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The mountains of Sedona
The mountains of Sedona

For over a decade, the second week in December has been my chance to get away using my timeshare. For years, I headed to St. John’s in the Virgin Islands, but this year I switched to a Starwood property in Scottsdale, the Villas at Kierland. Having never been there, it turned out to be a superb selection.

The weather in Phoenix/Scottsdale never hit below 70 degrees during the day.

It was the Caribbean of the west, with majestic palm trees, perfect swimming weather and first-class service and food.

Flying into Phoenix took five hours but when I stepped out of the terminal, the heat warmed my soul as I was driven to the hotel only 20 minutes away. I was in my room in a bathing suit in an hour, with time to hit the concierge desk to see what was happening at the hotel, villas and surrounding area of Scottsdale.

To my delight, I discovered there was a world-class spa on the premises. After a swim, I took the shuttle bus to the hotel property five minutes away from the villas.

Although I had elected to get a relaxation massage titled “Airport Rejuvenation,” I hopped into the hot tub whose jets were a powerful massage by themselves and I just luxuriated in taking in the warm waters.

The Westin Villas at Kierland

The Westin Villas at Kierland

Back in my room, I went through all the brochures I had been given and chose to take the hotel/villa’s shuttle bus to the nearby shopping mall that had an Apple Store.

I had heard that Apple had come out with a watch that was waterproof, perfect for my daily swims back home, and also accessed my iPhone. The store stays open until 9 p.m. unlike the one in my neighborhood that closes at 7. So that was my evening entertainment.

I soon had the watch in my hand with an “adviser” (salesperson) helping me and explaining that for $10 a month I could use the waterproof watch as my cellphone. Dick Tracy, I’ve arrived! I couldn’t resist and bought myself a Hanukkah present.

But buying the watch was only half the visit. I was then directed to the person who was going to show me how to use it. I think I’ll need Apple tutoring again and again. There is so much to know!

My next day was for doing nothing but reading poolside with the service of a waterboy refilling my cup and a waiter asking what I’d like to eat and drink! What a luxury to do nothing!

For the evening I scanned the pages of restaurant choices available in the “outside world” but I chose to stay in the hotel and eat at and enjoy their bar manned by a friendly bartender/waiter.

I passed another relaxing day at the pool until my friend arrived from New York.

We decided to go to a restaurant rated number one by two concierge services. They were right!

The Monarch, a new location opened only a week before, had been across the street from the owners’ cafe. The stunning space is the brainchild of Christian Lewkowicz, whose passion is service, fine food and creating an intimate romantic environment.

His family is involved, and they got it right in their new Spanish-style building. It has a main dining room featuring a candlelit setting with two massive, sparkling crystal chandeliers hanging from the 18-foot ceilings but dimmed to create an intimate setting. There are small private dining rooms adjacent to it and a spacious bar.

The Monarch restaurant's main dining room

The Monarch restaurant’s main dining room

We chose to dine on the outside patio seated facing the warming fireplace, our table surrounded by large candles and candlelit tables beautifully set with crystal and silver.

The prix-fixe menu offered three preliminary courses — a cauliflower-based soup, a salad tossed with vegetables and a light dressing, and then a tantalizing filo dough crepe stuffed with lamb … delicious!

I then chose sea bass from a selection of 10 main courses and my companion had a seafood risotto with crab claws surrounding the multiple fish in the delicate, rich sauce. Fortunately, we were sharing! The sommelier offered multiple wines at a variety of prices to accompany each course.

All in all, it was memorable meal — one of my best ever!

The next day I went to Sedona, the highlight of my week away. I knew I was approaching Sedona after a two-hour drive from Scottsdale when the deep red colors of the rocks began appearing in the mountains. It’s a remarkable sight to see the color spread to every inch of every mountain — we had arrived!

The town of Sedona

The town of Sedona

My stepson Jon Yunis said we must dine at Enchantment Resort’s Che Ah Chi restaurant, and I trust his reviews and recommendations. He was dead on! It was both a unique setting and marvelous meal.

The dining rooms, one formal with linens and the other with a more casual menu, have 20-foot-tall, floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking the spectacular setting.

Yes, the meal was worth getting lost in the mountains, because my old faithful Waze app was out-of-network. We finally found our way to the restaurant after an hour’s search. It was worth the angst and we got there before sunset, allowing me to take in the scene that made me feel the awe of what God created in this piece of the world.

The last evening, we chose a nearby restaurant, Elements, that we were told had the best views of the Phoenix Mountains and they were right. I luxuriated in champagne and foie gras melting in my mouth. The dining room also had floor-to-ceiling glass walls and I made a mental picture of the scene to cherish forever.

The picture-perfect week will be one that I hope to return to.

Try it. You, too, will love the region and its natural beauty — a gift to us all!

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