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Spa Review: Skana Spa and The Lodge at Turning Stone (Verona, NY) August 22, 2011

Guest Suite at THe Lodge at Turning Stone

In Verona, thirty miles and just a few Thruway exits east of Syracuse, The Lodge at Turning Stone is a haven among the dizzying array of activity at The Turning Stone Resort Casino. The Lodge squashes the notion of what a typical casino hotel is like. With its separate entrance, complementary valet parking, and refreshingly smoke-free environment, you just might forget that it’s connected by attached walkway to the rest of the bustling casino resort. This is super convenient if you want to take in a show at the Showroom, dine in one of the abundant restaurants, attend an event at The Events Center or if you can’t resist the lure and excitement of the gaming opportunities.

My sister and I are overnights guests at the resort – no husbands and kids allowed.  It’s our first sister’s getaway and it’s so convenient – halfway between our homes in Syracuse and Utica – that it just might not be our last.

Double queen guest suite, The Lodge at Turning Stone

The glitz-free guest rooms at The Lodge have a subtle masculine feel. They have quite possibly thought of every amenity: there is even a full-sized golf umbrella in the closet. All 96 suites are spacious – the smallest at 550 square feet – and many feature balconies or terraces.  Frosted glass French doors separate the bedroom from the invitingly spacious living room with cozy seating options.  The smart layout of the pass-through bathroom features a dual-headed shower, soaking tub, a trendy vessel sink and a full spectrum of heavenly scented bath products from L’Occitane. Plush bedding, warm woodwork and pops of rich crimson create an inviting respite you’ll look forward to returning to each evening.

The welcoming open design of the great room is almost completely surrounded by windows, creating a sense of airiness and grandeur.  Beautiful views overlook the golf course and the pristinely manicured garden in all of its spring glory. This is the heart of The Lodge where you’ll find nooks for reading, lounging, casual conversations or relaxing by the fireplace.

At turn down, soft music plays (The Only Real Thing, by Mark Kelso), slippers are placed bedside and the ice bucket is filled. Instead of traditional chocolates, our bedside table contains a dream catcher, said to move freely in the night air and grab dreams as they pass by; the bad dreams get tangled in the netting and perish with the first light of day.

If you’re staying at The Lodge, Skaná Spa (skah-nah) is just a short stroll from your guest room.  If you’re staying at one of the resorts other three lodging options, it’s an easy walk from anywhere on the property.  Day guests are welcome at the spa too.

Skaná is the Oneida word for “peace” and peace and tranquility are exactly what you’ll find. Prepare to be spoiled here: the spa attendants are among the friendliest in the industry. They will take excellent care of you and nurture you throughout your entire visit.  Plan to spend the good part of a day at Skaná – sauntering from the herbal infused steam room to a cooling shower, to the sweat-lodge inspired sauna and light-filled whirlpool in a prescribed five-step circuit that detoxifies, opens pores and relaxes you before or after your treatment.

The beauty of visiting Skaná on a Friday afternoon is that I have it mostly to myself.  It’s a busy graduation weekend at local colleges and multi-generational families are taking full advantage of all that the resort has to offer, proof-positive that luxury can be family friendly.

Inspired by the natural surroundings and the Oneida Nation culture, not a single detail at Skaná deviates from this theme. Nature is evident everywhere you look:  In the botanical print fabric on the lounge chairs, in the artwork adorning the walls, in the frosted glass embossed with leaves and the botanical print wallpaper and curtains.

Skana Spa

Even the chandeliers represent blossoming florals. The centerpiece of the bright and airy spa lobby, surrounded by windows, is a spectacular circular fireplace.  Everything is designed circularly and curvy to mimic nature.

Amenities are first rate: Okab spa sandals – loved for their comfort, fit and superior slip-protection in the wet areas of the spa, spa robes the color of golden-hued sand and the nourishing healthy spa snacks.  The infused spa water changes with the seasons; if you time your visit right, you might get to try the strawberry water (recipe below) served in conjunction with Strawberry Festival, an annual event in the Oneida Annual Calendar of Thanksgiving.  Hungry spa goers can refuel on dried fruit & nut mix, fresh fruit, bottled water and Native American teas.

