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Keys to Contentment

Most of us take vacations for the express purpose of getting away from it all. The desks piled high with paperwork, unmanageable schedules, unbearable bosses, traffic gridlocks and all things necessary but at times unwanted. Cabo San Lucas is the ultimate great escape but it isn't all that easy to find peace and quiet in a town known for it's party atmosphere and large, impersonal hotels and resorts. Or is it?

The good news is that a trip to the end of the world's longest peninsula offers the life-weary a charming oasis of tranquility just a few minutes away from the action and excitement that is Cabo. Find your way down the transpenninsular highway south towards Land's End, look for the new CostCo and just a short distance past, turn right and head for the hills. At the top of a well-maintained dirt road you'll come to discover what we've decided is one of the best little known secrets in Los Cabos... the Casa Contenta Bed & Breakfast Inn.

Casa Contenta is a fine example of just what can be accomplished once you've found what it is you love to do. The owners, Craig and Lori Harrison, are natural-born hosts whose charm and warmth make guests like us feel most welcome. From the moment you enter the gated compound with it's myriad gardens awash in color from countless flowers and cacti, you start to feel the weight of the world slide off your shoulders. Unlike arriving at a large hotel or resort, this feels like coming home. Venture forth to the front door and chances are that you'll find it unlocked and for some unknown reason, you feel perfectly comfortable walking right in.

Once inside you're greeted by unending curves and levels, eye-grabbing artwork from Mexico and around the world and by members of the staff that don't walk upright. Enter Solo and Luna, 2 of the original "family" members who, save for the fur and paws, think they are human, albeit canine versions. Solo and Luna are the protectors of the casa who love guests but dislike ATV's, loud automobiles, birds that try to take the airspace above the terrace and not being taken along on walks in the hills above. Recently, a new addition to the family has entered the picture. Oso (Spanish for bear) is his name and he owes his life to Lori who saved him from certain death. Lori found Oso very ill and malnourished hiding beneath a car in an area of Colonias, small houses built for the lower income families of Cabo. Since his discovery by Lori, Oso has been given a new lease on life, medical attention, and the love it takes to stage a major comeback. Such is the nature of our hosts.

Craig and Lori Harrison know what travelers want and need, in fact, that knowledge comes from being avid travelers who have ventured around the world to such destinations as Bali and Morocco. The two met while on vacation at a Bed & Breakfast in Maui and then parted ways as friends only to meet again four years later at a meeting arranged by a business associate and friend of Lori's in Toronto, Canada. Call it Kismet, call it fate, it would be unfair and completely unromantic to call it coincidence that Lori's friend was also Craig's friend. The chance re-meeting led to a wedding.

Craig had already discovered Los Cabos and was and still is active in the sale of property at some of the most exclusive residential developments in the area including Montecristo, a decidedly upscale fractional ownership development headed by Ernesto Coppell of the Pueblo Bonito Group. Craig's extensive knowledge of real estate in Cabo gave the couple an edge in finding the right property for their B & B project. Originally a single family home, Casa Contenta is still just that, a home. Guests here enjoy all of the comforts of a large, spacious and architecturally stylish home with the benefit of having a full-time staff and hosts on-site. Privacy is not an issue regardless of which of the four guest bedrooms you choose for your stay. Lori even devises little ways of letting them know if you'd like early morning coffee delivered to your room or if you'd prefer to sleep in.

While a comfortable and roomy bedroom and a daily breakfast are part of the package, calling this place a B & B just doesn't do it justice. This is B & B2! While staying at the casa, we were often surprised with little treats like sweet iced tea while lounging by the pool and larger surprises like steamed shrimp with drawn butter and cocktail sauce to accompany a few glasses of wine on the terrace at sunset. Craig spent a great deal of his earlier life in the wine business and wine is still one of his passions. Being treated so well was all the inspiration we needed to venture into town and pick up a few bottles of wine and some treats to share with our hosts and fellow guests. There are few things more enjoyable than good food, good wine and good conversation with what was soon becoming good friends. If there is anything that adds to that mix, it has to be the view from the terrace at Casa Contenta. Land's End seems close enough to touch, dawn brings the sounds of Baja awakening and the sunsets cast a colorful orange and red glow upon everything in view. The terrace captures the cooling breeze borne off the Pacific coast of the cape and even though we're in the desert, it's cool and comfortable under the shaded palapa.

