Ahhh... The Spa
By Amy Lively Jensen
Would you like to give a heavenly gift to your loved one? How about one that you can share? I suggest a spa visit, which can actually strengthen your relationship. My spa experiences have transported me to luxurious places of pure relaxation. Have an inside look at spas I have visited around the world, such as Argentina, Hungary and the Dominican Republic, or closer to home in Wisconsin and California.
When traveling, I like to indulge in spa adventures. In Budapest, I discovered the iconic Szechenyi Thermal Baths, the largest medicinal baths in Europe. In a beautiful turn of the century building with stunning architecture, there are 18 pools of varying temperatures, sizes, water characteristics and underwater jets. Outdoors, you’ll find pools with views of the ornately sculptured domes of the spa. In the largest pool, warm waters and jets relax bathers, while another cool water pool has a fun lazy river. Inside the spa, there is a labyrinth of thermal pools, saunas, steam rooms, a salt room, facial facilities and many medical spa treatment rooms. Szychenyi Spa has a staff that includes rheumatology specialists and a team of highly skilled and experienced therapists who offer a wide range of medical spa services. For those who want to party while they relax, there is a beer spa upstairs and summer “sparties” with laser disco and live DJ’s.
Another wonderful spa experience awaits in Mendoza, Argentina, home to the 5-star Vines Resort and Spa, where you will be astonished by the breathtaking panoramic vistas of the snow-capped Andes Mountains. You can choose from several types of massages, facials and hair treatments. Experienced staff will create a personal wellness program for you, including wine-based therapies. The spa has indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, an infinity pool with private cabanas, a covered Jacuzzi, and a private garden with water features inspired by nearby rivers. To burn off calories from our meals of Argentina’s famous beef, we did a sunrise work out at the elevated, state-of-the-art glass enclosed fitness center. While exercising we were inspired by the spectacular 180-degree mountain views.
Following our spa experience, we sipped Yerba Mate tea, the national drink of Argentina that people have been drinking for thousands of years. The Argentinians even have a national day to celebrate this herb beverage that unites them culturally. This caffeine rich tea is made by soaking leaves in hot water. It is traditionally served with a metal straw in a gourd. At the office, co-workers take a Mate break. Everyone drinks from the same gourd and passes it around while chatting. Yerba matte is an acquired taste, and sometimes first-timers grimace, finding it bitter. However, we enjoyed it from our first taste of earth, grass, lemon, chocolate and honey. The knowledgeable staff at the Vines added milk so the drink was more pleasant.
For wine lovers who dream of making their own wine, this Resort has an innovative idea to achieve this dream. Here you can buy a plot of land in the professionally managed private vineyard that produces wines that are among the top ranked by Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. You can participate in any part of the winemaking process, from planting and harvesting, tasting, blending, bottling and labeling your wine. The world-class winemaking team at the Vines has co-produced wines with over 248 owners from around the world.
If you haven’t ventured to the Dominican Republic, put this on your vacation wish list. You will love a holiday at the luxurious Secrets Cap Cana Resort and Spa on the east coast of the DR. Pamper yourself at the beautiful Secrets Spa adjoining the crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea. Begin with the sauna and steam room. Your next stop is the hydrotherapy pools that have a warm swimming pool, a frigid plunge pool and a hot tub. Following your water therapy, enjoy refreshing drinks. You are then guided to one of 18 soothing massage rooms. A highly experienced, intuitive, and spiritual massage therapist greets you warmly. The heavenly full body massage with optional hot stones finishes with a divine scalp massage. Also available are fish pedicures. A fish pedicure involves dipping your feet into a basin of water filled with Garra Rufa fish, sometimes called the doctor fish. They eat the dead skin off the feet revealing smooth, callous-free skin. You may also opt for a facial, foot
massage, a hairstyle, manicure, wraps and other services. Try the exclusive chocolate fondue wrap. Hot chocolate melts body fatigue and stress without the calories. The Queen Bee facial includes a cooling beehive nectar mask. Lifting off the mask calms and soothes the skin to reduce skin irritations and redness while leaving the skin satiny and subtle. For the ultimate couples experience, book the Secrets True Love Journey to reinvigorate your affection. You’ll be side by side for a royal facial treatment, hot stone massage and your choice of a stimulating hand or foot treatment.
If you’re looking for something Stateside, try the Kohler Waters Spa in Kohler, Wisconsin, voted one of the best in the world by the Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards. For the eleventh consecutive year the Kohler Waters Spa earned the 5-star Award by the Forbes Travel Guide. I had high expectations for a spa with these accolades and it did not disappoint. “Innovative hydrotherapy services and nourishing treatments bring health through water,” according to their website. “The hydrotherapy circuit reduces muscle tension, relieves pain, rehabs injured muscles, boosts the immune system and relieves stress.” The Spa Relaxation Pool heightens the experience with its grandeur. It is surrounded by tumbled limestone with a hand painted sky mural overhead and elaborate mosaic tile on the bottom. There are 81 waterfalls at one end of the pool where guests can let soothing waters fall over their shoulders. At the Spa, the steam rooms infused with eucalyptus, rooftop whirlpool and saunas with a Himalayan salt wall calm your body. I had the pleasure of trying their signature treatment called Lavender Rain. It began with lavender and eucalyptus exfoliation and then a warm rinse under a Kohler custom shower. A full body moisturizer and warm stone treatment on my back and front completed my extraordinary encounter with total relation at the Kohler Water Spa.
I had my first mud bath at the world-famous Calistoga Spa Hot Springs in California. The mud is made up of peat moss and volcanic ash heated to 105 degrees. According to Dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD., “the mud baths promote anti-inflammatory activity that can remedy some skin problems including Psoriasis and Osteoarthritis.” The century old ritual of mud baths has natural healing properties to improve joint and muscle pain, remove toxins and leave you relaxed and rejuvenated. In an oversized bathtub, I marinated in mud up to my head while ice-cold cloths were put on my face. It was a unique and pleasurable treatment. After an outstanding massage, I lounged in one of the four geothermal mineral pools.
What would you think about being up to your ears in wood chips? The Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California advertises itself as “the only day spa in the US that offers the Cedar Enzyme Bath,” a rejuvenating heat treatment from Japan. You are covered with a fermented mix of ground cedar, rice bran and plant enzymes. As you step into a massive wooden box brimming with mounds of the dark-brown mix, you are quickly covered to the neck by an attendant who uses her hands to shovel the soft shavings over you. The room has a thick, yeasty aroma like cedar sourdough bread. You settle in and let the heat soak through. When sweat trickles down your forehead, cool hand towels are delicately placed there, and attendants bring much needed sips of cold water. For part two of the Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary experience, you go upstairs for a 75-minute massage, which brings an exquisite feeling of tranquility. Afterward, you wander through the Japanese Garden and its waterfall as though you stepped into a garden in Kyoto.
Did you know that spa treatments may make you a happier person? The International Journal of Neuroscience said that following a massage, the body benefits from increased levels of serotonin and dopamine. According to the Cleveland Clinic, serotonins are associated with happiness, focus and calmness while dopamine is associated with rewards and motivation. Do you need any more reasons to visit a spa?