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Hotel Adler Thermae Part 2: A Home Base in Tuscany

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Hotel Adler Thermae makes a great base for exploring Tuscany. Photo credit: Hotel Adler Thermae.

Hotel Adler Thermae makes a great base for exploring Tuscany. Photo credit: Hotel Adler Thermae.

 

by Geri Bain

Nestled into the Tuscan hills, just a 40 minute drive from Siena and within walking and biking distance of many historic and picturesque towns, Hotel Adler Thermae Spa and Relax Resort, covered in a recent article  makes a wonderful home base for enjoying Tuscany.  The resort offers complimentary and nominally-priced daily guided excursions on foot, by bike and by van as well as suggested itineraries, hiking and biking apps and free use of bicycles and e-bikes. This made it easy for my husband, 21-year-old daughter and me to follow our own interests—both together and apart. After going off in different directions, we’d always meet up in the late afternoon to unwind in the warm thermal mineral waters of the hotel’s lagoon-like pool before dinner.

photo 2 sign post

Hikers can follow the Via Francigena, or pilgrimage trail, to towns and wineries. Photo credit: Keroack Photography

 

Hotel Adler Thermae is in the Val d’Orcia, a pastoral region whose ancient fortified towns, vineyards and farms have earned it a recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Hiking trails await just outside the hotel entrance, including the Via Francigena, or pilgrimage trail, created in the Middle Ages for pilgrims heading from Canterbury to Rome. The routes are lovely, climbing to fortified hilltop towns and passing along olive tree groves, vineyards and fields of sunflowers. Several wineries and farms along the way offer tastings and meals, and Tanja, based in the recreation center, was a wealth of information.  A network of unpaved “white roads” also criss-cross the region, but the dust kicked up by the occasional passing car led us to stick to the hiking trails.

Bagno Vignoni’s waters have drawn visitors for thousands of years.

Bagno Vignoni’s waters have drawn visitors for thousands of years.

 

Just a ten minute walk from the Hotel Adler Thermae, the tiny village of Bagno Vignoni offers a handful of restaurants and shops. The “town square” (no longer for bathers) is filled with the volcanic mineral waters that have drawn people here since Roman times and that feed the Adler Thermae’s pool. Famous visitors included Lorenzo the Magnificent and Pope Pius II, and there’s a small chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine of Siena. The thermal springs, whose alkaline water is rich in sulphur, bicarbonate and ferrous compounds, are said to have healing properties, especially for the skin, bones and respiratory systems. From here, it is about a 30 minute hike to a tiny 11th century fortified castle town, Vignoni Alto. We were glad we’d brought water; the town offers great views and a small church, but no shops or services.

Hiking trails lead past vineyards, olive groves and stands of cypress trees. Photo credit: Keroack Photography

Hiking trails lead past vineyards, olive groves and stands of cypress trees. Photo credit: Keroack Photography

The Via Francigena leads to the small walled town of San Quirico d’Orcia, an important rest stop for medieval pilgrims and about a two hour hilly hike from the hotel. We loved the sculpted creatures guarding the Collegiate Church of San Quirico, built on the site of an 8th century church and enlarged in the 13th century to welcome passing pilgrims. Nearby is Horti Leonini, a geometrically-pleasing Renaissance Italian garden, and the Birrificio (Brewery) San Quirico, a small, friendly brewery which uses only natural local ingredients. While my daughter and I hiked there, my husband took a guided van tour that also visited the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore and his description of listening Gregorian chants amid the medieval frescoes sounded magical.

Pienza celebrates its great cheeses with a September festival. Photo credit: Keroack Photography

Pienza celebrates its great cheeses with a September festival.
Photo credit: Keroack Photography

 

The Hotel Adler Thermae’s guided tour to Pienza turned out to be one of our favorite shared experiences. Standing in the large town square, Tanja, our guide, pointed out the classical arches, columns and symmetry of the architecture. The town’s unified Renaissance beauty was no accident, she explained. In the 15th century, Pope Pius II commissioned architect Bernardo Rossellino to transform the town into an “ideal” Renaissance city to serve as his summer retreat—an early example of urban planning!  We were lucky to visit in early September during the Fiera del Cacio, a festival devoted to local pecorino cheese that includes a cheese-rolling competition in Pienza’s main square and street vendors offering samples. We also visited the tiny fortified medieval hamlet of Monticchiello, now best known for its views and restaurants, and a nearby open-air art museum.

