Meet Riviera Nayarit, a place where there are no rigid rules to follow, no rush hour, no worries. You’re in Mexico and time slows down when you land in Puerto Vallarta and becomes even slower as you head 10 miles north into Mexico’s newest tourist destination—the region known as Riviera Nayarit. Watch Cynthia’s Video segment on Riviera Nayarit on PCIN.TV. See the full post to see the video gallery. (more…)
Category: Great Escape Vacations
Reminiscent of a Japanese onsen (hot springs), Ten Thousand Waves is an Asian-inspired mountain spa perched on a hillside surrounded by pinon and juniper trees in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The luxury retreat’s 1981 beginnings were modest – a small bathhouse, eight outdoor hot tubs and one massage room. Its initial focus was to showcase the remedial benefits of hot water in typical Japanese custom amid nature’s beauty, an emphasis that remains of utmost importance a quarter of a century later.
The outdoor backdrop is serene – dotted with lanterns, hummingbird feeders, scattered cedar seating and an assortment of indoor (ofuro) and outdoor (rotenburo) baths: communal, women’s and indulgent private baths (kazukoburo).
The bathhouse variety is impressive.
Shoji is surrounded by shoji screens, the translucent panels often found in traditional Japanese homes.
The irresistible appeal of Moon tub is its view, across the valley to the East – a prime spot to observe the rising (and full) moon.
Waterfall is the only bath heated year-around to body temperature – ideal for pregnant women (other baths are maintained at 104-106 F). This large free-form tub incorporates oversized rocks and features a waterfall flowing into a cold plunge.
Though Tokyo seems around the corner, a directional arrow indicates its other-side-of-the-world distance (10,070 km), a reminder that despite the fact that Ten Thousand Waves is mere miles from the Native American turquoise-and-silver scene of downtown Santa Fe, it transports spa-goers to another continent.
Going to traditional baths is a way of life in Japan – hot springs are routinely visited for after-work relaxation, socialization with friends and family time.
In the same spirit, Ten Thousand Waves was conceived but has since evolved into much more – a full-service health spa with massage therapy, body treatments and skin care regimens that complement its hot water offerings.
The spa menu is delectable, featuring such treatments as Indo-Asian Hot Oil Massage that utilizes seasonally blended oil to create a warming effect in cool weather and the opposite in warmer temperatures.
Master Massage is performed in a pagoda by one of the spa’s elite practitioners (a masseuse with a decade or more of experience; a minimum of four years at the Waves).
Both options were tempting, but my selection was neither.
I chose a custom facial with the mysterious and adventurous Japanese Nightingale masque – it’s the application of processed nightingale bird droppings to the face (no, this is not a typo). Treated by ultra violet light, the exotic “residue” is completely free of bacteria
“Do you know the background of this facial?” asked my technician.
I learned it’s an age-old beauty secret that has been passed down from generation to generation and was used by Japanese geisha to lighten and smooth their skin to perfection (the remedy is mentioned in the book Memoirs of a Geisha).
It’s said that the brightening properties were discovered when a nightingale bird’s dropping fell upon a black silk kimono and bleached the garment without damaging its delicate fabric.
Indeed, the tradition was intriguing. But upon discovering that Ten Thousand Waves is the exclusive importer of the product, it became an irresistible opportunity for a spa aficionado like myself – even though I was venturing into unknown, and possibly odorous, territory.
The skin treatment was much like any other. After selecting my preference of background music (choices included soothing, classical and upbeat) and my favored scent (lavender, rosemary and peppermint), the relaxation began.
Essential oils were added to the powder (counteracting its deep, musky scent) and a masque, formulated to my skin type, was applied in circular motions.
Granted, the facial was much like any other, but the results were unexpected.
Final verdict: I emerged with a brighter, well-toned, smooth-to-the-touch complexion.
For information call 1-505-992-5025 or go to www.tenthousandwaves.com.
- Don’t rush the Ten Thousand Waves experience. Allow ample time to enjoy a bathhouse, specialty treatment and cup of hot tea.
- Take the spa home – a kimono, chopsticks or a specially formulated Wave bath and body product (choices: Hinoki, evergreen; Yuzu, citrus and Shobu, wild iris).
Door County. Where? If this question is your response, you are not in the minority. But to overlook Door County, called the Cape Cod of the Midwest, would be making a mistake.
Keep reading to learn why.
First, let me tell you just where Door County is located. This region is the Wisconsin peninsula that juts into the water between Green Bay (to the west) and Lake Michigan (to the east). (more…)
The faint chime of cowbells amid a high altitude backdrop, an up-close-and-personal view of a snow topped “wedding cake” mountain and an impulsive dip in a natural springs pool only yards from the crashing sea; all are mere perks of traversing the globe by hiking its trails. Motives vary: from searching for adventure and seeking out nature to gaining fitness and losing pounds. But whatever the inspiration to indulge in this out-of-doors phenomenon, it’s clear that the passion gives the directive “Take a hike!” a meaning that is good for all soles. Here are six one-of-a-kind hiking haunts.
