Archive for the ‘Travelblog’ Category

Shanghai Is Set to Impress Savvy Spa-goers

Earlier this week, I returned from a whirlwind trip to Shanghai in which I experienced a taste of the city’s emerging spa scene. Staying at The Langham, Yangtze Boutique, I felt as if I had been transported back to the glamorous 1930’s Shanghai. The hotel once featured The Yangtze Dance Hall, with one of the first spring dance floors. Despite wanting to soak it all in, I made a hasty retreat to the hotel’s Chuan Spa within hours of my arrival. The spa’s Harmony Massage proved to be the perfect antidote to the 15-hour flight that it took to get there. I also had an opportunity to stay at the legendary Fairmont Peace Hotel, which just recently re-opened after an extensive renovation. Located on the Bund, the hotel is ideally situated for an early morning walk or Tai Chi session with impressive views of Pudong, an emerging hotspot and area of development on the east bank of the Huangpu River, in the background. Although the new Willow Stream Spa has yet to open. I did get a chance to tour the lavish facilities. It should be up and running by late November.  Stay tuned for more on Chuan Spa and the soon-to-open Willow Stream Spa in an upcoming issue.

Over the Moon for Auriga Spa at Capella Singapore

By Guest Blogger | Oct 18, 2010

In Singapore for the 2010 Wellness Summit, I planned a visit to Auriga Spa at Capella Singapore, amidst the lush rainforest on Sentosa Island. Auriga is named for a constellation in the northern hemisphere, and the treatments, developed by Adria Lake, are based on the rhythms of the lunar cycle. Spa Director Alsu Abdulina recommended I try one of their signature treatments, the New Moon. It included a foot massage with juniper, rosemary, and fennel; a seaweed and eucalyptus salt scrub followed by a seaweed wrap; and a full-body rosemary and eucalyptus massage and a special stimulating tonic for awakening the body.

I was greeted in small reception/retail area and asked to fill out a client profile, then escorted back to female changing area. Rather than a large locker area, the ladies locker area is a series of rooms, locker and changing area, sinks, showers, and water closets in nooks along a hallway. The large wooden lockers are prepared with towel, robe, and slippers inside. Once I changed, I continued down the hall to the women’s wet amenity area, featuring an herbal steam room, two experience showers and a large vitality pool looking out into the garden. Adjacent to the wet area is a comfortable waiting room, where my therapist, Mei, met me and escorted me to the treatment room, inquiring how I would like to be addressed along the way. Once in the treatment room, Mei had me take a seat and explained all of the steps of the service, all the while offering me samples of the products she would use, which had been carefully prepared beforehand for presentation. I was offered a cup of warm herbal tea, which I drank while reading the meditation card that came along with it.

Throughout the service, I marveled throughout at the level of training and expertise that Mei displayed. Never did she put a hand wrong; always gently cueing me, deftly wrapping me, slippers always placed in exactly the right spot. She checked in with me at all of the right intervals to inquire as to my comfort regarding pressure and temperature. At the conclusion of the service, she commented that my skin was in great shape, but a bit dehydrated and she said she would leave a few product recommendations out front for me. This is something that you RARELY see in Asian spas, and I was really impressed when I went to check out and sure enough, there were five products there along with a prescription form all filled out. The Organic Pharmacy products felt terrific on my skin, and will soon be available in the US. at the Auriga Spa opening at the Setai Fifth Avenue in November.

After my service I spent some time snuggling under a cozy throw on a sound wave chaise in the relaxation room, looking out at the rainforest and sipping herbal tea. Both the service and Mei’s touch were really flawless.—Written by Lisa Starr

