Canyon Ranch Expands: Mid-Atlantic Region & Family Services

Canyon Ranch, the famous destination spa of Tucson, Arizona, will soon add the Mid-Atlantic region to their growing list of SpaClub destinations. In Spring 2013, the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® at The Homestead debuts at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia.

Embodying the philosophy of the world’s premier health vacation resort, Canyon Ranch SpaClub® is an extension of their destination spa locations in Arizona and Lenox, Massachusetts. The SpaClub goes beyond traditional spa services to inject a daily dose of health and joy into your life. You can currently enjoy them at The Venetian® and The Palazzo® in Las Vegas, and on select luxury ships, including Cunard’s Queen Mary 2® and the ships of Oceania Cruises® and Regent Seven Seas Cruises®.

The Homestead, already a family destination in the Mid-Atlantic region and spa destination dating back to Thomas Jefferson’s visit, will not only get a new spa and fitness experience from one of the world’s top destination spas, but will add spa services for the whole family to their list of activities, such as a Stars Facial and Pink Bubbles Pedicure geared for guests aged four and older.

A signature feature of the new spa will be Aquavana®, an exclusive European-inspired aquathermal oasis with experiential rains, herbal laconium, a chill room and crystal steam room focused on the ancient concept of “healing by water” as practiced for centuries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. There will also be heated loungers on the men’s and women’s side.  Fed by mineral spring waters drawn from the surrounding mountains, the Aquavana experience aligns harmoniously with The Homestead’s historic healing tradition of “taking the waters” which has drawn travelers since the mid 1700s, including Thomas Jefferson.

That same harmony can be experienced at the Jefferson Springs spa garden at The Homestead, opening this fall as the first feature of the new Canyon Ranch SpaClub. A year-round sanctuary for adults only, Jefferson Springs features indigenous hot springs, therapeutic geothermal mineral bath, river reflexology bed, co-ed Finnish sauna, spring-fed whirlpool, and private poolside cabanas. The refuge is accessed via walking paths warmed with radiant heat.

I’m looking forward to finally experiencing Canyon Ranch, and in my home state of Virginia.

‘Heaven, Purgatory & Hell’ at an Italian Spa

That enticement drew me to Grotta Giusti Natural Spa Resort…to be found in their 160-year old ancient cave.

For my Mom’s 60th birthday, we ventured from Amsterdam to Paris, Florence and a few relaxing days at the Tuscany spa. Grotta Giusti is a 19th century villa that belonged to the family of poet Giuseppe Giusti. The lush location in Monsummano Terme, about 40 minutes west of Florence, is also a 58-room Small Luxury Hotel of the World.

Since seeing pictures of the grotta, I was interested in visiting. In 1849, miners discovered hot steam coming from the ground on the property. Upon digging a hole, they discovered this incredible cave. Italian composer Giuseppe Verde, a frequent visitor to the spa, called the grotta the ‘eighth wonder of the world.’

Full of stalactites and stalagmites, the lake, Lago, inside provides 100% humidity. As you enter, steam surrounds you and you move through the cave’s ‘Heaven, Purgatory and Hell’ zones to the maximum 34ºC/93ºF. Once in ‘Hell,’ recline in one of the nice wooden chairs and detox. The only sound is falling water droplets. It’s a wonderful relaxation and a 50-minute treatment is said to eliminate toxins and stress. I felt great after two daily sessions.

There is much more to enjoy as you roam the villa and spa in your robe (one of my favorite parts). Upon arrival, you can meet with a doctor who prescribes treatments. In addition to my swedish and anti-stress massages and facial, I was prescribed ‘nasal aerosol and douching.’ After one treatment, I declared myself fine. That was my ‘hell.’ 😉

There are also 750-square-meters of open air thermal pools to soak in…a large, several mini and a waterfall…permanently fed by spa water at 35°C containing bicarbonate, sulphur, calcium and magnesium, all said to help musculoskeletal system, respiratory system and skin conditions.