Austrian Alps (Northeastern Tyrol, Austria) Hiking in the heart of the Alps translates to 600 peaks topping the 10,000-ft. mark, more than 9,000 miles of marked trails and nearly 500 mountain farmhouses and taverns for rest and relaxation (intrepretation: pints of beer and platters of hearty grub). A favorite is Gruttenhutte, a famous hiking hut reached after an ominous trek up Wilder Kaiser (Wild Emperor).
Green Mountains (Central Vermont, U.S.) “New England quaint” best describes the landscape, known for colorful farmhouses, Victorian B&B’s and densely forested hills. Many hiking paths follow the renowned Long and Appalachian Trails; of the others, Mt. Tom is one of the most picturesque, where a walk through a covered bridge from the Norman Rockwell-like town of Woodstock leads to the trailhead. Prime time: foliage season (typically 1st week in October).
Haleakala National Park (Maui, Hawaii, U.S.) Though 27 miles of trails may seem modest, the varied landscape is staggering – from a sun-drenched path that drops into the volcanic Haleakala crater to the lush land of O’heo Gulch (informally called Seven Sacred Pools). This trek passes a series of pools (many more than seven) and through a highly concentrated bamboo forest before culminating at the dramatic 400-ft. Waimoku Falls.
Khao Yai National Park (Pakchong District, Thailand) Home to one of Asia’s largest untouched monsoon forests, the country’s oldest national park is populated with bears, tigers and one of earth’s few remaining wild elephant herds. Guided hikes are advised on some of the 13 tracks (many configured by animal activity) that zigzag the park. The best viewing spot for elephants: Elephant Crossing.
Kootenay Lake Forest District (British Columbia, Canada) The setting is pristine – an alpine lake flanked by the rugged Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges. Negotiating fast flowing rivers and flower-laden meadows, most paths follow turn-of-the-20th-century miner trails. Highlight: after traversing grizzly bear country and scrambling over innumerable boulders, the reward of Whitewater Mountain trail is an unparalleled view of the glacier-topped peak.
New England National Park (New South Wales, Australia) An ecosystem wonderland, the World Heritage park includes an Antarctic beech rainforest. Situated on the edge of the Great Divide is Point Lookout platform (5,000 ft.), which treats hikers to a Pacific Ocean view on a clear day. Bushwalking throughout the trek network varies; 1.5-mi. Eagle’s Nest circuit along a steep cliffside is one of the most dramatic.
You’ve heard there’s one chance to make a first impression and there’s no where better to illustrate this truism than PUNTACANA Resort & Club’s Tortuga Bay boutique hotel in the Dominican Republic.
FIRST IMPRESSION, LAST IMPRESSION
Here’s my first impression. Arrival at the airport is the old fashioned way—you disembark the plane by descending stairs onto the tarmac. Upon landing, it is warm (polite terminology for hot) and the line of passengers to get through immigration/passport control is lengthy, spilling onto the tarmac. As one of the last to disembark, I dread the impending wait when I notice an attractive young woman at the base of the stairs holding a sign—with my name.
Thus my introduction to Tortuga Bay’s “VIP Whisking Service” begins . . . whereafter I am swept to the front of the line, through passport control, baggage claim and into a private car where I’m served an icy drink for the five-minute ride to the resort. Bottom line: Within 20 minutes after rising from my airline seat, I am checking into my hotel home for the next several days.
Is this service because I’m a journalist? No. It is because I am a guest of Tortuga Bay.
But luxe perks are not unusual for this resort. Tortuga Bay, PUNTACANA’s luxury boutique hotel, recently received the coveted AAA Five Star Diamond Award (second year running), making it the Dominican Republic’s only hotel and one of only four in the Caribbean to tout this distinction.
- Three miles of private, white-sugar-granulated sand, called the Coconut Coast.
- Crooner Julio Iglesias and fashion designer Oscar de la Renta are resort partners.
- Tortuga Bay villas are designed by Oscar de la Renta, as are La Cana Golf Club and Bamboo (one of the PUNTACANA’s eight eateries). Tip: Should you go to Playa Blanca restaurant, which I advise for its beachside location and open-air atmosphere, order the Spicy Goat Stew, the chef’s recommendation (now mine as well).
- The upscale Oscar de la Renta boutique recently opened on property.
- A stay in the exclusive pale yellow-and-white villas equates to personal use of a golf cart (your transportation throughout the 105-acre resort) and your own private cell phone connecting you 24/7 to the villa manager, whose job is to ensure your every request is met and your stay is luxury loaded.
- Tortuga Bay’s Six Senses Spa represents The Americas’ only location—its master therapists are trained in Asian techniques. Tip: The Dominican Republic is known for its coffee and coffee is known for its cellulite-fighting properties, so make an appointment to luxuriate in the spa’s coffee-based body treatment.
- Punta Cana International Airport is the world’s first privately built, owned and operated airport. Direct flights connect the area with such international cities as New York, Paris, London, Moscow and Sao Paolo.
LUXURY LINKS, TOO
But I was there to play golf, 45 holes of golf. It’s been said that the idea behind the design of Tom Fazio’s 18-hole Corales Golf Course was to make “every view a postcard.” Picture-perfect it is, including six ocean-front holes, the last three known as El Codo del Diablo, Devil’s Elbow, because they bend toward the sea. And from personal experience I consider its name perfection as I find it almost necessary to make a pact with the devil to play well this trio of holes.
