Romantic Rendezvous

Romantic Rendezvous
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If you’re searching for the perfect spot for a romantic getaway, consider MacArthur Place in California’s wine country.

A quaint setting accented by flagstone paths and manicured gardens await those headed for this historic country estate and spa in Sonoma.




Less than an hour from San Francisco, this retreat has a rustic, yet polished feel. Originally owned by David Burris, a prominent Missouri farmer and landowner, the two-story manor home, which dominates the four-acre property, was built in the1850’s. It is believed to be one of the oldest Victorian homes in the area.Photograph courtesy of MacArthur Place The rest of the land was a working ranch and vineyard, home to horses, and fruit orchards.

Today the resort, which is only a few blocks walk from the town square, is full of meticulously landscaped lush gardens that include fruit trees and an extensive variety of herbs. The grounds are truly an asset to this charming destination, filled with beauty and surprises. At each turn, you encounter whimsical sculptures created by local artisans, fountains, and there’s even a koi pond.

Fabulous Facilities
This cozy country inn features 64 guestrooms and suites, the Garden Spa, a fitness room, an outdoor pool, and a whirlpool. Room rates range from $299-$825 per night and include complimentary breakfast and a wine and cheese reception each evening. The main house — where I stayed — has ten guestrooms. There are also several smaller cottages throughout the property.

My suite, which goes for $375 a night during the week and $425 on the weekends, was very expansive and inviting. The decor was a combination of posh Victorian and old west rustic. The room included a top of the line DVD player with outstanding six-speaker surround sound. Another highlight was the huge four-poster bed — perfect to cuddle up on with that special someone! And then there was the wonderful working fireplace. You can set some logs ablaze to ignite an evening of passion, or simply to enjoy a bit of bucolic peace. Either way, you get to enjoy a roaring fire, as you curl up in front of the big, beautiful stone hearth.

Photograph courtesy of MacArthur PlaceIf things get a little to hot to handle inside your room, simply step out onto your private porch for a breath of fresh air, where a feast for the senses awaits. Gaze into a star-filled sky, listen to the flowing rhythm of the fountains, feel the wind caressing your face as it blows by, carrying the sweet scent of flowers from the gardens below. Breathe deeply and truly relax. It’s easy to forget the outside world in this serene setting.

Once you’ve filled your heart and mind with enough celestial visions for one night, you could always head back inside and take a soak in the room’s huge 40-jet hydrotherapy tub. But, put your bodycare products Photograph courtesy of MacArthur Placeback in your suitcase and save them for home so you can take advantage of MacArthur Place’s own line. It was such a pleasant surprise to find grapeseed soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and lotions blended from the seeds of Sonoma and Napa wineries, rather than your run of the mill offerings available in most hotels.

After such a pampering bath experience, you may not ever want to leave the tub. However, if you yearn for a bit more interaction than just you and some bubbles, you might want to borrow a complimentary bicycle and explore the local area. Or, take an evening stroll over to the hotel library. Chock-full of country charm, the library is a great place to hang out. You can play chess, enjoy complimentary wine and cheese from 5-6 Photograph courtesy of MacArthur Placenightly, and also borrow a large selection of DVDs to take back and enjoy in the comfort of your country lodgings.

Spoil yourself at the Garden Spa, the shining gem of the resort. It specializes in pampering single note aromatherapy treatments that are sure to make you feel even better than whatever local libations you sample from the surrounding vineyards. While small by most resort standards, it’s cozy, with lots of personal touches like oatmeal cookies to munch on while you wait. There are seven indoor treatment rooms and two outdoor garden tea-house treatment rooms, which are very spacious and beautifully decorated. The one that I was in had lots of light and a bright uplifting sunflower motif. The large tub was the perfect place to soak away stress and tension.

Each treatment is based around the benefits of a specific fruit, flower, herb, or element from around the earth. Rather than using a blend of different essential oils, they use a single note, or scent. The spa offers a wide Photograph courtesy of MacArthur Placerange of services including massages, facials, scrubs, wraps, and their signature treatments that include several steps of serious pampering. Many of the fresh ingredients used are taken from the resort’s own garden which is full of lavender, sage, chamomile, rosemary, and other herbs. The combination of the ambiance, high quality ingredients, and proficient practitioners is the perfect recipe for relaxation.

