El Encanto by Orient-Express | Santa Barbara, California | Over a month ago, after our work week in Los Angeles for Rubin Singer Couture, we were invited by the recently opened and now third hotel property in the country by Orient-Express, the iconic El Encanto. The old glamour getaway from Hollywood now back, meticulously restored to capture all the original romance and sophistication that endeared it to both the Santa Barbara community and vacationers in search of seclusion and charm. Original architectural features have been lovingly brought back to life, while modern additions include an expansive outdoor swimming pool and beautiful boutique spa.
We were too tired to drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, so we made the smart decision to take the AMTRAK Pacific Surfliner Business Class Train, from the lovely Union Station in downtown Los Angeles (which you will recognize from many movies), to our final destination, on a panoramic journey that took us approx. 2 hours and 15 minutes.
As soon as we arrived to the station, our host and driver was awaiting for us with a sign under El Encanto. The perfect way to begin our weekend experience. Check IN was smooth and since our bungalow was yet not ready, we enjoyed a lovely lunch at the outdoors terrace, which in the days to come will become our regular for breakfast and lunch enjoying semi -spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara.
We were hosted at a Premium Bungalow was indeed quite lovely and comfortable. We had our own private entrance with a small patio and a one bedroom suite, full of windows to portrait the views of the gardens. although we would have hoped for some more space for our clothes and suitcases, where the closet is linked right to the bathroom area, next to the shower, which made it a bit of a hazard at some point.
All Premium Bungalows feature: King-size bed, Large writing desk, Marble bathroom with separate bath and rainforest shower, Private garden or patio. Other accommodation options are the Luxury Suites and the Bungalow Suites.
The gardens at the property, despite of the recent renovations and the opening (last March 2013) are lush and beautiful, surrounding the main house, the pool area, the casitas mexican style construction, and the spa. Seven acres of gloriously landscaped gardens offer sweeping views of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean. Drift through the rare flora and enjoy the balmy West Coast evenings. The fitness studio, whether you’re into pilates, yoga, core fitness or boot camp, the Fitness Studio features a variety of classes to ensure that you stay in shape. You’ll also find cutting-edge cardio equipment, a TRX training system and Kinesis fitness products.
Dining was quite a paradox, among beautiful outdoors terraces and views, stunning classic and avant-garde style and deco, with patronizing attitude by staff and management and sorry to say but must be true to our own experience blunt and boring menu. The least I expect from a retreat as such, if for them to tell me repeated times I CAN’T do this or that, and being in self choice to relax and unwind in a semi remote location, I expect the restaurants and gourmet offer to be quite enjoyable and tasteful. Their approach an innovative menu offering contemporary California-coastal cuisine infused with Asian touches, French flair, which unfortunately for us did not work.
I spent one of my afternoons on my own, biking around the property and off to the town and waterfront of Santa Barbara, experience which was quite enjoyable, specially on my way back, with their engine-equipped bikes, which helped me with the steep slopes of the area. After that, since Rubin had already left, I decided to stay in enjoying the coziness of my bungalow, and enjoy dinner en privé, next to my fire place zipping through local wine and listening to music.
Orient-Express are big shoes to fill, and when you get such an iconic property as El Encanto, the bar sets even higher. I would give El Encanto a few more month to simmer, settle down and reach the level of service, Orient-Express customers and new comers expect from such a legendary group. Most definitely I would return to relax, unwind and be pampered at he so called North American Riviera. CM @ Carlos Melia Recommends
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