FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Santa Barbara, Calif., The Spa At El Encanto

Jan 28, 2014
2014 / February 2014

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.

Gardens at El Encanto © El Encanto

Gardens at El Encanto © El Encanto

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

El Encanto
800 Alvarado Place
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
tel 805 845 5800
elencanto.com

Lotus Wei
lotuswei.com

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
Mar 5, 2021

3 Recipes for Lent from New Orleans’ Top Chefs

The Lenten season continues through April 3. This year, New Orleans’ top chefs share some Lent-friendly recipes for at-home dining.

Adventure Redefined: Volvo Overseas Delivery

Custom order your Volvo through the Overseas Delivery Program and receive round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, and a personalized delivery at the Volvo Factory Delivery Experience in Gothenburg, Sweden. Your experience begins in Sweden with insurance and registration included, enabling you to drive your new Volvo throughout Scandinavia and Europe. Create the adventure of a lifetime with the program named Best Overseas Delivery four years running, and return home with the ultimate souvenir.

January/February 2021
Mar 5, 2021

Indulge in the Seductive Splendor Bora Bora

I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.

January/February 2021
Mar 4, 2021

Set Your Sights on San Antonio’s Art, Culture and Green Spaces

San Antonio celebrated 300 years of progress in May 2018. With a clear vision following that anniversary year, the Texan city set its sights firmly on 300 more. While commemorating this milestone, the city underwent a major overhaul to prepare for the next phase in its history.

Daily
Mar 4, 2021

SoJo Spa Club: Tranquility with an Urban View

When you think of a relaxing spa day, mountains, rivers and view of gorgeous landscapes pop in your head; a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of any city’s booming music and honking taxis. SoJo Spa Club and Hotel gives you the relaxing feeling of being away while still staying close to the busy center of Manhattan.

eFlyer Deals
Mar 3, 2021

Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel’s Reopening Offers

Dance the night away with Grand Hotel’s Ballroom Dance offer, available May 16–18. Dancers of all skill levels will experience a diverse range of ballroom dance styles, alongside daily breakfast and dinner, a welcome reception and complimentary golf green fees.

Adventure Redefined: Volvo Overseas Delivery Program

Are you looking for a truly unique travel experience and considering a new vehicle? The Volvo Overseas Delivery Program is the perfect solution to create your own refined adventure of a lifetime. You can custom order your new Volvo, tailored to fit your needs and desires. They will fly you to Sweden to pick up your Volvo so you can drive and explore Scandinavia and Europe on your terms for up to two weeks.

eFlyer Lead
Mar 3, 2021

4 Travel Experiences for Women’s History Month

March marks Women’s History Month, and there are a number of ways to celebrate through travel. Here are just a few ideas to honor women in history.