The hotel also offers guided tours to two other nearby mountain-capping medieval walled towns, Montalcino and Montepulciano. Montalcino, the smaller of the two towns, has a small but interesting art and history museum and great views from the castle battlements and the visit was capped off with a barbecue and tasting of the renowned dark red Brunello di Montalcino wines at a countryside vineyard. Montepulciano, one of the larger of the Tuscan hill towns, has a lower and upper town and is known for its Etruscan and Roman remains, Medieval and Renaissance architecture, and most importantly, its red Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Sadly, we didn’t make it there or to Siena, which is less than 45 minutes away, on this trip. But this was our second visit, and we’ll go back, for sure.

For more information, click here or visit www.adler-thermae.com

 

Geri Bain, a widely published travel writer and editor, has written about more than 60 countries and contributed to publications including inc.com, N.Y. Daily News and Robb Report. While travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, she wrote an acclaimed guide to Honeymoons and Weddings Away. She is a past president of the New York Travel Writers Association and former editorial director of Endless Vacation magazine.

Geri Bain, a widely published travel writer and editor, has written about more than 60 countries and contributed to publications including inc.com, N.Y. Daily News and Robb Report. While travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, she wrote an acclaimed guide to Honeymoons and Weddings Away. She is a past president of the New York Travel Writers Association and former editorial director of Endless Vacation magazine.

Hotel Adler Thermae

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Hotel Adler Thermae: A Tuscan Spa Resort

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A lagoon-sized thermal pool beckons.

A lagoon-sized thermal pool beckons. (Photo Credit) Hotel Adler Thermae

 

By Geri Bain

Relaxing in the naturally-heated thermal lagoon-like pool at the Hotel Adler Thermae Spa & Relax Resort, I met couples and families from Italy, Germany, England and Switzerland as well as a handful of Americans. Many described the resort as their vacation home; a place they return to once or more during the year when they want to unwind. For my husband, 21-year-old daughter and me, our five-night stay was an idyllic immersion into the sights, flavors and delights of Tuscany.

 The hotel is located in Tuscany’s Val D’Orcia region, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo Credit: Hotel Adler Thermae

The hotel is located in Tuscany’s Val D’Orcia region, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Photo Credit: Hotel Adler Thermae

Located about 1½ hours from Florence by car (about 2¼ from Rome), the Adler Thermae overlooks a rolling region of ancient mountaintop castles, monasteries, farmlands and vineyards. The hotel centers on a lovely Tuscan villa and a huge indoor-outdoor pool, filled with the mineral-rich waters that have drawn health- and relaxation seekers to the region since the days of the ancient Etruscans and Romans. Around the pool are alcoves with indulgent massaging jets and a waterfall that gently pummels your back and neck. Most guests walk to the pool and spa in the hotel’s fluffy white bathrobes, creating the air of a private estate.

 

An outdoor workout space complements the hotel’s large indoor gym. Photo credit:  Keroack Photography

An outdoor workout space complements the hotel’s large indoor gym. Photo credit:  Keroack Photography

The resort’s name aptly describes its allure: a spa featuring the region’s mineral-rich waters and a relaxing ambience that belies its buzz-worthy array of spa, recreational and kid’s programs. For adults, there are classes in TRX suspension training, nordic walking, aquasize, hydrobiking, yoga and pilates as well as indoor and outdoor gyms with treadmills, stairmasters and weights as well as guided excursions—most included in our daily rate. For us, the resort’s varied activities was ideal, allowing us to follow our interests and whimsy, together and apart, without any logistical hassles.

Our spacious room had a private patio. Photo credit:  Hotel Adler Thermae

Our spacious room had a private patio. Photo credit:  Hotel Adler Thermae

The first thing we noticed about our room was the sunlight flooding in through a wall of sliding glass doors opening onto a garden patio. Inside, we happily noted that our family suite included a comfy sitting area and a separate bedroom, not just a pullout couch. And my daughter appreciated the fast (free) WiFi.  With three of us, it also helped that our spacious bathroom had a deep soaking tub and a shower. In fact, all rooms have the same spacious bathroom and either a patio or balcony—the essential difference between family suites and regular rooms is the separate bedroom.

An extensive breakfast spread kicks off each day. Photo Credit: Keroack Photography

An extensive breakfast spread kicks off each day. Photo Credit: Keroack Photography

As expected in Tuscany, meals were a highlight. The resort has its own herb garden, and most ingredients come from the region. A sumptuous buffet breakfast, served until 11 a.m., featured made-to-order items such as omelets and extensive spreads of fresh local jams, cheeses, fruits, meats, fish, fresh-baked breads and, my favorite, a make-your-own breakfast smoothie station.  Lunch was available, but we usually didn’t regroup until afternoon tea—a complimentary spread of cakes and fresh fruit served at 4 p.m. daily.

