Everythingspa’s Blog

CNYSPAGIRL blogs about all things spa

The best reason to plan a girlfriend getaway? No reason at all! April 27, 2011

Turtle Landing Retreat

If your friendships have become virtual, it may be time to reconnect with your gal pals in-person. The girlfriend getaway: It’s synonymous with shopping, lounging in your pj’s, wine or cocktails, great food and maybe some time at the spa.  What you won’t find on a girlfriend getaway? Husbands, significant others and children.  A well-executed girlfriend getaway lets one recharge their batteries and return to the real world a better person. It might be a weekend long bachelorette party, reuniting the girls from college, or just work-weary moms needing a change in scenery. Or the best reason to plan a girlfriend getaway soon?  No reason at all.

Jamie Virkler, owner of Turtle Landing Retreat in Fulton, NY, recognizes that she herself is a better wife and mother after taking brief retreats with her girlfriends. This realization inspired her to open the retreat, a contemporary refuge surrounded by nature on the banks of the Oswego River, in October of 2010.  While the house was designed with scrapbooking groups in mind, you don’t have to be a crafter to enjoy all that Turtle Landing has to offer.  The retreat house, which sleeps 15 in super-fun themed rooms, is ideal for a girlfriend getaway and has garnered rave reviews from first-time and repeat guests. Rent the entire house for the weekend, including the fabulous outdoor spaces, and let Jamie take care of everything including the gourmet meals the retreat has become known for.

45 minutes southwest of Syracuse, the picturesque town of Skaneateles offers boutiques, gourmet and casual dining, and plenty of places for you and your girlfriends to call home for a night or two within every budget.  The cool, deep waters of Skaneateles Lake abound with water activities.  The Monet-inspired Mirbeau Inn & Spa, named to prominent award lists from top travel publications, has everything a girl could want for a getaway: a world-class spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, luxury accommodations, cooking classes, wine seminars, and unique dining experiences spread out over 12 acres. The newly created Life Enrichment Programs focus on health, wellness, spa, culinary and wine experiences.

Speaking of wine, a vino-tasting weekend in the Finger Lakes Region is the perfect setting to reconnect with friends.   For a hassle-free and safe approach, hire a tour company to take care of all the details.  Take a vineyard tour, taste some world-class wines at over 100 unique vineyards and be driven around the lakes in style.  At days end, hang your hat at one of the cozy bed and breakfasts or country inns.  La Tourelle Resort & Spa in Ithaca makes an excellent home base for your weekend in wine country, and they’ll customize a girlfriend getaway to your liking.

For a savvy planning guide, consider “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Girlfriend Getaways,” by Lisa Kasanicky. This seasoned travel and spa expert guides you to more than 70 destinations throughout the United States and Canada including where to stay, where to eat and what to do. Each chapter has a theme — shopping, adventure trips, volunteer vacations, cultural excursions and of course spas — so that you can skip right to the type of destination you want and start planning your getaway.

Here are seven steps to planning a great girlfriend’s weekend that will be relaxing, refreshing and fun:

Step 1 – Select a date.  This may be the toughest step of all with multiple friends who have many commitments.

Step 2 – Set a budget.

Step 3 – Where will you go? Location. Location. Location.

Step 4 – Select your activities.  Or plan to do absolutely nothing and don’t feel a bit guilty about it!

Step 5 – Make reservations: Transportation, accommodations, dining, spa treatments and activities.  If you’re more spontaneous, skip this step and let the wind take you!

Step 6 – Manage expectations and iron out final details.

Step 7 – Have a great time!


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