I’ve never been a fan of couple’s massage. The side-by-side treatment often touted as a blissfully romantic spa escape always left me feeling a bit meh.
I trace my indifference to the first time my husband and I indulged in the spa equivalent of a table for two. We were staying at a lovely hotel on the west coast of Florida. The weather was beautiful as we strolled a bougainvillea-lined path to the spa.
We had great expectations but were quickly disappointed when we realized our individual therapists were synchronizing their movements. Rather than focusing on our unique stress points and tight muscles, the two moved in time to some silent rhythm only they could hear. Sweeping strokes and billowing sheets took precedence over therapeutic healing. A couple’s massage at The Spa at El Encanto changed my mind about massage à deux.
The difference between our experience at the sprawling resort in Santa Barbara, Calif., and previous ventures into the realm of treatments for two began the moment we entered the spa.
Attendants greeted us warmly and escorted us to the separate men’s and women’s locker rooms, where we changed from our street clothes into comfy robes and slippers before reconvening in the bright and airy lounge, done in soothing tones of light blue and cream. We were already feeling relaxed when our therapists, Yumi and Celeste, arrived to escort us to a treatment room set with side-by-side massage tables.
Yumi drew me to one side of the room while Celeste took Kevin aside to talk quietly in the opposite corner. Yumi explained that, in a departure from my experience with “signature” treatments at other spas, El Encanto’s signature massage (and its couple’s equivalent) employs a variety of techniques tailored to meet each individual’s needs.
The “secret ingredient” is the incorporation of plant-based oils by Lotus Wei.
Founded in 2000 by Katie Hess, a self-described flower alchemist and spiritual seeker, Lotus Wei crafts and distributes an extensive line of plant-based potions.
According to Lotus Wei: Flower alchemy is based on the premise that our bodies operate like finely tuned instruments. Sometimes our bodies vibrate at perfect pitch, but occasionally we need a bit of fine-tuning. Flower essences act as a natural tuning fork, easing our bodies into balance — and our bodies will intuitively direct us to the essence we need to find that balance.
Yumi showed me a chart of flowers and asked me to identify the one that appealed to me most in that moment. Most of the blossoms were beautiful and graceful. My brain wanted to choose a delicate iris, but I resolved to embrace the Lotus Wei philosophy as I pointed to a big, bright yellow, buttonlike flower — the image kept drawing my attention even though I didn’t particularly like it.
“Joy,” Yumi said. The flower I picked out of the line-up was an indication that I needed more joy in my life. Aha. I couldn’t argue the point. I was in a gorgeous place, having a fabulous time, but I was also a bit on edge about upcoming business; that incipient stress was preventing me from embracing the moment.
As my husband and I reclined on the side-by-side massage tables, Yumi and Celeste blended the essence of the flowers we had each selected into the oil they would employ during our massages. We drifted slowly into relaxation during our separate-but-adjacent treatments and emerged an hour later feeling rested, relaxed … and connected; the perfect state for being able to enjoy our beautiful surroundings.
El Encanto reopened in March 2013 following an extensive seven-year renovation. The property’s infrastructure dates to 1913, when local landowner James Warren built a cottage community to house students attending Santa Barbara State College, the forebear to today’s U.C. Santa Barbara. When Warren’s rental cottage idea didn’t take root, he shifted gears, adding a main building and reopening as a hotel.
The seven-acre property passed through several owners before Eric Friden, an accomplished businessman, purchased it in 1977. Friden died in a polo accident at the age of 61 in 2003. He and his wife, Kerin, had been planning an extensive renovation at the time of his death.
Orient-Express picked up the project in 2004, purchasing the idyllic property for $26 million. The hotel closed in 2006 in anticipation of a major overhaul. Seven years and $134 million later, El Encanto reopened to rave reviews.
Extreme measures were taken to ensure the iconic lily pond and expansive gardens remain a focal point. Contractors disassembled the brick columns supporting the trellis over the lily pond brick by brick, labeling and cataloging each so it could be rebuilt exactly over the pond. Mature trees and flowering shrubs were excavated and moved to greenhouses before being returned to the landscape. Guest bungalows were stripped and refurbished to maintain architectural integrity while offering all the 21st-century amenities associated with 5-star hotels. While initial plans called for renovating the main building, structural concerns made it necessary to raze the building. It was recreated on its original footprint.
El Encanto means “The Enchanted.” Indeed it is.
The Spa at El Encanto
800 Alvarado Place
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
tel 805 845 5800
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.
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.
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.
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.
Qantas will start using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its Sydney–Santiago route starting in late June 2020.