Asheville Road Trip Day 3: Zipping Through the Trees

 

Me ziplining at Navitat in Asheville

Me ziplining at Navitat in Asheville

 

A tad groggy from all the alcohol the previous night, I awoke, performed my usual  morning yoga puja and prepared for a zip line adventure at Navitat Canopy Tours of Asheville. My only mistake of the day was to opt for breakfast in the Blue Ridge Dining Room rather than enjoy another sumptuous Executive Club breakfast.  The Blue Ridge Dining room offers a buffet option for dining and I wondered what they offered for breakfast.  I wanted to eat light but felt I needed more than fruit so I overlooked the omelette station and heavier hot foods and went for one of the only gluten-free options, sausage and grits.  I am a Southerner and adore grits but these were the consistency of paste and the sausage smelled so wretched and looked so grey that I left the plate on the buffet table and went for some oatmeal instead thinking it less dangerous.  Perchance I was correct in the oatmeal’s minimal danger as a carrier of food bourn  illness but it turned out to be glue-like and tasteless despite my efforts to jazz it up with maple syrup , fruit and granola.  The tea selection lacked as well and my tea-cup leaked a pomegranate colored puddle all over the white table cloth.  A totally unsatisfying breakfast. At $30.00 per person I felt even more unhappy about it.  Fortunately, the lackluster meal was far from an indicator of the remainder of the day.

Truly, a trip to Asheville might as well be a trip to any artsy town if you neglect the incredible outdoor opportunities available in the area.  There is great hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting, rock climbing etc in the area.  My hosts opted to take me (and the others in the group) ziplining, something I have done once or twice before on a seriously smaller scale.

At about 9:00am we piled into a car and headed to Navitat Canopy Tours a zip lining outfit about 30 minutes away.  Once checked in we were outfitted with harnesses, helmets and gloves and driven uphill to a short path and our training lines.  Our guides, Nate, Chris and Will were FABULOUS! I am terrified of heights but they made me feel quite safe and easeful.  They were patient, instructive, safety-conscious and encouraging.  Nate, who has a voice so warm and resonating that it could melt butter, taught us all about zipline safety and braking before with tried our first little run.  We had three trial runs to get us used to braking and zipping then on satisfy my inner Tarzan on 2 miles (I think) worth of ziplines, two rappelling experiences, a few rope bridges to cross and some short distance hiking.

At first I was so concerned about stopping correctly that I barely noticed the passing scenery but once I became more confident this treetop world gave me a whole new perspective on what a bird’s eye view is really all about.  It was mentally, physically and spiritually exhilarating in addition to being a surreptitious full body workout.  I was truly tired post zipping.  To make the experience even better, Will, proved to be an expert in the flora of the area and regaled us with information about wildflowers and plants during our short hikes.  Nate pointed out birds including a few neon red Scarlet Tanagers who migrate directly through Asheville from South America to environs further north for the summer.  At one point one of our party fell short of a landing platform and Nate calmly went out on the line and pulled her in by flipping around and using his feet to walk upside down the line back to the landing site.  It was remarkable to watch. I would recommend this activity and Navitat to anyone who would like to try ziplining or anyone who already enjoys it.

Back at the base station, we ate picnic lunches that had been prepared by the Grove Park Inn’s in-room dining service.  Making it as visual an experience as a culinary one, they had creatively packed our lunches in antique looking hanging lanterns very cute!  They won me over with a delectable ham and swiss sandwich on huge slices of gluten free bread with thinly sliced cucumbers, a spiced mayo and cilantro served with house made potato chips (yum!) an apple and bottled water. (My mouth is literally watering at the thought of that sandwich- that is how good it was.)

The sun was shining brightly as we returned to the Inn and I decided that a hike around the property would be a good way to spend the afternoon.  The concierge provided me with a map and marked out a 2.5 mile trek around the property and into the adorable neighborhood surrounding.  I checked out the sports facilities at the bottom of the parking lot just to say I saw it then walked on around some of the most charming houses imaginable.  The golf course was busy with weekend golfers and spring flowers were just beginning to pop pinks, whites and yellows amongst the emerald-green grass. I also decided to stop in The Fitzgerald condominiums, a visually pleasing building boasting stunning views next to the Grove Park Inn and part of its real estate holdings.

