I’ve just arrived at Mirbeau Inn & Spa again after a several year hiatus. As soon as I drive through the gates onto the 12-acre property, I ask myself, “Why don’t I come here more often?” To continue reading the article, click here to be directed to my National Spa Examiner column on Examiner.com.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and Willow Stream Spa blend family friendly atmosphere and zen spa experience March 1, 2011
Come out and visit and bring your son”, my cousin’s wife from Scottsdale has been saying for years. I took her up on the offer in the spring of 2009 and traveled solo to Scottsdale to spend time with family and to visit some of the acclaimed spas that The Valley (as the locals call it) is known for. There are so many to choose from and one is better than the next; it was easy to fall hard for the spa culture and to begin plotting a return visit. So this year, when school let out for February break, my eight-year old and I hopped a plane to Phoenix for some quality time with our extended family and some quality spa time for me.
We’re staying at the AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for 6 nights. The sprawling 65-acre resort manages to seamlessly blend a classic Southwestern exterior setting with delightfully modern interiors. More than once, I gazed at the pink-hued Spanish colonial-style architecture with its expansive plazas and flower-drenched gardens and imagined it could easily be mistaken for a Mexican beach resort. Arizona’s McDowell Mountains rise and fall in the distance creating a stunning setting.
The resort features 649 oversized guest rooms, suites and casitas. Our 525 square-foot deluxe guest room (3130) with two oversized double beds is designed like an apartment (minus the kitchen). The room is decorated in neutral shades of rich brown, mushroom and earthy greens. Walk to the end of the hallway to the main area that contains the bedroom, wet-bar, workspace and entertainment area. But what I really love about the unique layout of these guest rooms is the walk-in closet, entryway with abundant storage shelves and the oversize bathroom with double sinks, walk-in shower, soaking tub and separate water closet. Our private covered balcony overlooks one of the lushly landscaped tropical pool areas.
Adults and kids alike are drawn to the five heated swimming pools: The fun and flirty South pool, the sporty East pool, the ultra kid-friendly Sonoran Splash pool with dual 200 foot long waterslides and zero-entry splash zone, the private casita pool and the rooftop spa pool.
The near-perfect service is positively, can’t-get-enough addictive. On our first night, I opted to utilize the valet parking service since we arrived past midnight. I had every intention of using the self-parking lot the next day. But I found myself being unable to resist the unfailingly friendly “welcome back” from the ever-smiling valet staff every time I drove up the circular drive and stopped under the porte-cochère. I slipped into full relaxation and vacation mode and never came out until we drove off to a dose of reality – that is, the airport. There is nothing like air travel to undo every bit of good that was done from our week at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.
At the informal LV Bistro, you’ll never feel like you have to rush through your meal because you’re dining with children. It parents want to linger over dessert and coffee or a glass of wine, the kids can play in the specially-designed elevated play area with comfy couches, a flat screen TV and an impressive selection of toys geared towards kids of all ages. Serving favorites for the whole family and fresh twists on reinvented classics like savory BLT pizza and shrimp Cobb salad, it’s a family-friendly bet for any meal or for an adult-only occasion at the fiery outdoor seating area overlooking the South pool.
It’s not often that fine dining and kid-friendly can co-exist in the same restaurant experience, but our dinner at La Hacienda, a modern Mexican restaurant by Richard Sandoval, did just that. Wood-beamed ceilings, tile flooring, roaring fireplaces and candles on every wall and surface created a cozy, casually elegant atmosphere. And yet, I was incredibly comfortable dining with my eight-year old son. A reasonably priced kids menu with kid-friendly options, kids cups with lids and straws, and a dining server who took my cues to move the service along at a good pace and yet never made us feel like we were missing out on attentive service. With energetic Spanish music playing in the background, a décor of black and earth tones and ambient lighting, La Hacienda is a sophisticated and comfortable dining venue that blows traditional hotel and resort dining out of the water.
