My First Botox Injection: The single most important thing you must know!

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My first botox injection recorded live
I might be a little late to this party, but I have finally arrived. It seems that I may be one of my last girlfriends in my age group that has taken the plunge into the cosmetic injectable  market. What took me so long? Well, I am Buddhist, so I tend to look at my intentions before I act on them. Since I truly believe happiness comes from within, why would I consider this medical intervention for appearance?  I should clear up right away that my desire to keep myself looking younger does not include doing anything drastic. And by that, I mean with a scalpel. I am absolutely not against plastic surgery for aesthetics. I would just prefer to burn that bridge at a much later date. I had to meditate on why I really wanted to take the plunge, so let me share those reasons with you, and the single most important thing you need to know about these injections.

As many facials as I have had and will continue to have, let me just tell you this:  I am lazy when it comes to my own skin care routine. I am still going to fall asleep with my eye makeup on. I refuse to wear any kind of thick night cream. I have tried many, but none of them work from inside the jar. One needs to be compliant for these types of products to work. I know myself, and at 47,  I am not going to spend a tremendous amount of time at the end of my day doing multiple steps of a skin care regimen before I go to sleep. If it hasn’t happened by now, its not going to happen. I did attempt Nerium for a month and I was totally non-compliant because I didn’t like the new bedtime routine and it smelled like rotten bananas. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I also keep it simple with my daily skin care regimen. I do the basics; wash, tone, moisturize. A few times a week I will do exfoliation and treatments masks while I soak in a tub. I also travel extensively, and I am not willing to lug around tons of products. A quart sized baggie can only hold so much and I am adamant about not checking luggage.

Why didn’t someone tell me Botox was for lazy divas?

Friends have asked, why would I inject a “poison” into my face? It seems drastic to a few, others probably wondered why I hadn’t already. Safety and efficacy are key in my decision making process. Botox has been on the market for over 10 years, and I believe we know it is a safe and effective product for correcting and preventing wrinkles. It is FDA-approved for this application and has been thoroughly studied before and during its time on the market (for non-biased medical information, always read the prescriptions package insert!). There are no wrinkle creams on the market that will work as well as Botox for muscles of movement.

I was also a marketing major in college, and appearances do matter. As a Buddhist, I playfully try on many different versions of self minute-by-minute. I am very in tune with my connection to my body and my mind, and they are not mutually exclusive. Feeling good about myself can impact my attitude as well as affect how others perceive me.

What started to weigh on my mind was something a friend pointed out. She pointed to a long vertical line between my eyebrows. Ever since it was brought to my attention that I had a noticeable wrinkle, I could never not notice it anymore. Thanks, I think.

But it did get me thinking to back when I first switched from glasses to contacts.  One day I was walking down the hallway at a university medical center. A nurse stopped me and asked why I was so angry.  Thing is, I wasn’t!  I was having trouble reading hospital signs in the corridor. At that moment, I decided to get my vision checked. I did need glasses.  But, I also needed to make my number as a rep. Appearing to scowl is not good for sales.  I did think glasses made me appear smarter to the medical community I called on, so that was a bonus. Fast-forward a few more years and I was going to have a new sales manager that was ten years younger than me. In an effort to appear young and energetic at work, I switched to contacts. Maybe it helped with my manager, maybe not, but I certainly liked all the complements I received and I enjoyed the benefit of wearing non-prescription sunglasses. My point is, I’m not really attached to my appearance to the point that I can’t change it, I just continue to try on new shells, as I continue to grow. So where do you draw the line? To me, the first line was using hair color when the gray started to appear. Is it that big of a stretch from hair color to Botox? I used to think so, but then again, I have continued to change and grow as a person, and my idea of what is acceptable has also changed. So why shouldn’t my body match my mind? I do know one thing, I don’t want the “deep 11” on my face. Having two deep lines between the eyebrows does make one appear to be angry, even when they are not. When I discussed this with my doctor, you can imagine the horror when he pointed out that not only did I have two lines now, but at the  rate I was changing, I could actually end up with three lines. It turns out I made it to the party just in time!

Botox Brow Lift

Happy surprise, I did not know I was also going to get the benefit of a brow lift! I was aware that surgical brow lifts can have the effect of a face lift. I didn’t realize that an added benefit would be a dramatic lift of my brow. My doctor and I discussed my desire to not appear waxy, which is generally a look achieved by overuse of these injections and fillers. Let’s get this clear right now. If you go to the right specialist, you will not end up looking  “surprised” or have that frozen-face look that some people end up having. I had a successful two-site course of Botox because I chose a doctor that not only does these injections daily, but has additional training as a FAOS plastic surgeon. This select group of physicians have undergone extensive aesthetic training far beyond their chosen fellowships. These surgeons are peer-reviewed to meet the highest standards in the industry. I knew that if I picked the right doctor, he would be able to help me sift through all the options available to me. There are countless products and procedures on the market to reverse the signs of aging. I need someone who is up on absolutely every surgical and non-surgical option available to me. When I pick the right, well-trained specialist, I don’t have to do all the homework of researching new products, treatments, and procedures. This is their profession and passion.  A surgeon like the one I researched will do all the heavy lifting for me. So my advice is this:  Spend a ridiculous amount of time looking for the right doctor, not the right product. They want the best outcomes for their patients and their reputations are at stake. It just takes one trip to a website like http://www.NewBeauty.com to research all the latest aesthetic products and procedures, and you will find the same comments over and over again…I wish I had not gone to this dentist for my botox, I wish I had not used a Groupon, now my eyebrows are crooked for 3 months or longer…Every nightmare post reveals the same thing…I went to someone who was NOT a specialist and the results were not great.

Two site Botox

This is a long-term relationship and one that should be researched thoroughly. Botox needs to be injected every three months on average. At some point, I might opt for additional therapies and I want a physician that can grow with me as a patient for many years to come. The right physician will listen to your concerns and take the time to explain to you what the risks vs. rewards are. FAACS and FACOS surgeons have first hand experiences, and time in practice to master the art of beauty. This is what they do! So skip the Google search on the product and start stalking these doctors online. With technology, we can usually see examples of their work, read patient reviews, and check on their biographies to see exactly how qualified they are and in what subspecialty. Medicine is complex, and many doctors are super subspecialized. My husband is a orthopedic surgeon and only performs hip and knee replacement.  If you are going for cosmetic changes to your body, you better know what the doctor’s subspecialty is. As a former medical sales rep and wife of a surgeon, I have a certain amount of medical information and access that is not available to everyone. I thought it would be helpful to share my physician search process with you.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BOTOX IS WHO IS MOST QUALIFIED TO INJECT YOUR FACE AND CHANGE YOUR APPEARANCE.

 

It is my opinion that since these injections are cosmetic and not covered by insurance for treatment of wrinkles, that I get the best injector. Ever had a bad haircut?  Think about what a bad injection could do to your self-esteem. Even the “fancy surgeon” I picked offers very competitive pricing due to the self-pay nature of these products. I checked!

I began my search locally, and moved out from there. I didn’t want someone who took a weekend workshop to be able to change the appearance of my face, when I could have someone who finished medical school, internship, general surgery residency, plastic surgery residency, and a cosmetic fellowship, which involves a much higher level of training, than other people who are technically able to provide this service. If the cost is the same, why would I not go to a plastic surgeon?  Truth is, since I don’t really want to do any surgery for a while, a dermatologist might have been a great choice as well, but in the semi-rural city where I live, dermatologists are few and far-between. I have not found a local one that I liked and could actually get in to see. It would be nearly impossible to have great access to a dermatologist locally, and I would end up with a physician’s assistant giving me my injections.

I was looking for a plastic surgeon that matched my expectations of training and accessibility. I had two options I considered locally, one was close to retirement, and the other was booked out a few months. Skill and access are important to me.

My checklist for finding a qualified plastic surgeon:

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I also want accessibility. Can I get in? Will I see the doctor or a physician’s assistant. Depending on what I need, that may or may not be important. For Botox, I want a doctor that truly understands the esthetics of this product as they use it and fillers daily in their practice almost like an artist uses paint.

Allow me to introduce you to my doctor, Dr. Michael Kluska.

Dr. Michael S. Kluska
Dr. Michael S. Kluska, board certified plastic surgeon and fellow and board member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (FAACS)

Dr. Kluska is a Board certified plastic surgeon and he specializes in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. Director of the Greenbrier Center for Cosmetic Surgery and MedSpa, he has been in practice for more than 15 years. He is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, graduating from the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Des Moines, Iowa. He did his general surgery internship and residency at Cleveland Clinic Health System and South Pointe Hospital (This is key!!! This is a hard residency to be admitted to and the residents here work with some of the best plastic surgeons in the world).He also did his fellowship (subspecialization) at Ohio University, Cleveland Clinic Health System and South Pointe Hospital.

I also checked the Botox website to see if Dr. Kluska was listed. This was due to my experiences as a biotech sales rep. Some doctors will buy illegally reimported drugs, that cannot be tracked for safety, to lower their costs and increase their profits. Some of these may be counterfeit. I am not going to anyone not on the Botox site as the company would not have a record of sales with that physician. I would view an omission  as a huge red flag. I also want to see the Botox  vial at the time of the injection to insure the writing is in English and has a hologram of the logo. Of course Dr. Kluska is on the website, no corners are cut at The Greenbrier Clinic.

Accessibility:  How does a house call to your room at the Greenbrier sound? Due to the nature of concierge medicine, access is one of the biggest patient advantages. Physicians who limit their patients to a smaller population do this to provide more in-depth care. I know that my physician will be able to see me when I am available to see him, not the other way around! Also, I do not have to stay over night at the Greenbrier to visit Dr. Kluska at the Greenbrier Clinic. If I do stay at a guest of the hotel, I can then decide if I would like to walk over to the Clinic or have him visit my guest room. If privacy is important to you, it does not get any more clandestine than this. If in the future I decide to have a surgical procedure, I can fully recover at the hotel in one of the special medical suites and he will round on me in my suite. How sweet is that? Patients of the Greenbrier Clinic receive special room rates. Call for a quote 877.269.8118

Do you know someone that could use this information? Please consider tagging or sharing this post.

If you would like to see the entire consult please take a peek, it is just 20 minutes.

This is a sponsored post. I contacted the Greenbrier Clinic when I researched Dr. Kluska and extended the offer to work with him and share my experience. All opinions are my own. If you are considering cosmetic procedures it is always important to discuss your personal health and medical history with your family doctor before beginning new medical treatments. I am not a doctor. I am a spa blogger. This is my life.

 

http://www.enlightenedspareview.com/google66dfc194e4d2cd5c.html.

Greenbrier Wellness

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts.

