Well Within Spa-Santa Cruz, CA

Need a little slice of heaven at a heavenly price? The spa patrol is on it. Hey, the compadres and I love a day at the spa but we have to self-pamper on a budget. That doesn’t mean we’re cheap. I went to a “cheap” spa one time in my life and it was one step above feeling like I was about to be deloused before entering a prison. No, no. I still want luxury but I want it to be reasonable. So far I think the ladies and I have done a pretty good job this year finding spas that are off the beaten path, which is pretty much my style anyway. There are some incredibly beautiful spas out there that people like Janet Jackson frequent but I don’t have Janet’s money and I’m not one to be on a waiting list of any kind. Life is too short and there are too many choices these days to require a long wait when you want to feel good NOW.

A couple of blocks away from downtown Santa Cruz, CA., the Well Within Spa provides a great getaway to have the kinks taken out and enjoy and good soak. Their self-described Japanese traditions blended with California lifestyle is totally accurate and a perfect combination which makes this day spa so enjoyable. Their massage therapists are experienced, averaging over 5 years of experience each, and some have been with the spa since its opening in 1985. Always loving what’s new, I still love to find a place that has been continually good at what they do. Having gone in with a slight head cold the day we went (shame on me) I chose to have the deep-tissue massage. I almost immediately felt my head starting to clear and felt good energy throughout.

Next stop: the spas. All together now….Aaaahhhhhhhh. Whether choosing an indoor or outdoor spa, they are all private, stress relieving, and a perfect way to compliment your massage. Starting at $13 per person for the tub only, how can you not? You have a choice of indoor tubs which overlooks a beautiful Japanese style garden including koi ponds and plants, and the outdoor spas, are private and totally enclosed while still allowing you to enjoy the beautiful blue sky as we did. (It wouldn’t be half bad at night either.) They also offer a Japanese style soaking tub and cedar lined spa to get the full tub experience. All include nice, hot herbal tea to enjoy, towels, robes, showers equipped with body gel, beautiful music in the background and bath salts for the soaking tub.

They offer a Massage a month card which allows you to get your 13th massage or skin & body care treatment free! They also have a great mid-week special called, Together Wednesdays where you can bring a friend or your honey and each have a 50 minute massage and 50 minute spa for $165 or $82.50 per person. Pretty darn good if you ask me.

So, if ever in the Santa Cruz area, don’t just stop for the surfers and shrimp cocktail. This is a great spa which makes it easy to become a regular and is centrally located. It’s unpretentious yet friendly, and offers everything you could want in a spa experience at great rates.

Happy Hot Tubbing!

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Winter Escape-Kenwood Inn and Spa~ Sonoma, CA

Winter is here but a spa getaway is enjoyable any time of the year. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to escape the cold and holiday craziness than to take off to a beautiful Tuscan style spa set in the Valley of the Moon in the Sonoma Valley, to calm the nerves and renew the soul.

The Kenwood Inn and Spa is in a word, special. I would rather spend two nights in a beautiful inn such as this than stay 7 nights in a so-so resort. This is one of those places that offers an experience, appealing to the senses which is what a spa experience should be. I have walked into plenty of so-called upscale spas and had left with a mediocre feeling, wondering why I paid so much for an average experience. The grounds alone at Kenwood are inviting and tranquil upon entering, setting the tone for a true Mediterranean getaway in the middle of the Sonoma wine country. We meandered to the back courtyard area where we could smell and hear a crackling fire, set next to a charming spot to sit and have a glass of wine. The Kenwood Inn received the Conde’ Nast Readers Choice award for 2010, as well as years prior for the best small resort in the U.S. mainland and it’s easy to see why. Offering only 29 rooms for a truly intimate experience, all rooms include fireplaces, featherbeds, Italian linens and complimentary breakfast daily.

