Mother Daughter Getaways

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As women, our relationships with our mothers (and daughters) can be quite complex. What better way to reconnect than with a soothing spa escape for two?

No matter how loving, family dynamics almost always include a little baggage, and not all of it’s designer. Maybe you grew up labeled as moody, lazy, or opinionated, or still think of your mom as stern or absentminded. It can be hard to shake those definitions, even when they no longer apply. But people evolve, and so do relationships. Why not renew your bonds during a pampering spa getaway, where the relaxed setting can help you rediscover one another as the amazing, gifted women you’ve always been? Trust us “we tried it, and it works.

Sisterly Companions

For most of my girlfriends, a vacation with their mother might include leisurely walks, girly movies, and just time to lounge and be together “but not with my mother. I generally have to stay extra caffeinated just to keep up with her frenetic pace, which easily bounces from Spinning and yoga classes to running a preschool, cross-country skiing, and exercising her ninety-pound Golden Retriever.

This might explain why ever since I was a teenager, my mother and I have had an unusual relationship. She was always open and nonjudgmental, leading me to be honest with her about any teenage issues I was facing, but in the process creating more of a sisterly relationship than that of mother-daughter. Perhaps it was her youthful attitude, but either way I look more to my mother for fun than for counseling or guidance. So when I set out to take my mother to the spa, I had to think of sisterly retreats. One where we could play, laugh, and for her Montanan soul, be in nature.

We chose to visit Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, Colorado, (just sixty-five miles west of Denver) for a few days of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and much-needed pampering. Devil’s Thumb Ranch is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, featuring more than 100 kilometers of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and hiking (including 8 dog-friendly kilometers for skijoring), plus ice skating, horseback riding, and fly-fishing.

We arrived at Devil’s Thumb Ranch early enough in the day that we were able to head to the rental shop and rent snowshoes for a few hours. My mother hadn’t been snowshoeing since the days that snowshoes were nearly three feet long and made of wood, and was quite surprised to find that she enjoyed it. We meandered through the woods, got lost (only once to my father’s surprise), and worked up quite a sweat before lunch at the Ranch House Restaurant.

After lunch, Hans, one of Devil’s Thumb Ranch’s instructors led my mother and me on a one-hour ski lesson, managing to address my lack of frequency with my mother’s lack of flexibility: the ski lesson was insightful for us both and provided us each with some tips and techniques to work on. My mother was then ready to trudge ahead and practice, but I had to reign in her energy and remind her that skiing had to wait: we had spa treatments to get to. (Again, who’s the mother here?)

Donning swimsuits and robes, we wandered through the Ranch Creek Spa to the outdoor hot tub. The property boasts two hot tubs, one is for the entire ranch and offers views of the mountains and cross-country terrain, while the other is nestled in the spa, hidden from view, and featuring a rock wall waterfall. We chose the latter and became so relaxed that we nearly missed our spa appointments. I had scheduled the Hot Towel Infused Massage; first, warm towels were artfully placed on various parts of my body, and then removed allowing the therapist to massage out any lingering tension. After my treatment, I wandered back to the waiting area to find my mother, who had opted for the Athletic Muscle Massage, blissfully snacking on the Ranch’s spa mix: white chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, and dried fruit. Her smile on her face was obvious: she was having a good time.

Devil’s Thumb currently offers everything from quaint cabins for two to large cabins that can accommodate up to twelve people. (The Lodge is currently under construction and after completion will add fifty-three guest rooms and suites as well as a new breakfast and lunch cafe and bar.) We had booked the Taylor Cabin, a large two-bedroom log cabin, named after Dick Taylor, who designed the first Nordic ski trails on the Ranch. Naturally, the cabin is Nordic in decor with plaid bed covers and old snowshoes adorning the walls. In addition, the property prides themselves on their eco-consciousness and it shows: geothermal radiant heat floors warm the cabins, EPA-approved chimneys minimize the emissions from the wood burning fireplaces, and much of the Broad Axe Barn’s framing (which currently houses the Ranch Creek Spa) is salvaged from a Civil War-era barn.