Light-filled whirlpool at Skana Spa

For an over-the-top experience, schedule time in the ultra-private VIP lounge at Skaná. You’ll enjoy access to a gated herb garden, a lounge area with a hidden flat screen TV, side-by-side deep soaking tubs, a shower à deux, your own steam room and sauna and treatment room for two.

I’m wondering how my therapist, Michael, will react when I tell him that I won’t be joining him in the hallway outside the treatment room.  After all, he did tell me to relax and take as much time as I need before hopping off the treatment table and slipping back into my robe.  I’m going to recommend that he just wheel the warm and cozy massage table right into the relaxation lounge, with me still ensconced in it’s many layers of plush comfort.  I’m not trying to be difficult, but the eighty-minute poultice massage I just experienced has left me completely relaxed and quite possibly incapable of carrying on with my day.

The prior afternoon, my strong and intuitive therapist, Valerie, escorted me to a spacious two-room treatment suite for a White Pine Foot and Body Treatment.  My treatment began with a foot soak in Bourbon Vanilla Foaming Bath Milk. A medley of heated towels was placed over my eyes, under my neck and on my feet.  I was spritzed with cooling lavender and honey mist and then scrubbed from fingertips to toes with Kerstin Florian’s Turkish Scrub with Eucalyptus. A full body massage with Deep Forest oil followed, formulated with pine and a luscious blend of other essential oils. The Oneida people honor the pine tree as the Great Tree of Peace and the oil is valued for alleviating fatigue and mental exhaustion. At Skaná Spa, one treatment is more luscious than the next.

Our eight-course dinner at Wildflowers was an extravagant indulgence.  It’s an extraordinary dining experience the caliber of which is normally only found in large cosmopolitan cities. The delightful company of Loretta Taylor, Spa Director at Turning Stone, enhanced our meal. A personalized scroll menu, steamed hand towels between courses and an intermezzo of lemon sorbet created a dining experience that we won’t soon forget. Service is crisp and efficient with a welcome lack of formality, pulling out all the stops to ensure that every element of this culinary event is at it’s finest. Our dinner server, Jason, entertained us by reciting the menu as if performing a monologue on stage, pausing at all the right moments for questions.

Soft Shell Crab at Wildflowers Restaurant, The Lodge at Turning Stone

Diners can expect the freshest available local ingredients on a menu that changes rapidly with the growing season. The five pepper crusted bone in filet mignon is buttery tender; the asparagus & morel mushroom salad meaty and earthy. The sweet and subtly briny flavor of the at-the-moment, delightfully in-season soft shell crab can only be found a few weeks out of the year.  The menu describes the Wildflowers Salad as beets, beets & more beets with chicory salad.   A combination you probably hadn’t considered: beet ice cream, beet glass, and brilliantly colored beets in white, red and purple is part culinary theatre and part cinematic performance by the chef and wait staff.

Other highlights from our dining experience:

  • Amuse bouche course, fried steelhead over risotto
  • Foie Gras Torchon with infused rhubarb, Melba toast & fresh berries.  The foie gras had an extraordinarily rich and smooth texture with a creamy mouthfeel
  • Five pepper crusted bone in filet mignon with asparagus & morel mushroom salad
  • Sweet and succulent scallops
  • Gifts from the chef that kept on coming, like short ribs over polenta

You’ll be too full for desert, but order it anyway.  The childhood memories tasting is five bites of sweetened bliss: banana split, peanut butter gelee mousse, raspberry rice krispy treat, cookie dough truffle and S’more truffle.  At Wildflowers, one dessert course isn’t enough. The second dessert course, a final gift from the chef, includes a chocolate surprise (we won’t give away the “surprise” element – let’s just say it’s a combination I hadn’t considered) and a rich liquidy cheesecake shooter.

Stay midweek for the best deals on room rates.