Learning Life Lessons at Miraval Arizona

While I’ve been hearing great things about Miraval Arizona (Tucson, AZ) for years now, one thing that has always piqued my interest has been the Equine Experience. The session involves working with horses to discover behavioral patterns and help participants live in the moment. Well, I love horses, and I also realize I don’t live in the moment nearly as much as I should. So, during a recent visit to this divine destination spa, I made sure to sign up. The first thing we did was groom the horses and walk them around the pasture. Many people get held up when it’s time to clean the hooves—it takes single-minded focus to get the animals to lift their heavy legs—so I was a little nervous when I approached my trusty steed, Elvis. But I tackled my task with focus and determination (and, quite frankly, several years experience working with horses when I was a little girl), and he happily obliged. Needless to say, I got a little cocky when it was time to enter a practice ring and direct a horse in a circle by only using my body language. Turns out, I wasn’t nearly as adept at this exercise. I was able to get the Elvis to move, but I would look ahead to where I wanted him to go, and he would immediately stop, turn around, and stare at me. We did this little dance for about 10 minutes—all with the same results. Then it was time to sit down with my equine expert, Caroline, and talk about what happened. She explained that horses live in the moment and that by thinking several steps ahead, I lost my immediate focus—and Elvis’s attention. She then asked me to relate this to my life, and I have to admit, I often think three, four, five, and 10 steps ahead of where I am. At the office, this pays off—we work on the magazine three months in advance, and I’m always pondering the next issue, the next cover, the next feature. But in life, I definitely need to stop and smell the roses and appreciate my friends, family, loved ones, and experiences. It was a wonderful lesson, and now, even a few weeks out from my trip, I try to be more mindful and more appreciative of the life I am living, right now. This was just one of the many wonderful memories I made at Miraval. Tune in to the November issue of American Spa to learn about the exciting new Andrew Weil, M.D. Integrative Wellness Program, and keep your eyes on one of our fall 2011 issues, where we will be covering the brand-new spa that is about to break ground. And if you get the chance, get yourself out to Miraval—it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

Blissed Out at Banyan Tree Sanya

By Guest Blogger | Sep 15, 2010

I was fortunate to visit the Banyan Tree, Sanya (China), as they had kindly agreed to host a one-day spa management conference for Wynne Business. This beautiful property is comprised of a huge and dramatic pavilion/lobby with open-air restaurants and bars on several levels and winding walkways leading to the 49 villas. After a day of teaching, I was looking forward to enjoying a spa service at one of the largest spas in the region.

My treatment began with the Hydrotherapy Experience circuit of water treatments, one of only two in the entire Banyan Tree chain and certainly the most elaborate water amenity area in Hainan—in fact, the resort won an award for this very feature at the Spa China Awards earlier that week. To begin, my Thai therapist, Kitty helped me into a sarong. The first step is the Rain Shower Corridor, a succession of five different showers in a tiled hallway; you step under each one in succession, and enjoy the varying pressures and sprays. This step lasts a few minutes, and you are now fully drenched. Next, Kitty escorted me into a Thai Herbal Steam chamber, a completely tiled room where she had set up a towel on a bench for me. Once she had me settled in the warm, fragrant steam, she brought me a bottle of cold water and a washcloth encrusted with ice. She also left me with a Tibetan chime and instructed me to ring it when I was ready to move to the next step. The next step was a Swiss shower and the Warm Dip Pool. After a relaxing soak in the hot bubbling water, I moved to the Spa Jet Pool, which was temperate water and also had four hydro-massage jets arcing out of the wall above the level of the water, so you could position yourself for a nice head, neck, and shoulder massage.

After these soaks, I was escorted to the Hammam room. While it was designed with a belly stone in the center, it was more of a steam room with tiled seating around the sides. When I was finished steaming, Kitty escorted me to the warm shower. After this final cleansing, I changed into a robe and slippers and sat in the relaxation area, sipping tea and gazing at the water wall. Now it was time to move onto the hands-on portion of the treatment, so Kitty escorted me outside to the treatment villas, of which there are eight ringing a small lake. Each Villa has two separate treatment suites, each containing a large treatment room with two tables, a shower, a toilet, a seating area, and another adjoining room which houses either two vichy tables or a Thai massage mat. The two sides of each Villa are connected by a kitchen/dispensary containing all of the back-of-house needs. The back wall of the villa is floor to ceiling glass, covered with sheer curtains, with the option of black-out curtains as well. There is also a large outdoor tub, set into the waters of the lake, which is reached by a few stepping stones. The treatment rooms are named for local flowers, such as chrysanthemum and osmanthus.

Kitty seated me in a comfortable chair, which was surrounded by orchids. She offered me a beverage, and then I was shown a tray of seven  different varieties of incense and I was able to choose the one that I wanted (bergamot). My treatment began with a relaxing footbath, after which Kitty escorted me onto one of the treatment tables. She performed a full body scrub, and then let me relax while she prepared a shower. After rinsing, I returned to the table for an incredibly relaxing Balinese massage. In the Thai fashion, Kitty’s size belied her strength; she performed a complete body massage, scalp massage, then massage of each of my feet, with a combination of effleurage and pressure points, actually climbing onto the table and using her body weight on occasion, and after two hours of working on me, did not appear to be the least bit tired. She was warm and gracious throughout, regularly inquiring as to my comfort and needs. After the service was completed, she again seated me in the comfy chair and brought me a bowl of chopped fruit with some yogurt to pour over it, a delicious snack which I enjoyed as she neatened up the treatment room.