The Ranch House Restaurant & Saloon offers a cozy and romantic dining option for both guests and local diners. Utilizing natural and sustainable food resources, the menu is innovative, and portions are modest allowing diners to taste a variety of options during the course of their meal. During our dinner we indulged in first courses of a Jerusalem artichoke soup; and a salad of red beets, Camembert, and spicy greens. We opted to split our entrees: mushroom stroganoff with a sorrel and potato puree, and a sauteed trout with green beans served with a side of lemon butter sauce. While dinner was a bit indulgent for our tastes, it felt utterly deserved after spending nearly half of our day trekking the wintry terrain.

The following morning, my mother was quick to rise and request another day skiing. She didn’t travel this far for her ski adventure to end. So, we set out, and from what I could tell we were the only two crazy loons to hit the trails when the temperature hadn’t risen above ten degrees. By the time we ended our ski adventure, others had joined us, and my hands had thawed. I have to admit, I didn’t want to go that morning. I could have just as easily stayed in my warm bed, but the knowledge that my mother never takes vacations and that this truly was relaxation for her, prompted me to down another cup of coffee and rise to the challenge.

After our ski adventure, we hit the spa for our last treatments before heading home. I enjoyed the unique Rocky Mountain Rain Therapy experience where the therapist focused nine different oils on my spine “ranging from oregano to wintergreen; the therapy is designed to enhance immunity by stimulating the chakras as well as the physical body, and the scents themselves provide a fabulous backdrop for the indulgent massage that follows. My mother opted to have her hands and feet pampered after all the time they spent holed up in gloves and boots.

On the way home, I looked over at my mother. She wasn’t worrying about her work or even the drive. She was gazing out the window as we passed through Winter Park, still talking about our two days at the Ranch and already planning for our next wintry escapade. For more information about Devil’s Thumb Ranch, call (800) 933-4339 or visit www.devilsthumbranch.com

An oasis in the storm

If you have a teenager, chances are you’ve heard the prevailing wisdom: This is a time to back off, to give your child lots of space, to let her make her own decisions; she doesn’t want your input anyway, and she needs to disassociate from you to form her own identity. Just leave her alone.

I say, hogwash. When my feisty, intelligent daughter entered her teenage years, I recalled what my Costa Rican mom said about my sister and me: “I didn’t buy into what everyone else said; I always expected to enjoy you as teenagers!” It’s my firm belief that, more than ever, my daughter needs to know that I am close, that I am available, while she forms her own views, dreams, and plans in the midst of hormone fluctuations, media pressure, and high expectations. I want to be aware of who she’s becoming, not checked out; I want to be communicating and connecting with her, celebrating and teaching her the language of womanhood as she blossoms into a young adult.

Of course, there are times when she thinks I am the kookiest person on the planet (“Mom, what did you do to your hair?”), and I know she thinks I’m dorky whenever my opinion doesn’t agree with her unassailable conclusion. But she still hugs me goodbye in the morning, snuggles with me in front of the fireplace on cold days, and loves to choose my clothes when we go shopping.

So when we got a chance to take a mother-daughter getaway at the luxurious Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona, we knew it was not to be missed. She’s a busy girl, and getting away from home was probably the only way she’d relax I know this because I’m exactly the same. During one of the coldest Colorado winters on record, we escaped for a day of lying in Arizona’s blissfully warm sun, eating fabulous food, and girly pampering.

The Mobil five-star Camelback Inn, 125 acres of gorgeous desert landscape nestled between picturesque Camelback and Mummy Mountains, first opened as a western retreat in 1936. With its subsequent expansions, including championship golf facilities, three family-friendly pools, top-to-bottom renovations, and a world-class spa (opened in 1989 and completely remodeled in 2003), the property now under the auspices of J.W. Marriott resorts holds a revered place among the Valley of the Sun’s countless resorts. The spa’s Mother-Daughter Package includes a casita-style room for the night, two one-hour spa treatments, two Starbucks drinks, a $50 food credit, and full access to all spa amenities for the day lap pool, hot tub, steam and sauna rooms, lounge area, fitness gym and classes, and more.