Turning Stone Resort

5218 Patrick Road

Verona, NY 13478


Strawberry Water Recipe, courtesy of “Skana” the Spa at Turning Stone

“Skana” the Spa at Turning Stone means “peace” in the Oneida language, and combines modern treatments with Native American healing principals to create peace and harmony within.  We offer our guests spa water based on the Iroquois Annual Cycle of Thanksgiving.  Our Strawberry Water celebrates the Strawberry Ceremony which signifies thanksgiving for all berries and new life birth, and the Maple Ceremony signifying the coming of the life giving season after the harsh winter.  The power of maple is highly regarded and considered to be both preventative and restorative. This recipe is simple and refreshing.


1 lb of strawberries

8 oz. of maple syrup

10 cups of water

2 quart pitcher


Wash, hull and cut the strawberries into chunks, place in the pitcher

Mash the strawberries with a potato masher to a chunky consistency; not smooth

Add the water, and the maple syrup and stir.

Refrigerate and stir before serving.

As is common in the travel industry, this writer was provided with accommodations, two spa treatments, dinner at Wildflowers Restaurant and breakfast the next morning.  While it didn’t influence this review, Everythingspa believes in full disclosure.


Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and Willow Stream Spa blend family friendly atmosphere and zen spa experience March 1, 2011


Fairmont Scottsdale Princess



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.


Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - Double Double Room



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.


South Pool at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess


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.


La Hacienda - Fairmont Scottsdale Princess


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.


Rooftop Spa Pool - Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess


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”.


Havasupai Falls Water Feature - Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Willow Stream Spa


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.


Spa Review: Ascent, The Spa at Tenaya Lodge (Fish Camp, CA) at Yosemite National Park September 19, 2010

Filed under: Body Scrub,Massage,Spa Reviews,Spa Treatment — everythingspa @ 9:38 pm
Tags: , , ,

Ascent, The Spa at Tenaya Lodge provides an escape from Yosemite’s active pursuits.

After four days in the hustle and bustle of city life in San Francisco, I was ready for some peace, serenity and mountain air. So on a Tuesday morning in late August, my husband, eight-year-old son and I made the long, hot, flat drive east from San Francisco to Tenaya Lodge, just a few miles from the south entrance to Yosemite National Park. To read the rest of the article, click here to be directed to my National Spa Examiner page on Examiner.com.


Spa review: La Tourelle Resort & August Moon Spa (Ithaca, NY) August 30, 2009

La Tourelle Resort & August Moon Spa

La Tourelle Resort & August Moon Spa

Resort & Spa Overview:

It’s no surprise that Ithaca, NY has some great spas.  After all, the city is home to The Finger Lakes School of Massage and Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration where courses in spa development and spa management are taught.

Ithaca is located at the Southern end of Cayuga Lake, the longest of the 11 Finger Lakes. This wellness-centered city is hip, artsy, funky and laid back all at the same time.  It’s a college town where academia and non-academia peacefully co-exist in a way that many other college towns never enjoy.  When the college students and their families aren’t flocking to Ithaca, the tourists are.

I visited La Tourelle Resort & August Moon Spa with three friends for a girlfriend getaway on a Sunday night in August.

Ithaca has its share of famous visitors too.  The Dalai Lama’s Namgyal Monastery is located in located here.  The Monastery is the North American Seat of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.  The Dali Lama and his organizing committee spent 5 days at La Tourelle Resort & Spa in October of 2007 when he came to bless the site of a new teaching and retreat center.  And Whoopi Goldberg has been known to visit Ithaca a time or two.

August Moon Spa opened in October of 2005 at the 70 acre, 54 room La Tourelle Resort, owned by Walter Wiggins, a partner at Wiggins, Mason & Crane, LLP in Ithaca.

The 4,500 square foot Asian themed spa is located on the ground floor of the hotel and features 7 treatment rooms.  The menu consists of a variety of unique treatments with an emphasis on local elements such as waterfalls and vinotherapy.

Spa Reception:

The reception area features the spa desk, a small waiting/seating area and the August Moon Boutique, which sells retail spa products.

First time spa guests are asked to complete a spa intake form.  Guests can select from nine treatment room music choices to customize the treatment experience. If the treatment involves aromatherapy, five options are offered at check-in.