Then there’s the 18-hole La Cana Golf Course, a PB Dye designed course. Top accolades come from Golf Magazine, which compared La Cana to Pebble Beach, declaring it the “number one course in the Caribbean.” And new on the scene is the nine-hole Hacienda Course, another PB Dye creation.
Speaking of the noted golf architect, PB Dye is at breakfast in Bamboo on my first morning of golf, which I’m told is not unusual. His home is nearby and we chat over coffee about golf and his renowned golf-course-designing father Pete Dye.
But this sighting is almost considered the norm, as it’s not uncommon to rub elbows with Oscar de la Renta and Julio Iglesias, as well as the Clintons who frequently celebrate the Christmas holidays at PUNTACANA.
Is there more than golf, you might ask? The resort’s marina is the focus of a myriad of water activities. One of our afternoons is spent on a catamaran sailing along the pristine coast, where we anchor near sandbars, spending time on the sea-surrounded white banks of sand, all the while drinking champagne with passengers of other yacht-anchored vessels.
Then there’s the private, eco-chic 1,500-acre ecological reserve. Like a back-in-the-day swimming hole, it’s after a 10-minute trek into the jungle that I’m rewarded with a lush vegetation-surrounded pond, complete with a wooden dock and ladder extending into the water.
END PRODUCT: EXCLUSIVITY
Tortuga Bay is the complete package—haute couture, 45 holes of golf, world-renowned spa and celebrity clientele—all wrapped in luxury. And all live up to “my first impression.”
It’ll feel like you’re thousands of miles away when you’re on board. This is perhaps the best kept secret romantic getaway and it’s just a quick trip across the Coronado Bridge to the Lowe’s Coronado Bay Resort. That’s when you’ll think that you’ve escaped to Italy. Italian-singing gondoliers and gondolas straight from Europe will turn your outing into a European-delight. Live Fit Magazine’s, Phoebe Chongchua, takes us aboard for a sunset cruise and to hear about how the “big” question gets popped on the Coronado Cays.
“When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine, that’s amore,” sang crooner Dean Martin.
Nowhere do the lyrics ring truer than in northern Italy, the upper portion of the boot-shaped country where regional foods and wines stroll arm in arm with the surrounding terrain like eternally intertwined lovers.
In this locale, pleasures of the palate reflect their environs and indulging in an epicurean experience is much like falling in love.
So, with themed visits defining the latest travel trend, we set out not only to sample the country’s seductive sightseeing and shopping but also to eat and drink with purpose along our Italian journey — where local wisdom is that wines work well with foods that grow around them. Buon appetito.
Italy’s 20 regions did not unite as a single nation until the 1860s, explaining why many of the relatively young country’s customs, attitudes and dialects are distinctively local — as are its food and drink.
In Italy breakfast may be an on-the-go cappuccino and brioche, both consumed while standing at a pasticceria (pastry shop). But dinner and lunch (traditionally the biggest meal of the day) can be gourmet odysseys — typically consisting of several courses and wine, always wine.
The marathon experience begins with an antipasti (appetizers), followed by the primo (first course — soup, rice or pasta), then the secondo (main course — meat or fish) accompanied by a contorno (side dish), with a dolce (dessert) finale. The wrap up is caffe (coffee) and amaro (digestif liqueur).
Then there’s the liquid artistry — the wine. It is important to note that Martini & Rossi is so entrenched with Italy, should a martini be ordered, a glass of the celebrated producer’s wine is likely to be served. But with such local choices as Processo Frizzante (the country’s answer to the ubiquitous glass of white wine), Asti and Vermouth (Rosso, Bianco and Extra Dry), few complain.
Venice speaks to the hearts of dreamers, lovers and travelers. Narrow canals replace streets, arched bridges connect pathways leading to piazzas, water vessels provide transportation and in lieu of honking horns are the serenades of gondolieri.
With three main islands, 400 bridges and an equal number of gondolas, Venice’s connection to bygone times is unmistakable, but nowhere is it more evident than while cruising the Grand Canal.
Traveling beneath the Rialto Bridge past waterside palaces and churches en route to St. Mark’s Square, the best time to experience both the canal and piazza is late afternoon and beyond when the masses have departed, the waterways are calm and Venice belongs to its legitimate connoisseurs.
Just as the maize-like water bound city is known for its festive Carnevale, international film festival, Murano glass and Burano lace, visiting foodies savor its edible one-of-a-kinds: sarde in saor (sardines in a vinegar, onion and pine nut sauce), moscardini (tiny octopus) with polenta, spaghetti with cuttlefish ink and zaeti (biscuits prepared with polenta flour and raisins).
If dining Venetian-style is a goal, the perfect accessory to a meal is a glass of Prosecco di Conegliano or Bassano Grappa (a high octane after-dinner drink).
But for an insider’s slice of Venice, stop in Harry’s Bar for a Bellini. The tiny restaurant is so inclusive, it’s as if a secret has been discovered . . . one shared over the years by the likes of Proust, Hemingway and, more recently, Madonna.
