Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mayflower Inn & Spa

The Ultimate Retreat

I have visited dozens of spas over the years, from semi-rustic to upscale factories but I have never experienced such sheer perfection in a destination spa as I did at the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, Ct. If there is a spa Heaven on Earth, this must be it.

Weeks before my children’s Spring Break I had started to look forward to my adventure.  My husband and two sons were off to a week of skiing in Vail and I readily accepted an invitation to spend four days at the new Mayflower Inn & Spa.

I eagerly filled out the forms about my fitness, health and nutrition goals, and then had a brief chat about my schedule with my personal Spa Advisor, Susan Stephen. Private posture lessons, Pilates and treatments galore were added to my wish list. And going beyond the expected, I decided to experiment with sound therapy and a drumming session.
Spa Advisor, Susan Stephen
Mother-daughter team Adriana Mnuchin and Lisa Hedley pondered the idea of a destination spa for the past several years but it wasn’t until a nearby property became available did they realize their vision: to create an all-inclusive, ultra-luxury ‘residence’ to feed the mind, body and soul of up to 28 lucky guests. Small is definitely better when it comes to feeling totally nurtured, pampered and revitalized.

Lisa Hedley and Adriana Mnuchin
Packing for the trip took all of five minutes because just about everything you need, including blush cotton warm-ups and a fully loaded MP3 player is provided by the spa. Save the makeup and trendy workout clothes for another time. The term ‘all-inclusive’ is taken very seriously at the Mayflower Inn & Spa.

After my easy two-hour car drive from the city, I arrived at the Inn to be instantly enveloped in my princess fantasy. My room was located in the newly-built Allerton House.

The palatial room not only had a fireplace, steam shower and a flat screen television (hidden of course, behind the doors of a Federal-style secretary) but the pièce de résistance was the king-sized four-poster canopied bed swathed in silk, covered with mountains of down, all done up in Frette linens. The thought of locking myself in my room and ordering room service was tempting.
The thought of locking myself in my room and ordering room service was tempting.
I finally mustered enough energy to leave my refuge and as I stepped into the Spa House, an instant feeling of calm spread throughout my entire body.  To say the Spa House, with its four fitness studios and eight treatment rooms, is an amazing design feat is an understatement. Selecting a neutral palate of bleached oak flooring, inviting textures and a wealth of contemporary art, designer Randy Ridless (think Bergdorfs), together with the dynamic Mnuchin mother-daughter team, have created an environment that is sheer magic.

The heart of the Spa House, the Garden Room, is utterly otherworldly.  The room, with 14-foot ceilings, is painted in shades of dreamy sky-blue and there were several of the ladies, reading whilst curled up in the soft lounge chairs that have been placed by the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the property’s Blue Heron Pond. And, for those who forget to pack their own reading materials, the bookshelves are stuffed with a seriously impressive combination of art books and novels.
The Spa House and The Garden Room.
By the time I had finished my tour it was time for dinner, so I headed down the hill to the main Inn. As I entered the separate spa dining room I took my seat around a large round table and introduced myself to the 11 other woman with whom I would spend the next few days. Much to my relief the table was always set with double sided place cards for every meal so there is no excuse for forgetting names.

In addition to two women leaving behind their husband for a few days of bliss, there were four sets of mother-and-daughters. Before the trip I was a bit concerned that spending four days with such a small group with be a bit too close for comfort but I was relieved to quickly discover that our group was an eclectic bunch of well-educated, sophisticated women–not just from Manhattan–and we quickly bonded.

The cuisine at dinner, and in fact all the meals, was consistently fabulous –and what’s more, it’s healthy and low-calorie. There are always morsels of nutritious munchies–(like edamame) to eat while you’re waiting for your first course. Guests can chose between two or three appetizers, main courses and desserts.

A scrumptious white truffle vinaigrette covered a Bibb lettuce salad that I special-ordered for the rest of my stay. And, I didn’t even have my wrist slapped for ordering a glass of wine at dinner. No deprivation here. The first day I slept in late and then, after a nourishing breakfast, I hit the gym (some gym!). Susan had scheduled me for the Mayflower Method, a class that combined core strengthening with toning exercises using a combination of weights, bands and balls.
Like most of my ‘classes’ this one turned out to be a private lesson. I exercised every muscle under the steady gaze of Cindy, who at the age of 57, is so extraordinarily fit that she would put someone half her age to shame. She’s been working at the Inn & Spa for over nine years, so she’s seen pretty much every level of fitness there is.

Following the Mayflower Method, I did a private posture class with Lizzie and quickly learned that I wasn’t standing or walking correctly. Lizzie showed me some incredibly helpful exercises and within an hour I was already standing straighter.
Cindy and Lizzie.
I was next slated for a Sweet Violet Facial with Sonia, who promptly concluded that my skin was much too dehydrated. Did you know that you are supposed to take your body weight, divide by 2, and drink at least that many ounces of water a day? I didn’t.

Sonia slathered on a combination of all natural Jurlique products and not only did the treatment feel great but my skin glowed for days.
In the Spa House Loggia for lunch with its beautiful offerings.
After this morning of advice, exercise and pampering, I went off to lunch in the Spa House Loggia, which included selections from a salad bar that was I wasn’t actually scared to eat for fear of some strange germ attacking my body. Cheryl, the spa nutritionist, joined us and I was surprised to find out that neither coffee nor chocolate (make it dark) are so bad after all.

After lunch, I joined Alice Violet for music therapy, a fascinating approach to healing using a combination of vibrations from small Tibetan metal bowls and oversized crystal vessels. Then a 90 minute Mayflower Massage lulled me nearly to sleep. Finally, it was time for a stretch and release class. Ahhhh, what a perfect end to a glorious day.
Time flew over the next two days as I alternated between, pampering, Pilates and walks through the rolling countryside and even a drumming lesson. I also set aside time each day to lounge in the mosaic-domed whirlpool and swim in the indoor pool lined with small tiles that shimmered an iridescent blue.
As I reluctantly prepared to leave paradise I swapped e-mail addresses with some of my new friends, said goodbye to Susan, the wonderful advisor, and to Helen Brown, the Spa Director whose gentle voice and attention to detail makes you feel that she is there for you, and you alone.
Spa Director Helen Brown bids us farewell.
Relaxed, fit and centered I have one last request: Can I move to the Mayflower Inn & Spa in my next life?  And while I have your attention, please pass along the recipe for the white truffle vinaigrette! The Mayflower Inn & Spa is located at 118 Woodbury Road, Washington, Ct. 860-868-9466;  Spa packages are $4500 and up.
White Truffle Vinaigrette
Makes 18 servings


1 oz White Truffle Oil
1.65oz Truffle Juice
1 each lime juiced
.75 oz Low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cup Thickened vegetable stock
To Taste Salt and Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender until combined.