 

The restaurant opens to sweeping views of the Tuscan hills. Photo credit: Hotel Adler Thermae

The restaurant opens to sweeping views of the Tuscan hills. Photo credit: Hotel Adler Thermae

Breakfasts and dinners are served in the villa’s atrium restaurant, which features a retractable sunroof. Dinner, a true event, can be topped off with a nightcap in the piano bar or game room. There is no required attire, but most guests dress up a bit, heightening the elegance of the setting and service. Our favorite dishes were Tuscan specialties such as lasagna made with lean, local Chianina beef, and Scottiglia, a hearty Tuscan stew made with rabbit and deer.

The salt grotto and exotic saunas complement the spa’s diverse treatments. Photo credit: Hotel Adler Thermae

The salt grotto and exotic saunas complement the spa’s diverse treatments.
Photo credit: Hotel Adler Thermae

The wine and herbs of the region also turn up in many of the resort’s spa treatments, most notably their signature Brunello Ritual for couples, which includes a wine-enriched bath in side-by-side tubs, and my daughter’s favorites, vinotherapy facials and scrubs. While the towel-only sauna attire took getting used to, we also loved the distinctive sauna and steam rooms, which we usually had to ourselves. The Philosopher’s Cave, with stalactites and stalagmites, was the most visually interesting; Artemisia has steam infused with herbs, Salino’s salty steam spews amid Etruscan jugs and murals, and Olivae is an olive-wood Finnish sauna.

We could happily have spent a week unwinding at the resort, but Tuscany was at our doorstep and the Adler Thermae made it easy to explore the region with guided outings by foot, van and bike.

Read more in Part 2

For more information, visit www.adler-thermae.com

Geri Bain, a widely published travel writer and editor, has written about more than 60 countries and contributed to publications including inc.com, N.Y. Daily News and Robb Report. While travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, she wrote an acclaimed guide to Honeymoons and Weddings Away. She is a past president of the New York Travel Writers Association and former editorial director of Endless Vacation magazine.

Geri Bain, a widely published travel writer and editor, has written about more than 60 countries and contributed to publications including inc.com, N.Y. Daily News and Robb Report. While travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, she wrote an acclaimed guide to Honeymoons and Weddings Away. She is a past president of the New York Travel Writers Association and former editorial director of Endless Vacation magazine.

Snow Flurries: Ski Resort Spas Melt Away Stress: Part II

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Viceroy Spa, Snowmass

Viceroy Spa, Snowmass

by Kim McHugh

As reported in an earlier post, skiers and snowboarders aren’t content any longer to just cruise down the trails on their mountain vacations. Indeed, many resort visitors find relaxing in a quiet room, getting a massage, enjoying a facial or experiencing a host of body therapies (think seaweed wraps, salt baths, oxygen infusions) are great add-ons to their trip. Here is a continuation of spa choices in snow country.

Amangani, Jackson Hole

Amangani, Jackson Hole

AMANGANI SPA, Jackson Hole, Wyoming—Four treatment rooms, two exercise studios, and separate men’s and women’s steam rooms make a visit here rewarding. Amangani, voted the #1 Ski Hotel in North America by Condé Nast Traveler readers, is a resort whose setting on the edge of East Gros Ventre Butte provides panoramic views of the peaks around Grand Teton National Park.
Guests benefit from a spa menu that not only includes a range of massages, facials and healing therapies, but also mud, salt and seaweed body treatments in the wet room. Yoga, Body Shaping, FitBall training, Active Isolated Stretching and personal training are in the Wellness Studio. Outfitted with two ellipticals, one recumbent bike and two treadmills the Fitness Centre invites guests to boost their cardio. 307-734-7333; www.amanresorts.com.
 
AVELLO SPA & HEALTH CLUB, Whistler, BC—Named by SKI Magazine’s 27th annual Reader’s Poll as the number one resort in North America, Whistler/Blackcomb is unquestionably popular. A favorite place for visitors to convene is the Avello Spa & Health Club at Westin Resort & Spa. Offering 75+ treatments, from facials and body wraps to hot rock massages, it is a great spot for re-booting the body and mind. Twenty four treatment areas, eucalyptus steam rooms, a guest lounge featuring a river rock fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows revealing mountain views make the spa and health club, which occupies two levels, one of the most dramatic in snow country. The health club has free weights, an indoor/outdoor pool, two hot tubs and gear designed for cardio and resistance training. In-room spa treatments are also available in hotel guest’s rooms. 604-935-3444, www.whistlerspa.com .
 
