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The Real Thing

It’s not Rudyard Kipling’s poetic “Mandalay,” but the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort in Oxnard proves a fairytale come true for one local family.

By Rena Dictor LeBlanc

 

wo water sprites splashed in the long, languorously curving pool while waterfalls cascaded over rock formations nearby and seagulls soared overhead. Of course, only I viewed the two creatures in this magical fashion—because they’re my granddaughters. Anyone else who glanced their way merely saw two beaming twin toddlers with curly blond hair paddling on floats while their laughing mom danced them in circles, one on each arm.

We were spending a three-generation weekend at the Embassy Suites Hotel Mandalay Beach Resort right here in Oxnard. It wasn’t the “Mandalay” that enchanted me in the song “On the Road to Mandalay,” with exotic lyrics by Rudyard Kipling: For the temple-bells are callin’, and it’s there that I would be. This was the infinitely more accessible Mandalay—Southern California’s only all-suite beachfront resort.

The property is delightfully situated overlooking Mandalay Beach, and just a short walk to the sand. There are two- and three-room suites, many with ocean or garden views. The resort has an award-winning restaurant, spa and massage services, bicycle and boogie board rentals, and night-lighted tennis courts. Water sports and boat trips to the Channel Islands National Park are available nearby, along with championship golf courses and two harbors. There’s even live entertainment and dancing every weekend in the Cabana Lounge.

The four of us—my daughter Mia, granddaughters Kerry and Skylar, and I—shared a spacious suite, with a king-size bed, two bathrooms, and a living room with a couch that folded out into a bed. The suite also included a couple of must-haves when traveling with children: a refrigerator and a microwave, not to mention a coffee maker—an essential item for the mother of the twin two-year-olds.

From our second floor balcony we enjoyed the panoramic view of the heated aquamarine swimming pool attracting people of all ages. The pool area is center stage in the unique production that is the Mandalay Resort. It is an extravaganza of lounge chairs, thatched umbrellas, luxuriant shade trees, flowers, tropical plants, waterfalls, and palm trees like towering sentries, their fronds swaying in the ocean breeze.

Early in the morning, a lone woman surged through the pool doing laps as people sauntered into the nearby Surf Room for the complimentary buffet breakfast. I ordinarily confine myself to a bowl of oatmeal and coffee, and didn’t quite know where to start, given the abundant array of cooked to order omelets, waffles, pancakes, fresh fruit, cereals, coffee, tea, hot chocolate… Of course I over indulged. The guilt, however, was optional. It’s easy to forget the “real world” when you’re dining outside on the stone terrace, with the refreshing sight and sound of waterfalls pouring over rock formations nearby.

Over its 20 years of operation, guests of the Mandalay have included celebrities and dignitaries, as well as local families, couples, and business travelers. Many families, we discovered, return repeatedly. And there are those that celebrate multi-generational reunions at the resort. One family has been returning for 17 years.

“Oxnard is in the development stages of becoming a true tourism destination,” says Janet Sederquist, the president of the Oxnard Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s a lot of development going on all over the city, creating more dining, shopping, and entertainment opportunities…We have wonderful beaches and a lot of water activities.”

The beach—which is literally the hotel’s backyard—was delightfully uncrowded. We settled near an abandoned fort made of sand and sticks. Gentle waves plunged to shore just a few feet away. I attracted my own favorite beach crowd by throwing breadcrumbs on the sand. An array of birds zeroed in on the sudden banquet as my granddaughters shrieked with delight. I, too, was shrieking with delight—but only inwardly.

Late in the day I enjoyed a more adult pursuit, indulging in “Sex on the Beach.” And I was joined by many other hotel guests. It happened to be the inspired name of one of the cocktails served during the evening reception, which is open to adults and children. (There also are non-alcoholic drinks and free snacks.)

You’re pretty much walking a tightrope when you dare to dine at a fine restaurant with a double dose of two-year-olds. But we were eager to try the Mandalay’s award-winning restaurant, Capistrano’s, with its Spanish-Mediterranean décor and California cuisine. Gourmet Magazine referred to it under the heading “Great Restaurants of Southern California,” and it’s been widely lauded as one of Ventura County’s best.

Still, the last thing I expected in the laid-back, fun-in-the-sun atmosphere of the Mandalay was the serenity of classical music softly playing in the restaurant to enhance our dining experience. Under the thatched roof there were gently turning fans. The view from the window was nature’s bounty of sky, sand, and ocean, with the setting sun a fiery red orb—like a special effect out of a science fiction thriller. We were especially grateful to our genial waitress, Robin, who managed to keep smiling even when the twins grew restless during our meal. While Mia and I sipped our wine, the girls enjoyed Shirley Temples served in plastic cups with lids and straws.

One of my strolls to the beach was unlike any I had encountered before. A Guanamanian wedding was under way on the lush lawn behind the hotel, one of the many nuptials that take place there. The bride and groom recited their vows standing on a bridal carpet strewn with purple orchid petals. The backdrop was a rhapsody of overcast blue sky, palm trees, filmy clouds, ocean waves, and miles of undulating sand. I eavesdropped as the minister intoned, “Wherever they may go, may they always return to one another.”

I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land! On the road to Mandalay…

10-01-07

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