Great Spa Escapes
Feeling stressed? Escape to one of the five spectacular spas- not far from home.
By Karen Odom
with Esther Davidowitz
Feeling stressed but have no time to get away?
No excuses. There are plenty of indulgent destinations nearby or within a one- to four-hour drive to help you unwind. Choose any of these five and...sheer bliss
Rejuvenating in an Urban Oasis
There is something rather ironic about leaving bucolic Westchester for frenetic Manhattan to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. You might even say it’s nuts. But then you probably haven’t ever stayed at the year-old Mandarin Oriental, New York, eaten at its restaurant, or received a massage at its spa.
As soon as you step inside the 251-room Mandarin Oriental hotel, located in the Time Warner Center (Columbus Circle at 60th Street), you know you’re in for a heady experience. It’s not just the stellar service (ask and you shall receive), but the super-stylish look of the hotel. It’s gorgeous: Italian marble and granite flooring, honey-toned wood and limestone walls, pale gold furniture and rich chocolate brown carpeting. And in deference to its Asian roots (there are award-winning Mandarin Oriental hotels in Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.), there are Asian artifacts and fresh-cut orchids just about everywhere. There are also huge (often floor-to-ceiling) windows with breathtaking views of the city.
From my room on the 56th floor (the hotel’s reception desk, restaurant, and spa are on the 35th floor), I got a dazzling view of a then half-frozen Hudson River. (I also got some welcome goodies, including an edible statue of the Empire State Building—made entirely out of luscious chocolate.)
The spa offers still more spectacular views—plus all sorts of ways to make you feel in an hour or two as if you’ve spent a week or two on a tropical island.
You can begin to enjoy that “stress?-what-stress?” feeling even before your first spa treatment: just arrive early at the spa and step into the very hot, very bubbly, and very soothing “vitality” pool.
My two-hour spa treatment (the Mandarin Oriental’s signature “Time Ritual”) began with a warm-water foot massage so that my spa therapist, Cheryl, could ascertain the best treatment for me. Her method? A Q&A.
“Are there oils and fragrances you particularly like?”
“I like them all.”
“Any problem areas?”
“Is there anything you particularly like?”
Cheryl then told me I’d know when my two hours were up: she’d ring a pair of Tibetan chimes.
I could describe the treatment I received in detail, but let’s just say that I never wanted to hear those chimes. Yet, alas…ding. Darn!
There was consolation, thank goodness: dinner in the hotel’s ultra-chic French-Japanese restaurant, Asiate. Try to reserve a booth by a window (for still more wonderful views) and try not fill up on your first few courses, because no matter what, you must have the chocolate fondant with raspberry granita. I’m still yearning for another helping.
So is the hotel and the experience all perfect? Well, I do have one criticism. The thick, translucent glass doors (in the shower, the bathrooms, the spa) are so heavy, I could barely open them. When I mentioned it to a staff member, she explained with a smile, “Oh, yes, the doors are heavy because we don’t want our guests to leave.”
My sentiments exactly.
Retreating into Romance
Lush, plush, romantic, intimate. There aren’t enough luscious-sounding words to adequately describe Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Skaneateles, NY (near Syracuse), an elegant French country inn that oozes rustic charm. Step into Mirbeau and you step right into a Monet painting, down to the Japanese drawbridge and the water-lily pond. Every detail of the resort, which was designed, built, and is owned by Linda and Gary Dower, is inspired by the French Impressionist period, from the décor inside and out to the “palette of tastes” Chef Ed Moro creates with food.
Pampering starts with the room. It’s easy to see why the bed is billed as “sleeping on a cloud.” That’s how you’ll feel on Mirbeau’s custom-made mattresses and bedding. For $1,349 plus shipping and handling, you, too, can “sleep on a cloud” in your own home. In
fact, there’s not much that you can’t bring home
from Mirbeau—at a price—including the French Impressionist oil paintings on display throughout
Mirbeau is ideal for a romantic weekend. And if your mate (like my husband) has never experienced a spa, the couple’s side-by-side massage is a perfect introduction. You’re both in the same room, each with your own masseuse (we had the undivided attention of Sherri and Lori).