 

Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa
Greenbrier Resort Woman’s Wellness Weekend

Greenbrier Resort Women’s Wellness Weekend
I was thrilled to host a women’s wellness weekend at America’s Resort, the gorgeous and historic mineral springs resort, the Greenbrier. I cut my teeth as a spa enthusiast at this resort some two decades ago. Over time, my respect and admiration for a tradition of wellness dating back 236 years has continued to grow! While some may argue which spa is considered the beginning of destination spa travel in America, not many can argue that this resort not only was a part of the American spa tradition, but it basically invented many of the things we consider hospitality in this country.

Having been greeted by Mr. Frank Mosley so many times, his hospitality never gets old. Working at the resort for the past 58 years, he is 86 years young and the personification of West Virginia warmth and hospitality. Entering the lobby, the explosion of color matches the summer blooms outside. At check in I was greeted exactly the same way I have been so many visits before–iced tea, lemonade, or champagne.

This weekend was remarkably different from many past visits. This time I have a mission and a schedule. While some may eschew the idea of a scheduled vacation, perhaps they have never taken a wellness vacation. It is a beautiful combination when you can take a break from everyday life to learn new ways of living better. Since this resort has such a storied past of health care, hospitality, and wellness, I was excited to deepen my knowledge of living well thoughtfully presented by the Greenbrier.

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts. Since the Greenbrier has had a serious concierge executive medical program since 1948, this wellness program has a medically-based foundation. I will be combining evidence-based medical services with state-of-the-art diagnostics, and weaving in my choices of subspecialty providers, seriously luxurious spa treatments, and an endless list of fitness activities and world-class cuisine. Oh yeah, did I mention that Greenbrier tennis pro emeritus Pete Sampras will be playing Andy Roddick Saturday night while I’m here? The amount of activities and services available at this resort is mind-boggling, so I am happy to keep their expertly prepared, individual schedule to glean as much goodness from one weekend as possible. It’s also fun to share this experience with a group of like-minded ladies with the same goals.

Dr. Michael S. Kluska
Dr. Michael Kluska, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

After checking in at the Greenbrier Clinic and receiving my printed schedule, I begin my day with a consultation with Dr. Michael S. Kluska. My first appointment has me both nervous and excited. I scheduled a specialist visit with Dr. Kluska, a world-renowned plastic surgeon with a passion for skin care. I had been considering getting my first Botox injection for years. I finally decided it was time, and took the opportunity to do it with an extremely well-trained board-certified plastic surgeon…(see results here). The Greenbrier Clinic offers a multi-specialty approach to treating the whole patient within a single resort visit. Patients can schedule in-depth visits with many specialties including internal medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology, orthopedics, nutrition, as well as a multitude of other diagnostic and preventive health treatments and procedures. Nearly every specialty is housed within the clinic wing attached to the resort. The convenience of walking over to appointments all within the resort is amazing. It is entirely possible to see an internist, a cardiologist, get a colonoscopy, have a radiologist review images including imaging from their own CT- scanner and mammography, or even have surgery over a weekend. Thankfully, I am in good health and my wellness visits on this weekend include time with my internal medicine doctor, a nutritionist, some blood work, and a plasitic surgeon. I could not help but think about how easy it would be to bring my husband here for a year’s worth of medical visits and testing, and have him not miss a single day of work, which is always his excuse for not taking better care of himself. I will be bringing him back another time!


I also had some time to enjoy the resort on my own. I chose to have lunch courtside near the golf shop. This is a favorite tour stop for PGA players and fans of the the PGA tour. I also had time for a little retail therapy in the pro shop. Who am I kidding…I was stalking Lee Trevino. I just missed him by five minutes! Jack Nicklaus was also in town this weekend as they are designing a new golf course….(more on celebrity stalking later :))And, knowing I would be seeing the pro emeritus Pete Sampras play Andy Roddick Saturday night, I was very tuned in to people-watching at the tennis courts during my lunch. Guests can schedule private golf and tennis lessons with tour professionals.

During my clinic phone consultation prior to my visit, I scheduled my doctor’s appointments as well as one of my favorite spa treatments at the Greenbrier. It is really hard to pick just one, so I usually don’t, but I have new doors to open this weekend, including a vault door in the bunker, and I need to experience some other aspects of this massive 40,000 acre property. If you have never been, the Greenbrier signature treatment, featuring a Scotch spray, is a bucket list spa item for any true spa junkie. I also strongly recommend having a facial at the Greenbrier. The staffing in the spa is second to none. Many of the therapists and estheticians have been here over twenty years! Some have even worked here for 30. Talk about expertise–you would be hard-pressed to find a more tenured staff in the entire country.

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Enjoying some quiet time in the relaxation room before my spa treatment

Friday evening is here and it is time to meet my newest friends and fellow participants for an anti-aging reception. Staff from the Clinic, medical vendors, and participants gather to meet and share excitement for the weekend. Many ladies were traveling with their husbands, but broke away to have a little lady time and kick off the program. Two of my friends and blog followers took me up on the opportunity to revisit wellness for the weekend and we had dinner at Forum after our reception. We could also not help ourselves…we had healthy dinners on our own, but the lure of the casino was too strong for us to pass up. Dancing counts as cardio, right?


Saturday morning we were greeted with a beautiful and healthy buffet in the Clinic conference room. We were instructed to fast after 10pm Friday night. Prior to breakfast, we had our blood drawn and tested. Individually, our test results are reviewed with us during our complete medical history and physical with our internist. We each had hour-long appointments with our doctors to go over our medical history and come up with a treatment plan for the next twelve months. My internist was Dr. Kelly Redden. I was impressed with her thorough exam. A few things really stood out as different for me during this exam. First, I was meeting with an actual doctor and not a mid-level provider at the exact time of my appointment! Second, remember what it was like when you would get an exam, then meet with the doctor in their office afterwards, once you are dressed, to get the results? I vaguely do.  Another eye opener was the ability of the Greenbrier Clinic to pull up all of my current medications from two different pharmacies. The accuracy of my prescriptions were not left to my sometimes short attention span. I actually brought mine in a ziplock bag, but they were able to retrieve all of my prescription data, even for a bottle of medicated shampoo I had filled and forgotten about. And finally, I was given a spa robe for medical appointment and assigned a locker. No giant paper napkin patient gowns here! It made me feel more human. I love this level of detail.


We enjoyed more fellowship while some awaited physician appointments, others, time at the spa or activities on property. Our schedules were set up with blocks of open time as well as scheduled group activities. We could use our open blocks for discovering any activities at the Greenbrier, or just spending some quiet downtime. It is up to the patient to decide.

Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa
Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa

Mid-morning, just outside the spa, the wellness ladies took a private fitness class designed specifically for us by a personal trainer. It was a different workout than what I generally do, but I love trying new activities, so I really enjoyed it and enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather and gardens of the resort.

At lunchtime, we convened in the bunker kitchen for a wellness cooking class. Here, we learned about a variety of superfoods, cooking techniques, and portions to enhance our healthy, active lifestyle. I am always inspired by eating really great, well-prepared whole foods, and the Greenbrier has been a culinary leader in the hospitality industry since the resort opened.

After lunch, we returned to our personal blocks. I went for my signature spa treatment, others saw various physicians and received personalized care or had activities scheduled. At 3:30, I went over my lab results from the morning with Dr. Redden and had my in-depth medical history and physical.

Dr. Kelly Redden Reviews my results
Dr. Redden reviews my lab test and makes a treatment plan for me for the next twelve months.
Tennis Match at The Greenbrier
Saturday night, I watched the tennis match between Andy Roddick and Greenbrier Pro Emeritus Pete Sampras. I was able to catch Pete for an autograph !

Sunday morning, we started the day with a wellness walk and meditation. It was beautiful to walk through the gardens, grounds, and golf course with our personal trainer. I took the opportunity to snap lots of pictures on this scenic stride. Joanna, another participant and I took this selfie with Andy Roddick having coffee in the background on our way to meet up with our trainer. You really never know who you will bump into around here. Once we met up with Josh, we walked at a brisk enough pace to burn calories and get the heart rate up, but we also made time to stop and smell the flowers. Josh Beverage, our trainer,  made sure to point out interesting facts about the grounds and various events and activities available on the property. On completion, a couple of us did have breakfast together in the main dining room. I am a huge fan of room service at the resort, and generally opt for breakfast in bed, so it was nice to see the gorgeous main dining room in the daylight. We decided to stick to our healthy eating plan and ordered a spa breakfast from the menu instead of the decadent Sunday brunch. I was able to keep my convictions due to my wellness walk.


Our final group activity was a meeting with Connie Gottshall in the clinic. She is the nutritionist for the Greenbrier Clinic. She reinforced the information we received at our cooking class, and gave us helpful strategies to make better food choices. She actually had sample meal plans to follow as a guide and definitely inspired us all to take a closer look at food labels, not just for ingredients, and hidden sugars, but also portions. I think her talk just reinforced to me why I prefer to eat whole foods rather than prepared foods. I was definitely more motivated to cook at home more often after this class, and with the skills Iearned in the cooking class, I had everything I needed to prepare better food choices back home.

Greenbrier Nutritionist
Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Connie Gottshall shows us how much sugar is in one can of Coke.

If I could stress anything to you about this wellness weekend, it would be that it was still a vacation. I just learned to live better, armed with new knowledge and motivation to continue to make these educated decisions about food choices, what my body needs. Dr. Redden suggested I add vitamin B-12 daily, Calcium 1200 mg daily, and vitamin D3 1000 mg. She also prescribed exercise for at least 150 minutes a week. In six months she will recheck my HDL cholesterol. This won’t be a problem for me, as I live 90 minutes away, and plan on visiting every three months to get my Botox injections. How cool is it that the doctor would come and give me my Botox injections in my room, if that is what I want? This is what concierge medicine is all about–old-fashioned service, like a housecall to my suite! I have an iPhone app to refill my prescriptions, and they will work with my local physician if needed for additional issues as they arise.

Travel Tips

Private medical suites are available with competitive pricing. If you are planning medical testing or procedures, let the Clinic staff help you book your room. Medical suites have two refrigerators for ice packs and medical supplies. Ample space is available for your family to stay with you. The doctors make rounds in the hotel. Recovering from surgery here is best-in-class.

The Clinic executive medical program caters to people that keep tight schedules and they respect your privacy and time.

Book your spa appointments in advance to insure the optimum therapist and treatment time for your schedule. Add on a 25 -minute mineral soak to any spa service you book. It is a must!

Fitness classes are always new and exciting. Try a new class before your spa appointment. Guided meditation is available most mornings in the spa. Keep your eyes peeled in the gym, lots of celebrities visit and have homes in the area.

