11 October 2008

Cal-a-Vie: French Romance in Southern California

 

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Remember this house designed by Cote de Texas Top Designer #7 Gerrie Bremermann?   The house is owned by Terri and John Havens, of New Orleans.   The couple moved their permanent home from Houston to be in New Orleans and hired Bremermann to design a kid-friendly home, even though they had no children at the time.   Now, parents of three children, the choice to hire Bremermann was no accident.  Terri Havens is a committed Francophile, as Bremermann herself is.    Around seven years ago the Havens won an auction item for a week's vacation in California at the famous health spa Cal-a-Vie.   Located 40 miles north of San Diego in the hills of southern California, Cal-a-Vie's 200 acre property resembles more a Provencal countryside than an American one.   The couple was hopelessly hooked.    They bought the spa and embarked on a massive restoration and remodeling, turning the picturesque property into a French dream. 

California is famous for its legendry spas, the Golden Door and La Costa among them.  Cal-a-Vie has quickly caught up.  The spa wins all sorts of awards each year, including Travel and Leisure's #1 Destination Spa of 2008.  Suffice it to say, it's now considered one of the top spas in the world.   The Havens trek to France each year to collect furniture, construction materials and even buildings to bring back to Cal-a-Vie.  The result?  A gorgeous spa with a decidedly French atmosphere.  Although staying at Cal-a-Vie is very expensive, it is all inclusive - including pedicures, massages, and every imaginable treatment you can think of.  It's small - the capacity is only 24 guests and the ratio is 4 staff to each person.   If a vacation to France is too far away to manage, a quick trip to Cal-a-Vie in southern California may just make you feel you went abroad anyway.

 

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The valley where the pink stucco, red tiled roof guest rooms are concentrated.  The surrounding hills provide hiking trails for early morning treks.  The Pacific Ocean is just a few miles away.

 

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To get there, first you drive over a wooden bridge, then you enter the property through iron gates.

 

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The entrance to Cal-a-Vie.  Steps lead to the pink stucco main building with authentic French wood shutters painted green.

 

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The same inviting scene at night.

 

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The terra cotta steps leading to the main lobby.  Orange trees grow everywhere in southern California.  In nearby Rancho Santa Fe, most houses have their own orange orchard.

 

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The lobby:  filled with authentic French antiques brought back by Terri and John Havens.  The large lobby area has several distinct seating areas.  I love the settee and the tall tea table.

 

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Another view of the lobby from the back stairs.    Notice the beautiful Spanish style antique table just to the right.

 

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The bar area of the lobby, except no liquor is served on the premises!  Remember this is a health spa.  Guests may bring their own toddies, but most choose to stay on the Spa Plan and try to lose weight while here.  On the right is a massive, glorious  tapestry.

 

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Another seating area in the lobby next to the fire place.   The walls are limestone, the floors are unstained wood.   Large armoire doors flanking both sides of the fireplace are built into the walls. 

 

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A close up of the antique fireplace mantel imported from France.

 

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A massive crystal chandelier hangs over the center seating area.

 

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Notice the wood floors in the lobby:  I would guess that the Havens imported these ancient boards from France.

 

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Guests eat dinner around this large French table, underneath antique chandeliers.  The room is wall-to-wall boiserie, with a hand painted frieze above the paneling.  Notice the antique crystal candelabras on the table.  On the Spa Plan, guests can choose how many calories  per day they want to stick with during their stay. 

 

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Lunch is served in either this dining room or outside on the terrace.  The French chairs are slipcovered in cotton check.  Notice the beautiful large armoire with a grape gathering basket on top.  At lunch, many guests dine in their hotel terry cloth robes - ready to go to their beauty treatments during the afternoon.  Mornings are spent doing exercises.

 

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The grounds with a French fountain.    Notice the lone building on the hill in the back.

