How much more “Southern California” can you get than a relaxed, elegant spa fronted by a king-size pool filled with sparkling turquoise water rimmed by swaying palm trees, the Pacific Ocean just feet away? The weather was perfect, sunny with balmy breezes, and I was off for an indulgent morning.
The Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey is a glitzy Southern California waterfront property with a harbor view. Luxury sailboats and yachts bob in the breeze outside the lobby doors, and the renowned beach towns of Venice and Santa Monica are just minutes away. The $4 million spa opened in September 2007 and is the latest addition to the hotel’s 6,960 square feet of space dedicated to the physical well-being of its guests, which also includes a cardio/weight fitness center that opens out onto the pool area. The 3,200-square-foot heated outdoor waterfront pool is not only beautiful and big, but also environmentally friendly, with a saline purification system using only pure, natural salt from the ocean.
The spa offers a wide range of massage treatments from the traditional to the esoteric. If you’re not too ticklish, the reflexology massage amounts to having pressure applied to parts of the foot that correspond to specific regions, glands and organs of the body. Interesting herbs and spices are used in some of the treatments, such as Get the Skinny, which claims to reduce cellulite and stretch marks through sugar exfoliation, pure Vitamin C massage to hips and thighs, and a mixture of cayenne pepper and horse chestnut rubbed into the skin to minimize imperfections. Sounding like a specialty hot drink from a designer coffee emporium, the Chai Soy Mud Wrap includes a ground ginger scrub.
Mama Mio treatments are specially designed for the mother-to-be, and include The Yummy Tummy, 4th Trimester Healing Hour and Mellow Mama. And, of course, you can get a manicure, pedicure or bikini wax.
The spa is open to anyone, not just hotel guests, and, if you have the time, you can make a day out of a visit here. Work out on the equipment in the fitness center, indulge in a spa treatment or two, and then top off the day by chilling out on a padded teak lounge by the pool and ordering a light lunch off the spa menu, which will be served to you poolside.
Frankly I was never much for massages, but facials, now that’s another story. So, for my first visit to the Ritz-Carlton’s new spa, I signed up for something called Urban Rejuvenation, a 60-minute treatment that promised to “restore clarity, elasticity and firmness, creating a clear, brighter look.”
Sounded good to me.
I arrived at the spa’s front desk, as instructed, 30 minutes prior to my appointment. After a quick tour of the facility, I was led to the women’s changing room where I was assigned a locker and given a lavish white terry bathrobe, a fluffy towel and a pair of plastic slippers. The attendant told me to change at my leisure, then head to the comfortable lounge where I could relax until my therapist came to collect me.
Plopped on a couch in the lounge, I was lulled into serenity by soothing music as I watched ocean images displayed on the flat-screen TV. I was feeling pretty tranquil by the time a tiny woman with black hair, enviable eyelashes and porcelain skin arrived, introduced herself as Vanessa, and announced that she would be giving me my facial.
In the dimly lit treatment room I lay under a cool sheet and waited for Vanessa to work her magic while a humidifier surrounded me in moisturizing steam — I could almost feel my skin drinking it in.
Vanessa quickly analyzed my skin — dry and sun-damaged from way too many hours on Southern California tennis courts sans sunscreen — and proclaimed the Urban Rejuvenation treatment to be just the thing to make my skin glow.
For the next half-hour or so I relaxed while Vanessa slathered my face in creams and oils, wrapped it in hot towels, covered my eyes with soothing moist pads, and massaged my shoulders and face. She e ven massaged and moisturized my hands before encasing them in terrycloth gloves.
Luscious as all this was, I’ve had enough facials to know a pore cleansing was on the horizon. I winced through the squeezes and pinches, knowing the discomfort would pay off in the long run. Needless to say, I was pleased when Vanessa finished cleaning my pores and returned to massaging my face. Subtle aromas wafted from the lotions, including one that had me yearning for spice cookies or gingersnaps.
By the time the treatment ended, my skin tingled and felt moisturized and supple. Though I knew I hadn’t reclaimed the complexion I had at age 30, I was sure Vanessa’s magic had erased at least a couple of years. As I eased myself back into the real world, I tried to figure out how I could manage one of these indulgent treatments on a weekly basis.
Would that I had had time to luxuriate around the pool for an hour or so, indulge in a petite lobster club off the spa menu, spend a while in the sauna and finish the visit off with a pedicure. Maybe next time.
West Palm Beach, Florida, recently welcomed AKA West Palm, a hotel residence offering long-stay accommodations. As AKA’s second South Florida property, AKA West Palm features 215 hotel residences comprised of studios, one- and two-bedroom spaces, and Penthouse suites. The five-story hotel blends modern luxuries with comfort and simplicity, with sleek kitchens, washers and dryers, and private terraces. Room furnishings contrast with a backdrop of stone, metal and wood to create simple, clean lines with minimal contrast.
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Birmingham, Alabama, was named for the city in the English Midlands that kept the fires burning, warmed the homes and made much of the steel for the United Kingdom’s industrial revolution. Decades later, the American city also made steel, so much of it, in fact, it became known as the “Magic City” for steel production, and the moniker stuck. But today’s Magic City makes more than steel, taking the raw product a few more steps to become a major center for automobile parts manufacturing and more, including Honda, Mercedes-Benz and U.S. Steel. Thanks to local leadership and long-term planning, the magic still works for Birmingham, as evidenced by its role hosting The World Games 2022 last summer.
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Considering an autumnal adventure or Thanksgiving trip this year? Well, with walkable cities, cozy pubs and lots of seasonal festivals, the island of Ireland is calling. And if you need more reasons to Press the Green Button and go, take a look and see what awaits you on the Emerald Isle …
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Originally a thriving Colonial seaport, Newport became the summer playground for the Gilded Age’s elite in the late 1880s. Today their mansions dot the coast of Aquidneck Island, and their favorite pastimes — sailing and tennis — still dominate the city’s recreational offerings. In fact, Newport hosted the first U.S. Open tennis championship in 1881 and golf tourna- ment in 1895 and hosted the America’s Cup from 1930 to 1983. You can experience most of Newport on your own, including the mansions, but don’t rule out a guided tour or two when you visit.