Mohonk Mountain House: Something for all your Senses

MM5The Mohonk Mountain House, located in the Hudson Valley, just 90 miles from Manhattan, is an amazing place to call home for a few days. The resort is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. It was founded by Albert Smiley is 1869 and over 145 years later, the Victorian castle is still a site to see and experience. The magical Mohonk Mountain House offers unspoiled beautiful scenery, cuisine made using local ingredients, a serene spa and wonderful hospitality. Nestled among 85 miles of hiking trails of the Mohonk Preserve, its backyard is the spectacular Catskill Mountains. I had heard the property was something to see, but nothing prepared me for the thousands of acres of incredible fall foliage that was displayed in red, orange, yellow and green rows of trees  With so many possible paths to explore, each turn offers an even more spectacular view than the last.  mm6

The Mohonk Mountain House has something for everyone. It’s an incredibly romantic resort, as you can find so many secret nooks with benches within the hiking paths where you can sit and take in the views. The rooms are spacious with their own private fireplaces. There’s nothing like cuddling up with your loved one by the fire with a good glass of wine. The spa offers an array of massages, facial and body treatments for individuals and couples. Each locker room also has a sauna and steam room and there is a co-ed heated mineral pool outside. A solarium also offers a peaceful space with lounge chairs in which the two of you can just relax and stare at the gorgeous outdoors. Looking to unwind even more? They offer an array of meditation classes and private meditation instruction.

MM3 Mohonk is also great for families. There were many children enjoying the fun Halloween theme, haunted house and Halloween Ball. However, with the property and dining areas being so spacious, it did not affect the quaint romantic vibe. There is a ton of activities no matter the season. The property transforms with the season.

While it will be tough to choose what to do in a day with so many options, one thing you’ll be doing a lot of is eating! For breakfast, you’ll enjoy a large breakfast buffet with an omelet and waffle station. If you’re there on a Sunday, you’ll have the breakfast buffet and also a huge brunch buffet which includes a cheese spread, lox, shrimp cocktail, an array of hot and cold dishes, salads and omelet and carving stations. Lunch is also a buffet consisting of salads international hot and cold dishes and carving stations along with an extensive dessert spread. MM4 For dinner, you can choose the casual buffet option or dress to impress for a formal sit-down dinner with a quality three-course meal with an extensive wine list. They also offer alternative vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. MM2 The award-winning chefs definitely go out of their way to make sure your dinner is prepared with your specific dietary needs and requests in mind.

 

So if you’re looking for a gorgeous retreat, romantic getaway or a fun family weekend, you can get more information at www.mohonk.com. Keep your eyes out for special themes and activities for the holidays

Winter Blues? Head South for Sun, Sand and Serenity at The Carillon Hotel and Spa (formerly Canyon Ranch Miami Beach)

IMG_7135It was a few days into the New Year, and I had finally escaped the cold city for a few days and hopped on a flight to South Florida. I didn’t know exactly where I was going to go after my trip to the Keys for a few days, but I desperately wanted to relax and rejuvenate somewhere, and when a friend I met in the Keys invited me to come see the Carillon Hotel and Spa, where she lives on the property, I knew immediately I needed to spend a few days.

The Carillon Hotel and Spa, formerly the Canyon Ranch, is located on Collins Avenue and 69th Street, so close enough to the scene of South Beach if that’s of interest, but an oasis onto itself, and in my opinion, you never need to leave the property. Set on the ocean, there are three buildings, the north and south towers, which are residences with their own pools and Jacuzzis, a couple of workout rooms outside with views of the ocean, and the central tower, which houses the hotel, spa, fitness center, health and wellness area, lecture rooms, and an outdoor pool and Jacuzzi overlooking the vast ocean. IMG_7117

I met one couple who goes once a year for their annual doctor’s visit with Dr. Koffler, the medical director at Carillon Hotel & Spa. They followed her from her practice in Chicago. An integrative medicine physician, she works with clients on a number of issues, ranging from weight loss and food allergies to getting to the bottom of whatever ails you. At Carillon Hotel & Spa, you can get advanced, on-site diagnostic testing, and the personalized care to figure out what may be the underlying causes of what is going on in your body, in a non-rushed environment, which we so often encounter at our own doctor’s office.

IMG_7100With tons of options, you can make your visit work for you and your specific needs. Many go with specific goals in mind, whether it be physical, mental or spiritual, and some just go to relax and enjoy the incredible spa facilities and participate in the wide variety of workout classes. Aside from setting up your own personal appointments with doctors, spiritual leaders, and therapists, there is a full daily schedule of fitness classes and free informational lectures covering a wide variety of physical and spiritual health and wellness topics. For the typical person from New York or New Jersey, it’s easy to get wrapped up in feeling as though you need to do everything. This time around, I did not schedule any one-on-ones, so I used my time to take full advantage of the classes, lectures, spa facilities and a deep tissue treatment, and left time to just lounge on a chair right on top of the ocean listening to the sounds of the waves crash against the shore as I closed my eyes and dozed off into a deep state of relaxation.

