The Spa Experience That Changed Our Lives!
As the publisher of ANOKHI magazine, you’d think I would get to experience all kinds of fabulous perks, but the truth of the matter is, between the demands of work (18-hour days), nurturing a teenager (my beautiful son), getting the required “me time” (eat, shower, sleep) and a bit of balancing time (meditation), there’s simply never any time left over to consider much else: it’s the reality of an A-type personality’s life. I’m not complaining but I must say that sometimes I crave the retreat from the everyday grind, you know, the away time that encourages us to replenish mind, body and soul. So, here’s what I did…
While planning this, our very first passion-themed issue, I mentioned to my Editor-In-Chief that I’d love to participate in an excursion to rejuvenate, reconnect and align my being, and perhaps write about it as a passion experience to share with our readers. She immediately suggested a spa retreat. Research came across a little known (to the South Asian community), luxury spa resort in the heart of Napa Valley, California, called The Vintage Estate. Psyched, I immediately BBM’d my long-time best friend, New York fashion designer, Alia Khan, with the idea of us sharing a best friends excursion, as I know she lives a similarly insane life and shares an active passion for mind, body, soul alignment and er…wine. We packed our bags and were off to seek out a shared adventure…
2:30 p.m.: We pulled up to the exterior of the property, stepped out of the car and took a moment to appreciate the picturesque landscape upon which the resort sits—the sprawling hillside as its backdrop and manicured street in the forefront. Taking a deep breath in and turning to one another, we uttered, at the very same time, “We’re here!” Taking in a moment of silence, we both agreed that our affirmation for this trip was going to be to:
Experience every second of our stay in the present moment so that we can maximize the here and now experience completely and positively, thus removing the clutter of the past and putting on hold our dreams of the future until our present is in check.
2:40 p.m.: Checking in at the Villagio Inn & Spa which is situated on the mass 23-acre property known as The Vintage Estate, was a treat. We were each greeted at the front desk with a warm smile and complimentary glass of champagne, amidst the aroma of incense (from the spa), dew (it was raining—a good omen) and soothing music. The main common area is open-concept in design with reception and concierge desks, bar, restaurant and an informal seating area with a piano and fireplace, looking out onto an outdoor patio restaurant and adjoining full-sized swimming pool and hot tub.
3:00 p.m.: Following check-in, the porter escorted us through the streets of the resort to our second-floor deluxe suite. While walking through the streets to the suite, we were able to get a better feel for the property’s architecture and design. It is distinctly Tuscan Mediterranean with a feeling of home away from home. The two-storey village resort has terracotta clay roofs and is manicured with strategically positioned tulip beds, interlocking blossom and palm trees and an array of water fountains throughout. Upon entry to the suite, again we were met with the meticulous attention to detail that this resort is famous for—a potpourri of floral scents, Bach playing in the background, a complimentary bottle of champagne on ice with a gourmet platter of fruit, cheese and crackers, not to mention a personalized note welcoming us to the resort. The suite itself was exquisite with its multitude of Californian-shuttered windows and high ceilings. It came fully equipped with a living room-bedroom-bathroom ensemble, containing two high-top double beds, a log-burning fireplace, flat-screen TV, wine cabinet, fridge, coffee-tea-cappuccino-maker, laptop-sized safe, two-sink vanity nook and private balcony.
4:00 to 7:00 p.m.: We decided to spend the evening exploring the resort and its surroundings (after devouring the snack platter and champagne, of course). Umbrella in tow, we ventured out into the hazy rain to discover the property.
7:00 to 9:30 p.m.: Tired after a long day, we decided to head back to our suite. We both agreed that this day was going to be the start of something extraordinary. In keeping with the mood, we sat on our respective beds facing each other cross-legged, held hands and meditated in gratitude for a day spent in positive illumination.
During breakfast, I had the opportunity to chat with the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Steve Andrews, about why people come to Yountville. “Yountville is the undisputed culinary heart of Napa Valley. Within walking distance from the hotel, you can experience some of the finest restaurants in the United States without ever having to get into your car.” And he was right. Washington Street, where the resort is situated, is home to restaurants of all shapes, palettes and budgets. Two restaurants in particular are renowned across the country. There is, French Laundry, which is the only northern Californian restaurant to win three Michelin stars two years in a row. The authentic French Parisian style cuisine has the restaurant taking reservations three months in advance. Then there is the Italian restaurant, Bottega, owned by Emmy Award-winning host Chef Chiarello, of the Food Network’s Easy Entertaining. A mental note was made to reserve our last night’s dinner at Bottega.
When asked how the experience at this particular spa differs from other spas across the country, he stated that, “Spa Villagio is a little different from the European-style spas where people are going strictly for the health benefits. We’re a bit more about healthy indulgence. Our classical Californian-style spa is different because, apart from the 16 treatments rooms, we have what we call five spa suites. It’s the only thing like it in northern California. Each of the suites feature an oversized sunken tub, a steam shower, a fireplace, a flat-screen TV and Bose surround-sound system. The idea is to have you completely relaxing for three to five hours where you can take yourself out of your pace of life.” Time to head over to the spa: We couldn’t wait!