Spa Bathrooms/Changing Area:

Men’s and women’s locker room with keyless lockers, showers, and standard vanity amenities.  Cork flooring covers the restroom area of the women’s locker room.  Oversized body towels, bath mats and body wraps for use in the sauna/steam room and facials are displayed in a large basket in the locker room area.

Spa Treatment Rooms:

The 7 treatment rooms include a tiled wet room for Vichy Shower treatments, known as Waterfall Treatments in a nod to Ithaca’s many beautiful waterfalls.  There is a couples treatment room with oversized jacuzzi, skin care room and manicure/pedicure station.

Spa Amenities:

Stash teas and iced fruit-infused water.

Other Spa Facilities:

A dry sauna and steam room is located within the locker room facilities.

Fire and water themed tranquility rooms are directly across the hall from each other – one featuring a fireplace and the other with water trickling down a wall of rock.  Guests relax in total comfort with comfy lounge chairs and loveseats, a great variety of magazines, cozy throw blankets and pillows.  Soft music, ambient lighting and candles create a relaxing atmosphere in the water themed tranquility room.  Natural light streams in through windows in the fire themed tranquility room that is surrounded by green plants.

Fireplace tranquility room

Fireplace tranquility room

Spa Deals:

Monday through Thursday, a 30-minute therapeutic water soak is included with any 50-minute spa treatment.  The water soak must be booked ahead of time.

The Spa Passport – Frequent spa guests who spend $500 on products or treatments receive a free 50-minute treatment.  The spa spending is tracked on a passport, which is retained at the spa desk so guests don’t have to remember to bring the card at each visit.

On Wednesday evenings, August Moon Spa hosts a Tranquility hour.  Healthy snacks are served to guests who schedule appointments during the 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 timeslots.

Spa Treatments:

For comparison sake, a 50-minute Swedish massage is $90.

I enjoyed a signature waterfall treatment known as the Taughannock Falls.

The treatment description from the spa website:  Named after our local waterfall this is a truly unique Ithaca experience. While lying on a wet table the six jets allow the water to flow over you and warmed stones glide smoothly over the body helping to relieve tired, achy muscles. Wash away the stresses and worries of life. This treatment incorporates an aromatherapy salt scrub and finishes with a hot stone aromatherapy rub.

50 minutes – $125

The Taughannock Falls is a Vichy shower scrub that uses sea salt, jojoba oil and a choice of five aromatherapy blends.  I chose the uplifting blend.  Once the scrub portion of the treatment is over, the guest is treated to a hot stone aromatherapy massage under the Vichy shower.  It was heaven, even on a sweltering 90-degree day in August.

Vichy shower room

Vichy shower room

Other treatments on the extensive menu include a wonderful variety of skincare, facials, microdermabrasion and waxing. Massage therapies, therapeutic water soaks, body wraps, vinotherapy and gentlemen’s services round out the comprehensive list of offerings.  August Moon Spa also offers iridology, in-room meditation instruction and in-room yoga instruction.

Pleasant Surprises:

Lead Massage Therapist and Certified Aromatherapist Kash Wiggins creates all of the aromatherapy products used in the spa, from soap to lotions to scrubs. The private label August Moon Spa line is utilized in many of the treatments and is available for retail purchase in the spa boutique. The lemongrass and ginger soap and lotion in the locker/restroom area smelled heavenly.

The Asian theme carries over to the spa robes. You won’t find white terry cloth or waffle wave robes here. Guests wear navy blue kimonos with white butterflies for the ladies and navy blue kimonos with white fish for the gentlemen.

Resort Dining:

La Tourelle has two onsite restaurants:  John Thomas Steakhouse and Simply Red Bistro.

The John Thomas Steakhouse is known for prime dry aged beef cooked to perfection.  The specialty of the house is a 40-ounce Porterhouse steak for two.

Simply Red Bistro is the creation of owner and chef Samantha Izzo.  Originally located in Trumansburg, NY, there are two Simply Red Bistros: one at Sheldrake Point Winery (serving lunch and dinner) and the other at La Tourelle (serving breakfast and lunch daily and Sunday Brunch).

