Anam, a Buddhist Bar and Spa in Old San Juan

Anam Day Spa in  Old San Juan is located next to Parque De Las Palomas park on the water.
Anam Day Spa in Old San Juan is located next to Parque De Las Palomas park on the water.

I literally stumbled upon this little day spa while roaming the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. My husband and I decided to take a few suggestions from our concierge and Pinterest, and hit just one or two of the more than a dozen of recommended eateries and vistas recommended. What happened was pure serendipity. After a short walk up to Fort Cristobal, a little retail therapy at some local stores, and a great meal at a bean-to-bar chocolate cafe, (Casa Cortes ChocoBar restaurant that was on my hit list) we decided to ditch the list and just walk towards the water. We wanted to just see the city from a different perspective and allow it to open up to us in its own way. We literally happened upon a huge marble plaque that stated “home of the original pina colada.” So, of course we had to have a couple of those! Our bellies were still full from the chocolate cafe, or we would have eaten at Barrachina Restaurant, as well. The food coming out of the kitchen looked authentic and smelled amazing. We came to a a beautiful gate behind which was a small park with the most beautiful knotted and twisted shade trees. A plaque explained the park and a bronze pair of shoes. We sat on a bench and took in the view of the cruise ships, sailboats, and water. After some time resting our legs from the hilly climbs of the city we glanced over and noticed a day spa. This was no ordinary day spa. It was a Buddhist-themed bar in the front of the building and a day spa in the back. Was this a reverse mullet? Party in the front, business in the back? The sign outside posted modest prices, and spa services included cocktails. Are you kidding me!?! As a practicing Buddhist (I need a lot more practice) and a spa enthusiast and now, a mildly buzzed tourist…I thought my head was going to explode. Was this sheer luck or was it karma? I don’t know, but we had to go in. It was not a hard sell for my husband. We had no plans for the evening. He spied several very large flat screen tvs and and a full bar with beer taps. Of course I could use another spa treatment. My answer is always yes! YES!

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I chatted up the owner/bartender, Marcos Long, who had impeccable English, and was happy to round up a manicurist for me. My service would include a sangria. I explained my desire to stay on the rum vibe we had started and he was more than happy to make me a special frozen drink at no additional charge. Sometimes, my husband will join me for a pedicure, but the lure of the sports and the beer taps proved stronger than my pitch, and I happily took my seat in the manicure chair while he bellied up to the bar. Heidi was a fairly new technician, and her English was not as great as the owner’s, but she gave me a great manicure. She was so young and cute. She shared with me her time behind the chair and the name of her pet beta fish as she scrubbed, rubbed, washed and groomed my nails in preparation for the polish. While we were chatting, I noticed a rhythmic drumming sound.  As Heidi applies polish, I realized the drumming was not recorded music, but rather Thai massage.  I hadn’t noticed the two massage tables behind the heavy drapes! Another guest pulls back the drapes, hands a wad of money to the massage therapist, and thanks the owner’s wife for another awesome weekly massage. Turns out the owner’s wife is a Thai massage therapist, and he is a bar owner, so they just combined their businesses. Brilliant, in my humble opinion.

Later, not wanting my nails to smudge, my husband and I decide to sit outside watch the cruise ships leave port. It was a fantastic sight to take in as the sun set. Outdoor bar seating at this spa, next to a beautiful park, this was a great and unusual way to end the day.

My tips for visiting Anam?  I wish I had known Mrs. Long,  the owner was actually trained in Thai massage, in Thailand, if I go back to San Juan, I am totally booking massage with her!  If you are visiting from a cruise ship, this is a great late afternoon stop to end the day. Spa and nail appointments are not required but if you are in a large group, call ahead. The owners would be happy to get a cab for you to get back to the ship on time, as they know exactly when the ships depart. The last spa appointments are around 7 pm, so 3 or 4 pm would be perfect to see the park, get a treatment, have a drink, and catch a cab without stress. Tell them I sent you. Cheers!

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.

 

 

How to have a Ritz shower experience at home

Body Treatments of your choice with the Apothecary Bar. Select herbs and essential oils to create either a scrub or an exfoliating wrap to produce a glow and relief tension.
Body Treatments of your choice with the Apothecary Bar. Select herbs and essential oils to create either a scrub or an exfoliating wrap to produce a glow and relieve tension.

 

I am a little shameless when it comes to stealing great spa ideas and repeating them at home. One of the cool luxury perks that was unique to the Ritz-Carlton in New Orléans, was a custom scrub in the shower area.  I’m sure most of us have bought or been gifted a sugar or salt scrub at some time. Why not? They make excellent and affordable gifts. We can even make some pretty fancy ones at home. The genius in this lil perk was in its simplicity.  The staff set out a tray near the showers. You could help yourself to a small cup, and fill it with your choice of a sugar or coffee. They provided a large bottle of body wash as well. The idea is to start with a bodywash you normally use, and add and exfoliant to it to help slough off dead skin and increase circulation. The pleasant scent takes your shower to the next level.

A sweet little perk for guests of The Ritz-Carlton Spa, New Orleans. An assortment of sugars and coffee to add to your shower gel.
Mini Apothecary Bar. A sweet little perk for guests of The Ritz-Carlton Spa, New Orleans. An assortment of sugars and coffee to add to your shower gel.

I happened to have a bunch of apothecary jars at home and not in use. I filled the jars with turbinado sugar, kosher salt, and coffee. I then mixed one of  those ingredients with some odds and ends bodywashes to clean out my bathroom closet. Canning jars or other bowls would look just as nice for a more traditional home or cabin. I included a spoon in the jar to make it easy to use and mix.

Myscrubs
I made this tray for use in my master bathroom. This tray would be a unexpected surprise in a guest bathroom as well.
Myscrubs2
I used what I had on hand including sugar, salt, and coffee.
Apothecary jars
If you want to get super fancy, the Ritz-Carlton included more exotic ingredients for their body wraps. Dried flowers (lavender and roses petals), powdered algae, powdered honey, powdered clay, dried eucalyptus leaves, dried rosemary, sugars, salts, and essential oils.

 

Some additional thoughts:

Turn off  your phone 🙂

Set an intention to enjoy some quiet time and the process of self-care.

Take care not to use any bodywash products that you do not have an experience with before adding an exfoliant.

Try as a hand wash first, if you have any concerns about possible skin irritations.

This scrub would be a nice first step in a home manicure, as well.

If using an essential oil, be sure add just a few drops to a base or carrier oil. I like sesame, coconut, grape seed and almond oils for my base.

If using oils, be sure to take care exiting the shower or tub.

Raw Sugar used with the body wash, takes the shower up a notch.
Raw Sugar used with the body wash, takes the shower up a notch.

 

Let me know if you tried this and what your experience was!