Save & Splurge: La Jolla

By: Anita Draycott

I must confess that my visits to California have been too few and far between. However, a recent invitation to spend a few days at the Grand del Mar, near La Jolla in the San Diego region, certainly whetted my appetite for the good life in “La La” land. La Jolla  (pronounced La  Hoya) means “the jewel” in Spanish. Who can argue?

(All prices approximated in U.S. dollars.)

The “you only live once” splurge list

Splendissimo at the Grand Del Mar

The name of California’s star-spangled resort is really an understatement. I think it should be called the “Grandissimo” Del Mar. The pink “castle” is a sumptuous amalgam of Old World elegance, Mediterranean flair and just enough California/Spanish luxe to dazzle even the most jaded traveler. The posh lobby, complete with massive chandeliers, fantastic fresh floral arrangements, arched doorways and ornate stone and wrought iron accents leads to a terrace overlooking lush landscaping, pools, fountains and courtyards.

The property, which encompasses an 18-hole golf course by Tom Fazio, San Diego’s only five-star spa and Addison, southern California’s only five-star/five diamond Relais et Châteaux restaurant, will knock your socks off.

After golf, I recommend The Spa’s unique Core Elements massage. Your masseuse works on the connective tissues of your lower back, abdomen and hips by having you lye on your sides. Then she wraps you in detoxifying warm mud mixed with Castor oil and turns out the lights so you can snooze and dream about dinner while she massages your scalp.

Grand Del Mar’s Addison restaurant is named in honour of Addison Mizner, an architectural visionary, whose design approach launched the Florida Renaissance in the 1920s, defining the resort communities of Palm Beach and Boca Raton.

Indulge in the four-course tasting menu ($98) with sommelier Jesse Rodriguez’s suggested pairings from the 2,500-bottle cellar.

Bliss is in the details: Chef William Bradley makes his own butter that melts into warm, salted brioches; the sea scallops sashimi bathe in a delicate shellfish consumé; the Kobe short ribs are slow braised for 35 hours; crème caramel is artfully soused in Grand Marnier.

The service at Grand Del Mar is truly remarkable. Here’s a “for instance:” I was climbing into one of the resort’s black limousines to go to the golf course just up the hill. My driver remarked that my shoelace was undone and he offered to tie it!

“Rodeo Drive” of San Diego

La Jolla’s posh Prospect Street is lined with boutiques, antique emporiums, art galleries and precious baubles. Grand Del Mar’s concierge will arrange for a limo to take you there and pick you up, so there will be plenty of room for your purchases.

Yes, You Can Fly!

Soar tandem-style with a certified professional pilot at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, home to a free flight school for hang gliders ($200) and para gliders ($150). Flights usually last about 20 minutes, depending on wind conditions. Take home a photo or video for bragging rights. Whee!

Calling all Surf Divas

On La Jolla Shores, Surf Diva is the world’s premier women’s surf school with a distinct “girl power” vibe. It’s open all year and also offers classes for men, kids and teens (about $80 per hour). For your clients who about to pledge,
“I do,” they also do Bachelor and “Bridezilla” events.


The “cheap thrills” save list

How Sweet it is

Sample an organic cupcake ($4 or $2) at Cups La Jolla. Brûlée, a best seller is a vanilla cup filled with sweet custard with caramelized sugar and a raspberry on top. Wash it down with a strawberry milkshake—organic of course.

Coast Toast

Overlooking La Jolla Cove, Brockton Villa, one of La Jolla’s early beach cottages, is known for its Coast Toast—their take on French toast and a soufflé with an orange twist.

Whose Beach is it Anyway?

It’s called the Children’s Pool, but this cove at Casa Beach is actually home to hundreds of basking Harbour Seals. Bring your camera but not your dog. Across the road, the Casa de Manaña retirement home, with arguably the best beach view in La Jolla, would be a lovely spot to learn to play Canasta in my dotage.

Free Samples

We Olive, beside the heritage Valencia Hotel, has a “try before you buy” policy so you can taste all sorts of olive oils, vinegars and condiments.  They sell only artisan-produced extra virgin California olive oils. At the back, they’ve opened a new wine bar and balcony with a great view of the beach where you can try local vintages or a selection of Belgian beers with platters of cheese, charcuterie and dips.

Happy Hour

Enjoy pitchers of red or white Sangria ($20) and tapas ($3.50) daily from 5 to 7PM at the Whisknladle. They also specialize in signature cocktails. How about a Puesta del Sol made with tequila, blood orange and pomegranate ($10)?

Museum with a View

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla on Prospect Street showcases works from 1945 to present both inside and outdoors where landscaped paths reveal sculpture with seaside vistas. Admission is free to those 25 or under. The shop sells unique housewares, jewellery and games for kids.




I want to go to La Jolla