Since I wanted to make sure I got a taste of everything, I did the fitness classes I don’t usually do at home, like the TRX circuit class, which is held outside overlooking the ocean, and the gyrokinesis class that did a phenomenal job of releasing neck and back tension. The classes in the pool overlooking the ocean, such as tabata, were also quite invigorating and made for great workouts. I even got on the rock climbing wall as part of a rock climbing boot camp class. My muscles definitely got a workout, but when they were telling me how sore they were, I knew I could just hop in one of many hot Jacuzzis, or the Aquavana thermal suite, comprised of several hot and cold therapies to get your muscles to relax and detox. I have been in many steam rooms and saunas over time, but none have smelled as wonderful or relaxed me more than those at the ranch. IMG_7077 Just one foot into the Aquavana area and I’m certain my blood pressure went down. I let myself enjoy an hour alternating between the Finnish sauna, the igloo, which sprays three different aromas into the air, the crystal steam room, the showers which have three different storm settings to ignite the senses, the hydrospa and footspa, and the herbal laconium, which provides gentle humidity infused with fresh herbs. The heated chairs cradle your back and neck perfectly for complete relaxation. Downstairs is the treatment area, where Richard Herrara worked his magic with my deep tissue massage and bath. The 80 or 110 minute treatment starts with a therapeutic bath infused with Dead Sea salts and mustard products that massages every part of your body, followed by a deep tissue massage. Richard is an incredible therapist who knew the perfect amount of pressure to yield results, while still ensuring a relaxing treatment.

IMG_7097The food at Carillon Hotel & Spa is not only healthy, with all of the calories and fat, carb, protein, fiber and sodium content written on the menu, it is phenomenally delicious. For breakfast one day I ordered the tofu scramble, which was prepared with just the right flavor of spices, a side of delicious smoked salmon and fresh berries with a greens juice on the side. Second day was their Mediterranean breakfast, which was just as amazing. The warm artichoke salad with a side of wild salmon was the perfect lunch to enjoy on the beach. While relaxing by the ocean or pools, there is cabana service, serving food and drinks.

We are very lucky in the northeast to have such an amazing facility so close to home. For the perfect combination of sun, ocean, fitness, wellness, healthy and delicious cuisine, insight and relaxation, look no further than Carillon Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered to help with the winter or anytime blues.

http://www.carillonhotel.com

Mexico is Magical at Las Mañanitas

My goal for this website is to seek out the world’s most romantic spots, and Las Mañanitas has got to be one of the most amazing places at which I have stayed.  It is a true gem in a part of Mexico that may not be as well known as some of the other more commercial regions.  Las Mañanitas is located an hour and a half from Mexico City in beautiful Cuernavaca, also known as the city for eternal spring  for it’s magnificent weather perfect for growing and maintaining the beautiful flora all around the region.    If you are looking for a true escape in a charming setting, in which to enjoy a new relationship or maybe celebrate your honeymoon or anniversary, it is hard not to have a peacefully relaxing and romantic time here.  Among its beautifully lush gardens stroll peacocks and flamingos, and parrots say hola from the chair next to you at breakfast.  While there are very nice lavish chain hotels, the charm of this hacienda makes you feel as if you are in your own private oasis.  The rooms are extremely spacious decorated with traditional  Mexican Tallavera tiles, handmade from a special fired-earth process in Puebla, a city close to Cuernavaca, a king sized bed, fireplace, huge bathroom and changing area, and your own large terrace with chairs and a table.  Ours overlooked one of the two large swimming pools, the other located in the spa, which can be yours to use after one of their amazing treatments.

 We devoted one day to just staying at and enjoying the resort, and what a treat it was.  We started off our four hour spa ritual (yes, I said four hours!) with water therapy in which we were guided through private time in the hot sauna followed up by a cold one minute shower, a steam room, a cool jacuzzi and then a warm one.  It was an incredible way to relax the muscles and unwind the mind before the hands on services.  Once in the treatment room, we were told to close our eyes and inhale some relaxing aromas while they wrapped our feet.  Upon lying down on our respective massage tables, our skin was exfoliated with a full body scrub and then we enjoyed a private bubble bath before having our bodies massaged for fifty minutes followed by a fifty minute facial.  I couldn’t think of a more complete spa treatment and I definitely recommend treating yourself and your partner to this incredible journey.  Upon completion of your spa experience, you can relax on the indoor lounge chairs or around the pool to the sound of running water and peacocks strolling around the colorful garden.   It had to have been one of the most romantic experiences I have had the opportunity to enjoy with someone special.

