My Favorite Destination Spas in America

You only have to whisper the words “Spa Vacation”, and you’ll hear a collective sigh run through the room. There’s nothing quite like it.  If you’ve never been to a destination spa retreat, you’ve missed out on one of life’s most delightful experiences.  Think of it.  An entire week of planning your own schedule that can include pampering, healthy eating, relaxing, exercising or taking classes all in beautiful surroundings with a staff that can’t do enough for you.  If that doesn’t sound like a slice of heaven, consider the rest of this article research for someone you love.  Regardless of who you’re researching for (and hopefully it’s for yourself), here’s a list of my favorite destination spas in the United States.

Spa at Bernardus Lodge (Carmel Valley, California)  If you like relaxing in wine country (and who doesn’t?), this is the spa for you.  Situated near Monterey, California, the spa is surrounded by 28 acres of stunning vineyards, orchards and oak forests. Spend your days around the enormous pool, breath in the fresh air on a hike around the grounds, relax in the eucalyptus steam room after a soothing massage or get a workout in at state-of-the-art, 24-hour fitness center.  Your schedule is your own. Bernardus Lodge has a strict “garden-to-treatment” philosophy — which sources ingredients from the lodge’s own organic garden – making the treatments truly fabulous. Everything from facials to pedicures are infused with homegrown lavender, mint, rosemary and Chardonnay grapes from the lodge’s own vineyards.  You can even soak in a Chardonnay-infused bubble bath.  Does it get any better than that?

The Spa at Canyon Ranch (Tucson, Arizona)  If you’re after a vacation where you will come home looking and feeling better than you have in years, Canyon Ranch is the spot for you.  Located on a 150-acre ranch in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Canyon Ranch brings state of the art health and fitness to a new level.  In fact, when you first arrive you are encouraged to meet with a medical professional to develop a customized fitness and dietary program for your stay. Plus, they have a sleep lab where your sleep patterns can be tracked and analyzed to help pinpoint any sleep issues you may be experiencing.  Don’t be alarmed though, there’s plenty of pampering going on in between all the health and fitness. 😊

Mohonk Mountain Spa (New Paltz, New York)  Located about 90 miles north of New York City, Mohonk Mountain Spa is a historic resort and destination spa nestled in the beautiful Hudson Valley.  The staff is phenomenal and the treatment rooms are first class.  Outside, you can cross-country ski, horseback ride or hike on 85 miles of trails. Relax at the end of your day in the heated outdoor mineral pool.  Consistently listed in Conde Nast Traveler as a top-rated spa destination, Mohonk Mountain Spa is not to be missed.

Miraval (Catalina, Arizona)  Set on 135 acres at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Miraval has 106 adobe-style casitas, most with private patios and great views. You can feel yourself relaxing the second you enter the grounds where the fabulous staff treats you like visiting royalty.  Wellness is a prime focus at Miraval, and the gourmet spa cuisine is second-to-none.  The list of treatments is extensive with over 120 to choose from, but one of the most interesting programs is the “Equine Experience,” where working with a horse gives you insight into how you deal with people — and life.  Suffice to say, Miraval is amazing.

Lake Austin Spa Resort (Austin, Texas) I saved my absolute favorite for last.  Lake Austin Spa Resort is small compared with others on this list with only 40 rooms, but the spa and treatment rooms are big and lavish with outdoor treatment spaces in screened porches, garden tents, poolside cabanas and a private couple’s suite.  It’s hard to describe the staff except to say that they make you feel like a long lost friend that’s finally come for a visit.  They just can’t do enough for you. On top of that, the food is so good you’ll have a hard time believing the calorie counts on the menu.  With more than 100 treatments available, multiple swimming pools and beautiful grounds right on Lake Austin, this spa is an oasis of wellness and relaxation.

Happy Travels!