11:00 to 12:00 p.m.: De-robed (clothes off) and re-robed (towel on), we were escorted to a private treatment room to enjoy a scrub bar experience where you get to create your own custom-blended body scrub in the Vichy room. We got to choose from French sea salts, Himalayan salts, Dead Sea salts, organic sugar, oats or ground coffee. Then we selected a moisture base of wild honey, grape seed oil or olive oil, followed by a customized scent of neroli, lavender, sandalwood, rose, lemon eucalyptus, peppermint or jasmine. Lastly, we picked an enhancement ingredient of peppermint leaf, green tea, spearmint leaf or lavender flower. Following the blending of the chosen ingredients, we enjoyed a 20-minute body scrub.
12:00 to 1:00 p.m.: Time to relax in the steam and dry saunas, during which time we felt compelled to meditate for gratitude for such an out-of-body experience. The heat just seemed to add to the meditative state, Pure heaven!
1:00 to 1:30 p.m.: Off to the showers. I must say I’ve never enjoyed a shower quite like this one (well, I have, but that’s a whole other story). The 10 heads were strategically positioned to hit all of our pressure points, and did they ever!
2:00 to 3:30 p.m.: Pampering done and out to enjoy the 70-degree sun in the patio of the adjoining eatery, Pacific Blues Café, for lunch and a bottle of Chardonnay.
4:30 to 6:30 p.m.: Bursting at the seams, we welcomed the chance to be escorted for a private tour of the property by sales manager Soo Bazzano, which ended with a courtesy lemon-drop cocktail, to end off the evening.
DAY 311:00 to 12:40 p.m.: For our second day at the spa, we were escorted on a tour of the upper private suites level, where there is a common sitting area with a fireplace and complimentary snacks and beverages, as well as an assortment of treatment suites. Alia and I were booked into the adjoining Loft and Maya suites to commence our respective 100-Minute Treatments. The space comes complete with two treatment beds, two shower areas (with 10 showerheads – yes THAT again), an indoor sunken tub, a two-way fireplace and two outdoor balconies, one fitted with two sunken hot tubs and a centrally located fireplace.
Alia enjoyed the Tranquility Ritual—an aromatic, deep-hydrating, anti-stress treatment, performed in combination with a full-body massage designed to relieve tension and stress as well as smooth and tone the skin for an intense sense of overall well-being and comfort in an atmosphere infused with aromatic extracts and essential oil blends such as rose, vanilla, rosewood, cedar, orange, palmarosa, amaranth oil and grape oil. At the end of the treatment, just one look at each other’s face, there was no need for words; mind, body, soul nirvana had been reached. For those of you who are body-exposure shy and have not ventured for such treatments, fear not; these treatment specialists are incredibly professional and discreet in the way they handle you, and the towel NEVER comes off those parts.
1:00 to 4:00 p.m.: We put on our swimwear before we were escorted to the outdoor patio, where our hot tubs were being prepared with salts and suds, and we were greeted by a complimentary bottle of Chardonnay, Mediterranean salad and tropical fruit. By the way, although this is a trip I took with my best friend, it’s definitely one we both agreed MUST be taken with your significant other. The environment screams romance, although it’s a great friends getaway too. After lunch we decided to spend the better part of the next two hours in the hot tub soaking in the rays of the 80-degree sun. Fully tanned, we ended off the experience by sitting on the patio chaise, meditating (I told you this trip was all about the alignment of the senses, and meditation is an integral part of that).
4:00 to 6:00 p.m.: Steam and dry sauna, shower and into our summer dresses. We drove up the Silverado Trail, which is famous for its conveyor belt of vineyards, hillsides and windy trails.
6:15 to 7:45 p.m.: Back at the suite to get ready for our one and only dinner night out. Buddha Bar played in the background while we donned our make-up, evening dresses and high heels for the first time since our arrival three days before.
8:00 p.m.: Dinner at Bottega. For those of you who love Italian and think you’ve had the best, think again. Bets on you’ll agree with me that this IS Italian at its very best, when you take a trip to The Vintage Estate (which, after reading this, you’d be crazy not to). I have to share something with you that I’ve never experienced before at a restaurant (yet another first on this trip). Alia and I always share our dishes so that we can maximize on the amount of courses we can try, being the foodies that we are, but not having the appetite to go along with it (although you’d never guess from all the eating we did on this trip). What we loved about this place was that instead of bringing out the chosen dish and placing it in the middle of us both, with two separate empty plates for us to place our portions into to eat from, the staff took the extra step of splitting the dish into two separate portions in the kitchen, placing them on two separate plates, and serving us each our own separate portions. It’s attention to detail like this that really stands out at this resort (the Bottega is on its premises). Three courses later and a lemon- drop cocktail each, we decided to revisit the affirmation we made upon arrival: Experience every second of our stay in the present moment so that we can maximize the here and now experience completely and positively, thus removing the clutter of the past and putting on hold, our dreams of the future until our present is in check.
10:30 p.m.: Walk back to our suite, shower, pack. There was no verbal communication between us during this time. There was no need. It had all been said, shared, understood and acknowledged. We both absorbed the silence between us knowing that the next chapter, which begun at The Vintage Estate, will continue for years to come as we continue to actively participate in our lives towards our respective calling—the positive actualization of our destinies, eyes wide open!
BY RAJ GIRN / PUBLISHED: MAY ISSUE 2011
PHOTOS COURTESY OF VILLAGIO INN & SPA