Cal-a-Vie’s health and wellness programming—and dreamy south of France-style Southern California setting—is a game changer when it comes to a total mind-body-soul reboot.
There are so many reasons to avoid putting yourself first. Life, as it happens, has responsibilities that can’t be avoided, like work, family and the invisible pull to our phones. But there really is something to that rule, the one about supplying yourself with oxygen on the plane before tending to others. In order to survive—and thrive—you need to prioritize you.
After a stressful few months living through the pandemic and everything associated with it, I felt depleted, overwhelmed and like a shell of my former self. So when the opportunity to visit Cal-a-Vie Health Spa in Vista—an exclusive resort frequented by Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow and other A-listers—was presented, barely a second passed before I said yes. Before I knew it I was on the road, driving south from L.A. before arriving at a private driveway an hour and a half later.
Passing through the gates I am struck by the absolutely gorgeous landscape: rolling hills dotted with vineyards, clear blue skies and charming buildings that look like they were plucked from the south of France. (I learned later that some of them actually were.) After checking in and meeting with my scheduling coordinator—who assesses my fitness, food and spa service preferences for my customized daily schedule—I head to my room. On the way, I take in the surroundings, all built to resemble a French Provençal village. In fact, resemble is not a strong enough word: It feels like I’m actually in France, a beautiful surprise considering that Europe is still off limits to Americans at press time. “If you didn’t know and just took a long flight and landed you’d think that’s where you were,” says owner Terri Havens, who acquired and transformed the property with her husband John 20 years ago. My gorgeous room—one of 32 spacious villas, each with its own air filtration system—is filled with a mix of real and reproductions, and comes complete with a huge bathroom, a patio overlooking the hills and one of the comfiest beds I’ve experienced.
After freshening up and catching up on some work, I walk over to dinner, a little nervous being on my own. The beautiful outdoor dining area is strung with lights, giving it a magical glow. Soon, I sit down, and a few other women join me. I find out that most guests are on their own too. I speak to smart, accomplished women from New York, Las Vegas, Malibu, the Bay Area, Houston and more, and quickly relax. The farm-to-table meal is delicious, and keeps my no-dairy request in mind. The food is flavorful, the portions are fair, and I am satisfied!
Soon after, I head to my room to go to bed, as I have an early start. Most guests start their day at 6:20AM for a hike or walk, something that seemed absolutely horrible the night before. But when my 5:30AM alarm goes off the next morning—and coffee with oat milk and a dairy- and gluten-free banana muffin are delivered to my room pre-hike—I feel excited. The hike lasts about an hour and is definitely challenging but doable. (Each day, the hike gets slightly longer.) Post-hike, we all have breakfast, followed by multiple fitness classes before lunch (more delicious farm-to-table goodness) and multiple spa treatments before dinner.
Each following day is a version of the day before, with different hiking paths, meals (set with a new batch of beautiful linens each time), classes and services. I try a variety of classes, including Pilates, Upper Body Blast and yoga, but my favorite is the Hydrorider—basically a spin class in the pool—something I never tried before. On my last night, we have a wine tasting (Cal-a-Vie produces its own wine) and dinner outside the 400-year-old chapel the Havens imported from Dijon, France. It’s the perfect way to end my three-night stay, chatting with my newfound friends over the most delicious, fresh food.
When it comes time to leave, I feel sad to go, but inspired to keep the health journey going once I get home. And I do, waking up the next few weeks at 5:30, hopping on the Peloton or getting in an early hike. The trip was just what I needed to reset. But I’m already dreaming about when I’ll come again. Seven-night European package, $9,950 plus tax per person (includes meals, 16 spa services, unlimited fitness classes with fitness evaluation and a semiprivate Pilates apparatus session and more)
Photography by: Courtesy of Cal-a-Vie Health Spa