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 

 

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.

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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.

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.

Inspired Mountain Magic at Primland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Spa at Crestwood Inn, a small resort provides huge value

A grand enterance, for a small resort.
A grand entrance, for a small resort.

 

As I continue to experience more spas in North Carolina, I can’t help feeling grateful for living in this part of the country. Boone, North Carolina is just a three-hour road trip from my home and makes for a perfect weekend road trip. This part of the country has so much to offer with a beautiful mountain setting year round. On this visit, I spent a gorgeous summer weekend with my family exploring more of what Boone has to offer. The high season for this area is definitely the fall and winter season. Falls changing of the leaves and area ski resorts in the winter get most of the attention, but summer is also spectacular with light cool breezes in the evening and warm sunny days.

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I booked the Inn at Crestwood to specifically to experience their spa. The mountain top setting is a wonderful natural escape from hot summer days. We arrived pretty late at night, and we were greeted with warm cookies at check in! I was not expecting such a thoughtful treat at such an economical resort. What a pleasant surprise!  Our youngest daughter stayed in a cottage, and my husband and I stayed in the main building. When we woke up in the morning we took in the spectacular mountain view from our room.

Breakfast was included and it was definitely worth getting up for. Hubby is a huge fan of biscuits and gravy and I have to say, I don’t usually eat stuff like that, but had to give it a try based on his review. Whoa! Those were some of the best biscuits I’ve ever had. Coffee, Juice, breads to toast, pastries, muffins and eggs rounded out a hearty buffet. I do need a good base for my day at the spa.

The first treatment I booked was a 90 Minutes Swedish massage. My massage therapist, Tammy, was excellent. We chatted briefly about my preference for medium pressure and she had excellent touch. Tammy made me feel very comfortable and relaxed. Half way through the massage, when the therapist asks you to turn over, I was like a limp noodle. At the end of the treatment I decided I felt way too relaxed to be leaving the spa any time soon, so I took the opportunity to lounge in the sunroom and read some magazines. After resting, I took a dip in the pool. It was amazing. While I was in the pool area, I also checked out the steam and sauna rooms, but took a pass on the fitness room. Sorry, I need to work out before my treatments, not after!

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Day two, I booked a facial, but due to a random eye infection that popped up unexpectedly, I spoke with the staff, and Diane easily arranged for a backfacial instead. It had been years since my last back facial. Earlier I had discussed my need to swap treatments with my husband. He had no clue that a back facial existed. He made some jokes about getting a “backside” facial. You can imagine the look on his face when I explain that is an option as some spas, but I would just have a upper back facial here at Crestwood.

Crestwood Spa therapist, Lori
Crestwood Spa therapist, Lori

Lori began my treatment by dry brushing my entire body. This technique uses a natural fiber brush to gently exfoliate the skin and increase circulation. Her brush would lightly remove dead skin followed immediately by and her soothing hands, providing a nice contrast to the course fiber bristles of the brush. It feels incredible. She then used warm towels to gently remove any dead skin, and used the steam, to help prepare my skin for the application of products.

She chose to use Priori Coffeeberry products on my back. Lori worked the revitalizing cleanser into a light lather on my back and again, removed it with warm wet towels.  Just like a facial, she checked my skin for any irritation, signs of aging, and any acne. She even described a mole on my lower back. A benefit of a true professional asestitician looking out for my over all health. Once she determined that I was aware of it, and might want to get it checked by a dermatologist, she moved on to the next step. She had my back, literally. It’s not like I look at the small of my back regularly and this could be a life saving check for many who spend too much time in the sun, live alone, or are fair-skinned like myself and prone to have freckles and moles.

Lori applied an invigorating body scrub to my back with her hands firmly scrubbing and sluffing off any dull skin. She removed the scrub with warm, wet towels. Next, she applied a thick mask to my back to replenish my skins moisture. Using the antioxidant rich coffeeberry products to hydrate and revitalize skin damaged by the environment. For next 10-15 minutes, I basically melted into the heated table while she continued to give me a hand and foot massage while waiting for the mask to work.

The mask was then removed via warm wet towels and my skin was ready for an additional application of a moisturizer. The final step of the backfacial was a very gentle, swedish back massage using a lotion that provides skin nutrients to strengthen and repair my skin. My skin felt great. It was much smoother, cleaner, and definitely much moister. It took me a while to get up off the table. I was so relaxed. I was also grateful that I was still face down.  I am pretty sure she did not witness me drooling 😉

This inn is adorable. It looks like Pinterest exploded into reality here. Many thoughtful details are throughout the property. I really liked the private picnic area and fire pit. It is in a gorgeous setting. Crestwood is very affordable, and a perfect place to host weddings. It is great for families, groups, couples, and even solo travelers. Room rates include a hot breakfast buffet. Lots of little loving details make this property very homey.

