Monday, December 24, 2012

Spa Girl enjoys the lead up to Christmas @ Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa

The "Grotto" at Two Bunch Palms

Quite literally an oasis in the desert the renowned Two Bunch Palms has a fabulously interesting history.  Located on the geological fault at Miracle Hill with its life-sustaining artesian mineral well, it was inhabited  by First Peoples for thousands of years, prior to the building of a get-away retreat for the notorious Al Capone. 

Enticed by the magical allure of the mineral waters, natural beauty and the therapeutic relaxation,  many guests including celebrities needing a much needed escape  have come to make their spiritual mark on Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa.

Fondly called two Bunch, it is located in Desert Hot Springs, California and is nestled in a unique location that is sacred because of the natural elements.  Home to one of the hottest artesian mineral wells in the country, it is quiet (whisper only) and respectful atmosphere, offers renowned treatments in its very humble Spa facility dedicated to contemplation and rejuvenation.  You can also expect gourmet dining, yoga meditation, various water activities including watsu, qi gong, mud baths and of course the Grotto where you can just float about in the healing waters.

Whisper Only Policy @ Two Bunch

Dr. Augustus Broue, a native of Australia and master metallurgist, chemist, geologist and physicist, visited Desert Hot Springs in 1938. Dr. Broue had spent many years traveling around the world analyzing naturally occurring curative waters. The following statement was made by Dr. Broue after analyzing the waters found beneath Desert Hot Springs:

"I made an investigation of the waters found in Desert Hot Springs, also the soil and geological formations. From the analysis of these waters, I have not found the like of them in any country I have explored…. It would appear to have qualities far superior to any waters known to me. Under proper directions, Desert Hot Springs could become a very important health center."
Situated on 56 acres you are invited to take hikes, borrow a bike and go for a ride, or walk the many trails and photograph the various wildlife, fragrant plants and majestic mountain views. The property also supports several tennis courts, an outdoor pool,  barbecue area, dry sauna and tee time at several local golf courses.

What they have to say about the healing waters...
From the cradle of time deep within the Coachella Valley, nature created one of the hottest mineral wells in the world. These famed waters of health emerge from the Earth at 148 degrees Fahrenheit and descend from the geological fault at Miracle Hill to the mineral springs and resort of Two Bunch Palms. It is here at our world-renowned resort that the mineral waters cascade into a temperature-controlled grotto with two pool areas carved from stone. The smaller pool maintains a temperature of 104 degrees while the larger pool is a steady and constant 99 degrees. We are proud to have one of the few mineral pools with no sulfurous odor, simply a woodsy scent that is reminiscent of a long-lost era. A canopy of trees filters the desert sun during the day but allows for the shimmer of moonlight and sparkle of stars to shine on the waters of The Grotto. Whether shared as a romantic indulgence or solitary pleasure, The Grotto at midnight is a heavenly delight. 
The main Spa is located in a very humble building and offers more than 50 unique and soothing treatments to select from.  All the therapists are highly qualified some being at Two Bunch for over 25 years.  There are also several outdoor treatment gazebos to river rock alcoves, outdoor showers, mud cabanas and newly renovated facial rooms.
Casino Restaurant

Two Bunch Palms Resort and; Spa has been recognized many times: Spa Finders Readers Choice Awards: 2007, 2008, Spa Magazine's Silver Sage Readers Choice Awards: 2007, 2008, and one of Ten Greatest Places to Relax Your Mind and Body by USA Today: November 2008.

Two Bunch Palms also welcomes day guests and I opted for their fabulous World Away Spa Day package, available from Sunday to Friday for $165.00 per person and Saturdays for $185.00 (retail value $215.00).   This amazing package includes one 60 minute Spa Treatment (choose from 12 different treatments.) with Day Spa Fee waived, 15% gratuity for spa treatment, $15 credit for lunch in the Casino Restaurant and unlimited soaking in the "Grotto".  I opted for the Mud Bath/Poultice and added a personalized facial for an additional $99.00.

After a day at Two Bunch not only was I relaxed and rejuvenated, but I felt detoxed, and oddly thinner!  

I would like to extend a very special thank you to Ana Davis who took care of me with such grace and style. 

Two Bunch Palms Resort and; Spa website
Take a tour

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Spa Girl enjoys a Warm Stone Massage @ the Morgan

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California

Just minutes from the historic Hearst Castle where my sister and I spent the day, nestled along one of my  favourite coastal drives is the Morgan at San Simeon.  A lovely boutique-style  hotel with a warmth and personality all its own.  

Serving as a midpoint between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Morgan at San Simeon is convenient not only when visiting Hearst Castle, but all the wineries in Paso Robles.  Named after renowned architect Julia Morgan, who in 1919 designed Hearst Castle.

The Morgan at San Simeon Hotel

San Simeon

The Legacy of Julia Morgan...