For between 1 and 1.6 million dollars one can purchase one of these three bedroom, three bath vacation pads and enjoy the convenience of visiting the Grove Park Inn and Asheville without making a reservation.  The condo model was nice, well-appointed but nothing to write home about.  The living area is all one big open space where kitchen runs into dining area which runs into the living area with gas/wood burning fireplace and big windows that show off the view overlooking the golf course and waves of the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond.

I had just enough time for a quick visit to the silent relaxation area of the spa and a cat nap before venturing with trepidation back down to the Blue Ridge Dining Room for dinner with Tracy, Julia and the other guests in our party. We were seated at a table with a nice view of the sunset and were invited to start buffet service whenever we liked.  I was given a tour of the stations to identify the Gluten Free options. Gluten Free and Vegan dishes are marked for easy identification however, I found two mistakes that could be a real problem for someone who has just started a gluten-free lifestyle and is unfamiliar with what contains gluten and what doesn’t. A salad containing blue cheese was marked gf as well as an udon noodle salad.  I explained to my host that the mold that gives blue cheese its distinct flavor and texture is produced by inserting wheat grains into the cheese at some point during the cheese making process. He quickly removed the card and had it reprinted, removing the gf brand.  I failed to notice the udon noodle salad until a later trip around the buffet and simply prayed that someone else would tell them that though many types of Asian noodles are made with rice, udon noodles are made with wheat flour which is quite glutenous.  Aside from that, everything I tasted from the buffet was delicious, with several dishes being quite creative in their taste combinations and textures.  There were the standard prime rib carving station, cheese and fruit tray, a  seafood station piled with shrimp, oysters and clams and lots of cake like desserts but the real creativity happened around the vegetables which were often a combination of traditional southern treatments and international spices.  Green beans with bacon being a more southern choice then (something I never would have thought of) Beets, carrots; honey and thyme.  The pork loin with portabella mushrooms, leeks and figs also sounded really good. The service was fastidious and friendly. Overall the experience was quite pleasant, overriding the morning’s dining misery.

After dinner we ventured down to Elaine’s Dueling Piano Bar for a little fun.  The place was packed with locals and tourists alike making seating far away from the stage our party’s only possible option.  The entertainment at Elaine’s consists of three men playing requested tunes in rotation on two grand pianos.  Having three guys allows for breaks and continuous music.  Patrons request songs for a fee and the guys sometimes play them as duets and sometimes play solo.  Anything from the national anthem to show tunes to any era of rock music is in these guys repertoire. The lounge itself is dated and cave-like but the crowd was loving the entertainment and cocktails.

At about 11:30 and 10 more songs from the ‘70’s than need to hear again in this lifetime, I dragged myself up to my room and decided that to leave without having tried the jet tub would be a sin.  Using hotel provided shampoo to make bubbles I soaked up one last relaxing experience at the Grove Park Inn before my 8:00am departure.

To summarize: The spa and ziplining were my two favorite aspects of this trip.  I wish I had that zipline course available at home as it would become part of my regular work-out for muscle toning.

Post trip note:  During my visit, I was given a sample of some locally produced hair care products called Broo so named because they are made with the unofficial drink of Asheville, beer.  The claim is that beer has B vitamins, proteins and minerals that make it a “superdrink” for healthy hair.  I was skeptical but after using the shampoo and conditioner one time I noticed that my hair was softer and much more manageable despite the frizz inducing humidity of a rainy spring day in Central Virginia. People even commented on how great my hair looked – surprising as it was in great need of a color touch up so the compliment had to be about the texture and shine.  I am looking forward to using this shampoo again and am interested in knowing if other people feel like making a commercial for them after one use as I did.  For more information or to order some Broo products click here.

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Road Trip to Asheville: Day 2: Brews and Food

Cocktail Coaster at Grove Park Inn

Cocktail Coaster at Grove Park Inn

A tepid rainy Friday in Asheville, I begin my day with my customary puja of mediation and yoga before popping in to the Grove Park’s Executive Club Lounge for a light breakfast of yogurt, house made granola, fruit and tea with a side of smoked salmon, pickled onion and capers.  I adore good granola and have often mused over the prospect of investigating home/in-house granolas for a comparison story – may still do that someday- and found the Grove Park’s granola to be quite good.  Crunchy nuggets of oats and sweetener (possibly agave) accented with dried apricots, cherries and cranberries (I am guessing here as I neglected to speak to the chef about it) but overall a medium amount of crunch with enough flavor to be distinctive without being overloaded.  I liked it.  In fact, everything I ate in the Exec Lounge was wonderful and often better than the hotel’s restaurants.  Other breakfast offerings that morning (they switch it out daily) included an egg sandwich on an english muffin, a selection of cereals, bagels, pastries, croissants, juices, coffee and a stunning array of fresh fruits and berries. Oh and the tea,  I became practically addicted to the herbal chai and was practically moved to tears the following morning when the Blue Ridge Dining Room failed to offer it.

