It’s 5:45 in the morning and I’m hiking up the side of a mountain, barely awake and more than a little grumpy. I’m not a morning person, I’ve got three more long miles to go, mostly uphill and I’m beginning to wonder what inspired me to undertake this particular spa adventure to begin with. But as the sun starts to warm the day, the smell of blackberries, canyon sage and fennel distract me and I remind myself that a soak in the bath house hot pool, an in-room massage and a facial await me later that afternoon.
Welcome to the Golden Door, “Grande Dame” of the spa world, renowned for its innovative programs and impeccable service. I’ve signed on for their week long stay, a comprehensive package that includes just about everything you could possibly imagine to guarantee an experience of pure spa bliss.
My day starts with the fan, the scheduling fan that is. Personalized especially for me, my fan arrives every morning on an in-room breakfast tray, outlining the classes, spa treatments and programs that I picked out at the beginning of the week with my personal fitness specialist, Lora Botwinick. Like everything else at the Golden Door, the fan aims to please. Changed your mind about that Feldenkrais class? Cross it off the fan and take a nap instead. Feeling adventurous and wanting to experiment? Sign up for archery, Taiken Page (an incredible experience of expressive art collage), or a private hour with a life coach. If you dream it, you can pretty much do it at this renowned haven of wellness.
The flexibility and thoughtfulness of the Golden Door is designed to do what it does best: put you back in touch with yourself. At every turn of the traditionally designed Japanese garden, complete with curving pathways and contemplative fountains, there is the opportunity to stop and ask yourself, “what do I want to do right now, in this moment?”
Surprisingly for this massage/treatment loving spa girl, I found that what I really wanted to do was get stronger and feel healthier, which is what led me to continue to wake up every morning (except for one when I forgot to set my alarm) and embark on the legendary Golden Door morning hikes. Following the hikes I took yoga classes, a swim class and tried an amazing variety of dance and fitness classes including Burlesque, Indian Dance and my surprise favorite: Cardio Drum Dance also known as “Drums Alive”.
For someone who avoided my high school aerobics classes with an ever more creative list of excuses, this wacky new form of fitness was a surprise breakout hit. Picture a room full of women with drumsticks and Pilates balls dancing around the room banging away to the beat of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” and you’ll get a hint of the fitness mayhem that took place. As our instructor Suzy Hernandez said at the start of the class, “you’ll get your heart rate up, tone your muscles and strengthen your core, but secretly, my favorite part of the class is letting my inner rock star out!” I had no idea that I had an inner rock star needing an outlet, but apparently there was a Go-Go Girl lurking inside me just waiting for her 15 minutes of fame and Cardio Drum Dance was the perfect medium to let her shine.
With both my inner jock and rock star emerging from the depths in the safe and supportive environment of the Golden Door haven, my more conscious selves i.e. “spa girl” and “beauty queen” weren’t neglected at all, not even one little bit. In fact, these prima donna spa selves scored big time, as daily massages in my room with expert practitioners T.J. and Fu kept sore muscles at bay and my body deliciously relaxed. A choice of a facial or body treatment every afternoon left me feeling ridiculously indulged and thoroughly pampered, without a care in the world.
Many times during my visit I said to myself, “this has got to be the best part”, only to find my expectations soon surpassed. Surely, I thought to myself, “this hour in the Gentle Yoga class is the best.” But then I took Cardio Drum Dance and a Yoga Flow class, went on a labyrinth walk, had an enlivening conversation with one of the other 17 women there, ate an amazing gourmet meal and felt my brain wake up while attending a lecture on Heart Math (breathing exercises to reduce stress). By the end of the week, I’d had so many amazing moments I wasn’t sure how I could possibly choose from the multitude of “best” moments I’d had the good fortune to experience.
The Golden Door journey is one that I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience. Deborah Szekely founder of the Golden Door and sister spa Rancho La Puerta has created a wellness program so visionary, so intelligent and so enlivening that over 60 years later it still feels cutting edge and alive. Perhaps my favorite part of the Golden Door has been how easy it has been to bring what I learned there home. With my handy fitness packet created by Lora, an incredible amount of support and encouragement from the overall Golden Door program and the enthusiasm I developed for the daily hikes, I’ve managed to continue my daily exercise and wellness program for the nearly three weeks since I’ve been back. The additional energy, mood enhancement and strength I’ve experienced as a result has truly enriched and transformed my life and for that I am eternally grateful. Now, if only there were some way I could re-create those daily massages…..
Golden Door Reservations
Post Office Box 463077
Escondido, CA 92046-3077 USA
For Reservations: 888-887-4857
Fax: (760) 471-2393