It Really is a Ladder to Nowhere…

How many people out there have done Jacob’s Ladder at the gym?  Does anyone else believe it is an implement of torture designed to reduce you to a blubbering pile of goo?  The steps just keep coming and coming with no end in sight, regardless of how much sweat drips on the rungs.  I will say it definitely gets the heart rate going in a very short amount of time, which is a good thing when you need to be efficient with your time at the gym.  I certainly hope it produces results just as quickly.  😊

I got a great update from the folks at the Keukenhof (touted as the most beautiful park in the world) today that said the crocus are in bloom in several fields, the daffodils are about to pop out and that means the tulips are not far behind.  The weather is behaving for sure.  It’s 60 degrees and sunny over there today, so that should be just the ticket for a great bloom when we’re there.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you a little about the town of Delft and the porcelain they make there.  Until then, have a great evening.

Time Change? Really?

So it’s Monday again and the day after the time change.  Woke up thinking that I’d like to give the sadists who came up with losing an hour of sleep a piece of my mind, but I dumped that idea and stumbled into spin class first thing.  So glad I did too.  It was exactly what I needed to wake me up and get me moving in a positive direction today.  A new teacher brought her stuff, and I was dripping sweat by the time we were finished.  Left to face the day with that tired, but virtuous, after-workout feeling.

The legs are definitely getting stronger and more importantly, the hindquarters are no longer even noticing the bike seat imprint.  Excellent news for enjoying the Holland tulips and windmills – and also the cheese.  Gouda to be exact.  Our bike tour will be stopping in Gouda to see where the famous cheese originated, learn about how it’s made and try some of the different varieties.  But the town of Gouda isn’t just known for its cheese, it is also famous for its beautiful stain glass windows, fairy tale town square and atmospheric canals.  Most importantly though, they make heavenly “stroopwafels”, which are these amazing treacle waffles you can eat by themselves like a cookie or stuff with all sorts of delightful, calorie laden treats.  It’s a good thing the ride from Uithoorn to Gouda is the longest of the trip, as I plan on sampling with abandon.

Yoga and weight training are on the agenda for tomorrow.  Cheers!

There is Rest for the Weary!

Hooray for a day of rest!  I’ve been working on getting fit for the last 6 days, and planned today as a rest day from fitness pursuits.  Thank heavens!  I woke up this morning feeling every one of my 52 years.  So, while I’m sure you’d like to see photos of me with cucumbers on my eyes and a sparkling water in my hand, I’ll spare you.  Instead, I’ll give you some details about one of the areas of The Netherlands we’ll be seeing on our bike journey.

Amsterdam is our first stop where you’ll find a particularly wonderful area called the Jordaan District.  The Jordaan is an area in west Amsterdam founded in 1612 for the workforce.  Suffice to say, it was a poorer section of the city.  Today however, the Jordaan is one of the most sought after areas for living, working and playing.  Iconic canal houses, fantastic restaurants, a thriving art community and the overall energy of the surroundings make it an ideal place for visitors without the somewhat touristy feel of some other areas of the city.  Even better, it is just a short walk from the Centraal Station (located, appropriately enough, at the center of the city).

Many of the streets in the Jordaan are pedestrian or bicycle traffic only, so it makes it very easy to soak it in on foot.  I plan to take in the art galleries, meet local craftsmen and visit the charming courtyards dotted throughout the Jordaan.  Then as one of the rewards for all this fitness preparation I’m doing, I’ll get a sidewalk table at La Perla where I’ll eat a slice of amazing wood-fired pizza while watching the people and enjoying the ambiance that make this section of Amsterdam so wonderful.  Can’t wait!

I’ll be back in the gym tomorrow, hitting it again for another 6 days.  21 days of fitness left before the trip.  I plan to make them count.  Night!

PS:  Thanks to for the photos of the Jordaan district.

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday everyone!  I spent the morning in my old neighborhood with some excellent friends.  Thankfully, they are a very health conscious group, and we had a blast catching up for an hour walking our old route around the neighborhood.  It was so great seeing everyone and still being able to get my exercise on.  Best of all, my clothes feel looser and my legs feel stronger than when I started all this on Monday.   Of course I have to keep this exercise effort going, but right now I feel really confident about being prepped for tulip riding in April.

