How to get a great music festival massage

My hesitation to use these services due to my germaphobic mentality is usually overridden by alcohol. In more sober moments I have thought about what is being offered, and I can say I feel pretty good about the cleanliness of most of these spa services. Here is what you want to look for…

Lollapalooza Music Festival

I look forward to big music festivals every summer. Now that I am getting older, I find that VIP service is the only way for me to roll.  I’m a little old for the mosh pit, but I still prefer to get in close for some great live performances. Several years ago, events like Lollapalloza integrated a VIP experience to the festival experience and now it seems to be standard at most large concerts and festivals. Many of the perks are obvious, premium seating and view, unlimited food and drinks, sometimes air-conditioned tents to escape the heat, deluxe air-conditioned bathrooms, and of course spa services.

My hesitation to use these services due to my germaphobic mentality is usually overridden by alcohol. In more sober moments I have thought about what is being offered, and I can say I feel pretty good about the cleanliness of most of these spa services. Here is what you want to look for…

It is helpful to have a beverage while you wait in line.
It is helpful to have a beverage while you wait in line.

1) A giant vat of hand sanitizer. Usually services are provided backstage or in a tent, preferably in a more quiet area. Bathrooms and running water are not typically a feature of these mobile spas.  Also, check that the therapist uses sanitizer on their hands between guests. If no care is taken to make the area appear as clean as possible, skip it, and move on to the beer garden.

2) Paper towels. Typically used in the face cradle of chair massage or massage table to provide additional cleanliness. Hauling in towels and sheets does not usually happen. Watch the therapist. If they sanitize and wipe down the massage chair and use new paper towels for the face cradle between every guest, that is a good sign.

3) Washable surface. It would be my preference to be on a wipeable mat vs. a sheet that has seen one too many festival goers.

4) Appointment times. Who wants to miss the show waiting an hour or two for a “free” 15 minute massage? Get on a list, or move on, unless the chair is empty and ready to roll. Set an alarm on your phone if you think you may forget.

5) Pick treatments times in the morning versus afternoon. Therapists usually work in shifts, so you want to catch one at the begining of the shift. Heat is usually a factor at these outdoor venues so cooler temperatures in the morning or late evening make for a better treatment experience. Hot, sweaty, sticky clothes in the afternoon are not optimal for a great experience.

I wish every festival massage was set up like this tent that was at Floyd Yoga Jam.

 

Helpful hints:

Use sunscreen daily and skip the massage if your skin is too damaged from the sun.

Don’t forget to tip! If you received a great service, show some love. Many times these folks are voluntold by their spa or massage school to work the event and they have to deal with some ungrateful and many overserved guests. I like to tip prior to the service. I find that I get a better, and usually longer, service rather than the tired therapist who phones it in. If this is a three-day festival and you are sleeping in a tent, these people are life savers. You may want to repeat treatments daily, so asking a good therapist when they will return is a smart idea. They may just rebook you on the spot.

If you are day drinking, don’t forget to include water in the mix. Try to alternate between adult beverages and water or other non-alcoholic caffeine-free beverages to stay hydrated.

 

 

Burnt Offering; a sage-smudged massage treatment

I decided to call in the big guns for some healing therapy. I had my favorite massage therapist, and Reiki Master, Josh Hazelwood, from the Homestead Resort, make a house call. Sounds like a perfect way to relax, right?

I promise this is hilarious…give me a minute.

I want to share a day in the life of this spa blogger. It’s been three months since my last post. It’s not that I haven’t traveled, but I haven’t written for months due to some pretty depressing stuff going on in my life. I’ve had some family issues, that I would rather not relive at the moment. I think most of you can understand that type of lingering, heavy stress. I also recently lost my closest friend to cancer. It was a very long and difficult year watching not one, but two friends lose their lives to cancer. Last week I was just absolutely devastated. I could not even find peace in my mediation practice.

Fast forward to today. I have two friends painting the entire interior and trim in my home. Yeah, even the ceilings. The dry wall guys were here for a couple of days at the first of the week. This project will likely take a month to complete. My entire house, spare one room, is covered in plastic. And now, I have a fine, white film of dry wall dust covering everything. Not a single scrap of anything Christmas is found in the house. Christmas is just three days away. So yeah, it’s just a mess. I have been a hot mess. It has been a struggle. Any one of these things is stressful. The three combined has me at my emotional limit.

I decided to call in the big guns for some healing therapy. I had my favorite massage therapist, and Reiki Master, Josh Hazelwood, from the Homestead Resort, make a house call. Sounds like a perfect way to relax, right?

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Master massage and Reiki Therapist, Josh Hazlewood from the Homestead Resort makes a house call for me.

My therapist visited my neighbor Kathy’s house first. She lives up the street. He was a little turned around and was on her doorstep, massage table in hand, asking for Erin Wolfe. Thankfully, Kathy has her finger on the pulse of the neighborhood, so naturally she could direct him to my house just at the end of the cul-de-sac. His wrong house call will only add to my “amazing” reputation in my neighborhood.

I introduced Josh to my two friends and painters, Dexter and Tim. And with his typical fabulous humor, Dexter quietly says to me under his breath…”Oh great, we now have three queens up in this house.” At that point I had to remind Dexter that there is in fact only one queen in this crib and it isn’t him! #Drama

Josh and I head downstairs to my guest room, the only room in the house not completely destroyed. He and I went over my mental and physical state for a few minutes before the treatment. Since Josh and I have known each other for twenty-plus years, we can quickly cut through the typical update on my mental health and overall lack of wellness at this point. He suggests we do a combination of therapies including Reiki, massage, as well as some other energy work for my grief. Wonderful. I am so thankful to have my long-time friend here to help me. I plan on keeping an open mind. We chat about treatments, some trips I have planned for my blog, when the subject of Donald Trump comes up. Josh follows me and was tickled about my response to the 2016 election on my Facebook feed (total shock, peppered with swear words). At that point, I said we should probably burn some sage to clear out some negativity, especially since we invoked Donald Trump’s name. What an epic turn this took. Stay with me…

Josh’s massage style can be what a mutual friend calls “woo woo.” Of course he is classically trained and he takes his craft to another level by adding a spiritual aspect to it.  He smudges some sage around me, himself, and in the guest room. He puts the sage out and opens some windows. He leaves the room, and I get comfortable on his table and tuck myself in under his mint green sheets. Outside I have three men finishing the mulching of beds in my yard. I kind of forgot about them.  Yes, mulch in December. Don’t ask, It’s a long story. I know it doesn’t make any sense. You cannot make up what follows next.

