An overnight visit to Fontainebleau, near Paris

An overnight visit to Fontainebleau, near Paris

By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox

 

 

The Gare de Lyon train station in Paris

During a spring visit to Paris, France we went on an overnight side trip to the Seine-et-Marne Department (www.turisme77.co.uk and www.paris-whatelse.com) for the first time. To get there we took a train from the Gare de Lyon in the twelfth arrondissement of Paris to Melun, a city in the Seine-et-Marne. From there we made our way around by car from the train station to the area villages where, despite cold and rainy weather, we explored museums, chateaux, an artist village, a spa, and a pastry shop, spending the night at the La Demeure du Parc, a four-star boutique hotel within walking distance from the Château de Fontainebleau (Fontainebleau Castle), a museum and former royal residence.

The Chateau Sur Marnes featured a rotunda looking out on the gardens

The rotunda inside the Château de Champs-sur-Marne looking out on the gardens

Our first stop was the Château de Champs-sur-Marne (see Eighteenth century home museum near Paris worth visit when in Seine-et-Marne area), a 16 room two story structure completed in 1708. Known for its rococo style and its Notable Gardens the former family home had been converted into a museum managed by the French government. After a guided tour in English of the Château de Champs-sur-Marne, we had lunch and a short guided tour in English of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, a private estate open to visitors and my favorite attraction overall. Even when compared with grand former royal residences the property's historic character, artistic harmony and beauty stood out. Before leaving and despite the ugly weather we made our way around the beautiful gardens in an abbreviated self-guided exploration.

Les Bains de Marrakesh

Les Bains de Marrakesh in Fontainebleau

The shop at Les Bains de Marrakesh

Before checking into our hotel we had a massage at Les Bains de Marrakech (186 rue Grande, 77300 Fontainebleau, +33 09 81 13 17 21, lesbainsdemarrakech.com, fontainebleau@lesbainsdemarrakech.com). Because we arrived late our massages were cut short. Despite that the staff members were friendly and welcoming. The small facility was spotless and quiet.

The war memorial in Barbizon

The war memorial in Barbizon

The house of Robert Louis Stevenson

The house of Robert Louis Stevenson

Dinner (and breakfast the following morning) at our hotel was excellent. In the morning, we met Véronique Villalba, our English speaking guide in front of the Fontainebleau Castle, a former residence of the French monarchy, for an excellent tour. Following lunch, we headed to the charming artist Village of Barbizon, about seven miles northwest from Fontainebleau. We walked around with umbrellas in hand, exploring the touristy main street and admiring the pretty facades. We popped into Le Musee des Peintres de Barbizon (the Museum of Painters of Barbizon). Although it was crowded at times we enjoyed our visit thanks to our guide's insights and engaging discussion.

Tasty treats at Frédéric Cassel, Fontainbeau

Tasty treats at Frédéric Cassel, Fontainebleau

On our way back to our hotel we stopped at Frédéric Cassel Fontainebleau (71-73, rue des Sablons, 77300 Fontainebleau, +33 01 60 71 00 64, www.fredericcassel.com), a shop in the town's popular pedestrian shopping street for espresso, tea, chocolates, and pastries. We had a Vanilla Millefeuille and an Ilanka pastry, a worthwhile sweet ending to our pleasant visit, before our taxi drove us back to the small train station, where we boarded the crowded train back to Paris.

Spa indulgence in Nevis

Article and photos by Elena del Valle

One of several outdoor areas at the Four Seasons Spa

One of several outdoor areas at the Four Seasons Spa

Heading to the tiny island of Nevis in the West Indies I was unsure what to expect in the way of spas. I was pleased to discover several options. I tried three facilities, the spa at the island's largest and best known resort, a family run spa and salon in a residential area, and a small salon in the main town of Charlestown, both locally owned.

