Updated: Oct 22, 2018
Canyon Ranch Spa, Lenox Massachusetts
I had a few days to spend in between university drop-offs, so I thought I would spend some time at the Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA. Lenox, in Berkshire County, MA has a very interesting history. Originally inhabited by the Mahican and Algonquin Tribes, fought over during the French and Indian Wars, and finally purchased and settled in the 1760's.
In the 1800's through the early 1900's, the rustic natural beauty of the area made it a favourite with the art community and the wealthy set who stayed a 'Berkshire Season' in Lenox each year, staying from late summer until early fall. Many of those who summered in Lenox built grand houses, some of which are still inhabited or on display to this day.
The Mount, the summer home of Edith Warton, is now a museum dedicated to her life and work. This building and it's grounds were also formerly the home of the Shakespeare & Company. Tanglewood, formerly owned by the Tappen family, is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Shadowbrooke is the home of the Kripalu yoga centre and Venfort Hall has been used as a movie set for films, such as Cider House Rules.
Bellefontaine Mansion was built by socialite Gerard Foster in 1898 and lived in the home until his wife died there in 1932. Since then, the house has been a boarding school and a seminary.
Canyon Ranch, a lifestyle and wellness resort company that also has spas in Arizona and Las Vegas, bought Bellefontaine Mansion in the late 1980's after it had been decimated by fire. The owners dedicated themselves to restoring the grounds to its former glory, while developing a state of the art fitness and wellness centre. Those areas that could be saved were transformed using the traditional New England style, while new, modern areas were easily blended into the overall scheme. The Library was the only room in the mansion that was not destroyed by the fire, and has now been preserved exactly how Foster intended.
I had three days to spend at Canyon Ranch, and I had a great time. Again I focused on taking as many available classes as I could fit into a time frame, and I limited myself to having one treatment per day, all scheduled in the evening to keep my days free. I also focused on doing things that I would ordinarily shy away from, or activities that I have been desperate to try.
At check-in I was given a rather thick experience guide that outlined all of the activities on offer for the week. I think that I would have to stay a month at Canyon Ranch to fit in everything I wanted to try and it took me over an hour to schedule myself for the time I was there. I scheduled yoga classes, foot exercise class, a few seminars, a day trip to the Mount and what I thought was an aqua aerobics class but turned out to be a swimming skills class. Hiking I would have to do on my own, which was fine because the grounds are extensive with well laid paths.
While leaving a yoga class one morning, I noticed a sign for Boga Fitmat Yoga, which I wanted to try but thought my skill level of 0 would not comply. The sign advertised the class for any skill level! I was in! Boga Fitmat is similar to surf board yoga, only it is on a rubber raft sort of thing in a swimming pool. Myself and only one other person took up the challenge and it was only the two of us in the class. As my family, and as readers of any of my earlier blogs will attest to, I am not a genius at heaving myself onto rafts. My enthusiasm was already draining out of my body when the instructor told us to jump into the water and climb onto the raft.
I was busy finding my focus spot, so was not paying attention to the girl on the other raft until the instruction gave her applause for being able to jump a 360 on her raft, while i was bent over, clutching the sides as to not fall off. He asked her how old she was to which she replied '17'. He was so impressed with her skills that he insisted on taking pictures of her. At this point, she had fallen off a few times. The instructor again said he was proud because if you fall, you are taking risks, and taking risks is what makes you better at everything.
As to not be accused of not taking risks, I piped up.
"Listen," I said while clutching the sides of the floaty with my toes, " I am taking a big risk standing on a floaty in a swimming pole in a tankini next to a 17 year old."
I continued. "And you are taking a risk by watching a lady of my years bend over and do yoga on a floaty in a tankini. You are also taking an even bigger risk if I show up in any of those photos. In fact, the only one not taking risks here is her because she is 17, fit and good at balancing."
Then she fell in again.
Even though it sounds dreadful, I had a blast doing Boga Fitmat and would do it again in a heartbeat! The girl's mother came into the pool to fetch her and admitted that this 17 year old who had never surfed or done yoga was actually a unicyclist juggler. So much for first time natural skill...
