I’ve been to my share of over-the-top hotels –with ornate, overstuffed furniture, splendiferous lobbies, formal or flashy restaurants, and spas so lavish that pre-French Revolution royalty would feel right at home.
And I’ve loved them.
But in this day of LEED certification construction and eco-consciousness, Cavallo Point, set on 10 acres by the San Francisco Bay and under the stunning art deco majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge, feels like a destination for the 21st century.
Culled from the former Fort Baker Army Base near the city of Sausalito in Marin County and developed by Passport Resorts—the investment group behind Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn—the lodge preserved the landmark district and its 24 red roofed officer residences and structures built between 1901 and 1915. With $100 million dollars in restorations, renovations, and the addition of new buildings, the result is a place that harmonizes with its National Park surroundings.
No wonder so many guests at the Lodge and diners at its restaurant hail from within a 100-mile radius. Cavallo Pointe, in many ways, personifies Bay Area sensibilities. At every possible turn, the guest rooms, public rooms, spa, Michelin-star restaurant and even its cooking classes echo and reflect the nearby environment, from the groves of Monterey Cypress and California Eucalyptus tress, the rosemary and bay laurel plants that fragrant the air to the culinary sophistication of San Francisco and health consciousness of Marin County.
Nothing is overly showy here. The rooms are elegant but deliberately simple, with soft woods, golden, muted and sun burnt colored furnishings, organic linens and windows that open to views of the Bay, the city of San Francisco or, in the new facility, views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Because of its location near the Bay waters, the rooms have little need for air-conditioning, relying on ceiling fans in case of an unusual heat wave. Keeping with its environmentally-conscious mandate, shampoos and body wash are contained in refillable canisters rather than individual bottles. Leaves and reeds, pressed within glass, decorate the walls.
The award-winning Murray Circle restaurant, with its original tin ceiling, serves breakfast, brunch on Sundays, lunch and a dinner menu with organic vegetables from local producers and several locally raised meats and sustainable fish dishes. On the night I dined there, the tasting menu consisted of various types of game and truffles coupled with wine pairings from the U.S, Italy, France and other parts of Europe. Every course was wonderful and unique, and not overly rich. The service was the most formal element of my stay there.
If you are up for something more casual, the woody Farley Bar has seafood and meat appetizers, their famous burger, some innovative cocktails like the Veev Elixer, with Veev acai, huckleberries and fresh citrus and live music once a week. I missed the chance to try the cooking classes, but I did visit the open 1,200-square-foo facility with four cooking stations. Often, chefs from around the area serve as guest instructors.
My favorite experience of the Cavallo Point was the spa. I am a spa aficionado of sorts, so while I was impressed with the understated warmth and elegance of the lounge area, with floor to ceiling windows, comfy furniture and fireplaces, the treatment itself won me over. The experienced therapist worked her magic on me with a 90-minute signature massage consisting of traditional massage strokes, acupressure, cranial sacral techniques and light stretching. She extended a choice of oils, including one mixed with bay laurel and rosemary created from plants nearby.
I live just a short hop over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, just a few miles from resort. But when I returned home from Cavallo Point, I felt that I had returned from a soft, inspiring place far away, one that encapsulates much of the best of the Bay Area, speaks to today’s aesthetics and preferences and points to a new phase of luxury resorts.
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