Though only 40 miles in distance from Venice (its regional capital), the fertile region that is the home of Prosecco wine, its vineyards and valleys are uber-worlds from the fabled city’s frenzy.
In the mid-fifth century, this land was devastated by Attila the Hun. But the significant factoid to today’s food-and-drink crowd is that it is Italy’s third largest wine producing region.
Hallmarked by its gentle, fuzzy bubbles, Prosecco is the wine alternative to champagne. It is not casual coincidence that Strada del Prosecco (Italy’s first wine route) meanders through Veneto’s terraced hills, past uninterrupted vineyards and into tiny towns spotlighting a single piazza and sole church steeple.
The greatest pastime of Veneto’s visitors (and residents) is sampling the final product of the region’s age-old wine making traditions along with its foods — mushrooms, wild asparagus, snails, chestnuts, cold meats and cheeses. And if a visit is timed to wine harvest (typically early September and October), small pathways of the vineyards are dotted with locals handpicking Veneto’s “gold” and farmers’ grape-loaded trucks negotiating the roadways.
Follina is a village with ancient origins along the wine route. Built in the 12th century, Santa Maria Abbey seems at first the town’s focal point. But after brief investigation, La Corte restaurant at Hotel Villa Abbazia is the newer discovery. On its innovative menu might be Pig’s Waistcoat (salt cod tripe with octopus’ embrace) complimented by a Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Martini. And if she’s not personally in residence, book the Sandra Bullock Suite (Room 11).
As northern Italy’s economic heart and capital of designer duds, this city is a high-octane mix of features – Il Duomo (catherdral), Via Montenapoleone (address of such high-lux names as Armani, Ferragamo, Gucci, Valentino and Versace), La Scala (opera house) and more.
Restaurants are abundant, featuring such regional staples as Osso Bucco and Risotto alla Milanese (creamy Italian rice cooked with saffron and beef marrow). And eateries such as Al Boeucc, a legendary but typical Milanese restaurant dating from 1696, continue to enjoy reputations with the “eating elite.”
The beverage scene is equally extravagant. Though the Martini Bar at Dolce & Gabbana on Corso Venezia has the feel of a private club, it is not. But it is where window-shopping strollers order the same 40-euro Sigillo Blu Martini as the bar’s regulars — supermodels.
TURIN AND THE PIEDMONT REGION
Turin was little known as a tourist destination until it hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. Set against a backdrop of alpine peaks, the Piedmont capital has long been associated with the Chapel of the Holy Shroud. But international coverage of the sporting event additionally highlighted the Euro-chic city’s 40 museums, 60 open-air markets, 16,000 shops and its gastronomic obsession.
The region is where the Slow Food Movement began — an organization that encourages the enjoyable consumption of good foods and wines (slowly, of course).
How apropos that Piedmont gave birth to hazelnut-chocolate confection (Nutella), produces the world’s richest white truffle crop and is renowned for its coffees and wines — from lighthearted white Asti to bold red Barbaresco and velvet-smooth Barolo.
While Moscato grapes are grown and handpicked for Asti wines (said to be best when paired with fruits, cheeses and desserts, especially wedding cakes), another Piedmont-originated beverage is vermouth.
The well-known aperitif (and ‘secret ingredient’ in many gourmet kitchens) that was once produced on a small family scale throughout the Piedmont region is now created in mammoth distilleries. But vermouth continues to be replicated according to age-old formulas that remain religiously guarded.
Piedmont additionally spoils the tastebuds with food specialties as lumache di bobbio (wine stewed snails), trifulin (ravioli stuffed with truffle specks and served in a mushroom sauce) and brasato al Barolo (beef in Barolo wine).
SAY “ARRIVEDERCI” TO AVERAGE
Echoing an earlier era, northern Italy is a showcase of multi-generational investments — lavish architecture, flawless foods and sophisticated socializing on a historic stage where places to swirl, sip and supper make any visit deliciously memorable.
For more information, visit the Italian Government Tourist Board at www.enit.it.
ITALY DOS AND DON’TS
Do make well-in-advance arrangements to see Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper at Milan’s Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Do visit the Martini Wine Museum (a short distance from Turin to the town of Pessione). It is an interactive experience that traces the journey of the company founded in the 1800s by Alessandro Martini, Luigi Rossi and Teofilo Sola — from its beginnings to its current position as Piedmont’s largest wine exporter.
Do explore Venice’s waterways by gondola. Though admittedly touristy, seeing the sites from a vessel commanded by a black-and-white attired gondolier is not to be missed.
Do invest 40 minutes in a train ride from Milan to Lake Como and spend the day exploring the pristine lake’s waterside villages by ferry boat.
Don’t neglect to follow Turin shopping etiquette. Always ask permission prior to inspecting and handling garments.
Don’t violate the Italian dress code – best described “formal” compared to the American (particularly Southern Californian) standard. Translation: no shorts or tank tops. Doing so may mean refused admittance to churches, religious sites and most eateries (exception: the countryside where anything goes).
Don’t light up a cigarette or cigar in a restaurant or bar. Italy has one of Europe’s toughest laws against smoking in public places.
