A room becomes more romantic when paired with wine, art, or a coastal hike.
The Carmel Highlands & Point Lobos.
The storms of one year ago destroyed a large swath of the iconic Big Sur Highway, making Carmel inaccessible from the south (reopening is slated for summer of 2018). But if you come to the Coast Highway from the north, from Monterey, you will reach the northern edge of Big Sur, the setting of our first Valentine getaway recommendation. Perched like an osprey’s nest on the hillside above the rugged Big Sur coast, Hyatt Carmel Highlands, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017, offers some of the most spectacular views of the Pacific shoreline anywhere in the world. The most amazing of those vistas, and located to the north of the Inn, is Point Lobos, known among nature seekers as the crown jewel of California State Parks—and its network of forest and bluff trails are easily accessible. In fact, the entrance to the park is a short walk from Carmel Highlands. Your day hike here will inspire your romance, just as Lobos has served as the muse to many painters and photographers. The point was once called the “greatest meeting of land and water in the world” by landscape artist Francis Mc Comas.
The Lobos headlands, skirted by craggy rock formations that jut into crashing waves, is home to one of only two natural stands left of Monterey pine and Monterey cypress forests. Awesome views from the trails are everywhere on Lobos—a pastiche of old-growth trees, rock, whitewater ocean and tranquil coves—every sight is stunning. And in the area of igniting Valentines passion, Point Lobos vistas are a flamethrower.
Art, A Hotel, in Denver.
If your Valentine’s heart doesn’t get aflutter from the great outdoors, a more urban romantic adventure, 180-degrees opposite from the rugged Big Sur Coast experience and about a thousand miles east awaits at the Art, a hotel. Not The Art Hotel, but the Art, a hotel. This allows you to say, “We stayed at Art,” and that carries a positive metaphysical inference we don’t need to go into here. But there is a soaring of the senses felt when around great art or architecture. This unique hotel has both. The contemporary cuisine and craft cocktails served at FIRE, the hotel’s restaurant, will also give you a soaring feeling. Each of the over 50 pieces of stunning contemporary art has been curated. In the lobby, works of Ed Ruscha, Nancy Rubins, Deborah Butterfield and Kiki Smith are on display. (My favorite work is the Butterfield bronze horse sculpture). Positioned in the center of Denver’s Museum Row, the Art is also a starting point from which to explore the Denver’s thriving arts and culture scene, including the Denver Art Museum, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
The hotel is offering Valentine lovebirds a package for the month of February that includes overnight accommodations, rose-petal turndown service and 1 pm late check-out to enjoy a long morning in bed. Upon arrival, toast with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. The included couples cocktail class with the property’s in-house expert mixologist allows you to play bartender. Then sit down for a romantic dinner at FIRE, followed by a hot cocktail by the outdoor fire pit (blankets available).
Allegretto & Wine Country
You’ll think you are a guest at a vineyard estate in Tuscany, Italy when you enter Allegretto, an “immersive place,” says General Manager Rich Verruni, “built for a higher purpose than just simply accommodations.” Opened in 2015, and situated on 20 acres of vineyards and fruit-bearing orchards, located on East 46 in the middle of the Paso Robles Wine Country, the Italianate resort is either a jumping-off point to a weekend of wine tastings or a place to settle in, stroll the manicured gardens, sip in the tasting room, play bocci ball, spa and relax by the pool. In fact, you may not feel like jumping off to anywhere. While Allegretto is a relatively large property, with 171 guest rooms and suites, it is also designed for intimacy and for socializing. “We want the Allegretto to be a touchstone in Paso Robles, hailing back to the days when the local inn was a central social place for a community,” says Verruni. “We want to see people meeting for a glass of wine here in our sun-soaked piazza, friends having a spa day with cabana service by the pool, and art enthusiasts walking our halls, taking in the sculptures and paintings.” Wine Country in Paso Robles is like Napa in the ‘80s—a less crowded, less hurried version the Napa/Sonoma scene of today. There are still discoveries around each corner, small, family-owned and operated wineries that are far from commercialized. And from Allegretto, the seaside town of Cambria, with its own charms, is only 40 minutes away. Hearst Castle, another reason to jump off property, is 50 minutes away. A mildly adventurous valentine getaway or a Tuscan tryst. You decide.
By Randall Tierney