 The Compassionate Touch Spa and Salon was in a residential area

The Compassionate Touch Spa and Salon was in a residential area

Valencia Griffin, co-owner and therapist, Compassionate Touch Spa and Salon

Valencia Griffin, co-owner and therapist, Compassionate Touch Spa and Salon

The spotlessly clean 1,848 square foot Compassionate Touch Spa (Nisbet Estate, Saint James Parish, Nevis, +1 869 469 9748, +1 718 594 1712,wwwcompassionatetouchspa.com, tdgriff@sisterisles.kn) in a tranquil village on the north side of the island could accommodate up to five guests at a time. Because we arrived late my Nevis Therapeutic Massage was cut short, although there was time for an owner led walk through the facility before my treatment. Established in 2001, the spa had been renovated in 2007. In addition to owners David and Valencia Griffin there were three staff. Ms. Griffin trained at the Nothern Institute of Massage of the Essex School of Beauty. There was a wet treatment room, a pedicure room, three massage or facial rooms, one manicure room and a waiting area. There were lockers, robes and slippers.

Tip Toes Nail Salon was in the main town of Nevis

Tip Toes Nail Salon was in the main town of Nevis

 Calette James, owner, Tip Toes Nail Salon

Calette James, owner, Tip Toes Nail Salon

I stopped in Charlestown for a massage by Calette James at the Tip Toes Nail Spa and Beauty Haven (Hunkins Plaza, Charlestown, Nevis, +869 762 4500, tiptoesnailsspa869@gmail.com), a facility near the main road. It had a reception area and a treatment room. Guests had access to a locked and clean shared restroom behind the salon.

My smoothie and a bento box with fresh fish and the The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Nevis tasted as good as it looked

My smoothie and a bento box with fresh fish at The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Nevis tasted as good as it looked

 The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Nevis (P.O. Box 565, Pinney’s Beach, Charlestown, +869 469-1111, http://www.fourseasons.com/nevis/spa/spa_overview/, spaConcierge.nev@fourseasons.com) was located within the resort, which in turn was on Pinney’s Beach. Open to hotel guests and the public the spa was popular, though not crowded, while I was there in the low season. A staff of 23 worked at the 12,000 square foot establishment with 12 treatment rooms, six outdoor freestanding cottages and six indoor treatment rooms.

The heated jacuzzi at The Four Seasons Spa

The heated jacuzzi at The Four Seasons Spa was popular

 The manager at the Four Seasons Spa

The manager at the Four Seasons Spa

During several hours of spa indulgence I spent time in the outdoor volcanic stone whirlpool bath, cold plunge sala style pool with viewing deck of Nevis Peak (Mount Nevis) and a golf course, had a Spa Cuisine Bento Box Lunch made fresh at the resort, and received a Nevisian Massage (no longer available) in an outdoor cottage. The spa manager, Bernadette Gonnet, was in the reception area when I arrived and made several helpful suggestions. The staff members I met were friendly and the facilities quiet and pleasant. It was one of the highlights of my Nevis trip.

Posh New York City spa left me relaxed with dewy, soft skin

Article and photos by Laura Scheiber

Consumed by the hustle and bustle of New York City, I needed a break, something to make me feel relaxed and pampered. I scheduled two signature spa treatments at the Valmont Spa for Plaza Athenee.

Entryway to the Spa

The entryway to the Spa

When I arrived at the spa, on the second floor of the elegant Hotel Plaza Athenee on the upper east side of Manhattan, I stepped out of the elevator, walked down a carpeted corridor and entered the intimate reception area of the spa. My esthetician, Miranda Sturce, met me with a smile at the front desk and escorted me to Suite Number One. The 320-square foot private space was divided into three main areas: a treatment room with a massage table, sitting area and private bathroom. Miranda confirmed the treatments I was scheduled for, a 30-minute Valmont signature Peaks of Slimness Body Treatment and a 60-minute signature L’Elixir des Glaciers Facial Treatment. Valmont is a high-end Swiss skin care products company best known for its anti-aging products and treatments.