Get outside! The grounds at this resort are magnificent. Your normal walk, run, or bike ride will be inspiring. Comfortable walking shoes will take you far at this property.

Try a new sport. Equipment and staffing is always top notch. Falconry or whitewater rafting, anybody?

Book a tour at the beginning of your stay. Historical tours provide a wealth of information about the resort as well as American history.

EAT! This resort has a culinary apprentice program that takes classically-trained chefs three years to complete, much like a masters program.  There is a specific farm-to-table restaurant, but much of the food is grown right on property and always has been.
If you are going to have a cheat day, this is the place to do it. They employ one person who just makes housemade ice cream for eight hours a day, every day. This is a serious foodie paradise. Check calendars for specialty chef’s tables and memorable holiday meals.
This resort is dieter-friendly, with spa menu choices on most dining menus. Staff are happy to cater to your special food preferences. Mom can have an egg white omelet while the kids get treated to chocolate chip pancakes, so everybody is happy.

The Greenbrier is set in the gorgeous mountains of West Virginia. It is easily accessible by half of the country for a family road trip. Air and train service will also take you door-to-door from New York City or Washington D.C.

One visit will not be enough to see and do everything–plan ahead to make the most of your vacation.

I was an invited guest of The Greenbrier Clinic. All opinions are my own. This is my life.

Trump Winery and Albermarle Estate in Charlottesville, Virginia

A visit to Monticello and a stay at the Trump Albermarle Estate and spa located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Donald Trump and Thomas Jefferson on the same day?

 

A visit to Monticello and a stay at the Trump Albermarle Estate and spa located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Donald Trump and Thomas Jefferson on the same day? 

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The  Trump Albermarle Inn and Winery

I had the pleasure of spending time with my family touring Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, VA earlier this month. We stayed overnight at the Trump Albermarle Estate. Trump’s is the largest winery in Virginia, and includes a 45-room estate with 10 guest rooms. Surrounded by all the presidential history in Charlottesville, I could not help but make comparisons of the two homes and, at times, the two men. The Albermarle Estate and winery is just down the road from both President James Monroe’s home, Ash Lawn-Highland, and Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. I was entertained by the thought of considering TJ and Trump as neighbors. Would they have been civil?

 

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Monticello
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My family at Monticello
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My husband, Mike, a double Hoo looks up to TJ.

Thomas Jefferson, famous as an American Founding Father, principle author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), architect and founder of The University of Virginia (1819), elected as the second vice president under John Adams (1797-1801), elected our third president (1801-09), one-time minister to France (1795) and our first Secretary of State serving under George Washington (1790-1793). Jefferson was also an avid botanist and gardener. His home in Charlottesville is the only private residence protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Jefferson and another Virginia President, James Madison, organized the Democratic-Republic Party to oppose the Federalist Party . There is so much to learn about Jefferson, that a tour of his home is important, but also grounding. Touring Monticello with my husband a “double Hoo” and our older daughter, also a Wahoo, (nickname for UVA students and alums) was eye opening. This historic site evinces so much greatness, but was built on the backs of slaves. It left me in awe of the accomplishments of the time, but also heartsick at the inhuman treatment of the enslaved. Three tours happen each hour on the hour–the home tour, the slave tour, and the garden tour.

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The most recent addition to Donald Trump’s library.

Donald Trump–businessman, real estate mogul, hotelier, reality tv show host, author, and now Republican Party presidential candidate–is running for the very same office that was once held by Jefferson. While it may seem improbable and almost inappropriate to make comparisons to the two men as statesmen, it is a natural progression to compare their two homes while staying at the Albermarle Estate and visiting Monticello.

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When entering the Trump estate and winery, I was directed through an automated secure gate. Oh, the irony! The estate is surround by an impressive brick wall. The Trump winery, well known locally as the former Kluge winery and estate, is now part of a separate portfolio within the Trump hotel brand, as a bed and breakfast. Trump winery is the largest wine producer in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Located just down the road from Monticello, this winery is in the heart of a wine-making region which is also famous for being the home of past presidents. Staying at the Albermarle Estate is logistically perfect for a wine trek in this region. At first glance, this estate is dramatically larger than that of his neighbor, Jefferson’s Monticello. Albermarle Estate includes a wine making facility, tasting room, meeting rooms, and even a little chapel on a massive 1300 acre estate. Having toured Monticello prior to checking in at the Trump Estate, I was impressed with the scale and design of this once famous private mansion. TJ preferred to use 10 foot wooden fences , to deter deer, around his property with intermittent use of ornamental hedges and fruit trees, to make beautiful, functional partitions on his property. At UVA, TJ also used red brick to make the famous Serpentine Wall.
Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary. He could speak and read in seven languages. TJ’s library at Monticello has been meticulously recreated by donations. His original library is maintained at the Library of Congress. While the collection of books housed in his original bed room and study is impressive, it is limited to just a few book shelves. Trump on the other hand, has a YUUGE library (sorry, I can’t help myself). It, too, is a curated collection of first editions, law books, and of course, an entire shelf of his own works. He even included his daughter Ivanka’s book. It would have been impossible to find a book by one of Jeffersons daughters, as only men were allowed to be educated and attend universities at the time. TJ’s daughters, particularly Martha, were involved in the operation of his estate while Jefferson was away serving as ambassador to France, Vice President, and President. Trump’s daughter is also in the family business and is currently redesigning the spas at his hotels.

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I am excited to visit the new spa that Ivanka developing in Washington, D.C..

Tj was a lover of the finer things in life. He once sent a trusted slave to France to train in the art of French cooking–for eight years! He also received a slave as a gift from a friend that was a skilled cider maker, to improve the quality of the cider produced at Monticello. Jefferson ‘s home has two kitchens: One where preparation and cooking took place, close to the kitchen garden, and second just to plate the food and present it in impeccable fashion to the many distinguished (and ordinary) guests of Monticello.


Jefferson was constantly hosting guests at Monticello. It was custom to never turn away any travelers that showed up announced or unannounced. It was a custom of the time to stay with friends, friends of friends, family, and even strangers. All were made welcome. Guests would sometimes stay for weeks on end. This is where I believe Jefferson would have made use of Trump, as a hotelier and neighbor. I often wondered why Jefferson built a second summer home, Poplar Forest, not far away, in Bedford, Virginia. I now know it must have been to escape the constant onslaught of house guests at Monticello. I don’t doubt that TJ would have also traded his hard apple cider for some Trump wine. Obviously, the Neo-Georgian design of the Albermarle estate echoes that of Monticello, so I believe Jefferson may have at least been flattered by the mansion, even though it is nearly six times the size of his home.

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The pool house has a pool house!

I stayed in the pool house at the Trump Albermarle Estate. My room was actually named after President Harrison. It was surreal to page through Harrison’s biography. The book jacket summed up his presidency well. Harrison’s run for office was “full of drama and comedy.” “Harrison entered the national stage as an overblown Indian fighter. Harrison actually did his fighting by pen, negotiating the tribes of the American Midwest out of millions of acres of land. His presidential campaign, an extravaganza of parades, songs, dances, and ball rolling, was all about a humble solider in a plain log cabin who bore little resemblance to the actual candidate. But voters loved it and the 1840 election had a record turn out that still stands today.” Harrison is most famous for his brief time in office. He died just a month after his inauguration in 1841. (Gail Collins on William Henry Harrison.) Sound like anyone we know? Is a Twitter rant the new poison pen?

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The Albermarle Estate pool house includes a few guest rooms, a state of the art gym, a spa treatment room, sauna, and provides easy access to an outdoor hot tub and of course, the pool. Multiple salons, a billiard room, a card room, and a home theater complete with any Netflix program or internet movie you might want. The popcorn machine and all the candy you can eat made for the perfect conditions to Netflix and chill. His celebrity gallery in the movie theater is priceless. Only one movie poster, Saturday Night Fever. I’m guessing it must be the Donald’s favorite. The inn also features Donald Trump’s favorite sporting teams, golf memorabilia, and of course, magazine covers of himself. The estate also has a disco ball, but I will let you discover where that is on your own.

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We were able to dine at the Albermarle Estate for breakfast Sunday morning. (They only serve breakfast, for now). Large windows look out onto the formal fountains and gardens. Due to a very strong wind storm, my breakfast was cooked without electricity! The estate lost power in the very early hours of Sunday morning. A shower or recharging my precious iPhone was not happening for me. Sorry, no food pics. At TJ’s house, they did not allow photographs to be taken inside. I wanted to capture the irony of both men having yellow living rooms.  A trip to the “necessary room,” while dark, was at least not outdoors as at Monticello. This wrinkle in our stay did not dampen our enjoyment of the property. While we were inconvenienced a bit, it definitely fit with the ironic, historic weekend we were having. The scale of this estate is impressive.

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Prior to breakfast, I was able to enjoy a 90 minute Swedish massage in the spa. I had requested my services the day before and Michael, the manager, was able to accommodate my last-minute booking for my desired time. I was beyond pleased with my skilled therapist, Bridgette. The single spa room, was large and well lit, thankfully. If we had had functioning electricity, it would have been a heated table. With no music, I enjoyed a fun chat with my therapist about all things spa-related, Trump, local knowledge of restaurants and wineries, and my family adventures over the weekend. Bridgette is lovely.


I don’t recall seeing a church on the property of Monticello, however the Trump estate has a gorgeous chapel used for weddings. I was not told of any special denomination, but it was obvious it was a Christian church with traditional white cladding and a white steeple. Destination wedding guests will love that they can take over this estate by booking the ten guest rooms. The property, rooms, winery, gardens, and chapel make for a picturesque bespoke wedding venue. Catering would be arranged with an off-site vendor. Being able to toast a special day with the delicious Trump sparking wine is a bonus.

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Trump wines are actually highly rated. The 2008 Rose blend is rated at 90 by Cellar Tracker.

My husband and I enjoyed time visiting our daughters over the weekend in Charlottesville. Our oldest is a fourth-year at UVA and the younger is a sophmore at VCU, in Richmond. Together, they chose to stay on campus for some late night fun with friends, while Mike and I were able to unwind from our long day of sightseeing. As a family, we spent some time sipping wine by the pool and getting caught up. Later, after the girls left, we spent some time reading in the library, and checking in on the golf tournament. Late night, we watched the Amy Winehouse documentary in the theater, which we had to ourselves. Michael made us popcorn and we hit the all-you-care to eat candy bar hard. We typically stay on the Downtown Mall when we visit C’ville, but this was a nice change of pace, and a quiet, private place to spend time with the kids.