I met Tracy Johnston-Crum, the Grove Park Inn’s Marketing Director and Julia Akers for a tour of the property.  The Grove Park Inn has quite a history.  Its creator, Edwin Wiley Grove made his fortune concocting and selling a tasteless quinine tonic for warding off maleria and other diseases and seeing the potential of Asheville as a place of respite and recovery.  He purchased the property where the Grove Park and surrounding neighborhood now exists and began adding to his millions by selling real estate.  He saved the plum piece of property for his vision of an Inn and in 1912 commissioned his son-in-law to design and build the distinctive flagship stone structure depicted in post cards as the main building.  Grove demanded that the building be operational in one year so 450 workers where hired to work 10 hour days six days a week to complete the Inn on time.  They did it and the doors opened for guests 362 days later.

Among presidents and other luminaries, F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed at the Inn while his wife, Zelda, convalessed at a sanitorium near by.  And of course there is a ghost (what cool old place would be complete without one?) known charmingly as “The Pink Lady”.  The legend goes that she was the unregistered “guest” of a politician who fell (or perhaps was pushed) to her death from a 5th floor balcony in the Atrium in the wee hours of a morning during the 1920’s.  Not wanting to draw attention to the situation, the management had her body rolled up in a blanket or something and disposed. The incident remained unmentioned until guests began to see a pink mist at times and some unexplained pranks happened around the hotel.  Makes a good story at any rate.

Following the brief tour of the Sammons and Vanderbult wings including glimpses into Horizons and the Blue Ridge Dining Room, we hopped on a Tour Trolley to see Asheville.  We stopped at the Mast General Store two levels of wood floored old fashioned hodge podge. A place where one can buy candy out of a barrel, find an unusual kitchen gadget or buy the hippy- inspired clothing that abounds in this relaxed, outdoorsy town.

For lunch we stopped at the Wicked Weed, Asheville’s latest micro-brew pub.  Asheville is known for beer, the perfect casual drink for such a laid back place.  It is also known for good food and a farm-to-table mindset. The restaurant was expecting us and designed a beer tasting with one of the brewmasters.  Sadly, for you beer enthusiasts out there I have little interest in micro-brewing and found the tastes of all their beers to be too pungent and raw. I failed to be enlightened as to the process or nuances of the Wicked Weeds signature beers because it grew so loud in the place that the brewmaster’s lecture became inaudible.  I do recall one very fruity beer that smacked of grapefruit. Anyway, everyone else seemed to be enjoying their tastes.  Appetizers were very good, particularly the onion dip with house made potato chips, the mussels and the calamari which is fried in cornmeal making us gluten free people very happy.  The bison burger I ordered was hard, dry and virtually flavorless.  It is easy to overcook bison because it is leaner than beef and the cook made this mistake. My lunch sat in my stomach like the rock it was and I was pretty miserable for the remainder of the afternoon.  The service could have been better as well.  I was never asked about side options and was automatically served fries where some of my dining mates were brought delicious grilled brussels sprouts.  It also took almost an hour for our food to come out of the kitchen once ordered.  We were there for almost three hours with beer tasting, lunch and a 15 minute tour of the brewery. Wicked Weed is only four months old and is possibly still working out the kinks.  My recommendation is to go for aps and a beer and stay away from the main courses which are mostly sandwiches and less than stellar by my experience.

On the flip side of my mood which was dampened by the arduous lunch and pouring rain, was a quick visit to my favorite place in Asheville and really, one of my favorite hang outs on the planet, Battery Park Book Exchange.  I love this place because it is a champagne/coffee bar packed floor almost to high ceiling with tidy shelves of books where one can lounge on tasteful leather furniture set on fine orientals  surrounded by Chinese red painted walls and nice art to (prepare for a shock) read a physical copy of a newspaper or an actual hard bound book.  It reminds of sitting in a sophisticated intellectual’s Park Ave apartment library at any time on a weekend day. A true literary conclave. Plus dogs are welcome – as they are almost everywhere in Asheville.

