Local Destinations Travel & Hotels

Getaways in our Backyard: Malibu and Temecula

Getaways in our Backyard: Malibu and Temecula
David Ferrigno And Lisa France

Ever wondered where those picturesque images of glorious blue skies, majestic mountaintops and colorful hot air balloons drifting through the cumulous clouds were taken? We’ve found at least one of the secret locations: Temecula! Head east on the 91, pick up the 15 south and you’ll be in the midst of one of the best kept secrets in southern California.Stay at the Pechanga Resort Casino and enjoy the spacious rooms, extraordinary service, grand spa services and ridiculously delicious food.

Upon arriving, we were in a slight state of shock to see a Vegas like edifice in the middle of Temecula. Awed by the size, beauty and magnificence of the structure, in addition to the organization of the staff ; it seemed too good to be true. It was exactly what we craved and needed: a bit of tranquility, fine food and entertainment co-mingled with just the right amount of people to keep it energetic!

Saddling up to a blackjack table was the first task at hand. Nothing like a little 21 to work up an appetite! After getting a little ahead at a spunky table, we decided to head to The Great Oak for dinner. Named after the oldest living oak tree in the United States, with a 1,500 year history, our expectations were high. Thankfully they were met!

The ZD Chardonnay was an ideal accompaniment for the sea bass with white truffle risotto. White truffle risotto is officially one of our new favorite foods! By the way, white truffle risotto goes with everything, we’re pretty sure it even can join dessert! There was only one problem with the wine list — it was enormous! Needless to say, The Great Oak was a first class dining experience across the board. We were full but saved a little room for dessert, comedy and then to bed.

Early the next morning a Grape Escape Hot Air Balloon Adventures met us at Wilson Creek Winery promptly at 6AM and we were off. Fair concerns are, “How high are we going to go up?” “Will I get air sickness?” “Do they have insurance?” Well, here’s the good news and the bad news: The good news is that they have insurance, but you still have to sign a waiver saying that if you die, it’s not their fault. Primarily they don’t have dilemmas because they don’t fl y the balloons if the weather is poor. However, upon meeting Rusty and his crew and observing the crew skillfully get the balloon up and soaring, we left all doubt and fear on the ground.

You can’t go through life and miss the opportunity to defy gravity in a hot air balloon. It’s as close to being an eagle gliding across The troposphere, as you’ll ever get, so do it! What a peaceful and gorgeous experience. Trying to describe the sensation leaves us a bit short of words. Spectacular and otherworldly are words that come to mind.

How do you follow up a balloon ride? With a facial and full body massage? Correct! We headed back to the Pechanga Resort & Casino for their full spa treatment. The Hot Stone Couples massage was just what the doctor ordered.
Does a romantically lit room, with a full shower, spa tub, Champagne and strawberries sound good? Add a hot stone massage and you’re in heaven. The newly updated spa at Pechanga was luxurious, romantic and immaculate. No spa robe has ever been softer.

There were a multitude of activities we didn’t have time to enjoy at Pechanga. The new championship golf course was inviting to say the least. Winding back up route 15 toward our home; we were sated. Still floating 3,000 feet above the earth treasuring the view of the ancient Pechanga land. Driving past the mountains we had just drifted past, as birds we had transcended the regular drivel of daily life and were at peace. A bonus revelation: This transformative sojourn was in our own back yard.

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