 

What to know before you go:
Due to the size of this estate, it is easy to forget that this is not a hotel. Breakfast is served in the dining room. There is no room service, and lunch and dinner are on your own.
The location of this winery cannot be understated. Blenheim (Dave Matthews’ winery) is right next door. Nearly a dozen more wineries are on the same road.
While trekking to the other wineries is a piece of cake, driving 15-20 minutes back into town on 2-lane roads for lunch and dinner could be tricky if you have been drinking wine.
A Trump tasting room is on property and open from 11am-5pm daily. It includes a souvenir Riedel glass, which of course has the Trump logo on it. It also has a limited selection of cheeses, charcuterie, and picnic lunches. Special events at Trump are scheduled on holidays and Thomas Jeffesron’s birthday (April 13th), and the Fourth of July, the day TJ died.

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Michie Tavern is also on the same road and is a historic site with tours as well. Famous for their fried chicken and BBQ, the line will likely be out the door. It moves quickly and we enjoyed our family style meal there.
Monticello is a must see, and just a few minutes down the road. It has a cafe and also offers grab-and-go food, perfect for a picnic or enjoyed back at the estate. A beautiful gift shop offers a nice opportunity for retail therapy.
This is a kid-friendly property only if your child is over 12. Due to the fragile nature of the artwork, furnishings, glass, and overall adult vibe, young children are discouraged from visiting. It was perfect for my college age kids.

Factoid: Thomas Jeffersons, highly regarded as one of our greatest presidents, spent much of his time during his second presidential term dealing with domestic issues, including the trial of former vice president Aaron Burr for the murder of political rival, Alexander Hamilton, in a famous duel. In 1807 Jefferson wrote the Trade Embargo Act. It was meant to normalize trade while England and France were at war and “retrieve our lost honor and bring the mad King back to his senses”(Make America Great Again? lol). Jefferson also spent time removing Indian tribes from the newly organized Louisiana Territory. He also penned the Slave Trade Act 1807 which prohibited new slave import into the United States. It is interesting to note that law did not stop slaves from trickling in to the U.S.

Factoid: Billionaire John Kluge built this 23,000 square foot mansion in the 1980s. His third wife, Patricia Kluge, originally listed this estate for sale at 100 million dollars. The 1300 acre estate includes 200 acres of French vinifera grapes planted in 1999. Trump purchased this property from his friend, Patricia Kludge for 6.5 million in 2011 and she stayed on for one year working for Donald. Eric Trump, Donald’s son, now manages the winery and inn, visiting monthly via helicopter.

Factoid: Thomas Jefferson brokered the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The territory, consisting of 828,000 square miles (or what is now 15 states and two Canadian territories), was bought for 11.2 million, less the forgiveness of French debt of 3.7 million for a total of 15 million dollars.

I’m sorry. The irony is just so thick.

Wow! This was a lot to learn in less than 48 hours. I would recommend a long weekend in order to see and do more in this rich, historic, wine-soaked area. Learning from history is important. Learning by experience brings history to life. Visiting this property during this election cycle was a trip!
Famous American poet Robert Frost penned the poem “Mending the Wall,” in his book North of Boston (1914). In this poem the narrator, a New England farmer, contacts his neighbor to rebuild a stone wall between their two farms. As they both build the wall, the narrator questions the purpose of the wall. The neighbor replied not once, but twice, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

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Iconic serpentine wall on The University of Virginia,  designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Photo credit:By Karen BlahaFlickr: Daffodils and serpentine wall, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12911111

 

Names and places change, but the same arguments remain.

 

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I have also stayed at Trump Doral,  Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Coral Gables, Florida. I loved it. I guess this Presidential  election is adding a ironic vibe to what is a great Inn.

 

I was not given any special treatment at this property other than being a paying guest. I will return as we did have fun, despite a little inconvenience without electricity Sunday morning. I found the property to be exquisitely furnished, comfortable, and private. Look for additions to the spa soon, and potentially a golf course in the more remote future.

You might also enjoy checking out my favorite spa service of 2015 

 

Pinnacle Cottages and Paddling at Primland

Experience the new Pinnacle Cottages at Primland.

New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland
New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland

Nothing like some fresh mountain air, a little exercise, and some new Frette sheets to soothe my soul. I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek prior to the grand opening of the new Pinnacle Cottages at Primland. Of course, since I consider this to be my second home, I have been watching the progress of the build out over the past year or so. Even having done a walk-through about a month earlier, I was not prepared for how spectacular these new cottages would turn out. Having walked though all four of the multi-unit buildings, I knew exactly which unit I would be booking for my future visits.  I just didn’t know the name or room numbers yet. Well, allow me to share with you the awesomeness that is Oriole 70 & 71.

Pinnacle Suite, perfect size for a couple
Pinnacle Suite, perfect size for a couple. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
View of the Dan River Gorge
View of the Dan River Gorge. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
Porch for two with a spectacular view
Porch for two with a spectacular view Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

Each of the buildings were designed with group stays in mind. The idea was for families, golf and hunting groups, wedding parties, or corporate retreats to have a place where they could open up adjoining rooms if they like and share an entire floor or building, or group of buildings, if needed. When the staff helped me carry in my luggage, they told me they thought these rooms were even more spectacular than the main lodge. Having stayed in every suite in the lodge, all three tree houses, all of the fairway cottages, and most of the mountain homes on the property, I thought, “I am the perfect person to be the judge of that!”

Custom Cabinets and Art are beautifully blended for this stunning suite
Custom cabinets and commisioned art are beautifully blended for this stunning suite. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
The larger suites include a kitchen
The larger suites include a kitchen. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
Original art works hint to the Oriole theme of this suite.
Original art works hint to the bird theme of this suite. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
The larger suite has a grand livingroom for entertaining guests
The larger suite has a grand livingroom for entertaining guests. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan
Livingrooms have gorgeous views of the gorge and pinnacles of Dan
Livingrooms have gorgeous views of the gorge and pinnacles of Dan. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

The same attention to detail in the architecture, quality of the furnishings, and oh baby!…new bath tubs had me a little twitterpated. One of my favorite daily activities, a long soak, was over the top.  When I am on vacation, my soaks can be pretty epic, pruney toes, long reads, maybe some vino therapy, and Primland has the best bathtubs, I swear! I could probably do an entire post just on which of the tubs I like best and why.  This is not a cookie cutter resort with five hundred rooms with the same tub in each of them. Oh, no…this is a place for fans of Architectural Digest to come and read the latest issue while soaking in one of many different dreamy bathrooms. I can tell you as a super soaker, without a doubt, this tub and view is my new favorite on the entire property!

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My room is connected to my friend’s room next door. He is an excellent neighbor, friend, and Primland enthusiast himself. I will give you a little tour of our suites, but then I have to tell you about our trip out to the reservoir. We have the entire upstairs of Oriole Cottage among us. One suite has a huge porch with lots of seating, enough for all of us to have a party, and the second smaller suite has a much more private porch meant for just two. Each suite has all of the modern amenities that are expected at a five-star property, but the gorgeous mountain view and meticulously-curated custom art work takes this space to another level. Giant Baby and I are in the smaller suite. I called it the romance side 🙂

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We enjoyed birding and paddling
We enjoyed birding and paddling
Funyacks on Dan River
Funyacks on Dan River

I have been wanting to try the funyaks ever since they first added the activity, but something always seemed to get in the way. First it was winter, then we needed to golf or hike or something. I have done nearly every activity on property, but still need to learn fly fishing, tree climbing, disc golf and horseback riding. It just happens that Summer, our funyak guide, is also an equestrian guide, so I might get talked into one more activity. Getting to the reservoir is no small task. Four-wheeling in the Suburban with Summer on some of the very remote dirt roads was an adventure in itself. Once at the reservoir, we needed to get our gear on and take a short hike through a rhododendron thicket. For those that have not spent time in the Blue Ridge Mountains, these are gorgeous evergreen flowering bushes that grow very tall. Summer gives us some basic instructions as we have all canoed or kayaked before, and just like that, we are out on the water. Funyaks are inflatable kayaks that are open on the top like a canoe. So there was no need for lessons on how to roll over under water or anything scary like that. As a matter of fact, the reservoir was very calm. The Dan River flows into it, but we will be staying in the calm open spaces just to enjoy an easy paddle, check out some wildlife, and enjoy the afternoon. That said, other guests have wanted to explore further up stream and really challenge themselves, and get a workout. We are not like those guests. We came to float, and as luck would have it, we were able to watch a beautiful bald eagle catch its own lunch. At one point, we just hung out under some trees and did some bird watching. Summer shared with us that some guests like to just float and take a nap. I like how those people think! On my next trip to the reservoir, I think I will have them pack us a picnic lunch. Stand up paddle board have just been added, so I will have another activity to add to my bucket list. Yup, I learned some new stuff, paddled a bit, and exercised my mind and body. This is what I call wellness!

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Ritz-Carlton San Juan and sightseeing by private car

Ritz-Carlton San Juan and sightseeing by private car.

The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Spa and Private Puerto Rico Tours

Fort San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Fort San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is where most people want to stay when they want to visit the rain forests, the bioluminescent bays, historic old San Juan, the forts, and of course, the wide variety of food that Puerto Rico has to offer. I chose Puerto Rico for our tenth wedding anniversary trip for a few reasons. First, it is in the perfect climate for a beach retreat during some of our coldest winter days in Virginia. Second, I could book a flight with no passport, as my husband’s had expired.  And, last but not least, it is just a three-hour flight from Charlotte to exotic tropical beaches with coconut palms and clear blue waters. What I did not know was how much I was going to fall in love with Puerto Rico! One of my husband’s partners is from Puerto Rico, and when we asked him what we must do there, he said, “See the rain forest and eat, eat everything you can! Try all the delicious foods, you are gonna love it.”

I decided to split up my trip into two distinct vibes, sightseeing primarily in and around Old San Juan for the first half of the trip, and serious spa services in Dorado Beach to end the vacation completely relaxed.  I have had the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado Beach on my spa bucket list since it opened in 2012. What better combination than to do and see all that San Juan has to offer, get a feel for Puerto Rico, then finish out our vacation the way I prefer, lounging at a gorgeous beach and spa? I’m not a travel agent, but my plan worked like a charm. We checked in at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan on a mission.

Ritz-Carlton San Juan
Ritz-Carlton San Juan

The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan was the perfect home base for the sightseeing portion of our vacation. Not only is the hotel centrally located for all the best sites, my concierge, Angela, ensured I saw the best that San Juan had to offer. She helped me coordinate our tours, spa services, and an easy transfer to the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado Beach, later in the week. The Ritz San Juan actually has two types of concierge at this property, one for general requests like dinner reservations and spa services and one just for off-property excursions. I was able to book private car tours of all the sights with the very best tour guides and skip lines, crowds, and other time-consuming hassles.