Arrive early enough to linger in the Roman bath-inspired resting room and dangle your feet in the hot foot bath while sipping cucumber water or Tazo tea. Or, lie back, close your eyes, and relax on one of the lounge chairs. After a short respite, it was time for my “Make a Wish” facial with Alison that I wished would never end. My husband may never consider a massage on his own, even if a winning lottery is in his future, but he didn’t seem to mind this taste of the pampered life.
Shedding Stress by the Seashore
If a New England setting is to your liking, Water’s Edge Resort & Spa on the shore of the Long Island Sound awaits just 90 minutes north of White Plains. And you don’t have to leave your family behind to enjoy it—unless you want to, that is. This family-friendly environment gives you the option. While the kids are busy with supervised play at the activity center on the resort’s private beach, you can escape to the spa. Nearly half of the guest rooms offer an extraordinary water view.
Built in the 1940s as a celebrity retreat, this resort provided spa services as an amenity in the guest suites. Now, with a new spa and 10 treatment rooms, Water’s Edge offers a full line of services from a traditional Swedish massage to its signature hot marine-stone therapy, caviar(!) facial, and rose-petal-wrap manicure and pedicure (an indulgent treatment for the hands and feet)—each of which I sampled from Donna, Carmen, and Paige, respectively—while my husband went for the more manly deep-tissue sports massage and gentleman’s facial from Nate and Ingrid. We were both glowing by the time we reunited. The hot marine-stone therapy is more than soothing. I have no clue whether focusing on the body’s seven “chakras” (energy centers) actually eliminates toxins, but it sure feels divine. Your most difficult task will be turning over so both sides get equal attention. Apparently, “Do I have to move?” is a familiar plea. Donna has the right idea—to invent a sturdy body turner to spare her clients the exertion.
If tranquility could be bottled, it might come in the form of Felicita (pronounced feh-lee-she-ta), which means “great happiness” in Italian. I came for the spa, but found a little piece of paradise—and garden view of history—tucked away in the Blue Mountain ranges of Harrisburg, PA. The main attractions at Felicita Resort are the 27 magnificent gardens that put on a majestic show every season—each one a work of art representing a specific time in history from 100 B.C. to the present. Understated, tranquil, and brimming with beauty, each garden is planned by theme, color, and shape. Richard and Alice Angino own, personally plan, and prune their beloved plants. My husband and I had the good fortune of running into Angino, who gave us a private tour—what a gift! His passion is obvious and contagious. Think of him as an artist who paints by nature, using broad brush strokes of blue, green, and gold, with unexpected bold bursts of red, yellow, white, and lavender. If you have the chance to take the two-hour walking tour with Angino on a Saturday morning ($10 per person), don’t pass it up.
Wrap up your rejuvenating day at the California-style spa by relaxing in the great room which has a great view, a fireplace, overstuffed chairs, and a huge soft leather sofa and chaise for reading, relaxing, meditating, or falling asleep in front of the fire. Or opt, as I did, for the “Raindrops” treatment. At the expert hands of Amy, it didn’t take long to be transported to nirvana. Throughout the gentle massage, a mixture of essential oils were dropped lightly onto my back (hence the name “raindrops”), including oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, cypress, wintergreen, and peppermint. The scent of basil will linger long after, but this is good. It doesn’t mean you’re basting; it means the oils, I was told, are continuing to do their healing work—sedating the nerves, increasing circulation, aiding digestion, and heightening mental clarity.
No time is a bad time to visit Felicita, but consider May when the gardens are in full bloom, daylight is long, and you can take full advantage of all the resort has to offer, whether it’s drinking in the natural beauty, attempting a hole in one, or holing up in the spa.