Bethany and I arrived on a Saturday morning and went straight to the spa for our first treatments of the day. She selected the Aromatherapy Massage, while I enjoyed the Camelback Inn Signature Massage, a unique blend of aromatherapy, hot and cold stone massage, and chakra balancing. My masseuse, Betsy, who helped develop the experience, said that she and her fellow therapists “wanted to do something that combined everything we loved about hot stone massage and other treatments.” She expertly placed hot stones under the small of my back, on which I reclined during the entire session in complete comfort. After placing crystals for centering (abdomen), love (chest), and motivation and insight (forehead), she began massaging my feet and that’s when I melted into a peaceful puddle. Following massages of my hands, shoulders, and head, using a juniper-sage lotion that smelled like the desert after a hard rain, I think I could have floated right off into space.

But the warm outdoor sun beckoned Bethany and me, so we moved poolside, sipping pi±a-colada smoothies, chatting, and later enjoying a fabulous lunch at the spa’s restaurant, Sprouts, which serves delicious health-conscious cuisine and more decadent fare. Bethany devoured her caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza with Caesar salad, while I feasted on a shrimp, spinach, and queso fresco quesadilla with heirloom tomato salad light but without a whiff of deprivation.

After lunch, we both enjoyed an extra luxury: the spa’s Adobe Clay Purification Treatment. Following an energetic exfoliation with a cactus-fiber cloth, our therapist, Mindy, applied a pudding-like clay, drawn from Arizona’s red-rock Sedona hills, to every inch of skin excepting sensitive areas, which are covered by towels. After a not-too-tight wrap, she massaged a sweet-smelling rosemary conditioner all through the hair and into the scalp. Both Bethany and I fell asleep for the next twenty minutes, during which the clay worked to draw out impurities and toxins. A warm shower still while lying down washed off the clay, with Mindy’s help. Finally, visits to the steam room and dry sauna rounded out this supremely relaxing yet clarifying ritual.

If we could have, we would have wished that the sun would never set but it did, and beautifully, brushing the horizon pink and burnt orange. With stars beginning to twinkle overhead, we entered Chaparral, the Inn’s fine dining restaurant. The ambiance is elegant but not stuffy, combining sophisticated charm with Southwestern design elements. As a Tony Bennett sound-alike serenaded the room with classic tunes, we recalled favorite memories, including the story of Bethany’s birth a tale neither of us ever tires of. I don’t think I’ll ever forget looking across the table that night at my beautiful, glowing daughter, both of us happy and relaxed, conversing easily as partners in a larger journey, one that she is just beginning and in which I am honored to guide her. For more information about Camelback Inn, call (800) 772-5809 or visit www.camelbackinn.com

Cycles of Growth

My gracious and sensible East Coast mother has always maintained that relationships need to be lovingly tended and cultivated to keep them healthy and fruitful. With that life-long advice in mind, it seemed the ideal place to take her was the lush, fertile landscape of Napa Valley.

We chose the elegant, Tuscan-inspired setting of the Villagio Inn & Spa in Yountville for the luxury accommodations and selection of spa treatments, as well as its proximity to a collection of world-class restaurants. Yountville is perfect for walking, with nothing too far away from anything else. After arriving late in the day, we set out for dinner at nearby Brix, where executive chef Ryan Jackson prepared roast chicken with Yukon potato puree for my mother, and delicate Hawaiian escolar with roast shallots for me.

Content and sleepy from our long flights, we were pleased to find the weather had turned a little damp, providing an excuse to retire early and enjoy the fireplace in our spacious room. In the morning, after a champagne buffet breakfast at the inn, we set off for a tour and wine tasting at Domaine Chandon, owned by the same company as legendary champagne makers Moet et Chandon in France. We enjoyed the tour of the winery and extensive grounds, and during our private wine tasting, were amused to find we’d both chosen the same sparking wine as our favorite.