American architect Julia Morgan designed over 700 buildings in the state of California, 100 in Hawaii and multiple buildings for institutions serving women and girls. 
Born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland, Morgan was one of the first woman to graduate from University of California Berkley with a degree in civil engineering. Morgan worked on several buildings on the Berkeley campus, including the decorative elements for the Hearst Mining Building and the Hearst Greek Theater. She is the first woman to receive a certificate in architecture from Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. 
In 1904, Miss Morgan opened her own architectural firm and quickly established herself as a fine residential architect. Within no time she secured a number of commissions in the Piedmont, Claremont and Berkeley neighborhoods. 
Julia  Morgan is perhaps best known as the mastermind behind Hearst Castle, also known as La Cuesta Encantada, which overlooks the San Simeon harbor. She was handpicked by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearts for this particular project, which proved to be her largest and most complex. As impressive today as the day it opened, Hearst Castle is now a National Historic Landmark and the pinnacle of Julia Morgan's genius. 
Other notable projects by Julia Morgan include: the rebuilding of the Fairmont Hotel after the 1906 earthquake, the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California, and a series of YMCA buildings throughout California, Hawaii and Utah. Julia Morgan retired in the early 1950's and led a quiet life until her passing in 1957.

History of Hearst Castle...

In 1865, George Hearst, a wealthy miner, purchased 40,000-acres of California ranchland that included the Mexican Ranchos of Piedras Blancas, San Simeon and Santa Rosa. 
In 1919, his only son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the land from his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst. By then the ranch had grown to encompass 250,000 acres. 
 Originally known as “Camp Hill,” its wilderness offered a place for family members and friends to “rough it” on camping trips. Despite elaborate arrangements with separate sleeping and dining tents, Hearst envisioned more comfortable accommodations. His simple instructions to famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan in 1919: “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something”
Hearst and Morgan’s collaboration was destined to become one of the world’s greatest attractions and showplaces. As they were planning and constructing his dream home in the Central Coast of California, Hearst renamed the rocky perch from which it rose “La Cuesta Encantada” – The Enchanted Hill. By 1947, Hearst and Morgan had created an estate of 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. 
The estate’s magnificent main house, “Casa Grande,” and three guest houses are of Mediterranean Revival style, while the imposing towers of Casa Grande were inspired by a Spanish cathedral. The blending of the architectural style with the surrounding land, and Hearst’s superb European and Mediterranean art collection, was so seamless that world-renowned architectural historian, Lord John Julius Norwich, was moved to say that “Hearst Castle is a palace in every sense of the word.”
Visit Hearst Castle

Over the years many guests have visited Hearst Castle including: Lionel and John Barrymore, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Jean Harlow, Buster Keaton, Carole Lombard, Harpo Marx, Louis B. Mayer, David Niven, Mary Pickford, Dick Powell, Barbara Stanwyck, Irving Thalberg, Jack Warner

It was an marvellous day which I wrapped up with the Morgan's Hot Stone Massage.  
The RMT who took great care of me was Cindy Noble, a skilled practitioner who moved to San Simeon from LA to enjoy a more quiet and less frantic lifestyle.  Cindy works as an animal rescue worker, and attends to Spa appointments primarily in the evenings. 
If you are planning a visit, make sure to ask to have Cindy for your evening massage and check out their relaxing Morgan Massage Treat which includes:
  • One night stay in your choice of room
  • Two 60-minute "The Morgan" signature massages
  • One bottle of red or white wine from Harmony Cellars, local favorites!
  • Two souvenir logoed wine glasses
  • Free continental breakfast, parking and Wi-Fi
The Morgan is by no means a full Spa, it is one room offering both traditional and modern massage therapies designed to eliminate tension and energize: warm stone therapy, relaxing and deep tissue massages, facial massages, hand and foot massages or reflexology.  They also offer a couples massage, all to revitalize both body and mind.  
What I liked is their 30-minute enhancement to any service, offered for $45. 
 If I had known just how skilled Cindy was, I would have added on several other treatments!

Massage Services at the Morgan at San Simeon Hotel

Spa Girl says there is an OUCH factor to Threading!

Always willing to try something new and wanting to remove some unwanted facial hair, I did my research and decided to have my face threaded.
Threading is a centuries-old technique with origins in the Middle East and South Asia.  

It is a treatment which uses cotton thread to remove hair. 

The threader twists a thread into a loop and rolls it against the skin, removing the hair. The loop acts like a tiny lasso, plucking the hair from the follicle. Unlike tweezing, where single hairs are pulled out one at a time, threading can remove short lines of hair at lightning speed.

The threader I went to, a very experienced Esthetician said the first minute or so can be uncomfortable, then you get used to it, while others experience no discomfort at all.  For me, just like waxing I found the OUCH factor to be 10 of 10 and had to take a few breaks.  After the first half of my face was done, she closed the door to avoid frightening other clients in the Spa.  Not good for business when you hear screams coming from a treatment room (LOL).  I have always had very sensitive skin, so this is most likely why the OUCH factor was so intense.

Threading provides more precise control in shaping eyebrows and is more gentle on the skin than other methods of removing unwanted facial hair.  It is also gaining popularity in the West for many reasons. It is relatively inexpensive, it is very quick and extremely sanitary, it lasts for up to 6 weeks, leaves your face feeling and looking great, and generally over time, can cause the hair follicle to become damaged, and stop hair growth.

Threading is an art form and you need to seek out an experienced practitioner. And there is that Ouch Factor.  However there are several different ways to relax the hair follicle when threading by using warm compresses, or a numbing spray prior to treatment.  It is also important to clean the face with rubbing alcohol to avoid symptoms like razor burn and apply a good moisturising cream afterwards.

Depending on the Spa or salon you can generally expect to pay (not including a 15% to 20% gratuity) around $12 to $50 for eyebrows; Upper Lip $6 to $20; Full Face $35 to $60; and the Chin between $6 and $15.

So Spa Girls, when considering your perfect face, think about threading!

More about threading...