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Enjoying the mud at the Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa in Temecula California. Photos by Cathie Arquilla. Click to enlarge this photo.

Temecula California:

A Girlfriend Getaway to “Where The Sun Shines Through the Mist”

Is anything really ageless?  I think not.  But “girlfriend,” is an ageless word. Your girlfriend could be eight or 80.  A girlfriend isn’t necessarily a girl, she’s born of friendship, history, empathy and love. 

Happily, I have several girlfriends.  I shared an escape weekend this summer with two in particular, Jody and Brigitte.  We spent the weekend, “Where the Sun Shines Through the Mist,” the Indian meaning for the word, Temecula. 

Sixty miles north of San Diego and 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles is the Temecula Valley.  Our busy lives allowed us just two days and one morning to explore the area. From about 10 am to 10 pm each day our itinerary was plump with, grapes, spas, oils and antiques and chatting, chatting, chatting…

Side shuffling into Brigitte’s car after dumping needed supplies and sundries in the trunk we hit the road. Supplies included; premixed cocktails, nuts and picky bits.  Sundries included crummy bathing suits, worthy of getting very muddy, suntan lotion, cover-ups and moisturizer for aging skin etc. 

When we first get together it’s like standing on a railway platform as an express train goes whooshing by.  We’ve so many things to say, important and mundane, there is an urgency of getting it all out immediately, before the moment has passed. 

So it is a soup of a conversation –- everything from “ I have jowls too!” (hearty denial by all)  to “We’ve emasculated men by being overly capable, making them big babies.”  After an hour’s drive things calm down, like a verbal Jackson Pollack, we’ve spattered our conversation all over the weekend canvas and we’ll be able to circle back and examine the colors later.  Now it’s time to spa.

Mud, Make Me Over

Jody’s pick was Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa. Situated west and south of the Santa Ana Mountains in Corona, CA, and on route to Temecula, Glen Ivy is a sweeping spa and hot springs. Jody had been here several times before so she new the how to's involved in driving our experience.  Like some sort of spa shark she staked a claim to a secluded, shady, arched-way veranda. We threw our stuff down marking our territory and headed for The Red Clay Mud Bath.

Club Mud at Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa.Club Mud at Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa.

Slathering mud on your girlfriend's back truly brings a whole new meaning to, "we're very close." We happily grabbed globs of red mud, covering each other and ourselves with it until we resembled Aborigines. Next we baked ourselves in the sun. Brigitte, not quite able to abandon her Germanic fastidiousness, was mindful of the clay encrusted chaise lounges.

We assured her this California mud was not germ-friendly (what do we know).  Sufficiently baked, we vigorously sloughed off the clay, resulting in a dipped-in-brown-sugar look.  All the while we were discussing the merits of raising children? Jody, re-entering single parenthood shared the challenges of two growing boys, while Brigitte talked about coming to terms with childlessness. I couldn't tell if the other women slinging clay were treading in such muddy waters, but that is what makes us close girlfriends.

From Mud to Oil

Our next stop was Old Town Temecula, specifically, The Temecula Olive Oil Company.  Conjure up the TV show, Little House On The Prairie. Picture Laura Engle’s stepping into the Olsen’s store.  The Temecula Olive Oil Company is like the Olsen’s, but it has gone gourmet. The store is one still life after another of everything that is "olive-able."  Soaps, olive wood accessories, tapanades, stuffed olives galore and of course olive oils and vinegars abound.

Owner Catherine Pepe treated us to a crash course in making and tasting olive oil. She passionately shared her life's work, harvesting enthusiastic oohs and awes from us.  She talked of the company's olive tree acreage, managing other growers, the cold press process and much more. All the while we were tasting, in little tiny cups without bread, oils with names like; Citrus Reserve, Roasted Garlic, Jalapeno, Rotture di Oro and Mission.  

Olive Oil tasting at the Temecula Olive Oil Company. Olive Oil tasting at the Temecula Olive Oil Company.

We tried the Fresh Basil oil mixed with California Pomegranate Vinegar for a bright, tangy, peppery taste. Brows rose as we experienced a cha cha in our mouths. Pepe schooled us in countless ways to dress just about everything in olive oil:  Douse a salad of watermelon, feta cheese and basil with this combo (Basil Oil, Pomegranate Vinegar).  Drizzle this vinegar (Vanilla and Fig) over ice cream.  Mix this one (Jalapeno Oil) with guacamole. Oil and vinegar took on a whole new meaning.

At The Edge

The Temecula Valley is Southern California’s Wine Country.  The first vineyard was planted in 1964, now there are over 30 wineries. The views surrounding many of these vineyards and wineries are replete with western iconography.  Imagine chaparrals, racing stables, steer pens. 