Later, we set out on foot along a pathway lined with fountains leading from the inn to the nearby Vintage 1870 Specialty Shops. Contained in an historic winery complex. We left with a selection of champagne vinegars, hand-pressed fruit oils, and deliciously scented soaps. Back at the Villagio, we wandered into the cozy, tiled lobby where tea was laid out. Fortified with cucumber sandwiches, cinnamon scones, and multiple cups of English Breakfast tea, we sat and reminisced about the past, when my sisters and I came home from school each afternoon to sit down with our mother for tea (and usually, apple cake or strudel) and a chat about the day’s events.

After a leisurely afternoon, we headed to Bouchon for dinner. Styled as a French bistro, Bouchon is under the direction of Executive Chef Jeffrey Cerciello and owner/chef Thomas Keller of the nearby French Laundry. My gnocchi with a ragout of winter vegetables was heavenly, but a taste of my mother’s pan-roasted day boat scallops with glazed chestnuts left me wondering if I’d made the best choice.

Our last day in Yountville began with another champagne breakfast, after which we made a beeline for the spa for a day of total indulgence. While I enjoyed a steambath, my mother set off for a 50-minute Elemental Body Polish, an exfoliation with organic oatmeal, raw sugar, and crushed Carneros grape seeds. My steam was followed by a Green Coffee Wrap that included a vigorous massage.

The weather was sunny, perfect for our outdoor spa lunch by the pool. Later, my mother had a 100-minute Napa Valley River Stone Massage to restore balance and harmony a treatment she said was one of the best she’s ever had. I opted for a Wellness Massage, during which my therapist used a combination of steamy compresses, local essential oils, and European massage techniques to completely relax me.

Dinner was both delicious and early, in order to accommodate a visit to the local theater. We dined across from the Villagio at Chef Richard Reddington’s glass and wood haven, Redd.  Like our other restaurant choices, Redd showcases local, sustainably produced foods presented in highly imaginative ways. My butternut squash ravioli was served with winter root vegetables in a sage emulsion, while my mother’s veal and ricotta meatballs included linguine with a prosciutto cream sauce. Next, we headed to the town’s beautiful Lincoln Theater for the evening’s performance of “In the Mood,” a retrospective of 1940’s swing music, a favorite of my mother’s. The theater, for us, is another very special bond when I was earning my BA in theater years ago, my mother never missed a single one of my performances.

In the morning, we walked to Bouchon Bakery for breakfast. Sitting in the early sunlight, surrounded by slopes and hillsides covered with vineyards, we agreed that Yountville was one of the best ideas we’ve ever had. A timeless sort of place, it’s marked by constant cycles of growth and renewal, just like our relationship. By the time we headed for the airport, we’d remembered how deeply we cherish one another and how much we both adore a really great massage. For more information on the Villagio Inn & Spa and Yountville, California, visit www.villagio.com and www.yountville.com

Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, TX
The tranquil vibe at Lake Austin is ideal for sharing time with Mom, with 5 getaways planned for 2007. Each week includes sessions on Body Image: Facts and Fiction with licensed dietitian Terry Shaw, Transforming Rituals with creative presenter Liz Bila, The Mother/ Daughter Diet Legacy with dietitian Lora Edwards, and Yoga for Two: The Mother/Daughter Connection with Anne Irving. Also included are three healthy gourmet meals per day per person, plus unlimited discovery programs, Nia, yoga, Pilates and other fitness classes; and activities such as hiking, cooking classes, and kayaking. Mom’s 7-night package in premier accommodations starts at $5,510; daughter pays $2,755. Price includes a $1,050 spa and fitness allowance per person. Guests must be at least 14 years of age. (800) 847-5637, www.lakeaustin.com

Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, Vista, CA
Located 40 miles south of San Diego, this world-famous destination resort focuses on wellness from every angle. Mother & Daughter Weeks at Cal-a-Vie include a package of 12 therapeutic spa treatments for each. Mom pays the full price of $6,995, while daughter pays the half price of $3,498, plus room tax, based on shared occupancy. Offered during the following weeks: May 13, June 17 and September 16. (866) 772-4283, www.cal-a-vie.com

