Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 6 of the Diva's Week at the Golden Door

Monday April 20
Slowing making my re-entry into the real world. It's not easy. I did get up and hiked, but not as early, more like 8AM, and I exercised and swam--so the Door's still with me. But I had lots of catch up on email, snail mail, work, husband etc.
Anyhow I do have the Golden Door Glow, I feel rejuvenated, lighter, tighter, toned and wonderful. It's just an incomparable week, and did I tell you the tab is all inclusive unless you want tennis lessons or after hours treatments. They even provide a full wardrobe of workout wear as well as kimonos that you can wear to dinner, robes, slippers, toiletries and hats, jackets, windbreakers and gloves for cold mornings. Transportation from San Diego airport's also included. And of course they feed you three spa meals daily, snacks, beverages, and extra portions or snacks on request.

Saturday April 18 All Good Things Come to an End and so I leave the Golden Door via Amtrak's Surfliner from Oceanside to Los Angeles.
Do come back for a complete wrap-up of my week and what I got out of it.
Friday April 17
Pretty much repeat of yesterday with hike, b'fast (waffles and chicken sausage), stretch, Gentle Yoga, personal training session with Brett, makeup (pic posted soon) and now off to lunch by the pool, it warmed up here...come back later for updates. Lunch was great as usual, fresh salmon salad and a cookie for dessert. Rest of day exhausting: makeup, scalp treatment, herbal wrap, massage, dinner (fresh salmon again, but I had a choice and chose it, really delicious finished with a flaky, yummy banana, apple strudel.

Thursday April 16 over the hump day at the Golden Door

Day 5

(you really need to follow my journal daily, which begins at the bottom, hey makes you think)

Okay spa brain really set in. Relaxed, unwound, loose, light, toned and pampered. That's what the Golden Door's all about.

Did the 5 mile mountain hike followed by a session in the steam bath and hot tub. Then back to room for breakfast in bed: Mexican-style scrambled eggs in a whole wheat tortilla, fruit (melon, that alas wasn't ripe enough, unusual for here), coffee. Then off to see Brett, my main fitness squeeze who sets me straight with weights and then stretches me out real good...

Brett sets gym up for cardio-boxing class....

Okay left Brett and came to PC to update you on my progress. Feeling good today, having a friend join me for lunch today. Marta, the maitre d' of the kitchen whose been here forever and is fantastic at her job--which entails sometimes putting up with primo-divas (I'm not one of those). Anyhow Marta's setting Glenn and I up by the Koi pond with today's special: Bento boxes. Okay here's Glenn obviously enjoying his Bento Box lunch. Glenn said his friends were concerned he wouldn't get enough to eat and should eat before coming. Chef Dean showed them, Glenn didn't even finish, nor did I. But we did have room for the Door's delicious cookies--yep you get cookies.That's the Koi pond. I hated to see Glenn leave but hey I had a body scrub scheduled and I don't miss treatments even for best friends. And glad I didn't. Carolyn, a striking, blonde-haired Irish export was fantastic as she massaged/scrubbed and oiled my weary body.

After the scrub it was time for my pedicure with ace manicurist Teresa, a Viet Namese export who ends her treatment with a fabulous foot reflexology massage. And then it was off to my room for my 5 PM rub by CJ, alas it would be my last from this cool dude as he gets Friday and Saturday off and is replaced by Eric, whom I've never had the pleasure of being massaged from. That's grammatically incorrect, but geez this is a blog.

Dinner followed: salad and fresh fish (forgot what variety, but it was delicious)and corn meal cake that was quite tasty. After the ritual walk to the gate there was a woman who gave hand writing analysis, I skipped it. Not because of lack of interest but I wanted to write this journal which I hope you're enjoying.

Day 4 At the Golden Door in Escondido, California

Wednesday, Tax Day and I'm plotzed, in spa speak it's called 'hump' day. Actually slept in and skipped the hike, which although I love this activity, my body said "no." But this is the Golden Door and you are on your own to go with your personal flow, which I'm doing. See below for full account....

Diane Allan and Suzie Fernandez teach classes at the Golden Door

I'm back at the Golden Door in Escondido, California. It's been a year since my last visit and I was jonesing for some chic r and r and I'm getting it.

