Otherworldly, Les Mars

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By M. L. Hilton

(HEALDSBURG, CA) -- An evening stroll in a beautiful little Northern California town found me looking upward into the darkening sky. I could count no less than four contrails streaking southward and I wondered if Healdsburg is on the interstellar highway to destinations more metropolitan.

You wouldn’t lack for urban comforts, however, in this wine country hamlet. Besides world-class restaurants, right off the main street is Les Mars Hotel, a new boutique hotel developed in the tradition of old world finery. It is sumptuously appointed and has many features for the sophisticated traveler. Beautiful beds, the softest linens, a well-balanced and tasteful décor, the rooms breathe ease, quiet, and culture.

The bath alone was lavish. Roomy without being too big, it had a clear glass enclosed shower with high overhead faucet that let the water rain down upon you. The tub itself was a work of wonder. Laminated instructions were tucked tastefully in to a drawer of the beautifully sculptured vanity. You needed them to operate the bath. It could wave, it could pulse, it could heat, it could even dry itself when you were finished. I briefly considered attempting to have it blow dry me after the bath – but the thick towels were too tempting to pass up.

Can I admit this? Beside the bath, there was a pictorial guide to the three remotes that controlled the tv, stereo, and other electronic accoutrement. But, there was no operating instruction for the bidet. Somehow, I don’t think that is a question for the concierge. I suppose it is somewhat self explanatory but until I have that one-on-one with a European woman, I am always going to wonder what the exact steps actually are.

Besides creating a fabulous environment for sleeping (and bathing), Les Mars offers a delicious three course breakfast that is not to be missed and for the fall, an evening fromage tasting in the library.

The cheeses that were served the night I attended were beyond delicious. But almost more fun was Les Mars “Maitre Fromager” Joseph Bain. Bain’s international and courtly manner charms the patron as much as the cheese does. Not only is he incredibly knowledgeable about fromage, but his poetic manner of speaking brings to light the nuances of the flavors, textures, and artisan cheese-makers.

While he was speaking about the cheese and wine selection, Monsieur Bain could have been describing the entire evening when he said that the commonality of the experience is the finesse.

Les Mars Hotel, 27 North Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448. 707.433.4211. (www.lesmarshotel.com)

Restaurant on site: Cyrus. Read about it in this winecountry article.

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