BACHELOR GULCH SPA AT THE RITZ-CARLTON, Bachelor Gulch, Colorado—A Forbes Four Star-rated resort and spa, the 21,000-square-foot retreat features 19 treatment rooms, a manicure/pedicure salon, and a curated spa menu that includes rejuvenating treatments for couples, expectant mothers, and bride and groom. In 2013 the resort topped Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2013 World’s Best Awards list of Top Hotel Spas in the Continental U.S. and its spa wows guests with men’s and women’s rock-lined grottos featuring steam, sauna, hot and cold plunge area and a co-ed rock-lined grotto with waterfall. Treatments like Roaring Rapids, a hydrotherapy massage experience, and Hot Toddy for the Body, a luxurious scrub containing sweet almond oil, jojoba beads and shea butter with the aromatic spices of cinnamon and nutmeg that is massaged into the skin keeps guests coming back. 970-478-6200, www.ritzcarlton.com .

Bishop's Lodge Spa, Santa Fe

Bishop’s Lodge Spa, Santa Fe

BISHOP’S LODGE, Santa Fe, New Mexico—Meaning “vitality and energy” in Navajo, SháNah is how guests feel after visiting the SháNah Spa & Wellness Center near the Ski Santa Fe resort. Six indoor treatment rooms, two outdoor private massage gardens, an outdoor Watsu pool, fitness center and an authentic Native American Teepee for massage and private reflection give guests a portal towards discovering rich Native American customs woven into exhilarating rituals for body and mind. Treatments like the Purification Polish, a body scrub using a blend of blue corn with mineral salts and Aloe Vera gel, the Tesuque Clay Wrap, where a mineral rich clay masque is applied to the body to nourish and detoxify the skin or Desert Fusion, where a custom blend of essential oils is rubbed on your body to leave you felling wholly energized. 505-983-6377, www.bishopslodge.com.
 
FOUR SEASONS SPA/JACKSON HOLE, Jackson Hole, Wyoming—Recognized among the Top 100 Spa Resorts in the U.S. in a Condé Nast 2012 readers’ poll, this spa invites guests to enjoy a range of massages and treatments to promote relaxation, invigoration and renewal. Of 16 treatment rooms in this luxurious 11,685-square-foot escape, two private suites each have a Swiss shower, fireplace and deep soaking tub. Men’s and women’s tranquility lounges with fireplaces also occupy the space. Guests choose from treatments like Native Stone, where warm stones are used in combination with organic oils to bring instant relief to tense muscles and sore joints, Awaken, a full-body brushing followed by a coffee, cinnamon and clay wrap to remove dead skin cells and promote detoxification, and Alpine Berry, where crushed hawthorn berries mixed with strawberry seeds, wild honey and peppermint to bring a skin-smoothing experience. 307-732-5175, www.fourseasons.com/jacksonhole .

Sebastian Spa, Vail

Sebastian Spa, Vail

THE BLOOM SPA, Vail, Colorado—Located at The Sebastian, voted #1 Best Hotel in the West in 2014 in the Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards, the Bloom Spa leaves guests feeling peaceful and rejuvenated. Bloom’s six treatment rooms include four for massages, a couple’s room, and one for facials. Separate men and women’s areas have steam rooms and saunas, and in-suite services are available for hotel guests. Focused on six core areas—Thrive, Nourish, Flourish, Luxuriate, Glow and Refresh—treatments include the “8150 Elevation Attunement,” which includes oxygen inhalation, a high altitude massage and an oxygenating elixir to promote adaptation to the higher altitude of the Rockies. Cardio and strength training equipment by Technogym® also keeps guests fit and trim. A Ski Free/Spa Free Package starts at $288 per person, per night. 970-477-8000, www.thesebastianvail.com/bloom-spa.
 
SPA ANJALI, Beaver Creek, Colorado—Centered on three healing mountain regions—the Alps, Rocky Mountains and Himalayas—Spa Anjali at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa offers guests a full menu of relaxing spa treatments. Ranked #8 in 2013 on the “Top 100 U.S. Resort Spas” list by Condé Nast Traveler, the 27,000 square-foot spa recently underwent a major renovation.
Guests benefit from a new trio of rejuvenating Chakra Blessing treatments, a unique collection of ancient rituals designed to help to balance energy, clear negativity and create an optimal state of well being. Easy access to the resort’s saline-based outdoor pool and three riverside hot tubs give guests additional ways to unwind and feel refreshed. A state-of-the-art Athletic Club offers an extensive schedule of daily ski conditioning, group exercise, Pilates, yoga and cycling classes. 970-790-3020, www.spaanjali.com .