Miranda

My esthetician, Miranda Sturce

Though not mandatory, Miranda welcomed me to take a shower with a special Valmont shower cream called Fresh Dew Cleanser, which complimented the body products she was to use during the treatments. I followed Miranda’s suggestion and enjoyed steaming hot water under the soothing rainwater showerhead while lathering up with the light and refreshing Valmont shower gel. After I wrapped myself up in a robe, Miranda began the treatment in the sitting area by giving me a footbath. She filled a turquoise water basin that had lemon and lime slices on the bottom with hot water. She massaged my feet and legs with a lemongrass exfoliate. I relaxed as she scrubbed away the stress of city living.

The foot bath

The water basin for the foot bath

I then hopped on the massage table in the treatment area, which was lined with an electric blanket to keep me warm. I was glad to feel so comfortable around Miranda when getting an intimate anti-cellulite full body treatment. Her sweet disposition made her approachable and unintimidating. Miranda started with the body slimming and firming, Peaks of Slimness treatment. For the first part, she applied Valmont’s D. Solution Booster, a gel created to address cellulite build-up. She relied on deep twisting motions in her massage technique to break down fatty cells.

The massage table in the treatment room

The massage table in my treatment room

While massaging my stomach, Miranda mentioned that the treatment was not safe for pregnant women because of the high concentration of caffeine in the gel. Miranda repeated the process along my arms, legs, buttocks, and back. For the second half of the treatment, Miranda used Valmont’s C. Curve Shaper, an anti-aging firming solution. Using long strokes, mixed with kneading motions she worked her way up and down my limbs, stomach and back. The Valmont slimness and firmness products were icing on the cake, as I would have been happy with this massage alone. Throughout the treatment, Miranda asked if the amount of pressure she applied was to my liking and whether I was comfortable in terms of temperature because she knew the Valmont products would leave my skin cool and tingly. I took her up on her offer for another blanket.

The products used during my treatment

The products she used during my treatment

While the slimming and firming treatment felt nice, I slipped into an even deeper state of relaxation when she began the facial. She began with a cleanser, followed by a toner, exfoliate and rebalancing mask designed to leave my skin glowing and radiant, according to Miranda. She utilized a massage technique called the butterfly motion designed by Valmont to stimulate blood circulation and enhance the effect of the products. Next, she added a moisturizing mask followed by a collagen mask. The extra concentrated formula left me with a tingly sensation as if all of my facial nerves were being softly tickled.

The sitting area of my suite

The sitting area of my treatment room

While the collagen mask was doing its magic, Miranda gave me a soothing neck, hand and foot massage. For the grand finale, she applied Valmont’s exclusive L’Exlixir des Glacier anti-aging serum (Sérum Précieux), anti-aging eye cream (Vos Yeux) and face cream (Votre Visage). During each step of the facial, Miranda explained what she was doing and the treatment’s purpose, though, I must confess I dozed off about half way through because it was so relaxing. When all was said and done, my skin felt dewy soft. The effect lasted for several days.

Spa reception desk

The Spa reception desk

At the end of the treatment, she invited me to relax in a lounge chair in the sitting area and to help myself to the goodies on the table. While an assortment of hot teas was available, I opted for a cold glass of water in a wine glass and worked my way through the mini plate of desserts. I nibbled on dried raisins, dried sweetened papaya and pineapple, as well as tasty bite size chocolate truffles, coconut macaroons, dark chocolates with lemon zest and muffins.

My morning at the Spa Valmont for Hotel Plaza Athenee (37 East 64th Street at Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10065, United States, + 1 212 606 4675, fax + 1 212 772 0958, http://www.plaza-athenee.com/spa-en.html, spa@plaza-athenee.com) was pleasant and soothing respite in the midst of hectic New York City. I appreciated having a private room and not feeling rushed. The staff was friendly and accommodating. The body treatment was relaxing with the bonus of firm feeling skin. I was especially happy with the facial.