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If I visit this property again, I would book a cottage for maximum privacy. I would also bring a few snacks (ok, I will be honest…champagne) as there is no room service. They do have a full service restaurant and a very nice bar. I would book my treatments a few days in advance to insure I score the best therapists, as they have many to choose from.

 

I was given no special treatment other than being a paying guest at this Inn. This is my life.

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

 

Pinehurst Resort
Pinehurst Resort

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

The Spa at Pinehurst
The Spa at Pinehurst

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lap pool and relaxation area
Lap pool and relaxation area

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

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

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

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

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

 

Where was your best Golf/Spa trip?

 

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

 

 

Runaway Moms Hideout at Lakeview Fontana Resort

 

Lake View Fontana Spa
Lake View at Fontana, a boutique Mountain Inn

I am pretty sure that I am not the first mother who dreamt about running away from home, but I am one of only a few women I know that actually did it! Now, I don’t want to get into the wretched details of what would drive a mostly sane person into ditching the kids with the husband and taking off. It is in the past after all, and all is forgiven. Let’s just say that our base requirements involve an annual Mother’s Day card, and a meal that we didn’t have to prepare on that one day of the year. Our basic needs were not met! Woodrow Wilson saw the wisdom in celebrating mothers way back in 1910, and it is observed as a national holiday! Apparently, nobody sent a memo to our families!

I will say this, I was not alone in my pursuit of rest and relaxation, I had a partner in crime. *Fancy, (let’s not use name real names to protect the guilty) and I had come off a very long year of family medical illnesses, deaths, and teenager shenanigans. One afternoon we decided to run off, the day after Mother’s Day to be exact, and that is precisely what we did. We did not leave forwarding details, we did not ask permission, and we did not really have a plan. We headed off to parts unknown. I stashed her Blackberry, and I unplugged mine. With one quick phone call, we headed off to a budget friendly spa, the Lakeview Fontana, in Bryson City, North Carolina.

This may or may not have been my partner in crime!
This may or may not have been my partner in crime!

We felt every bit as adventurous as Thelma and Louise. We stopped at a random winery about halfway to the spa. We were living large. No kids, no husbands telling us what to do, and no time frame of when we might return home.

Our arrival to this hidden getaway was pretty late at night (Hello! Winery, we blame you!). We were left a note at the front desk. It told us where they had left the key and to help ourselves to the honor bar in the dining area. This spa was tucked away, just off of the main road. It was once an old school, road side motel. It has been lovingly restored. Rooms had new bamboo floors, fluffy beds with white bedding, and of course, a serious spa! My gamble had paid off! It was so cute! It was rated one of the top ten budget friendly spas by Travel and Leisure.

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We easily settled into the flow of the property. Each morning we enjoyed the beautiful and tasty offerings for breakfast, including: French pressed coffee, juice, yogurt, granola, pastries, fresh fruit, and hard-boiled eggs. After a leisurely breakfast, we treated ourselves to very luxurious treatments in the spa. This schedule left us time to spend the afternoon by the pool or take a drive into one of several little towns to explore, eat, and shop. By evening, another spread of local wines and cheeses were prepared for happy hour. We loved happy hour! They have the most amazing view of a lake and we could sip, or gulp (don’t judge) our wine and take in the sunset.

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We booked two treatments for every day that we were there. Our innkeeper was awesome. We informed her of our “fugitive mom status” and that we were not sure exactly how long we would be staying. She was happy to accommodate us and I’m pretty sure she was all about maximizing our adventure. She did point us towards a casino in Cherokee, to a great little bistro in Bryson City, and some great sandwiches near an amazing white water rafting and kayaking area. I have chosen to not include pictures from the Cherokee Casino or the Paula Deen Restaraunt in the Casino, because, “what happens at the casino, stays at the casino.”

What you need to understand about this spa is how well-trained the staff are. Most of the staff have worked, in the past, at the Grove Park Inn. The Grove Park Inn in Ashville, North Carolina, is definitely on my top ten spas in the United States list. My friend *Fancy, would not feel comfortable spending an inordinate amount of money on herself, particularly with our, “runaway and ditch the kids with their fathers,” situation. The guilt would have been too much for her. We basically got the same level of service of a luxury spa for a third of the price.