Asheville also has a designated Arts district, a place that evolved as most art districts do, industry went bust and warehouse rentals became cheap encouraging artists to move in and oh, you know the rest… the next thing you know there is a restaurant opening and tourists coming in droves.  The Asheville arts district is situated along the river and is on its way to becoming a true commercial destination as Sierra Nevada plans to open a brewery there with a restaurant.  One cool thing about it is that people will paddle in canoes and kayaks from above and below the district, pull their boats out at a designated boat landing and then walk around the area and grab a bite to eat.

I got back to the Grove Park just in time to get down to the spa and take the cold plunge, an experience much needed to wake me up for dinner.  In a designated women’s area of the spa, next to the eucalyptus room, sauna and steam room lies a “C” -shaped hot tub nestled by an in ground cylinder of a cold water about four feet in diameter and maybe six feet deep.  One soaks in the hot tub with or without jets running until they are quite warm then quickly plunge feet first into the cold pool. It was just the exhilerating stimulous I needed for the second long reasonably unsatisfying dining experience of the day at the Inn’s Horizons restaurant.

But Cocktails in the Great Hall with the General Manager first. The Grove Park Inn has created several specialty cocktails in honor of its 100th birthday that come in glasses you can take home.  Having a penchant for ghost stories, I tried the Pink Lady which was tasty yet sweet then switched to a Corset (a glorified Margarita).  Below is a list of all the Centennial Cocktails:

Sunset Terrace Caipirinha

11⁄2 OZ 10 CANE RUM

1 OZ GINGER LIME SIMPLE SYRUP 1⁄4 CUP BLUEBERRIES

CLUB SODA

SPLASH OF SPRITE

2 LIME WEDGES

Muddle lime, simple syrup & blueberries. Add rum, ice & add soda, top with Sprite. Garnish with blueberries & lime wedge.

Grove Park Inn is nestled on the western- facing slope of the Sunset Mountain within the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Bootlegger

1 OZ TROY & SONS’

PLATINUM MOONSHINE

6 OZ CRAFT KÖLSCH BEER

1 OZ STAR ANISE &

CLEMENTINE HONEY SYRUP

Build in glass over ice. Garnish with an orange wheel.

Bootleggers & Moonshiners worked hand in hand producing & distributing alcohol during Prohibition.

Grove’s Tasty Chill Tonic

11⁄2 OZ BULLEIT BOURBON 1 OZ SIMPLE SYRUP

1 ORANGE WHEEL

1 LEMON WHEEL

CLUB SODA

Muddle fruit & simple syrup. Add ice, bourbon & club soda.

Dr. E.W. Grove was made famous for his “Tasteless” Chill Tonic, sold as a preventative for malaria. Grove touted “It’ll cure what ails you!”

The Corset

11⁄2 OZ DON JULIO BLANCO 1⁄2 OZ GRAND MARNIER

1 OZ FRESH LIME JUICE

1⁄2 OZ AGAVE SYRUP

Shake vigorously with ice, strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge. Sea salted rim optional.

The Corset gave women the hourglass figure they were looking for. Our version may not enhance your figure, but it won’t add to it either.

Love Potion No. 13

11⁄2 OZ CAPTAIN MORGAN BLACK SPICED RUM

1⁄2 OZ COINTREAU

2 DROPS GRAPEFRUIT BITTERS 2 OZ BEET SIMPLE SYRUP CLUB SODA

Combine, pour over ice & top with soda. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Dr. Grove’s tonics could have cured what ails you, our Love Potion No. 13 may just “beet” the ailments of love.

Perfect “Inn” Manhatten

2 OZ BULLEIT BOURBON 1⁄2 OZ BRANDIED

CHERRY RESERVE

5 DROPS BLOOD ORANGE- VANILLA BITTERS

EQUAL PARTS SWEET &

DRY VERMOUTH

Combine over ice, shake throughly, and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with brandied cherries.

The Grove Park Inn was built in 1913. Completed in less than a year, opening on July 12, 1913.