Simply Red Bistro at La Tourelle is classy, yet cozy.  The color scheme of mustard and burgundy feels rich and inviting, with complementary colors in the stained glass ceiling.  Diners can enjoy their meals on the small outdoor patio.

Executive Chef Mark Fitzgerald sat down to chat with us while we raved about some of the unique Sunday Brunch dishes we enjoyed.  We couldn’t stop talking about the Oatmeal Crusted French Toast, made with toasted old-fashioned oats, raw cane sugar, cinnamon and country white loaf bread from nearby Ithaca Bakery.  “The best French Toast I’ve ever had in my life.  It’s fantastic!”, exclaimed one of my foodie friends. Then again, we couldn’t stop talking about the Crab and Shrimp Eggs Benedict either.  Or the Chorizo and Creamy Herb Polenta.  Or the House potatoes, made with red skin potatoes, sweet potatoes, large chunks of roasted garlic, shallots and a secret seasoning.  You get the idea – we really enjoyed brunch!

Oatmeal crusted French Toast at Simply Red Bistro La Tourelle

Oatmeal crusted French Toast at Simply Red Bistro La Tourelle

Breakfast the following morning didn’t disappoint either.  Warm baskets of pastry accompany breakfast and brunch. The scones and muffins are made at the restaurant.  The flaky pastries and cinnamon rolls are from Germany.  You can forget about dry and tasteless pastries of many breakfasts past here – these are worth the calories.

The restaurant makes a point of using local ingredients wherever possible.  Farm fresh produce, eggs, meats and cheeses are used in just about every creative recipe.  The farm-to-table high quality is evident in every dish that emerges from the kitchen.

Resort Accommodations:

There are a wide variety of room accommodations available at La Tourelle.  From standard king rooms, to fireplace king rooms, to pet friendly rooms and specialty rooms like the upper and lower tower rooms and the three-bedroom yellow barn suite.

The original 35 rooms are on a constant renovation cycle.  The newer wing of the building houses 19 French-named rooms.  I stayed in the Paris room, an executive fireplace suite with four-poster king size bed, seating area, balcony overlooking gazebos and ponds, and a ceiling mounted projection TV.  Although we were on a girlfriend’s spa getaway, the Paris room would be perfect for romantic special occasions.

Paris room at La Tourelle Resort & Spa

Paris room at La Tourelle Resort & Spa

The pillow top mattress, triple sheeting, at least 6 pillows and down comforter was like sleeping on a cloud.  The room had plenty of natural lighting for daytime, yet room darkening damask drapery for privacy and nighttime.  It had an apartment-like feel to it, with furnishings, artwork, sculptures and vases unlike a traditional hotel room.  Wood floors were covered in oriental area rugs.  Two louvered door closets hid essentials like an iron/ironing board, robes, fridge, DVD/VCR and a recycling bin.  Ithaca is indeed a very “green” city.  A wall of bookshelves holds an eclectic selection of books for guests to enjoy during their stay.

Speaking of hiding the essentials, a trek down the hall to get ice from the ice machine revealed a neat surprise – no ice machines here!  Ice is hidden away in “ice chests” – coolers tucked inside a treasure chest.  Very classy.

The bathroom features a dual headed shower and an oval shaped jetted tub.  Bath products were from Lord & Mayfair.

My team of spa girlfriends each had their own King fireplace rooms with small balcony, jetted tub, and double sinks.

Resort Activities:

In a city like Ithaca where the main attractions are the stars, activities at La Tourelle serve in a supporting role.  Nevertheless, the hotel has two tennis courts, two walking trails named Buck and Doe and the property is adjacent to Buttermilk Falls State Park.  Want to head out the door and hike the downward 1 ½ hour journey to the bottom of the falls, but too tired to climb back up?  Guests can simply call the hotel for a ride back up when they’re ready.

La Tourelle features an Adventure Center Concierge to help guests plan their itinerary of activities during their stay.  The concierge can arrange hikes, wine tours, golf, and theatre, just to name a few of the many activities available in the area.

