Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spa Life Among The Boulders

I had been battling a cold and sinus infection all week. I spent lots of time in the spa at the Arizona Biltmore and Sanctuary at Camelback in steam rooms filled with eucalyptus. I was finally starting to feel a bit better at The Boulders, and I it was a good thing because I got to really enjoy one most incredible spas I have ever seen.

It’s hard to explain The Boulders to a person who has never been. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe the sprawling grounds, filled with natural boulders, more types of cacti than you have ever seen, and just about anything you could need in this miniature city on the mountain.

My day began just as it should in a place like this – with sunrise yoga. I practice yoga all the time, but there’s something about a setting like this that made the class amazing. I wished I had been feeling better and could also experience the other classes offered on the fitness side in this huge Golden Door Spa.

The spa at The Boulders is 33,000 square feet and has 24 treatment rooms, the gym, a movement studio, the Labryinth (“a path to tranquility”), Watsu and a beauty salon. In addition, there are relaxation areas, a tea room, huge locker rooms, steam rooms, saunas, Japanese soaking baths, a Golden Door Café and an outdoor swimming pool with whirlpool. It’s a place you could easily stay in for a day (or even a week) in full relaxation without ever being bored – and I came close to doing that.

After my yoga class I had breakfast in the spa’s café. The menu was inviting and healthy, and I settled on some tea with an egg white omelet, filled with asparagus and goat cheese and served with tomato sauce and fruit. With it came an absolutely delicious banana nut muffin. It was still warm from the oven and turned out to be lowfat and gluten free!

My roommate and fellow writer Susan did a morning hike and we met up back at the room for a while before heading to the spa together for a meeting with Debi Bridges, the public relations rep for the resort. It was lunchtime by then and I had no problem with another meal at the Spa Café. I had a chicken & wild rice soup, spinach artichoke dip with pita and a smoothie. It couldn’t have been a more perfect lunch in a beautiful setting overlooking the mountains.

After lunch we took a tour of the property in a golf cart and I saw so many scenic trails I wished I had more time to explore, but I was anxious to get back to the spa as relaxation seemed to be the best way for me to get healthy. I went for a short swim in the outdoor pool and then got comfortable in the tea room with some apple cider tea and a book.

I had chosen a Lavender Zen Treatment and it combined everything I loved. Using lavender-scented products, I first had a scrub, followed by a warm towel wipe down. Then, hot rose quartz stones were placed around my body before I was massaged with warm oil. We finished the 90 minute treatment with me wrapped in warm towels while my feet and scalp were rubbed with oil! I would recommend visiting The Boulders for this treatment alone.

I stayed in the spa a bit more for a steam room and shower before walking back to the room for a nap. We dressed for dinner and then sat on our patio with a bottle of Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Moscato (yum) to celebrate our final night in the Phoenix area.

Dinner was at Palo Verde. The comfortable Southwestern décor was in contrast to the International menu. It was filled with small plates so we had a chance to sample quite a bit. David, or waiter, was very helpful and brought out a feast of interesting creations that were all wonderful:

Arancini Sicilian Risotto Croquettes with leeks and mushrooms;
Crispy Polenta Cake with red peppers, onions and goat cheese;
Duck Quesadilla with asatero cheese in a pineapple chipotle salsa;
Spicy Cannelloni;
and Linguini with Meatballs.

Throughout the meal, Brad, the restaurant manager, brought over some Arizona wines for me to try. (Susan was more than happy with her Frozen Mango Margaritas). I really enjoyed the Pillsbury Wild Child White Blend, a combination of chenin blanc and riesling made in the high appellations of Southwest Arizona, and the 2009 Nache Red Blend, a combination of petite syrah, Grenache and syrah which was very fruit filled, with notes of dark raspberries and blueberries.

After a decadent Bailey’s Irish Cream Chocolate cake with a rich fudge frosting, Brad brought Cameron over to talk to us a bit about Tequila Herudera, the tequila that he helped pick for The Boulders. They bought the barrel and keep going back for more as it has become the bestselling tequila in Arizona. I couldn’t disagree as it was very smooth with lots of vanilla.

We ended up closing out the restaurant for our last night of this amazing trip. Susan and I talked quite a bit about our favorite resort and it was unanimous that there wasn’t one. We loved the executive lounge and formal grounds of the Arizona Biltmore; the spacious casita and restaurant views of the Sanctuary at Camelback; and the magnificent spa (with café and pool area) at The Boulders. We also agreed that we were so glad we got to stay and enjoy all three.

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