How.Long Is The Movie Bring The Soul.Going To Be.In The.Theaters.Comfor Rancho La Puerta Spa – Refresh Your Soul On Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Top Spas, Yoga, Holistic Health

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Rancho La Puerta Spa – Refresh Your Soul On Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Top Spas, Yoga, Holistic Health

I longingly remembered the tranquility I felt that Saturday morning twelve years ago at San Diego Airport while waiting for my flight home.

Just one week before, I had boarded a comfortable airport bus for a one-hour ride through the unspoiled Sierra Madre countryside southeast of San Diego. We crossed the international border at Tecate on Mexico’s Baja peninsula. Three miles beyond was the entrance to Rancho La Puerta.

“Many things remain unchanged at ‘The Ranch’,” said the spa’s owener Deborah Szekely. “Recently I (unearthed) a paper my husband and I wrote soon after we opened Rancho La Puerta in 1940: ‘In place of metropolitan existence, with its increasingly fast pace and artificiality, (our purpose is) to have delightful outdoor living which renews vitality and strength, enthusiasm and hope, tranquility and happiness. In a few weeks, our guests look, feel and act like new people’.”

Rancho La Puerta, North America’s first residential spa dedicated to the health of mind, body and spirit. “has always been one of the most popular spas with our clients,” said Susie Ellis, vice president of industry and development for Spa Finder Co., a specialized travel agency in New York City. “They say it is one of the most affordable, even after you add on the massages, body and beauty treatments. IT is also one of the few that still require a seven-day stay because the owners know it takes at last seven days to fully de-stress.”

HIGH DESERT BEAUTY

I was way overdue for a return visit to the ranch when a friend and I arrived at the flower-filled courtyard entrance last fall. After a brief orientation, porters took our luggage to a luxurious outlying “Villa Luna” studio, one of 86 ranch casitas set within 150 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens that form the core of 3,000 acres of high desert ranchland.

The tile-roofed Mexican-Colonial style villa was furnished with authentic native art and weavings . A hand-carved wooden door opened into a comfortable living room and kitchenette with a fireplace in full view of the elevated bedroom next to two bathrooms and dressing areas.

Windows opened all around to capture the Santa Ana breezes of the year-round mild climate. Our two large brick verandas overlooked the rolling hills and Mount Kuchumaa beyond, long revered by the native people for its magical healing powers.

We were just in time for a late lunch on the dining hall’s shaded terrace. Several of us compared our accommodations. The rancheras and haciendas were smaller and more rustic than ours, but many had fireplaces . Some guests preferred their smaller one-of-a-kind casitas because they were closer to the center of activities.

Villas have the added bonus of being near a satellite swimming pool and Jacuzzi, where breakfast is served poolside in summer months. You may have a massage (for $10 extra) in your villa instead of going to the Women’s or Men’s Health Centers. (About 15 percent of the guests are men).

After lunch, we began to fill in our first day’s schedule of classes, selecting from 75 activities for every fitness level. Each hour there is a choice of about 10 activities, including weight training, water workouts, volleyball, tennis clinics, dance, yoga, aerobics, abs and back and legs and glutes classes.

The yoga facility with its expansive views, also houses the tai chi, Feldenkrais, and popular pilates classes.

In circuit training, you move from one station to another in the weight room, in cadence with the fast-paced music, changing machines when the instructor blows the whistle at 35-second intervals.

All the classes are 45 minutes.

SACRED MOUNTAIN

The first morning, I joined a group of advanced hikers who (unknown to me) planned to scale Mt. Kuchumaa up its steep back side. It was a struggle just to bring up the rear, but the strenuous climb was well worth the magnificent sunrise view along the summit’s ridge.

Having conquered what some consider to be one of the “13 sacred mountains in the world,” I was content to join the rolling hills hikers the remainder of the week.

Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, and the calorie count of each item is prominently posted. The super-fresh vegetables and berries grown in the Ranch’s six-acre organic garden are so good that second helpings are hard to resist. Favorites for breakfast include the famous Tecate 12-grain bread, hot cereals, juice and delicious fruits from the orchard.

Guests can also sign up to walk a couple of miles to have breakfast at the organic farm, followed by a tour of the gardens. After lunch each day, I returned to cozy up with a good book on our villa’s veranda or have a siesta in the nearby shaded hammock. Later in the afternoon, there was a gentle restorative yoga or meditation session.

“How do we get in touch with our own spiritual, or better, self?” asked instructor Phyllis Pilgrim in an ‘Inner Journey’ deep relaxation and guided visualization class. “Be quiet and listen to the still small voice within. Usually we attach so much importance to the things we do instead of just being.”

Guests varied greatly in their opinions about the best time to schedule a massage, facial or other body treatment. My preference was a soothing massage just after Inner Journey and before dinner. I recognized several masseuses from my earlier visit, later learning that many of the caring and gifted staff are second and third-generation family members, along with founder Deborah Szekely.

FINE DINING

My friend and I saw very little of each other during the day until it was time to dress for dinner,– “dress” simply meaning clean bodies and clothes.

The grand Mexican-colonial diningroom is graced with a curving staircase that wraps around a fireplace from the floor to vaulted ceiling. It is designed to comfortably seat 160 guests. Waiters seated us with four to eight other guests, and the pleasant table conversation was spirited.

The organic food served at dinner was primarily vegetarian with Mexican accents, rich in greens, legumes and whole grains, with little fat or salt. Three evenings, fresh seafood was served , and it was always possible to arrange for a baked potato or pasta alternative to the offered meal. For dessert: carrot cake, cinnamon flan or a baked apple.

On the last night we were treated to a glass of wine. One night, some guests slipped into the nearby town of Tecate for margaritas and Mexican food.

Evening events included movies, a healthful cooking demonstration, bingo, dancing, or jewelry-making and other crafts at the art studio. I most enjoyed the serene evening stroll from the diningroom back to our villa to find the fireplace prepared for a crackling fire.

It was hard to leave the ranch Saturday morning, but once again I took home a special inner peace that I hope will last a long time– at least until a return visit next year.

IF YOU GO

1. Book reservations well in advance. Otherwise, hope for last-minute cancellations. Call 800-443-7565 or check availability and book online at http://www.rancholapuerta.com.

2. No television or telephones in the rooms. Cell phones may be used in the rooms.

3. Be sure to bring proof of citizenship in the form of a valid passport, birth certificate, or notarized affidavit of citizenship.

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