Remede Spa, St Regis, Aspen

Remede Spa, St Regis, Aspen

ST. REGIS REMÈDE SPA, Aspen, Colorado—One of only 120 spas to receive a Forbes Four Star Award The Remède Spa had a “facelift” last fall, giving it a hip, modern look. Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the spa has a number of specials as well as a fun way to après ski—the St. Regis’ traditional Afternoon Tea Service in the relaxation lounge.
Named in the Travel & Leisure 2014 Readers’ Choice Survey as the #1 Hotel Spa in the World, it invites guests to experience the Oxygen Lounge, a popular spot for guests to acclimate to Aspen’s altitude. A heated pool and three outdoor hot tub areas combine with treatments like Farm-to-Massage-Table. A twist on the popular Farm-to-Table concept, it uses locally sourced, natural ingredients in a five-course spa experience. 970-920-3300, www.stregisaspen.com .
 
VICEROY, Snowmass, Colorado—From Ute Indian-inspired therapies to contemporary beauty rituals, the 7,000-square-foot Viceroy Aspen Snowmass spa provides guests a wonderful sanctuary. Designed by Jean Michel-Gathy the space has six treatment rooms, including a couple’s suite and a hydrotherapy Vichy showers room. Enriching the spa experience is a meditative relaxation lounge, whose sound of falling water from an infinity pool and waterfall is deeply soothing.
Its fitness center, adjacent to the spa, encourages guests to burn calories with Technogym® treadmills, cross trainers, stair climbers, exer-cycles and lateral trainers. Nurturing, rejuvenating and holistic spa treatments are comprised of rituals inspired by ancient Ute, Nordic and Asian ceremonies and culture, as well as traditional massage, facial, and beautification journeys. A slope side pool and 15 percent discounts on all spa treatments before 1 p.m. daily add to the appeal. 970-923-8000, www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com .

Waldorf Astoria Spa, Park City

Waldorf Astoria Spa, Park City

WALDORF ASTORIA SPA, Park City, Utah—Recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as a “Top Hotel in Utah” on the 2014 Gold List and listed in 2013 among the “Top 500 World’s Best Hotels” by Travel + Leisure, no wonder skiers and riders are quick to check in. Located at the base of Canyons Resort, the 16,000 square-foot spa includes 15 treatment rooms, including a few specially designed rooms for Thai massage and couples treatments.  The state-of-the-art fitness center, kinesis studio, a private STOTT Pilates studio buddy up with a full-service hair and nail salon to entice guests to be place even further under the spell of the Waldorf Astoria magic. Forming the foundations for the spa are ancient Asian influences, environmental attunement and classic European spa techniques. Tea and Fireside Lounges—complete with custom teas—amplify the warm, stress-free environment. 435-647-5500, www.parkcitywaldorfastoria.com .
 
Details: Check with the spas to learn about full day, half-day and multi-day packages and or specials that include a variety of body and skin treatments. Bride-to-be, moms-to-be, new moms and male-centric packages are common as well. Personalized wellness, skiing/snowboarding fitness and nutritional programs are often available (expect to pay a premium fee) and, in most cases, you needn’t be a guest of the hotel to be able to visit the spa. Most spas have an age minimum for guests that is 16 years and older. Gratuities to spa staffers are extra.

Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.

Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.

SpaWatch: La Mer at Morritt’s Resort, Grand Cayman

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La Mer Spa

La Mer Spa

By Mary Alice kellogg

Sometimes SpaWatcher yearns for a simpler, time-warp era, when not every treatment had deep psychological/spiritual meaning and homework. A time when a massage didn’t necessarily thrash your innards for your own good, even if those pressure points needed a jackhammer to release tension. Something nice would be just fine, thank you. And sometimes what one is looking for can be found in an unexpected place.

Normally SpaWatcher doesn’t cover time share or shared ownership resorts, but a quick getaway to Morritt’s Resort on Grand Cayman proved surprising, indeed. First, the location: the 184-unit property with three swimming pools and an expansive white sand beach hugs the shore on the island’s Eastern Districts, blissfully rural and undeveloped. The 45-minute taxi ride from the cruise ship/resort strip hubbub of Grand Cayman’s usual suspects proved worth it. The hook was the opening of The Londoner, a 20-unit luxury building, on the occasion of the resort’s 25th anniversary. Happily – for them – the resort was fully booked, with couples and families kicking back with a plethora of activities from diving to fishing to boating, windsurfing, jet-skiing and sunning. And happily – for me – everything was so spread out in individual building enclaves set in lushly landscaped grounds, the resort seemed practically empty. Hello relaxation!

Morritt's Resort, Grand Cayman

Morritt’s Resort, Grand Cayman

The second surprise was the food. With three restaurants – informal over-the-water Mimi’s for lunch, the Carribbean-blue David’s for dinner and an Italian restaurant across the road – I was concerned that this would be yet another case of average island industrial feeding. Nope. From the first blackened mahi-mahi sandwich at Mimi’s lunch to blowout dinners (an all you can eat Lobster Night, an evening of haute cuisine with one of the best tenderloins I’ve ever had), the food was topnotch. And then there was the key lime pie, which, by the end of my stay had become an obsession. So much that I had a slice at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day.