The Pink Lady

11⁄2 OZ KETEL ONE VODKA

1⁄2 OZ GRAND MARNIER

1⁄2 OZ PISTACHIO SIMPLE SYRUP 11⁄2 OZ AC,AI & POMEGRANATE JUICE

Combine, shake well & strain into glass. Top with Grand Marnier. Serve with a pistachio biscotti on the side.

It is belived that a ghost of a young woman surrounded by a mist of pink haunts the Palm Court, where she fell to her death in the 1920’s.

Donald Ross “Tee”

11⁄2 OZ HENDRICK’S GIN

1⁄2 OZ EARL GREY AND BAY

LEAF SIMPLE SYRUP

2 DROPS CELERY BITTERS

CLUB SODA

Combine and serve over ice. Garnish with an orange wheel.

The Grove Park Inn’s famed 18 hole golf course was designed by legendary course designer Donald Ross in 1926.

Seely’s Craftsman

1 OZ BULLEIT BOURBON 6 OZ CRAFT BROWN ALE 1⁄2 OZ MAPLE SYRUP

Build in a glass over ice. Garnish with brown sugar crusted black pepper bacon.

Fred Loring Seely was Edwin Wiley Grove’s son-in-law. He oversaw the construction of the Grove Park & managed it for 27 years.

Horizons is known for its view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and boasts spectacular sunset sightings.  The view is indeed splendid and we were graced with a decent sunset which added to the pleasant ambiance. Under the leadership of chef Duane Fernandes, obviously this is considered a pretty special place as one couple was having a romantic dinner marked by the three dozen long stem roses set on their table and several other patrons were rather well dressed.  I was thrilled by the three mini gluten free biscuits presented to me in place of regular bread and the prospect of eating something other than red meat for dinner.  To be fair, the menu looked good but almost every dish featured something with gluten in it. I opted for a potato, leek, celery soup to start and roasted chicken with vegetables which was offered with pasta but adapted to gluten free with mashed potatoes.

The soup was so salty it was almost inedible.  It tasted very much like Campbell’s Cream of Celery soup from a can to me but with a rougher texture (an improvement). I ate less than half the bowl, unable to tolerate it even for politeness sake.  The chicken dish was dull. Perhaps the substitution made it more bland than it would normally be but it was simply boring,  The chicken itself was perfectly cooked, however, juicy and tender.  Dessert was the highlight. A sharp lemon custard served with a blackberry sorbet balanced by a glass of ice wine.  I could have eaten a gallon of this mouth-puckering concoction it was so light yet sharply flavorful.

Service was slow though the staff were all very pleasant and accommodating.

Dinner which began at 7:00 finished at 9:50.

I was in bed by 10:30 in order to be well rested for zip lining at Navitat the next morning.

Road Trip: Asheville, North Carolina- Day 1: Aaahhhh, The Spa

 

The front entrance to The Grove Park Inn

The front entrance to The Grove Park Inn

 

I have been to Asheville a couple of times and frankly it is so similar to my home in beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia (both towns are associated with the Blue Ridge Mountains) that I am a little jaded in my personal feelings towards the place in terms of the fluid like mountain scenery which most people find quite stunning. Both towns are Mecca to outdoorsy types who enjoy hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing etc as well as mindfulness junkies, farm-to-table foodies and liberal thinking, craftsy/ artsy types.  The towns differ enough to make a visit to Asheville a must on any Mountain or Southern tour one might be inclined to indulge.  Charlottesville has the Jefferson legacy featured prominently in Monticello and The University of Virginia peppered with a hint of “Old Money” attitude, wine and horses.  Asheville is a destination for relaxation and rejuvenation washed down with a locally crafted beer particularly marked by the fabulous Vanderbilt vacation home Biltmore and the poshly rustic, Grove Park Inn.

 

On a previous visit, I had the pleasure of staying at the Biltmore Inn.  This time I have the good fortune to be a guest at the Grove Park Inn, invited to check out their Centennial music festival activities and the spectacular spa. Built in 1913, The Grove Park Inn is celebrating its centennial year while experiencing significant changes instigated by its new owner KLS corp.  Some of the updates have already been made like new Arts and Crafts casings for the massive columns in the grand hall and the restoration of one of the massive fireplaces that flank the grand hall to working order. Other changes are still to come  such as the extension of the sunset terrace by paving over the kitchen gardens and reworking the restaurants’ menus.