I was paired with the most experienced tour guide from Castillo Tours, Roberto Garcia, for our tour of El Yunque National Park, the rain forest. He picked us up at the hotel and chauffeured us into the park. My husband and I were amazed at his knowledge of all things Puerto Rico. His seventeen years of experience led to great conversations on the history, people, plants, animals, climate, and culture that made the trek enjoyable. He literally walked us into the rain forest and pointed out all sorts of interesting facts. It was very educational, but he also picked up on our laid back style and made the day fun and enjoyable. Of course he had towels, water, and umbrellas for us.  We made several stops along the mountainous road to see different waterfalls, take some pictures, and pick up souvenirs. He was also outstanding at giving us tips for the rest of our week.

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We also booked a private car to take us to the Bacardi factory. Roberto did let us know that despite all the tourist information that is out there, this is actually the second most popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico. San Juan is the most popular destination. I was happy to hear this as I found this information much more useful in my daily life. For example, did you know that the number one drink in the world is the Cubra Libre? Well, it is easy to understand as rum and coke are so easily available to so many people, but to really make this drink, one must use rum that has been aged at least eight years in an oak barrel, add Coca-Cola, and serve it with a wedge of lime– otherwise it’s just a rum and coke. There is a difference! The luxury of being able to enjoy a tasting or two and not have to drive is amazing, and as far as I am concerned, the only way to go.

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We chose to visit Fort San Cristobal, and wander around Old San Juan to get a feel for the culture and food firsthand. Getting a taxi from our hotel to the fort was easy, as was walking through Old San Juan. We felt safe, and most people we met were bilingual. Again, I was armed with a map from my concierge, Angela, and notes from Roberto of great places to eat with stunning views, but we chose to wander for the most part and let the city open up to us naturally. We did find this amazing bean-to-bar chocolate restaurant, Casa Cortes ChocoBar, that was on my hit list and did not disappoint. We also stumbled on Barrachina, a great restaurant with the claim to fame of having invented the pina colada. We shopped, and ate, and shopped, and ate, until we found a Buddhist bar with a day spa. More on that later–it deserves a post of its own. I am a spa blogger after all. Funny thing about drinking in Old San Juan, I kept hearing Spanish, so I almost felt like I was in Mexico.

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Valentine’s Day dinner in our bathing suits was pure luxury for us. It was snowing hard back home. We skipped the crowded restaurants and dined next to the ocean at the Ocean Bar and Grill which is wedged between the pool and the beach. The atmosphere was casual but the cocktails and food were top shelf. After several delicious mojitos, we ventured to try our luck at the casino that is on property at the Ritz. I’m happy to report that Lady Luck was on our side. We decided to quit while we were ahead so we could get up early and go for a walk on the beach. The local surfers love the way the waves break just a short stroll down from the Ritz.

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Knowing I was going to one of the best spas in the world later in the week, I just booked a couples massage, as that is what my husband requested. Ok, full disclosure here, I am not usually a fan of couples treatments. The main reason is that my husband usually falls asleep on the massage table and starts snoring, not exactly relaxing or romantic for me! Angela booked me with Millie and Mildred knowing my high standards. Our therapists spoke with us ahead of time about the typical issues, as they generally do, sore areas, recent surgeries, allergies, etc. Ok, this was it. This was the time for me to speak up and tell Mildred that she needs to give Mike that really deep tissue massage that he prefers and and if he starts snoring, go deeper! Wake him up! Of course Millie and Mildred were true professionals and took my comments in stride, but hey, I think it worked! He made it through 90 minutes, 30 minutes longer than his normal massage attention span, and no snoring.  Both therapists met my standards for treatments not just in technique and touch, but also on an emotional level. They hit all the marks I am looking for in a solid service. Thank you, ladies!

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I fell in love with the people and the all the interesting nooks and crannies of Old San Juan. It is a very large city with nearly 400,000 residents, but everywhere we went, we found everyone really friendly and genuinely warm. Off-property, most restaurants we went to offered us a free dessert, a little extra drink, or something to make us feel special. The spa at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan was no different. Every guest at the Ritz is a treated like a V.I.P., but somehow someone always seems to make a personal connection. The ladies at the spa front desk put together some Valentine’s-themed spa products for me to take back to my room. How sweet! I love this place.

My tips for San Juan:

Get out of the resort and explore the island and all of the culture. Find some adventure. Eat local.

Staying in the city is key for many of the major sites like the rain forests, Bacardi factory, and beaches. I skipped some famous beaches like Flamenco Beach, Culebra. I knew I would be at Dorado Beach later in the week. I never left the Dorado Beach Reserve once I checked in, so I was right about that.

Skip the kayak tour of the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo. We spent more time getting instructions on how not to fight with our boatmates from our guide than actual kayaking instructions, and both were needed! It was overbooked with teeming hordes of tourists who, like us, don’t know how to kayak, trying to find their way into and out of the pitch black mangroves, running into trees and other boats, and dodging the occasional motor boat. I understand there is another tour where you can walk up to a beach in Vieques that might be better. Either way, no one is allowed to get in the water. It was definitely a test for our ten-year marriage, but we survived. Bioluminescence cannot be photographed without special equipment either, that is why I don’t have any pictures of it.

Valentine’s Day does mean something to the people of Puerto Rico. Many folks go out to dinner, and we found the hotel crowded with people (kids) from the northeastern U.S. getting in a quick vacation while their kids were off from school for Presidents’ Day.

Normally, when I visit a spa resort, I book treatments every day. This half of the vacation was different for me, but still fun. My tip for this spa would be to bring your tennis racket. Not too many tennis courts are on the ocean with a spa right next door.  Book individual spa treatments, and spend time together in the relaxation room and co-ed jacuzzi, unless of course it’s your anniversary.

Stay tuned for the 411 on the incredible spa experience at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado Beach!

Pinch me, I’m at Peter Island Resort and Spa in the British Virgin Islands

Private beach for use of spa  guests at Peter Island Resort
Private beach for use of spa guests at Peter Island Resort

For those of you that are not familiar with Peter Island, it is a small, but extremely luxurious, island in the British Virgin Islands. For those of us that live on the east coast of the United States, it is a very easy, exotic destination to jet off to in a relatively short amount of time. I however, arrived by yacht. That’s right, I moored overnight at this amazing island resort on a luxury catamaran with a group of friends. Technically, I did fly through Charlotte, North Carolina, and  landed in Tortola, St. Thomas. My friend Valeta and I took a ferry to our yacht, and after a couple of days sailing around other islands stopping to snorkel and explore, we had made it to my island, the one I picked for “Erin Day.” Ok, so the yacht was chartered and the group of friends I was sailing with allowed me to pick one day as “Erin Day” so…On Thursday January 22nd, while it was super cold back home in Virginia, I had my day in the sun!

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What does “Erin Day” look like? Well, I would like to think I picked an activity that my friends would also enjoy. It is of course a spa day. And I had done my homework. The best spa to visit while cruising B.V.I. is at Peter Island Resort.  For those that did not join me in the spa, the fellas, they spent the day hiking the many trails on this gorgeous island, taking photographs, and enjoying frozen cocktails at one of several bars.

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I had e-mailed my girlfriends and the spa a couple of weeks ahead of time and made arrangements for our treatments so that when we arrived we were all set with the treatments we each desired. Since I was the one e-mailing and coordinating, it wasn’t until that morning that I broke the news that I would be getting a 3 1/2 hour treatment while they were getting one hour facials. This was not an issue at all and we arrived early for our treatments on a dingy from our yacht…sorry…I still can’t believe this really happened. My treatment started a bit ahead of theirs so they could spend some time using the spa facilities, and post-treatment they spent time at the gorgeous infinity-edge pool.

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I booked the Drift Away treatment. It began in one of their largest spa suites, which all happen to have patios that overlook the ocean. It was breathtaking. My therapist, Latoya, was such a kind and gentle soul. She started my treatment on a couch facing the ocean with a soothing foot exfoliation, soak and aromatherapy session. While seated, I gazed at one of the most spectacular beaches I have ever seen. I really did not want to close my eyes! Ok, but I had to because she started to give me the most incredible scalp massage, which is a favorite treatment of mine. Once Latoya got her hands on my head, in my hair, and started working deep on my scalp, I knew I had an excellent therapist.

My excellent massage therapist and esthetician, Latoya.  I just loved her!
My excellent massage therapist and esthetician, Latoya, I just loved her!

The next part of the session was on one of the two heated massage tables in the suite. With a beautifully arranged assortment of local flowers and herbs in a bowl beneath the face cradle, I could inhale the island’s essence. Latoya spent a lot of time working on my different areas that we had talked about earlier. This visit I was really feeling great. The signature drink for B.V.I. is the Pain Killer, a delightful combination of pineapple juice, rum, coconut milk, and nutmeg. I was not feeling anything but awesome, really, but I did have some dry skin issues from the wintry conditions back home. Latoya used a combination of oils she blended just for me, to get me back to a softer, smoother version of myself.

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Just when I thought I could not be more relaxed, it got better! Latoya used very warm, wet, bundles of sand sewn into fabric to knead, roll, and compress my muscles into submission. It took this treatment to another level. Wow, just think excellent massage, then add hot stone massage or poultice massage, but instead she added the sand bundles instead. It gives the treatment flexibility, softness, yet firmness and weight. It was really quite ingenious how well the sand retained heat, yet the sand was in a flexible sheath to contour to my body to provide better compression and warmth. I was totally impressed!

Warm sand bundles, part of the Drift Away treatment at Peter Island.
Warm sand bundles, part of the drift away treatment at Peter Island.

Well, for most people that would be enough, but this was “Erin Day” and I had booked the Drift Away package which means I still have a facial to round out this experience! I had checked the esthetic cart earlier and found some of my favorite products on it. Latoya and I were able chat a bit once I came out of my dream-like state and was positioned face up. We chose a June Jacobs enzyme peel that I really like, in an island vibe I had not tried. Again, many steps of hot wet towels and steam to clean my skin. Latoya had to get a better look, and make some recommendations for products, and we were again off to the land of bliss. Latoya again made adjustments to pressure and touch that reminded me that I was with a seasoned esthetician. More massage to my arms, hands, legs, and feet while my enzyme mask did its magic. More warm wet towels remove each step, until Latoya begins to apply several different moisturizers. Of course, she finished by applying a light but effective sunblock, as I will soon be joining my friends at the pool.

