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California rambling: True retreats

Photo courtesy Eagle's Nest

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From page A4 | November 12, 2012 | Leave Comment

After a national election, both the winner and loser want to get away, yet often have a difficult time doing so. For the winner, there’s little time to escape before the work begins. And, for the loser, there are few places to avoid being noticed or annoyed.

So, here are suggestions of remote resorts that provide true retreat.

Eagle’s Nest

Atop a gated peninsula overlooking New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is Eagle’s Nest, a luxurious estate known as one of the world’s most private. President Bill Clinton is among those who have stayed there.

Described as, “Somewhere between seven stars and heaven,” Eagle’s Nest is the ultimate in exclusivity and hospitality.  Its five, one- to four-bedroom villas are set within a 75-acre reserve of sub-tropical native bush and secluded beaches.

Each of the villas come outfitted with theater and sound systems, satellite reception, flatscreen TVs, Jacuzzi spas and original art. Four have their own infinity lap pool, whose blue waters blend into a South Pacific horizon.

While the villas include gourmet kitchens and outdoor barbecues, most guests forego cooking and make use of the resort’s private chefs who will prepare anything desired, from local seafood, to venison and lamb. Eagle’s Nest’s wine cellar contains thousands of New Zealand and world wines. The largest of its villas, has its own bar, or the staff will make drinks to order. Such luxurious exclusivity comes at a price… $935 (US) to $14,500/night/villa, excluding 15 percent tax or services.

For recreation, there’s big game fishing, cruising, day sailing, kayaking, hiking, helicopter sightseeing, nearby tennis and golf, cruising on the tall ship R. Tucker Thompson or picnicking on a nearby deserted island. The Bay of Islands has more than 144 islands to explore.

Of course, there’s no need to leave Eagle’s Nest once there, and its guests rarely do. The resort has personal trainers, spa therapists, even chauffeurs to make you forget what you’ve left behind.  Take free use of the resort’s mountain bikes to pedal about this remote northern end of New Zealand or walk into nearby Russell.

Russell’s Duke of Marlborough Hotel (est. 1827) provides comfort approaching that at Eagle’s Nest, but at a much more affordable $104 (US) to $300/night/room. And, with only 25 rooms in the hotel and a small local population used to being discrete, you’re not likely to be noticed anyway.

Villa Cappelli

Steven Crutchfield, one of the owners of Villa Cappelli a 22,000-square-foot villa in Terlizzi, Italy, describes his retreat as, “Very private, in the country… off the beaten path and away from a lot of touristy places in Italy. It is very much out of the public eye.”

In other words, Villa Cappelli is as private a place as can be found in the land that invented the word, “paparazzi.” It is so private that even members of the British royal family stayed there.  Steven would not reveal who they were. He said, “I would think any place that is truly private would never give you names.”

In contrast to its privacy, the villa sits along ancient Rome’s most traveled highway, the Via Appia. Villa Cappelli was certainly passed by Roman legions, crusaders, saints and pilgrims, as evidenced by an ancient stone cross on the property, believed to be from the Knights Templar.  Surrounding its fossil-strewn grounds are ancient olive groves, vineyards and fruit trees, and the villa is enclosed by an 18-foot wall containing a garden of citrus trees, roses and lavender.

Inside those walls, housekeeping and three meals a day are included to order. Guests can use the 10-bedroom villa “as they see fit,” said Crutchfield, who stays on the premises and is available to assist his guests. “We can be as on-hand or off-hand as they like, giving them their privacy, but full-on service. We can arrange any trips wanted, and even do biking tours. The most special thing about the place is that it’s authentic. You won’t be caught up in some tourist trap, but will just experience a truly relaxing, totally Italian experience,” except for the paparazzi.

The Boulders

It’s harder to stay out of the public eye in the USA, though some resorts like The Boulders — a desert hideaway north of Scottsdale, Ariz. —  protect guest privacy to the hereafter. “We can’t talk about our guests unless they are dead,” said publicist Deborah Bridges.

Only once a guest publicly states they’ve stayed there, will The Boulders admit they were there, like Lady Gaga who tweeted her location at The Boulders or Matt Lauer who revealed playing golf there when he received the call to be host of the Today Show.

Similar to these other retreats, The Boulders offers a 5,000-square-foot villa, with all the luxury and amenities of an estate home.  There’s a helipad on property, a guard and gates to exclude inquiring reporters, while Arizona’s casual blue jeans and sunglasses style makes the glitterati less recognizable. The Boulder’s personal shoppers will buy food to fit any taste and there are private golf carts, a Bentley, BMW, Ferrari and Harley-Davidson for its guests’ personal use. The resort even has a 33,000-square-foot spa (the Golden Door) with a resident shaman — particularly useful after losing a national election.

For more about these true retreats, visit www.eaglesnest.co.nz, www.theduke.co.nz, www.theboulders.com or www.vcvilla.com.

John Poimiroo of El Dorado Hills is a travel writer who specializes in California destinations.

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