 

I arrived on a breezy, partly sunny, Thursday afternoon in mid-April at the great stone structure originally built to attract the masses to the mountains for a little turn of the last century R&R.  The Great Hall was vacuous and dark, the design intention was that the natural characteristics of the environment contain healing properties so the lighting is purposefully dim, the fireplaces generate warmth and the stone structure purportedly emits positive energy. Whatever the reason, it was dark but most relaxing.  I checked in to the Executive Club floor which is located on the 11th floor in the Vanderbilt wing, a nice perk as I probably would not have otherwise chosen it due to expense.  The room was large and decorated with tan and brown earth tones and a high ceiling painted light blue to possibly indicate the sky.   Semi-arts and crafts furniture, (I say “semi” because the king-sized bed rested on a ’70’s like polished gold base which was supposed to be disguised with an ill -fitting rust colored fabric) accented by an electric fireplace decorated the room.  The bathroom was a showstopper though, all stone with a jacuzzi tub, white porcelain sink bowls and a shower built for two with four different options for showering including two types of rain showers and a four head wall shower choice.  Sumptuously  scented Grove Park Spa featured bath products are featured.

 

The two main attractions at the Grove Park Inn are the underground spa and the golf course with very few options for families so leave the kids at home or venture up to The Grove Park’s sister property, The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia which is mostly family oriented.  Since I don’t know anything about golf, I would be a disservice for me to attempt to describe  the course or how wonderful it is.  All I know is that lots of golfers from Charlotte, Charleston and Atlanta like to golf there.  The Spa however is a different story.

 

A self-proclaimed spa junky, I will say that the Spa at the Grove Park Inn Resort (its proper name) is truly unique and quite spectacular.  It is 43,000 square feet of treatment rooms, rock caverns water features and fire places centered lounge areas. Oh and then there is the Spa Cafe  which has the best food on the property for the health conscious. AND the ubiquitous spa boutique where this writer fawned over the high quality very soft workout and lounge clothing, even purchasing (gasp) a reversible Speedo swimsuit.

 

There are two ways to get to the spa entrance.  One is by walking down the cascade of stone stairs from the main building.  The other is via rock lined tunnels that connect the Sammons and Vanderbilt wings to the spa foyer.  Guests are provided green or white robes in their rooms that may be worn to the spa. From Monday through Thursday non-hotel guests are welcome to make spa appointments or just come to hang out for a fee.  Friday through Sunday the Spa is only open to paying guests.  White robed club floor guests are allowed unlimited access to the spa and its many water features at no extra charge but the green robed regular guests must pay to visit this cave of calmness.

 

The entire space is designed to emphasize the healing properties of the elements and appeal the all five senses.  The first thing I noticed about the facility was the glorious smell.  Custom made essential oils are automatized throughout. Dim lighting and earthy tones accentuate the call to release tension and chill for a while as soothing music laced with bird songs is piped all over. Lockers are provided in a comfortable sized locker room with adjacent dressing rooms for the more modest. Green and Orange Ginger tea or infused water is available at a few different stations and little snacks of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate chips.

 

The spa boasts both indoor and outdoor water features.  All water is purified with saline which is gentler on the senses than chlorinated pools.  There is a heated, indoor lap pool with underwater speakers that pump music into submerged swimmer’s ears, a multitude of fiber optic lights set in the dome above to simulate stars.  Also indoors are two heated water fall pools that dump massaging running wanter on the shoulders and backs of people who venture underneath, a cold plunge pool set off in its own little grotto, a pool for lingering and a heated outdoor pool with a stone fireplace nearby.

 

The Spa's lap pool.

The Spa’s lap pool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to try something indigenous to the place itself so I choose to experience the Fire, Rock, Water and LIght treatment.  Here is the spa brochure description of that service:

 

FIRE, ROCK, WATER AND LIGHT

The crème de la crème of The Spa! Our signature treatment blends the natural elements of The Spa — Fire, Rock, Water and Light — into one luxurious experience. Treatment includes indulgences such as a full body exfoliation, Vichy waterfall massage, softening soak, healing body masque and a relaxing massage. Feels like an entire day at The Spa!

 

Sounds wonderful, right?