 

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That building, shown here, was bought by the Havens in Dijon, France and imported to California, stone by stone.  It is a 400 year old Chapel from the Convent of the Carmelites.   Today, it is the oldest building in San Diego County!   The Chapel is lit only by candlelight and is used for weddings and private dinners.  The couple is also rebuilding an imported Orangerie from  France which will serve as a reception room.   The stones in the front of the picture form a labyrinth where guests walk the circles in silent meditation.

 

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A close up of the restored Chapel, with its heavy wooden doors and arched windows. 

 

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Inside the Chapel, decorated for a wedding dinner - so beautiful!

 

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Another view from the outside.    I wish my daughter Elisabeth could get married here one day!

 

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The grounds outside the guest rooms were landscaped by the Havens after they purchased Cal-a-Vie.

 

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The same view - with the massive fruit tree in full bloom.

 

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The 200 acre property consists of hilly terrain.  A golf club adjoins Cal-a-Vie and the Havens recently purchased it to combine the two properties - making a total of 400 acres.   The golf club will be completely renovated - the French atmosphere will be carried over from Cal-a-Vie, although it will have a more masculine feel, according to John Havens.   He states that he and his wife are passionate about Cal-a-Vie and they are thrilled to be able to combine the properties and preserve the land and views.  More renovations are still going on at Cal-a-Vie:  all bathrooms were recently updated and additional exercise space is being built.  The spa gets many Hollywood stars, including Oprah Winfrey and Sharon Stone, who are frequent guests.  The actress Sharon Gless holds the record for staying the longest time - 3 months!  Most guests stay either 3 days or one week.  

 

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A guest room with the bright pink bougainvillea that lines the highways of southern California.

 

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The same guest room, at night.

 

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The guest rooms have been decorated by Terri Havens using French fabrics and antique furniture.  An arched window makes this room especially appealing.

 

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This room uses a combination of toile, check and ticking fabrics. 

 

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Blue and white French toile, check, and stripes! 

 

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A tone-on-tone damask was used in this guest room.  A graceful antique French day bed sits under the shutters.

 

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Traditional blue and white toile and checks along with French antique furniture was used in this guest room.

 

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This guest room has antique French leather armchairs imported by the Havens.  Even the lamps throughout the property are antiques. 

 

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The bathrooms in all the rooms were recently renovated with travertine tile surrounded tubs. 

 

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This room has a balcony that overlooks the hills. 

 

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And this guest room has a patio for outdoor dining.

 

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Even the spa is decorated in the French tradition with antique mirrors, sconces and buffet.    Antique terra cotta pavers were imported for the floor.

 

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The spa bathroom is as beautiful as it gets with a stone vessel sink, mirrors, sconces, and traditional blue and white tile.

 

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The spa:  heavenly!   Notice  the tile back splash.   Antique cabinetry holds the towels.  Just beautiful.

 

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A mural is painted behind the Jacuzzi, while a painted console holds the details that make Cal-a-Vie a feast for the eyes:   blue and white porcelain and white ironstone. 

 

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Even the beauty shop goes French with a trumeau and sconces.  In typical French fashion, the trim is painted gray while the walls are a creamy peach.

 

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Of course the Boutique would be charming too!  Terri Havens must be in heaven doing all the shopping for her property.  I would be!!!  The iron chair is adorable.

 

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In the boutique the French atmosphere continues with the fireplace decorated with a French mirror and candlesticks.

 

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Chandeliers are for sale here too!  Cal-a-Vie will soon be launching an online store on their web site.

 

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Early morning hikes are taken on the hills that surround the property.   The Pacific Ocean is nearby and acts as a natural air conditioner as the winds blow the air over the cold  water.

 

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Leaving Cal-a-Vie must not be fun!  Agapanthus line the walkway out the iron gates to the wooden bridge that leads back to San Diego.

