New Year’s Resolutions? A trip to Rancho La Puerta Spa in December inspired my resolutions for 2014. Rancho La Puerta Spa is a sanctuary only an hour away from the San Diego hustle & bustle. If your resolutions are related to food, the word I learned at The Ranch, as it is called, is portion control. They don’t promote portion control. It’s just that the meals served there are so tasty, you don’t need a lot to be satiated. They smartly serve small portions of whatever is on the menu encouraging you to restrain yourself from asking for more (which is more than welcome).
Losing weight was not my goal on my week at The Ranch. I consider myself lucky never to have had a weight problem. I do daily exercise which balances out my love of good food. But hey, there’s always those few pounds I’d like to shed and once I got into the groove of the Rancho La Puerta Spa experience, I found my clothes loosening up around my waist.
My days consisted of waking at 6:30 and jumping out of bed (I never do this at home), putting on my hiking shoes and joining the group for a delightful two-mile walk through the untamed wilderness of The Ranch. Located in Tecate, Mexico across the border from San Diego, you can see a barrier marking the U.S. border high up in the mountain as you are hiking.
By 8:00, I was doing my regular half-mile morning swim in the Activity Pool. By 11:00, instructors are leading participants through various water classes. One morning, I joined in the Pilates aqua class.
Then on to breakfast, where you can choose from a hot egg item, oatmeal with a myriad of mix-ins, house-made granola, fresh fruit and juices, toast and house-made jams. I stuck to my regular granola, fruit and yogurt, but added in some oatmeal or the egg item since I had pushed my body with more exercise than I normally do.
By 10:00, I joined in the Yoga 1 class. The class was large and the instructors were first rate. Had I not opted for yoga, I could have gone to about six other activities including a stretch class, a tennis clinic or a nature walk around the campus. When you arrive at The Ranch, you are given a weekly schedule. Every hour throughout the day about six activities are listed that you can choose from…or you can take a book and relax in one of the hammocks or chaise lounges.
After a break at the lounge (the only Wi-Fi location on campus), where you will find people on laptops and Ipads checking back into the world, it was on to lunch. (More about the food on my next post, The Food of Rancho La Puerta.)
One chilly morning I went on the breakfast hike. We walked off the Ranch property and through the local wilderness to “The Ranch Garden”, where Salvador explained that 40-75% of the vegetables and salad ingredients for our meals are grown. Starting out at 6:30 a.m., you get to see the sunrise over the vista.
The afternoons were spent lounging with a book, going to a nutrition lecture with Nutrition Director, Yvonne Nienstadt, watching the sculpting class, attending a Matcha Green Tea ceremony, working out at a striptease dance class, attending a cooking class or having a massage at the spa. By 4:00, I wandered over to the library to tap into the photography lectures, where Neil and Susan Silverman shared their knowledge and craft. Neil and Susan of Silverman Photography wowed me the night before with a “show” of their stunning landscape photography. I took pages of notes on the top six elements to remember about photography.
- Subject – not in the center.
- Pay attention to background and edges.
- Lighting your subject.
- Conditions such as wind.
- Dynamic range – exposure – too white or too dark.
- Perspective – shoot from below or the side.
Their daily lectures covered photographing people, travel & vacation photography, and choosing the right camera including how to take great photos on an IPhone. I came away a better photographer for it and hopefully the pictures on this blog will reflect that. This charming couple offers weekend long trips to shoot photos in amazing places like Yosemite, Napa Valley, Death Valley and more.
Dinner is served at 6:00 in the grand dining room. The food is awesome. I would not call this skinny “Spa food”. It is gourmet all the way and I never left hungry. Each evening we were served four courses beginning with soup, then on to salad, an entrée and dessert. Soup is a great way to fill up. I will be teaching a Soup & Stew class this week, aimed at the same goal – a healthy dish of mainly vegetables.
After dinner, there is more to do. Each week there are different presenters. The first evening we attended a slide presentation of Ruth Anne Kocour’s journey hiking on Mount McKinley in Alaska where her ten-person team was pinned down on an ice shelf for 10 days in 110 mph winds and minus 47 degree temps. Not only did she live to tell her harrowing story, but she presented two more slide presentations on subsequent trips walking in the War Zones of Pakistan and across beautiful and remote regions of Bhutan.
Another evening was spent listening to a first rate classical music concert by Ensemble Mira. Martha Aarons on flute, Lev Polyakin on violin and my friend, Natalie Dalschaert on piano. About 80 of us listened intently to music by Brahms, Debussy, Khachaturian and Qui in the comfortable Oak Tree Pavilion overlooking the grape vines. Ensemble Mira also serenaded us one evening in the dining room as we gathered for our dinner. Unfortunately I missed the final dinner and dancing evening, where photographer Neil performed on saxophone with the Rancho La Puerta Band. I’m sure it was a ton of fun.
I was told not to miss the Bingo night. Really? As you enter the gym, tables are set up with salt & pepper popcorn. I heard that people sneak in butter. But since I’ve been eating healthy food for six days now, I found it really tasty as is. One of the treasures of the Ranch is Barry, Fitness Director by day and Bingo caller by night. Barry will have you laughing your head off as his comedic personality comes out in his off-color humor. He manages to be really creative at coming up with unusual ways for you to win…or lose at Bingo. Prizes are little mementos from the Ranch store. Some of the items might make great white elephant gifts, and others are sweet mementos like the small hand painted vase I got for being the biggest loser or the last one standing. Yes they give prizes to losers too.
As a Ranch newbie, I wanted to meet 93-year old Deborah Szekely, founder of Rancho La Puerta Spa at her presentation in the Oak Tree Pavilion. You could consider her the Mother of Modern Day Wellness, having founded Rancho La Puerta in 1940. The topic of her lecture was “Aging by Choice”. You can’t help but be inspired by her words and her presence. Her latest passion is…cleaning up the food supply in America. With her presence and her connections throughout the wellness community, she is adamant at making this happen in her lifetime.
I had brought a lot of books and reading material to The Ranch. I opened my new autographed book by Anne Willan (a Ranch regular), “One Souffle at a Time” savoring each page in what I found the perfect environment to read in, but after a few chapters… Sorry Anne, you will have to wait. I want to take advantage of all The Ranch has to offer this week…and I’m glad I did.