Happily my sister-in-law, who accompanied me to Rancho La Puerta, had a great experience at her first ever “stay” spa. I think her favorite parts were the Pilates, the food, the gardens, relaxing in the nude sunbathing areas, and the gracious staff. I don’t think we have changed her mind about spa treatments as she still would really rather do without them. It’s hard for me to imagine, until I remember that we all have some “least favorite” aspects at a spa. (Shhhh…for me it is Watsu.) However, towards the end of Pam’s stay I heard her say that she is planning to come back and wants to bring her friend, Pasha. Guess that sums it up!
Saw Michael Moore’s documentary, Sicko, yesterday. From the full capacity crowd at the theater and the occasional spontaneous applause during the movie, I can see it will be a huge hit – and likely a topic of conversation for some time to come. In addition, I think it will do more than ignite conversation. I think it will accelerate change.
Although I haven’t exactly appreciated some of Michael Moore’s behavior in the past, I must say that this film is very effective, entertaining (if you can even say that about a movie which showcases people’s misery) and above all, for most of us, it rings true. Almost everyone in the US has had (or knows someone who has had) a nightmare experience with our medical health care system. I am reminded of Steve Case’s experience maneuvering through the system when his brother Daniel was diagnosed with what turned out to be fatal brain cancer.
Clearly our system is broken for both the rich and the poor.
As Sicko suggests, there might be good reason for us to learn from other country’s health care systems. I was particularly impressed with the ways in which other systems are paying attention to prevention than we do in the US. I have been thinking about the spa industry worldwide for many years now and how spas (which are increasingly moving toward places to pursue wellness) fit into a country’s health care options. The answer may be that it really depends on the health care system, on the country, on its political system, on the culture and traditions of the people, etc. It is as complex of an issue as is figuring out how to improve health care in the US.
Increasingly, I find that one of the spa industry’s greatest contributions might actually be fostering an understanding between people and countries which might help open all of us up to change. It is in the spa world where one learns about Ayurveda from India, traditional Chinese medicine from China or naturopathy often used in the UK and Australia. In many cases when we visit a spa we are doing more than just having a wellness experience, we are learning about how other people in the world stay well or get well. This results in a greater appreciation for various cultures.
And like in the movie Sicko, I think it gets us Americans off of our high horse.
On our last morning in Shanghai before heading to the airport, Nicholas was up for one more spa experience as was I, so we decided to visit one of the large foot reflexology places which Geraldine Howard (Aromatherapy Associates) had recommended, telling us that we have to have an authentic Chinese pedicure where they”wield knives”. Oh dear. So off we went to the Tapian Spa (I think that is the English name for it). We walked up several flights of stairs to find the front desk. After pointing to the menu, trying to get across that I wanted a pedicure, Nicholas wanted foot reflexology, and that we didn’t have 90 minutes (their minimum for a foot reflexology session) because we were heading to the airport but were willing to pay for 90 minutes anyway (It was only $20). We gave up trying to convince anyone of anything and just settled in for our treatments.
The place has 100 foot reflexology chairs and about 300 clients per day. The photo you see here is of the guy who gave me a pedicure. No doubt their tools are sharp and their work precise – I felt no pain whatsoever and my callouses were gone. There was no sign of nail polish anywhere – this was about cleaning feet. Nick loved his foot reflexology and although we did stretch our time from 45 minutes to almost an hour, we would have loved to stay for the entire 90 minutes! No doubt if I lived here, or had such a place (at such a price) to visit in New York, I would take my computer and make this my post-work day retreat.
A visit to the Evian Spa at Three on the Bund was on my list of “must do’s” while I was in Shanghai. Not only did its opening several years ago cause quite a splash, but Alexa Brue reviewed it in the May/June issue of Luxury Spa Finder Magazine, giving it a mixed review which meant I wasn’t planning on dropping off any magazines during my visit.
Alexa had found that her facial was much better than the one her friend received, and that of course means an uneven experience. She did give the spa raves for decor.
I had the concierge at my hotel call to make the appointment so they didn’t know who I was when I visited. I had also decided to have a facial. Happily my experience was positive for both the treatment and the decor. The facial was terrific (they use Clarins) and the aesthetician very nurturing – and yes, I did get a foot and hand massage as well. My only complaint was that the facial was given on a massage table where I was lying flat on my back with no pillow under my legs and no elevation for my torso. I’m OK in that position but I know it could be uncomfortable for many. It is interesting that they would miss such an important detail so easy to correct.
I learned that there are now three Evian Spas, one in France, this one in Shanghai, and one which just opened in Argentina.
The decor really does work – simple, mesmerizing, lots of white curtains, acrylic chairs, white lockers, candle light, white relaxation chairs with white comforters, white flowers, each treatment room wall with a unique texture and design. Mine had dramatic black and white marble (think cow) floor to ceiling. This spa’s decor is an example of such creative, dramatic yet simple design, taking in the space is a large part of the experience. It just works so well that it trumps any small hiccups in the service.
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.