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A treatment full of promise!

Josh begins the treatment with some incantations, chanting, and heavy breathing. You need to imagine him invoking spirits. He calls some spirits to come into our presence. He mentioned St. Germain, and I swear I tried to not giggle. At this point I’m thinking about my painters upstairs. Can they hear this?Dexter worked in restaurants, and that is were we met many years ago, so the fact that Josh is calling on a spirit, a name of a distilled spirit, to help me, is beyond ironic.

Josh is now doing a combination of G-Breathing which I swear sounds just like a combination of Darth Vader heavy breathing and making sounds like a digeridoo…yeah that Australian instrument…kind of freaky. This is now mixed with a chant of my name, and he spells each letter out “E-R-I-N.” He owns this spiritual part of the treatment, and his voice is loud, guttural chanting, like Buddhist monks. We have no music on during this treatment, so I’m just rolling with it and trying to focus on my breath and not giggle. Josh asks me to breathe with him. Ok, I will give it a try. I’m pretty weirded out, but least I’m not weepy, so I will try anything to feel better. We do chanted prayers at my meditation center, so I tell myself this is probably not that different.
So Josh teaches me the G-Breath technique…breathe in through the mouth, out through the mouth, then in through the mouth, out through the nose. Then, inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose, then nose, mouth, then mouth, mouth again. We repeat this breathing pattern first at a regular pace, then at a slower pace, then again at a faster pace. I know I sound like Darth Vader now, too. Oh boy, I can just imagine Dexter’s reaction if he can hear any of this. He would die laughing.
The two of us are doing this heavy breathing thing. I’m lying on the table. Josh is standing at the head of the table. I hear something else. What is that? I hear this noise in the mulch, and at first I think its a wild animal or maybe my cat. Then it dawns on me that my super-devout, Christian landscapers can hear us and see it all!!! Just a few feet from me is a landscaper digging in my garden bed right outside of the open, drapery-free window!! So when Josh is doing his myofascial release of my glutes, he exclaims, “Girl! Your butt is so tight!!!” Not once, but several times. He is in awe of the tightness of my butt muscles. My landscapers are not only hearing this, they had to see him fully extend my leg and then push my leg forward towards my shoulder. This is not a good look on anyone. He is now rotating my leg in a figure eight for what feels like infinity. Really? I just keep thinking, how am I going to explain to the landscaper? Josh now has one hand under the sheet, under my lower back, and one hand on top of the sheet, not far from my lady bits in an effort to open my chakras??? Josh continues with occasional guttural sounds while opening my different chakras. He tells me he is going to stop at my heart chakra as that is what is needed for me today, due to my grief. I am just imagining the landscapers thinking I am under some kind of surgical sheet having some weird new age treatment that may appear sexual to an untrained person. Oh man…did I mention that I already have an “awesome reputation” in my neighborhood??? This is a small town. My landscaper also works with other friends and neighbors.

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Five windows in this guest room…all open, and all without drapes!

Since Josh and I had done about an hour of the Reiki and other metaphysical techniques, we were at a point were it was mostly massage and more appropriate to have a little chat. Josh is now sitting on the end of the massage table facing me, I’m face up and he has my left leg is in what I can only explain as a wresting move, like a figure four, while I attempt to explain why I have a “tight a**.”

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My new trainer, Nicole, that kicked my butt, literally.

Josh finishes up the treatment with some rhythmic chopping on my back, backside, and legs. He throws in a little reflexology for my feet. Again, it is silent in the room, so you can hear hollow sounds on my body like a drum, AND people rooting around in my backyard. Josh varies his sound therapy at this time. This time, he is creating loud vibrations with his voice.  I would liken it to a singing bowl treatment.  He tells me it will bring about peace in most clients. I would guess that it is very effective, if you are not on display to three men covered in mulch witnessing this outside!

Ok, I can laugh at the randomness of the universe at this point, until we took another turn! No, It gets worse!!! Deciding to do another round of sage smudging for extra measure, Josh sets off my smoke detector. This is a problem as it is connected to an alarm service. I need to leap from the table, but I am just draped in a sheet wearing only my birthday suit.  Alarm blaring, he leaves for me to get dressed. I throw on some shorts and tank top…IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW!
Can I remember the code to the alarm? Hell no! I have spa brain!!! I’m trying to turn it off before the fire department gets called. Too late! My neighbor, Lorraine, is walking over with her phone to check on me. “Erin, It’s Audiotronics, there is a fire in your basement.” “No, no, I’m fine I was just burning some sage for a massage.” I am mortified. “Thank you!” I then called 911 on myself (second time this year) and inform them that we are ok, and not on fire. At that point I hear the fire truck and a moment later I see it, a large, bright, yellow, ladder truck. Now I have the siren in my house going off, and a super loud, huge, fire truck with an awesome siren, alerting all the other neighbors. Oh JEEZ! I still haven’t cleared the code. Now I’m outside in my shorts and tank top, explaining to the firemen, springing out of the fire truck to save me, that it was a false alarm. Thankfully, they were kind and understanding. Wow, I am so beyond embarrassed at this point. Can you visualize my #spahairdontcare, smudged face make up, flimsy outfit, dazed and confused look, standing in my barefeet outside on my freezing cold brick entryway? Nuts! Then my neighbor next door, Kathy #2, quickly pulls up in her SUV. “Erin are you ok, the alarm service called me.” “Um, yeah…I’m fine. It was a false alarm.” She is looking at me, then looking at the ladder truck, totally puzzled. I then have to confess my sage/massage thing to a lady that already thinks I’m totally high-maintenance. Now, I am certain there is no doubt in her mind of my diva ways.  Two painters and a massage therapist standing behind me in the house, three men in the yard, four men on the ladder truck…no, I’m definitely not high maintenance.  It’s just me getting a smoking massage. She will be giving me a hard time about this for a while.

