L'AUBERGE DE SEDONA -- LUXURY IN ARIZONA'S RED ROCKS COUNTRY
SEDONA, ARIZONA: For L’Auberge de Sedona, a luxury lodge and cottages in Sedona's Red Rocks country, last year's recession couldn’t have come at a more convenient time. Despite the slowdown in tourism, the 25 year-old inn, built on the banks of Oak Creek, pressed ahead with a planned $25 million expansion that might have turned away paying guests.
Instead, L’Auberge hung out the "Vacancy" sign, accepting guests and completing the renovation in stages. Locating guests away from the hammering and sawing, they offered discounted rates until the project ended, in November 2009. For travelers like us (we'd always wanted to stay there) it was an offer we couldn't refuse.
“The cottages look larger, don't they?" asked General Manager Joe Mottershead, as we toured the inn a year later. "But they're not. Instead, we replaced the original front doors with double glass doors overlooking the river." The raised ceiling, he pointed out, also makes the cottages feel larger. And the bonus? An open-air shower at the rear. "You can take a shower under the stars," he said.
If you're a veteran of the America-by-car era, you might remember Auberge’s log-sided cottages. A throwback to the days when western travel meant motels and cabins, they were the luxury version, picturesque hideaways tastefully decorated and private. But by the year 2000, L'Auberge was looking not just dated but faded. Today, the inn's sparkling new look and better use of its considerable creekside acreage should put any complaints to rest.
My favorite improvement is the new ultra-luxe spa, a must for any top-ranked Arizona hotel. Equally important are the new driveway from the street above, 31 brand new cottages, a new events-and-meeting center and a 19-room lodge. From the beginning, owner and French chef Jean Rocchi created a feeling of French country French hospitality, mixing casual charm with fine dining. That winning recipe continues unchanged.
Central Sedona's restaurants and shops are steps away. The tree-shaded site is quiet and secluded, and Oak Creek, clean enough for kids to splash in, gurgles past. The restaurant, overlooking the creek, serves award-winning French and continental cuisine inside or on a creekside patio. Make reservations for busy nights.
The cottages, scattered along the creek and among terraced lawns and gardens, have separate paths, decks and entries. The main lodge and lobby, a clubby room with wood floors, high ceilings and tall rock fireplace, serves as reception area and gathering place, for coplimentary morning coffee and scones, and for a wine and cheese buffer at happy hour.
Luxury amenities include flat-screen LCD TVs, wireless internet access, fireplaces, king beds, armchairs and sofas, recessed lighting, and bedside tables. The mini-frig stores your cold drinks; bathrooms have hairdryers and lotions. The best touch is the front porch furniture, a quiet place to watch the light fade over Oak Creek.
How does the Auberge rate on my "travelometer?" Biggest Surprise: No in-town traffic noise. Most Memorable Moment: Candlelit dinner beside the creek. Best Buy: Free Parking. Primitive pleasure: Dewy cobwebs in the grass. Most Forgettable: Cocktail hour’s amateur singer. Don't Miss: Twilight by the creek.
At 4,500 feet elevation, Sedona in summer is cooler than southern Arizona, and is therefore an attractive getaway from the heat. Room rates are lower in spring and fall; higher during the holidays, January-April, and July-August. Rates run from $300 to $450 per night. Special packages may offer lower rates per night.
Sedona is 30 miles south of Flagstaff, on Highway 89A, and 200 miles north of Phoenix, via I-17, Highway 179 and Highway 89A. Call (928)282-1661.
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(c)The Syndicator Travel. Anne Z. Cooke & Steve Haggerty.