I mellowed out as stress melted away during one of the spa’s signature treatments, Lavender Dreams, $199 for 100 minutes. This peace-inducing procedure included a warm Lavender Bath, a nourishing Lavender Marine Body Wrap, and a Lavender Essential Oil Massage.

First I immersed myself in the giant claw-foot tub that was full of bath salts and several sprigs of fresh lavender from the garden. I didn’t want to stop soaking — I felt so tranquil in that tub — but after 15 minutes or so I emerged ready for the wrap.

Mary, one of the spa’s most skilled practitioners, gently and thoroughly applied the masque to my skin and covered me up in a plastic sheet. I laid there for about 20 minutes absorbing the healing mixture as she massaged my face and feet. Next, I was released from the confines of the plastic cocoon to rinse off in a darling shower with a colorful and festive sunflower showerhead. By this time I was already in la la land, but this incredibly relaxing treatment was then topped off with a massage. I left smelling sweet and feeling supremely serene.

Photograph courtesy of MacArthur PlaceI also got the chance to be slathered in mud and rubbed with rocks. While this may sound more like a punishment than a spa treatment, believe me, the Healing Stones and Garden Mud Massage, $199, 100 minutes, was an earthy, I mean earthly delight! First I was covered in Dead Sea mud and wrapped in blankets for 30 minutes. As the mineral-rich mixture worked its magic by drawing toxins out of my system, it tingled on my skin. After I showered off, I returned to the table for a serious stone massage.

Mary worked those hot rocks into my needy, tight muscles. She really dug in, dissolving the knots buried deep in my muscle fibers. The session ended as she put a warm stone on my chest and two cool ones on my eyes. She exited and I rested for a while, wishing that I could take her home with me for a daily dose of healing.


Photograph courtesy of MacArthur PlaceAlready super, my Garden Spa experience concluded with a tropically inspired form of healing — a Lomi Lomi Massage, 100 minutes $199. This traditional Hawaiian style rubdown was fun and enjoyable. Natalia set the mood with some upbeat Hawaiian music and then began working out my muscle kinks with her hands and forearms. The session included full body strokes intended to free up stagnant energy, as well as gentle stretches to release joint tension.

Traditionally this type of bodywork has a spiritual component to it. The practitioner says a silent prayer before beginning and the participant sets her intention for healing. Whether or not Natalia appealed to a higher power before working on me didn’t seem to really matter. What did count was the fact that I felt great afterwards!


Room For Improvement
My stay at MacArthur Place ended up being very enjoyable, but it didn’t start out on the best note. No one

Photograph courtesy of MacArthur Place

showed me around, escorted me to my room, or familiarized me with the amenities. (The DVD player was amazing, but it took quite a while to figure out how to work it.) Call me crazy, but it would have been nice if someone had taken a few minutes to give me a little tour. Big city girls sometimes need help getting oriented out in the country! Tip: Ask the desk clerk to have someone accompany you to your suite and teach you how everything works, or you may end up spending an hour trying to turn on the TV. Speaking of things not working — unless you’re an early riser, brace yourself for a cold shower. There was only hot water in the morning, at least in my room. When I attempted to wash in the afternoon and evening, I got an unwelcome icy surprise. The toilet also ran incessantly. All in all, I think it’s time to call a plumber to fix these annoying problems. Tip: Take your showers in the a.m. and ask for a room with a working lavatory.

From the bathroom to the kitchen, I’m sorry to say that this spa was not all that veggie-friendly. The on-site restaurant is a steakhouse and there are not many meat-free options, unless you’re into eating a bunch of side dishes. (Although, they do serve a yummy artichoke, see sidebar.) Tip: Brace yourself for a very meaty menu, or take a walk into town and choose from a wide variety of restaurants.

MacArthur Place
29 East MacArthur Street
Sonoma, CA 95476
For reservations or information call 707-938-2929, or visit