I still can’t find the code to my alarm system. It’s so loud! I’m digging for my key fob, missing in action, of course. The painters are loving this more than you can imagine. My phone is ringing. Total chaos. It’s my husband. He is telling me our house is on fire. “No baby, its ok. It’s like what happens when I cook bacon. We’re good. Just trying to get a little massage over here.” Oh man, who is going to call or show up next???

I take a moment to just find my bearings and try to clear the alarm code. I decide to go out to the garage to get a bottle of water from refrigerator and the garage door is open. Right outside the garage are all three of my landscapers taking a break. I can only describe the look on their face, seeing me like this today, my disheveled hair, smudged makeup, summer attire, my three-man crew, and now the fire department…as an open mouth stare and total awe. I just can’t even. I have to see these guys every Wednesday. I just said false alarm, took my water, and hit the automatic garage door button to close the door. I’m out.

My painters and Josh are sad for me. They know how stressed I have been and now my momentary bliss has been squashed. They suggest a cocktail. It’s only 2:30. My massage therapist agrees. “You need water and a shot.” Dexter, Josh, and I have a shot of bourbon neat, from a now, “no longer able to be a Christmas gift” bottle of fancy bourbon that was on my counter. None of us typically drink bourbon. Drinking it without ice or a mixer is also not typical, but then again, what is typical about this day?

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Laugh or just cry? Josh, Dexter, and I chose cocktails. Yes, that is spackle on my kitchen wall.

My helpers, now paid, leave in very good cheer. My next door neighbor, Kathy #2, text me to follow up and make certain that I am ok. I give her the update on my holiday travel plans and remind her that she can use our secret Santa stash and and hot tub while I am away. She usually hides her kids’ large Christmas gifts in my lower, back porch until Christmas morning. She then texted me back, …”No need for the secret Santa stash…haven’t had that since college…but I might take you up on the hot tub.” OMG!!! What does she think I’m offering her??? I reaffirmed that I was burning SAGE!!! WTH???

I can’t wait to hear about this from my other neighbors. I live in a small town. I am certain this story will morph and evolve. It’s always smart to get your version out first.  I can’t even make this stuff up.

I know a much more epic version of this will make its rounds. Let me know if you hear a better version. I am certain we can all use a good laugh in 2017.

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IT WAS SAGE!!!

Epic.Spa.Day.

I paid for this day in many ways.  Happy to be writing again, thank you Josh! Extra special thank you to the Cave Spring Volunteer Fire Department and all of my neighbors on the security system phone chain.  One does not need to be a spa junkie to appreciate a good laugh. Please share. I know 2016 has been a hard year for many. This is my life.

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.

Source: Greenbrier Wellness

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 

 

Golden Door, the best destination spas go beyond pampering.

I applaude Golden Door for making this video series available to everyone at no charge. I am reposting this video because this is exactly the type of passion and excellence that I look for when I visit a destination spa.

The very best spas in the world do much more than provide a great spa treatment. They understand our need to connect with something bigger than ourselves. They understand our place within nature. They provide the awe that inspires us to feed ourselves spiritually and grow within our own self care. Education takes place at these healing centers. If we are open to it, we have the opportunity to learn while we visit these retreats. This is why spa travel is my passion.

I applaud Golden Door for making this video series available to everyone at no charge. I am reposting this video because this is exactly the type of passion and excellence that I look for when I visit a destination spa. It is my wish to for others to see that a great spa can change the way you see yourself and the world. This video is a pure example of what the very best destination spas in the world actually provide.

Wikipedia suggests a definition of self care:

“In health care, self care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. Some place self care on a continuum with health care providers at the opposite end to self care. In modern medicine, preventive medicine aligns most closely with self care.”

Golden Door, thank you for sharing!

I have not been to Golden Door, but it is at the very top of my bucket list. This is my life.

Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, South Carolina

I could not be more excited to visit the #1 weight loss spa in the country, Hilton Head Health (H3). Having thoroughly researched my destination, I thought it only appropriate to try some of the slimming spa treatments they offer.

The new Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, on Hilton Head Island, SC.
The new Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, on Hilton Head Island, SC.

I could not be more excited to visit the #1 weight loss spa in the country, Hilton Head Health (H3). Having thoroughly researched my destination, I thought it only appropriate to try some of the slimming spa treatments they offer. In the back of my mind, I did think I would have to weigh in, so I booked some of my treatments prior to my first day in my program. I know this is sneaky, but I also knew that if I started my program with the spa treatments I would be totally relaxed from my drive to Hilton Head Island. I also knew I could pump my therapists for any information I thought I might need during my stay. Very sneaky. Or brilliant–you decide.

The new spa features a beautiful relaxation room overlooking water and the Shipyard golf course.
The new spa features a beautiful relaxation room overlooking water and the Shipyard golf course.