A weekend in Mexico City

Article and photos by Elena del Valle

A view of Santa Fe from the rooftop of our hotel

The view from the rooftop of our Santa Fe hotel

It had been years since my last visit to Mexico City. After the immigration desk I made my way into the customs area where I first noticed the new airport building. I later discovered Terminal 2, spacious and new looking, was only several years old and said to already be struggling to accommodate traffic. After a few minutes my suitcase rolled out and I walked to the customs area where my luggage, check-in and carry-on, had to pass through an x-ray machine. Then I was asked to press a green button before I could continue. Depending on the response I might be subjected to further inspection, one of the customs staff explained.

Sunrise over Santa Fe

From the rooftop of The Westin I watched the sunrise over Santa Fe

No further inspection was required although my wireless keyboard attracted the customs staff attention for some reason. As I exited the customs area I searched the crowd for someone with a sign. Fidencio, my driver that day, and an assistant greeted me warmly. From the airport to The Westin Santa Fe Mexico City (Av. Javier Barros Sierra # 540, Lomas de Santa Fe, Mexico City 01219 México, DF, +52 55 50 89 80 00, fax +52 55 50 89 80 58, www.westin.com/santafe, westin.santafe@westin.com), my hotel for the first night, the private transport took 90 minutes. As we drove I looked around and realized I hardly recognized the traffic jammed buzzing metropolis. From my tenth story 34 square meter Deluxe Room, on a Starwood Preferred Guest floor, I had a splendid view of Santa Fe, a recently built booming business neighborhood. The hotel itself had only been established in August 2010.

There were pretty flowers in the common areas of our hotel

There were flower arrangements in the hotel common areas

Dinner with the group of four I was joining, wasn’t for several hours so I ordered a room service club sandwich with fries. Within minutes I was munching the hot and yummy comfort food and a few welcome sweets I found in my room to tide me over until dinner. From Santa Fe to the La Roma neighborhood multi-level home of Chef Monica Patiño where we were having a private dinner it was an hour’s drive, less on the drive back once the traffic had quieted down.

My masseuse at the Heavenly Spa

Griselda, my masseuse at Heavenly Spa

The following morning I rose early to catch the colorful sunrise view and work out at the hotel gym on the top floor before heading to the buffet breakfast at the ground floor restaurant. By 10:30 a.m. I was enjoying a good deep tissue massage with mini facial (not a favorite) courtesy of Griselda at the Heavenly Spa Westin, the hotel’s penthouse spa.

The exterior of the Soumaya Museum

The exterior of the Soumaya Museum

By midday we checked out, leaving Santa Fe behind, making our way through heavy traffic for one hour to Museo Soumaya (Soumaya Museum), a 14-month old six-story structure housing fine art originals, mostly European and Mexican.

The entrance to Carolo Carso

The entrance to Carolo Carso within a shopping mall and mixed use complex

From the museum we walked to Carolo Carso (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Polanco, Mexico City, D.F., 11529, Mexico, +52 55 49 76 01 34, www.carolo.com.mx, info@carolo.com.mx), a Mediterranean style open air casual restaurant with an upper level view of the museum, within a large mixed use complex. It was one of several Carolo restaurants in the Mexican capital. Lunch consisted of a series of appetizer style dishes shared by the table occupants: Ensalada Chop (Chop Salad), Cuadritos de Atún (Tuna Squares), Mosaico de Salmones (Salmon Plate), Carpaccio de Res (Beef Carpaccio), Tacos de Rib Eye (Rib Eye Tacos), Tacos de Pato (Duck Tacos), Pizza Margarita (Margarita Pizza, a favorite), Risotto de Alcachofa (Artichoke Risotto, a favorite), Tostadas Orientales (Oriental Toasts), and Carmarones a los Tres Chiles (Shrimps in a Three Chili Sauce). Desserts too were set in the middle of the table for communal sharing: Pastel de Coco (Coconut Pie), Príncipe Alberto (Prince Albert Cake), Key Lime Pie, and Pastel de Tres Leches (Three Milks Cake).