After some time passed, we settled down to dinner in the garden with only the light of a candelabrum.  The menu for all the meals was quite extensive with everything from traditional Mexican dishes to succulent seafood dishes prepared with a Mexican flair.  All the dishes were absolutely amazing with such attention to detail using only the best ingredients.  For dinner, I had salmon and sea bass one night, the traditional Mexican skirt steak, Arrachera, which was so tender, another night, and bone marrow tacos the third night.  The tuna sashimi, ceviche, and salmon carpacchio appetizers were terrific, as were their soups and salads.  I am not usually a big dessert person, but I had to try their sorbets, which were bursting with fresh flavor.  Other nights we shared a heavenly frozen chocolate cake and a hot molten chocolate cake. 

 

Las Mañanitas is a ten minute walk to the center of Cuernavaca, which is worth a stroll around at night.  You’ll see vendors selling their hats, jewelry, and food stands.  The property is also within an hour of Chisco Tubing, and if you’re looking for a little adventure and activity, you can go biking through the gorgeous scenic mountains, tubing, rafting or camping.  We went mountain biking one day and relaxed at the spa the next, which was a perfect balance. We really could have stayed a week if we had the time.  It was such a wonderfully rejuvenating and romantic experience at Las Mañanitas and Cuernavaca, and the staff made sure we were well taken care of the entire time.  Many locals in Mexico City go to Cuernavaca for the weekends and with properties like the beauty of Las Mañanitas, I can understand why.

Palau: Diving Perfection

As I tumbled backwards off the dive boat into the crystal turquois and green waters of Palau for the seventh time, the excitement of what I was about to see beneath the ocean filled me with such joy and anticipation.  I have been certified for three years  and the underwater life is different with every location, but in Palau, not only did I have the opportunity to see such huge fish like the napolean wrasse, but I was also amazed that in the same dive, I could watch the fish, sharks and turtles interact in the same space.  Right in front of me swam the sharks, swirling around in my natural underwater aquarium.  I dove with two dive shops while on the island and they both provided memorable experiences. For the first few dives and my night dive,  I dove with Sam’s Tours and immediately upon walking in their dive shop, I felt at home and well taken care of.  Before I had even arrived in Palau, Marc Bauman, the general manager, emailed us to see what we wanted for lunch on our trips and as I walked into the shop, he was right there to help me with the moisture capsules I had bought for my camera.  I had also noticed my dive watch had lost it’s battery life as I was packing it, so while I was out on my dive, he and Mike, the operations manager, sent someone into town to get me a new battery, and in the meantime, lent me one of their dive computers.  The guys who got all my equipment together were extremely organized and thorough and the equipment was all new, as they replace it every year.    This is very important to me because at some dive shops, you feel like you’re just a number and you’re lucky if you get fins that fit right and aren’t from twenty years ago.  The personalized attention can make a big difference.  When three of us decided we wanted to do a night dive, they sent out a boat just for us.  Dexter, who is one of the most experienced dive masters on the island, made us feel very comfortable, as it was one girl’s first night dive.  Not only is Sam’s a spacious dive shop, they also have a bar and restaurant on the grounds, which makes for a fun place to hang out after a day of diving.   In addition to the dive operation currently in place, Sam’s will be launching a liveaboard called the Siren.  I saw the pictures of the boat and it looks amazing…pure luxury and diving for seven days.  They are already booked for the next three years, but they do have some pockets of weeks available.

The other dive operation I spent a couple of days with was Fish ‘n Fins.  While each boat trip had more people on it than the dives with Sam’s, the attention to detail was not sacrificed.  Loreen will most likely be with you on your dive or snorkel trip.   I forgot to mention that while many people flock to Palau for the diving, if you are a significant other or friend who does not dive, the snorkeling is spectacular as well, and many times you can go out on the same boat with your partner and snorkel in the same spot they are diving in.  Loreen is very careful in making sure all equipment is hooked up properly and is great at pointing out various things underwater.   I was most appreciative on the day I forgot my permit for jellyfish lake in my luggage and she asked the driver of the boat to stop by the hotel on the way out so I could run and get it.  Otherwise I would not have been able to snorkel jellyfish lake, and if you are in Palau, this is an absolute must.  If you get there in the morning when the sun is beating down on the water, you will be treated to a magical, almost spiritual experience.   With a gentle touch, you can feel them in the palm of your hand and let them move along your body.  The beautiful jellyfish do not sting and are a breathtaking site.  Another stop on your snorkel/dive tour will most likely include the milky way, where you can collect limestone from the bottom of the water and rub it all over your body, and it’s been said to be great for the skin and take years off of you!  It also makes for a very fun picture!   For lunch, you’ll get to stop at one of the beautiful beaches throughout the rock islands, and relax in a hammock, play in the water, or just find a coconut to enjoy with your meal.  Nothing compares to the gorgeous waters and white sand of Palau for true romance, or just a fun trip with friends.  It’s hard not to fall in love in Palau with such beautiful scenery around you.