I would be participating in a one of the two programs they offer. They have a Lose Well program designed to get people kickstarted on weight-loss, and a second program called Live Well, which is more for people that are interested in a tune up to get back on track. I participated in the Live Well program. Since this was not my first visit to a wellness retreat, I had an idea of what it would be like, but each resort has their own spin on this. I was happy to find the Hilton Head Health plan encourages healthy weight loss by teaching the fundamentals of lifelong success by reframing the diet issue into more of a way of life, so that dieting essentially is over. Time is devoted to teaching skills to integrate these new lifestyle choices, and classes on planning scenarios to make weight loss successful long-term. One of their main tenets is that small changes over time can lead to big results. They also stress the importance of not trying so hard to be perfect when it comes to dieting. It is how we manage the missteps that truly have the greatest impact on long-term success. I thought this was a very useful perspective as so many times we can feel like a failure if we don’t follow a diet perfectly, then end up giving up. Not just me? Apparently, it’s a common issue and this program is all about real-life scenarios and how to manage wellness for the long term.

Hilton Head Beach is a perfect setting for this spa.
Hilton Head Beach is a perfect setting for this spa.

I mostly did the Lose Well program, and the medical checks like weighing-in and blood tests were optional, so no scale for me! So maybe I didn’t need to book the slimming ritual before the weigh-in that never happened, but the benefits of this body treatment definitely enhanced my weight loss while I was there.

Melissa, my esthetician was knowledgeable about the many organic facial products they use.
Melissa, my esthetician was knowledgeable about the many organic facial products they use.

My first spa treatment was the Wild Comfrey Glycol Peel Facial Detox. Indigo spa designed this treatment to meet the needs of participants going through the process of weight loss which can at times trigger skin reactions like temporary acne breakouts, oily skin, or inflammation. I knew I was due for a good peel, and this one suited my needs. This particular treatment removes the top twenty layers of skin without any redness. Melissa, my esthetician, used a combination of organic products and traditional facial techniques of steaming, cleaning, extracting, application of a mask and moisturizing to customize my treatment to my skin care needs. I found her facial to be relaxing, yet it yielded the results I was looking for. I received a deep clean due to the exfoliation, extractions and a peel, but the application of acids to reduce a breakout I was experiencing was very beneficial. I was completely relaxed by my facial and I hadn’t even checked in yet! I had a longer drive than I anticipated due to road construction and some holiday traffic. I could really relax for back-to-back treatments, as the staff had called the front desk to alert them of my arrival and ordered my supper. I had dinner waiting for me after my treatments, so no worries about finding food or getting settled for my first evening.

Kristy, my massage therapist had excellent touch and technique!
Kristy, my massage therapist had excellent touch and technique!

My next service was the Naturally Slimming Ritual with Kristy. Kristy and I bonded immediately. I was extremely relaxed after my facial and ready to ask for some insider tips from Kristy now that I was settled in. She has been a therapist at Indigo spa since it opened. My treatment with Kristy is exactly what many people are looking for when they buy those “crazy wrap things” from home parties, except much more luxurious, and, I think, beneficial. Kristy applied organic products that helped brighten my skin via exfoliation, and reduced my water retention by using lymphatic drainage massage techniques. Slimming spa products really do work best, in my opinion, when combining specially-designed products with the massages. Once Kristy finished applying the organic scrub that contained plant enzymes, salt, aloe, and coffee berries, I was neatly wrapped in a special sheet to retain the heat of my body, as well as the heat of the massage table, to let those products absorb while she moved on to the next step. Normally, a relaxing facial massage with collagen would be the next step of the treatment, but since I had just had a facial we adjusted my treatment to include an in-depth scalp massage instead. My head and neck felt great now. All that driving stress was behind me. Her ability to adjust the treatment for me went so smoothly, I would have thought that the scalp massage was just part of the treatment plan. While I was face up and getting a serious scalp massage, I had time to pump her for information. She mentioned that stretching prior to exercise classes would be beneficial as well as massage appointments if I were experiencing too much stress or strain from all the exercise. She assured me availability of treatments, which put my mind as ease. Massage therapists always advise drinking water post therapy appointments, but that was never truer than in this case. Since she did an extensive lymphatic drainage massage, designed to removing excess water from my body, drinking enough water insures that my body does not try to hold on to the water already in my system. As we remove the excess water from the body, we are also removing toxins and helping our metabolism work better. Drinking plenty of water makes us feel fuller at meals, as well. There is a reason they gave me a giant water bottle at check-in, along with a backpack. I would be hydrating more than normal due to all the exercise but also as a tool for weight loss. I can assure you my water was definitely moving out after this treatment. There is no doubt that I lost more than water weight while at Hilton Head Health.

4 days of clean eating and exercise had a noticeable result!
4 days of clean eating and exercise had a noticeable
result!

By my third day in the program, I was not really in pain from all the exercise, but I was definitely ready for another healthy evening in the spa. One extremely cool thing about Indigo spa is its hours. They open up late at 2pm and stay open until 9 pm. On Saturdays they are open from 10am till 9pm! There is no need to cut classes or skip daytime activities to get your spa time in. It is actually designed to fully support the program and not compete with it. So, instead of going back to your cottage in the evening and zoning out, you can continue your in-depth program with treatments that address what is happening to your body. For locals and other visitors to Hilton Head Island, this means you can put in a full day at the beach, golf course, or tennis facilities (such as the internationally-renowned Van Der Meer tennis academy), then get a spa treatment in the evening. Brilliant!

Lisa has a healing intuition that is undeniable.
Lisa has a healing intuition that is undeniable.