Contentment in the Catskills
If you appreciate—or are open to experience—the healing powers of the outdoors and know the inner joy and sense of well-being nature can provide, there’s a quiet gem of a retreat waiting for you in the Catskills. Copperhood Inn & Spa is all about balance—centering your mind, invigorating and nourishing your body, and rejuvenating your spirit—combined with the comforts of home and a personal touch that begins with owner Elizabeth Winograd. Introducing herself simply as Elizabeth, she manages to make each guest feel like Copperhood’s only guest. Her comfy home just happens to have a 40-acre island-backyard to hike or to admire, a 60-foot indoor swimming pool, a full-service European spa, and 18 cozy guest rooms from upscale singles to duplexes with Jacuzzis. Each room is elegantly yet comfortably decorated, with plush wall-to-wall carpeting and, in some, Louis XVI-style furnishings.
Be sure to make the drive (two hours from White Plains) in daylight—Copperhood is so low-key and unpretentious, you can easily miss the entrance, as I did. Don’t be dismayed by the nondescript exterior or the locked front door, which requires ringing the bell before entering. (Odds are high that the door will be opened by Elizabeth herself.)
The personal touch continues at the spa, the perfect place to unwind after your two-hour morning hike, personally led by Elizabeth, naturally. Zoran made sure I was transported to another zone through my Copperhood hot-stone massage. The journey started with an assessment of my state of mind, sleep patterns, and stress level. Then a special mix of essential oils (mine included cypress, llang llang, and lavender) was blended so the aromatherapy could work in tandem with the healing massage.
Whether you’re seeking anonymity or camaraderie, Copperhood offers as much or as little privacy as you desire. As Elizabeth explains, “Only people with reservations will find us.” And that’s by design. You can get to know your fascinating inn-mates—or not. During my visit, I met Jo-Anne from Manhattan, who was on her very first spa trip; Margo, taking a self-imposed mini-break from her family; and Lynn from Chappaqua, who was drawn to Copperhood for the hiking but planned to take it all in starting with a morning mediation.
Copperhood delivers a full experience, which can include activities such as meditation or fencing, and is completely planned around your likes, dislikes, and fitness level. No matter how you configure your visit, you’ll leave well-fed physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Now that Karen Odom has had enough spa treatments to be de-stressed for several months, she’s left with only one problem—how to cope with spa withdrawal. Until then, she’ll continue to bask in the afterglow of spa hopping.
Mandarin Oriental, New York
Signature Treatments The “Time Ritual” is a customized two-hour experience, with the treatments hand-selected by you and your spa therapist ($410). If you really want to indulge, book the private VIP Spa Suite for three hours ($1,050).
Exclusive Full-day programs—there are two—include use of the hotel’s 75-foot swimming pool, sauna, steam room, vitality pools, fitness center, and a spa lunch (from $640).
Meals Treat yourself to a drink—and drink in the views—at the 35th-story MObar, before you dine at restaurant Asiate (212-805-8881). Highly recommended dishes: the pan-sared foie gras with steamed sea eel, the Wagyu beef with smoked potato purée, and the lobster in a saffron broth. Or, if you can’t decide, go for the seven-course tasting menu ($95), and try the five-textures chocolate—alone, it’s almost as blissful as a day of spa treatments.
Lodging Room rates range from $625 for a standard room to $12,595 for the Presidential Suite. Not interested in temporary lodging? Above the hotel floors, there are luxury condominiums for sale including full-floor 8,000-square-foot-plus apartments ($35 million-plus).
Packages Art fans might consider The Art’s Delight: one night’s accommodation, admission to MoMA, and a night out at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola for a live jazz performance ($1,025-$2,025). Or, if fashion is more your thing, there’s the MO-Chic: two nights’ stay, a two-hour spa treatment, and a day shopping with a former Vogue editor. Lunch included ($3,741).
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
(877) MIRBEAU (647-2328)
Signature Treatments Two couple’s massage treatments are offered in the signature Monet Room: the 100-minute “Art of Living” treatment includes an herbal bath for two, a side-by-side massage, and a snack of chocolates and cucumber-water by the fire ($350); or, choose “It Takes Two” for the massage sans bath and fireside treats ($195).