 

If you plan to go, be sure to book extra time to explore southern California.  The nearby cities of La Jolla and Del Mar are especially charming and so is Catalina Island.  The neighborhood and small town of Rancho Santa Fe is a great place for drive-bys!  The  Cal-a-Vie web site contains information about rates, special theme weeks and guest lecturers and teachers that are scheduled. 

59 comments:

  1. Maybe I would not mind going without in this gorgeous place!

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  2. Oh my! I love this wonderful place, the decoration is perfect, the atmosphere is so chic! And one can even loose weight while enjoy this fantastic spa!..
    Thanks for share it!

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  3. What a slice of heaven.

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  4. You are right. It's a though it is actually in France. Exceptional.

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  5. Joni, did you say, "GIRL TRIP!!!!" :)

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  6. Fabulous! If I didn't know it was in CA, I'd think it was France.

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  7. What a way to relax! I especially love that chapel-so serene. Thanks for another great post!

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  8. THAT was a spectacular tour of such a beautiful compound!! LOVE everything...those orange garlands going up the walkway stairs...the chapel...the everything.

    Thanks Joni!

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  9. Oh Joni, "They bought the spa..." says it all ha ha!
    What an uplifting post in these down turning times!
    xo xo

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  10. I'm gasping! Oh dear lord, please let me win the lottery. I'll just book a room for my lifetime. What a great post!

    I saw your feature in Better Homes and Gardens this month. How excellent is that! You are SO talented. Of course now I will never be able to part with this issue. Love it.

    Hugs, Penny

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  11. Joni, how inviting....I would love this respite right now! I don't know how you di it!

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  12. Joni, I live really close by! Maybe a half an hour northeast. I didn't even know about it! Why don't you come for a visit and we'll check it out! ;-)

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  13. Joni~ this place looks absolutely amazing!! Talk about picturesque. WOW. Thanks for sharing - I need to go there someday. Hope you have a great weekend!XO

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  14. After reading (and swooning over) your posts about Group Sibuet in France, I reminded myself that we have plenty of Provencal- and Mediterranean-style architecture, landscape and design right here in Southern California. . . and now you've shown us Cal-a-Vie Spa which is probably THE BEST example. And while I stand about as much chance of going to the real thing (France) as I do going to this spa (maybe someday), thanks for the push to get out and appreciate what's right here around me. BEAUTIFUL post.

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  15. So Beautiful, I have never heard of this place but it sounds as though its not very far from my home sweet home... looks like a dream!

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  16. I live 5 miles away and wasn't aware this was in my virtual backyard.

    I am now planning on going!

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  17. It really DOES look like it could be in France! Gorgeous setting. I especially love the photos of the photo of the chapel all decked out for a beautiful wedding! la la LOOVVEELLYY!!! :)

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  18. Can I move in??? It is perfect! I wish I could redecorate my whole house just like Cal-a-vie!

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  19. Packing my bags...

    Wow, oh wow!

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  20. Ooooh...this is making me miss California!

    That chapel is amazing!

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  21. I have a friend in that area, and I bet anything she doesn't know that's there. Her husband will KILL me for broadcasting this. I could SO do with a stay there! I love that glazed built in cabinetry in the bath. The chapel is really a great place to have a wedding or similar event.
    Joni, can you tell me the name of that blue toile on the bed? I like that it's large, and I need a couple of large pillows with that scene on them.

    Wherever do you find these places? Great post.

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  22. Here's my thought: A Bloggers Get-Away? I'm there! Who's with me?

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  23. I feel like i have just been there, so many beautiful pictures, great tour, loved it . mishelle

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  24. Now that the weather is under 60 degrees @ night, that beautiful fireplace is calling my name;)

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  25. Just a beautiful place.

    My first time here. I love French things.

    au revoir

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  26. I love the room with the white sofa and the large chandelier. The part that really interests me is that the ceiling beams appear to be a citron stain. Beautiful...Congrats on your feature in Better Homes and Gardens!!! Your home is beautiful!