Lisa was my massage therapist for my final treatment, the Indigo Blue Eucalyptus Ritual. I booked this treatment along with the other two treatments after speaking with the spa manager, Kelly, prior to my visit. I wanted to make sure that I got the true essence of the Indigo spa and I did not want to miss anything really special or unique. Kelly was a great help in narrowing my choices based on my needs and desires. She swore by this treatment, and now I know why. It is designed to relieve fatigue, low mood, stiff muscles, and aches, and to support a healthy immune and digestive system. I had timed this treatment just right based on my participation in the program. Organic products from the Naturopathica product line were used. Eucalyptus oil opened up my sinuses at the beginning of the treatment allowing me to breathe deeply and really relax. A combination of ginger and mint massage lotions were used on my body. The eucalyptus did not overpower the entire treatment. As the treatment began, it kind of reminded me of when my mom would rub Vicks vapor rub on my chest when I was little, and really, is there anything more soothing than that touch? Lisa was such a skilled and nurturing therapist, I was able to really breathe in deeply and my body was really relaxed and receptive to the deep tissue massage she provided as the treatment progressed. I did not want to leave the table after 80 minutes. Lisa had a great knack of knowing where I was sore without my specific direction, I would have to call her intuitive. She is fabulous.

I will admit, I did make some big changes to the amount of exercise that I normally do while at H3. It wasn’t that I could not do the exercises, or that I hate exercise, it was more of a tune-up for me, and a revitalization of my desire to be healthy and active. It was also a time to try new types of exercise like water yoga, and stand up paddle boarding. I also was able to ride my bike to the beach in the evenings and one Saturday afternoon, so I wasn’t totally spent from all the classes. I think we all get in ruts from time to time. There is a natural ebb and flow with lots of things in life, and eating right and exercising gets the back seat when we get busy or when other pressing things come up. My visit to H3 gave me time to focus on my health, learn new skills for making meals easier, healthier but still satisfying my tastebuds and typical cravings. My time post-spa in the relaxation room gave me a quiet place to really think and process all the new information I was taking in. I enjoyed journalling my thoughts and ideas, and thinking about ways to integrate these new habits once I got home. This wellness vacation was definitely a mental and physical way for me to hit the reset button.

Michelle Rogers and I enjoying beach yoga.
Michelle Rogers and I enjoying beach yoga.

The therapists in the spa were very skilled professionals. They were also personable and fun, very much like my time at Hilton Head Health. The people that work at H3 are required to go through the program as part of their training for new hires. Because of the H3 commitment to a healthy, happy well-informed staff, any staff member is able to answer questions that guests have, and can relate with them about all the things they’ve learned, and the nerves we might have about taking this journey. My advice to future participants would be to start your program off with some time in the spa for three reasons:  They can answer any questions you might have and make you feel more at ease. It is a easy way to de-stress from travel and get mentally prepared for the visit. The treatments also enhance the weight loss program due to their specific design. Many participants travel great distances to take this wellness journey. Some guests stay at H3 for at least a week, many stay for two weeks or a month to make the this new perspective on living well a habit that can last a lifetime. Indigo spa is just one of the many pieces of this well-designed weight loss retreat to empower guests to get the most out of their visit. This attention to the spa design is exactly the type of attention to detail they teach guests, to maintain a healthy lifestyle going forward.

My spa tips:
Start your week off at with spa treatments to de-stress from travel.
Bring your spa bag. Make sure you include a pen and journal to capture your thoughts.
Drink plenty of water before and after your treatments.
Plan to visit the spa more than once during your stay, to fortify your body and mind.
If you are staying for an extended period of time, book a series of treatments to complement your program.
The spa recommends alternating a trim treatment with hot stone treatments as trim treatment works better in a series. I agree.

This is a sponsored post. My thoughts and opinions are genuinely my own. I was a guest of Hilton Head Health, but received no direction on the writing of this post. I would like to thank Hilton Head Health for this life-changing opportunity and I look forward to sharing more of my wisdom gained over the stay in future wellness posts. Keep an eye on my resort recipes. I am already cooking differently, and I am excited to share these changes with you all. I would also like to thank my fellow blogger, Michelle Rogers Healthy living for all of her support during this fun week.

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!

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.

Best spa treatment of 2015 Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado Beach

 

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My best spa treatment in 2015 was also the most decadent of the year. The Montasanto Apothecary Ritual at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado Beach, in Puerto Rico. This spa has been on my bucket list since it opened in 2012. I had the pleasure of taking in all that the Ritz-Carlton, Dorado Beach has to offer with my husband for our 10th wedding anniversary in February. It is the most beautiful spa I have visited to date.

 

Living on the east coast of the United States, Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico is just a quick three-hour flight from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, requires no passport, and is an exotic beach get away. Coconut palm trees, secluded beaches, four world-class golf courses on the property, and every amenity that you would expect at a Ritz-Carlton, taken to a new level. This is a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property. What makes this an ultra-destination spa is the five-acre rain forest in the center of this resort and the exceptional staff. The world-class therapists make full use of the the flowers and herbs grown within the organic spa garden. The botanicals are used in all of the spa treatments and even some of the resort meals. The extensive treatment menu, with exotic settings tucked away in private casitas bring all the elements together for an otherworldly experience.

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A treehouse pavilion in the center of this rainforest is used for treatments. It was set up for a hammock massage.

Guests can arrive to the spa several ways. Your personal ambassador makes all of your arrangements for you, be it dining, tours, golf, spa treatments, packing or unpacking your luggage, or even transportation to the spa. Each guest is given a bicycle to explore the property, delivered to your room at your request. For my first treatment, a Dorado diamond facial, I arrived by golf cart, but by the end of the week, I was exploring the property and arriving at the spa on my bike.

Entering the spa though the Spanish gates, I pass under a gorgeous ancient banyan tree. I realize I am about to enter a very special place. On each spa visit I take my time to take in the scale of this gorgeous tree. I can see why the design team chose this site for the welcome center. At 30 yards from the front door, one can actually smell all the organic herbs and flowers coming from the huge open air pavilion where they harvest, dry, and store the botanicals for treatments. This pathway really sets the tone for what is the most spectacular spa I have ever visited.