Of course such indulgence – it was made today! It was fluffy and tart, with the graham cracker crust of my dreams! – meant that a spa visit was imperative. Hence the third and most pleasant surprise. The tiny and unprepossessing La Mer Spa has but two massage rooms, a couples massage wet room suite with shower, a mani-pedi station and a tiny sauna. That’s it. But in Spa World, it’s not the size of the facility but the heart and execution behind it. La Mer’s ambitious menu of massage, facial and body treatments, using top shelf French YonKa products, would stack up to a spa three times its size.

A SpaWatch digression here. When asked, and I am frequently, what my favorite spas are, I throw out a couple of the biggies like destination spas, five-star hotel or resort standouts. And then my curve ball: a three-room spa in Bora Bora, two of the treatment rooms located 30 feet up in treetops. Small can be memorable.

Not that La Mer in Grand Cayman has Bora Bora’s exotic locale – although the water is a similar brilliant blue. It’s the treatment. I chose the 75-minute Phyto Marine Algae and Mud Body Wrap. In the new couples room replete with shower, my savvy technician Jennifer first did a full body exfoliation with an essential oil/sea salt combo. (Gently, thank you. Having been subjected to numerous salt scrubs in my line of work — administered by technicians hellbent on removing all skin, not just the dead cell part — this one was pleasant yet got the job done.) A quick shower to remove the product, then I was slathered with body-temperature soothing mud and wrapped in blankets for a 15-minute scalp massage and 15 minutes more to just … be. Another shower, then a half-hour full-body massage with moisturizer. The massage, wonderfully, was gentle, too, without pain or pummelling. Bliss.

La Mer Spa

La Mer Spa

While this kind of body scrub/wrap is supposed to tone and firm (among other things), I never expected the result to banish any signs of thrice-a-day key lime pie, nor the effects of pina coladas past. Still, my skin was glowing happy instead of besieged, muscles relaxed and spirit as calm as the resort’s laid back ambiance. Simple is good. Simple works.

And yes, you don’t have to own a unit to stay therre. The luxe new Londoner has a special going from $250 a night until the end of October; the older units, all with throwback Caribbean charm, can also be had for less. Happy birthday, Morritt’s! Thanks for the great spa experience. And the pie.

Morritt’s Resort

www.Morritts.com

800-447-0309

 

mak  Mary Alice Kellogg, a New York-based writer and editor, is a recipient of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Consumer Reporting. A contributor to many national publications, including Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit and GQ, she has reported from 120 countries and five of the seven seas to date… and counting.Visit MaryAlicekellogg.com

SpaWatch: Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, Arizona

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The incredible pool at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, Arizona

By Mary Alice Kellogg

SpaWatcher has a soft spot for the Sonoran desert of Southeastern Arizona, which happens to be where she was born and raised. Recently she hopped the next plane to check out the newest spa contender in the region that gave us Canyon Ranch and Miraval.

The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain resort, nestled into the Tortolita Mountains northeast of Tucson, has a glorious desert setting, with stately multi-armed sahuaro cacti standing sentinel and all the resort bells and whistles one could wish (including 27 holes of Jack Nicklaus-designed golf).

But the 17,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa here is a destination in itself, with 14 indoor-outdoor treatment rooms, cozy spaces for relaxing, and an ever-blue sky above (the region averages 300 days of sunshine per year).  I was immediately impressed by the lounges: separate and ample ones for men and women, each with its own outdoor whirlpools and fireplaces, all with a relaxing, Son of the Shiek oasis feel. A full menu of traditional and new treatments is on tap, using organic desert botanical products … as it should be.

 

I chose the “Embracing Your Elements-Balance” treatment, an 80-minute indulgence incorporating all the things I love: exfoliation (a full half-hour of skin-soothing bliss), a warm tub soak with mineral salts/essential oils and massaging underwater jets, and a full-body hot stone massage to top it off. This treatment, specifically created for Dove Mountain, will be rolled out in other Ritz-Carlton spas soon.

“Elements” means just what it says: be it Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal or Water, we all connect with each at one time or another. With therapist Jenn, I discovered that at the moment I was feeling … metal (this was based on birthdate and interview at the beginning of the treatment). As a result, all the oils and unguents and massage therapy went toward bringing out the best of that element and balancing the rest. The beauty of this treatment is that it changes each time you have it – as you do – and is so individualized that you can be confident that all the elements are in line at the moment. I could come back for Embracing Your Elements in a month or two and the treatment would be completely different.