I couldn’t resist ordering a mango maraschino margarita after our savvy server shared that the cocktails were handcrafted with fresh juices and premium tequilas. Queso fundido with chorizo was oozing with a blend of warm, salty and gooey cheeses. Be warned: Tacos will never taste the same again after you savor the lobster tacos with their chunks of the buttery crustacean, creamy avocado and black bean puree over petite corn tortillas.
You won’t have room for desert and coffee, trust me. But go ahead and order the warm cinnamon churros anyway. My son declared the rich, melt-in your mouth pillows of sweetened dough “scrumptious and delicious” after devouring half the plate. The deal was sealed for me with an accompanying trio of dipping sauces: cajeta (sweetened caramelized milk), a slightly spicy chili chocolate fondue and cream cheese natilla (vanilla infused soft Spanish custard). But the pièce de résistance of the meal was the flaming coffee prepared tableside to an appropriate chorus of oohs and aahs from intrigued nearby diners. My choice was the Café 1921: Tequila de Créma and coffee in a fiery goblet rimmed with crusty caramelized sugar and topped with whipped cream and chocolate. It was the perfect ending to a very special and memorable meal.
I’ve been at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for five days now and haven’t had a chance to check out the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont. I check my son into the National Geographic Explorers Camp for kids ($35 for half-day including lunch) and head over to the spa in plenty of time to enjoy all the amenities and facilities before my treatment. In the women’s wet area, the domed ceiling rises to a circular skylight and I can see just a tease of bright blue sky. Red rose petals seem to float on top of a bowl of chilled washcloths. And while it’s simply beautiful inside – all marble and tile in earthy shades of mushroom, taupe, khaki and chocolate – where I really want to be is outside, especially after the severe winter we’ve had in the Northeast.
I climb many stairs to reach the infinity edge rooftop spa pool, and it’s worth every single step. When I reach the top, I’m treated to awe-inspiring 360-degree views of the mountains that surround this valley. It’s a blue-sky day here in Scottsdale in late February; the morning air is still brisk, but it warms quickly as the sun rises in the sky. Steam gently rises off the water, and it’s not hard to imagine claiming a thickly cushioned lounge chair under a cabana and camping out until the sun begins to set. But instead, I have a 44,000 square foot spa to explore including a fitness facility, salon services, 25 treatment rooms, meditation gardens with waterfall, and men and women’s spa and lounge areas.
The exploration will have to wait until later. Now it’s time to meet my provider, the capable and confident Danielle, who is about to guide me to peace and tranquility over the next two hours during the spas signature treatment: The Havasupai Body Oasis Experience ($319, 120 minutes). In NYS, estheticians can perform body treatments, so I’m delighted to learn that Danielle is a licensed massage therapist. At the end of my treatment, the application of warm massage oil will be performed by someone who is an expert in the craft of massage, a bonus I don’t expect but am thrilled to discover.
Danielle leads me outdoors to the co-ed cave-like waterfall and gives me a few minutes to soak under the varying strengths of warm cascading water. When she returns, she hands me a towel and my robe and we head to the treatment suite where my journey will take place. “There are a lot of steps to this treatment”, she explains, “but they flow together wonderfully”.
We arrive at my treatment suite that has all the amenities I’ll need for my experience without having to shuffle from room to room. We begin with an aromatic footbath and foot scrub and Danielle offers me hot or iced Ayurvedic tea with hints of cinnamon and cardamom. Next is a gentle Chamomile body polish and body wash. I step under the rain shower to rinse off the scrub while Danielle freshens up the room. Already waiting for me is an inviting thermal bath, which I soak in for 15 minutes after Danielle steps out of the room. She leaves me with lavender soaked iced washcloths and a bottle of neroli water (extract of bitter orange) to use as a cooling and hydrating mist. When Danielle returns, the treatment resumes with a soothing warm oil massage application before I’m wrapped up to allow the oil to penetrate the skin. During my wrap, I experience a massage of the face, neck, scalp, shoulders and décolleté. As Danielle removes the oils being from my hands and feet with warm cloths, I have just one worry: After two hours of warm bliss, would I physically be able to put one foot in front of the other and walk to the relaxation area under my own power?