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I booked for the signature three-hour Montasantos Apothecary Ritual treatment with Giselle. She is my therapist and esthetician, and has been all week. Since Giselle has gotten to know me over the course of the week, it would be easy for her to rush through my consultation, but that is not the case. We again discuss my desired goals, health conditions, and personal preferences specifically for the botanicals preparations she will me making by hand for me. The goal is to help me achieve my optimum state of wellbeing. Personally, I was already feeling amazing. I had been eating extremely well, I was drinking the best Puerto Rican rum at the pool daily, strolling the beach during the evening, and getting plenty of sleep. My husband and I were feeling connected and happy. He was in great spirits and very relaxed. I was missing a second winter storm back home, so no real complaints here. Any treatment issues to be addressed were just some lingering dry patches of winter skin, and the typical desire to address aging on my face and decolletage.

Dorado Beach Apothocary Spa treatment

We begin our consultation in a special pavilion also used for couples therapies, to allow for more room and access to the special stone-carved tub where I will take my rainforest bath. But first, Giselle prepares the room by burning some fresh sage, and sets an intention for the treatment. She presents this gorgeous box that reminds me of a fancy tea presentation. In that box are dozens of dry herbs and flowers. Several other bowls containing fresh botanicals and oils are set out and ready to pick and choose for my custom-blended treatments. We continue to talk as she carefully chooses the flowers and herbs to make two poultices for me. In a special deep mortar, she places a bag and begins to fill it with my blend. She is able to do this fairly quickly as she has been on property since the opening, and has decades of experience. Once she is satisfied with the combination, she begins to muddle and blend the delicate petals and leaves with the pestle. She makes quick work of wrapping my poultice. The next step is to prepare the infused oil that will be used in my massage. Again, we continue to discuss my skin and select the flowers and herbs to be used, muddled, and added to the bottles and topped off with the oil we selected based on my needs. Salts are also prepared with the same attention to detail for my scrub and placed in a bowl. This process, while it was involved, did not take long as Giselle knows her apothecary, the benefits and uses of each botanical, and how to make effective blends, from using them daily. I was in awe during this process. I just took in the gorgeous treatment room, the smells coming from her emulsions, and continued to ask her questions about the various flowers and treatments. She was a wealth of information.

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Walking over to still another private, open-air pavilion, she seated me for a foot soak and scrub. I am now soaking my feet in a beautiful bowl of water with fresh flowers and the salts she just prepared. Giselle gives me a special passion fruit drink. I enjoy the architecture, the design and decoration of the room, and just enjoy her company as I soak. We are alone. I can just hear water and tropical birds. I can see beautiful palm trees and exotic plants. The setting is tranquil and I feel completely relaxed and we are just getting started. What separates a good spa therapy from a great spa therapy is the therapist. At this point, I feel connected to her as if we were old friends, yet I don’t feel the need to be chatty.

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Feet botanically, salt soaked, cleaned and buffed, Giselle helps me walk out into my own private rainforest garden. This is where I will take in the next few steps of the treatment. She has personally arranged a special treat for me of house-made passion fruit candies, along with a chilled bottle of champagne, to enjoy while I take my rainforest bath. It was the perfect example of a Ritz-Carlton staff member going above the regular service to make a guest feel special. She did this on her own, knowing what a spa enthusiast I am based on our treatments earlier in the week and she went out of her way to really make my tub time special. Bravo! I adored my soak! The granite carved tub outside in the open air rain forest, surrounded by all the exotic foliage, was breathtaking. I was left alone for a while to just soak it all in and enjoy the solitude of bathing in nature in the most luxurious way imaginable. I sipped champagne, ate the passion fruit candies, and I think I teared up a little. It was so beautiful and sweet!

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Later, Giselle returned to help assist me from the tub to the thick granite table within the garden for my full body exfoliation. Once I toweled off discreetly, and was helped to the table, I was draped for modestly and my exfoliation began using the botanical salts she made earlier. Giselle has an excellent touch and was able to thoroughly address my dry winter skin issues with out being abrasive to the point of aggravation. I smelled lavender, rose hips and rosemary. It was divine.

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Giselle helps me off the table and over to the outdoor shower so that I could rinse off the salt preparation. Again, she is respectful of my modesty and gives me time alone to thoroughly rinse off and enjoy this beautiful outdoor rain shower in the center of this rain forest. All wrapped up in a soft and sleek robe, she helps me make my way back to the pavilion for my massage.

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Giselle remembered I like a therapeutic massage that is somewhat deep but not quite a deep tissue massage. Her touch and knowledge of anatomy is undeniable. She knows her techniques, how and where to apply them, and because she is a good listener, she knows exactly where I need a little more attention from our consultation. As the massage progressed I could smell the flowers open up even more from the steaming poultice she applies to my body. I am just amazed how sweet and delicate but not overpowering this fresh preparation is. I am completely silent at this point, if I wanted to talk, I couldn’t. I am just speechless.

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Leaving the treatment room, I ask her what jengibre means. She tells me Ginger. How perfect for me!?!

I am given a big hug post treatment and delivered back to the women’s relaxation room. I just sit and take in the beautiful garden and art work in the spa. I can’t possibly consider doing anything but meditation at this point. I spend some quality time in the spa enjoying the amenities: steam room, walking in the miniature pineapple meditation garden, and lounging in the ladies-only hot and cold rain forest plunge pools. I took my time.

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When I finialy feel like I want to leave this dreamy state and rejoin my husband who is happily waiting for me at the pool, I find him in a similar state. Armando, our exceptional pool attendant, has set him up in an amazing hammock under palm trees with a cold rum punch by his side. Our chaise lounges and umbrella are all ready for our relaxation. Before I can even ask, Armando brings me my favorite cocktail. Yeah, its like that.