The fact that this all took place in a huge suite with kiva fireplace, private outdoor patio and tub overlooking the mountains was a bonus. At the end of it all I contemplated demanding to stay in the suite all day, but, being too relaxed, could only whimper softly as I left. (Yes, you can book it for a whole day, and order lunch in. Bring a friend for couples or pal’s treatments, too.)

I repaired to the Spa’s main (co-ed) pool, one of the best I’ve experienced, a secluded pond with whirlpool, waterfall wall, outdoor firepits, tented day beds … and a most particular view. Hills with large rocks behind the spa bear ancient petroglyphs inscribed by the Hohokam people a thousand years ago. This long-disappeared tribe certainly knew the value of location.

Waiting for a spa lunch to be delivered poolside, I contemplated the fact that the Hohokam probably invented their own potions from local cactus and plants to recover from a hot day of putting art on rocks. I toasted them, their art … and the particular spirit of this desert spa, which brought SpaWatcher home.

THE RITZ-CARLTON SPA, DOVE MOUNTAIN

www.ritzcarlton.com/dovemountain

15000 North Secret Springs Drive

Marana, AZ 85658

 

 Mary Alice Kellogg, a New York-based writer and editor, is a recipient of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Consumer Reporting. A contributor to many national publications, including Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit and GQ, she has reported from 120 countries and five of the seven seas to date… and counting.Visit MaryAlicekellogg.com

Stein Eriksen Lodge

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Stein Eriksen Lodge, an idyllic location in the equally idyllic Deer Valley

By Gerrie Summers

As much as I loathe freezing temperatures and only enjoy the sight of snow from the interior of a very warm building, Stein Eriksen Lodge in Utah, is one of a short list of places that could inspire me to take a winter vacation in a cold destination!

Stein Eriksen Lodge is the award-winning luxury ski resort of Norwegian skier and Olympic gold medalist Stein Eriksen, and is Utah’s only Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond property. Located slopeside at mid-mountain at 8,200 feet in Deer Valley, Park City, Utah it’s a short 45-minute drive from the Salt Lake City airport.  The property has 180 rooms in four categories (Deluxe Bedrooms, Luxury Bedrooms, Luxury Suites and Grand Suites).  Each room is unique in architecture, room design and décor. The luxury suites feature gourmet kitchens, a living room and a master bedroom with stone fireplaces, oversized jetted tubs and hot tubs on the deck.  You won’t want to leave—trust me.

The Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge

Award-Winning Spa

I was in Utah for an open house for the lodge’s spa. The spa has had a recent expansion to 20,000 square feet, including renovation of the pool deck, fitness center and locker room.  It now has 16 treatment rooms, including two couples treatment rooms and two wet treatment rooms.  The rooms are warmed and detoxified by handcrafted salt lamps.

The spa treatments incorporate indigenous ingredients such as cedar, sage and salts.  Signature treatments like The Great Salt Stone Therapy, Pigment Balancing Facial and Skier Boot Therapy (Hiker Boot Therapy in the summer season) are unique to the resort.   I tried the Hiker Boot Therapy after a hike of Wasatch Mountains (and my first chairlift ride!), that and the Signature Stein Massage helped with a surprising bout of altitude sickness.  (The spa also sells oxygen packs).

In November, the spa completed and opened the 3, 000 square foot Verdani wellness center.  The wellness center offers cardio sculpt; mat Pilates and yoga classes, as well as pre-ski stretch and after-ski stretch sessions.   Also that month, the spa was awarded the Forbes Five Star Award, making it the first spa in Utah to receive the industry’s highest designation, joining 30 leading spas in the world.

WHAT TO DO BESIDES SKI

Dine at the award-winning Glitretind restaurant, which features a classic and elegant dining experience, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner menu created by Executive Chef Zane Holmquist. There are private wine seminars with Sommelier Cara Schwindt, offered in the 10,000-bottle wine cellar. Or have lunch at Royal Street Cafe, which features  comfort food and signature libations like the Blue Mojito and Holly Berry Martini.

Park City

Ten minutes away is Park City, and you can visit boutiques and galleries along Park City’s quaint historic Main Street. Pay a visit to the Park City Museum with exhibits on Park City’s history, including The Dungeon, located in the original territorial jail in the basement of the historic City Hall.  It has an interesting touch screen exhibit of the city’s bad guys, featuring actors portraying jail cell inhabitants—pretty spooky, really.  Must be a great draw at Halloween!

Located conveniently at the bottom of Quittin’ Time Ski Run, High West is the world’s only ski-in gastro-distillery. Proprietor David Perkins gives a spirited (pun intended) tour of the High West Distillery & Saloon.  Tours are free.  Sigh, the whiskey is not.

For more information on Stein Eriksen Lodge, visit www.steinlodge.com.

