Finding Sanctuary at Camelback

It was still a bit cold and rainy in Phoenix and my cold was lingering, but I was not going to let any of this keep me down. I started the day with a little yoga and some breakfast in the Executive Lounge at the Arizona Biltmore, and lots of positive thoughts.

My friend and fellow travel writer Susan Campbell and I had planned this Arizona getaway to include three hotels. On day three, we left Arizona Biltmore and headed out to the Sanctuary at Camelback.  We made a stop first at the Homewood Phoenix Biltmore. It was a hotel we were going to also stay at, but in the end there weren’t enough nights. We toured there for a bit and found it to be even more comforting than many other Homewood properties I have stayed in.

We arrived at the Sanctuary at Camelback at about 2:30 in the afternoon and were instantly impressed. The main building was very contemporary, with lots of glass and wonderful mountain views. Our Casita also had great views from the balconies, and a cute little kitchen that was supplied with everything we could need.

I decided to head down to the spa to (literally) clear my head. The spa was on the other side of a welcoming pool. I was hoping the temperature would improve for the next day so I could use it. Daphne was one of the attendants there and she went out of her way to be accommodating. She put the eucalyptus in the steam room for me, made sure I had fresh water to drink, and came to check on me to see if there was anything else I needed.

After the spa, I changed quickly for the evening. I met with a friend (also named Susan) for cocktails at the Jade Bar, where the views of the mountains are as spectacular as the drinks. I had a Dragon’s Tonic, an interesting combination of Bombay Sapphire Gin, blueberries, tarragon and tonic water.

Dinner was at El Chorro Lodge with Doug McKenzie of the Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was only about a mile from the hotel and looked like a Mexican villa. We took a tour of the grounds and buildings with one of the owners, Christine Moore. The property used to have rooms and cottages to rent. Many famous people came through here, in fact, Clark Gable was a frequent visitor to one of the bungalows. There were mountain views from all angles which looked especially beautiful during sunset.

The restaurant was rather large and had both indoor and outdoor seating.  We sat inside and started with some of their specialty cocktails. The Orchard drinks sounded great, but had a bit too much citrus for me. Susan enjoyed it. I had a tasty Bachelor in Paradise, with Maker’s Mark, Amaretto and cranberry juice.

While there was no doubt that the décor and property looked Mexican, the food was an international blend that started with the most amazing sticky buns instead of bread (the remaining would end up returning with us for breakfast).

For an appetizer, we shared some of the Pom Frites (little fried potato balls) and Grilled Cheese Bites, which came with three distinctly different types of mini sandwiches. They were all good, but the cheddar on cranberry bread was my favorite.

I ate a fabulous Polenta Napoleon for dinner that had some quinoa in one of the layers. It also came with a Carrot Pasta that had a bit of brown sugar and was a nice treat. Susan and I also split a twice-baked potato which was full of cheese and bacon. She really enjoyed her pork tenderloin.

The desserts arrived and I went for the Sweetheart Cake. It was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, with lots of chocolate and a delicious cream that wasn’t too rich or sweet. It actually reminded me of a ring ding, but it was clear this didn’t come from a package.

We were back at the room early enough for a good night’s sleep and dreams about the positive weather forecast to come for our full day at the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain.


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