The view at Grail Springs is the first thing that captured our attention. They are right on a lake which, when we visited, glistened in the sun although covered with ice and snow. They have made good use of that view from their great room, the dining room and from many of the bedrooms.
Stacey and I met with Madeline, the owner, who was kind enough to stay longer than planned because we did get a tad delayed in our drive. I love love love meeting the owners of spas because then I can understand the core philosophy and meeting Madeline was no exception. She is a very attractive woman with a great senses of style which was obvious from the outfit she wore. A real country look yet with the most contemporary bubbled hemline. I wasn’t surprised when she told us later that she was a designer.
She had just returned from New York where, among other things, she had done an interview for MSNBC on “The Secret”. (That’s the book so many people are talking about since Oprah had the Australian author on her TV show.) It’s become a controversial book with people lined up in support and in opposition. Madeline is “pro” as she leads “The Secret” retreats at Grail Springs.
What I learned about Grail Springs is how focused they are on detox. The food, the treatments, the reading materials – detox is a real foundation. They have the new infrared hot house dome which can cover various body parts for a really focused infrared therapy. They also have the detox foot baths which I am beginning to see at more spas. And they have colonic therapy.
More about that later.
Arrived in St. Petersburg from London along with several participants in the Virtuoso Winter Symposium. On a bus to the Grand Hotel Europe – a member of Leading Hotels of the World – I was able to get a glimpse of the new St. Petersburg. It was really moving. I haven’t been to St. Petersburg in more than 18 years, and the changes are surprising and wonderful. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the weather. I learned that the city has, on average, 30 days of sunshine a year. Today wasn’t one of them, and it isn’t likely that any of the next few days will be.
The number of shops, the refurbishment of many of the buildings, and the amount of cars – causing amazing traffic problems – was in a way heartwarming. Later I learned that all of the changes – early 90′s, post Gorbachev – have been seen as a mixed blessing. The older generation has lost their security but gained their freedom. It will probably take another generation to adjust to this new, more democratic lifestyle.
After settling into a very nice suite, I immediately went to the Native American-inspired Skana Spa where the assistant manager started my tour – and Michael Tompkins, Turning Stone’s VP of Hotel and Spa, finished it for me. The spa was quite impressive. Here are some aspects of the facility that made an impression:
- I liked the entry with the breezeway and a river flowing underneath (snow and ice covered it the weekend we were there).
- The Native American theme seems to have been used in a classy way for a change.
- The welcome lounge mirrored the Oneida welcoming ceremony.
- Loved the carpet on the floor of that lounge. It looked like wood chips but was really made out of some kind of rubber material.
- The 3,000-square-foot VIP suite (spa within a spa) was one of the largest I’ve seen.
- The disguised TV in the VIP lounge was really disguised. All I could see was a large, beautifully framed mirror (maybe five feet by five feet). If Michael had not demonstrated that one could watch TV on that mirror, I never would have believed it.
- The staff seemed friendly.
- The dream-catcher artwork (all individual) in each of the treatment rooms was unique.
- Spa Café – love that.
- Pool and fitness center – well done, although the fitness facility and the spa are on opposite ends of the building.
On the following day I would sample the spa. That night Peter and I had dinner…and Turning Stone was able to get us tickets to see Josh Groban. I admit that I didn’t know who he was, but Stacey in our office said he has a fabulous voice and that I should not miss the opportunity.
My Thermes Marins facial was very good – and it is obvious that the estheticians here are well trained. I asked mine about her schooling, and she explained to me that she had to complete three years of training to become an esthetician. Compared to the short training programs in many parts of the world (including the U.S., where one can become an esthetician within months), the standards here are definitely higher. No wonder the reputation for skin care in France and other parts of Europe is so much greater. It makes me think of how many skin care products come out of France…more than from any other country in the world by far.
My esthetician was able to answer my question about a stubborn bump on my skin that has been there for months, explaining that it was a lipid and would need my dermatologist’s attention. No esthetician or product would be able to relieve it. And even though I haven’t checked with my dermatologist yet, the esthetician’s “I’ve seen this many times before” attitude certainly gave me confidence that she knew what she was doing.
The spa uses Lancaster and La Prairie products, and used to offer Kanebo but dropped them after they became easily available in areas outside of the spa. Post-facial, I was shown downstairs to the water therapy area for my seawater bath and a massage.