 

  Gerrie Summers has been writing professionally for over 30 years in the areas of entertainment, beauty, lifestyle, travel and wellness. A New York-based writer, she has been the Travel Adventures columnist for Today’s Black Woman and now writes the blogs Summers Retreat and The Tranquil Traveler.

Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Vermont Spas

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The rap on Vermont skiing was that the ski resorts were based in historic New England towns that lacked the modern amenities of the resorts out West. Not any longer. The Woodstock Inn (above), close to the skiing at Killington and Suicide Six, just unveiled their $10 million spa in September and it’s a beauty. Two well known Vermont artisans, glassmaker Simon Pearce and furniture maker Charles Shackleton create the hanging lamps and chaise lounge chairs in the Great Room waiting area, where floors are made of soft Vermont white oak. Just outside in the courtyard is a large outdoor hot tub and sauna, with heated stone floors to keep those tootsies warm in the winter months. That’s in addition to the eucalyptus steam rooms found in both the men and women’s changing area. Woodstock Inn’s state-of-the-facility comes on the heels of Stowe Mountain Lodge’s spa, the first offshoot of the highly regarded Cooper Wellness spa in Dallas. The new space features every treatment imaginable, including music, water, and aromatherapy, nutritional and fitness counseling, and seminars on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

SpaWatch: Skaná Spa

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By Mary Alice Kellogg

Normally SpaWatcher is skeptical about the spa-casino combo. She has frequented many a casino resort spa – for research, of course – and too often found that exiting a massage only to run into a giant gaming floor does damage to her alpha state. Can relaxation and roulette happily co-exist?

You betcha, if the Turning Stone Resort and Spa in the farmland of central New York State is any indication. Owned by the Oneida Nation, the complex has the requisite contemporary hotel tower, show room, gaming, entertainment venues, nightclubs and surprisingly sophisticated fine-dining.

But it is the locale of the resort’s Skaná Spa that surprises… not to mention the world-class spa itself. Connected to the low-rise VIP hotel wing, The Lodge, filled with historic and contemporary Native American art and sculpture, all glass, stone and rich woods, surrounded by fountains, gardens and fields, it is a world away from the sleek goings-on nearby. Goodbye big city buzz, hello elegant serenity.

The two-story spa has a relaxing décor of stone and light wood against a light-green color palate, with murals, fountains, buffalo skin rugs, an indoor herb garden, separate men/women relaxation rooms and a warming fire pit in the reception lobby. Sculpture and art throughout – even in the treatment rooms — reflect a singular, soothing Native American vibe.

What dazzles – quietly – even more is the treatment menu. There are the requisite massages and wraps, of course, with most incorporating a true spirit of place, using herbs, essential oils and traditions reflecting the spa’s location and Oneida heritage. I chose the 110-minute Oneida Journey, given in the spa’s private VIP Suite. This expansive space with its own private steam, sauna, bath, treatment and relaxation rooms and garden, would be a wonderful place to live in, period.

A 20-minute soak in a huge tub filled with warm water, Evergreen Essential Oil and fresh rose petals in a sun-drenched room was just the beginning. Next: a full-body exfoliation with an Indian Sasparilla and black clay concoction, left on the skin as I was wrapped in warm towels for the full detox/relax effect. After a shower, it was time for a thorough revitalizing massage with White Pine and Bergamot oils. Overall, I felt my skin, muscles, and spirit had benefitted from a week in a private spa. Bliss is too bland a word to describe the feeling – which, by the way, lasted for days – but I was too darned content to think of another one.

If all casino-based spas – or most spas in general — followed Skaná’s approach and attention to detail, what a fab world this would be. I had indeed taken a unique journey and emerged the better for it. As a treatment souvenir, my therapist gave me a small handcrafted “dreamcatcher” sculpture to take home. This bit of spirit now hangs in my apartment, a physical expression of Oneida “sanuhtunyuheke,” or peace of mind.

Of course I could have tried my luck at the casino that night, but after the Oneida Journey, I had already hit the jackpot.

SKANÁ THE SPA AT TURNING STONE RESORT AND CASINO Verona, NY; 1-800-771-7711

MARY ALICE KELLOGG, a New York-based writer and editor, is a recipient of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Consumer Reporting. A contributor to many national publications, including Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit and GQ, she has reported from 120 countries and five of the seven seas to date… and counting.Visit MaryAlicekellogg.com

SPA AND THE CITY II: SWEATIN’ WITH IVANKA

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Theexperience5

By Mary Alice Kellogg

SpaWatcher looked forward to The Spa at Trump SoHo opening, particularly since the buzz promised a heady Moroccan ambiance. Could this newest entry in the Manhattan relaxation sweepstakes revive memories of  SpaWatcher's  weekend taking the waters with Rick and Isla in Casablanca?

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