Grazie Thank you
Scusi Excuse me
Buon giorno Good day
Buona sera Good evening
Sei sposato? Are you married?
Quanto costa? How much does it cost?
Non capisco I don’t understand
Ci siarmo smarriti. Puo aiu tarmi? We’re lost. Can you help me?
Potrebbe ripetere, per favore? Could you repeat that, please?
Un caffe doppio, per favore. A double shot of coffee, please.
Dove il bagno? Where is the bathroom?
All in the name of preserving beauty and researching anti-aging methods, I headed to Corona to pay a visit to the famous Glen Ivy Hot Springs.
I have been to a few hot springs, one in Pagosa, Colorado which I really enjoyed, partly because the surrounding area is so beautiful. But, for the Live Fit Magazine Show, the assignment was to find an experience closer to home. Glen Ivy came to mind.
I started with a good soak in the mineral water bath which, of course, had that not-so favorite smell–sulfur. Some people don’t mind the rotten-eggs-like smell and say they even like it…go figure!
Then off to Club Mud. Yep! …slather it up like a pig! all over you, while standing in the hot sun beneath a mist of water spray. Try not to laugh so you won’t crack your mud coat. Then bake in the sun for a good 20 minutes or so and relax! Okay, I was the only one there using my iPhone…LOL! More about Club Mud later.
Later I am heading to the Grotto for another lathering of goop and a steam and soak. It’s beautiful, charming and, for a holiday weekend, (Memorial Day) surprisingly not too crowded.
I spoke too soon. By early afternoon, the Hot Springs was bubbling with people. So much so that, after the Grotto experience and lunch outside, it took 20 minutes to scout out a lounge chair.
I really hadn’t had much sun relaxation so this was a bit disappointing. Apparently what the experienced Glen Ivy patrons do is lay their claim to a few lounge chairs by placing towels and some of their belongings on them while they head into treatment sessions which can last 60-minutes-plus. So, needless to say, the lounge chairs are tied up for quite a while. But I finally did spot one near two of the many pretty waterfalls on the grounds. And, yes, it was worth the wait, sitting surrounded by beautiful leafy trees, my chair poised near the edge of a medium-sized pool and sandwich-like at either end of the pool were two waterfalls. This made up for the inconvenience of having to search for a lounge chair as if I were combing the parking lots at SDSU for a space to park.
The waterfalls help drown out the buzz of chatter from people in the pool enjoying the sun–(it’s about 90 degrees today)–the mildly cool water, and the non- and-/or alcoholic beverages served at Glen Ivy. But it’s not quite like a Five-Star hotel. You don’t see many staff members waiting to serve you drinks by the pool. In fact, it’s really–GIY–Get It Yourself! It’s okay though, there are plenty of stands offering free iced-water flavored with whole-food apple slices for just a touch of tanginess. A nice spa treat.
I brought a dehydrated green powered drink that mixes with water and gives me plenty of nutrients while helping to detox my body. I sipped it slowly, though, as I was a bit concerned that if I got up to use the restroom, I might lose my prime spot and lounge chair.
The map of Glen Ivy makes it look sprawling but really it’s fairly tight quarters. Not in a bad way. I just mean that everything is easily accessible and nearby. So you can move from various pools within minutes. They do fill up fast. One of the larger pools that offers float pads is always among the first to fill and then you see nothing but a pool of bodies drifting atop the blue rafts.
There are various areas to escape the sun but not that many. You’ll mostly find full sun when you’re near the pool areas. So bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen and a refillable water bottle. I forgot my sunscreen and had to buy one inside for $13.
I saw a few other fair-skinned people who must have forgotten the sun screen or opted not to buy it–OUCH!
The time by the pool afforded me an opportunity to reflect about my day so far at Glen Ivy. My iPhone had lost its juice, so my trusty pen and faithful notepad had to do. Even though I hate my handwriting and the inability to quickly and neatly move around whole paragraphs at a time as you can in the digital world, I quickly wrote… eager to tell the story about Glen Ivy.
I did notice that I was the only one feverishly writing–hmm, not surprising. No one was on iPads or other devices. For the most part they were relaxing. Wow! The connections were being made in person not via our fingers and our text messages–pretty old school but cool!
There are many distractions here to take you away from that office mentality or the family brood you left behind. Many people come to heal, to celebrate, to steal quiet moments, to self-indulge, to review the place (only kidding…I didn’t see anyone else doing my job) on this crowded holiday weekend. Big groups circled together and talked around the pool; others like the sweet couple to my right wrapped in each others’ arms inside the pool, seemed to be stealing a few romantic moments as if they were all alone–and with the eye-to-eye intensity, they were, indeed, “all alone in their own world!”. No matter why people come here, all them seemed to be enjoying a wonderful bonding experience.
From where I sat, I overheard giggles and watch as couples devotedly massage each others’ shoulders. It was interesting to see how people really do come together when their stress and busy lifestyle are put aside.
I have been here twice before but, frankly, it has been a while, so this was almost like a first experience. I did one treatment in addition to the Taking of the Waters. When you enter you pay to use the 19 pools and pool lounge area. The admission for this depends on the day of the week and if you are purchasing other spa treatments, also if you have a military ID (they offer a 10% discount off for the military cardholder on admission to the Taking of the Waters.
