Lying face down on a comfy massage bed, eyes closed, zoning out to a New Age tape mix as the therapist expertly worked a knot in my upper back — no doubt caused from hours at my laptop — I suddenly thought, “Why here?”
This was one of the best massages I had ever had. Yet I was not in California or Arizona or another hotspot where I’d expect to find a world-class spa.
To make sense of the situation, I needed only to look out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the view, which happened to be the Potomac River. I was in Washington, D.C., as in the capital — of stress.
Yes, the world-class Relâche Spa at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center, located on the Maryland banks of the Potomac, is only minutes away from the Washington scene. And in creating its top-flight convention destination — 2,000 hotel rooms and 470,000 square feet of convention space on 41 acres, anchoring the new, 300-acre mini-city known as National Harbor — Gaylord, which also operates convention properties in Nashville, Dallas and Orlando, saw the need for relaxation in D.C. The result? One of the largest spas the Capital Region has to offer.
In French, relâche means relax or respite. And at Relâche, hotshot pols and meeting attendees (not to mention general resort-goers) carry on a grand tradition. Not unaware of this, the Gaylord National brochure reminds us the very word “spa” comes from a small village in Belgium where, in ancient times, Roman soldiers would treat, in hot springs, their aching muscles and wounds from battle. Is that not fitting for Washington?
My 24-year-old daughter and I came to the Gaylord National with downtime in mind, I in the throes of a book project, she in her second year of a Ph.D. program. We were ready to de-stress.
In what is a bustling convention property, from its massive, ocean liner-inspired formal lobby and its 18-story, barrel-vaulted atrium to its ballrooms and convention center, the Relâche Spa offers a quiet retreat.
Located in a solitary corner on the lobby level, the reception area, like the rest of the spa, is all urban chic, even a little sassy, with its black-and-white color scheme, including a stunning zebra-striped marble floor.
The spa’s staff was lovely from the moment we arrived; there was no question we were entering an oasis of calm. They efficiently checked us in and gave us a tour of the women’s changing rooms and shower area (both well equipped with a variety of complimentary products for hair and skin and more). There are separate facilities for men.
In our sleek white lockers we found soft terry robes and slippers, which we wore into the very cool, water-view waiting area — again black and white from the floor to the comfy modern lounge chairs and hip, button-decorated pillows to the ceiling — where we sipped lemon-infused water (white tea was another option) and got into the mood for de-stressing.
We had booked what the spa calls the “A Moment Together” massage, available for duos, be they couples or girlfriends, mothers and daughters or other combos. Our two therapists led us into the spa’s Couples Suite where side-by-side massage beds were waiting.
The room, with its views of greenery, the river and boats in a marina (and from one window the Washington Monument), is in itself enough to inspire relaxation. But removing our robes and lying naked under the soft covers of the fluffy massage beds was what really caused our breathing to begin slowing.
If there is one way to describe our two well-trained, young therapists it is “quiet.” They talked to us, when necessary, in whispers, and if they talked to each other at all it was with even quieter whispers or silent hand and eye movements — we couldn’t hear a peep. The room was perfectly lit, not dark but not light either. The music was at the perfect level to be in the background. It took my daughter and me no time at all to transport ourselves to a different world, a mindless world, that surely felt good.
With the “A Moment Together” massage you can specify Swedish, aromatherapy or sports massage. But we simply let the massage therapists do their thing. In addition to the intense muscle work I requested, there were hot towels on our backs and warmed, husk-filled pillows on our necks and some pulling and stretching of the Thai massage variety. It all felt wonderful. With a good massage you enjoy every minute. This was so good, my brain seriously emptied, my inner voice speaking gibberish. The 50 minutes went all too fast, yet I felt totally renewed.
In the river-view relaxation room — with the same décor as the waiting room and again with lemon water and white tea available, along with fruit and cookies — my daughter and I smiled at each other lazily.
Not wanting the great feeling to end, we took the staff up on their offer of terry covers (we had forgotten our swimsuits) to use in the spa’s thermal suite — women only, as there’s a separate spa area for men. The super-hot Jacuzzi was too much for my daughter, who preferred the steam room (there’s also a sauna), but I enjoyed the water’s effect of turning me even more to mush.
In addition to 50- and 80-minute massages, the Relâche Spa menu includes a variety of scrubs and wraps as well as hydrotherapy. There are facials and other skin services too, with some specifically for men, and beauty services for everyone, including manicures and pedicures. Spa packages combine treatments — one called “The Ensemble” offers a Petite Facial, manicure and Relâche Signature Massage, all in 120 minutes, making it perfect for, say, a senator with a vote pending.
You can head down a floor for a workout in the property’s impressively large 24-hour fitness center, equipped with the latest and greatest in exercise equipment, or to lounge at the beautiful indoor junior Olympic-sized pool — in warmer months the pool becomes open-air, with the entire front glass wall opened.
But before you leave the spa, look across the Potomac. “The District,” from this view, looks awfully serene.
Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center
201 Waterfront St.
National Harbor, MD 20745
tel 301 965 4400
United Airlines announces a number of new routes.
Southwest Airlines is adding new flights to, from and within Hawai’i, beginning mid-January 2020. The airline will add a new daily service between Sacramento International Airport and Honolulu (HON), plus new non-stop flights between Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC) and both Kauai (LIH) and the Island of Hawai’i (KOA).
The Luxury Collection welcomes its eighth property in China with the opening of Na Lotus Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nanning. The property is situated in the capital of the Guangxi Province, in a high-rise landmark building in the business district.
TAP Air Portugal is adding 15 new weekly flights from the United States and Canada by summer 2020, a new record for the carrier of 71 weekly flights between North America and Portugal.
WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 24 key metrics to determine the best destinations for an upcoming Oktoberfest celebration. The brand’s study found the estimated cost for an American to attend Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, is $5,000. Munich boasts a $1.43 billion annual economic impact on Munich. During Oktoberfest, nearly 2 million gallons of beer are consumed and more than 510,000 whole roast chickens eaten.
Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.
Qantas will start using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its Sydney–Santiago route starting in late June 2020.