You can live like a movie star down Mexico way
Where do Oscar nominees escape all the fuss? This Pacific playground. Andrew Tong tags along
Sunday 25 January 2009
Mexico has always had a special place in Hollywood's heart. From Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre through Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch to The Mask of Zorro, it has acted as an alter ego, an exotic location where inhibitions can be cast away, a shot at freedom. And, of course, it's where they all head for when the chips are down, hightailing it to the border with the V8 engine pounding.
As the Oscars approach at speed and the tension in Tinseltown is ratcheted up another notch, where better to escape than the other California, of the Baja variety. There's a place just a couple of hours away on the private jet, down on the heel of the peninsula and far from the crowds of all-you-can-consume Cancun.
Near Los Cabos, the stunning hotel of Las Ventanas al Paraiso squats above the surging Sea of Cortez. All there is to disturb you is the business of keeping count of how many frozen margaritas you've had in the infinity pool, and maybe the sight of a paparazzo clinging on to the back of a microlite buzzing over the beach.
The great, the good and the not so ugly all come to the Rosewood Resort. The staff won't tell you who, though they may whisper what the gossip columnists say. Arnie has his favourite pueblo; Jennifer's turning 40 hereabouts; surely it won't be long before Barack rolls into town. All-inclusive it ain't, but then it's not exclusive either, and anyone can come to taste the high life in Low California. There are now direct flights to San Jose del Cabo from New York, Chicago and Dallas, not just LA.
It looks a million dollars, a brand new film set before they put the bullet holes in the walls. The suites are huge and cool, and you have a private butler to attend to every caprice. You are greeted by a candlelit bath filled with rose petals, and you can choose from four aromatherapy blends for your bed and four different types of linen. Jacuzzis gurgle excitedly at the immense vistas on the balconies and each bedroom is equipped with a telescope to view stars of another variety, watch the migrating whales or scan the further reaches of your suite.
When you eat the Mexican-Mediterranean cuisine in the restaurants by the beach, or even on the beach amid flickering firepits, the wine is poured simultaneously – and rather unnervingly – by synchronised personal waiters. Then there's La Cava, which intoxicates the senses with its elegance and intimacy as much as the 3,500 wine bottles in the vault. For something a little different, well, very different, you can try the Four Elements spa dinner, where your feet paddle in pools filled with flowers, while your mind is eased and teased by tiradito fish strips for the kidneys, chilli beef with "holy herb" perfume for the lungs, grilled shrimp for the heart and coconut sorbet for the spleen, pancreas and stomach. If you get the sweats, at least you know it's good for you.
The spa looks after you from head to toe, too, literally if you indulge in the "four-hand energy restoration" massage. Having your scalp and feet rubbed at the same time is a form of synchronisation that you could get used to. But the holistic twilight ceremony with its Mayan "Limpia" cleansing ritual does make it a little hard to relax. You stand with arms outstretched as young ladies run their fingers around the rims of crystal bowls to elicit an eerie wail, and an old woman engulfs you in sage smoke and strokes you with feathers while chanting the prayers of a shaman. Ever wondered what pampered film stars do for kicks? Well, now you know.
That's before you've even started on the tequila. The nectar of the agave cactus is treated with reverence at Las Ventanas, and Erik the resident tequilero primes you with three different vintages as he explains the story of the worm that presides at the heart of the plant and the good rabbits that protect it from the bad rabbits. There's no need to lick salt and bite into lemons; the tequila is served with its traditional "bandera" chasers: sangrita, a red, delicately chillified tomato concoction, and the green juice of a key lime, which together constitute the colours of the Mexican flag.
With Valentine's Day approaching it's hard to imagine a more romantic setting. Once you have proposed all your toasts, there's even a "romance director" in Maria Jose to help you. But beware her speciality, the video marriage proposal, disguised as a private cinema for two down on the beach. You'll watch your loved one running in slow-motion along the shoreline, then turning to the camera with a cheesy grin, and offering you his hand. Now that's Hollywood.
How to get there
American Airlines (020-7365 0777; www.americanairlines.co.uk) offers return flights to San Jose del Cabo from Heathrow via Dallas or Miami from £712. Las Ventanas al Paraiso (00 800 87 67 39 66; www.lasventanas.com; www.rosewoodhotels.com) offers rooms from £400 per night.
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