If it sounds new-age or spiritual, knowing the history of Glen Ivy helps explain it. The facility is located in Corona. The receptionist told me that even today, native Americans come to bathe in the waters and take in the spiritual properties that come from the hot springs. Glen Ivy has been here since President Lincoln was in office. Today, it attracts approximately 195,000 visitors per year.
I elected to do the Grotto experience for an additional $25. At my assigned time I would head to the underground cave. However, first I soaked in two mineral pools that ranged from about 98-102 or so degrees. They could have been hotter for my liking. Some were like a luke-warm bath but with the smell of sulfur. The water is much softer than typical hard tap water and the smell of sulfur is not overwhelming.
Then it was over to Club Mud where I was instructed to put a light layer of mud all over my body, including my hair. Although, I heard many women say not to use the mud (really clay) in your hair if you have color-treated hair–might wash out some of the color. I tried it anyway. Here’s a tip, if you slather too much mud on, it will take a while for it to come off and it’s especially difficult to get it out of long, thick hair.. So use it sparingly. Let it dry…may take quite a while if you really put on a thick coat!
Time to scrape, rub, and soak in a pond filled with clay water to dissolve the hardened clay from my body and my hair. What a tangled mess! Note to self: no more putting it in my hair. I realize I am short on time as I have an 11;30 a.m. Kundalini yoga class that I absolutely don’t want to miss. I practice Ashtanga Yoga and Pilates and would like to learn about this type of Kriya. So I shower quickly and head to yoga in a fresh bathing suit. I brought a couple so I didn’t have to exercise in a wet bikini. You can also wear workout clothes but many, to keep it simple, just wear their swimsuits all day.
Yoga–Working On My Digestion
I had no idea that the Kriya yoga I was about to practice would actually help me with an area of my body that tends to give me grief now and then.
I was told at the receptionist stand that the yoga was just 30 minutes. However, our Chinese yoga instructor had something else in mind. We first chanted briefly. Then began a series of asanas (postures or exercises). We were taught a breathing technique that must have looked a bit strange to the first-timers walking up to Glen Ivy–the yoga is practiced on the sun deck just outside the hot springs and across from the labyrinth. It’s the breath of fire, our instructor told us. It helps with digestion. The breathing exercise is performed by taking short breaths in and out of your nose rapidly. It naturally moves your abdomen in and out and you can tire quickly.
The exercised reminded me a lot of Pilates. I could easily see how Joseph Pilates was influenced by the Eastern teachings of yoga, although, I feel that some of the exercises practiced today in Pilates are safer for the body. The breathing technique is also similar and I find it more fluid but yet accomplishing the same goal.
At my assigned time, I was taken down into the Grotto–a dimly lit cave, along with about 10 other people. Here they paint on a deep moisturizer made from aloe vera, Shea butter, and coconut oil. You keep your swimsuit on and are brushed with the goop for a few minutes right there beside your fellow group members. For $5 you can get photographed and the print.
Hmm…I did it and then opted not to pick up the print. Definitely not my best look. LOL!
The pampering was nice but too short. The brushing takes five minutes to slop on and then the group is moved to a warm room in the grotto. Here the warmth is supposed to open your pores. Here more romantic couple massage commences and everyone is amused by how slimy and lathered up we all look.
Then it’s off to the cave showers. An overhead shower bursts warm to hot water on top of your head while the slime slides off by the power of the side faucets. We dry off and head into another dimly lit grotto area to enjoy hot tea, cold water, and apples in a cool room.
All in all, it’s about a 45-minute treatment that is enjoyable, especially because of the novelty or if with a large group. I’ve attended a bridal engagement party here, but really it’s not the kind of thing I would do again for the $25 price. You can come to Glen Ivy and pay the admission price (just $55-$65) for Taking the Waters and have a really good time. Many people do also come for facials and massages. I overheard someone saying that his massage was the best he’s ever had and he’s had many. I can’t say as I have yet to try the other treatments. There’s always next time.
After the Grotto I was famished. Time for lunch. If you spend a day here, you will eat here. The food is organic and fresh and pretty good. Not like fine dining but definetly better than amusement park food and many spa meals. I sampled the Ahi Poke Salad with sesame, ginger dressing. You get a small portion of ahi but can order more for an extra fee. The small portion fit my needs. It was good, not great. Some ahi salads have amazing dressing and seasoning and that really makes the salad. This one was fresh, large (you get lots of organic greens, cucumbers, and fried crunchy noodles) plus the plate was circled with dollops of wasabi and chili sauce–Love that!
Glen Ivy is a pleasant, serene, clean environment to help you escape the daily grind. On a busy holiday weekend like Memorial Day, bring some patience. The locker rooms are spacious and very well maintained but you’ll have to dance around people when it is at its peak hours for showering.
For the most part, I didn’t see a big line for the showers or front space at the counter in front of the big mirrors. You won’t need shampoo, conditioner, or body wash–they’re all provided. As are hair dryers but they don’t put out much power. So for thick, long hair like mine it can take a while to style. You don’t need towels either. However, both the pool towels and the shower towels are small and not soft. So it’s advisable to bring a pool towel and maybe even a larger shower towel.
