Sanctuary Vacation Rentals Review: Securing a home away from home
By Kathy Chin Leong
Firepit conversation with steaming hot chocolate. Riotous laughter over brunch in the dining room. An Internet karoke contest in the living room. Memories.
At the heart of our recent girlfriend getaway was the artist cottage, Whispering Waves, just the thing we needed when we arranged a weekend in Carmel to flee the daily grind in Silicon Valley. Riding together with my gal pals, this journey was just what the doctor ordered for a fall jaunt before the holidays. If you are like me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are whirlwind events where you really should have some R&R before the onslaught of entertaining.
THEN AND NOW
In my youth, I did not care about my accommodations as long as it was cheap, and I was close to tourist attractions. Put me in a dingy closet for $20 a night, and I was completely happy. Now, older and wiser, I realize that great lodging is just as important as great activities. Sanctuary Vacation Rentals, based in Monterey, targets customers like myself who care about gorgeous interior design, sumptuous bedding, and comfortable bathrooms.
One of the rentals, Whispering Waves, a 1,150-square-foot abode, is nestled in an enclave in Carmel-by-the-Sea. We found it three blocks from the downtown core, less than two hours south of the San Jose.
Going to Carmel is like going to an intimate French village. Everywhere you look there are sloped roofs, flower window boxes, and tiny alleyways leading to charming outdoor restaurants. You are in another world, and you don’t need a passport nor an airplane ticket to fly away.
The cozy Whispering Waves cottage features two bedrooms, two baths, a front patio with firepit, galley kitchen, small living room, and back patio. It was the perfect size for four of us: One gal was in the guest bedroom, myself and second friend bedded down in the master, and our last buddy slept in the living room rollout couch. Yes, it was a bit of a squeeze, but we are good friends, so this updated abode worked out well.
While the company traditionally rents by the month, we were able to get away for the purposes of this article. Rates for this house run $5,342 in November at a low to a high of $7,235 in August. What you can find, however, are last-minute specials on specific homes that will shave prices 10 to 25 percent with a minimum of three nights.
PHILOSOPHY & THE COMPANY
Sanctuary Vacation Rentals is different than its competitors. It is a business started and run by a couple, Annee Martin, an interior designer, and her husband, an architect. The lineup consists of nothing but luxury properties, and to date, it supports a portfolio of nearly 100 homes in the Monterey Peninsula, from studios to estates with over ten acres. Unlike other vacation sites, you can be assured that every property is going to be aesthetically pleasing since Annee has her say in all of it.
Each house features tasteful artwork and matching accessories. Each house is equipped with posh bedding (think layers upon layers of pillows), Old World-themed dishware, modern cookware, and fully-stocked kitchens. Customer service is available so that if you have any concerns, you can call immediately. You won’t be bothering them.
HOW IT WORKS
Sanctuary prepared us well by sending emails before our stay. Two months prior, I received an attachment explaining the expected code of conduct, when to check in, list of area activities, and emergency numbers. The multi-page packet of directions included a form asking where we would be sleeping, etc. so that they could set up the beds properly.
During our weekend, the company texted me to ask if everything was to our satisfaction, not once, but several times. A dozen red and yellow roses and two heart balloons greeted us as we entered the house. Wine, crackers and soft cheese were also waiting along with a welcome note. Those touches make a difference as customers will always remember these kind gestures.
Why book a house? You may find the comfort of a home just more appealing compared to a hotel. Sure, you don’t get a concierge staff, on-site spa, or a restaurant at your disposal, but you gain the privacy and quiet that is priceless. You can cook in whenever you feel like it and save money. You have no strangers wandering around, and you aren’t confined in a single room. A home is a home is a home.
The house with hardwood floors boasted the right European touches and high-end furnishings that made us feel pampered. Oil paintings of flowers and still lifes, a wrought iron chandelier in the dining room, peaked wood beam ceilings, and French doors. And there were accents: the tiled bathroom floors, remote-controlled LED pillar candles, fragrant liquid soaps and shampoos.
Interiors are professionally curated with harmonic colors. Ours featured warm browns, oranges, and yellows. Everything flowed effortlessly. For instance, the designers placed a vase of silk orange poppies on the dining room table in front of the orange daffodil painting hung on the wall. That creative touch was not wasted on us as we noticed right away.
Also appreciated were the practical items that guests would not think of bringing. The utility drawer held extra night lights, flashlights, rubber bands, and wine corkscrews. We found basic tools like screwdrivers. Bathrobes in our armoire and road bikes in the shed were additional pluses.
The many skylights offered much needed illumination and a warm feeling overall as sunlight flooded the interiors come daybreak. We counted two skylights in kitchen, one in dining room, four panels in the bedroom, one in the master. Exterior sensor lights in the evening were a great bonus since we came home after having dinner on the town. For the uninitiated, the neighborhood streets in Carmel do not have streetlamps nor curbs, so you will be poking around in the dark at night if you don’t have a flashlight.
During our stay, we did find some imperfections. The master bedroom had no heating vent, and at night it was quite cold in the bedroom, and there were no extra blankets. When we told the company, the housekeeping staff came up right away to install a portable heater.
When we planned a fire for the firepit that night, we asked for extra blanket throws. That afternoon, we found four brand new blankets in the dining room, in their packaging, ready for us to use. The staff was more than supportive, and we felt cared for during our short sojourn.
I have stayed in four-star hotels where service has been under par. Hotel staff would forget to make that wake-up call, forget my room service order from the night before, or forget to come in to fix the TV when I called.
Here at Whispering Waves, the bathrooms were well equipped with makeup towels, large bath towels, and squeaky clean showers. The water pressure and temperature was excellent. In terms of the sink in the master bathroom, water drained ever so slowly, most likely a challenge with old piping.
Dreamy beds wooed us to sleep. Who would say no to super thick mattresses and thick blankets and crisp, clean linens? In the guest book, the owners stressed that anti-bed bug precautions are always taken, and that the company uses a chemical product to ensure that there are no bed bugs ever. Visitors are also instructed to not put their suitcases on the bed just in case they are carrying any tag-along critters.
We took advantage of features that added to our entertainment needs. The firepit on the front patio was an optimal place to gather after dinner. And since the house was equipped with wi-fi, we reveled in some Internet karaoke. Singing unashamedly with our off-pitch voices truly forced us to let go of any inhibitions. I never knew Elton John songs were so difficult to croon.
The cottage location proved ideal.. About ten minutes walking from town and the ocean, we made sure we reveled indoors as much as outdoors. It was a treat to be close enough to go wine tasting, shopping and picnicking on the white sand beach.
The four of us had not traveled together in more than a decade. Our reunion here was easy. It as if the passage of time had no impact on our relationships at all. Over the dinner table, we laughed and talked and prayed. We reminisced about how we met our husbands, what it was like to be parents, and what it would be like to be in-laws one day. We decided this weekend was a vital touchstone. It was decided our collective friendship was worth investing in, and we must make this an annual affair. I’m so glad it took this special home to make it happen.
Sanctuary Vacation Rentals
888 Munras Ave Suite 100