Jan 2, 2011

Spa Night

One of the presents I gave MrsZ for Christmas was a gift certificate for a night at a local-ish resort; it included a 50-minute couple's massage and breakfast at the on-site bistro the next morning.

Short form: wonderful time. Would happily do it again.

Long form:
The resort we stayed at is La Tourelle. It's a medium-sized facility - their web site says 54 guest rooms. Check-in was prompt and pleasant; the lobby is clean, tastefully lit and decorated, and the staff friendly and professional. After check-in the desk attendant took us up to the room and gave us a quick rundown of "need to know".

I had reserved the "upper tower" room, which is described as:

Looking for the ultimate romantic getaway? Then, the Tower Room is perfect for your Finger Lakes visit. The distinctive tower shape is reminiscent of a European palace turret. The sunken 7-foot circular bed, mirrored ceilings and step-up Jacuzzi conjure up images of romantic encounters. You’ll also enjoy the privacy of being separate from the main resort building. A skylight will give you a sunny morning wake-up and natural light throughout the day.

Yes, I knew all that when I reserved it. It was intentional; I wanted something different from a standard square hotel room, and ... well, it was different! When the clerk opened the door and showed us in, I actually burst out laughing. I expect I'm not the only person to have done so, as she quickly asked if we'd prefer a different room. I left the choice up to MrsZ, and she decided we'd stay put. I'm glad we did.

The room is, as described, circular. There's an outside staircase that winds around the tower to get to the door. The room is perhaps 18 feet in diameter, and they make the best use of space possible. The 7-foot round bed is directly in the center, the step-in jacuzzi is at the head (?) of the bed, and there is a water closet on one side the door with the sink in a second closet on the other side. A small coat closet hides a minifridge and coffeepot, as well as the DVD player for the flat-screen TV. The far side of the bed has the steps up to the tile-surrounded tub, there's a small settee, and that's about it.

The ceiling is, indeed, mirrored - but it's not a flat ceiling! It's a cathedral ceiling with a round skylight in the center, and mirrored all the way 'round. I laughed my ass off at first, but it's actually kind of neat - for all the reasons you're imagining, and just because it IS different.


I have to say this, though: the room strikes me as "faded". It was clean, make no mistake, but small things caught my eye. The plaster on some of the wall was crumbling (near the shower, no doubt it's gotten wet). A few tiles in the same area were gapped away from the wall. The lattice over the w/c ceiling (on the outside, as it were) seemed an afterthought; better to turn that space into a small trinket display. The remote for the DVD player had dead batteries - minor frustration. A candleholder by the jacuzzi held the stubs of three candles - burned almost to nothing - and no matches or lighter. The heater (standard hotel-room block-on-wall style) was a bit noisy so didn't get much use.

On our room tour, the clerk had mentioned a few things. First: a daily wine reception in the lobby at 5pm, and if we wanted to take a bottle from the reception back to our room, feel free. The office had DVDs available to borrow. Coffee and tea were always available in the lobby as well.

We settled in to the room to eat a light meal before our massage. After eating, MrsZ went down to the desk to ask about a bottle of wine, since our massage was scheduled for 5 and we'd miss the reception. She came back with two movies and a bottle of Thirsty Owl dry riesling.

On to the massage... August Moon Spa is part of the main building, and can be accessed either from an outside entrance or through the lobby. The spa reception room is warmly lit, has soft music, etc. We each filled out a one-page health questionnaire, were given a brief tour (these are the relaxation rooms, these are the locker/sauna/steam/shower rooms), then given light cotton bathrobes and sandals and sent off to change.

We went from changing to the relaxation room. Essentially, it's a lounge for eight to ten people, with tea and water. Dim lighting, soft music, fireplace, soft chairs. We sat and relaxed while waiting for our masseuses to collect us. After five or ten minutes in there, we were collected and taken to our treatment room, where we were asked to disrobe and lie facedown on the tables under the cover. No problem.

The masseuses came back in shortly and made minor adjustments to the tables and us as needed, then ... massage. (Full disclosure: this is the first time I've had a massage in a spa. I've dated three different LMTs over the years, and a PT student who occasionally practiced on me, so I guess I can't say I've never had a massage.) Maybe it's just me, but I actually had trouble really relaxing during the massage. It felt good - and she definitely found and worked out a few of my knots - but I kept finding my shoulders tensing up and had to consciously relax them. Strange situation, new person, I don't know.

After the massage, they left us with instructions to, "Lie and breathe for a minute, stretch out, and when you're ready we'll be waiting outside with water." We did just that, and they were. We took our water back to the relaxation room to sit by the fire and unwind for a few... and had a few chuckles while we were there.