CopperWynd Resort & Club, Fountain Hills, AZ
Close to Scottsdale, this desert-view resort offers a Spa Extraordinaire Package ideal for mother-daughter adventures. Five nights in a mountain-view room with gas fireplace and private balcony, ten 60-minute spa treatments per person, daily gourmet breakfast, lunch, and dinner; use of private club and fitness center; and all classes including yoga, Pilates, and BodyFLOW. Seasonal rates apply. (877) 707-7760, www.copperwynd.com

Cranwell Resort & Spa, Lenox, MA
Set within the pastoral beauty of Lenox close to the famed performance venue Tanglewood, Cranwell’s getaway includes two nights in the resort’s Superior Accommodations, two fitness classes each, one 50-minute Swedish massage or facial for each, one spa cuisine lunch for each and one dinner at Sloane’s Tavern for each. Enjoy strolling the charming village, filled with antique and crafts shops, tea shops and coffeehouses, restaurants, and book dealers. (413) 637-1364, www.cranwell.com

Emerson Resort and Spa, Mount Tremper, NY
Less than two hours from New York City, moms and daughters can indulge in the Emerson’s Ladies of Luxury package, which includes a massage, body polish, spa facial and pedicure for each. In-spa wine and snacks, and a special goodie bag for each are also provided. After March, enjoy the resort’s expanded spa facilities, complete with Ayurvedic treatments. Package starts at $275 per person per night. (877) 688-2828, www.emersonresort.com

The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley, PA
Two hours from New York City, this property is surrounded by 75 wooded acres with its own private lake just perfect for leisurely walks with mom. The Mother-Daughter package offers a 25 percent discount to the second person staying in the same room, applied to rates starting at $450 per person, per night based on double occupancy. Three healthy gourmet meals are included daily, along with group fitness activities, classes, lectures, and events; use of fitness facilities, and one 50-minute spa treatment, professional consultation, or training session per person, per day (valued at $115). (866) 953-8500, www.thelodgeatwoodloch.com

Miraval Life in Balance, Catalina, AZ
Need to reconnect? Head for the Sonoran Desert, where you and your mom (or daughter) will be pampered with daily gourmet meals, unlimited use of pool, fitness facilities and all scheduled programs and activities, including meditation and nutrition classes, yoga, hiking and horseback riding. Each room booked includes a daily spa credit in the value of $110. Dates: June 17 – Sept. 27. (800) 232-3969, www.miravalresort.com

Pura Vida’s Mother-Daughter Tour, Guatemala, Central America
Offered by sustainable coffee growers Pura Vida, this 9-day adventure will explore Guatemala’s eco-tourism, sustainable economic development initiatives, fair trade efforts, and the role of women and girls in Central America, all within the context of discovering your own connection with one another and the planet. A tour is planned for summer of 2007. For more information and itinerary, visit www.puravidacoffee.com/tours 

Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, Chandler, AZ
Mothers and daughters can live out their cowgirl fantasies with the Wild Mustangs & Massage Package, which includes an hour-and-a-half horseback ride through ancient tribal lands where over 1,500 wild horses still roam free, one each 50-minute spa treatment at Aji Spa, and lunch for two at Aji Cafe. Rates per room begin at $195 from May to mid-September. Seasonal room rates apply after mid-September. (602) 225-0100, www.wildhorsepassresort.com

St. Regis Hotel, Dana Point, CA
Grab your mom and go Gidget with the SoCal Surf Diva Getaway. Bond with mom while taking private surf lessons from the team of St. Regis Surf Butlers, then head to the spa for a rejuvenating treatment. The two-night escape includes daily breakfast, one personal surf lesson, and one 60-minute Swedish Surf massage per person. Rates begin at $1,995. (949) 234-3200, www.stregismonarchbeach.com

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