Burnt Offering; a sage-smudged massage treatment

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

I promise this is hilarious…give me a minute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A treatment full of promise!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IT WAS SAGE!!!

Epic.Spa.Day.

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

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 

 

Chef Fabien Beaufour visits Primland

Balance would also describe Chef Beaufour’s final platted product. Six courses with expertly paired wine flights, brought about a genuine harmony among the twelve guests seated at this chef’s table.

 

The stars always shine brighter at Primland 

I was honored with a seat at Primland’s chef’s table this weekend. As a regular guest at this unique, ultra-luxurious 12,000 acre resort, I have dined with many of the great chefs that have called this kitchen home over the past several years. But, this was a very special chef’s table. Chef Fabien Beaufour is the executive chef at the sister resort, Domaine des Etangs in Massignac, France. He was invited to showcase his formidable skills for a select few members of the Primland Resort. True to the nature of this exclusive membership, seats at this table were not available to the general public.

Domaine des Etangs, an 11th-century castle within the pristine, remote Charente Limousine region of France. Formerly, a retreat for the Primat family, the castle has been thoroughly transformed to exceed the standards of the most discerning travelers while remaining true to the vision of the property, as a natural preserve. It is this harmony between old and new, that is the foundation of the property, and it is carried out through every detail in an effort to bring about balance and wellness for its guests. I had the pleasure to meet with Chef Beaufour in the spa the day after this amazing meal. A spa lover himself, Chef Beaufour shared with me his belief that most great spas also have incredible food. He believes that mind and body must be nourished properly to achieve balance in life. His goal is to create an optimal state of wellbeing for the guest. He does this by managing the entire process from farm to table. Organic food grown on property is respectfully managed in a way that does not harm the land while keeping an eye on the long-term health of this pristine 2,400 acre preserve. It is this deep respect for balance that guides him in planning, planting, growing, harvesting, and preparation of his dishes.

Balance would also describe Chef Beaufour’s final plated product. Six courses with expertly paired wine flights, brought about a genuine harmony among the twelve guests seated at this chef’s table.

 

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Lobster cappucino and cauliflower bavaroise paired with
2012 Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc
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River trout, braised artichoke with coconut paired with
2014 Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Rielsling Spatlese trocken
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Foie gras parfait, tangerine and toast, on the menu at Domaine des Etangs
2005 Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux Premiere Trie
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Smoked carrots, tabbouleh with ginger
1983 Ch. Cantemerle
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Roasted lobster with butternut and lemon verbena sabayon
2011 PaulPernot Puligny-Montrachet Clos des Folatieres
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Venison saddle, pears and black trumpet mushroom
2010 Mullineux Schist Syrah (en magnum)
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Classic Grand Marnier souffle paired with
Grand Marnier

 

Guests of Domaine des Etangs are invited to explore the gardens, pick produce that is pleasing to them, and bring it in to Chef Beaufour to prepare for them. It is this connection with nature that also feeds the soul and achieves the desired state of wellbeing and balance.

 

 

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I look forward to my visit to Domaine des Etangs later this year. To learn more about my time at Primland you might enjoy these posts: Inspired Mountain Magic   Pinnacle Cottages and Paddling    How to make a gingerbread treehouse

 

I was a guest of Primland for this special dinner. All opinions are my own. This is my life.

 

 

Pinnacle Cottages and Paddling at Primland

Experience the new Pinnacle Cottages at Primland.

New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland
New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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