Miraculously, I’m able to float back to the National Geographic Explorers Camp to pick up my son. He is happy and content, chattering about the photo safari and fishing adventures of the morning. Miss Janey, the camp’s no-nonsense but fun-loving manager, runs the program like a well-oiled machine. She hands me a digital photo disk, bids us an affectionate goodbye and we’re off.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a dream for families traveling with children: abundant pools with fun water amenities, family-friendly dining, a fishing pond, the kids camp, a sports court, and flexible room accommodations for families of every size at many price points. The staff went out of their way to create a special experience for us at every opportunity with professional and unobtrusive service. Business travelers, spa lovers and couples looking for romance can all peacefully co-exist within the same beautifully manicured peaceful resort. And the fresh-baked, best ever chocolate chip cookies are worth mentioning too!
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
7575 E. Princess Drive
Scottsdale, Arizona 85255
Toll Free: 1.866.540.4495
As is common in the travel industry, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess provided the writer with a complimentary spa treatment, dinner at La Hacienda for two, lunch at LV Bistro and a half-day at the National Geographic Explorer’s Camp for the purpose of writing this article. While this did not influence this review, Examiner.com believes in fulldisclosure of any potential conflicts of interest.
Demystifying Couples Massage – Just in time for Valentine’s Day January 15, 2011
“I’d rather have a sharp stick in the eye”. That’s what my husband would say if I suggested that we try a couples massage this Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter. You see, he’s not exactly the massage or spa treatment type of guy. And that’s putting it mildly. Since we’ve been paired up for most of my adult life, it’s probably no surprise that I’ve never experienced a couples massage; they’re not for everyone. But Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and if the traditional dinner and a movie seem all too familiar, it might be time to break out of that rut and try something new.
Valentines Day is the perfect excuse to book a couples massage. Not that you need an excuse – massage is more than just a pampering indulgence. Regular massage can provide relief from stress and pain, relaxation and long lasting effects for personal well-being. Can you think of a better way to enjoy quality time with a partner, loved one, friend or someone special?
Couples massages aren’t just offered at fancy spas; there are plenty of options around Central New York ranging from basic to luxury. You can receive a massage at a wellness center, massage studio, day or resort spa or even in your home. You can find independent massage therapists working for themselves or practicing out of a facility that offers massage and other spa treatments.
So what can you expect during a couples massage? A couples massage is generally offered in a private room that is large enough to accommodate side-by-side massage tables or in a special space dedicated to couples massages. Two therapists will work on the couple simultaneously. Every spa or studio will offer different pricing for their couples massage offerings. If you’ve purchased a package or special deal, you might enjoy champagne or other beverage, fruit, chocolate, or other goodies before or after your treatment. Your treatment might start with a foot soak or other add-on. If you want a basic couples massage without all the trimmings, just say so when you book the appointment.
Before the massage, your therapists will step out of the room while you and your partner disrobe to your comfort level. You’ll get settled on the massage table and your therapist will knock before entering. During the massage, you’ll be professionally draped with sheets and/or blankets except the area that is being massaged. You can have a conversation with your partner or therapist or lose yourself silently in the treatment. Gentle music might be playing in the background and can be customized to your liking. Be sure to communicate your preferences to your therapist (deep tissue massage often carries an extra charge): pressure, lighting, music and warmth.
After the massage, your therapists will leave the room while you get dressed or put your robe back on. If there are relaxation facilities, you might be invited to hang out for a while and relax. You may want to shower (if available) or freshen up.
Tips for couples massage:
- Appointments book up fast, especially for Valentine’s Day. As soon as you’ve found a therapist or place that you’d like to try, book quickly.
- Allow extra time. Rushing into or out of a massage can defeat the purpose. Be sure you have a little extra time to decompress before the massage and take time to relax before re-entering reality post-massage.
- Ask about the cancellation policy before booking and make sure you can live with the terms.
- When determining your budget for your couples massage, factor in gratuities for your therapists. Gratuities are typically 15% to 20% of the total cost of your treatment or package, depending on your experience.