    Nancy

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  27. I know this place and it is gorgeous. I am surprised that they have so many trees and shrubbery close to the buildings. This is prime fire country and getting out of these hills and canyons can be very iffy. My kids live nearby and they were evacuated last year.

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  28. Joni,
    It was one of the nicest vacations I have ever had.
    Absolutly picture perfect with GREAT food and an unbelievable setting. I lond to go back.
    Randy

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  29. Joni, my god this post completely captivated me. I'm overwhelmed by it's perfection. What a utopia. I dream to visit there someday. I couldn't imagine a more perfect place to want to cleanse and rejuvenate. Thank you for this incredible post.

    Anna :)

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  30. I think we're going to get on the Harley and take a gander. Do you think losing 5 pounds in one week would be worth the $7 K?

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  31. I just randomly opened my Oct issue of BHG to page 64 and immediately recognized the corner of your family run (minus the pillow in the chair). I had to go to the beginning of the article to see if I was correct. What a pleasant surpise! Congratulations!

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  32. Cote de Texas,

    I've fallen in love with your blog. Each morning I anxiously look in my inbox for your feedblitz announcments and leisurely linger over a cappucinno and Cote de Texas.

    I'm recommending to you everyone I know! Now clients (here in Europe where I'm based) come to me and say "I'm looking for the item in the 3rd picture of yesterday's Cote de Texas..." You've become an international resource darling!
    Best and Thanks for a first class blog!

    The Antiques Diva

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  33. i love the dining room.i wouldnt mind eating there.

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  34. Paradise.
    What a comfortable looking place to be.
    And once again, I am a sucker for the linens...

    Layla
    The Lettered Cottage

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  35. Every detail is absolutely amazing - this post will be bookmarked for every time I need a getaway! Beautiful!

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  36. What a fantastic post! I think I could easily stay here for three months. :)

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  37. Gorgeous! And it looks extremely relaxing there...

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  38. Wow, that place looks amazing! I wish I could go there in person, but it was the perfect mental vacation for this chilly Monday morning here in New England- what a beautiful place. I love all the antiques, and that table in the Chapel is to die for, I'd LOVE to have my wedding in a place like that!

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  39. I'm here trying to hold my jaw up with my little hands.

    JUST SIMPLY BREATHETAKING!!!

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  40. This is so beautiful it takes my breath away!

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  41. AMAZING! This is about 30 minutes away from "chez moi" and I didn't even know it existed! Thank you for the beautiful post, I will be talking to my hubby about Cal-a-Vie for next years anniversary!

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  42. Stunning place.
    I love your blog

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  43. Wowza! I spent Saturday in Toronto, and I saw those exact French inspired leather chairs in a store there - for get this, $6700. Yes, I think a small part of me died, but they're gorgeous and I have to tell you right now - one day, I will emulate that wedding party dinner table. WHOA!

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  44. Oh my, Oh me!
    Take me Away to Cal-a-Vie!!!

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  45. I am working on a Sister trip to Cal-a-Vie....that is if we win the LoTTerY!

    Check out my blog today, Joni, as I am trying something a little different! An auction! You just might get a good buy for your daughter!.....It is sooooo cute!

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  46. All I can do is let out a huge aaaaaaaaaaaaah. So Beautiful!

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  47. All I can do is let out a huge aaaaaaaaaaaaah. So Beautiful!

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  48. Hi Joni!
    I am tagging you! Hope you don't mind...but I figure you'd do the great state of Texas justice!

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  50. How amazing! This place is beautiful. Amanda x

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  51. I just can't get over the orange trees on the stairs.....incredible.

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  52. I have stayed here a couple of times. Its as gorgeous as your photos. La Costa is also fabulous - they have just done a complete re-do.

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  53. Wow ... . what a great little trip down memory lane ! I spent a glorious birthday week here many years ago ... . the updated decor is a perfect addition to this little slice of heaven ... .
    Judith

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