Cupid's choice
Great choices for a special Valentines getaway

Just about the time those bills come due for your Christmas presents, you'll want to consider the next important gift-buying opportunity of the year - Valentines Day. While February 14 is still weeks away, you'll need to make your decision early if you want to turn this year into a special getaway for you and your significant other.

This year Valentines Day falls on Thursday and that, no doubt, will encourage more getaway travel than if it came a day or two earlier in the week. Many couples will take Thursday and Friday off, or leave late Thursday and make a weekend out of it. The upshot: lodgings for those dates may be a little harder to find at the last minute.

Of course, you really don't need Valentines Day as an excuse - a romantic trip, even if only for a couple of days, is the perfect way to re-energize your relationship. Here are several excellent examples of romantic destinations we have discovered in our California travels:

Santa Ynez Inn

We always enjoy visiting Santa Barbara Wine Country, a region made famous by the movie Sideways, and we especially enjoyed a charming bed-and-breakfast we discovered in Santa Ynez. The Santa Ynez Inn is an unusual Victorian bed-and-breakfast because it is not a historic building at all - the inn was built from scratch just five years ago. That offers the advantage of everything being new - floors, carpeting, plumbing - which will appeal to travelers less interested in the historic aspect of their accommodations.

The Santa Ynez Inn is certainly among the most luxurious inns we've enjoyed. Entering the lobby, one notices the carved wood stairway regally reminiscent of the grand staircase in the movie Titanic. The hallways are decorated with portraits of former presidents. In our second-floor over-sized room we found a sanctuary filled with antique-inspired furniture and such luxurious accents as crystal chandeliers and crystal-based lamps. The floral curtains parted to reveal a view of the countryside and small balcony with table and chairs. Another sitting area, made of travertine, was adjacent to the fireplace and travertine was used extensively in the larger-than-usual bathroom area. A jetted tub and separate shower area were just as you would find in the most expensive hotels.

And, as they say about real estate, it's location, location, location -- and the Santa Ynez Inn certainly delivers in this area as well. Several wineries and miles of gorgeous vineyards are within a few minutes drive from the inn.

For more information on Santa Ynez Inn, phone 800-643-4774 or visit www.santaynezinn.com. Here is another resource for choosing Santa Ynez, California hotels.

Double Eagle Resort and Spa

If you really want to surprise your significant other, consider a visit to one of the world's 10 best spa resorts. Double Eagle Resort and Spa is located in June Lake near the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park and offers both a fitness center for exercise and a world-class spa for pampering. Health-conscious meals are available at the resort's gourmet restaurant, and vigorous outdoor activities are everywhere you look.  This total package so impressed Forbes Magazine that it named Double Eagle one of the 10 best spa resorts in the world.

For starters, the scenery in this area is spectacular with its dramatic mountain faces, pine forests and sparkling lakes. Just a few miles out of the mountain village of June Lake are the modern log cabins and resort-style buildings known as the Double Eagle Resort and Spa. Located just at the edge of the mountains and an easy stroll to Silver Lake, the resort apparently was designed to fit in with the numerous upscale log homes in the immediate vicinity. Picture Aspen or Vail and you get some idea of the setting, although this enclave of homes is tiny by comparison.

We stayed in one of the resort's "luxury lodge rooms" that were built only recently. Located in a group of two-story buildings, these rooms are especially spacious and so new they still have the unmistakable scent of a new home. They feature such amenities as comfortable lounge chairs, standing fireplaces, work desks, mini-kitchen counters, Jacuzzi tubs and decks that overlook the resort's fully stocked trout pond.

The Creekside Spa offers 40 types of spa services, including massages, facials, body wraps and whirlpool treatments. In the Creekside Fitness Center Double Eagle guests will find a 60-foot swimming pool, free weights, cardiovascular exercises and special training in Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates.

For more information on the Double Eagle Resort and Spa, visit www.doubleeagleresort.com or phone 760-648-7004.

Glorietta Bay Inn

When considering a trip to San Diego's Coronado Island, many think first of the famed Hotel del Coronado. Maybe lesser known but just as spectacular in its own way is the Glorietta Bay Inn, where you have the opportunity to stay in a historic San Diego mansion. This one was built by John Dietrich Spreckels, a figure well-known in the city as someone who played a key role in developing San Diego during the late 1800's and after the turn of the century.