Complementary coffee is served in the hotel lobby 24 hours a day.  From 5 to 6 pm each evening, La Tourelle hosts a wine reception featuring private label wines from local vineyards.

During our visit, we explored the best of Ithaca and the surrounding area.  We visited the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, Buttermilk Falls State Park, Taughannock Falls State Park, and four nearby wineries:  Americana Vineyards & Winery, Lucas Vineyards, Bellwether Hard Cider and Sheldrake Point Vineyard.

Payment Time:

Payment is quick and easy at the spa reception desk.  Tipping envelopes are provided for guests wishing to leave gratuities for their therapists.

Final Words:

La Tourelle’s Managing Director Scott Wiggins personally saw to it that our stay was no less than perfect.  We witnessed the hospitality and generosity of the Wiggins family over and over again during our visit.  It may sound cliché’, but La Tourelle really manages to pull off the feeling of staying at the country home of good friends.

Recommend to a Friend:

Absolutely.  My friends and I loved La Tourelle.  I’d easily recommend La Tourelle for a girlfriend getaway, romantic special occasion, as a home base for sightseeing in The Finger Lakes or a business trip.

August Moon spa is a founding member of the Ithaca Tompkins Spa Association, founded in March of 2008.  For more information, go to http://www.ithaca-tompkins-spa-assoc.com/index.html.

Wine bar at La Tourelle

Wine bar at La Tourelle

The view at La Tourelle

The view at La Tourelle

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary lodging, spa service and meals for the purpose of writing this review. While it has not influenced this review, everythingspa believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.  Thank you to La Tourelle and August Moon Spa for inviting the writer to experience their property and for seeing the long-term benefits of a neutral review for their business and for their guests.

La Tourelle Resort & August Moon Spa:

1150 Danby Rd # 96B

Ithaca, NY 14850-9406

(607) 273-2734



Fall Packages at Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spa August 21, 2009

Red Door Spa Robe

Red Door Spa Robe

A trio of fall treatment specials will be available at Red Door Spas nationwide beginning in September and October.  The treatments highlight Magnolia as the star ingredient.

Red Door Autumn Facial – $150 (Sept – Jan)
As fall begins, nature’s own harvest provides a feast of skincare benefits which have been incorporated into this nourishing new facial. Vitamin and antioxidant-rich natural pumpkin enzymes relieve summer dryness and congestion; apple acids help exfoliate to revive radiance; while cinnamon acts as an anti-bacterial, toning and stimulating natural astringent. This fall facial is designed to maintain cell energy levels and prevent inflammation to face the winter with strengthened skin and a healthy glow.

Red Door Magnolia Body Treatment – $115 (Oct – March)
A fragrant restorative treatment for the skin and senses, this ideal all-over skin renewal uses a fresh new organic skincare formula from the exclusive Villa Floriani line. With a spicy sweet touch-of-citrus scent, this intoxicating service lifts summer dryness with a gentle Magnolia exfoliating scrub followed by a hydrating massage with rich Magnolia body cream. Extracts from this elegant blossom offer soothing antioxidant replenishment as well as moisturizing protection from the colder weather ahead.

Red Door Magnolia Manicure & Pedicure – $50/$80; $120 if booked together (Oct – March)
Like shade from the fragrant magnolia tree, this citrusy-sweet manicure and pedicure is just the relief your skin needs. Exfoliating, hydrating and intoxicating, this service uses a fresh new organic skincare formula from Villa Floriani. A gentle Magnolia scrub removes dry layers and enhances the absorption of moisture-rich Magnolia body cream. Soothing antioxidant extracts from this elegant blossom help repair and renew the skin’s surface, while providing perfect protection from the winter cold.

To located the Red Door Spa nearest you, click here.

This information adapted from a news release from Red Door Spa.