Before you wrap up your day at Glen Ivy, save some time for a quick steam in locker room and a soak in the Roman Bath, also in the locker room. These are gender exclusive. Most of the premises and outdoor mineral pools, dry sauna, Grotto, and some treatments are co-ed.
In the locker room, save some quiet moments just for yourself and escape with your thoughts to reflect on the day and unwind a little deeper at Glen Ivy Hot Springs. You’ll leave refreshed, renewed, and invigorated…ready to take on the week or, better yet, come during the middle of the week (you’ll have fewer people around) and it’ll break up a long work week. Enjoy!
TIPS For Visiting Glen Ivy Hot Springs
- Arrive early
- Bring a cover up and your own large towel
- Refillable water bottle
- A couple of bathing suits
- Yoga clothes
- Beach bag
- Book treatments ahead
- Stake your lounge chair early in the day
- Eat lunch earlier or a little later to avoid the crowded line
- Plan to spend a day here with no rushing
I confess, until recently I was in the dark about the Manhattan Beach boutique hotel, Shade. Heading into the on-the-water, tony town, GPS guided the way—my anticipatory slate was blank, for I had no idea what to expect. The target was an intersection five miles south of LAX, two blocks west of the Pacific.
Located in one of Los Angeles’ South Bay surf cities, Manhattan Beach, the town has a rep as LA’s newest hip corner. Forever known for its surfing, beach volleyball, bicycle cruising, sunbathing and a back-in-the-day pier, today’s city by the sea is also revered for relatively recent additions, including The Strand House, Rock’n Fish, Mucho Ultimo Mexicana and Shade Hotel, all “babies” of local legend and restaurateur, hotelier, entrepreneur Michael Zislis.
Thus, may I introduce you to Shade, where Hollywood hip meets California casual? For me, the stage was set at check-in when I met fellow guest, Ash Bebi, a Seattle resident who was greeted by the staff with an ice-cold, lime-garnished Corona. “They know it’s my favorite drink,” explained the repeat guest. “I stay here every time I’m in the area.”
Then there’s Shade’s interior. Designed by Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy Award-winning “lifestylist” Christopher Lowell, it’s been described as “raffish décor co-mingling with seaside casualness and exaggerated lavishness.” Two-story drapes in colors of the sea dramatically define the promenade entrance and enclosed outdoor patio.
The lobby, seemingly cruise ship-inspired, is the comfortable morning gathering spot for breakfast and lively entertainment haunt on weekend evenings. One part bustling bar, one part luxury lounge, one part familiar foyer, it’s where guests can mingle or mellow out.
And it’s where guests and visitors alike can sample Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky’s food. For me, temptations from the Small Bites menu included the truffle short rib sandwich, brie and pear grilled cheese, truffle cheeseburger (it’s been named the best burger in LA) and a subzero martini served in a glass made of ice.
Uptown amenities flow like champagne during Sunday brunch at the Waldorf at this 38-spa-room hotel. The list is luxurious and lengthy: Tempur-Pedic bed lathered with 400-thread-count Mascioni linens and a goosedown duvet, two-person Sanijet spa tub hidden by frosted glass shoji-like screens and equipped with chromatherapy where you dial in the color for your desired mood, pillow library, in-room Lavazza expresso machine, complimentary cruiser bikes, a bountiful buffet (fresh fruit, yogurt, lox and bagels, hot oatmeal, just-baked muffins, freshly-squeezed juices and Lavazza coffee) and (this is the best piece of the privileged puzzle) mini-cupcakes at turndown. Tip: To take your experience to the max, request a west-facing room on the second floor to see the sun set in the evening and the blue sky all day.
Adding to the amenities lineup: rooftop Skydeck which sometimes hosts dance classes and always serves up an ocean view, stainless steel pool and the Southern California sun. Little wonder Shade has overnighted such high-profile guests as Laura Bush during her book tour, Bruce Willis while locally filming a movie and Kobe Bryant when chilling out.
When I strayed from Shade, I popped into a couple of nearby restaurant haunts including the newest kid on the block, The Strand House, and a longer-term community staple, Mucho Ultimo Mexicana.
Steps from the beach, the impressive five-level Strand House opened in August, 2011. At its entrance, you’ll be greeted with the town’s only in-restaurant wine station. It’s as simple as purchasing a “wine” credit card, selecting a vino (from a choice of 24) and deciding on a taste (1 oz.), half glass (3 oz.) or a full glass (6 oz.) of ever-changing, hand-selected wines. And should the process or your choices need explanation, there’s a sommelier nearby. The Strand House is a happening: dancing Thursday through Saturday nights, a see-and-be-seen lounge, exclusive wine cellar and a noted restaurant.
A short walk away, Mucho Ultimo Mexicana is known as the place to go for the town’s best margaritas and largest tequila selection (over 200 tequilas). And with the creations of executive chef Chris Garasic (who promises six monthly specials), I’ll remember it for much more than its liquid entrees. Mouth-watering examples: the day’s featured ceviche, Malbec-braised short ribs and ancho-marinated Arrachera steak carne asada. At the suggestion of Chef Garasic, my meal ended with churros. Irresistibly feather-light and made to order, they’re tossed in Mexican sugar and served with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces. Can you say addictive? Tip: They can be made gluten-free, too.