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The Spa at Lake View Fontana

The treatment rooms are separate from the rest of the hotel and just steps from the dining area. The treatment rooms were quiet, and some rooms were able to leave the door open, to enjoy the sounds of spring while getting our massages, body wraps, and facials. The massage tables were heated, and pneumatic, so the vibe of the treatment definitely felt high-end. No flimsy tables here. Each room also had a shower for their extensive body treatment menu. Those therapists did magical things with steamy hot towels! The signature aromatic hot towel massage is not to be missed. After back to back 90 minute treatments daily, we forgot we had children!

In conclusion, it is best to buy your mom a Mother’s day card and take her out for a meal. Our five-day retreat was well deserved and it recharged us to return home and continue on with our full-time care giving gigs. I believe our tab for the week at Lake View was less than a thousand dollars. That does not include the $500 cash advance at the Cherokee Casino or the excellent shopping at a Native American Museum in Cherokee. So yeah, I think we all learned a lot that week 🙂

 

Tips for your trip; They offer yoga retreats and girlfriend packages. Bryson City is in the southern part of North Carolina near Cherokee, but also very near Dollywood and Gatlinburg, Tennessee (a favorite place for many to get hitched). Lake View Fontana is a secluded resort and perfect for a romantic getaway. This resort is also perfect for outdoor lovers of all sports. The US National whitewater center is just minutes away. Breakfast is served daily, but no room service is available, so feel free to pack in some of your own treats. Also note, we have both been treated much better since our return and Mother’s Day cards and gifts are now awesome.

Have you ever run away from home? Where did you go?

 

 

 

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

Enjoy the Silence, Abhyanga Massage at Blue Heaven Spa

Enjoy the Silence, Abhyanga Massage at Blue Heaven Spa.

Grapefruit Brulee Ritz-Carlton Grand Lakes Orlando

Pretty Please with sugar ON TOP

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

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

Directions to a Different Spa Experience

Blue Heaven Spa

Boone, North Caroline

Street signs let you know you have entered a different state of mind.
Street signs let you know you have entered an enlightened area.

The philosophy of Ayurvedic treatments is that the mind, breath, intellect, and emotion are all connected with the body, and all need to be brought into a rhythm. This ideology pervades each treatment at the Blue Heaven Spa in Boone, North Carolina. It is important to reflect on ourself in this natural harmony. Once we are tuned into our own balance, we can then look to others and see that we are all connected as people. I found my connection to Heather, my therapist, very genuine. I could tell that she cared for me and my health. Heather is extremely well-trained in Ayurvedic treatments. Her life is also in alignment with these beliefs. During my consultation prior to my treatment, I got to know a little bit about Heather. She lives what she teaches, not only to other therapists, but to anyone she meets. I can tell she is living in harmony.

Indian inspired art is in all the architecture on this property.
Indian inspired art is in all the architecture on this property.

Katti Basit is a Ayurvedic lumbo-sacral rejuvenation. I booked this treatment to follow the Abyyanga massage that started my morning in the Blue Heaven Spa. The goal of this treatment is to ease any tension in the back. My therapist, Heather, positioned me on the table face down and placed some folded towels under my abdomen to flatten the surface of my lower back. Heather made several passes on my back massaging my muscles with long, smooth strokes. She then placed long, wide, cloth strips on my back. Heather then spooned a drizzle of hot oil over the strips in a slow, methodical fashion. It was important for me lay still so that the oil would stay in the dough reservoir she created for me. She continued to check on my comfort and that the temperature of the oil was at a suitable temperature for my comfort. Once positioned so that the dough dam could hold oil, the ring of dough was placed on my lower back. The dam was positioned in the small of my back and right above the sacrum. Several passes of oil were made within the dam in directional patterns. The dam was then filled with warm oil and hot oil to the desired temperature of myself and the therapist. Once the damn was full, I was instructed to lie still. I was again left in complete silence to contemplate.

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At the end of the treatment, I was super relaxed. My lower back felt more mobile and less sore. I was also drenched in sesame oil from both my treatments. Heather gave me the most excellent tip on how to get oil out of your hair. If you apply the shampoo first and lather, before adding any water, you have the best chance of getting the oil out of your hair. She said I might need to do this twice. She also recommended that I relax for the rest of the afternoon, as the treatment continues after completion. I did have to shower and hit the road, but she was right on both accounts. All the oil was out of my hair with little effort due to her tip. And, I really did feel an overwhelming sense of peace as I travelled home.