Here are a number of ideas for a special Valentine’s Day couples massage experience throughout Central New York:
At Waterfalls Spa in Hope Lake Lodge at Greek Peak Mountain Resort, you’ll feel like a VIP when you book one of the truly decked out suites for your couples massage. Personalization is the key to a specialized spa experience at this four season family resort near Cortland. Except for a small relaxation area, there aren’t any common spaces at Waterfalls Spa. Couples will be escorted to their private treatment suite to change, relax and enjoy time together. All treatment spaces have the ability to change color allowing complete customization of services and harmonization with the individual guest.
You can reserve a specific treatment, like a 60-minute Signature massage for two ($180), or you can reserve increments of time in one of the two luxurious Waterfalls spa suites (2 hours, $275; other time increments available). The suites have been designed to accommodate most spa services; complete with two multipurpose tables, a two person tub that incorporates chromatherapy, sound resonance and vibration therapy, a two person infrared sauna, a shower and lounging area with a flat screen television for the ultimate spa event. You might wish to book a two hour increment, start with a hydrotherapy bath with a customized bath additive, relax in the private seating area for a bit, and then enjoy a side-by-side couples massage. Whatever you can conjure up, the professional staff at Waterfalls spa can work to customize a special experience just for you!
Waterfalls Spa at Hope Lake Lodge
Greek Peak Mountain Resort
2000 NYS Route 392
Cortland, NY 13045
SpaZend in Syracuse has just the answer to an alternative date night activity. If a candle-lit and rose petal strewn spa, wine, cheese and fruit, followed by a 50-minute couples aromatherapy massage sounds like a dream, book an appointment for “Date Night”, a wildly popular offering from SpaZend ($150). The event is held one Friday each month from 6 to 9 pm. SpaZend has partnered with Strong Hearts Café across the hall to offer all Date Night participants 10% off their meal if you’d like to stay for dinner. Guests are encouraged to come early or stay after their treatment to enjoy the soothing relaxation room, have tea or refreshments and enjoy the company of that special someone.
“We love the idea of giving people in Syracuse another option” says spa owner Liz Goldenberg. Former participants have described the event as “a magical evening”. Other patrons remarked how “everything was so romantic!”.
719 East Genesee Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
Jeannine Gettis is a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and owner of Hearts Content Healing who offers massage therapy at two locations throughout Central New York. I enjoyed the gift of a highly customized session with Jeannine at Kelly’s Massage and Holistic Health Spa in Manlius. She’ll pair up with another therapist to offer couples massages in a purposely-designed couples suite with an infrared sauna. A basic 60-minute couples massage is normally $140, but customized packages with add-ons can be arranged for Valentine’s Day. “
Jeannine Gettis, LMT
Kelly’s Massage and Holistic Health Spa
136 W. Seneca Tpke (Route 173)
Manlius, NY 13104
At Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Skaneateles, couples can enjoy a posh resort experience without the added expense of spending the night. Matt Dower, Spa Director at Mirbeau, encourages couples to check in as early as possible, enjoy all the amenities the spa has to offer such as the dry sauna, herbal infused steam rooms, fireside resting area with foot pool and all-season Aqua Terrace with 15 person freeform whirlpool. The workout room features cardio and strength training equipment and the motion studio offers exercise class, all included in the price of your treatment.
Mirbeau is Best for Romance according to SpaFinder Readers’ Choice Awards for several consecutive years, including 2010. Dower tells us the most popular couples treatment is The Art of Living, combining an herbal bath in an oversized soaking tub for two, chocolate covered strawberries and then a luxurious side-by-side massage in front of a fire in one of their signature treatment suites for two. The 100-minute treatment is priced at $400 (Mon-Thu) and $430 (Fri-Sun).
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
851 West Genesee St., Skaneateles, New York 13152
While a couples massage isn’t in the cards for me this Valentine’s Day, I hope you take the opportunity to take time for yourselves and do something calming, relaxing and fabulous for your well-being. A couples massage might just be what the doctor ordered.