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Outside the spa are a few hot tubs, but one is the most spectacular hot tub I think I have ever seen. I needed to hang out for a little while on a chaise lounge, enjoy some tea and regain consciousness before joining my girls back at the infinity-edge spa pool. All agreed that they had the most delightful day and  amazing facials. I, of course, could relate. Now, back to the big main pool to meet up with the fellas and enjoy some more beverages. You know, the therapists always tell you to hydrate at the spa. I’m not a therapist, but I am an expert spa client and I am certain that if you order your drinks frozen, you are getting even more water than usual 🙂

Tips and tricks

Few moorings are available if you are sailing. Call early and book ahead.
This spa’s specialty is Ayurvedic treatments. I could not, however, pass up the warm bundled sand treatment.
I noticed a day excursion group coming in from a cruise ship, check to see if an excursion is available on your next cruise.
This place was made for honeymooners, destination weddings, special occasions, nature lovers, and for anyone who wants to unplug.
This is a destination spa, why on earth would you pick a one hour service on vacation? Live & learn girlfriends!
Book your treatments ahead of arrival to insure you have the times and treatments when you want them.
The entire island is available for private events, and many of the accommodations are also very private.

Sunset from the back of the  boat…yeah, it was a good day.
Sunset from the back of the boat…yeah, it was a good day.

 

 

I would like to sincerely thank Captain Rudy & Johnsie, Valeta, and my other sailing friends for including me in their family/friend cruise. If you would like more information on sailing B.V. I., comment here or please visit my Enlightened Spa Review boards on Pinterest for more photos and information.

No special treatment was given to me at this spa other than being a paying guest at this resort. This is my life.

Mile High Massage at the Ritz-Carlton, Denver

Sunset at the Ritz-Carlton Denver
Sunset at the Ritz-Carlton Denver

There is definitely excitement in the air in Denver. Some might even say the town is buzzing! I found myself checking in at the Ritz-Carlton, Denver on a mission. I wanted to kick off our new “empty nest” status with a last minute fun trip. When I read about one of my favorite rock bands since high school days, The Cure, playing a rare stateside concert, I booked my flight and tickets literally the day before the concert! How is that for being available on the fly? Of course, one does not need to do a ton of hotel research when staying at a Ritz-Carlton property. They make it easy for both business and pleasure travelers and always seem to anticipate my needs. On this trip I wanted to rock out yet relax, and get some spa services, too! RiotFest and the Ritz-Carlton, I would have never imagined this combination in 1988, the year I graduated from high school. Life is good.

I was happy to spend my morning at the spa and head out for the music in the afternoon. The RiotFest was a weekend-long alternative rock concert hosted at Sports Authority Field, AKA Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos. Since I am so far out from my high school graduation, balancing pampering at the spa, with fine food and a fun evening of loud music provided just the right amount of yin and yang. One of the cool things about Ritz-Carlton spas is that most generally offer services tailored to the location, to give you a local taste of the culture. A perfect example is the Voodoo Love treatment offered at the Ritz-Carton in New Orleans. Denver is also known for more than 200 micro breweries, not just legalized marijuana 🙂 The spa had a couple of seasonal treatments with beer. Treatments like Hops and Honey Pedicure and Mile High Malt Scrub are seasonal. Be sure to ask about specialty treatments when booking.

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Day one, I had an emergency nail issue! Two broken nails, one was broken deep in the nail bed and painful, and I had some large chips on other nails as well. I always blame it on laundry, but it was probably golf. I generally do not consider getting my manicure while at destination spas, as I consider a regular manicure part of my general maintenance. But, I had issues! I wear gel polish, which can be a little tricky to maintain on the road. For those unfamiliar with gel polish, it essentially is baked onto your own nail, using a special light, and it can last chip free for 10-14 days. It was not a problem for Kristin, she was lovely! She fixed me right up with a soak off and polish change. I must say I was very impressed with her skills. She gently repaired my nails and was even able to match my pedicure polish, even though the polish was a different brand than what I was wearing. Of course I wanted it to match my toes. It was sandal season. I am a little more particular than the average nail client, I can spot poorly filed nails or chunky cuticles like a hawk. Kristin was extremely professional, polite, and gave an incredible gel manicure. If I lived in Denver, she would be my girl!

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Day two, Amanda, my esthetician and I bonded instantly. I could talk skin care and treatment regimens for hours. So could Amanda, she is extremely knowledgeable. But, we just had 90 minutes to swap secrets. She picked some delicious smelling products based on my preferences and skin care needs. I was looking for a relaxing facial with extra attention paid to my dry skin. And as always, I was looking for a way to look youthful and fresh. I was there to see a band I loved since high school after all! Amanda had a delicate touch, yet delivered a thorough exfoliation. I left feeling extremely relaxed, yet ready to get my riot on. My excitement could not be contained on this day. She could relate. She also introduced me to a few new products that I had not tried. She wrote down all my steps and products on a sheet so that I could remember them later. If I am lucky, I get spa brain and feel so relaxed post-service, at times I can’t recall all the many steps or products I want to remember, particularly on facials. She made it easy for me. I left with a print out and several samples of some of her other favorites. How kind! I definitely had spa brain. My skin felt moist and soft to the touch. It was an excellent facial by any standard.

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Day three, did I really see the The Cure last night? Was I dreaming or was it just like heaven? Evenings at Riotfest were so fun. We sampled great food from the slew of food trucks at the venue. I met a lot a friendly people. It seemed like many folks were new to town and excited about the new green economy. I learned a lot on this trip. Weezer and Wu Tang Clan, all in the same weekend…yeah, I’m gonna need a massage. Noemy helped revive me. I booked a herbal peaks poultice massage based on a recommendation the ladies made in the spa on the previous day. It incorporates a poultice that is hand-made with organic herbs. The idea behind this treatment is to steam the firm, round, herb bag and use it as a roller over the muscles to help ease tension. It feels amazing and smells even better. Noemy used the ball part of the poultice to roll deep into sore muscles, mainly on my back and hamstring muscles (crappy airline seats!). On other parts of the body, the poultice is used for heat and pressure. By pressing the ball on my upper chest muscles it provides heat and releases the scents of lemongrass, lavender, and a handful of other herbs, making this treatment smell incredible and gives an added benefit of aromatherapy. Of course this is the Ritz-Carlton, so the poultice they used was super fancy. Noemy gave me mine to take home. If I lived locally, I would have definitely reused this poultice at home many more times by dampening it and popping it into the microwave for a minute. Since I was flying home, I decided to leave my herb-filled bag at the hotel. I have to admit I was a little freaked out about going through airport security with a questionable herb bag from DENVER! I did not want to have a long conversation with the TSA agent.

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Day Four, my final day in Denver. It is sad, but I have booked a 75 minute tranquility wrap with Noemy to take the edge off. It has been a fun trip with lots of relaxation, music, cold beverages, and incredible food. I am feeling a bit dehydrated, I’m sure it’s the altitude 😉 Noemy is an excellent massage therapist. She does her best to make sure I leave the spa on a high note with a great massage followed by a wrap. As I marinate on the heated, cushioned, massage table all wrapped up like a gourmet burrito I can’t help but grin. I saw Manchester Orchestra last night. I love them! I bet some high school kids love them too 🙂 I am a 45 year old lady, an emptynester, with no business flying across the country with my husband acting like two kids dating 🙂  I think we have time to stop in the club lounge for one last glass of bubbly before our flight.

What to know before you go:

Excellent gym in the spa with a rock climbing wall
The spa is going through a two month refresh now, check to make sure they are fully open. I cannot wait to return to see the upgrades!
John Elway, the retired really cute quarterback for the Denver Broncos, owns and operates, Elway’s in the Ritz. It is an upscale steakhouse with some great Broncos memorabilia tastefully sprinkled throughout the restaurant. You might just run into him or one of his teammates in the lounge. It is very popular on game day.
Consider booking club level. The fantastic displays of food seemed to change all day long and provided a stress free way to just grab a bite or beverage and get out and enjoy the city.
Write down your appointment when you book services. Set a timer in your phone, or get a print out. Much like spas in Las Vegas, the girls in the spa said some some folks had trouble making it to appointments in the early morning or did not make it to the treatments due to their inability to “remember” booking the appointments at all!

Midweek spa specials have a flare for fun like Martini and Massage Monday, Wine Wenesday…I love this place!

 

No special consideration was given to me other than being a paying guest at the Ritz-Carlton. This is my life.

 

 

Inspired Mountain Magic at Primland

Primland, inspired mountain magic
Primland, rated a top 25 spa in the world.

My Primland obsession began in September of 2010. It has been exactly four years since my first visit to my favorite place. With every returning visit I am inspired by the people who make this magical mountain retreat come to life. My husband I and had heard about this amazing five-star resort, located in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, a 90-minute drive from our Roanoke home. I had not read anything about this resort until a friend of mine, Joey Beck, at Bella Magazine, urged me to “run, not walk” to this place. She knew I would love the spa and she was right!

This part of Virginia is very rural. Getting to the resort was a short trek. What happened after check in was so magical, that we rebooked for the following weekend while we were still on property!!! I vividly remember sitting in our robes on the balcony of #29 (still one of my favorite rooms) enjoying an excellent breakfast, as we watching a huge grounds crew, manicure the gorgeous golf course for hours. We could not believe we did not see a single golfer until almost noon on a Saturday! We spent the better part of the morning alternating between the balcony and the bed. We were enjoying some serious high thread count therapy in this deluxe suite. It baffled us that something so massive, so ultra lux, and so well staffed was not teaming with guests. In short, it was heavenly. Here is the magic– we were not alone! One of the wonders of this property is the feeling of having it all to yourself, even when it is booked.

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My first treatment in the spa was the same body treatment I requested on my latest visit, the Magic Lake Float. This treatment was so unique, it blew my mind! Let me explain. It is not uncommon to have a massage paired with a bath soak. What is unique about this combination is the Soft Pack tub used in the spa at Primland. The water in the tub is sealed and pressurized with a membrane over top of the tub water. On my latest visit, I chose the milk and honey option for my Magic Lake Float. My therapist this visit is Brenda. She is also my same therapist from my very first visit. Brenda lovingly applies milk and honey combined with Montana oil product to my entire body on a massage table in long strokes with her warm hands. Now covered in a thick white slather, Brenda helps me over to the Soft Pack bath tub. While seated on the side of the tub, she finishes applying more luxurious goop to my hard to reach bits and pieces, like the bottoms of my feet. Brenda helps me get settled on the top of the tub while still keeping me partially covered to insure my privacy and comfort. Once lying comfortably on my back, Brenda pushes a button on the soft pack tub. I am slowly lowered into the perfect temperature of bath water. I am warm, but not wet. The heat of the tub water and the nutrient rich ingredients work wonders on my dry skin. All products used in this spa are natural, and inspired by Native American Medicine.