Don’t want to stay at the inn? Try out the fabulous spa for a day. The Spa at Kenwood was named one of the top 3 resort spas in the U.S. in 2009. I love to watch for anything unique and different about a particular spa that would make me want to try something new. Honestly, any of the spa treatments at Kenwood would make me feel like Cleopatra. When reading the spa menu, I can’t decide if I want to roll around in their ingredients or eat it! They have a Harvest Sugar Scrub which includes organic sugar, milled grapeseeds, and Chardonnay oil. Their Nourishing Honey Wrap includes raw honey and Chamomile and they also offer their signature Kenwood Wine Wrap. Sign me up. The wrap includes luxurious clays mixed with red wine extract, rosemary, and essential oils. After the wrap, they finish off with their signature lotion which includes grapeseed oil, Chardonnay oil, Riesling oil, and red wine extract. This treatment includes a neck, shoulder and scalp massage. There are various saline pools throughout the property purposely made to look rustic which reminded me of what I’ve seen in Italian spas, giving it that Roman spa feel.

It’s worth it to check their website on their Special Experiences to see what special packages they offer on occasion. Right now they have a Rendezvous Experience which allows you to stay for one night, making it easier for newbies to check it out and see what all of the shouting is about. They also have a Born to Shop weekend package which is focused on ladies who love to shop. These specials don’t run very long, appearing to maybe be a one weekend deal such as the shopping experience, but it’s worth jumping on it if something special does come up. I think it’s great that this property is open to offering a variety of packages to create a diverse clientele while maintaining its inviting and tranquil atmosphere.

Of course, let us not forget about the food and wine. As one might expect, to accompany the Tuscan feel of the inn, the menu has an Italian flare, offering fresh ingredients from local growers, and wines including those from the Kenwood Vineyards and the Hop Kiln Winery. The Kenwood Inn and spa is in a prime location to spend the weekend wine tasting at Sonoma’s award winning wineries and is a short drive to downtown Sonoma. Don’t miss this beautiful inn and spa if you are looking for a special occasion destination or just want to escape anytime of year. If you can’t make it to Sonoma, take a virtual tour on their website. You’ll get the idea! www.kenwoodinn.com

Cheers!

Kenwood Inn and Spa

800-353-6966

10400 Sonoma Highway

Kenwood, CA. 95452

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Massage and Spa Treatments-SF Bay Area

Massage in Frankfurt, Germany

Image via Wikipedia

I truly believe that massages, received continuously, could increase one’s lifespan. I feel so healthy after I’ve had a quality massage that if nothing else, it has to at least increase your quality of life. Anyone who has not tried it, should give it a chance if at all possible. I will admit however, that finding a good masseuse can be as challenging as finding the right hair stylist. Having received many massages and spa treatments in the past, some good, some…..not so good, I have formed some beliefs on what spa-seekers and those wanting to experience a massage or spa treatment for the first time should look for in their spa experiences:

  • Be clear about what you want and speak up if something doesn’t work. If you need lighter or heavier pressure, tell your masseuse. They want you to let them know.
  • DO NOT strip down to your jockeys if you are not completely comfortable. Remember that the point is to be completely comfortable and relaxed during your session. Just because your friends have said that they drop their drawers in a heartbeat doesn’t mean that you have to. Keep your undies on if you’re more comfortable that way. They’ll still be able to get that knot out of your back.
  • Be sure to inform your masseuse or therapist of any problem areas you have. That way they can either avoid or treat those areas. I have neck and shoulder issues so I usually ask to have more attention given to those areas. Also, let them know if the room temperature is comfortable for you. I hate to be hot and cannot relax if I’m overheating so I always make sure the room temperature is right for me.

In case anyone is wondering what would constitute as a bad spa experience, let me give you a few examples.

  • I once paid top dollar, probably the most I’ve ever spent on a massage to a masseuse that not only was hitting on me while I was butt naked on his table but also managed to pass gas while giving me a rather weak massage. A high-end spa doesn’t guarantee a good spa treatment. It’s your time and money so speak up if it’s not satisfactory.
  • While in Jamaica lying on a comfortable table in a beautiful gazebo next to the turquoise sea, my masseuse yelled out constantly to her other masseuse buddies, forgetting that I was there to relax. Falling into a state of relaxation only to be jolted awake by a booming voice is not what I call relaxing. I ended up just laughing at the silliness of the situation. What else can you do?
  • If it seems like an especially, unusually cheap deal, your radar should go up. I once had a massage that was going pretty well until a train came roaring by leaving me to wonder if it was going to come through the middle of the spa. Be sure to check on the location.