Recovered from this adventure, the following day I signed up for a Zumba class. I have taken dance classes thrice in my life. The first was ballet as a child, when Miss Sally asked me, not too politely, not to come back to class and the second was when I was 16 and took belly dancing classes with my sister. The third time was when I went to a dance class at the gym with my friend and twisted my ankle in the first five minutes. It took six months to heal and still sometimes hurts.
I was first in the room and found a perfect spot in the back of the class for myself. I tied my little skirt over my leggins and set about practicing making noise with the attached jingles. As the class fills up, who stands next to me but the 17 year old. I refused to let her out do me again, so I gave that Zumba class everything I had. I am pretty sure I was the best at 'opening the french doors' and my 'zombie walk' was bar none. My Salsa footwork could have been better, but I tried to channel my inner Ben Stiller from 'Along came Polly' and just went with the music. I left thinking I was probably the best in the class.
Later that day I came across the 17 year old and her mother again. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but her movements suggested that she was mimicking someone/thing from Zumba class. It better not have been me she was laughing at because that is a risk not worth taking!!!
There is so much on offer at Canyon Ranch that it can be really hard to chose. There is a full gym with personal trainers, Wally Ball, Pickle Ball, bikes, kayaks, SUPing, massage therapies, beauty, metaphysical, cooking, art therapy and all sorts of seminars.
The treatment rooms are comfortable and the therapists skilled. I enjoyed every second. The lounges are separated male and female, which makes it comfortable for to walk around in a robe and 'crazy massage hair'. You are assigned a locker for the duration of your stay, and you can ask for clean robes whenever you need one. There is jacuzzi in the lounges and a wonder atomiser in the shower that sprayed eucalyptus oil into the steam. This was delightful! There is also an attendant on hand at all times to give you anything you need.
There are two restaurants, a cafe which has eat in or take away, open for breakfast and lunch, often outside weather permitted, and a more formal restaurant for dinner. One day I didn't feel like dressing for dinner, so I just got an extra wrap at lunch and ate that. It was just enough after a hard day of fitness and relaxation.
Canyon Ranch gets 5/5 Cliftons for softness.
Vilalara/Longevity Talassa & Medical Spa. Algarve, Portugal
I booked a 3-day booster spa package for myself and D2 through Healing Holidays. D2 was only one day home from the States, so suffering from jet lag and not keen on massages and workouts.
The set up here is a little different than I had experienced before because you can book as a spa guest or a resort guest, though the two groups intermingle at both the restaurants and the spa. As guests of the spa, we were housed close to the spa, where the closest pool was used primarily for spa residents. We were given a spa package, which we could tweak as availability would allow.
Again as spa guests, we had a choice of menu. There was a detox menu as well as a liquid menu. D2, bailing completely on the health food concept, ordered cocktails and from the resort menu. After my detox lunch of octopus carpaccio, I joined her in the diet fail.
We attended a few gym classes, saw a nutritionist and had several treatments. The spa was clean and then staff extremely friendly. I did find the two massages I had to be a bit routine, but the wrap was very nice, as was the physio. What makes a spa a spa is water, but I tend to think of water treatments to be a bit old-fashioned. I feel that saunas and hot tubs should just be available for any time use, so I don't enjoy having to book, and sometimes pay for these treatments.
You can also book water activities at Vilalara. We booked a kayak, but I will spare the tale of three young men having to heave my floundering behind into the boat.
Overall Vilalara and the Longevity Thalassa Medical Spa was a very enjoyable three days away.
3/5 Cliftons for spa softness
Miravale Ranch, Tuscan Arizona, USA
I have wanted to visit the Miravale Ranch in Tuscan since seeing it on an episode of 'Ellen' many years ago. I was intrigued by the spiritual workshops they do, and, as I considered myself to be at least five percent Native American (completely disproven at this point, though I still do have a love and interest in Native American culture), appreciate the incorporation of local history into their program.
I was booked in for three days, and was determined to make it to as many of the classes and seminars on offer that I could. I also had to make very good use of their spa treatments!
What I noticed immediately about Miravale was that the guests were more in groups than individuals travelling alone. This made me slightly more uncomfortable, but it did increase group participation and most of the activities were full.