Regularly visited by sports notables and such celebs as Rachel Hunter, the music on Friday and Saturday nights creates a whole different scene, says genial general manager Javier León.
Over-the-top amenities, around-the-corner fun, laid-back atmosphere—all sought-after elements, all elements of Shade, Manhattan Beach’s coolest hotel.
For more information, go to Shade Hotel.
Editor’s note: Photos by Cynthia Dial.
For many, a vacation translates to shopping – seeing the sights of the aisles. To these travelers, urban adventures of the retail persuasion are more appealing than on-the-road lures like sightseeing, night life . . . even beach going.
I am one of those shop-till-I-must-stop travelers. An island trip may be deemed successful if I return home without a tan, but it scores a resounding incomplete if it lacks that adrenaline rush that causes my “spendorphins” to kick in.
After a lifetime of shopping through seven continents (yes, even Antarctica), during every season and at most sales, I’ve developed a list – World’s Top 10 Shopping Cities. Offered in reverse order (think David Letterman), I’ve saved the best, aka New York City, for last. So should you find yourself in one of the following Top 10, put on comfy shoes, grab your AmEx and take advantage of your location.
10. Bangkok – “Shopping day and night” defines this experience. Most malls and department stores stay open till 9:00 p.m. – some as late as 10:00 p.m. And popular after-dark markets include the Patpong and Suan Lum bazaars. Thai crafts, such as Khon masks and Mat Mee silk, reflect skills passed from generation to generation. And for exclusive treasures, seek out diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, pearls, gold and silver.
9. St. Thomas – St. Thomas has a reputation as the world’s best duty-free shopping. In Charlotte Amalie on Main Street and Waterfront Drive and along connecting alleyways, shops range from diamond and gem specialists to camera, liquor and linen stores. Mistakes can be made on your spirits selection, but if diamonds cause that sparkle in your eye, do your homework. Know the four C’s: cut, color, clarity and carat weight.
8. Los Angeles – Best thing about L.A.’s shopping scene is its appeal to any fashionista. Melrose Avenue features funky finds – e.g., handbags made from used skateboard decks. Then there’s Rodeo Drive. Punctuated by palm-lined thoroughfares and posh Porsches, it’s wise to devote an afternoon to boutique exploration – Beverly Hills style.
7. London – Here, retail reconnaissance goes beyond Burberry trenches and souvenir Bobby helmets. Harrods will seem the size of the Parthenon, but its historic food halls and Diana and Dodi Memorial are must-sees. The funky style of Top Shop appears to be a bustling shrine to teenage fashion, but it’s where supermodels pop in for replicas of trend. Saville Row is home to bespoke tailoring (made-to-measure clothing). And Portobello Market is a Saturday staple.
6. Santa Fe – The Plaza, the city’s heart, is also its shopping soul. The 365-days-a-year Indian market fronts the Palace of the Governors; it features the hand-tooled creations of artisans from nearby Native American tribes. Surrounding-the-plaza boutiques additionally showcase Santa Fe’s southwestern flair. But if it’s fine art you’re after, find Canyon Road.
5. Milan – As northern Italy’s capital of designer duds, Milan is a high-octane mix of shopping choices. Along Corso Buenos Aires are trendy, fun fashions. Via Montenapoleone is the address of such high-luxe names as Valentino and Versace. Piazza del Duomo teems with activity – outdoor cafes, street vendors, couples strolling and shopping . . . all with the Duomo (cathedral) commanding the scene’s backdrop.
4. Hong Kong – In this Asian arena, shopping is more than an option, it’s a mandate. And in reality, it’s an overwhelming one. My advice: quiz your concierge. Ask “Where do locals shop?” and “Where do you go for the best shopping?” Armed with information, seek name-brand eyewear, designer handbags, Mandarin-style clothing and custom tailoring. But don’t overlook the multitudinous markets: Stanley Market, Ladies Market, Jade Market and more.
3. Istanbul – Shopping in this East/West Mecca is well . . . grand. It’s no coincidence that Istanbul’s biggest shopping draw is the Grand Bazaar. With 60 lanes and more than 3,000 shops, it has every Turkish delight: carpet, fabric, gold jewelry, even meerschaum pipes. Stop at the Spice Market for edibles. And seal a done deal over a gold-rimmed glass of tea, a charming custom.
2. Paris – In a city of superlatives, Avenue de Montaigne is no exception. As Paris’ most exclusive, this street has high style and higher prices. It’s the Mecca for haute couture. And to complement any French look, make a perfume purchase.
1. New York — As fashion’s multi-faceted home, perpetual options make New York my top pick. Originally an artists’ enclave, today’s SoHo features one to-die-for boutique after another; on weekends its streets become a posh outdoor mall. And for those seeking thoroughbred, the avenue to stroll is Fifth. Add into the equation Bloomingdales, the Diamond District and a designer sample sale or two. The result: purchase paradise.
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