Artichoke Risotto

Artichoke Risotto

Lunch at Carolo Carso

Lunch at Carolo Carso

Marco de la O, executive chef, Carolo Group

Marco de la O, executive chef, Carolo Group

At the end of the meal we had an opportunity to meet Marco de la O, executive chef, Carolo Group. A native of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco he studied at the Universidad Anáhuac and at Panamericana de Hotelería in Mexico. De la O, who strives for excellence in quality, flavor and presentation, started his career at the Nikko Hotel in Mexico City. Later he worked at the Four Seasons in New York before returning to Mexico City.

The entrance of the Anthropology Museum

The entrance of the Anthropology Museum

A representation of the Stone of the Sun at the Anthropology Museum

A representation of the Stone of the Sun at the Anthropology Museum

After lunch, we headed to the famous Anthropology Museum (Museo de Antropología) where Laura, a knowledgeable and patient guide escorted us to the Sala Maya (Maya Hall) for an outstanding, though brief because we arrived late, guided visit. A thirty minute drive saw us at the entrance of The St. Regis Mexico City hotel (Paseo de la Reforma 439 Colonia Cuauhtemoc Mexico City, Federal District 06500,Mexico, +52 55 52 28 18 18, fax +52 55 52 28 18 26, www.stregis.com/mexicocity, mexico.city@stregis.com) facing the Diana the Hunter (Diana La Cazadora) roundabout water fountain for check-in on the third floor of the tall building.

My room at The St. Regis Mexico City

My room at The St. Regis Mexico City

The hotel’s spacious common areas were filled with sunlight, works of art and pretty flower arrangements. Friendly uniformed staff greeted us when we reached the lobby and escorted us to our respective accommodations following check-in procedures. The floor destination had to be selected on an outer panel with the electronic key card before entering the elevator, my staff escort explained.

Mexico City is reflected in the mirrors of the St. Regis gym
Mexico City seen from the St. Regis gym

Among my favorite features of the hotel were the lobby level views of the water fountain and the panoramic views of the city from the 15 floor work out rooms and adjacent pool area. From my twelfth story 50 square meter (538 square foot) Deluxe Room, on a Starwood Preferred Guest floor, I had a splendid view of Paseo de la Reforma and the surrounding neighborhood. Muted city sounds reached inside. Complimentary amenities on my floor were butler service, on demand 24-hour complimentary hot beverage service and the pressing of two items during my stay, my butler explained. The dimly lit room decorated in natural colors had thick double curtains to fend of the harsh sunlight, two double beds with thick plush mattresses and feather pillows, and a spacious marble bathroom with bathtub and separate shower, as well as a small remote controlled television screen built into the oversize mirror behind and between twin sinks. The new looking hotel dated to August 2009.

A black bean and foie gras appetizer
A black bean and foie gras appetizer at Dulce Patria

Dulce Patria restaurant (Anatole France 100, Col. Polanco, 11560, Mexico City, Mexico, +52 55 33 00 39 99, fax +52 55 33 00 39 95, www.dulcepatriamexico.com, kosberg@dulcepatriamexico.com), where we had a refined Mexican meal, was only twenty minutes from the St. Regis. Shortly after breakfast the following day we drove forty-five minutes across town to the Mercado de San Angel, a large covered odorous market filled with fruit and vegetable, fish, meat and a variety of other vendors.

Margarito Angeles Ramirez sold herbs at the market

Margarito Angeles Ramirez sold herbs at the market

Our first stop was at the stall of Margarito Angeles Ramirez who, after learning the skill from his grandmother, for 22 years had sold herb blends at the Mexico City market. A large mound of fragrant fresh herbs occupied the front of his stall which was chock full of items all the way to the rear wall and from the ceiling down. A variety of amulets, candles, dried herbs and plastic wrapped items took up most of the small space that was sandwiched between other market vendors down a narrow passageway. While we learned about his services, in Spanish, from Margarito several customers came by, squeezing through the tight space where we stood, to pick up their herb blends and orders.