There are various options for hotels in Palau depending on your price point.  For a really romantic stay with all the amenities you’d expect from a hotel in paradise, you’ll want to stay at the PPR or the Palau Pacific Resort.  Situated on the ocean, the rooms have terraces where you can sit and take in what has to be one of the most colorful sunsets I’ve ever seen.  The breakfast buffet was the best we had in Palau with a variety of Japanese and American dishes, as well as an egg and ramen soup station.  Indulge in a spa treatment in your own private villa with your significant other or a friend.  They have rooms for couples in which you can get side by side treatments, and share a bath while listening to nature’s sounds right outside.  The fourth wall is open so you can hear the natural sounds of the birds and the ocean.   Since I had experienced the milky way limestone earlier in the week, I decided to get the real milky way treatment, in which they start with a peppermint foot treatment, followed by an aromatic coco vanilla body scrub to soften the skin and prepare it for the detoxifying white body mud.  While you’re wrapped in a cocoon, they will massage your scalp and then finish off the treatment with a fifty minute hot stone massage.   It is impossible not to be totally relaxed after this amazing treatment. 

If you plan on keeping in touch with friends and family via the internet in Palau, you should know that connections can be extremely slow, but at PPR, the internet was quick and complimentary with your room stay.  You could also access it in your room, while many properties just have lobby access.  While the Palau Pacific Resort would be my first choice for a stay in Palau, it is also one of the more pricier resorts, so if you’re looking for something more economical, which may make more sense for you if you are out diving most of the day, other good options include the Landmark Hotel right next door to Fish ‘n Fins and the Palasia Hotel, in the center of Koror.   If you’d like to hear the sounds of nature as you fall asleep, the Rose Garden Resort is a nice option with a good Asian restaurant and bar downstairs.  However, the only way to get to the rooms is by steps, as you enter from outside, so if you need an elevator, this property is not for you.  Each room has a nice terrace with a spectacular view, as you are high up above the ocean and landscape.   Another option for more of a luxury property is the Palau Royal Resort, but you don’t have access to as big of a beach as you would at PPR, as it is roped off for the many boats that pass by.  However, the view from your room is still beautiful and the resort has all the amenities like a gym, spa, shops, computer center, and restaurant.

I have to admit when I realized it was going to take twenty five hours with layovers to get to Palau, I was a little hesitant.  However, I had two friends who had gone and said it was spectacular.  I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t let the flying time stop me.  While it is a lot of flying, if the flights and layovers go smoothly, you’ll be fine.  I slept for part of it, read and watched movies for the other part.  I flew from Newark to San Francisco to Honolulu to Guam to Palau on the way there, but there are more direct flights as well.  On the way back, I flew to Guam, then Tokyo and Tokyo to Newark, which cut the flight time down.  Also, if you go through Honolulu, there are direct flights back to Newark.

The biggest question I got when I told people I was going to Palau was, where is that?  Here is your answer:  it is located in the Western Pacific Ocean near the Philippines and Papau-New Guinea.  They really pride themselves on conservation and that is why when going to Palau, you can experience a diverse array of diving.  At 400 miles of the equator, Palau offers great weather and diving conditions year round.  You can see sharks, manta rays, go cave diving, snorkel and dive the drop offs, coral gardens, and wrecks.   Micronesia is beautiful, and again, while many go to Palau to dive, even if you don’t dive, there will be plenty for you to do in addition to the great snorkeling.   You can kayak through the mangroves, which we did with IMPAC tours, take an ATV through the big island of Babeldaob, with its muddy dirt roads, rivers, ridges and pristine rainforest.  You’ll get to see abandoned old villages and stone pathways.   You can spend a morning playing with the dolphins or taking a jungle river cruise to see the crocodiles and possibly see  a fruit bat hanging from the tree eating a banana.   If you are brave enough, you can sample fruit bat soup.  It is a delicacy in Palau and you can find it at some restaurants.  On our last night there, we had dinner at the National Museum and waiting for us with dinner was a bat sitting in a coconut milk soup.  I will try most anything at least once, and so of course as disgusting as it looked to me with its head still attached, I took a tiny piece of the meat, but I just couldn’t do more, as I was about to get on a long flight and did not want to chance it.  Plus, the potent smell did not help make it any easier to ingest!

My week in Palau was one that provided me with wonderful, unique memories that will last a lifetime.   I am so thankful to Visit Palau for giving me this opportunity and I hope you too will discover the beauty and magic that is Palau for yourself.