The spa is located in the Senora Desert, the only place that the traditional Saguaro is indigenous. The morning hike on offer is very interesting and full of facts about desert horticulture and wildlife.
There is a common dining room and the food on offer is a healthy but not strict so meat and wine is on offer. There is a cafe available at most hours that serves wraps and treats and the most wonderful smoothies. My favourite was coconut and rice milk, brazil nuts, dates and vanilla. Delicious!
The rooms are single-story attached cabins that are well appointed and arranged throughout the complex. There is a very nice outdoor pool, gym studio rooms, yurts and a dedicated yoga building that houses the most beautiful singing bowls I have ever seen.
The beautiful spa building has an additional outdoor pool, relaxation room, waiting area, shop and luxurious treatment rooms. The staff is very well organised and and the therapists very knowledgable. I had a wonderful hot stone foot massage, a perfect facial and a smoothing wrap in an outdoor tent. The Medicine Man was doing a treatment in the next door tent so I felt it was almost a two for one.
Unfortunately, I was not able to book the medicine man, or any of the other alternative treatments, like the Medicine Man, the horse whisperer or even art therapy painting on horses, but I do plan to do this with my next visit. I did manage to book a zip-line fall. Though it was meant to be a group of five or more, I was the only guest that showed up. Basically this is an exercise in letting go: you have a small circle talk about why you are there, then then three men put you in a harness and hoist you up to the top of a telephone pole. when you get to the top, you all let go and you swing left to right until you reach the ground. the scariest part of the exercise was being in the harness and needing three men to hoist you up...the might have struggled a bit.
Miravale is one of the more pricey spa experiences I have had, but most things are inclusive and everything is top notch. I will visit the ranch again, but perhaps take some company with me so I will have someone to hang from the pole with!
5/5 Cliftons for spa softness.
The Silo Spa, Silo Hotel. Silo District, Victoria and Albert Waterfront, Cape Town South Africa
I did not stay at the Silo Hotel during my recent stay in Cape Town, but I really wanted to check out the hotel. You can always get a feel for a hotel by booking a table at their restaurant, but I feel that the best way to do this without actually staying there, is by booking an appointment at the hotel spa. Suffering a bit from some imaginary jet lag, I scrambled out of bed at 10:30am on my first day on holiday and scuttled over to the Silo Spa for an 11:00am foot treatment. What a stressful life I lead!
The Silo Spa is located on the 4th floor of the hotel. There is a gym, sauna, designated mani-pedi area and five treatment rooms. While the spa is on the smaller side, it is very plush
and exclusive. The reception area of the spa is decorated in whites and creams. A white ceramic plant holder of a women's face is perched on a table in the corner. The red of her lipstick and the red of the flowers seemed to be the only colour in the room.
While I only, and sadly, had time for a foot treatment, I would have loved to have booked ahead for one of the signature treatments, which use 24 carot gold and golden millet in their products along with other natural ingredients such as fynbos and crystals. There was a decent sized menu to choose from.
My treatment room was dark and warm and I was very comfortable and relaxed. Again, due to my imaginary jet lag, (there is only a one hour time difference between London and Cape Town, therefore no jet lag), or the over indulgence of the local South African wine I shared with my friend Elizabeth the night before at the Harbour House restaurant (more likely), I don't really remember much about the treatment room except that it put me back to sleep almost immediately!
I definitely plan to return to the spa on my next visit to Cape Town, and experience all of the luxury the Silo Spa has to offer. Five out of Five Cliftons for plushness, plus an extra wink for the cool, red lipped flower pot.
firstname.lastname@example.org/+27 21 670 0510
The One and Only. Victoria and Albert Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa.
A few Decembers ago, I was kindly given a gift certificate by good friend, Judy for the One & Only Spa located in the One & Only Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. I have been past the One & Only many times on my way to the Waterfront; In fact on one visit I am pretty sure I saw Adam Sandler turning into the parking garage in a rental car. But as much as I love my spa time, I shamefully, had never been to the One & Only.
As I received the certificate the day before we were leaving South Africa, I had to wait a WHOLE YEAR to use it. The hotel is truly beautiful, with an artfully decorated lobby, huge bar and also features Reuben's, the first urban restaurant by South African Masterchef host Reuben Riffle.