The mansion itself is an impressive piece of architecture - Italian Renaissance style, all white, multi-story with dramatic lines. Inside, the wide marble staircase was our pathway to Room 126 - the Albright Room, a spacious second-floor with an open, airy feel and views to the yacht harbor, the Coronado Bridge and, in the distance, the mountains east of San Diego. Decorated in a French Country motif, the room featured flowers, tasteful paintings and floral bed quilts with matching drapes. Almost the size of a suite, this room was furnished with classic furniture reproductions befitting the era in which the house was built.

Downstairs, the Glorietta Bay Inn features a music room, with grand piano, in which guests can enjoy their complimentary breakfast of pastries, cereal, breads and juices.

The beach, and the Hotel Del, are just across the street from the Glorietta Bay Inn and it's easy to see that tourists consider this one of the best places anywhere to enjoy those famous California beach vacations. If you follow Orange Avenue just a few steps east, there is the downtown business area, a fun collection of shops and eateries that visitors love to explore.

To learn more about the Glorietta Bay Inn, visit www.gloriettabayinn.com or phone (619) 435-3101.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa

Driving into the Fairmont Sonoma is like arriving at your French country estate for the weekend. The ambience and grandeur just make this seem like a larger-than-life experience as you make your way into the circular driveway and are immediately greeted by the helpful hotel valet. You notice at once that the grounds of this stately hotel have been impeccably manicured, not a blade of grass out of place. Walkways weave around the main inn and into the forest behind the inn where the hotel has dozens of stylish new suites.

Built in the style of a mission in 1926, the hotel has a rich history of beckoning travelers even before the present structure was built. The inn's Mission-style architecture has been maintained, but enhanced. Rustic woods and wrought iron are used in the restored lobby to fit in with the feel of the surrounding wine country. French antiques adorn the lobby. Just outside the lobby a three-tier circular fountain is the centerpiece of the entrance plaza and looks like something you would find in Rome.

We stayed in a suite that was tastefully decorated with furniture featuring the most stylish fabrics, carefully color-coordinated to look like a scene out of Architectural Digest.

One reason the Fairmont has long been popular with travelers is the natural hot springs that provides thermal mineral water for soaking. This goes hand in hand with the spa services offered at the resort - more than 50 such treatments in all, making the inn a hit with guests seeking a little renovation of their own.

And don't forget the nearby wineries. Just as popular as the Napa Valley, visitors to the Sonoma Valley find a wide selection of tasting experiences and wineries that, in general, tend to be smaller and less corporate than those in Napa.

For information on the Sonoma Fairmont Resort and Spa, please go to www.fairmont.com/sonoma or phone 707-938-9000.

Captions, from top: Santa Ynez Inn in Santa Barbara Wine Country; downtown June Lake; Glorietta Bay Inn; downtown Sonoma>

Photos by Cary Ordway, Sandi Ordway

(Editor's note: CaliforniaWeekend.com is California's leading source of information on getaway travel in the Golden State. Visit the site often to find the latest getaway specials, a comprehensive list of resorts and lodgings and to use the Getaway Machine travel calculator to match up your needs and preferences with exactly the right lodgings and location.)

OTHER DESTINATIONS: If you're looking for other California vacation ideas, be sure to check out other California Weekend articles on Los Angeles, Beach Boys hometown, Huntington Beach and Getty Museum.

Getaway Media Corp publishes websites focused on getaway travel, including www.californiaweeked.com and www.northwesttraveladvisor.com. If you enjoyed reading about these Valetines getaways, be sure to visit our sites and read the hundreds of feature articles on the many getaway travel destinations in our coverage areas. Like the our Valentines getaways, these other attractions are worth including in a your upcoming vacation or getaway. If you think about it, we're fortunate to live in a place where we can enjoy destinations such as unique Valentines getaways without traveling thousands of miles. This is why Getaway Media Corp sites are so popular with the traveling public -- they showcase attractions that are close by and easy to visit on your next vacation or getaway.

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