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So where have I had continued success over the years in my own backyard? Here are a few that I have found to be tried and true:

Photo by Lavender Hills Spa

Calistoga, Ca. Lavender Hills Spa in Calistogahttp://www.lavenderhillspa.com Right before you make the turn into downtown Calistoga which is spa central, there is a small, discreet little spa which sits by itself. This is a day spa, and is great for couples, friends, and singles wanting to be pampered. For couples, they have really cool individual bathtubs in a private room which allows each person to customize their bath to their own preference. For example, you can have a seaweed bath and your partner can do a mud bath but still have the experience together. Really nice. I have had the pleasure of experiencing their Volcanic Mud Bath and their Seaweed Bath both of which left my skin feeling fantastic. The volcanic mud bath is a nice, soft mixture that is really soothing and leaves your skin baby soft. I’ve had mud baths that looked and felt like you were stepping into cow dung but thankfully, their mud is not like that! I have also had some wonderful therapeutic massages at Lavender Hills and they make it easy to combine a bath treatment with a massage treatment. Their website has some great recommendations for lodging should you care to stay in the area.

San Francisco, CA.

Photo by John Wilson

John Wilson is who I like to go to in SF. http://www.johnwilson.iwantamassage.com I don’t go to him as often as I would like because like everybody else, I get caught up in life, and time restraints. However, when I do see him, I leave standing up straight and loosened up, feeling the way I should on a daily basis. He’s an expert on tight shoulders and upper body trauma but is completely trained in full body massage including Shiatsu, Swedish, hot stone massage, and deep tissue massage. John is a sole practitioner whose concentration is in the therapeutic healing process which I can tell you takes place after just one session.

San Mateo/Peninsula

The Spa Studio- http://www.thespastudio.com

Photo by Spa Studio

Photo by Spa Studio

The first certified Green Day-Spa on the Peninsula, this lovely little spa is located in downtown San Mateo which is a nice addition to a day of shopping or dining out. Downtown San Mateo is full of good restaurants, bookstores, and quaint shops so a treatment at this spa is a great way to fully enjoy the area. The Spa Studio uses organic products and their prices are very reasonable. I’m constantly getting emails from them on the endless specials they offer. I’ve had great massages from them and recently noticed that they added a “Men’s Corner” to their website. If you’re looking for a different kind of gift to give the man in your life, a Masculine Maintenance Facial might be something to consider!

Pacifica, CA.

Ocean Yoga-www.oceanyoga.com – This studio offers so much beyond just yoga. I love their yoga classes but recently attended a belly dancing class which was a better workout than the dreaded treadmill and a lot more fun and feminine. I also had a fabulous warm stone massage from their massage therapist Lisa Cockerill, and as a result, slept better than I have in a long time. I often tell massage therapists that I prefer firm pressure to get the king sized knots out of my neck and back. Lisa has a fantastic touch, very firm but not so much that I was begging for mercy. She allows you to just relax, checking once or twice on how the pressure is and lets you enjoy the state of relaxation from the warm stones. I’m definitely going back as soon as I can.

* The all time funniest spa experience I’ve ever had was in Montecatini,Italy where Fellini’s 9 1/2 was filmed. Montecatini is a well-known spa town, almost dreamlike but when your Italian is limited and you feel intimidated asking questions, you run the possibility of screwing yourself over. Because we were simply afraid to bother anybody, my friend and I asked for very limited services just to get into this beautiful area and experience what it was about. After we changed into lovely, soft, white robes, the attendant sent us to a beautifully tiled room where we just sat and soaked our feet. That was it. Until they directed us to go into the next room  for “inhalation therapy.” Basically, you sit in front of a jet that blows out high pressured steam which caught me off guard and it got me in the eye. My friend then asked me to take his picture in front of this jet thing to have evidence of our “spa experience” in Italy. Honestly, the inhalation therapy makes sense but we failed to appreciate it at the time. They then sent us off to drink an invigorating glass of sulfur water. Yes, SULFUR WATER. I stuck my tongue in the glass and decided I didn’t need to live a longer life if drinking that crap was required. I’m all about good health but I do have my limits. This just shows you that when visiting spas in another country, it may be something different than what you’re used to. Take a look at this spa in Italy so you can check it out for yourself. Only I could screw up on a place that beautiful! http://www.termemontecatini.it

Having a spa treatment or a massage is an indulgence for some and a path to good health for others. If you’re going to do it, it should be enjoyable because it’s your time and money so there are qualifiers to consider. Just make sure that above all, it works for you and you leave relaxed.

