Temecula, California: A Girlfriend Getaway

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Enjoying the mud at the Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa in Temecula California. Photos by Cathie Arquilla.

Things to do in Temecula with Girlfriends

By Cathie Arquilla

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 California.

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 knew 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, tapenades, stuffed olives galore and of course olive oils and vinegar 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 a 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 Edge
Simon 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 cut back to a four-day workweek.

Brigitte, the 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 grapevines 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.

Keyways Winery, Temecula, CA.
Keyways Winery, Temecula, California. Photo by Cathie Arquilla

Post pedi, we hustled over via complimentary golf cart to dive into a winery tour and tasting. Our guide was in a bit of a hurry. She spoke too fast and much of the information was lost on me.

However, she redeemed herself with the tasting that followed the actual tour. We sat down, alfresco, to a lovely table set with a cheese plate and several wine glasses. Overlooking the vineyards, the scene said, “Southern California wine dynasty in all its glory.”

The take-away from the tasting was twofold: 1) South Coast Winery is on the map as a premier winemaker in California. They have won, for the last two years, the prestigious Golden Bear Award from the California State Fair Wine Competition. Be impressed.

This award goes to the best winery in the entire state of California, including Napa! 2) The wines, to our taste buds, were outstanding! And we learned just how to taste them, what they would be well paired with, and why we should come back to this winery again and again.

Crash Pad

After gadding about Old Town, ’50s big beaded choker in hand, we spread ourselves out all over the hotel room and never left (that night). We stayed at the Embassy Suites, Temecula. It was perfectly located for everything one might like to do in The Valley. There was just enough room for Brigitte to serve our portable cocktails and to kick back.

We used the mini-fridge, sink, and counter for placing everything from cheese to makeup brushes, to chips. The beds, as with all Hilton Hotel brands, were excellent. The pull out couch wasn’t “the best,” but sufficient (at least that’s what she told me). Embassy Suites certainly does meet the needs of most travelers seeking a fine place to recoup from a busy itinerary and that is just what it provided us.

Harvesting Possibility

I wanted to check out Keyways Winery before we left. The drive there, on DePortola Road, had us passing places with names like Oak Haven Farms, Rancho Pacifica, KD Acres, Hacienda de Pendar. The names alone should give you the picture. Vineyards, groves, and stables canvassed the landscape.

Grapes at South Coast Winery.
Grapes at South Coast Winery.

Awesome looking villas and ranch houses to our right and left. Brigitte said she could picture herself in jeans and a big silver belt buckle sitting on a fence, we all could. That’s when I realized that Temecula was an ideal place for us to get away.

Not only did it represent a marvelous change of scenery, it spoke of possibility. Everyone we met was fulfilling a passion or dream and with that came a positive attitude that was infectious. Temecula makes for a mood! The place and its people embodied the idea of harvest.

Harvesting a Dream

And Keyways Winery was one more example of passionate people harvesting a dream. Keyways, as much a business of hospitality as winemaking, is considered to be on the softer side of Temecula.

General Manager Mimi Harlan explained several ways in which this idyllic winery is serving up both an experience and wine to its guest. Sundays bring “Sangria Serenade,” acoustic music wafts through the vines, relax on the porch, terrace or amongst the groves. Independently owned by a woman, a Ms. Terri Pebley, Keyways has an unmistakable “female” romantic touch and attention to detail. Everything they had to offer their wine members and guest appealed to us gals immensely.

While Temecula has umpteen things to do and certainly takes more than a weekend to fully appreciate, Brigitte, Jody and I had found what we were looking for–a chance to enjoy each other in a location ripe with possibility and beauty.

Before you go –- dream ahead!

Visit the Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. This comprehensive site is an invaluable resource for customizing and itinerary suited to your needs and wants. Below are a few suggestions to get you started in your

Lunch at the Temecula Creek Inn.
Lunch at the Temecula Creek Inn.

Spas –- perfect way to relax with just the girls

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Grapeseed Spa–quiet, personal, and inviting.

Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa, expansive, with tons of treatment options.

Pechanga Resort & Casino is California’s largest resort and casino, home to Spa Pechanga, which boast ten therapy rooms, a couple’s room and a full-service salon.

Resorts Accommodations, Golf and Gaming –- a taste of Cali!

Temecula Creek Inn, offering a variety of creative packages for both the golf and wine enthusiast.

Both South Coast Winery Resort and Spa and Pechanga Resort mentioned above also feature deluxe accommodations. At Pechanga get both your golf and gambling game on!

Hotels, Inns, Bed-Breakfast and Wine

Embassy Suites, Temecula, perfect location for exploring the region. Many of the same perks as all extended stay Hilton brands.

La Quinta Inn & Suites, tasteful rooms, efficient service, good location.

Loma Vista, Wine Country B&B, one reviewer said, “The house is cozy and the atmosphere is relaxing. Carl and Connie are fantastic hosts. Carl will go out his way to ensure that you are comfortable.”

Everything olive at the Temecula Olive Oil Company.
Everything olive at Temecula Olive Oil company.

Inn At Churon Winery, Chateau-like stay, 5-course wine-paired dining on the weekends, romance abounds.


The Edge Restaurant and Lounge, adventure dining, inviting lounge.

Baily’s Old Town Temecula, seasonal menu, four-course price fixed dinner. Offers several dining and drinking options, from bar and grill to upscale dining.

Executive Chef, Sal Giuliano of the Temet Grill at Temecula Creek Inn creates exceptional dishes using local vineyards for his source of inspiration.

Old Town -– little shops on the boardwalk

Temecula Olive Oil Company, everything Olive-able.

Serendipity, 41950 Main Street

Old Town Antique Faire, 28601 Front Street (behind main street, but worth the effort)

Tours & Experiences

When really making a day of wine touring, consider having someone else do the driving.

Discover the story behind Temecula at Temecula Valley Museum. Presenting the history of the valley from the mid 1800’s to today in a fun and informative way.

Visit the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association’s website to see the vast array of tasting and tours available to you in Temecula. Be sure to check out upcoming events. Maybe something great like a “Barrel Tasting Weekend” is happening during your visit.

Keyways Winery, special events and activities throughout the year, exceptional wine club, fun for locals and tourists alike.

Longshadow Ranch Vineyard and Winery, traditional winemaking from six generations, “Take a ride through the hills of the Temecula Valley wine country in one of our horse-drawn carriages.”

The Grapeline, Wine Country Shuttle, deluxe shuttle coaches with arranged itineraries.

California Dreamin, hot air balloon rides and biplane rides. A must to get a birds-eye view of Temecula.

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