 

Get Married at Hotel Chinzan-so Tokyo!

 There are an overwhelming number of hotels to choose from when in Tokyo for all price ranges and locations.   If you are looking for a relaxing and tranquil place to call home that is still in Tokyo, but on the outskirts from the busy city, you must pay the Four Seasons in Chinzan-so a visit.  It will soon be renamed Chinzan-so Hoteland when you walk the grounds, you will see why so many brides pick the lush and gorgeous Chinzan-so garden for their big day.  Take a stroll through the 6600 sq. meter garden at night and be treated to a light show of fireflies lighting up the night in the months May and June.   During the day, enjoy the walk up and around the shrine.   The hotel is perfect for a romantic escape or a girlfriend getaway and gives you all the amenities of five star hotel, while also offers guests the opportunity to partake in many of the traditional Japanese traditions, such as the Japanese tea ceremony, and relaxing in an onsen (hot bath).  Before coming to Chinzan-so, I was searching for a place to see a traditional Japanese ceremony, and while I found places that served the tea, I could not find a ceremony, so I was happily surprised when I found out they had it there.

The Japanese restaurant in the hotel is phenomenal. I had both breakfast and lunch there.  For breakfast, one has the option of choosing the Western or Japanese breakfast and a few different options for each.  For lunch, I opted for the sushi which came with a wide selection of various pieces, all fresh and some of the best I had while in Japan.   My friend ordered the bento box, which was three layers of various veggies, meats, and seafood.  In the evening, or anytime  of time of day, if you choose to take a day off from exploring, you can unwind and relax in the spa, including the onsen in both the men’s and women’s sections, as well as a co-ed sauna, steamroll, jacuzzi and swimming pool inside, and an outside jacuzzi.  The fitness center is also spacious and ultra modern, open 24 hours.   Perhaps one of the best parts of they stay was the breathtaking view from my bed.  The room had huge corner windows which allowed  me to see Tokyo lit up in the night, an amazing sight and a perfect way to fall asleep in the ultra comfortable king bed.  Every aspect of the stay made for a very relaxing environment including the L’Occitaine bath products which left me smelling oh so nice!

The concierge at the Four Seasons was extremely helpful, helping me plan my trip to Kyoto.  They provided me with maps, phone numbers for possible hotels, and looked into train schedules for me.  Again, this is not found at every hotel.  Sometimes it can be tough to find staff who speak fluent English and can really help you around.  Practically the entire staff spoke English, which makes planning so much easier.  This was a crucial part of my trip, as the Kyoto part of the trip was a last minute addition, and I couldn’t have done it without their help.

If you are planing a wedding in Japan, you definitely want to consider the beautiful gardens at Chinzan-so.  They have wedding planners on staff to help with your every detail and the setting couldn’t be more beautiful.  It is a true oasis inside the bustling city of Tokyo.  While the property is not right in the center of Tokyo, and one must take around a $15 cab ride from the nearest metro station, it is definitely worth it if you are looking for a high end stay away from all the action, but close enough to do everything you would still do if you were staying within walking distance to the metro.  My only regret is that I had such a packed itinerary that I didn’t have the luxury of staying even longer at the property.  However, it was just enough time to relax in the spa, enjoy delicious Japanese cuisine, stroll the garden, see fireflies and partake in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.  It was a magnificent addition to my stay in Tokyo.

As I mentioned, this Four Seasons property will soon will under new ownership as the Hotel Chinzan-so, but there is still the Four Seasons hotel in the financial district of Marunouchi, which is the ideal place to stay if you’d like to be close to Tokyo station, the hub for most of the railway lines and buses.   While it retains the Four Seasons name, it is very different than the experience  you’ll have at Chinzan-so.  This Four Seasons is steps away from the Ginza district, known for its high end shopping, and is a boutique hotel featuring just fifty seven guest rooms and suites.  However, just because it is smaller does not mean it compromises the five star amenities in the room and around the hotel.   The breakfast is delicious and again you have the option for a traditional Japanese, Western or English breakfast.  I opted for the traditional and was stuffed by the end!  Don’t let the variety of smaller portions fool you…you will be more than full when you are done with your bento box and side of grilled fish.  On the same floor as the restaurant, you will also find a gym with all the standard card and weight machines as well as a spa with mineral onsen.

Perhaps the greatest and most helpful amenity is their pick up and drop off service from Tokyo station.  Tokyo station is a large hub with many train lines and buses, so it’s easy to get confused, especially if you have just landed and this is your first time in Tokyo.  Just email them from where you are coming and your car number of the train and they will be there to help you navigate your way to the hotel, which is just a few steps from the station, and also help you with your luggage.  This was also a huge help on the way back to the station, as I was headed to the airport and getting to the Narita Express/Rapid service line. It took 20 minutes just to get through the station.  It could have been a painfully long haul with my luggage (yes, it got heavier as the trip progressed!…after all, I had tea, tea cups, sweets, and soba noodles to bring home!)