The old world Tuscan villa decor makes you feel like a Medici. The wellness centre is a bit more clinical and medicinal, but their focus is on longevity.

Bioaquam Café has great salads water-side for lunch. The Bar is perfect for pre-dinner cocktails with their signature Pink Cinnamon. La Veranda has a nice selection for dinner, again with the feel of dining in a Tuscan villa. And after, piano music back at The Bar with a Lemoncello is a must.

Part of the Fonteverde Collection, last year Grotta Giusti unveiled some upgrades to the property which I haven’t yet seen. Here’s a great photo tour of the property.

When in Florence, Pisa or Lucca and looking for a spa stop, definitely plan a visit for what I’d qualify as heaven.

Rancho La Puerta: That’s a Wrap

I set out to share immerse you in what is the Rancho La Puerta Experience…the History, the Setting, the Activities, the Spa, the Cuisine, the Local Wine. The six article series was also a great way to relive the week post-trip. In each article I share my favorites.

My goals and intentions for the week at the Ranch. While I didn’t hit them all, I left the Ranch truly feeling again. I opened myself up. I found inspiration. I lost weight. I tried new things. I met incredible people. I was healthy. I left feeling like I just spent a week at Nature Camp, my favorite two-week camp as a child.

To support your lifestyle changes post-Ranch, they have created the Ranch Circle to capture your goals and progress. As well as allow you to share with others and stay in touch with those you met.

Here’s the full gallery of photos from my trip.

I look forward to my next visit. I would recommend everyone put this on their bucket list…young or older, woman or man, fit or unhealthy. I promise you that in some way a week at the Ranch will change your life. It may not be what you had planned but you, your body and your mind will be all the better for the investment you make in YOU!

Rancho La Puerta: Local Wine

The Ranch believes “wine is an ancient, nutritious, and healthful (in moderation) food that has its place at the table and in life’s celebrations.” There are grape vines growing on the property that were here when the Ranch was founded, and in the early days, the grapes were used in treatments.

Wine is only served at the Ranch during Friday night’s celebration (you can bring alcohol to consume in your room), and it’s a great chance to try the local wine region, Baja California Wine Country.

In the northern part of Baja California, Mexico, where the Ranch is located, sits this wine region with 38 wineries and vineyards. The Mediterranean climate is ideal for grape growing combined with the soil and elevation. The valleys of Calafia, Guadalupe and San Antonio de las Minas make the heart of the wine route. White wines from the region are made with Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. Red wines are made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Carignan, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Zinfandel.

The two wineries served at dinner are located about 43 miles south of the Ranch.

L.A. Cetto Blanc de Blancs

Cetto Wines dates back to grapes planted in the Valle de Guadalupe in 1928. The winery officially started in 1975.

  • Varietal: 50% Colombard, 50% Chenin Blanc
  • Aroma: Bright citrus and melon
  • Taste: Guava, papaya, melon with a hint of lime and slight sweetness
  • My thoughts: Nice! I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and the interesting flavors reminescent of the local fruits. Gabby, our fabulous La Cocina Que Qanta Cooking Class advisor, said the local wines have been developing and improving substantially over the last few years. This was a great example!

Barón Balché Mezcla de Tintos 2009

Barón Balché is also in the Valle de Guadalupe.

  • Varietal: Malbec, Carignan, Grenache, Cabernet Franc
  • Aroma: Red fruit, tobacco
  • Taste: Primarily leather taste
  • My thoughts: This one needs some work. I wasn’t a fan nor were those at my table. Had a tire aftertaste.

So I guess I did have one craving by the end of the week…wine. 😉 It was great to be able to try some from the local region.

Salud to Rancho La Puerta and Baja’s Wine Country!

Rancho La Puerta: The Cuisine

Healthy yum!! That’s the best way to sum up food at the Ranch. This is where ‘spa cuisine’ began.

In my first article on the Ranch, I talked about founder Edmond Szekely’s philosophies being based on the Essenes, the world’s first great agriculturalists and natural healers. Edmund said human health begins with healthy soil (no fertilizers or pesticides) and good food. The Ranch has served spa cuisine since it’s start in 1940.