MrsZ questioned what the room would look like in full light, and I looked again with a more critical eye... the carpet in front of the gas log was filthy. The walls had several stains and rub marks from the chairs. The cushions were all stained from countless people soaked in massage oil sitting on them. Way to ruin a mood, MrsZ! :-)

We went back to our separate locker rooms, intending to use the steam room and/or sauna for a bit before meeting the reception area and going back up to our room. Unfortunately, the steam rooms were both out of service, and the men's sauna was occupied by a rather corpulent and extremely naked gentleman. I opted for a long hot-as-I-can-take-it shower instead. (Minor notes on the locker room: clean, well-provisioned, towels were huge and fluffy, lockers were well-sized and had electronic locks built in. Quibbles: paper towels had run out, and the laundry hamper - for used towels and robes - was full beyond overflowing, leaving a pile of damp towels on the floor.)

After getting dressed and collecting MrsZ, we headed back up to our room, where we opened our wine and got out the crackers and cheese we'd brought for dinner. We put in a movie (Pirates of the Caribbean:somethingorother) and MrsZ started filling the jacuzzi.


I fell asleep quickly - the round bed was a weird experience but quite comfortable and more than large enough even for someone of my height. The room was a bit brighter than I'm used to; we woke up around 3am and I would have sworn it was dawn. (Side note: listened to the rain on the roof for a bit. On January 2. In New York. Rain. Hrmph.) Back to sleep, woke up again around 7:30. We dawdled in bed for a while, then got up, showered, packed, and checked out before having breakfast.

Breakfast was at Simply Red Bistro, also a part of the main building. It's a prix fixe menu. We were seated promptly, and the waitress took our drink orders (coffee, please, soon!). The coffee arrived promptly with a basket of pastries, and we ordered our meal. Breakfast included either a fruit cup or yogurt parfait; we both had the parfait, and I chose the omelet while MrsZ had the waffle with fruit.

The food was, overall, very good. MrsZ had a wonky strawberry on her waffle, but for something flown from the other end of the world that's not bad. The yogurt in the parfait was not the type of yogurt I'm used to; it was a thicker consistency, almost a custard, and a bit bland - but it complemented the granola nicely (side note: MrsZ found a bit of walnut shell in her granola). The pastries were excellent - some of the best I've had in a long time. My omelet was wonderful - full of ingredients and perfectly done. The house potatoes turned out to be oven-roasted with roast garlic and were very good. MrsZ said her waffle was very good. The coffee was by Ithaca Coffee Company, and while I don't know which roast, it was a tad darker than I normally like. Not bad, by any means, just not my preference.

All that said, I have two gripes about breakfast. The first is minor: the coffee cups were emblazoned with the bistro name and logo on one side, and the spa name and logo on the other. It struck me as a needlessly discordant intrusion on an otherwise beautiful table. I expect logos on the coffee mugs at McDonalds and Starbucks and Waffle House, not a local bistro self-described as "casually elegant".

The second gripe is more critical, in my opinion. We felt rushed. The restaurant was not full to capacity, so it's not as if they were trying to flip a table and get another seating in. As mentioned, the waitress brought our pastry with the coffee. We had each picked one after fixing our coffees to taste, and had barely had two bites (in other words, half; they're small pastries) before our parfaits arrived. We were both about half-done with our parfait when the main course arrived.

Pacing a meal is critical to a good experience in a restaurant. Most of the chain restaurants have this down to a science (I've seen it posted, it's a rule of sevens or nines or somesuch) and do a good job with it. A good diner may not have it according to corporate guidelines, but have it down to an art. A fine restaurant won't pace the meal at all; they'll let you set your own pace. Unfortunately, we felt like they were setting the pace for us, and it was far faster than we'd have liked.

Will we go back? Probably. I'd like to try them again to see if things are different, and as I said, the food was very good. If it's a second poor experience ... well, cross that bridge when we come to it.

So, as a package, the whole experience? A wonderful relaxation, a nice getaway, and a chance to unwind. Is it worth the $425 price tag they hang on it? Questionable. According to the flat retail price, yes. Massage: $180. Room: $225+. Breakfast: $25. As a question of value ... borderline. Actually, for me, it's not worth anywhere near the list price. However, I got this for MrsZ as a gift certificate through a discount site, and paid half the list price. For $212, this was a steal of a night and I'd gladly do it again. (Gratuities were not included. Please remember to tip your massage therapist and waitress!)

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