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My Terrific Spa Experience

by Gloria Kohnen

Check-in at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa was a dream, everything ready and waiting for me to begin my very special vacation. The room was well appointed and cozy, well renovated, as I had read the entire hotel had just undergone renovation. I was asked if I preferred white or red for a complimentary bottle of wine in my room. At a spa? Well, yes, after all this is the "wine country!"

I went immediately to the spa to see about getting a spa service so I could partake of the area. At 7:00 PM I was set to have the moor mud flotation. But first, the bath ritual, which is very typical of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa and which takes advantage of their wonderful mineral waters. I went through four cycles in two days, does that tell you how terrific the ritual is? It always takes me a least a few hours to decompress when I'm at a spa. I think of myself as a laid-back person until I feel the difference once I've settled into the delicious warm "floaty" feeling of no commitments, other than showing up on time for treatment!

The first exercise class that I could take was the yoga class at 4:00 p.m. followed by meditation from 5-5:30 p.m. The teacher was wonderful and so pleasant.

After the bathing ritual (again), I was relaxing in the waiting area to be called for the moor mud flotation. Back in my room at 8:30 p.m., I was just too tired to eat dinner, so it was shower and bed because Monday was going to be a FULL day.

I was up early the next morning to retrieve coffee from the lobby (available at 6:00 a.m.). After a leisurely wake-up, it was off to the 7:30 a.m. yoga class and then 9:00 a.m. aquatic challenge. 10:00 a.m. was a body sculpting class-after which I ate a delicious sandwich and smoothie at the newly opened spa snack bar. I ate at a table by the pool where earlier I had worked so hard.

Bruno Tison, the executive chef at SMI & Spa has a big job. He oversees the Sante dining room, private dining and banquet activities. Bruno came from The Plaza Hotel in New York City, another Fairmont property.

One o'clock found me ready for the rejuvenator "kur" for which the SMI & S is famous. What a wonderful combination of scalp treatment and massage- a fantastic experience with Sandra, the massage therapist.
Back to my room for a rest until the 4:00 p.m. yoga and meditation. 6:00 p.m. was the body ball workout, and then dinner.

Be sure to leave time to take the hotel shuttle to the Sonoma town square, as the shops looked intriguing, as well as the mission needs to be explored. There is also a great little restaurant there, Cucina Viansa, which serves the BEST sandwiches!

Tuesday morning was a quick tour through the hotel's property, all newly renovated. Then the taxi ride to the Napa shuttle office which then took me to the Burbank airport.

Why Burbank? My sister-in-law who was going to join me at the next spa lives in Camarillo, and Burbank is the easier airport. We left the next morning for the Oaks of Ojai. The Oaks is a different destination spa in that it is not so luxurious as SMI&S, and it is more of a total spa experience in that from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. there is a class or event scheduled; it is up to the guest to decide how much or how little to participate. As I was there to experience as much as possible, my sample schedule is as follows:

7:00 am Brisk walk
7:45 am Breakfast
9:15 am Body awareness
11:00am Low impact aerobic dance
12:00pm Lunch
12:45 pm steam and sauna
2:00 pm Body sculpting
4:00 pm yoga
5:00 pm Hot stone massage
6:30 pm Dinner
7:15 pm Fashion show
8:15 pm Restorative yoga

The next day was more of the same except that I had to reserve a little time to explore the small town of Ojai, which is conveniently located right outside the front door of the Oaks. A very "California experience" involved a person who climbed one of the oak trees in the park and refused to come down because the tree was to be removed.

The spa service chosen for this day was the salt glow rub-very nice. What are my special remembrances of the Oaks?

1. The unexpected arrival of Sheila Cluff who owns the Oaks and the Palm in Palm Springs. She is very much "hands on" as an owner as she is at both spas often. She led our brisk walk warm-up and joined us on the walk.

2. The food was OUTSTANDING- could grilled chicken Caesar salad, chili relleno, mango muffins, and grilled sea bass be so divine and low calorie? Menu combinations were colorful, marvelous tasting and filling! As a "foodie" cookbook collector, I bought all three cookbooks and have already used the 28-day dinner menus to plan next week's meals at home.

3. The teachers were excellent, and pulled just that little extra from all of us. The instruction progression had me accomplishing positions I had never achieved before in yoga.

4. Ojai is gorgeous and I could have explored for at least a week. The museum is next to the Oaks and the library is across the street.

Looking over my past experiences, I have gone to Mexico, Nevada and California to visit spas, and see that I have missed the whole central United States as well as the Eastern part. And what about Texas? My home state deserves some investigation, as well as Canada. I will be there!

If you are looking for a way to smile a lot, and as I teach people in my facial exercises class, people respond positively to people who smile; then you are a candidate for a visit to Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa and the Oaks of Ojai. Check out their web sites, and decide for yourself which you would like to visit. The staff are outstanding at both spas.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
100 Boyes Blvd.
PO Box 1447
Sonoma, CA 95476-1447
Voice: 707.938.9000
Fax: 707.996.5358
www.fairmont.com/sonoma


Oaks at Ojai
122 East Ojai Avenue
Ojai, CA 93023
Voice: 805.646.5573
Fax: 805.640.1504
http://www.oaksspa.com/



Gloria Kohnen is a graduate nutritionist who regards health to be one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. She researches health spas and writes about the ones that have been outstanding examples of true value to the spa-goer. She can be reached at: gkohnen@worldnet.att.net



Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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