If, as they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then it should also be the best, right? Well thanks to Dora, Casa Contenta's senior employee, it is. The fare here is mostly light featuring fresh fruits, tasty smoothies and a variety of egg dishes all served up with a smile by Dora. Choose to dine outside on the second level on a shaded patio covered with lush green growth, or inside at a large stone table fit for a king. Whichever you choose, the meal provides you with the fuel to power a day of sightseeing, golfing, water sports or other activities readily found in Cabo. For those more inclined to spend a lazy day relaxing, you're just a few steps away from a nap in a hammock, a comfortable padded chaise lounge, or a float in the pool. If a good book is what your after, the casa has a wide selection just waiting for a reader.

Wander through the casa and you'll be treated to a wide variety of art, some from Mexico, many from all around the globe. Interested in learning a little about where the art came from or what it signifies? Lori is ready to tell you a tale. For instance, a wooden sculpture that rests on the dining table on the second level depicts a Balinese Yogi kneeling in the fetal position with his head held low in his hands completely hiding his face. This melancholy figure is said to absorb the troubles that can plague us all thereby allowing us to find peace and tranquility. We're not sure if the Yogi had anything to do with our state of mind, but both of us seemed unburdened while we tooled about the casa marveling at pieces small and large, each with it's own unique personality and significance.

Visit the gardens where you'll find a wide variety of cacti, vines, flowering shrubs and trees. The curved surfaces of the casa and the paths around it blend into the surrounding environment beautifully inviting you to walk the property where one will find even more sculptures ranging from children cast in bronze to ducks carved from the root end of palm trees. Breath in the fragrance of myriad flowers, listen for the sounds of the local birds from Red Cardinals to Hummingbirds to Turkey Vultures... in short, just take the time to enjoy where you are.

Craig and Lori also arrange activities at the casa. From parties atop the terrace complete with catering and live music to yoga, golf and horseback riding and more. Lori enjoys riding her horse, Hurricane, along the beach and in the dunes just a short drive away from the casa and is always eager to take guests on an informal guided trip aboard gentle, rider-friendly horses located at the same stable where Hurricane resides. Craig is a self-proclaimed golf nut and can arrange tee times at many of the world-class golf clubs that line the coast of Los Cabos. Not only can he arrange the tee time, he can also save you on the normal rates at some of those courses. If your looking for some of the best dining that Cabo has to offer, they'll make recommendations from inexpensive local fare to gourmet international cuisine. Menus and maps to many of their favorite eateries are available in a book put together by Craig. Whatever your desire, just ask and they will most likely have tips and recommendations to fulfill your needs.

In closing, Casa Contenta Bed & Breakfast was a true pleasure, a delight for all the senses and a bargain to boot. The hosts truly enjoy what they do and plans are for an expansion of the property on two adjacent lots owned by the Harrison's. If all goes as planned, there will soon be two private, fully contained casitas separated by another pool, a large palapa with a bar, grill and seating areas. All we can say is the more of this wonderful oasis, the better! Rates are remarkably low and we think that they can't possibly remain at their current level so book now. We so enjoyed our stay that we left the casa without returning our keys! Keys that brought us a sense of contentment that stayed with us long after our departure.

For more information about Casa Contenta - please visit http://www.casacontenta.com

For more information about Los Cabos, please visit http://www.cabosbest.com

Copyright 2005, CabosBest.com

Richard Chudy and Dolores Peralta are the authors of this article and owners of CabosBest.com, a travel Web site dedicated to Cabo San Lucas. To learn more, visit them online at http://www.CabosBest.com

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