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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?