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The room lights are now lowered. The candlelight, sounds, and smells of the room come to the front of my mind. Brenda, again checks my level of comfort and proceeds to give me an excellent head, neck, hand and foot massage. Amazing! But wait, there is more!!! While I am floating in this warm cocoon, she then applies cold marble stones to my pressure points on my hands, wrists, and feet. Whoa! The contrast of the warm tub and the cool stones is amazing. Brenda then wraps a heated towel under my neck and gently supports my weight. She is stretching my head and neck relieving any pressure that might have been there. I am now being floated by her in the tub while getting a very helpful gentle stretch to my upper body and neck. Kids? What kids? Teenagers? I forgot all about them!
Once Brenda is satisfied with my relaxed state, she steps out and says “I will leave you for some quite time now.” Relax and enjoy.” I am now left alone to enjoy the solitude. I really tune into the Native American music. I smell sage. I watch the candle flicker. I just I float, and enjoy the moment. When Brenda returns she tells me that she has left a towel for me by the shower for the next step of this treatment. She also places a towel on the floor so I will not slip. With a push of a button, my body rises up to the surface of the tub. The membrane now firm and supports me like a table.  I am instructed to shower off the preparation and return to the massage table in the same room. Brenda reminds me to take my time in the shower, and return to the massage table lying face down. Several minutes pass and I rinse off the milk and honey in the gorgeous, turquoise- tiled, rain shower. I was definitely moving slowly.I rinsed off, and enjoyed the steam. I also contemplated why it didn’t occur to me sooner to install a smooth river stone floor in my shower at home.

Once I towel off and get settled on the massage table, Brenda begins to work her magic on me, again. There is no chance that she is going to leave any knots in any of my muscles. She continues to give me a therapeutic massage. Magic Lake Float is listed as a swedish massage, but Brenda knows what I like. I prefer a little deeper massage than swedish, but not quit a deep-tissue massage. Brenda reminds me of my preference and adjusts the treatment to suit me, I don’t even have to ask!

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The fanning of eagles’ feathers and a chime remind me that this service is coming to an end, just as they invited me to relax and mentally check in at the beginning of my treatment. Typically, it is pretty hard to get up off the table after a good massage. Sometimes you feel a little woozy, dreamy, or sleepy after a spa treatment. After a long rest in my dreamy state, I am now able to read my animal medicine card that I picked at the beginning of the treatment. I can now meditate on the animal-inspired medicine from my card and its meaning from a book they provide. I just rest, sip tea, and enjoy the view of the golf course and a butterfly garden.

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Each visit to this magical place continues to make me daydream. Every visit a new facet of this gem is revealed to me as I explore all the activities and accommodations. I have been over a dozens of times and I have never not learned something new or not experienced something extraordinary. Many of these experiences inspired me enough to try to recreate Primland at my own home (that would be another blog post!). I continue to be inspired by the bespoke design of the Lodge, my time in nature, new activities I learn, and meals I have eaten at the chef’s table. I realize that I can never copy what is available to me here. It is not just the expansive land, beautiful scenery, and world-class activities. It is the people, too!  The people who guide me through Primland are amazing. I always feel inspired by their intuitive service and attention to detail. When I return home, I am inspired to apply a little mountain magic for my family in my own home.

I will now give you some of my favorite ways to experience Primland to the fullest…

I play golf and the Highland Golf Course is gorgeous and perfectly conditioned! I like to play nine on one day and the second nine on another day. That way, I have more time for other stuff like spending the day at the spa and lounging by pool. Recent renovations to the Primland golf course have moved up three tee boxes for the forward tees (#2, #3, and #9) and have made the course much more playable for ladies. I love to take pictures of the stunning mountains and nature while my husband is searching for his golf ball 🙂

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I love the tree houses and the fairway cottages. I have stayed in all of them. My favorite was the Golden Eagle with its view of the Dan River gorge…until they built the other two tree houses, Barn Owl and Cooper’s Hawk. They provide a little more privacy, yet still amazing views. Don’t forget to take your putter to your treehouse or fairway cottage. Those accommodations all have access to private putting greens. Barefoot putting in the moonlight with beverages is so fun! I love to watch birds fly below us from the  treehouse deck. Breakfast delivered to you in your treehouse is a must!

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The chefs table is mandatory for any guest that is a foodie. I prefer to spend a little extra to insure we have the table to ourselves. Three days’ notice must be given for this custom, seasonal experience. Three levels of wine pairing are available as well. If you don’t know Karl, the sommelier, you have not eaten properly at Primland, in my humble opinion. He is the best sommelier I have ever come across, and a conversation with him about your preferences will deliver you to the land of bliss with old favorites and new ones that you are probably not familiar with. I have learned so much about wine from him. He is truly a gem! He also does liquor tastings. I have really enjoyed bourbon and moonshine tastings as well (Not on the same visit! Don’t judge!!!)

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The staff will drive you if you ask. One cannot do nine flights of wine at the chef’s table and expect to be able to drive back to your house or cottage afterwards. I dont want to name any names, but trust me, even in a golf cart, driving after that many flights is a very bad idea (golf carts are given to fairway cottage guests). I have also arranged for them to drive us to and from Floydfest, a music festival in July, just 20 minutes away. They are always happy to accommodate.

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Every activity is exceptionally well planned and provides the highest level of professional training and equipment. I had a great golf lesson with Brian, the head PGA pro, and I still use one of his chipping tips on every round I play.

I now use a start chart app on my iPhone after an inspiring star tour we enjoyed. I now see the night sky in a differently and I can identify many constellations and planets.

I learned to shoot a shotgun at Primland. My first time shooting any gun ever, and I even broke several clays.

complimentary tea is served in the main hall each day at 4pm. All the fixings for smores are also set out every evening for your enjoyment.

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I learned to ride ATV’s, but I have to admit, I just wanted an excuse to see more of the property (ladies, they provide coveralls and boots to make our lives easier).

My husband and I took a cooking class on anniversary visit. We learned how to make hand-dipped chocolates with a chef while pairing (drinking) wine and eating lots of chocolates…good times!

We have spent hours walking the extensive trails on this property and we are far from seeing all of them. We have also taken a guided hike with a naturalist to help understand many of the native plants and animals that make up this massive 12,000 acre nature preserve.

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The spa was named in the Top 25 spas in the WORLD by Travel and Leisure readers. Are you really just going to book “a massage” after what I shared here? The Shenandoah, Daughter of the Stars facial is an amazing experience and it deserves a post of its own.

So many activities and places to explore are already laid out for you, but I would encourage you to come up with your own fun ideas too. I went through a low-carb phase (thankfully that has passed), and arranged a three course “healthy low-carb” meal delivered to our tree house for a romantic, sunset dinner on the deck.

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This resort’s goal is to go above and beyond. My goal is to push the limits 🙂 Have you visited Primland? Let me know if I missed one of your favorite activities, I still have many left to try.

No special consideration was given to me other than being a paying guest at this resort. This is my life.

The Spa at Pinehurst Resort is ready for the U.S. Open

 

Pinehurst Resort
Pinehurst Resort

The grandstands are up and Pinehurst is preparing itself for a busy golf season.  The 2014 U.S. Open is being held in Pinehurst June 12th though the 15th. The Women’s U.S. Open will be played the following week. I had the good fortune to receive an invitation to a Pinehurst golf trip sponsored by the Women’s Golf Association of Blacksburg Country Club. It was my first overnight ladies golf trip. I am disclosing details of my golf game on my spa blog because, if you hit the ball as many times as I do, you would need a massage too! Besides, destination golf resorts and destination spa resorts go together like peanut butter and jelly. Rarely are pairings this good.

The Spa at Pinehurst
The Spa at Pinehurst

Day three of a four-day golf trip, I was able to find a few hours free from my group, and head over the Spa at Pinehurst. I was staying off property, but due to the scale of the spa, I had no trouble booking a massage. The spa has thirty treatment rooms! And, it offers a very large spa menu giving many options to explore. I had limited time after my round and before a group dinner, so I booked a quick massage on the fly, and spent some time in the indoor spa and lap pool area before and after my treatment.

Welcome to the Spa at Pinehurst
Welcome to the Spa at Pinehurst

Once I self parked at the spa, I was in, in a flash. I was super hot and pretty worn out from my most recent round of golf. It was not shocking to the staff to see me arrive right in off of the course, dressed in my golf attire. It was shocking to me, however, to be greeted by a spa staff member with the most amazing smile and a frozen smoothie just a few steps within the spa! I was welcomed with a frozen, strawberry goodness, handed to me before I even checked in. This is intuitive service!

The enterance sets the tone of a natural Southern spa
The enterance sets the tone of a natural Southern spa

My tight schedule only allowed enough time for a fifty minute massage with a little wiggle room on either side of the treatment to explore the spa. First thing, I had to grab a quick shower. I then wrapped myself up in the plush spa robe and took a look around before my treatment. They have a very serious fitness center with lots of cardio and weight training equipment. They also offer personal training and Pilates classes. Guests can even add Kinesio taping to treatments. It is a sports medicine taping method to help reduce pain and inflamation to sore muscles, while supporting a full range of motion during activities, like golf. Next, I found the salon. Normally, I do not book pedicures at destination spas, as I consider them part of my routine maintenance. I prefer to book treatments I can’t otherwise get at home. I must say that the pedicure and manicure area was extremely nice. They had multiple pedicure chairs and multipule manicure stations in the same area. It is obvious that they are set up for some large wedding parties and group outings. They also offered a full menu of hair care, at what I consider reasonable rates.

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Guests are asked to meet up with their therapist in the lap pool area. This area also has a coed hot tub. The woman’s locker room offered its own hot tub,  sauna, and steam rooms. Unique to this property, the spa offers services for children and teens. This spa has a separate treatment area where families can enjoy treatments in the same room with their children, and it has its own family lounge.

Lap pool and relaxation area
Lap pool and relaxation area

My therapist for today is Joyce. I booked a 50 minute massage. My therapist helped me adjust my treatment to my needs. Joyce recommended an aromatherapy massage with a scent to match my desired outcome.  I was hoping this massage would help relax my sore muscles. I had been chasing a little white ball for days, and it had been exhausting. I was included in a tournament, so I was a little stressed out about following all the rules of play (my first match play tournament), new players, unfamiliar courses each day, and of course, I was mildly dehydrated. My dehydration was partly due to the heat, but mostly due to the very social evenings with friends (glug, glug). I needed to rally. I had one more fancy dinner scheduled at Southern Prime in a few hours. I also needed to be ready to play again the next day at a challenging course, Mid South. We chose the grapefruit essential oil. It did help perk me up while she worked on all my tired muscles. Joyce has a great touch. Deep tissue massage by request, yes, Ma’mm!