 

What to know before you go:
This treatment respectfully requests 24-hour notice to pick and prepare the botanicals for the treatment.
I would recommend booking this treatment at the beginning of your stay at the Reserve as the staff will customize your treatments for the rest of your stay based on this in-depth consultation.
I did not spend a lot of time talking about specific flowers and herbs as so many were used and it will absolutely be tailored to you individually. No two experiences will be alike.
Shorter versions of this treatment are also available.
Booking times on the weekends can be difficult last minute. To insure your preferred times and treatments I would strongly recommend making these spa appointments prior to arrival.
If you find another treatment in the Caribbean or anywhere 🙂 more impressive than this, by all means, please let me know. I have been to many destination spas and have had hundreds of treatments in many countries over the last twenty years (my complete list is on Pinterest). Please share.
Namaste.

 

 

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

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.

 

 

Sacred Journey, my spa treatment with a psychic

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Rarely have I been more eager to book a spa treatment as when I booked the Sacred Journey at the Salt Cave and Spa in Lewisburg, West Virginia. I have to admit that curiosity got the better of me when I read that I could book a healing session with a psychic. The biography for my therapist, Cari, listed extensive training in the healing arts. She is a massage therapist, spiritual healer, energy healer, intuitive guide, meditation guide, and Tarot card reader. She is also a fire dancer and instructor! Whoa, what a résumé!

I have an active imagination, so until I actually met Cari at the spa, I had all kinds of thoughts about what this treatment is all about. What I experienced was an intriguing combination of the physical and the metaphysical. In session, we sat directly across from one another at the massage table. She explained her background to me and asked me about what I was interested in, what was on my mind and how I would like to use this session. She explained that she is not a “Vegas style” psychic, but rather has communication with those who have departed. She also explained that she is a medium for what she described as “spirits.” Since I had no real burning desire to speak with any dead relatives, I chose to concentrate on something that has been on my mind in my personal life. I specifically did not book my girlfriend Denise for this treatment, as she is a new widow, and we had booked this trip as a fun day. I did not want any negative thoughts or depressing feelings brought out on this afternoon.

This is similar to the card I chose, yet I did not want to ask to take a phot during the middle of our session
This is similar to the card I chose. A tarot book tells me key points are: Strong, career-oriented, has had a hard life, doesn’t trust men, a well-balanced mother, divorced or widowed. Cari did not need a book!

After our discussion of my issue, one that involves my personal meditation practice, Cari asked me to cut the Tarot deck. She laid out the cards in a non-traditional fashion, and asked me to point to the one that interested me the most. I chose a queen with swords. She was right side up. At that point, I was instructed to lie on my back at top the amethyst biomat on the massage table. Cari then guided me in a brief breathing meditation. Once I was in a relaxed state, she placed her hands on my arms to get a reading. She continued to ask me follow-up questions from our earlier, seated, conversation.

Sacred Journey healing session
Sacred Journey healing session

She shared with me her thoughts on my “problem,” and gave me some advice. This treatment was very much like a traditional mental health therapy session with one big exception, Cari used her intuition to tell me what she thought I should consider. In a typical psychotherapy environment, talk therapy is used by the counselor or physician with the intent to guide your thoughts or behaviors through a series of questions to reframe your perception of an event. Generally, one does not get advice from a doctor on the next step. It is their goal to make you think of the resolution yourself. This session was similar to the conversation we had, but different in that she was willing to listen to my intuition, her intuition, and the message of any “spirit.” The result of the session did help me make up my mind about an issue that I had been on the fence about.

It is important to note that many times I can be pretty fun and chatty in a spa. Cari set the tone for a more serious mental healing to take place. So we did not take my typical, goofy, spa selfie as it would have seemed inappropriate. We discussed my spirituality and she used my Buddhist training as a frame for discussion. This conversation would have been similar for someone who is Christian or another faith. I found it interesting that she referred to this messenger or guide as “spirit,” and I don’t think that any of my more open-minded Christian friends would have been freaked out or offended. At the end of the session, just as I find in my regular practice, the answers come from within. It is in this stillness and directed meditation that you may come to answer a question or issue you may have.

I found this session very interesting and helpful. I would recommend a Sacred Journey session to anyone who is open to sharing personal details in a private setting with no judgement. Cari is a kind and thoughtful person and takes her sessions very seriously. I only wish I had an itching desire to speak with a dead relative, but it just didn’t seem to be in the cards for me on this day. I would book another session with Cari. Just know that she is not theatrical or flashy. She truly wants to help people heal. If something is really bothering you and you have not found the right person to share this information with, Cari might just be the person for you to visit.

Things to consider for this treatment:

The treatment needs to be approached respectfully, long periods of silence do occur, no spa music in this treatment.

One does not need to disrobe for this treatment.

This treatment is only available at the Salt Cave and Spa on a seasonal basis, as it is only available when Cari is available. Call ahead for this one.

Ok, so I have had Tarot cards read before, but this was my second experience with a medium. I had my palm read many years ago and lots of the stuff I was told did come true. Have you been to a medium and what was it like? Did you find them truthful or helpful?

 

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

The Salt Cave and Spa of White Sulpher Springs is a holistic place of healing

 

The Salt Cave and Spa in Lewisberg, WV
The Salt Cave and Spa in White Sulpher Springs, WV

This was not my first visit to a salt cave, but definitely my very favorite. I might even say this could be my favorite day spa to date! The facility is extremely well thought out, clean and beautiful. My curiosity was at an all-time high when I first found out about this new spa. Photos on the website confirmed that I would be making a trip to White Sulpher Springs as soon as possible. The Salt Cave and Spa was just completed and opened to guests in July. It builds on the American tradition of wellness in Greenbrier County, with a focus on preventive and restorative health. The treatments offered at this unique and enchanting spa resonate with those of us who believe spa services are part of our integrated health care.