Review of Joya Spa – InterContinental Montelucia Resort (Paradise Valley, Arizona) April 2, 2009

InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa
4949 E Lincoln Drive
Paradise Valley, Arizona 85253
(480) 627-3200


I spent 2 nights (3/28/09 to 3/30/09) at the InterContinental Montelucia Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley, Arizona –  near Scottsdale.  This luxury hotel opened in November of 2008.  Before I get into the spa review, here is a bit about the resort itself. 


  • 253 guest rooms and 40 suites in 5 distinct villages located throughout the property
  • 5 pools (2 private)
  • 24 hour fitness center
  • Motion/spinning studio and classes


  • Glass-walled walk-in showers
  • Oversize sunken soaking tubs
  • Semi-private or private patios


  • 31,000 square foot spa and salon
  • 19 treatment rooms including 5 luxury treatment suites
  • Arrival dome topped with a replica of a starry night in Spain
  • Whisper room – a quiet room for deep relaxation

Joya Rituals

When you arrive at Joya, there are a number of rituals that you are invited to perform.  After climbing the 40 stairs from the first floor spa reception desk to the second floor fitness center, motion studio and spa you are invited to perform the Joy of Intention.  During this ritual, you can select from 5 jewels symbolizing love, work, health, clarity and strength. You choose a stone, then place it on the blessing blow to clarify your intentions. Next, you enter a circular room for the Joy of Illumination – 888 twinkling lights on the ceiling that represent a starry night in Grenada, Spain. The next room you arrive at is the Women’s Social Lounge.  This is where you can relax before or after a treatment and can have conversations with friends or other guests.  You can help yourself to walnuts, dried cherries, dried mango, fresh fruit, iced herbal tea, ice water, and hot tea.  The spa and guest rooms feature Mighty Leaf Teas in a silken teach pouch, much like a sachet filled with tea.  Magazines are available for your reading pleasure and there is also a large flat screen tv.

Women's Social Lounge - Refreshment area

Women's Social Lounge - Refreshment area

Women's Social Lounge - Cozy seating area

Women's Social Lounge - Cozy seating area

The spa was large enough that it never felt crowded, even though the spa staff indicated that there were a couple of bridal parties enjoying the spa and that 130 guests came through on one of the days of my visit.  The bathroom area consists of 6 sinks, 4 vanities with a large variety of hair products and 7 showers, including a handicapped accessible shower.

The wet are of the spa features a semi-circle shaped cold deluge chamber. You pull the handle to release 46 degree water from overhead.  This cold therapy is alternated with warm and hot therapies.  You climb a few stairs to reach the whirlpool.  Very soothing but a bit too shallow to soak up to your shoulders like many whirlpools.  The whirlpool is accessible to the handicapped. There is a dry sauna, which was closed for maintenance during my visit. As a substitute, guests could use the Hamman room even if they weren’t getting a Hammam treatment.  The Hammam is a warming room featuring iridescent seats and rose water mist.  If you purchase the treatment, you will be scrubbed  briskly with herbal black soap applied with a special cloth.  This is to be followed by steam, whirlpool, sauna and cold deluge.  There was a small relaxation area in the wet room, which was a nice touch if you want a place to rest between the warm/hot/cold rituals.

In the Whisper Lounge, 5 double daybeds exist for deep relaxation pre and post-treatment.  Gauzy curtains can be drawn around each bed for privacy.  The beds – memory foam mattresses, soft padding, blankets and pillows beckon to guests to rest, meditate, relax and sleep.  Most of the time I had the room to myself.  Low lighting and candles add to the atmosphere of the room.  If the daybeds aren’t your thing, curved seating along the perimeter is comfortable too.

Whisper Relaxation Lounge

Whisper Relaxation Lounge


Whisper Lounge - Joya Spa

Whisper Lounge - Joya Spa

If you venture outside of the spa, you’ll find a glorious, private rooftop terrace pool that is accessible only to guests of the spa.  A rectangular shaped pool, which is heated or cooled depending on the season.  The spa pool area overlooks the resort and has spectacular views of Camelback Mountain – probably some of the best views from anywhere on the property.

