The new spa at the famous Meadowood resort in St. Helena seems lost in the woods, its quiet taupe exterior blending perfectly with its environment. Even the picture windows in the cosy, comfortable suites provide a soothing outdoor view. Book treatments, tanging from a massage to a milk-and-honey bath, and the therapist will come to you. The chef will even deliver a light lunch or a bottle of bubbly while you relax and unplug for a few hours. Michael Conte, director of spa and wellness, says guests fill out health and lifestyle questionnaires before arrival so staff can draw up a plan to improve their overall health. “We want to get to know the guests,” says Conte, “not just what muscles are hurting.”
At Indian Springs resort, a short walk from downtown Calistoga, everyone knows the best treatment for sore muscles is a mud bath. Thanks to a volcano that erupted nearby millions of years ago, locals and visitors can swim year-round in naturally heated pools.
I must admit I was anxious about my first mud bath as I donned a plush bathrobe and waited my turn. A woman in a purple shirt took me down a longwhite hallway to a noisy industrial room where four long rectangular concrete tubs awaited, one filled to the top with glistening jet-black mud as thick as pudding. Anna beckoned me to sit on the edge of the tub and slowly lower myself onto the mud, placing my head on a pillow.
First surprise, I didn’t sink! It felt like lying on a warm bed. Anna proceeded to pick up gobs of mud on either side and roll them expertly over my body until I was evenly covered, which took several minutes. I’d lie there 10 to 12 minutes, she said, before she disappeared.
The mud felt like a heavy blanket, making it a little hard to breathe. As I dug my hands and heels deeper, the temperature rose. Water d ripped continuously from spigots in the other tubs. I tried to relax but couldn’t. How long has it been? What if they forget me?
Of course, they didn’t. Anna says her regular customers believe the volcanic mud is good for arthritis. It takes two hours in the morning to prepare the tubs, she said, pointing to a bucket full of grey ash that’s mixed with hot water to form a thick paste.
Another attendant guided me to a shower to rinse off the mud, then to a white room of long claw-shaped porcelain bathtubs with sloping backs. I slipped into the clear hot water and drank the glass of cold water she offered. Next stop, the steam room, followed by a brief nap in a Spartan room, cucumber slices covering my eyes. I finally began to relax, and thought how delicious a glass of Napa wine would taste right now. Cabernet season, indeed.
Throughout our Napa Valley trip, we were treated to wonderful accommodation, culinary delights, amazing wines and relaxing spa treatments. For more information, visit:
Chateau de Vie B&B, Calistoga
The Inn on Randolph, Napa
Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer, St. Helena
La Toque, Napa
Oxbow Public Market, Napa: TORC, Napa
B Cellars Vineyards and Winery
Indian Springs, Calistoga
Meadowood Napa Valley, St. Helena