Once we finished up, I had just enough time to hang out in the most amazing whirlpool. What made this one so perfect at this resort was the amount of pressure the jets gave off. The coed tub also featured five mini waterfalls that are positioned just above your shoulders to deliver a powerful stream of water. The whirlpool was exactly what I needed after multiple days of golf. I was definitely getting a second wind. The spa offers all the hair care, body lotions, and shaving stuff that I needed to get ready for my dinner. I was all spuced up, refreshed, and ready to meet up with my friends for a great meal.

A very powerful, jetted hot tub.
A very powerful, jetted hot tub.

Like many visitors to the Pinehurst area, golf is the main reason to visit. I would imagine many golf widows are more than happy to stay at this reasort just for the spa. Knowing that you can book spa treatments without staying on property is key! Everything in the Aberdeen, Great Pines, and Pinehurst area is all very accessible and nothing seemed to be more than a quick ten minute drive. The Pinehurst resort is completely booked for PGA staff, players, media, and corporate guests during the 2014 U.S. Open. The Women’s Open, however, it is not! Packages are available to stay on site. Some packages include breakfast, passes to the tournament, and spa services, all the more reasons to love women’s golf.

When I return to Pinehurst, I will plan to stay on property with my husband, as so much has changed since our first visits, nearly 20 years ago. I also want to play #2, the course for this year’s Open. The treatment I wish I had had time for on my visit was The Heart and Sole treatment. It is a three-hour body treatment with a peppermint pine pedicure. Based on my golf experience, those are two areas that could have used some more tender loving care on this visit. Joyce also shared with me a sample of the Thero-marine mud ritual. She was explaining to me the self heating properties of this wild-harvested algae infused mud. She applied some mud on my arm to give me an idea of what the treatment is like. I will also be putting that treatment on my bucket list. The Pinehurst Massage includes a unique dry brush technique using pine straw. I first booked that treatment, but due to the quick hit I needed to get through my final round, we adjusted my treatment to include aromatherapy and deep tissue massage. Pinehurst may have redesigned the rough on the iconic #2 golf course to meet the needs of a challenging U.S. Open, but I assure you there is nothing rough about this spa!

 

Where was your best Golf/Spa trip?

 

No special treatment was given to me other than being a paying guest at this spa. A very special thank you to my friend and BCC member, Leigh, the professional golf staff, WGA committee, and members of the Blacksburg Country Club. The bar has been set!!! This is my life!

 

 

Grapefruit Brulee Ritz-Carlton Grand Lakes Orlando

Pretty Please with sugar ON TOP

Spa food taken to a new level at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida. Fresh Florida Grapefruit is topped with a tablespoon of sugar and caramelized! Look for Grapefruit Brûlée on the menu or at home, break out that seldom used kitchen torch for an easy and impressive breakfast. I chose this simple recipe to share as it is so easy to duplicate. I called down to the kitchen and the staff told me they just used a tablespoon of plain white sugar. I think this is a perfect example of fresh ingredients used in the peak of season need little to no alteration. Florida grapefruit are in season from November through May of each year. Thanksgiving through Christmas is generally concidered the peak of citrus season. The PNC Father Son golf Tournament is held during the second weekend in December.

An awesome spa breakfast to start my day during the PNC Father Son Challenge.
An awesome spa breakfast to start my day during the PNC Father Son Challenge.

Ritz-Carlton Signature facial in New Orleans

Guests of the Ritz-Carlton have a choice six facials in this spa, if you include the one that they offer for men.  I chose the Signature facial for the custom approach to this treatment.  In my heart, there is only one option when it comes to facials, the eighty minute facial. This spa offers fifty minute facials as well, but those are just a tease in my book. By the time your esthetician discusses any skin issues, gets you settled on the heated table, customizes the treatment, and gets the steam going, that would make a 50 minute facial only 45 minutes of goodness. I am not down with that! My esthetician today is Kathleen.

A beautiful reception area includes amazing fountain.
A beautiful reception area includes amazing fountain.

Kathleen was able to understand what I needed from this treatment. She knows I’m on vacation, because she asked. She also knew my skin would be dry from the long flight and a bit dehydrated from some delicious beverages that I have enjoyed while on Bourbon Street. My intention was to get a moisturizing facial and address any signs of aging appearing on my face.

Just around the corner is Bourbon Street, one of the most fun streets in the United States.
Just around the corner from the Ritz is Bourbon Street, one of the most fun streets in the United States.

Sometimes I am in a quiet, meditative mood while in the spa, but today, I was not. I booked this appointment at 11am. I had already been in the spa for a while and was able to enjoy some Champagne (straight, no orange juice for me)! Intuitive staff already knew my affinity for Champagne from the day before. I was able to meet some other ladies in the plush locker room, also into town for the same convention.  I was in a pretty chatty mood when I met up with my therapist. Beside being a knowledgeable esthetician, Kathleen was able to adjust to my mind-set and we had fun discussing other treatments and restaurants that I might like. She was professional, fun, and helped me my narrow down some of my many restaurant choices while in town. There are so many great restaurants to choose from!

I did not meet Mildred, or I would have asked her for a bite! An amazing spa for special occasions.
I did not meet Mildred, or I would have asked her for a bite! An amazing spa for special occasions.

About my treatment, I really like it when a spa is not tied to one product line. Multiple product lines means that I can get a truly custom facial. I can get products that I can’t find at home, find an old favorite, or just sampling something new. This spa has a serious arsenal of products so the options were amazing. After discussing my options, we quickly decide to continue on with the Dr. Gross product line. I was introduced to this line in January while at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes property in Orlando, and I really liked it. I also decided to add-on the alpha beta peel.

Large retail area includes all of the beauty arsenal and other carefully chosen spa products.
Large retail area includes all of the beauty arsenal and other carefully chosen spa products.

Here is the thing about add-ons. Usually, they do not add time to your service, and they will almost always cost additional money. But, it is a great way to try new treatments and products. Some of my favorite facials have had a scalp treatment add-on. Other popular add-ons are lip and eye treatments or hands and feet paraffin treatments.  Kathleen was not pushy, but just simply offered the Alpha Beta Peel as an answer to my issue with aging. This peel uses natural alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) to lightly remove dead skin. The goal of this peel is to reduce appearance of fine lines, address acne, rosacea, and oily skin. Excellent! I have all that, sans the rosacea. This natural product was applied nearing the end of the treatment and followed up with the application of many moisturizers. There is no downtime with this particular peel. It is not as harsh as a chemical peel or other higher potency natural peels. Due to it’s lower strength, there will be no redness, flaking, or peeling. Expect more downtime with products found in physicians offices, versus a spa environment.

When I bond with a therapist sometimes I take a photo to capture my crazy spa hair! Kathleen is amazing.
When I bond with a therapist I take a photo to capture my crazy spa hair! Kathleen is amazing.

I loved this facial. Great news, I did not need too many extractions, and if I did, I already had my champagne, so no worries there! Kathleen did a great job explaining the many steps in this facial and the products used. She pampered me with lots of massaging strokes, all while answering my many questions about this fun city. When she finished the service, I was definitely more relaxed, my skin felt more moisturized, and I had a bit of a glow. She reminded me to leave the products on as long as I could, and to take care if I was in the sun. She also gave me a note with the names of the products she used for my reference. I find this helpful, as really good treatment tends to give me “spa brain.” She walked me back over the relaxation room where I met up with two friendly, local ladies enjoying a spa day. They were enjoying very fancy, mini cheese burger sliders in their robes in between thier services. No judgement at this spa! It is an oasis in the heart of the French Quarter. 

Helpful tips:

Always discuss your current regimen with your esthetician, don’t forget to mention any peels, laser services, or other topical products that you use on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

If going to the beach or pool after a facial, be sure to wear a hat. Keep one in your spa bag along with sunscreen.

If you have not had a facial in a very long time, expect more extractions 🙁

Have you had any special add-ons to a facial you recieved? What was the add-on and was it worth it?

Marie Laveau Voodoo Love Bath & Massage

I applaud the Ritz-Carlton for making such a creative treatment for their spa in New Orleans. As a serious spa enthusiast, I generally book treatments that are the specialty of that spa. This treatment set a nice tone to start out my week in New Orleans. What makes this treatment a little different from just a soak and a massage is the tone set by the room, the whirlpool, and the staff.

Double chaise whirlpool tub used for the Voodoo Love treatment
Double chaise whirlpool tub used for the Voodoo Love treatment

A double lounge whirlpool tub that is  programmed for lighting, temperature, and time greeted me in a room that definitely had a New Orléans vibe. Red Drapes, red tub lights and a hot bubble bath set to 20 minutes was ready on my arrival. In the room incense was burning, and my therapist turned on some music featuring a drum vibe with a voodoo chat that set the tone nicely. Bubbles filled the tub and continued to build up during my soak. Lots of red candles surrounding my bath and tall stand candles operas in the room enhanced the bath. Ice cold towels within an arms reach were ready to cool off my neck, head, and wrists as I soaked. I also sipped Champagne which the helpful staff handed to me upon my arrival.

Bath Bubbles and Bubbly
Bath Bubbles and Bubbly

The most interesting  portion of the massage treatment was the oil they used. Kneipp warming massage oil with arnica and ginger, smelled great and had a warming effect and is the formula for the voodoo oil.  The therapist used a combination of long soothing strokes, heated wet towels,  a few hot stones, and of course the special voodoo oil. After my massage my skin felt soft and the aches from my flight were gone.

Kneipp warming massage oil with arnica and ginger a.k.a. Voodoo Love Oil
Kneipp warming massage oil with arnica and ginger a.k.a. Voodoo Love Oil

If I were to book this treatment again, I would. My tip would be to book it in the late afternoon or early evening, and if possible, with your significant other. The treatment had a very romantic vibe, thus the “love” in the treatment name. It would be more fun to experience as a couple. This would be a great treatment to have prior to a late night on the Quarter. This service would also pair nicely with a late dinner. End your evening after midnight with a bar crawl down Bourbon Street to The Dungeon. This local bar features lots of skulls on the wall, caskets hanging from the ceiling, and drinks served in chalices with dry ice that give the appearance of blood. Continuing your voodoo vibe will make for a fun night. We are in New Orleans after all! I booked this service  at 11am, as a solo with a pretty good hangover…but I was still thrilled to get into the spirit of the Quarter and still found it fun.

Roses: Champagne on arrival, ice bucket filled cold wash clothes, cool voodoo music, unusual theme, incense, very comfortable bath tub, probably the coolest treatment I have ever received

Thorns: Better as a couple

I have experienced many unusual treatments, but none really that had a “cool factor.” Please let me know if you have had a spa experience with a cool vibe!

This was not a paid visit. No special treatments were given other than being a guest of the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. This is my life.