It’s going to be a short entry tonight.  Heading to bed early.  Need a bit of rest because my husband and I will be doing a longer bike ride on the Silver Comet bike trail tomorrow.  I’ll take some good pictures and share them with you tomorrow.  Night!

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

Well my workout plan for today was to do yoga for an hour and then go to the gym and spin this morning.  I made it through half of that – the yoga part.  My leg muscles were so exhausted at the end of the hour, there was no way I was spinning.  So, I opted for a rest and a mid-morning snack instead. 😊

I rallied towards the end of the afternoon though and since it was another beautiful day here in Suwanee, I hopped on my bike and put in 16 miles on the road.  It was pretty awesome actually.  All the flowers are starting to bloom and the trees are leafing out.  Now, if we can just get Amsterdam and surrounding areas to take the hint from Georgia.  I will say, my positive weather thinking is starting to work though.  We’ve got 5 days in a row of sunshine in the Amsterdam forecast with a high in the mid to upper 50’s next week.  Definitely tulip blooming weather.  Woohoo!

If you’ve been to Amsterdam, let me know your absolute favorite thing you did or the best restaurant you ate in.  I just love to hear about the best spots from people who have experienced them first hand.  Cheers and have a great night!

Day 2 and still at it…

We’re on Day 2 of the odyssey to be biking ready for tulip viewing in The Netherlands!  To try and help the stiffness in my legs from yesterday’s workout, I decided to add an online warm-up yoga practice before breakfast.  WOW!  I’m definitely keeping that 10 minutes of stretching in the morning routine.  What an amazing difference it made to the rest of my day.  I mean, I get to yoga practice about once a week, so I know my body really loves it, but there was something so energizing and joyful about sitting on my mat first thing this morning.  Really wonderful!

It rained here this afternoon, so the gym got the nod.  Being in the gym isn’t my favorite pastime (I’d much rather be outside), so I tried to cover a lot of ground to keep my interest high.  Exercises that lift my own body weight – like push-ups (yes – the girl kind count), sit-ups, walking lunges and squats – are my best prep for biking, but I also added in calf raises, lat pull-downs and pull-ups (assisted of course) to keep everything balanced.  I should almost be able to move tomorrow.  😊 After that, I did a 30-minute spin class to work on endurance and help get my bum in bike seat shape.  This is so important for me (and probably everyone) to really enjoy cycling from one town to the next.  It’s just a bit of misery if your hindquarters aren’t as psyched about the tour as the rest of you.

It was a good day.  I’ve recruited a friend who is also going on the tour to workout with me and that always makes it more fun.  We definitely worked up a sweat, but it’s nice to have someone to laugh with when the push-ups start breaking down.  Have a great evening, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!

March Madness – Biking Style

When I woke up this morning the first thought that popped into my head was about my bike trip to The Netherlands.  It’s only a month away!  Riding through blooming tulip fields of endless colors is something I’ve waited a long time to experience.  It’s going to be amazing!

My next thought brought on a groan.  It’s only a month away! I’m not prepared to ride most of every day for 6 days in a row – tulip fields or not.  I learned this the hard way on my first cycling trip through Ireland.  I was in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but by the end of every day, all I could think about was my tired legs and exchanging that bike seat for a nice cushy bar stool in the nearest pub.

Since Ireland, I’ve usually been much more prepared for our active trips, but somehow this one snuck up on me.  Quick action is required, so I’m declaring March a ‘Get in Bike Shape’ month.  Actually, I’ve decided that this as a very positive thing.  I could use a little structure in my pursuit of wellness, and this is just the ticket.

I’ve got 28 days to eat well, spin, walk, practice yoga, weight train and ride my bike on the roads around Suwanee, and I’ll be sharing my 4-week journey with you.  I’d love to hear other suggestions about fun ways to get prepared, so send your ideas!