Continued good health to everybody!

Macaques monkeys enjoying hot spring bath in Nagano, Japan

Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa-Bodega,CA

This is one of those places where you’re driving along and you say, “ooohh that’s pretty…hit the brakes!”  That’s exactly what we did when driving along Coast Highway One in Bodega, when we saw this beautiful spa and villa located just off the highway. I think I had glossed over the name in guide books but never actually made the effort to see it. Luckily we just happened to pass by.

The Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa www.scvilla.com is totally private and set back from the main road that has a beautiful, Mediterranean feel to it. We felt very comfortable when we walked in and started grabbing every bit of info we could get our hands on and instantly wanted to start exploring. The vice president of the villas, Johannes, was there and was kind enough to give two nosy women who were just showing a mere interest, a full guided tour of the entire property. I have to say, that in itself is not common. Having traveled over the years, you often run into concierges and business owners who hand you a brochure and send you on your way. I think this says a lot about a place. In any case, we got a full tour around the beautiful private villas which include private patio/sitting areas attached to the rooms, and they are able to accommodate honeymoon couples to large groups. They have full spa services, a putting green, and my favorite part, horseback riding.

The horseback riding services alone are worth the trip. Having gone on some fantastic horseback riding outings in Lake Tahoe as a kid, I’m forever trying to find decent horseback riding in the Bay Area.  The SC Villa offers open range riding for experienced riders, lessons, trail rides, private picnic rides, pony rides, and a sunset ride, among other options. Best of all, it’s open to the public. Johannes introduced us to his two favorite horses and the stable operator pointed out the rest of their beautiful horses who were up the hill from us, grazing. There was also a white baby colt snoozing on the hill.

The room rates start at $135, but check their website for current rates and availability. Also check for seasonal specials and mid-week rates. They offer one night stays Sunday – Thursday which would make for a nice break during the week.

Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa

16702 Coast Highway One

Bodega, CA. 94922

707-876-9818

Osmosis Day Spa-Freestone,CA

I love spas. I always have. I don’t think twice about stripping down to my freckles if that’s what it takes to be pampered. My friend Lisa and I have driven past one particular spa many times and finally stopped during our jaunt on the Bohemian Highway (North Bay, between Sepastopol and Bodega. More on the Bohemian Hwy to come). The Osmosis Day Spa www.osmosis.com  is a founding member of the Green Spa Network, a network dedicated to eco-friendly practices in the spa industry. Since we were there on a whim, I didn’t get to enjoy a treatment but we sniffed (literally) around as much as possible because there was a scent that was so nice I just had to know what it was. The concierge at the front desk said it was their signature Cedar Enzyme Bath treatment, which is finely ground up evergreens mixed in with rice bran. I know, it sounds like healthy cereal but it’s a luxurious mixture poured into a redwood tub where you bake until you’re a wet noodle. Someone comes around putting cold compresses on your head to keep you cool while you soak. I’ve had mud baths before and loved them even though I’m not much of a heat person but this sounds really different. I know my friends will be all over this.

However, I prefer to have the tar beaten out of me since I have the most stubborn knots in my neck known to woman kind. So for me, they have a variety of specialty massages such as Swedish, Shiatsu, Thai, connective tissue, and others. I’m pretty hooked on Shiatsu so that will be where I start. I’ll let you know if they pass the bruise test. I’m not happy unless I look like I’ve been flogged! The massage areas are standard or you can have a massage in one of their secluded pagodas. Guess where I’ll be?!

The most impressive part of this place that I haven’t seen in other spas, is the beautiful Japanese gardens in the surrounding area. They have a gorgeous meditation area which you are invited to stay in before or after your treatments. We couldn’t get over the extensive bamboo paths that allow for meandering throughout the grounds. There’s no way anybody would have any tension after walking around this property and being a part of the quiet atmosphere. We didn’t have a treatment but just being on the property made us feel like…. ahhhhh. Can’t wait to book my massage! Don’t forget…this is a business who is eco-conscious, using organic products on your body as well as promoting eco-friendly practices. That makes me feel better already!

Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary/209 Bohemian Highway/Freestone, CA.  95472/707-823-8231

 

To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

~Buddha