The staff speaks fluent English and is also very helpful in recommending places to go.  You should know that the hotel is down the road from the restaurant where i had the best sushi my entire trip (I dare say better than the fish market!).  It is called Sushi Midori and there was a line out front (if the locals are lining up, you know it’s good!)  They have a restaurant in Shibuya as well.  Not only was it the freshest, most succulent sushi I had in the two weeks I was here, it was also the most reasonably priced for what you get!  Be sure to try pieces you can’t get at home as well as the heated ones they put a blowtorch to!

For more information on the Hotel Chinzan-so click here: http://www.fourseasons.com/tokyo/  and the Four Seasons Marunochi, please click here: http://www.fourseasons.com/marunouchi/offers/

Hello Gorgeous!

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an installment of South Jersey Spa finder so this time I thought I would tell you about a South Jersey Salon and Spa.  I had asked someone at my gym awhile ago who did their hair and they had mentioned Hello Gorgeous.  At the time I did not go, but always thought her hair came out great.   Then someone else had mentioned them to me, so I decided to give them a try.  I am always very hesitant to try anyone new for my hair, because ladies, as you know, it can be very easily messed up and I’ve had my fair share.  For the past year, I had been going to Ana at Ouidad in Manhattan, who is terrific, but I really wanted to find someone closer to home.  Hello Gorgeous has seven locations in South Jersey.  I went to the one in Marlton and met with Lisa Fiorentino who is also the owner of all of the locations.  She spends one day in each location, so no matter where you live, if you’d like her to do your hair, which I would highly recommend, it can be convenient for you.

When I stepped into the salon, I had a feeling it would be a good experience.  It was clean and spacious with a contemporary look.  When I first met Lisa, she asked if I was scared.  Of course I was!  But as soon as we started talking, I knew I was in good hands.  I told her what I had done before and after examining my hair, went to mix up my colors.  They use Chi color products that supposedly contain very low ammonia compared to other products.  I was happy not to leave there with the chemical smell in my hair.  As she was putting in the foils, we talked about the products I’m currently using in my hair in the way of shampoo and conditioner and she recommended a Keratin shampoo and conditioner, which I’ve used a few times so far and love how soft and curly it leaves my hair!  My hair had been feeling a bit dry before I went for my coloring, but she put some color back in and with the change in products, I’ve already seen a difference.   After she washed my hair, she finished off with a nice glaze to blend all the colors.  I was so happy when I left there (not to mention relieved!) because the highlights were popping and it was a nice contrast with the lowlights.  It came out exactly how I had envisioned it and looked great for my recent TV work!

In addition to their full service salon, they also have a spa where you can enjoy a massages, facials, waxing, scrubs and makeup applications.  The pricing for all services is very reasonable and I as I was watching other stylists and their work, I can comfortably say you will get great results for your money.   I’ve always believed that your hair is one of your most important features, so while it’s tough justifying paying so much for a cut and color, I’d rather pay a little more and know it’s not going to be a botch job.  However, at “Hello Gorgeous,” you are guaranteed a great cut, color and style and it won’t break your pocketbook, which means you can actually get a full head of highlights for the price some places charge for just the hairline.   Hello Gorgeous definitely lives up to its name!

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Rejuvenate Without Going Far

With the price of airline tickets on the rise and gas prices so high, the idea of having a great getaway close to home is priceless.   And I’m happy to say, I have a found a place just two hours from New York City and from most regions in New Jersey in the Pocono Mountains.  It’s a perfect romantic getaway, girlfriend getaway, and solo retreat…a spa at which you can recharge and rejuvenate.  It’s the Lodge at Woodloch. 

At The Lodge at Woodloch, your all-inclusive visit comes with three delicious, healthy meals, most fitness classes and outdoor activities and cooking clinics.  Breakfast and lunch include a buffet as well as a sit down meal.   Dinner is a three course menu with a full drink list for puchase.  All soft drinks, tea, freah squeezed juices and smoothies are included.  Each day you are given an itinerary of the day’s fitness classes and activities which include hiking, biking, kayaking, and classes that range from spin, and kickboxing to drumming on exercise balls.  There’ also a full day of mind and body classes including Qigong, yoga and pilates.  For a small fee, you can enjoy a wine tasting class as well.  In addition to all of the activities, they have a wonderful spa with a steam room, sauna and whirlpool in each locker room, as well as a co-ed outdoor whirlpool, two whirlpools with waterfalls that give a great back massage and a pool big enough to swim laps or take one of their many aqua classes.