Vendor stalls at the Mercado de San Angel

Vendor stalls at the Mercado de San Angel

With herbal blends, Angeles Ramirez said, he could, like a pharmacist, alleviate ailments such as allergies, migraines, headaches, indigestion and minor aches. He also provided mystical or magical white magic Santeria potions for good luck charms, attraction, and love. Prices ranged from five pesos to twenty thousand pesos. Some blends could be prepared while the customers waited while others required twenty days to be ready.

An unusual stop

An unusual stop

From the market a short walk led us to the Public Baths (Baño Público), a fee based public steam and Turkish bath facility the owner kindly, if reluctantly, allowed us to visit. The San Jacinto Parrish (Parroquia de San Jacinto) was our next stop. Built atop an Indian temple the church, our guide explained, was important because it was at commercial crossroads of the 1500s. The church, as many others in the city, he said, had suffered severe damage in the early twentieth century although several original structures remained.

From the church we walked back a few blocks to the Saturday Bazaar (Bazaar del Sábado), a popular weekly indoor and outdoor arts and crafts market, where we spent the better part of an hour before heading to lunch at Azul Condesa, one of several Azul restaurants headed by Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, in the Condesa neighborhood.

Favorite dishes at Azul Condesa

Favorite dishes at Azul Condesa

Favorite dishes at Azul Condesa

At lunch, we sat in an open air interior courtyard. Every table was full and the volume was so loud I could only hear my immediate neighbors at the table. Appetizers included several Yucatan dishes: Sope de Cochinita Pibil, a bite size morsel of succulent shredded pork topped with red onions that had been marinated in Yucatan bitter orange atop a sope, corn made bread cooked on a skillet; Sope de Hongos, a mushroom topped sope; and Salpicón de Venado, a European venison morsel made with onion, tomato, spicy chilies served with avocado and tortilla chips. My favorite was the Sope de Cochinita Pibil.

For starter I ordered the creamy Cream of Cilantro Soup served with toasted almonds, one of few non hot items on the menu. I sampled my neighbor’s juicy Duck Confit served with a red berry and plum sauce (a favorite) and my own dish, Roasted Skirt Steak served with home fries. From the dessert menu the server recommended Soursop Foam with a red berry sauce. Chili candies were served with coffee at the end of the meal.

Tuscan spa was my playground of bliss

By Laura Scheiber
Photos by Mathew Harris

Adler Spa Resorts Sign 3 - Sunshine (Best)

A sign for Adler Thermae Spa & Relax Resort Tuscany

When I arrived at the spa reception desk on the ground floor of the Adler Spa in the town of Bagno Vignoni in Italy, the manager, Minnie Romano, who had spoken with me the week before on the phone, warmly welcomed me to the spa. She offered me a seat in the waiting area where I enjoyed the views through large glass windows of the hotel’s thermal pool with indoor and outdoor sections, and the breathtaking Tuscan countryside serving as the backdrop.

Veronica Maione, a truly gifted aesthetician

Veronica Maione, a gifted esthetician

My first treatment, the Brunello Ritual, began when my therapist, Veronica Maione, escorted me to a dark room with a calming ambiance in the treatment area of the spa. After giving me privacy so I could remove my clothes and slip into my robe, Veronica reentered the room and offered me a wet towel doused in scents of lemon, orange and verbena to wash my face and hands. She then gently rubbed essential oils in the middle of my forehead and the palms of my hands while wishing me, in a soothing voice, well being and harmony. This prelude to my treatment took place in the entryway of the room, which I later found out was an intentional ritual to help guests disconnect from the outside world and focus their attention on their treatment.