The One & Only Spa is a beautifully appointed hotel spa located in the heart of the Waterfront. You will find the spa in its own building, surrounded by a lagoon within the outdoor grounds of the hotel. The spa rooms are nicely decorated in minimalist 'African Chic', and are large and comfortable.
The treatments offered are plentiful, using the latest ESPA products. The beds are thickly padded, heated and wrapped with 100% cotton sheets and towels. I really enjoy the 90 minute hot stone massage at the One & Only, as well as the facials and always with a spot of reflexology as a bolt on bonus.
There are separate changing rooms for men and women which feature their own sauna, steam and jacuzzi pools. Plus an ice machine, luscious showers, hair dryers, products and everything else you need to pretty yourself up after your treatment.
Clients are encouraged to lounge in the relaxation room when they have finished their treatments. The area features warm comfortable beds, plus teas, juices and healthy snacks. It is very difficult to leave!
I had my first visit, which didn't clear the certificate, then booked a second visit, which did. After that I took my daughter, and then I took a friend and then that friend took her daughter. Need I say it in print that the wait to use the certificate was very much worth it.
The One & Only is a beautiful place of pure luxury in the heart of the Waterfront. The One & Only Spa is very plush and deserves a five out of five Cliftons for comfort!
As Always, you are safe, but please be vigilant when traveling in Africa.
+27 21 431 5888
SHA Wellness Clinic. L’Albir, Alicante, Spain
Featured in the Tatler Spa Guide, 2018
To begin my ‘Year of Spa’, I wanted to find a place close to home where I could short-stay. I also wanted a spiritual type experience with lots of yoga, meditation and lectures. So I popped onto www.healingholidays.co.uk and found the SHA Wellness Clinic in L’ Albir, Alicante, Spain.
Built in 2009, the SHA Wellness Clinic is an award-winning spa and medical clinic that promotes a blend of the best of both Eastern and Western philosophies for a balanced lifestyle. This is a high-end wellness holiday for those looking for a serious approach to improving their health. And while it is not so much a spiritual destination, it was a great way to start of my year.
There are many packages on offer; from detox,fitness, anti-aging and many more, while also offering the most modern aesthetic and medical treatments. Most packages run for seven days with 14 recommended. I chose the Discover package, which is a four day taster.
Everything at SHA is very well organised. From arriving, you meet first with your clinician, who will do a health check and talk about your objectives. Then you meet with your program supervisor, who gives you a well scheduled itinerary, detailing the treatments included in your package. The program supervisor can also schedule in optional treatments and you need not think about a thing as it is all done for you!
My most memorable treatment was a three part water bath wrap. For the second step, you are lotioned, wrapped in cellophane and then placed in a very hot rubber bag that floats on top of the water instead of in it. Then you are placed against a wall and hosed off, in disposable panties, by a very nice man with a power hose, not unlike what you would use to clean a building. It was hardly mortifying at all!
Days are so well organised that you are even appointed a meal time and an assigned table and wait staff that you will have during your entire stay at SHA. Your macro-biotic menu has already been created for you, based on your dietary requests, and absolutely delicious (well maybe not the mushroom tea). Alas, no alcohol, but after an entire day of spa treatments you are so chilled there is no need.
The rooms are very modern and beautifully appointed. My room had a shower room and full bath, living/dining room with a huge patio and sun beds plus a walk-in closet. The bedroom was very comfortable, with black out curtains ensuring a good night’s sleep. Tea and water is supplied daily and WIFI is fast. And while there isn’t much to see in SHA’s surroundings, the 360 degree mountain/sea view from the roof top pool and lounging area is breathtaking.
A carry-on is all you really need for a trip to SHA. Upon arrival, you are given a very plush robe that you wear, with or without your swim suit, even to the dining hall (you do dress for dinner)! There is not a lot of social interaction and you mostly find people milling about in their robes in silence. The guests at SHA were a mix of groups and couples, but largely people on their own. I never felt uncomfortable being alone.
5/5 Cliftons for comfort.
My visit to SHA Wellness Clinic was a great way to start off my Year of Spa and I shall be returning for a longer stay!
Please visit www.shawellnessclinic.com for more information