On my next visit, I plan to book the Shila Abhyanga (it is like a hot stone massage) and the Shirodhara, one of my favorite Ayurvedic treatments. Shirodhara uses a continuous pouring of warm oil in a slow steady stream on the forehead that helps promote relaxation, and improves mental clarity and concentration. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Do you find it helpful to do healing treatments in a spa or do you prefer a clinical setting?

“Health and happiness is related to our connection to our mind and body” – H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 

Eat, Love, Pray in the USA

Thankfully, I found my way to the Blue Heaven Spa under no duress what so ever. I was not seeking the meaning of life, ending a relationship, or beginning a new one. However, if I was seeking a place to find balance, this would be it. No need to update your passport to get that world away feeling. This retreat is now open to the public as a hotel and spa. It is truly a sanctuary to rest, regroup, and imagine.

Ayurveda Wellness Spa
Ayurveda Wellness Spa

This hotel is not like many others you will find in the United States. It is a massive collection of Indian inspired buildings that had functioned in the past as a huge ashram for the followers of transcendental meditation. It still functions as a retreat for thousands of followers of the Art of Living, a non governmental organization that focuses on humanitarian projects. Main areas of interest are education and elimination of stress.

The purpose for my visit was to take our youngest daughter on a tour of Appalachian State University in Boone North Carolina. I booked this hotel over some other  area spa resorts for a few reasons. I really wanted our daughter to get a feel for Boone and I knew this would give her some of that flavor that I was looking for. She loves yoga and I thought it would be great for her to stay where people come to study yoga. She is also a health nut, so I knew the vegetarian meals would be right up her alley. And, it is just minutes from the Appalachian State Campus. Ok. I have to admit, my inner spa junkie had a little bit to do with the choice as well.

Meals can also be included in your stay. Due to the quick trip down for just an overnight, we were not able to get the full scope of what this retreat offers. We did eat in one the two massive dining halls in the morning. It was a modest meal, but definitely kept me full and ready for a big day at the spa. Whole grain hot oats, breads, various spreads , and coffee were ready to enjoy in a self-service dining a hall. Early Sunday morning, guests of a weekend yoga retreat were already in the hall enjoying some fellowship and food before their first yoga class.

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I would recommend checking this place out if you are a spa junkie, like myself or have a love of yoga. If meditation is what you are looking for then this place is incredible. It appeared to me as a perfect place to get back to peak health and enjoy some physical activity, clean eating, and reconnect with the beautiful mountains. This is the perfect place to unplug. Wi-Fi services is available, but cell phone service is spotty at best.

This is not a lavish spa by American standards, but it is a serious spa when it comes to treatments. What the spa lacks in typical western comforts like saunas, pools, and whirlpools, it makes up for in the level of attention and knowledge of the staff when it comes to treatments.  Personally, I think this would be heaven for a massage therapist or esthetician to visit. It is affordable enough for any budget and the treatments are truly therapeutic and inspirational.

Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.
Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.

This resort is what you make of it.  Various trainings on meditation, yoga are offered. Silent retreats can also be booked.  You will find very comfortable accommodations (minus air-conditioning and alcohol). I am happy to report that my husband and I made it through the weekend without either. The mountain top setting is gorgeous. Rooms are freshly remodeled, spacious and supplied with fluffy robes, spa slippers as well as  Ayurvedic bath products. Downtown Boone is just a ten minute drive and offers some amazing local restaurants.

Accommodations for guest of the spa are located in the same building.
Accommodations for guests of the spa are located in the same building.

We left this hotel with many more questions than answers. I picked up a couple of Art of Living books while I was there and I have enjoyed the wisdom in them.  An overnight was just too short in my opinion.  I cannot wait to return and explore more of the trainings offered at this spa. I did accomplish my goal of giving our daughter a taste of Boone. She fell in love with the area and has decided to attend ASU. Fortunately, I will be able to return again very soon.

On my next visit, I will pack more workout clothes to take advantage of the gym and the daily  meditation and yoga classes. I will also bring along my hiking shoes to take advantage of all the trails on the property. No fancy dress code here! My next post will explain the treatments I received.

What is the most far out spa you have visited?

Blue Heaven Spa
Blue Heaven Spa

 

I was not given any special consideration other than being a paying guest to this spa. This is my life.

Art of Living Blue Heaven Spa in Boone, NC

A beautiful video of the Art of Living retreat center in the highlands of North Carolina.

Have you ever visited an Ashram in India? What was your experience?

How to have a Ritz shower experience at home

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Some additional thoughts:

Turn off  your phone 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Ritz-Carlton Signature facial in New Orleans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helpful tips:

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

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

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

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