Spa Director Annie Jiang and her team are very well-trained and prepared to deliver the ultimate in guest care. After my service, I was so relaxed I asked for one of the ubiquitous electric buggies to drive me back to my villa so I could melt by my personal pool. The Banyan Tree Sanya definitely provided a high-quality, polite, and friendly staff and spectacular property, and I hope to return in the future.—Written by Lisa Starr, who is in China to attend the China Spa Summit

Mandarin Oriental Sanya Spa Soothes and Impresses

By Guest Blogger | Sep 2, 2010

What’s the best solution for jet lag? Why, a few hours in a spa, of course! After a 30-hour journey to Sanya on Hainan Island, China, I checked into the Mandarin Oriental Sanya, overlooking the South China Sea, and headed to the spa for some rejuvenation. Like all Mandarin properties, this one does not disappoint. The level of training and attention to detail are evident immediately.

Guests arriving at the spa are escorted to a seating area and offered a refreshment. Then, the front desk staff comes to you, and reviews your service options. I had booked a two-hour Time Ritual, which is a signature service at this resort. The Time Ritual is just that; you book an amount of time, and then what you do during that time is customized on the day of your visit, according to your immediate needs. This is certainly much easier to accomplish when the therapist is able to perform body treatments, massages and facials. I was escorted to the private spa suite, of which there are 16 at this property. As is common in Asia, the spa suite is a self-contained unit with bathroom, steam shower, changing area, greeting area, and treatment area. Upon entering, I was seated on a banquette and was treated to a foot and lower leg scrub and bath by my Balinese therapist, Geria. My treatment began with a Pearl Powder and Rice Milk body scrub. I then enjoyed a 10-minute steam and shower and returned to the table for a full-body massage. Geria’s expert hands had me feeling “like buttah” in no time. The treatment ended with a mini-facial, using products from Aromatherapy Associates. I must admit that, as a client, it’s enjoyable to have one person be able to perform all of the services without having to get up and move to another room. However, the facial is not done in the way we would consider standard in the west; there is no mag lamp, steamer, or any other equipment used, just the skilled hands of the therapist. So while there are no extractions or what we might consider serious professional skincare, the massage felt great and my skin was glowing.

Upon completion of the service, I put on my robe and enjoyed a cup of ginger tea while Geria busied herself straightening up. I chatted a bit with Geria, who was open with me since she knew I was a spa professional. She has three kids in Bali, but can’t get therapist work there because she does not have a university degree. So she leaves her kids with her husband and lives here in Sanya in a company-owned dormitory; she is able to go home for a visit once a year for three weeks. Makes a one-hour commute seem attractive.

The spa treatment areas are woven through open pavilions with comfortable seating areas and beautiful flagstone pathways, which float on channels of water. But unfortunately, it’s too hot and humid to sit outside. Geria escorted me back to the reception area, where I was offered more refreshments. Settling your bill is discreetly done in a separate small room, which has a retail display and a desk. I say retail display; there are shelves with small collections of products, but the overall impression is more that of a collection of objects than a store. As is common in many five-star properties, if you want to purchase retail products you need to say so. But all in all, it was a terrific experience. Other than the outdoor relaxation areas, there is no real “spa” area to hang out in, but that’s okay, because my room is so nice I’m going to return there and utilize the huge bathtub that adjoins my balcony, while enjoying the sounds of the sea.

—By Lisa Starr, who is in China to attend the Spa China Summit. Check out the blog for more on her experiences there.

Grape Rewards in Wine Country

Last week, on my tour through the Finger Lakes wine country, I had an opportunity to stay at La Tourelle Resort & Spa (Ithaca, NY). There, I was instantly smitten with the bucolic setting and gracious staff. I was also giddy with the fact that I got to reside in a three-bedroom suite that just happened to be in a barn. It was certainly one of the more interesting and comfortable places I’ve had the pleasure of staying. I also made sure to pay a visit to the resort’s August Moon Spa, where I sampled the Finger Lakes Grape Massage ($100, 50 minutes; $145, 80 minutes). It was certainly the perfect way to top off a day that had begun with an early morning hike to one of Ithaca’s famed waterfalls. I now know why “Ithaca is gorges.” For more on the August Moon Spa and the benefits of grape-themed treatments, check out our September issue.

