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Comparing Global Spa Treatments

February 13, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

My daughter, a realtor, shouts, “location, location, location,” but when it comes to travel, it’s all about “experiences, experiences, experiences.” Over the past several years, the term has become the mantra of the luxury travel market. And the trend isn’t going away. “Luxury travelers want memorable experiences beyond a nice hotel room and pool,” says Jeri Clausing, editor of the luxury eNewsletter for Travel Weekly.

Bread Making Class in Jordan

Bread Making Class in Jordan

Visitors want hands-on opportunities, a way to hear, touch, smell, and taste a destination. Those interested in fitness gravitate toward physical activities such as hiking, biking, and kayaking. Cooking and painting classes or concerts draw a more artsy crowd. My travels have included a variety of spa treatments producing therapeutic and notable encounters.

Recently, a spa esthetician provided a new manta. She swears by, “exfoliation and hydration, hydration, hydration.” I like that.

Bottled Water for hydration

Bottled Water for hydration

You can’t take global adventures without long plane rides, but those are drying to the skin. Both healthy and immensely pleasurable, I was able to replenish some moisture through local themed, indulgent spa treatments.

 

In Japan, I sank into the traditional “onsen” hot mineral baths (previous story here). The evening outdoor soak in the communal hot mineral springs brought one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. Yes, I felt a bit awkward, naked and immersed in the Hilton Niseko‘s outdoor pool surrounded by beautifully illuminated trees, but afterward, I slept as soundly as if I’d run a marathon.

Japanese Onsen Baths at Hilton Niseko

What a view I had from the Japanese Onsen Bath in the Hilton Niseko.

In Jordan, a day at the Marriott Dead Sea Resort included the outrageous, bucket-list experience of a Dead Sea mud bath. It began in the highly concentrated waters of the Dead Sea, so salty no animal life survives. Not only did I immediately begin to float, it was difficult to put my feet down. The hands-free floating experience was like nothing else, just be careful not to splash water in your eyes.

 

Afterward, I headed for a large container filled with Dead Sea mud and preceded to slather it all over my body. I then stood around baking in the sun for 10-15 minutes. I was not alone with my mud-caked body; this is what people do at the Dead Sea. Soon, I showered off the mud, my hands sliding on my skin as if gliding over waxed paper. I could have recorded a commercial for baby-soft skin. I now use a Dead Sea mud mask on my face at home (purchased on Amazon.com).

Dead Sea Mud Treatment

Dead Sea Mud Treatment in Jordan

More than a year ago I “took the waters” (as they say) in Budapest. The thermal springs gush with temperatures ranging from about 70-170 degrees. I chose, not a luxury spa, but the traditional baths (really tiled pools) at the Gellert Baths, popular with the locals. I followed the Hungarian routine, moving from pool to pool, each with a different temperature. Afterward, I was so invigorated; I walked the few miles back to my hotel.

Gellert Thermal Spa in Budapest, Hungary

Gellert Thermal Baths & Spa in Budapest, Hungary

An India trip several years ago brought a Shirodhara treatment that involved dripping oil like a thread (dhara) on my head (shiro), what the locals term a tranquil Ayurvedic oil treatment. As I lay down on my back, the attendant draped towels around me. She then hung a wide-mouthed vessel with a small hole at the bottom above my head. A wick extended to about two inches from my forehead. Special medicinal oil poured into the vessel flowed slowly onto the upper part of my forehead, my eyes protected by cotton pads. The process normally continues for 60 minutes, but I asked for it to end sooner. It wasn’t water torture, but I can’t quite describe what bothered me about this treatment. I simply didn’t enjoy it. Instead of relaxing my mind, all I thought about was ending the session. However, I will admit that my hair benefited from the oil’s moisturizing effects.

Ayurvedic oil treatment

Ayurvedic oil treatment

In 2016, while in Italy, I luxuriated for two days at the posh ADLER Thermae Spa & Resort. This  Tuscan haven is near Bagno Vignoni, the ancient complex of naturally fed thermal baths and pools. At the Adler I scooted among warm water-jets strategically placed around the swimming pool, relieving my aching, travel-weary muscles. In the center, a powerful pulsating fountain pounded at my tightened back, head and entire body simultaneously. Crawling out after a few rounds of this pleasurable assault, a real pro applied an “aah”-producing massage. The Adler Resort, the ultimate in relaxation, even lets you wear your spa robe to breakfast and lunch.