The water beds in the relaxation room

The waterbeds in the relaxation room

The ritual was surprisingly effective. I immediately felt more relaxed and more attentive to the unique Tuscan spa treatment that I was about to experience. What ensued was a 45-minute relaxation massage with Tuscan red grape seed oil, followed by a 12-minute soak in a tub filled with bubbling warm water and a pitcher’s worth of Brunello wine to enhance blood circulation, followed by 15 minutes of relaxing on a waterbed while nibbling on a plate of four distinct pecorino cheeses and sipping a glass of Brunello wine. Brunello wine, I had learned during a prior wine tour, was considered one of Italy’s most prestigious wines and could only be found in the neighboring town of Montalcino. The overall effect that the Brunello Ritual treatment had on me was a mentally and physically relaxed state, juxtaposed with a feeling of increased blood circulation, as if I had just come back from a long jog.

Bagna Vignoni hot spring, where the spa waters originate

A sign pointed to Bagno Vignoni, where the thermal spa waters originate

View onto Traverton Lake from treatment room

View onto Travertin Lake from my treatment room

The next day I enjoyed the Poppea Massage, a 50-minute relaxation massage in which the therapist used a deliciously scented cream made from locally produced honey and sheep’s milk, immediately followed by the Excellence Anti-aging Facial. While I enjoyed all three treatments, I was most impressed with the Excellence Anti-aging Facial. When I returned to my guestroom, my husband immediately commented on how glowing my complexion looked and questioned if I had received additional beauty treatments. For the rest of the evening he complemented me on how radiant my skin looked. The next day, I could not resist buying the Adler Spa Fitomelatonina Crema Rivitalizzante, a cream with a high concentration of melatonin, which was recommended to me by the spa staff to compliment the effects of the facial treatment.

Olivae, Finnish Sauna on the Travertin Lake

Olivae, Finnish Sauna on the Travertin Lake

On our third day at Adler Thermae Spa and Relax Resort Tuscany (see Three days at rejuvenating Tuscan spa resort), my husband and I had a delightful afternoon, taking advantage of the sauna and steam rooms surrounding the thermal water lake that I had seen from the entryway of the hotel. We spent 15 minutes in a humidity room followed by a rest on an individual waterbed in the relaxation area before moving onto the next humidity room. By sunset, I felt like I had reached a new state of relaxation that I don’t ever remember experiencing before spending time at Adler Spa.

Three days at rejuvenating Tuscan spa resort

By Laura Scheiber
Photos by Matthew Harris

Tuscan countryside surrounding Adler Thermae

The Tuscan countryside surrounding Adler Thermae

As if the idyllic Tuscan countryside was not enough reason for my husband and I to visit the Val d’Orcia region of Italy, we could not wait to enjoy the natural thermal waters in the town of Bagno Vignoni, recognized for their healing benefits since Etruscan and Roman times. With thermal waters in mind we spent three wonderful days at Adler Thermae Spa & Relax Resort in Tuscany, Italy. With access to the local thermal springs, and couched between Pienza, a Tuscan medieval town specializing in pecorino cheeses, and the town of Montalcino, home of Brunello wine, the resort was ideally located to take advantage of many Tuscan delights.

For us, the highlights of Adler Thermae Spa & Relax Resort were the views of the breathtaking scenery, the consistently friendly service, and the endless opportunities to relax and rejuvenate. By the time we left, we felt mentally and physically recharged. Promising ourselves that we would return to this family-friendly haven, we have since recommended the resort to several friends and family members in search of a restorative getaway.

Brunello wine, Montalcino

Brunello wine from Montalcino

Arriving on a sunny hot day in June after an hour’s drive from Siena, we checked in at the front desk, where Federika, one of the friendly receptionists, gave us an overview and map of the facilities, keys to our room and information on how to pick up our spa towels, size appropriate robes, flip flops, and a beach bag to be used throughout our stay.

