Blissful destination: I knew I’d stumbled upon a gem of a hidey-hole the day that I checked into the Hermosa Inn (www.hermosainn.com), tucked away in Paradise Valley, Ariz. — a desert oasis surrounded by Camelback Mountain, and bordered by Squaw Peak and wide-open desert. If you, too, have been waiting breathlessly for posh villas that are anchored in seclusion, hold your breath no longer. The charming environs offer the nostalgic elegance that magical movies are made of. In fact, scenes from the blockbuster flick “Waiting to Exhale” were filmed at the boutique-style hotel.
Once the residence and studio of cowboy artist Alonzo “Lon” Megargee, the remote Southwestern hacienda was built in the 1930s. Today, the National Trust Historic property showcases a mere 34 Casita-style adobe dwellings large single rooms (450-square-foot Ranchos); mammoth-sized single rooms (600-square-foot Casitas); one bedroom abodes (650-750-square-foot Deluxe Casitas); and larger one bedroom homes (800-square-foot Grande Casitas). Our luxurious and spacious Grande Casita (there are only four on the property) was a free-standing residence, consisting of a superbly appointed living room, and mega-bedroom and bath suite with antique pedestal tub. French doors led to our private patio, overlooking 6 1/2-acre grounds, dotted with soaring palms, feathery lysiloma trees, thorny cactus, vibrant blooms and a virtual gallery of outdoor sculptures.
Lazing in the lush garden — a visual masterpiece of nature — became my preferred pastime. There’s little reason to wander far from the self-contained paradise, which offers a spa and on-site dining. Championship golfing and other activities are a stone’s throw away in Phoenix/Scottsdale.
Getting Our Grub On: Cozy and rustic, Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn is renowned as one of Arizona’s finest restaurants. Picturesque vistas of Camelback Mountain and the rock formation known as Praying Monk encircle the Four Diamond eatery that’s lauded for “artful comfort” cuisine. The award-winning food is guaranteed to lure you away from the view. Lon’s had me at first bite. A Hermosa Salad chockfull of pecans, apples, strawberries, and local goat cheese was doused with delectable pomegranate vinaigrette. As a three-time patron, I never tire of Roasted Half Jidori Chicken — the most succulent bird I’ve ever tasted. An ample sample of my husband’s Fresh Halibut, swimming in a carrot reduction sauce, was equally satisfying. I made a mental note to order it next time. And, there will be a next time.
Celebrity Haunt: As a quiet refuge for a safeguarded list of celebrities, Hermosa Inn became more than a best kept secret in 1995, after the opening scene in “Waiting to Exhale,” when Whitney Houston’s character, Savannah Jackson, rang in New Year’s Eve in Lon’s dining room. Whitney also lodged at the Hermosa Inn during filming. I fell asleep picturing the legendary actress-songbird lounging in her Grande Casita, and perhaps pajama-partying with cast members Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon. It’s no wonder the hallmark property is the site for everything from girlfriends’ getaways to honeymoons.
A few years back, while waiting to be seated at Lon’s, an unassuming figure swaggered through the heavy Hacienda-style entry doors, past our table. Dressed inconspicuously, he sported faded jeans and a worn polo shirt. It was none other than actor Kevin Costner — who, coincidentally, co-starred with Whitney in “The Body Guard.” Comedian, actor, Steve Martin was a fellow guest at the inn during our most recent stay. You just never know who you might bump into at Hermosa Inn.
Desert Indulgence: Heaven was steps away, along a quaint winding path leading to an authentic adobe hut with a beehive fireplace. As I entered the Inn’s Spa, The Blue Door, the aroma of Hermosa’s signature citrus sage scent spiked the room. I graciously melted into the masseur’s hands for a lengthier than average deep tissue massage. As his expert fingers trickled down the side of my neck, I exhaled a long overdue sigh of release.