 

After checking in, I was escorted to the Women’s Locker Room where a sumptuous spa robe was provided along with special spa flip flops and a locker assigned.  Once de-clothed and robed, a staffer led me to the waiting area in the silent retreat room, a space dedicated to quiet appointed with comfy leather chairs, a big stone fireplace and large windows that were open to allow the evening mountain breeze and natural light into the room. Shortly, my treatment provider, Jason, a nice looking, gentle young man, greeted me with a soft warm cupping my hand in both of his. Every member of the staff I encountered used a reassuring, mesmerizing sotto voce further emphasizing the designation of this place for respite.  Jason led me to a special treatment room for this, the spa’s signature service.  The room is round in shape to soften sound.  A Vichy shower table set in the middle, a soaking tub and a shower.

 

I settled face up on the table and prepared for 80 minutes of exposure to the elements.  I was jelly after the first 10 minutes and enjoyed a world class, professional treatment.  Grove Park, as it is set in the middle of conservative North Carolina, adhere’s to the modesty rules common in more rural parts of North America of the strategic placement of towels over the breasts (women), buttocks and frontal private parts unlike European spas – just so you conservative spa goers out there know you would be perfectly comfortable as I could care less about such things.  The entire treatment was expertly executed and at the end my skin was delightfully soft,  all my travel angst  had been washed and stone massaged away and I felt fabulous.  To top it off, Jason brought me a glass of champagne and a pair of large juicy chocolate covered strawberries.  Yep, I felt quite spoiled.

 

A light dinner followed in the Spa Cafe where Head Chef, David Mulder, served a refreshing tasting menu of spa favorites.  This was by far my favorite meal of the weekend because it was well thought out with a variety of flavors, the ingredients all looked and tasted super fresh and the presentation was artful.  The first course was a medley of two goat cheeses and a sheep’s cheese with some berries little toasts and a house made pear butter to balance the tartness of the cheeses.  Next Chilled Melon Soup (watermelon,feta cheese and mint oil), an Asheville Artisan salad of baby lettuce, cherry tomatoes, english cucumbers, herbed artichoke hearts, greek olives, house basil vinaigrette, and a Grilled Vegetable and Hummus Wrap (grilled portabello, zucchini, squash, and roasted red peppers with hummus- mine was wrapped in cucumber strips) and Pecan and Caramel Creme Brûlée were all served on the same plate in charming little servings. The flavors in all of these dishes were balanced and interesting without being overpowering. The Melon Soup was a particular favorite, the feta provided some texture and saltiness to balance the sweet melon and  the mint oil added a warmth and lusciousness to the texture of a usually watery type concoction. Light, healthy and tasty- what more could one want for spa food?

 

The next day I returned to the spa to sample the specially made  by La Belge Chocolatier house chocolates (which are given out following manicures and pedicures) and for an Aura Imaging, a service I have never seen in another spa.

 

Four chocolate discs, one white, one dark and two milk were carefully packaged in a light green round box tied with a gold bow. The presentation was lovely and is sure to make the receiver feel appreciated.  The chocolate was of excellent smooth melt-to the-touch consistency but a bit too sweet for my palate.

 

I did not get the actual Color light treatment described below (from the online spa brochure), but I did have a picture of my aura taken with a special camera.

 

Actual treatment description:

COLOR & LIGHT WRAP WITH AURA IMAGING

We begin with our special light-sensitive photography, identifying your particular aura. That’s followed by soothing exfoliation and a detoxifying clay body wrap, during which music, light, heat and aromatherapies work to achieve balance and harmony. Once complete, we take a second aura photo to show you the results. The before and after images are yours to keep.

 

I thought this was totally cool and now that I am beginning to deepen my study of Ayurveda and how your mood and health are affected by the stimulus encountered by all five senses I think this would be a worthy spa experience to try.  The colors that radiate from us in the form of an aura reflect what is going on with out seven Chakras or Energy Centers.  Each color and where it manifests in your aura has a meaning.  In order to photograph one’s aura, a special polaroid camera is used and somehow connected to two hand shaped pads on which the subjects hands rest.

 

Mine had lots or yellow, orange and red with a little violet and green.  Basically, I was told by the interpreter, that I am creative, wise, self sufficient, direct, passionate, ambitious, warm, confident, artistic, expressive and desire success and fullness of experience.

 

Who knew, right?

 

I adored my visit to The Spa at the Grove Park Inn Resort and have already recommended it to friends.  I loved the spaciousness of it, the integration of the elements and the options for use.  It is definitely worth a visit.

 

Stay tuned for Day 2 where it is raining and I seem to eat all day.  Plus a review of Broo Shampoo.

 

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