A French Affair in Upstate New York

Last week, I escaped the city’s ongoing heat wave with a trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. For years, I’d wanted to visit Mirbeau Inn & Spa (Skaneateles) but found the logistics of getting there without a car somewhat daunting. After deciding a getaway road trip was the perfect antidote to the summertime blues, I made sure the charming inn was the first stop on my itinerary. Reminiscent of a French country home with its Monet-inspired gardens, Mirbeau served as the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding wine country. I was especially enchanted by the culinary creations of executive chef Stephen S. Landon and by the spa, which offers a host of vinotherapy treatments. For more on the spa’s grape-themed services, check out “In the Mix” in our September issue. And look for more to come on this idyllic retreat in upcoming issues.

Sparkling Hill Shines in Canada

The saying goes that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but I’ve learned that crystals can also leave a girl feeling good inside and out. I learned this on a recent trip to Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, British Columbia. Utilizing 1.9 million Swarovski crystals throughout the property, the resort is truly a dazzling site. Located on the edge of a granite ridge overlooking the Monashee Mountains and Lake Okanagan, the resort offers some of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. I was able to explore much of the surrounding area during my trip–I hiked the property, rode a mountain bike across train trestles on the Myra Canyon section of the Kettle Valley Railway, and visited four local wineries. I loved all the outdoor activities I partook in, but afterward I was happy to enjoy the breathtaking views while relaxing indoors at Sparkling Hill’s beautiful 40,000-square-foot KurSpa. Stay tuned for more about the new hotel and spa in an upcoming edition of American Spa.

A Spa Enthusiast’s Epic Adventure

Although it’s always nice when the city clears out for a holiday weekend, I wasn’t looking forward to spending this recent one in town. Instead, I took advantage of an invitation to embark on a two-day inaugural cruise on the Norwegian Epic. Boasting the largest spa at sea, 20 restaurants, a casino, three waterslides, a sports complex, and more, Norwegian Cruise Line’s new ship more than lives up to its Epic name. With performances by the Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, and a variety of Nickelodean characters, such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, boredom is probably the one option not available on the action-packed ship. However, relaxation can be found onboard at Mandara Spa & Salon, which features a menu that offers everything from Go Smile Tooth Whitening ($199, 30 minutes) and Botox and Dysport injections (starting at $350) to more traditional spa therapies. While I packed in as much as I could in the two days I was at sea, it wasn’t nearly enough time to try everything the ship had to offer. I did manage to find time to visit the ship’s Ice Bar (here I am donning a fur-trimmed parka to survive the frigid 17 degree temperature), a place I wouldn’t mind revisiting right about now while in the midst of an east coast heat wave. Look for more on the Norwegian Epic and its Mandara Spa & Salon in a future issue.

Spa-Goers Make Beautiful Music Together at
One&Only Palmilla

A day at the spa normally means taking in some peace and quiet. While enjoying the sound of silence is very necessary, shaking this idea up a bit and making some noise is sometimes very beneficial. During a recent trip to Los Cabos, I was lucky enough to visit One&Only Palmilla where I partook in Musical Therapy with the small group of writers and editors I was traveling with. As we made our way through the stunning grounds of the resort, we came across a palapa that is situated on a bluff overlooking the Sea of Cortez that was set up for a major jam session. There were different types of drums, rattles, flutes, rainsticks and we were going to be playing all of them. Our musical stylings were brought out and directed by our patient leader, Mexican-born contemporary musician Antonio Zepeda. There was a touch of intimidation mixed with skepticism when the group first laid eyes on the scene. Zepeda’s soothing voice and calm demeanor talked us through a very rusty beginning as we “played” our instruments and he successfully guided the group into a definite groove. The more confident we got while playing, the more relaxing and fun it was for us, and, dare I say, we were making music. The combination of the breathtaking setting of the palapa with the steady beat we were producing seemed to create a lulling affect that allowed us to get lost in another world—sixty minutes just flew by and I was feeling rejuvenated by the end of it.

This Musical Therapy is part of a Three-Day Joyful Journey Package offered at One&Only Palmilla. Priced at $650 per person, this package (not including accommodations) focuses on mind-body wellness by bringing together activities that are scientifically proven to reduce stress, such as meditation, painting, massage, and laughter. For more on this package—and for what’s hot on the Cabo spa scene—check out the July issue of American Spa.

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