By Ron Bernthal
Staying in a log-cabin style cottage, next to a free-flowing Arizona creek, does not translate into “primitive” accommodations. Travel writer Ron Bernthal reviews L’Auberge de Sedona.
Sedona’s magnificent red rock formations are what attract visitors to this area, just two hours north of Phoenix, and hiking to Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, biking through Oak Creek Canyon, or driving further north to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon can be quite exhilarating in any season. But it’s downtown Sedona’s numerous art galleries, new age crystal shops, jewelry stores and restaurants that seem to keep tourists busy for most of their visit.
The natural surroundings are gorgeous, for sure, but the town’s one main street is so commercialized that a non-shopping visitor will need to really focus on the inspirational red rock cliffs towering above the town to avoid seeing the t-shirt and ice cream shops, the galleries promoting “original” Southwest art, and the dozens of open-roof, pink Jeeps ferrying camera-toting visitors into the mountains and canyons for a glimpse of paradise.
My oasis was the L’Auberge de Sedona, just a half-mile from town, but located below the commercial district, in a secluded valley along Oak Creek. The rustic, deluxe-rated property includes a lodge with reception area and 21 guest rooms, 31 one and two-bedroom cottages, a four-bedroom Creek House, used for corporate retreats and family reunions, the Spa at L’Auberge, and L’Auberge Restaurant, all built in dark wood, log cabin style. Our cottage was one large room with a view of Oak Creek. A stack of firewood on the front porch of the cabin was for the stone fireplace inside, and after check-in my guest and I immediately got a fire going, despite the sunny and relatively warm (mid-50’s) afternoon.
After settling in we explored the hotel site which offered, thankfully, little in the way of activities. The Spa seemed intimate, housed in what looked like a former guest cottage, and, this being Sedona, offered some far-out sounding treatments, including an aromachologie massage, a verbena citrus shiatsu fusion, and a deep blue lavender embrace.
By the time we walked back to the cottage the air had turned colder, it would eventually dip into the low-20’s, and the crackling fire had warmed the room nicely. We eased ourselves into the room’s comfortable upholstered arm chairs, moved the foot stools before us, and quickly became hypnotized by the fire. We put off until the next day our plans to bike into the nearby mountains.
L’Auberge Restaurant, with a reputation as one of the best in Sedona, was just steps away from the cottage, and dinner was served in its glass enclosed “winter” room overlooking the spotlight-lit creek. During the summer, diners can eat on an outside terrace, with the sound of the free flowing creek as live entertainment. The food was extraordinary, with an excellent choice of fish and Maine lobster, French-inspired lamp, veal chops, and roasted duck breast, and a house specialty, the Chinese “Forbidden Black Rice.” The Chef’s Tasting Menu offered an interesting and varied wine pairing menu for an additional charge. The restaurant has received several Wine Spectator Award of Excellence certificates.
We walked by the creek after dinner, the faint smell of mesquite-smoke in the cold air, a galaxy of bright stars in the clear, dark sky. There were two L’Auberge activities scheduled for the morning; the 8:00 a.m. feeding of the wild ducks in Oak Creek, and the complimentary fresh-brewed Arabica coffee and scones with homemade preserves, served every morning in the lodge. I was beginning to really like Sedona.
L’Auberge de Sedona
301 L’Auberge Lane
Sedona, AZ 86336
Tel 928-282-1661; Fax 928-282-2885
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