The bellman escorted us to room 328, a 35 square meter room facing the pool area, with excellent views of the Tuscan countryside. The air-conditioned room was comfortable and pleasant. Had there not been so many wonderful facilities to explore, we happily would have kicked our feet up and relaxed in the sun-filled room, which had two twin-sized beds pushed together to make an oversized bed, and a small sitting area with a couch, tea table, arm chair, desk and chair.

Enjoying complimentary cocktails on the outdoor patio of Adler Thermae, Tuscany

We enjoyed complimentary cocktails on the outdoor patio

After settling in, we went to the bar area for a complimentary welcome drink. Taking in the unobstructed views on the outdoor patio, I drank a refreshing fruit juice while my husband enjoyed a mixed drink made of Prosecco and Martini rosé. Since we had been steadily eating our way through Italy for the previous four days, I decided to take advantage of the indoor gym before dinner. Just like our room and the bar lounge, the most delightful feature of the well-equipped indoor gym was the fantastic view of the Tuscan countryside.

A bike ride through the Tuscan countryside

A view of Pienza while riding bikes through the countryside

The next day we were anxious to explore the landscape, so we reserved some of the complimentary mountain bikes the hotel offered. The receptionist gave us safety helmets and a map of several nearby bike routes. Within minutes we were on a secluded trail, surrounded by open fields of wheat and cypress trees swaying in the breeze, all beneath a perfectly blue sky. After conquering a few small hills, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Pienza, atop a hillside 17 kilometers from Adler Thermae. Though we wanted to cycle to the peak we conceded to the 95 Fahrenheit degree heat and headed back to the resort for some pool time.

The outdoor spa area, Adler Thermae, Tuscany

The outdoor spa area at Adler Thermae

After napping on the white loungers next to the 25-meter sports pool, I decided to take a dip in the outdoor thermal pool, sourced from one of the local thermal springs. I had read that the minerals had positive health benefits for joints and bones so I slipped into the 98.6 degree Fahrenheit water and made my way over to one of the areas where a row of thick iron rods served as a lounging seat. Water shot out of the side walls in twenty minute intervals, providing a massage of sorts. I laid my head back to take in the Tuscan sun and slipped into a wonderful state of relaxation.

On our last day at Adler Thermae, we wanted to take full advantage of the resort’s many facilities. I began with some laps in the outdoor 25-meter sports pool at a refreshing 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Although tempted by the 30-minute hydro bike class (one of six daily exercise classes offered by the resort during our stay), I opted for the outdoor treadmills just a few steps away from the pool area. Even after three days at the resort, I still marveled at the beautiful scenery and understood why the Val D’Orcia region of Tuscany was made a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Outdoor treadmills at Adler Thermae, Tuscany

Outdoor treadmills at Adler Thermae

After working out, my husband and I visited the sauna and steam rooms in the garden area of the spa. Located in a serene outdoor space of the resort, several humidity rooms surrounded an attractive thermal water pool. We visited the Olivae, a Finnish sauna, made from terracotta and olive trees, and the Grotta de Filosofo, a Turkish steam room with refreshing scents inside a hillside cave. Neither bathing suits nor bathrobes were allowed in the facilities, but guests had the option of wrapping up in a towel if they desired. There were pegs immediately outside the rooms where we hung our swimwear and bathrobes. After an afternoon alternating between 15-minute sessions in the humidity rooms followed by a cold shower and then a lie down on one of the single waterbeds in the neighboring relaxation room, I felt as if I had reached a new dimension of harmony. While my body was relaxed, my mind felt calm yet alert.

What stole the show for us at Adler Thermae was the beauty of the surrounding countryside. The thoughtful design of the building allowed us to enjoy outstanding views virtually anywhere in the resort. We also appreciated the many exercise options. This suited me well because I like a holiday that combines some type of physical exercise interspersed with opportunities to unwind. Just as important were the friendly and professional staff, who seemed dedicated to pampering guests and ensuring a relaxing and healthy getaway. We left rested and re-energized, with plans to return in the future.