October 30, 2007

The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, South Carolina

Sitting upon a wide stretch of pristine sand beach amongst acres of lush landscaping, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa is a premier escape destination where modern luxury is accented by traditional Southern charm. The resort is home to Westin's new spa brand - 'Heavenly Spa'. The experience offers guests a modern, yet simplistic architectural elements designed to enjoy the relaxing sanctuaries and alcoves complimented by soothing sounds and water features throughout the 8,000 square-foot facility.

The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, South Carolina

October 10, 2007

Cap Estel, Côte d'Azur, France

At the end of the 19th century, a Russian prince built on this historical site between Nice and Monaco. In the 1950’s the Cap Estel was developed into a deluxe hotel, welcoming luxury travelers for all over the world. After a three year renovation program Cap Estel has again found its former splendor with state of the art technology. In the guest rooms at Cap Estel, contemporary furnishings with pure lines opt for noble materials, delicate nuances or glamorous tones. Their balconies or terraces offer unique views of the Mediterranean. Cap Estel also offers suites, each with a different design and style. In order to preserve the privacy of the site and its personalized service, the establishment proposes restaurant service at the Pool House or in the dining-room.
Cap Estel, Côte d'Azur, France

October 1, 2007

An Investment in Wellness ~ Rancho La Puerta, Mexico

“Does it hurt?” Rosario asks me. Her question lingers in the air like a rare white cloud on a beautiful clear Tecate afternoon. I’m lying on my stomach with my eyes closed, somewhere between the lands of relaxation and nirvana. Rosario is at work on my legs, her 17 years of Rancho La Puerta massage therapy experience delicately unbraiding my tender calf muscles after this morning’s three-mile hike. “No,” I say through clenched teeth. “It’s like love ... sometimes it’s supposed to hurt.”

Whereupon Rosario lets out a polite chuckle and quietly returns to my 90-minute Healing Massage treatment. A true professional, Rosario, like many other therapists on the Spa & Wellness team at Rancho La Puerto, has been at “The Ranch” longer than many other destination spas have been in business.

Over the course of 60 years, Rancho La Puerta, just south of the U.S. border in Baja California, has evolved from a rustic ranch to a sophisticated destination spa resort. It’s a palette of wellness awaiting your arrival, with creative organic cuisine, eye-opening nature at every turn, and hundreds of activities and programs to keep you busy -- or not, the choice is up to you.

In addition to set programs, the Ranch offers specialty weeks set out almost a year in advance. During my visit, Phyllis Pilgrim, the Ranch’s fitness director, and Irene Borger, a popular writing coach, held a daily class entitled Inspiration: Yoga and Writers’ Workshop. Activities carry on into the evening with movies, lectures on the changing political landscape of Mexico, and a not-to-be-missed bingo night.

The pre-breakfast morning hikes are an invigorating start to each day. Lasting 45 to 60 minutes, they offer stunning views of mystical Mount Kuchumaa and the rugged Baja California topography. Guests are free to choose from a variety of hikes led by experienced guides. Not to be missed is a hike to the Ranch’s organic farm and home to the new cooking school La Cocina Que Canta -- “The Kitchen That Sings.” La Cocina will soon be the hub of any food lover’s vacation dreams, featuring hands-on cooking classes with just-harvested organic ingredients.

With over 150 activities and classes available, guests may venture to try new activities such as Feldenkrais or Pilates or settle into old favorites. Although the majority of guests are women, more and more men are visiting, and the Ranch also offers custom programs, including circuit training, yoga and stretching classes.

One of my favorite memories is finding myself in the middle of a stretch class with a dozen other guys each bending in and out of shape. All the while, golden sunlight streams in from outside and James Taylor’s “Mexico” plays overhead as if on queue: “Oh, down in Mexico / I never really been so I don’t really know / Oh, Mexico / I guess I’ll have to go.”

(The yoga and stretch classes were so rewarding, they inspired me to continue the practice at home.) The well-appointed Men’s Fitness Center, with sauna, steam room and private outdoor Jacuzzi, was a welcome sanctuary, and conveniently located adjacent to the computer room --– for those of us who couldn’t leave home without it.

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