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Mind, Body, Spirit at Rancho La Puerta

 

When nature meets art...

When you think of Rancho La Puerta think big. Very big! Imagine a private property that spans 3,000 acres of gardens, organic farmlands and a newly constructed cooking school. Add to that mountains, hiking paths, and meadows. With so much space the clusters of buildings have been deliberately set very far apart. That means quiet interiors and long contemplative walks when you leave your villa and head down to the dining room or any one of your daily activities. Imagine the exercise you get on a long meander that is never boring. There are fields of daisies, rosemary, sage and lavender, groves of oak trees, gorgeous majestic cactus and formal flower beds. Where one ends, the other begins. In the very early morning with the crickets singing; you'll catch glimpses of rabbits or a young red fox as they negotiate their way across an open field. This is artistic landscaping at its very best!

Into all this natural beauty comes the creative work of many artists commissioned by the spa owners for your enjoyment. When you least expect it you might find a sculpture of two graceful women standing amidst a field of wild flowers, vibrant stained glass doors leading to a building, an old, sun bleached wagon strategically placed amongst the cacti or a meditative statue that sits in front of one of the studios. No matter how many times you walk the same route, you're bound to find a new plant here or a perfect piece of artwork there. Claire and I delighted in getting lost, which we did often because that's when we seemed to be rewarded with the most beautiful sights and scents. Just being in this soothing natural environment is certain to bring one's stress level down, down, down.

 

Your time is your own...

From pilates workshops and nutrition lectures to African dance, craft classes, bird watching and early morning hikes there are at least fifty activities to choose from each and every day. From reading in the lounge to sitting by the pool or going on an art walk and enjoying spa treatments there are also countless ways to relax. It's up to you to mix and match how you'd like to spend your day. Besides making you aware of 'what's on offer' there is absolutely no hype about getting you to join any class. Your time is your own to use as you wish. Some guests make this a week simply to reflect, recharge, and rest. The Ranch obliges by placing chairs, lounges and hammocks here, there, and everywhere. Others choose to refine their meditation and yoga practice or to practice tennis or join a particular Tai Chi workshop. The choices are endless and the caliber of teachers, excellent. If you're a novice and need to learn the fundamentals there are beginners classes and endless opportunities. Are you at the top of your game and want to be even better? You've come to the right place. Some visitors choose an 'early to bed early to rise' philosophy while others enjoy the evening programs that ranged from lectures and musical entertainment to hilarious bingo nights. For upcoming workshops click here. You'll be most impressed.

 

There's always time to shop...

Should you feel the need to do some browsing or shopping El Mercado gift shop is conveniently located across from the Main Lounge. Claire and I stopped in often to look at their high quality collection of Mexican arts and crafts. I was completely taken with the work of Emilia Castillo one of the country's premier silvermiths who combines silver with alabaster and onyx in her striking tableware. Claire found two books from the shop's extensive Mexican selection. 'Mexicolor: The Spirit of Mexican Design' and 'Oaxacan Ceramics: Traditional Folk Art by Oaxacan Women ' which she bought after learning about Rancho la Puerta’s magnificent collection of folk art. I discovered a perfect pair of silver earrings but they were gone when I went back a second time to buy them. Someone else had noticed them, too. I wish I had made my mind up the first time I saw them.

 

Walk, walk, walk...

The Ranch runs an excellent walking and trekking program (40 miles of trails) suitable for all ages and all stages of fitness. Perhaps because of the pedometer each guest receives when they arrive, Claire and I decided to make this walking program our major activity. Each day, we got up before sunrise and made our way down to the lounge to meet the other early morning risers. Initially we were a tad concerned about the difficulty of the hikes but we needn't have been. Participants were assigned appropriate groups and each group was led by experienced hiking staff. The sun came up at we walked through the oak grove, across the meadow and then gradually began our ascent. Sometimes the path demanded that we walk single file, other times the walkway was large enough for a partner and interesting conversation. We tried the gentle two-mile rolling hills hike and the moderate Meditation Mountain Hike, a slow, silent two and a half mile trek designed for contemplation. No two hikes were alike but the sunlight playing on the peak of sacred Mount Kuchumaa was always there to provide inspiration and visual pleasure.

The highlight of our trekking program was the five mile hike to tour the organic garden, Rancho Tres Estrellas which is cared for by 23 local gardeners. Even the olive oil served in the dining room is pressed from the harvest of the Ranch's olive grove. It impressed us to learn that at summer's peak the Ranch's gardens and their fruit orchards supply almost 90% of the kitchen's produce. The growing area is huge (six acres), and the variety of vegetables and herbs cultivated is mind boggling. For example, the Ranch produces 24 different types of tomatoes, six different kinds of basil while approximately 10,000 bok choy seedlings along with 50,000 onions are planted every spring. Now that's a lot of veggies!

Before trekking back to the main campus we were served a gorgeous buffet breakfast which we ate close to the gardens in the country fresh air. My pal and I still talk about the hibiscus juice, frittata with sliced potatoes, thick oatmeal cereal and mouthwatering chocolate carrot bread we were served that morning. What an absolute, unforgettable treat.

P.S. Want to work in the garden? Any guest who would like to assist in the planting and harvesting is invited to join the crew on Wednesdays. Salvadore is the main man in charge and it's evident how much this man loves the land and what it is capable of producing. His eyes sparkle as he walks you through his crop; in this row he pulls up some swiss chard for you to taste, in that row he halves a red pepper for you to sample. Delicious!

 

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