The Inns at El Rancho Merlita in Tucson are hidden away in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city and, heading up the driveway that wends through the desert and then through the lovely iron gates, the peace and quiet of that very desert envelops you. Pretty soon, you find that the history of this gem of a bed and breakfast location is just as fascinating as the peacefulness.
In the 1950’s when Tucson was a quiet, small town in the middle of the desert, Merle Norman, the cosmetics queen, bought a big tract of land off an old cattle trail. She then commissioned her brother to design a wonderful 1950’s ranch house that would be low and sprawling so it would stay cool in the desert heat and would have brick walls and a red tile roof, huge picture windows displaying the gorgeous views of both the desert and the mountains that surround Tucson. A long verandah would stretch across the front of the house and overlook a huge lawn and a beautiful swimming pool. He designed it exactly like that and that is exactly what you see when you pull in through the ornate, iron gates. For years, Merle Norman enjoyed the estate, entertaining family, friends and many of the employees of the cosmetics empire. In 2004 Diana Kuhel Osborne acquired the property and, keeping the feel and design of the place, transformed it into a Bed and Breakfast location.
There are actually two inns on the property; the Ranch House Inn and the Arroyo House Inn. The Arroyo House Inn is the estate’s original guest house and has four rooms and suites, each with unique decor and luxury accommodations and amenities. All the rooms include luxurious linens, robes & slippers, lovely bath products, wifi and direct access to the outside patios. The Ranch House Inn was Merle Norman’s residence and the integrity of the original design has been carefully maintained.
You will be very happy with either location but we were thrilled to be staying in the Ranch House Inn in the Spanish Colonial room.When we walked into the room, we were very impressed with the gorgeous furnishings, obviously influenced by Spain’s colonial influence on Arizona. The huge bathroom and equally huge tub were wonderful – and there even candles on the tub to light for a full, relaxing experience! After staying in hotels without much room, a large walk-in closet where we could actually place both suitcases open on the floor was a novel experience. There are a variety of lovely rooms in the Ranch House Inn, including the quite fabulous Merle Norman suite.
After we had settled in and been welcomed by Pattie Bell, the friendly innkeeper, we decided to stroll around the house and grounds. When we drove in through onto the expansive property, we had marveled at how lovely the Ranch House Inn was from the front.
We were really surprised to find that the property had a pool as this is kind of unusual for a bed and breakfast, but this was the original pool Merle Norman had built and used for years. It was large, shaded and quite lovely to relax beside. I spent an afternoon out here and enjoyed the quiet.
From the front yard and the pool, we walked around the long, front verandah to the lovely and cool terrace area which was right near our room. I love the sound of a fountain and it was a joy to find one right near our room. The terrace, with its view of the desert landscaped backyard, was furnished with comfortable lounging chairs, where you could relax and eat the freshly baked cookies provided every afternoon.
The back yard of the inn is completely different from the front and has been maintained in a natural desert state. In fact, we were startled to come home one night and find a few javelinas milling around in the yard near our door. They made a frantic break for it before we could snap any pictures.
There is a lovely walking path in the backyard that leads to a building where they have massages and yoga classes and there is also an intriguing labyrinth made of stones.
The inside of the Ranch House Inn is just as lovely as the rest of the property. It truly seems like a home and you are welcome to relax in the comfortable living room, with its Western theme.There is also a study with more very comfortable furniture and a tv, although there are also tv’s in the rooms.
One of the great things about staying at a Bed and Breakfast is the breakfast part and the Inns at El Rancho Merlita were no exception – the breakfasts were wonderful, with different freshly prepared gourmet items. The view from the breakfast table every morning was also a highlight. Every morning, there were colorful butterflies and tiny hummingbirds out there flitting around the beautiful flowers.
The Inns at El Rancho Merlita is the perfect place to relax and unwind, enjoy some lovely food and, when you are completely relaxed and well-fed, it’s also conveniently located to everything you might want to see and do in Tucson.
For more travel information and ideas, visit my blog at http://www.wanderlustwonder.com/!