Adler Thermae Resort Pool

Adler Thermae Resort Pool

Pounding water relaxes muscles at Adler Thermae Spa

Pounding water relaxes muscles at Adler Thermae Spa

Years ago, after an overnight stay in the Ice Hotel in Quebec, I took a short hop to Le Nordique Spa outside the city. The idyllic rural property was covered in snow – – a picture postcard. My treatment began in the sauna, followed, hesitantly, by a dip in an unheated outdoor pool. Exiting, I wrapped myself in a towel and practically ran to the relaxation room. Then, I repeated the process this time having a special Auguste sauna treatment with orange essential oil. Instead of cooling off in the pool, I bravely climbed down the steps of a ladder and plunged down a hole cut in the ice covering the river –temperature hovering around zero. I shot back up and out at top speed—and survived. The warm shower that came next felt so good, I didn’t want to leave. Apparently, locals frequent the spa often and spend an entire day here. As a Floridian, once was enough.

Plunging into an ice bath at Le Nordique Spa

Plunging into an ice bath at Le Nordique Spa

A recent road trip to Asheville, North Carolina brought me to the Asheville Salt Cave. Lounging in the dim, Zen-like setting for 45 minutes, I breathed in air saturated with Himalayan salt. Divine escape.  I didn’t have any respiratory or sinus ailments but still came out feeling fully oxygenated and spry. I was told the treatments are beneficial for those with skin problems like acne, eczema, and psoriasis, too.

Salt Cave, Asheville, NC

Salt Cave, Asheville, NC

Moving on to the One Ocean Resort in Atlantic Beach, Florida, just a two and a half hour drive from my home, I relished an Ocean Mist facial. The treatment included a special seaweed serum and some calcium-rich moisturizers. The skin on my face was rejuvenated, as plumped and moisturized as any over 65-year-old face can get. The chic spa experience offered a rejuvenating retreat.

Relaxing at the One Ocean Spa, Atlantic Beach, FL

Relaxing at the One Ocean Spa, Atlantic Beach, FL

From now on, wherever I go, I hope to make time to try out the local spa treatments. Gotta run, I hear the Greenbrier calling, or is it the spas at Baden Baden, Germany?

A Visit to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

January 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

A similar article first appeared in the Florida Newsline publications on September 29, 2017 at the link below.

http://www.floridanewsline.com/creekline-st-johns/travel-edison-ford-winter-estates-worth-drive/

Edison and Ford in Florida sign.

I’ve lived in Florida since 1997, but a certain light bulb never went off in my head until recently. I’m a travel writer, yet I never visited one of Florida’s most noteworthy historical landmarks: the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers.

I revved up my motor and headed down to Fort Myers. The winter homes of the two titans of American industry sit side-by-side on 20 acres of lush botanical gardens bordering the Caloosahatchee River. The property straddles McGregor Boulevard, a street lined with tall palms. Edison planted more than 2,000 Royal Palm trees along McGregor Boulevard, offering to maintain them for two years if the city would care for them thereafter. Today, Fort Myers, “City of Palms,” boasts hundreds of the trees more than 75 feet in height.

The amazing Banyan tree.

A walk from the parking lot to the entrance winds past an amazing Banyan tree, planted by Edison around 1925. That four-foot tree now covers almost an acre of the grounds.

Thomas Alva Edison (1847 – 1931) is considered one of America’s greatest inventors. He developed many devices that became part of everyday life, such as the phonograph, a motion picture camera, and of course, the electric light bulb.

Statue of Thomas A. Edison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” Edison holds 1,093 US patents including a stock ticker, a mechanical vote counter, a battery for an electric car, and recorded music. He developed a system of electric-power generation and distribution allowing homes, businesses, and factories to enter the age of industrialization. Manhattan, N.Y. became the site of the Edison Illuminating Company’s first power station.

As a young man, Henry Ford worked for Edison, who encouraged the young engineer’s ideas. Ford later became the founder of the Ford Motor Company, revolutionizing transportation by making affordable cars widely available. Although Edison was 20 years his senior, the two became good friends. Ford made trips to Florida to visit his mentor, eventually buying the house next door.

Ford & Edison Houses

 

Guided tours of the property are rich in information about the two and about the research that interested both — like tires for example. The tour includes a peek inside Edison’s home, guesthouse, the Ford home, and other outbuildings. A knowledgeable guide offered memorable stories about the lives of Edison and Ford families and their friendships.

The guide explained that Edison arrived in Fort Myers in 1885 and decided to purchase the property. At the time, Fort Myers was virtually inaccessible by land. The few visitors who arrived came by boat from the Gulf of Mexico and then up the Caloosahatchee. When widower Edison married Mina in 1886, Fort Myers became their honeymoon haven and winter home.

Three decades later during WWI, Edison, Ford and another entrepreneur, Harvey Firestone, built a Botanical Research Lab. They hoped to find a cheap method to obtain rubber. As a result, Edison and his researchers established many of today’s estate plantings. (I did not take the guided tour in the laboratory, but a look inside gave the feel that it might come alive when Edison got back after the weekend.)

Early Ford auto in the museum.

