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Since New Zealand is really, really, really far away, one of the best ways to beat jet-lag is to head to the spa to work out your sore and fatigued muscles. Not surprisingly, this Sofitel's SoSpa has developed a massage specifically for weary travelers.
Before we get into the serenity of the treatment, we should let you know that the Sofitel's spas are re-branding to SoSpa as an extension of the luxurious and trendy brand, Sofitel So. (Coincidentally, Auckland will get its own Sofitel So hotel next year.) But in the meantime, the Sofitel Viaduct Harbour is still Auckland's first SoSpa and better yet, it still has the new-spa smell since it opened its doors just a few months back.
Tucked away in a back corner of the hotel and utilizing two floors, the spa is a the center of all things rejuvenation with cool blue colors, dark woods and Kiwi design elements. Upon check-in guests are greeted and allowed to change in separate change-rooms then treated to some fruit-infused mineral water. After a few sips, we also got to choose the scented essential oil that we would tickle our olfactory glands during the massage.
Next time you find yourself looking up at the flashing neon signs of London’s busy Piccadilly Circus, or wading your way through the shopping crowds on Regent Street, know that there is a completely different world right underneath your feet. No, we’re not talking about the equally frantic tube station down below, but the Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre at Café Royal Hotel.
Akasha is one of the last pieces of the Café Royal puzzle, which include the rooftop Dome Suite (where we had this view), the upcoming changes to the Ten Room restaurant, and the opening of the classic Domino Room. The contrast with what happens above ground couldn’t be bigger, in a vast subterranean space that aims to bring together the four basic elements of nature: earth, water, fire, and air. Read on to find out what lies beyond that staircase.
Having scoped out where both W Hotels and Mandarin Oriental will be landing in Milan, we turned down the city’s Via Montenapoleone to make our way to the Four Seasons, and check in on some of the work that has been going on to keep the hotel fresh and ready for whatever competition will show up in the next few years.
For the 15th-century former convent that houses the hotel, that means renovation of its 68 guestrooms has started, and the addition of a brand new spa. Resident Four Seasons designer Pierre-Yves Rochon has put his name on the new look of the rooms, and Patricia Urquiola is responsible for the spa. No matter what happens within the hotel's walls, one of its loveliest features is actually outside: its pretty courtyard, a space so quiet in the middle of Milan that you can reportedly sleep with the windows open, something we can easily believe based on the silence we experienced here.
We're currently in Philadelphia, getting the scoop on the city's hotel scene and checking out the new Radisson Blu near Rittenhouse Square, which we will give you a look at next week.
But in the spirit of a good old-fashioned spoiler, we learned that the Rad Blu will offer in-room massages since they don't have a spa on-site.
While we doubt many would agree that in-room massages are an equal substitute for a spa facility, we do appreciate the gesture from hotels, the extra "room service," if you will. That said, we're curious as to what travelers think of this concept that has almost become common at mid-to-luxury city hotels without spas.
If you're a die-hard Denver Broncos fan, or even if just like getting your nails did in a fun way, then pop into The Spa at The Four Seasons Denver where they are now offering a "Manning-cure".
The Bronco's signature blue and orange colors will be painted on your nails (French manicure-style) along with Manning's #18 on your disco nail (typically, your ring finger.) But if there's a Bronco you love more than Manning, his # can be painted on instead.
The Manning-cure is available for $35 but if you're rooting for the opposing team, that's gonna cost you $45. Make your reservations at the Spa by calling 303-389-3020. The next home game for the Broncos is on November 17th. Room rates at the Four Seasons that night are $465 for a Deluxe room.
[Photo: FS Denver]
There is an additional reason to make it over to the top floor of London’s The Berkeley Hotel these days. Yes, there is the rare rooftop pool (synchronized swimming anyone?) and quiet courtyard garden (for winter cinemas), but now also a brand new Bamford Haybarn Spa.
We swung by to see how the original Cotswolds health retreat translates to a central London location and liked a lot of what we saw. This isn’t a glitz-filled space with marble and gold everywhere that you may expect in many of the city’s high-end spas. Broad wooden planks painted white and grey tones line the walls, with potted lavender bringing bright pops of green and purple. Products are from the Bamford Body Collection, with skincare by British company Oskia. Options range from individual treatments (say, a 55-minute de-stress massage at £100/$160) to a full-day spa experience, including five treatments, lunch, and a gift certificate, at £570/$920 (a figure that does make us gulp a bit).
One thing we've noticed over the past few years of travel is how the hotel bathroom is becoming more and more like a mini-spa at certain locations, going beyond the white bar of soap and terse wash rags to offer plush amenities, such as spa benches in the shower and fancy designer toiletries.