The cuisine mantra is low-fat, high flavor with a Mexican-Mediterranean approach. A modified vegetarian menu with fish, dairy and eggs is served for the three-meals-a-day plus two snacks. Depending on your breakfast consumption you’re only eating 1,200 – 1,600 calories per day. Sounds low but I was full after every meal! The fabulous cooking team can support any dietary needs. Even with all the activity, I never felt hungry or had any cravings.

All meals are served in the Spanish-Colonial designed Dining Hall. Come any time during the 90-minute meal window. At breakfast and lunch, find your own seat. At dinner, you’re seated at group tables.

  • Breakfast: While I loved the fresh fruit and bircher muesli at breakfast each day with my hard boiled egg white and salsa, this was the least creative meal of the day. Each morning there was one varietal item. My favorite was the egg and tortilla combination. I really enjoyed the ‘stronger’ coffee.
  • Lunch: Lunches were perfect. Always a soup, salad and side, like frittata, veggie burger, stuffed pita, etc… The soups and salads were delicious! The very last lunch we even had dessert (the Ranch was abuzz ;)), their chocolate-chip cranberry cookie. Recipe is in their cookbook I bought.
  • Dinner: My favorite meal, each four courses of deliciousness… soup, salad, main (fish option and vegetarian option) and dessert. You can also ask for mixed entree so you get a side of the vegetarian option. Another tip the maitre’d gave our table the first night was ordering a big serving of stir-fried veggies for the table. One night I did the Silent Dinner. There were eight of us around the table basically eating in meditation. No talking. Just savoring each bite of food. It was really cool and makes you truly enjoy every morsel!

The Ranch has a fabulous cooking school and culinary center, La Cocina Que Canta, “The Kitchen that Sings,” that must be a part of your Ranch experience! It sits among their six-acre organic farm where most of the fruits and vegetables for your meals come from. They offer cooking classes AND a breakfast hike to the farm. Both are worth it.

  • Organic Breakfast Hike: You set off in the dark at 6:15am for the 45-minute hike (it’s an easy hike, mostly flat). Chef Denise and her team greeted us with what was my favorite breakfast of the trip…mouthwatering spread of fresh fruits, scrambled eggs with spinach, tortillas and salsa, crispy kale, muffins, oatmeal and their amazing granola with yogurt.
    After breakfast, Salvador, their gardener since opening the gardens in 1986, gave us a tour. His enthusiasm and love of his job is infectious! He even took us into the root cellar to see last year’s overflow of garlic crop…they got 17,000 from their nine varieties. We walked back to the Ranch in the sunshine with our 10,000 steps complete by 9am!
  • Cooking Class: Our week had a visiting chef, Christopher Prosperi, from Metro Bis in Hartford, Connecticut. He lead our nice intimate class of six to prepare Thursday evening’s seven item dinner. Salvador again walked us through the garden for a tour AND we pick stuff out of the ground for our dinner and to snack on as we walked!
    They have twenty different varieties of tomatoes. We picked Tender Green (better for you than spinach) and Savannah Green (tastes like mustard) for our salad. We enjoyed fresh fennel as we walked. Saw asparagus growing…literally grows standing up right out of the ground…and they’ll get 800 pounds of it per week from their beds April – June! Last stop was picking gorgeous mushrooms that sprouted and grew in the four days prior because of the few days of rain.
    Then we cooked a delicious meal…I was on point for dessert, a lovely mixed local fresh fruit salad marinated in agave and lemon juice topped with a poppy seed yogurt. New addition for that night as we were off the Ranch… a local wine. More on that in tomorrow’s post.

The great thing about the food here is it’s fresh and not too complicated…you CAN do this at home! I’m incorporating many of the principles…lots of vegetables, grains, beans, fish; Mexican spice and influence; small afternoon smoothie snack made with coconut milk and frozen bananas!

Next…a little on the local wine.