Think cowhand, we certainly were.  We departed oil tasting saddled with an image of Thom Curry. Curry is co-owner of The Temecula Olive Oil Company, known as a Master Taster with credentials to prove it. After seeing pictures of him elbow deep in olives during harvest, he became fodder for our romantic dreams of, "Hunky man of Temecula–rassling cows, olive, grapes, horses, women!”

We were all hopped up on this western-man fantasy when we walked into The Edge restaurant.  The outside of this placer does indeed look very western authentic. But once inside, we discovered that we were harboring the wrong notion. The Edge is a Vegas-style upscale lounge/restaurant. We should be looking for James Bond and not the Sundance Kid. 

Our host was owner and manager, Simon Curtis.  His ambition with The Edge is to give Old Town Temecula a, “new feel.”  He explained that in the last several years Temecula has become playground to some savvy foodies, golfers and gamers.  The Edge provides them with a swank place to hang out and be wowed by the atmosphere, entertainment and food.

Simon Curtis, owner of The EdgeSimon Curtis, owner of The Edge

Charmingly unabashed, Simon Curtis admitted he was a newbie to the restaurant industry.  Equipped with Restaurant and Bars for Dummies, an audacious dream, and the ability to feel fine asking silly questions, Curtis, ditched medical school and embarked on a two-year project that is now The Edge. 

His philosophy is rather simple; serve very fresh farm to table food, all made from scratch, while introducing some new flavors and food ideas. The dining experience is anything but simple; it’s really “adventure” dining.  With every course we were surprised.  Each plate was presented creatively, like an expertly wrapped package– almost to a fault.

Once, we weren’t quite sure what to do with soy berries artfully decorating a sushi appetizer!  Dining niceties that so many fancy restaurants have abandoned were gloriously back at The Edge– hot towels, an intermezzo (frozen Kyoho grapes sorbet infused with lavender and vanilla), freshly made after-dinner chocolate mints. 

We were there on their first Saturday open and I suspect a few adjustments have been made since.  Disclaimer: I am a style and travel writer, not a food critic. I thought the menu needed some editing and refining.  Scotch Eggs, French Onion Soup and BBQ rib eye were all on the menu.  Curtis and Chef Kevin Manolivitz, purposefully created a menu that possessed, “Almost everything we like.” For me, it was a bit potluck.  BUT the onion soup was the best I’ve ever had and the rib eye did get me back to my cowboy fantasy.

Old Town Temecula.Old Town Temecula.

Brunch & Bitch

With a new day and definite weight gain, we sallied forth to eat some more. We brunched overlooking a sprawling 27 hole golf course at the Temecula Creek Inn’s Temet Grill. I went straight for the made-to-order omelets, Jody decorated her plate with eggs Benedict and salmon in puff pastry, Brigitte sampled the myriad of salad options. 

The conversation turned to the sour economy, grrr, and how it had affected us all. My husband, Tom, a designer/photographer, had been cutback to a four-day workweek.  Brigitte, business owner of an interiors firm, had cut back her staff and was dealing with some high maintenance, low-yield clients. Jody, currently investigating insurance fraud, recently separated from her husband and would be clearing a new financial path to care for herself and her teenage boys.

Over seconds–- I went for fancy cheeses, Jody opted for a fluffy waffle, Brigitte snatched a miniature cheesecake–we came full circle. Buoyed by each other, the wide-open view before us, streaming sunlight through the window, and coffee, we felt hopeful about the prospects that lay ahead.  Jody would find her footing.  After meeting hourly requirements to be a school psychologist, she would begin anew. 

Brigitte and husband, Andre, were considering opening an interiors store and thinking of relocating, maybe even Temecula!  Tom and I would carry on. As always, my attention would be focused on our kids, but I’d continue with my travel writing, blogging and fashion styling.

Grapeseed Spa.Grapeseed Spa.

And as we looked over the golf course and checked out the outstanding grounds and lodging that Temecula Creek is known for, we thought we all should take up golf too!

Food, Wine and Toes

Now that we’d bolstered our spirits, our toes were in need of attention. Located smack in the middle of the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is The Grapeseed Spa. One has to enter the spa through a short pathway that whets your appetite for staying in the adjoining Villas.

The Villas situated around a pool and amongst grape vines look private, inviting and sexy. By the time you get to the spa, you don’t just want a pedicure; you want to move into the resort!

We sunk into the massage chairs grabbing some celeb mags–“What was going on with Brad and Angelina anyway?” and as we soaked our feet, we were offered wine…from the winery itself, of course.  Looking out at the vineyards, I thought, this delicious Sauvignon Blanc was originally a grape on that vine out this window… hum. Read more

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