And it's not just about soap and cream. Bathrobes, flowers, candles, rainshowers, jacuzzi tubs, televisons... we've seen the whole deal, and guess what? We like it! Hell, we even know that it is possible to create a steam room/shower combination, so the sky is the limit. In our mind, a "personal spa" is a great way for hotels without spas to gain some ground on those that have in-house spa facilities.
Obviously, we don't expect this type of treatment from Motel 6, but would it be wrong to suggest that most mid-range to luxury hotels should focus on making the bathroom more than just a place to brush your teeth? Even business travelers would probably appreciate it after a long day of meetings, no?
It's a very intimate procedure, getting a massage. You're naked. You're exposed. Enya's blasting in the background. Just how well do you know the person who is about to have their hands all over your body? We tracked down Marrana Davis, Spa Coordinator at the Oxford Hotel in Denver, to get some answers to our burning questions about life in a hotel spa.
HC: Marrana, you work in an urban hotel in downtown Denver. You get locals and tourists coming in for treatments. Who needs more TLC?
Marrana: Tourists. People that live and work down here tend to know us, and they’re very comfortable with our Colorado-type of place. We’re all kind of easy going, laid back for the most part. We operate in a vintage building. I think sometimes when people come in from out of town and they expect to find a spa that’s completely cut off from the outside world. We have a fitness room and a salon mixed in beside our treatment rooms. Our facility is a little more community-based.
When we used the word "intimate" to describe the spa above, we weren't just throwing around a trendy adjective. The spa is truly that, with just two treatment rooms and two private locker rooms, which are called Wet Room 1 and Wet Room 2. But don't let the small size put you off. It's actually a far more relaxing and serene experience than entering some of the super spas we see in hotels today.
When you arrive at Mr. C Spa & Beauty (just one level down from the lobby and next to the fitness center), you'll be taken to one of the Wet Rooms which feature their own shower/steam rooms, a locker complete with a robe and slippers and a vanity sink lined with Mr. C toiletries. And guess what? You're the only one in the room. No awkward exchanges with near-naked guests or long walks to find the showers.
Then once you're ready for your treatment, you can walk mere steps to the relaxation lounge, which features mosaic tile walls and a "starry ceiling" where you await your therapist.
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Sometimes, hotel spas can get carried away with their descriptions of what they offer, romanticizing the service to death and making it seem like it belongs in land far, far away. Public relations and sales marketing in general is ridiculous, beckoning us to be “whisked away” and all that good stuff.
And that’s fine, because no one really pays much attention to it anyway. While a good sales pitch can certainly draw interest to a service, what we get for our money is what ultimately matters.
But just as we’ve seen examples of this fairy-tale marketing, we’ve also come across some properties that are going with the opposite strategy, offering massages and other treatments that make your eyes widen, your brows raise and for you to suddenly shout out, "You want me to pay for what?!"Below, we've collected a few of the stranger treatments currently being offered around the globe. We wonder: Do these turn you off, or does their extreme/wacky nature only make them more appealing? Geez, between the fire cupping and the snakes, the shrimp and grits facial is sounding better and better.
If you have ever found yourself wondering what it might be like to be treated like royalty for the day, we have come across a package, that if nothing else, comes pretty darn close. At least in the spa treatment and health department. Ladies, this one is most certainly for you, as the program is exclusively for those of the female persuasion.
Wake would walk 500 miles just to earn a massage. Seriously.
Sometimes HC editors get in little tiffs. Nothing serious, we just roll our eyes at each other’s choices when it comes to hotel fun. Some of us would hole up in a hostel in a blink of an eye, where others gave up that option when we became eligible to rent a car.
That’s when we like to play a little game of “Which Would You Rather…” and we state our case hoping to prove our pick is better.
Today's Episode: Adventure Travel vs. Spa Vacations
WakeandWander, HotelChatter Contributing Editor
It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good rub down – I just feel the need to earn it. If I’m traveling to a destination, that means there’s something special about it, some reason I’m packing my bags to visit. Travel isn’t about closing yourself off with four walls. It’s about getting out in the natural setting and exploring the world around you. If I’m going to put my feet up, I need to do so knowing they have taken me to new places that day, that I’ve exercised both my mind and body in an attempt to discover what’s around me.
I know the inside of those spas can be pretty relaxing with all the latest tech-no-logic hot tubs, but I prefer the real sounds of water, you know, the ones that come from a river or ocean as opposed to a fountain. Plus, I don’t care what spa you’re in – you can’t possibly show me one that speaks louder than the natural springs found throughout the wilderness.
May I suggest stepping outside of the air conditioning and taking a dip at Conundrum Hot Springs in Colorado? It was nine miles one-way to get there, but that just made the happy-hour cocktail that much sweeter.
Call it the classic battle between traveling and vacationing. For me, the latter is indulged only after the former has been properly engaged. That way, I can have my cake and eat it, too.