The museum houses many interesting artifacts developed by Edison and Ford. Visiting auto enthusiasts will find the displays of old Ford cars satisfying. Those wishing to spend a full day at the Ford & Edison Winter Estates can stroll to the marina and board a newly built passenger vessel for a cruise on the Caloosahatchee River. The boat trip includes certified naturalists or historians from Pure Florida and the Edison Ford Estates.

Fort Myers is located in Southwest Florida.  A weekend getaway can include a night on nearby Sanibel Island or some time exploring Sarasota, St. Petersburg or Tampa along the Gulf Coast.

Cartersville, Georgia: Small Town, Big Museums

July 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Despite traveling extensively, I’m still impressed when I discover big things in small places. Cartersville, Georgia, a city of 20,000 residents about 40 minutes north of Atlanta, offers major draws. It’s the smallest town in the U.S. with two Smithsonian Affiliate Museums: one an art museum and the other a Science facility.

2001 Oil Paianting in Booth Museum

2001 Oil Paianting in Booth Museum

The Booth Western Art Museum houses the largest permanent exhibition space for Western art in the entire country- yes, the entire United States. And, what a fabulous place it is. Approach the modern 120,000-square-foot limestone and glass building and discover an outdoor sculpture garden. Larger than life statues of what kids call ‘cowboys and Indians’ populate the lawn. Inside displays of contemporary Western artwork, Civil War art, more than 200 Native American artifacts and presidential portraits and letters abound.

Cowboy statue in the sculpture garden outside the Booth Museum, Catersville, GA..

The American West Gallery spans 175 years, with poignant creations by famed artists such as Charles M. Russell, Frederic Remington, and George Caitlin as highlights. Artifacts include beaded clothing, saddle and leather art and a cowboy collection.

Indian Sculpture at Booth Western Museum

Indian Sculpture at Booth Western Museum

The Civil War Gallery displays evocative artwork that chronologically depicts battles and events from the tragic divide.

 

The Modern West Gallery focuses on Western art from the past 50 years. Contemporary pieces by Western trendsetters incorporate bronze, fiberglass, and even paper, and show the progression of stylistic changes. A pop art styled portrait of Sitting Bull by Andy Warhol may be far removed from the artist’s Pittsburgh roots, but captivates.

Andy Warhol Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull by Andy Warhol

The Millar Presidential Gallery took me by surprise – itself reason enough to visit. The gallery showcases a signed, page-long letter by each of the forty-four previous American Presidents. Meandering through the personal documents in the dimly lit space gives a sense of intimacy with the past leaders. Some visitors simply enjoy comparing the handwriting and signatures and viewing the photos.

Thomas Jefferson signed Letter

Thomas Jefferson signed Letter

Composite painting of US Presidents

Composite painting of US Presidents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adults love Sagebrush Ranch as much as the children for whom it was built. My inner child couldn’t resist the hands-on, interactive exhibits and I giggled sitting in a stagecoach bouncing along as if being pulled by horses. Children are encouraged to recreate Native American beadwork, make a Western landscape, invent designs branding, dress as settlers and mount a replica horse for photo ops.

Having fun in the Sagebrush area.

Having fun in Sagebrush Ranch.

Stagecoach in the Booth Western Art Museum.

Stagecoach in the Booth Western Art Museum.

While in Cartersville, take another day to tour the equally immense and fascinating Tellus Science Museum. Who can resist a dinosaur fossil with an oversized personality? This guy jumps out from a lobby and pulls you into an area brimming with the bones from giant mammals, reptiles, and dinosaurs, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, saber-tooth cat, and the Megalodon shark.

Tellus Museum Dinosaur

Tellus Museum Dinosaur

One of the most appealing areas for children is the sand pit where kids, aka young paleontologists, can free fossils in various shapes and sizes. Next, they grab a pan at the Gem Panning exhibit and begin searching for hidden stones and crystals. Children may keep their discoveries as souvenirs.

 

Mineral mining contributes to the economy in this region and the Mineral Gallery in the Tellus is a real gem. The gleaming displays of gigantic geodes and polished gemstones even astonish hobbyists.

Panning in the Tellus Museum

Panning for gold in the Tellus Museum

Don’t leave before taking a visual journey through our solar system in the state-of-the-art Planetarium.

If Native American history appeals, drive to the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site. The flat-topped mounds date back to 900-1550 A.D. Climb to the top and tour the small museum to learn about this historic settlement.

 

 

The Cartersville area also includes Old Car City USA, the world’s largest known classic car junkyard covering 40 acres with miles of walking trails. Many car buffs and photographers find the forest of 4,000 forgotten cars irresistible. I honestly did not; a half hour visit was enough for me.

Old Car City USA

Old Car City USA

If you’re looking for big-city attractions in a small town atmosphere, you’ll find them in Cartersville. For more information: VisitCartersvilleGA.org.

 

 

A similar article to the above ran in the Florida Newsline publications: Consider Cartersville. 

Travel: Consider Cartersville, Georgia

 

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