo!; AOL; Michigan Avenue; Rum Bum; Los Angeles Confidential; Travel, Food & Drink; and Air Tran’s Go! Magazine. She has been contributing to Girls’ Getaway since 2010. For more information on Marcia, visit her website MarciaFrost.com.