Exclusive The 50- to 100-minute “Monet’s Favorite Fragrance” ($105-$205) combines essential oils blended from local herbs and flowers with a Swedish massage.
Meals Forget traditional spa food; here, the cuisine is as heavenly as the massage. Go for the $27 lunch or the $54 dinner tasting menus. Add $5 for a “sweet ending” to either meal.
Lodging Nightly rates: $150 weekdays off-season to $225 weekends in-season for the 34 rooms divided between the inn and four cottages; all have fireplaces, a Bose CD/radio, and a view of the Monet-inspired garden or picturesque pines.
Packages Overnight packages begin at $259 for the “Spa Getaway,” which includes a deluxe woodland-view room, one 50-minute spa treatment, unlimited use of exercise equipment, a eucalyptus-infused steam room and sauna, exercise classes, and all taxes and gratuities.
Resort and Spa
Signature Treatments A 50- or 80-minute “Caviar Moisturizer” ($90-$135) promises an instant facelift (no hint of fish from this odorless extract). It delivers! It gave me a lift and a noticeably healthy glow.
Exclusive Special services include an 80-minute “Tandem Indulgence,” massage at the hands of two therapists simultaneously ($180-$270). A line of chocolate spa services (including a chocolate wrap and manicure) were added in time for Valentine’s Day.
Meals Famous for its Sunday brunch, Water’s Edge won’t disappoint. Everything I ordered was a winner, from the extraordinary fresh clam chowder with extra clams to the Chilean sea bass.
Lodging Nightly rates range from $120 (winter weekday) to $340 (summer weekend). Also available: one- and two-bedroom timeshare villas; a three-bedroom beach house, ideal for families—runs $2,600 per week.
Packages Overnight packages include “Romance by the Sea,” a one-night romantic getaway with Champagne, candlelight dinner for two, and breakfast before check-out ($259 weekdays off-season to $450 June through August).
Signature Treatments Create your own package, choosing from four price categories; one of 10 therapeutic baths ($45) is automatically included.
Exclusive The miracle-working “Oleaslim Body Wrap” uses essential oils and a cocoon of heat to “renew your spirit” ($125).
Meals Restaurant hosts Anna Bacha and Greg Berznec are committed to making your dining experience as memorable as your visit. That includes being generous with their service and knowledge, like sharing the recipe for the honey-peppercorn butter, a perfect match for the whole-grain sliced olive bread. Let 1 lb. of butter get to room temperature, add 2 tbsp. honey and cracked peppercorn to taste, place between waxed paper on a hard surface, roll out, freeze, and slice. Especially memorable are the signature corn- and lump-crab chowder and the “molten lava” chocolate cake.
Packages Overnight golf and spa packages start at $460 for double occupancy off-season (October 16 to May 14) and $492 in-season.
Copperhood Inn & Spa
Signature Treatments One of several customized treatments, the Copperhood’s couple’s massage teaches each partner how to massage the other ($180).
Exclusive The Hanna Kes Spa is named after the owner’s mother, who developed the nearly two-hour European body treatment—invigorating almond body scrub, Swedish massage, and moisturizing hot herbal wrap with lavender, chamomile, mint, and sage ($175).
Meals The light, natural, delicious gourmet meals—like our dinner of green apple squash soup, spring green salad, seafood (poached clams, sea bass, shrimp, and tuna) in saffron vegetable broth, and a fresh fruit or tiramisu finish—are lovingly prepared by Elizabeth’s husband, Lech.
Lodging Basic rates, based on a two-night minimum and double occupancy, start at $270 per night off-season ($285 in peak), plus a 15 percent service charge. Add $40 per day for
single occupancy and $50 per day for the three-room grand suite.
Cost and Packages A two-night spa package runs $540 for double occupancy ($620 for single) and includes all meals, two $45 spa credits, a fitness program created to your liking, hikes, exercise classes, equipment rentals, and use of all facilities. Primarily an adult-oriented resort; you won’t find children under age 13.