 

Offering a mix of alternative healing therapies and an impressive salt cave, this day spa is unique and gorgeous. Salt caves found in nature have been used for centuries to help with various breathing issues such as allergies, cystic fibrosis and the common cold. Interest has reawakened for halotherapy (salt therapy) as a modern healing modality due to the lack of side effects. Salt has a natural ability to reduce inflammation and boasts antibacterial and antifungal properties.  Although the mechanism of action is not known, physicians and healers continue to prescribe the healing benefits of halotherapy. Personally, I love treatments that can be both soothing and restorative, particularly when received in such an inspiring natural environment. The cave itself is new, built with love and a passion for preventive health by the owners. The couple, both artists by trade, also live and farm on this one hundred acre property.

I enlisted an adventurous friend of mine, Denise, to daytrip with me to Lewisburg area in West Virgina. As a regular at the world renowned Greenbrier, I am very familiar with the scenic drive to the beautiful mountain town. After studying their treatment options and discussing Denise’s wishes for the day, I hatched my plot. We would leave at the crack of 9:30am. No need to get up super early for this road trip. I also “borrowed” my husband’s convertible for the day. I definitely think that helped give a cool vibe to our adventure. We enjoyed a warm, open air drive and arrived in downtown Lewisburg just in time for lunch. I suggested one of my favorite downtown restaurants from among the many excellent ones Lewisburg has to offer. Once we were properly fed and watered, we had some time to shop. We had to go to Yarid, an upscale shoe store downtown. Locals know that all the discounted stock from the  several other locations are sent to the downtown Lewisburg Yarid location. With full tummies and now a trunk full of discounted designer shoes and handbags, we were ready to embark on our spa portion of the day.

 

To say that this day spa is unique or special really does not do it justice. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Michelle and given a Mason jar of water that she had retrieved that morning from a natural mineral spring just down the road. This spa actually has sulfur water available for guests and treatments, but natual mineral water is better tasting for drinking.  This unusual greeting really set the tone for the day at the spa. The staff was eager to share their knowledge on the many healing therapies offered, and their own personal rituals for health.

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The Salt Cave and Spa in White Sulpher Springs, WV

I arranged the signature Edgar Cayce massage for both Denise and I. What makes an Edgar Cayce massage different from the popular Swedish massage is the philosophy, technique, and training involved. Edgar Cayce is known as the father of holistic healing. Michelle, our massage therapist, was trained at the famous Edgar Cayce holistic spa in Virginia Beach. Michelle uses a personal philosophy of being a channel for personal growth and wellness. She made her intentions clear on our arrival that restorative and healing therapeutic techniques would help soothe the mind and body. Her desire was to relax the body, and stimulate the nervous system, organs, and rotate our joints and limbs, in an effort to coordinate our mind and body for an overall feeling of wellness. So what does the Edgar Cayce massage looks like to the average non-new age trained client? The massage begins with special Edgar Cayce oil applied in long soothing strokes very much like a Swedish massage. During my 90 minutes on the table, Michelle would intermittently work on various body parts in a specific sequence as part of the Cayce method. She would pull and stretch our arm and leg joints alternately. Michelle also used Jin Sin Do techniques, which are a deep finger techniques applied to muscles and organs to as in acupressure. Done properly, this technique is known for inducing a trance-like state. She also took care to address my lymphatic system through massage. Her pressure was enough that the massage was therapeutic while still providing a relaxing experience. My experience was profound. I loved it!

While I was in with Michelle, Denise took advantage of an amethyst biomat and light therapy session. This heat treatment involved lying on a table on top of a special mat that has an amethyst core. Its infrared heat penetrates the body 6-8 times more deeply than a regular heating pad. The concept is to increase your core temperature and increase your negative ions, helping with cell turnover. The technology was developed for use in space. While reclined on a massage table with the biomat on top, Denise just reclined and let a second infrared light therapy shine down on her. This special infrared light was positioned above her . It also provided deep heat, but was not uncomfortably hot. Again, the treatment is intended to heat the body and speed up cell turnover for quicker healing. Denise enjoyed relaxing in the beautiful spa room.

My second treatment was the Sacred Journey–part mental health session, part meditation. Cari, my therapist, is also a psychic medium! This was a spa treatment so unique, it deserves a separate post, check back for part 2 of this journey. Denise and I catch up after our second treatments for our final treatment, a visit to the salt cave. This salt cave is absolutely gorgeous. A beautiful, tall, arching ceiling with embedded lights that simulate stars, and stalactites coated with Himalayan salt, support the overall design and function of this healing cave. I was mentally transported to a place that took me out of my normal routine. What a beautiful therapy to book following other spa services.

 

Salt cave time is booked in 45 minute sessions. Additional therapies can be booked in the salt cave as well, including guided meditation and yoga classes. This salt cave is large enough to accomodate a group of friends, yet has an intimate feel due to the stunning lighting and design. Micron-sized crushed Himalayan white salt is forced through a special air handling system in the cave to create a microclimate. The salt was not noticeable on our skin or clothing, but did make our throats a little dry. Denise and I were happy to rest post treatment and spend some girl time together chatting as we had the cave to ourselves.

What to know, before you go:

Regular visits to the salt cave achieve better results, but a single 45-minute session has the same healing effect as a three-day visit to the beach! Have you ever noticed how acne clears up on a beach trip??? Yup, antibactierial qualities in the salty air and water is duplicated in this cave.

It is advised that you bring your own clean white socks to wear in the cave. Walking on the crushed salt also provides a nice reflexology massage to your feet. Denise and I both wore comfortable street clothes, but yoga clothes would be a great option for added comfort.

The staff is well trained to book multiple guests with different treatments to maximize a full day at the spa. Call ahead and they can help take the stress out of a group outing.

Time in the salt cave is not recommended for people experiencing infections accompanied by a fever, patients with active tuberculosis, or people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Children are welcome to visit the salt cave.

The cave is kept at a constant temperature and is truly a four-season spa. I would love to snuggle in at this cave in the winter, or escape the heat as we did on this trip in the summer. Fall is a perfect time to visit, with spectacular fall foliage and mountain views enjoyed en route.

 

 

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