Of course with a great spa comes a wide variety of treatment options.  You can choose  from a traditional Swedish or hot stone massage, a number of facials, body wraps, or manicures and pedicures.  The treatment I’d most recommend is not your typical massage and you do keep your clothes on, but will hit on all your pressure points, and if you are having any issues, herbalist Nathaniel Whitmore will work magic.  I was having major stomach pain from something I had eaten a few days prior and he focused right in on the stomach and other pressure points that corresponded to the area.  While he was working on the different spots, he was also giving me great information on natural herbs and cures. I left there feeling not only better but very relaxed.

So if you are looking for an active yet relaxing getaway close to home, you must visit the Lodge at Woodloch! You will leave feeling refreshed and fit!  I can’t wait to go back!

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Ottawa Is Outstanding!

After a very easy 3 hour ride on VIA rail, I arrived in Ottawa and transferred to the Brookstreet Hotel.  The Brookstreet is a four star hotel with a great fitness center, saltwater pool and a terrific spa, with very friendly therapists.  If you are traveling for business or would just like some good R and R and don’t really mind not leaving the hotel, this is the place to go!  It is not walking distance to anything, except to some businesses, as it is around 25 minutes outside downtown Ottawa, but if you have a rental car, it’s an easy drive. I was there on a Sunday night when their main restaurant, Perspectives, is closed, but I hear the food is terrific and they also have jazz and sushi some weekdays.  On Sunday, their casual bar and restaurant, Options, was open and I still was able to get a good soup and steak salad.  Since I wasn’t going to venture out anywhere, it forced me to relax and enjoy the hotel’s amenities.   They have a wonderful outdoor sitting area in the back of the restaurants, which offers a lovely view on their golf course.  The spa at Brookstreet was very busy with both tourists and locals and I can understand why.  I experienced an anti-aging facial and despite my hardest efforts, I fell into a deep sleep as she massaged the products into my face.  It was so relaxing and healing at the same time.

The next morning, I transferred by cab to downtown Ottawa and fell in love immediately!  It is such a charming city with magnificent history and beauty.   One of my favorite parts was the huge path along the Rideau Canal and River…it’s a biker’s or runner’s paradise.  The Parliament is a must see as well as many of the other government buildings.  A good way to take in everything is by boat with Paul’s Boat Cruises.  You have the option of jumping onboard for a tour on the canal or river.   A very popular part of Ottawa is the By Ward Market, where you can buy jewelry from local vendors, fresh fruits and vegetables, or enjoy a beaver tail snack, which is basically fried whole wheat dough with your choice of toppings.  The simple one has .a cinnamon and sugar topping.  It’s amazing how many people gathered around the shack to partake in this traditional snack.  In the center of the historical capital city is the Fairmont Château Laurier and I would highly recommend staying here if you can, or at least partaking in their delicious breakfast buffet or just a stroll through this remarkable landmark.    It is the perfect place to stay, as it is right in the center of everything, just steps from the Ottawa locks, where you can pick up the boat tours, walking distance from Parliament and the market.  The view from my room was spectacular as well, overlooking the park right behind the hotel as well as the city’s most prominent buildings.  It was also two blocks away from the Holtz Spa, which is a must do if you are looking to sprinkle in some pampering with your exploring.

The Holtz Spa would be the last stop on the spa train and it was an amazing way to end the trip. I arrived there in the morning for the astroscape treatment customized for each zodiac sign.  The owner is very much into astrology and did all of the research and customization.  I think she’s onto something because I was in pure heaven and in total relaxation mode.

This was the first spa intensive trip I’ve taken and it definitely won’t be the last.  While the whole trip was only four days, I felt completely rejuvenated and definitely need to do this at least twice a year.  Everyone should take some time to unwind and recharge.  Since we are a country of people who don’t take extended periods of time off from work to getaway, this is the perfect escape that can be done over a long weekend but you’ll come back feeling as though you were away for weeks.

 

Dorset Manor Spa…Beyond Your Typical Hotel Spa

After a short taxi ride to Union Station in Toronto, I hopped aboard VIA rail, which is a great way to travel throughout Canada! It was about an hour and a half ride to Cobourg, which is just outside Port Hope, Ontario, the home of the Dorset Manor Spa.   VIA rail is very comfortable, whether you are riding in coach or business class.  In business class, you will be spoiled with wide seats, free drinks and a great meal.  The food was outstanding.  I had salmon cakes with basmati rice and vegetables and it was better than any airline food I’ve had!  There is also free wi-fi on board, which makes the trip fly by.

