I sign up for a water fitness class—in advance of a stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Wellbeing is a trending watchword at this palatially ornate, Forbes Five-Star hotel in North County San Diego.
Kind of a big deal? The resort is the number-one luxury hotel in California for 2019, and regularly ranks among the top luxe properties in the country, and the world.
Before it became a Fairmont property three years ago, I had the opportunity to experience the grandeur of the Grand Del Mar. Wellbeing is now a more important amenity than ever, right? Well, of course it is.
Well, why not try a pool fitness class at a high-end hotel? It’s not a bucket list item, but I’ve never done one—anywhere—before.
Pre-arrival I ponder what the experience will entail.
“The 80-year-old ladies in the class will love you,” my wife chides, as we drive north on the I-5 during a 25-minute trip to Del Mar from downtown San Diego.
I propose wearing a bathing cap. You know, maybe a floral number. To fit in.
All we know about the pool class is that it’s 30 minutes long. The length of a standard hot tub soak.
While making a right turn onto the deliciously named Carmel Country Road that leads to the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, I joke: “Maybe I can count last night’s half hour in the Jacuzzi as a training session, honey.”
I chortle, and probably sound a tad too much like Clark Griswold in National Lampon’s Vacation.
Arriving at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar
Navigating onto the grounds at Fairmont Grand Del Mar is itself an event. There’s a check-in booth at the entrance to a half-mile driveway. Registered guests get to travel down a road surrounded by picture-perfect palms and manicured cypress trees. You view the property’s verdant, Tom Fazio-designed golf course. And get brief glimpses of the Mediterranean-style resort.
Your anticipation heightens while winding along on the driveway. It feels like being in a movie—one in which guests are invited to a wealthy friend’s country mansion. Think Great Expectations. The Great Gatsby. Someplace great.
After you reach the resort’s porte cochère, you step inside the lobby and your senses are inundated by the visual impact of arched doorways, vibrant tile patterns, wood-beamed ceilings, ornate stonework and wrought-iron accents.
There’s also the distinctly pleasant smell of spiced-apple-scented candles burning near the check-in area.
You can’t help but be awed by the artwork on just about every wall. In fact, more than 2,000 pieces of furniture and art accent the resort—and approximately 85 percent of it was custom designed.
Much of the commissioned artwork is encased within replicas of frames found in the Louvre and the Cluny museums in Paris. Oui, oui.
To the Five-Star guest room
Notably, the front desk clerk walks us to our room after check-in. For good reason. You can easily get lost while eyeballing the elegance here at the 249-room Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
The resort’s standard guest room is 600 square feet. There are also 31 suites, ranging in size from 1,000 square feet to a pair of 2,840-square-foot Presidential Suites with expansive terraces and indoor/outdoor fireplaces.
All guest rooms come with marble bathrooms and deep, European-style soaking tubs. The tub is set under a mirrored-glass window that opens into the sleeping area. There’s a work desk just below that window on the bedroom side of the wall.
Picture, if you dare: Oscar Wilde penning a risqué novel at the desk—inspired by an open-window view of a paramour taking a bubble bath.
Every guest room and suite in the resort features an outdoor view of the golf course or nearby Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. Better to look out at these panaramas than to spend time watching television. Note: That’s true, even though the room’s flat-screen TV (like the omnipresent works of art) is hung inside a replica picture frame from a Parisian museum.
Dining at Amaya
Located just seven miles from the Del Mar Racetrack, this ultra-high-end resort hits its own trifecta. One of just a dozen “Triple Five-Stars” in the world, Forbes gives its top honors to the Fairmont Grand Del Mar for the resort itself, the spa and for dining.
The superstar, signature restaurant is Addison. Under executive chef William Bradley, Addison just became San Diego’s only Michelin-starred eatery, adding to a list of myriad foodie accolades.
Understandably, Addison is booked solid during our visit. Not to worry, I don’t feel like a runner-up eating dinner at the scenic, indoor/outdoor Amaya.
I contend that Amaya is a culinary All-Star. It just happens to exist in proximity to intergalactic greatness. Amaya is Scottie Pippen on a 1990s Chicago Bulls team headlined by the Michael Jordan-esque Addison.
We dine on Amaya’s casual-leaning terrace. It’s adjacent to a grassy lawn that’s artfully framed by a Mediterranean-style stone fence. Inside an archeway just outside the lawn, we watch a sultry (and well-lighted) couple fawn over each other during a photoshoot.
My wife’s Chilean sea bass, which comes with a dollop of salmon roe, tastes like it’s just been hooked out of the ocean. The Duroc pork chop on my plate rests on a scandalously delicious base of cous-cous—and is brilliantly garnished with a juicy, red stone fruit.
After those dishes are cleared, Jules and I continue our new practice of ordering dessert to go. Back to our room comes a tiramisu (with amaretto mascarpone mousse) and a Gianduja “Rocher”—best described as a Milky Way candy bar hopped up on mango-and-passion-fruit steroids.
Fairmont Grand Del Mar Wellbeing
The resort’s spa was recently renamed the Center for Wellbeing. After a high-end night of sleep, Jules beelines to the 21,000-square-foot facility for peace of mind, indulgence, enlightenment and a therapeutic massage.
I head to the spa pool, snicker, sans bathing cap.
Wake-up call: My supposed cavort in the shallow end turns out to be a FloatFit class. It’s performed atop specialized paddleboards tethered together in the middle of the pool. Yes, it’s low impact. But it’s also a core-challenging exercise in maintaining balance and stability.
It’s akin to doing yoga on a wet Bosu ball.
The FloatFit-certified instructor is a highly likeable British chap named Benny. He promises a fun-filled, full-body, interval workout. We’ll do lunges, squats and planks up on the board. Don’t worry about losing your balance and falling, Benny notes. You’ll simply fall into a pool of water.
The FloatFit Experience
FloatFit immediately and decisively engages my core. I look around the pool deck for a clock. Thirty minutes suddenly seems like a fortnight. Yet, I vow not to fall.
Then, Benny hops onto his middle board and creates a yacht-sized wake.
Still, I don’t go into the drink.
Benny finally announces there are just a couple intervals left in the class, and I take personal stock. My abs ask my brain “who signed up for this?” I’m a little bit dizzy and slightly seasick. But pride will not goeth before—or allow for—a fall.
Benny is ever-supportive: “Congrats, Ron, I can tell you’re working hard by how your muscles are shuddering.”
I nod, all the while maintaining an apparently impressive quiver.
When the class ends, I gracelessly roll off the board and into the pool. Yes, my internal organs are still trembling.
Artistic merits of my performance aside, I declare this outing a success. That gives my wellbeing a boost. Just give me a moment…to sit down…and let it sink in. J&J