Guests enjoy thickly cushioned lounge chairs, sun umbrellas, shaded areas, plush, oversize pool towels.  The pool itself is 3’ 6” deep.  The poolside service is outstanding – an energetic attendant never missed an opportunity to bring guests glasses of iced water and to inquire how we were doing and if we needed anything.  Lunch and beverage service is available to enjoy on the Joya Terrace. 

Joya Spa - Rooftop terrace pool

Joya Spa - Rooftop terrace pool




Joya Spa - Rooftop terrace pool

Joya Spa - Rooftop terrace pool

Joya Terrace is adjacent to the fitness center and motion studio.  There was some fitness equipment available on the terrace outside of the fitness center, which also overlooked the resort and Camelback Mountain. 

Paula called me for my treatment, a Moroccan Inspired Body Treatment called the Harvest Festival – 60 minutes, $155.  Here is the description of treatment from the spa brochure: 

This oasis town nestled among nearly a million date-palm trees celebrates a bountiful harvest each October with music, dance and a camel race. A pumpkin, orange and quince apple body masque is followed by a pear and apple hydrating body soufflé to provide a deeply hydrating and toning wrap especially effective for dry skin.

Note: The pumpkin, orange and quince apple body mask was substituted with a cranberry scrub. 

Paula left me for a moment while I arranged myself on the treatment table and covered myself with a towel, per her instructions.  When she returned, she applied the cranberry scrub to my back.  After a series of professional draping techniques, she applied the scrub to the rest of my body.  I was wrapped in warm towels and cellophane, then given a warm, scented eye pillow and told to relax.  While the wrap was working its magic, Paula massaged my scalp.  The table was warm too and I felt like I was in a cocoon. After a while, Paula instructed me to step into the pre-warmed shower (what temperature did I like my shower, she asked) and rinse the scrub off.  While I did, she prepared the treatment room for the second part of my treatment.   Paula applied a warm green apple and pear soufflé.  It smelled fresh and just the fruits themselves.  As the treatment ended, Paula misted me with Joya Signature Oil – a blend of oils extracted from the essence of the Queen of the Night cactus.  This is Joya Spa’s signature scent and is available in many forms in the spa gift shop. At the end of each treatment, guests are given a signature Joya chocolate to enjoy.  “Don’t bite it, just let it melt in your mouth”, instructed Paula.


I loved Joya Spa so much that I came back the next day for another treatment – a 90 minute Customized Aromatherapy Massage with Uli.  The massage is $215, $20 for the aromatherapy add-on.  I usually don’t go for the upgrade, but it was tastefully offered at the beginning of my treatment and I was in the mood for scented oil. Uli offered me several scents to try – I settled on one with basil and Ylang Ylang in a unscented carrier oil.  As I entered the treatment room, Uli presented me with a basket filled with little printed cards.  I selcted one and opened it, like a fortune.  It said “How beautiful it is to be alive”.  I couldn’t have agreed more!


I have never had a 90 minute massage before.  I usually go for the 50-60 minute treatments.  It was really nice to experience the different timing and flow that a 90 minute treatment allows.  Some notable features of my treatment:  some light stretching during the massage, warm towels and a warm bean filled bag scented with cinnamon, cloves and eucalyptus.    


At the end of the treatment, Uli removed the oil from my feet with warm, moist washcloth.  Before she left the room, she misted me with Joya signature oil and gave me a Joya signature chocolate.  She also left behind a warmed cloth that I could use to remove oil from my hands.


Appointments at the spa were spaced out to avoid the top of the hour rush felt at so many spas.  Despite the resort being sold out, an on site wedding on the day of one of my treatments and a steady crowd of spa-goers, the spa never felt even remotely crowded.  In fact, I had more of the areas to myself most of the time.  


If you are in Scottsdale or Paradise Valley, Joya Spa is well worth the visit.  During my stay, I toured a few of the areas other legacy spas (those that have been around for a while).  Each place I visited was luxurious and beautiful and different in design and decor – but I was glad I had chosen the Montelucia and Joya Spa to spend my time at.  Having said that, if you are a fan of Watsu massage or Vichy showers, you’ll have to go elsewhere.  But with so many treatments to choose from at Joya, you won’t be disappointed.