Upon arrival into Cobourg, a representative from the Dorset Manor Spa was there to greet me and take me to the spa.   As soon as I stepped into the old Victorian home overlooking Lake Ontario with beautiful lush views, I knew it would be easy to relax.  I began my day with a delicious lunch full of fresh vegetables from their gardens and a delicious potato and leek soup followed up by a fruit cup for dessert.  After lunch, I changed into my robe for what was going to be a day full of two treatments, the first called Caribbean Therapy in Which Rob, who is an awesome therapist, exfoliated my skin and then massaged seaweed all over!   After he wrapped me up, he proceeded to massage my neck and scalp, which got me into total relaxation mode.  After showering off the seaweed, he followed it up with a 20 minute massage which focused on releasing the muscles around my shoulders and pulling them back, which most people should get done since they sit at a computer all day or drive a lot.    After my session with Rob, my skin was as smooth as butter!  I definitely need to exfoliate more often!  I had an hour before my next session, so I had some of their homemade tea and an apple as I took in the sun on my room’s balcony.  It was then time for my 90 minute Swedish massage which was just as out of this world as the last treatment.  I told her the area on my body that was hurting and I wish I could tell you what she did throughout the session, but I fell into a deep sleep!

After dinner, which was also extremely good, especially the trout over warm apple appetizer and the sorbet for dessert, I relaxed in the outdoor whirlpool and sauna before settling into my Victorian style room full of antiques and soft classical music playing in the background.   Dorset Manor Spa is the sister spa to the widely popular St. Anne Spa, which has been voted Canada’s number one spa for five years in a row.  I am told this is just a smaller version of that spa.  It doesn’t have the wellness classes of St. Anne’s, but instead of being set on a large property, you have the quaint town of Port Hope to work to.  The therapists work at both, so you are going to get the same caliber of treatment no matter where you stay.  It’s really the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a quiet retreat.  It has just nine luxurious guestrooms, making for a very intimate setting. 

I slept like a baby and while I didn’t sleep long enough in what was such a comfortable bed, the nutritious breakfast woke me up.  The multigrain pancakes topped with apples were delicious!  Every breakfast also comes with a continental bar including fruit, yogurt, granola and pastries and your choices or juices or tea/coffee.   After checking out, I did a quick tour through Port Hope and Cobourg and was back on VIA train for my next stop in Ottawa.

Hop Onboard the Spa Train!

I have trouble relaxing and I’m always running around, so when I heard about the opportunity to jump aboard the spa train in Canada, I was very excited.  Not only did I want to explore parts of Canada I have not seen, but the idea of being pampered for a few days with no choice but to relax, was very inviting.  What a perfect escape for you to rejuvenate or escape on a romantic trip with your partner or grab some friends for the perfect girlfriend getaway. I flew into Toronto aboard Porter Airlines, a Canadian airline with great service and one of the few airlines that serves you a meal on board!  Many of the airports have lounges where all passengers can relax before the flight.  I flew out of Newark and was in Toronto in a quick hour and a half!  After arriving at the lovely Delta Chelsea hotel in the heart of downtown, I walked next door to the Elmwood Spa for what would be a day of complete relaxation.  After changing into my bathing suit, I enjoyed their water therapies for an hour, swimming and sitting in the steam room.  After that, it was time for the three course lunch which was made with all fresh, healthy ingredients, and even thought it was supposed to be “spa food,” the portions were enough to have me leaving there very full from the spinach and avocado salad, salmon with asparagus and the rhubarb pie with a side of mango sorbet.  (normally comes with ice cream, but I substituted!)

After lunch, I had the elmline facial, which was out of this world!  The esthetician evaluated my skin and decided to go with the hydration line.  The combination of the face massage while applying the products, and the hand and feet massage while I was getting steamed was enough to put me into a very deep sleep! I left there looking very refreshed for someone who was on three hours of sleep and the wrinkle lines between eyebrows were not visible!  I liked that fact that she told me every step of the way what she was doing and explained a lot to me about how to take care of my skin after leaving there. If you are looking for a peaceful oasis in the middle of a big city, this is the place to go as part of the spa train or as part of your Toronto visit.

I would highly recommend staying at the Delta Chelsea for any occasion if you are in Toronto.  The hotel has every amenity, including two pools, one in the adult fitness center, which also houses top of the line equipment, a whirlpool and sauna.  There is no shortage of restaurants and bars, including everything from a gourmet serve yourself restaurant to their elegant bistro.  It is the largest hotel in Toronto and if you are traveling with kids, this is definitely the place to stay!  With a kids and teen center, there is plenty for them to do, from playing with the in house rabbit to video games and billiards.  If parents would like some time to themselves to explore the city or to go see a show, they can pay a nominal fee for babysitting.

I finished my stay at the Delta Chelsea with their great breakfast buffet filled with fresh fruit, yogurt, and eggs benedict.  After a quick taxi ride, I was at Union Station and hopped on VIA rail for my trip to Port Hope and the Dorset Manor Spa.  Could it get any better than this?