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Luxury Resort in Santa Barbara

The elegant El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara reopens its doors

Written by Leslie A. Westbrook
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    The recently restored El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara, California, opened its embrace to the public once again this spring (under the leadership of the Orient-Express hotel group). A face-lift has kept the integrity of the cottages and grounds intact, and the interior spaces have been enhanced with contemporary design twists.

    Photography Luca Trovato
    Produced by Jenny Bradley

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    Inviting Lobby

    In dire need of serious restoration of body and soul—something that would not require waiting in airport TSA lines or being folded like an origami bird into a coach-class airplane seat—I went to the newly revitalized nearby resort armed with happy memories of visits in earlier years.

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    White-Painted Cottages

    From the moment I pulled into the circular driveway, the staff looked after me. I was escorted to the tranquil, tree-house-like sitting room of the Camellia Suite with its treetop views, where I settled into a comfy mohair-clad couch and began to de-stress.

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    A Theme of Flowers

    A flower theme emerged during my stay—most evident in the meticulously restored gardens. Plants and trees were stored during renovations and replanted upon their completion. My soul was soothed by camellias, tulip trees, begonias, palm trees of many stripes, hydrangeas, roses, and more. All were intertwined with water features, including a terraced cascade with clamshells and the historic lily pond rimmed by 100-year-old wisteria vines.

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    Calming Guest Cottage

    Flowers wove their way indoors as well. Cottages decorated in calming shades of blue, gray, and taupe are fitted with linen-swathed couches accented with pillows hand-painted with floral designs. Reading lights are tucked within pretty headboards hand-painted with cherry blossoms.

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    Spa-Like Bathroom

    In the guest cottages, marble-clad bathrooms offer heated floors for an indulgent experience.

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    Healing Flower Treatments

    During floral healing treatments in the spa, I discovered delightful bio-energetic flower essence mists and serums from Lotus Wei. For the El Encanto Signature massage, I chose the Inner Peace elixir with essence of the hibiscus flower—ideal for my fatigue that needed mending.

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    Infinity Pool

    The infinity pool offers a view across the town of Santa Barbara to the Pacific Ocean.

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    Delicious and Exotic Dining

    A long and leisurely dinner followed the spa treatment: From the window table, I watched the town below turn on its evening lights as twilight faded. My dinner companions and I were comforted by the cuisine from chef Patrice Martineau, whose Asian-influenced presentations are as appealing as the subtlety of his flavors. Our favorite dish was an umami citrus-cured hamachi (savory citrus-flavored fish) with mustard-whipped sabayon, tomato confit, poached quail eggs, and Santa Barbara sea urchin—decorated with miniature flowers, of course.

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    Lily Pond and Gardens

    That night, relaxed and sleepy, I sank into the softest custom-made linens by Fili D’Oro (including a pillow roll personalized with my initial). Per normal, I awoke before dawn, but far closer to sunrise than midnight. A flick of a finger to light the fireplace and some coffee (made in the room), and the day slowly began over Santa Barbara. Mission accomplished: I was rested, restored, and happy.

    Pictured above, the resort’s historic lily pond is lined with ferns and colorful shrubbery.

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    Hotel Terrace

    Shady terraces around the grounds are the perfect spot for a glass of wine or an afternoon nap.

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    Cottage Patio

    Cottages are equipped with spacious patios in the back for quiet meals and entertaining.

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    Find It

    Restore yourself at the renovated El Encanto, 800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara, California (800/393-5315).

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