Arrived the afternoon of Easter Sunday via Amtrak Surfliner from Los Angeles. I sat in a cushy seat in Business Class, made cell phone calls, read, listened to my Mp3 Player, chatted with the hostess, a lovely Afro-American women with great wit and style. She served pax complimentary wine, water, soda and there was also coffee, tea and snacks, but I didn't bend to temptation as I was en route to a salubrious week.

The Door's driver picked me in Oceanside for the short ride to the beautiful bronze gates that enter me into a transcendental world far from reality.

I checked into my Japanese-honjin Inn style room, slipped into a kimono and met the other 17 female guests for dinner--gourmet spa cuisine of salad, fish and yummy guilt-free Key Lime dessert. The Door usually takes 40 people weekly but this being a holiday and a recession (it's pricey)....

Day 2 (Monday)
up at 5:30 for 6:45 mountain hike (5 miles), back to room for breakfast in bed (aah), but not for long, up and at 'em for back and stretch class, Aerobics, Pilates, lunch, hike (1 1/2 miles), facial, steam, herbal wrap, massage and dinner--a spa cuisine masterpiece by chef Dean. We started with a perfectly seasoned salad with ingredients from the Door's organic garden and moved on to chicken roulade which was so good it was hard to believe it was low-cal, low-salt, and finally a cannoli, yes they serve dessert and it was divine. After dinner we walk to the gates that open to the real world, but we keep it closed, reality doesn't exist here. Then a lecture on
how to get the most out of your workout and nutrition but sorry to say opted to go to the steam bath and then read my Robert Parker Spenser Novel in bed.

Day 3 (Tuesday)

Another glorious day at the Golden Door. Slept well and off to the 5 mile mountain, followed by a session in the hot tub , quick steam and breakfast in bed. Yummy cheese toast this morning with fresh strawberries from the Door's organic garden. Then off to Stretch class, ooooh, felt good and a wild and wacky Boomer's Aerobics taught by Diane (seen above) to the music of the 60s - 80s. Cool. Then did my own thing (dyot) which including lots of Facebooking and Twittering.

Meet my personal trainer at Noon, Brett, he's the best, had him last year, or he had me, does great stretch out, which I need after all the exercise I'm doing here.

My wonderful workout with Bret was followed by a fab facial from Ashton. You have choices here and I opted for full cleansing treatment. Divine.

I followed with a session in the Steam to prepare my muscles for a massage from CJ, a cool surfer/biker dude who gives a mean, deep rub that turns me into rubber. Feeling lazy, I decided to have dinner served in my room--another great Golden Door amenity.

Read in bed until sleep came, which actually wasn't realized soon enough which is why on

Day 4

I slept in and missed the hike. After my oatmeal breakfast in bed I took the Stretch class, it helped. Then I went to the Samurai gym for short sessions on the treadmill and elliptical before meeting up with my PT Brett. My bad, body wouldn't respond, so he had no alternative but to stretch me out real good.

This was followed by more steam, herbal wrap, more steam, relaxing. I figure it being Wednesday and Tax Day I'd really let myself go into a transcendental state of bliss. It works well here. It is such a beautiful, bucolic setting set in a little valley surrounded by mountains, with lots of lush foliage, orange and avocado trees and of course that organic garden.

Well it's nearly lunch time. It's cold out today so no dining by the pool, decided to feast in my room. Wish you were here.

For rates and info go to, there are special weeks and min-weeks offered throughout the year, keep in mind it's an all-inclusive rate.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Travel Diva Does Montage Hotel Beverly Hills

The Discerning Diva Does The Montage Beverly Hills

Elegance, old world charm, attention to details defines the Montage Hotel Beverly Hills...but of course with Ali Kasikci as managing director we don't expect any less.

The 201-room, Spanish Colonial Revival-style hotel sits smack in the center of Beverly Hills’ Golden Triangle—a premium area of upscale shops and restaurants—and pretty much caters to the type of clientele those establishment attract ie: wealthy and wise world travelers. In fact Mr. Kasikci--the visionary who piloted the success of Beverly Hill's Peninsula Hotel-- even selected the clothes hangers to accommodate his bespoke attired guests. Okay a bit over the top, but this is one discerning managing director.
So let’s start from the top.
Check-in—the parking valet alerts the front desk of our arrival so the minute we reach the desk we are escorted to our suite when the preliminaries are handled. Nice.
The room—a Garden Suite ($795 a night) with 625 square feet of living space furnished with two flat screen TVs, one designed for your Internet comfort, queen-size bed with special pillows, large bathroom with two sinks, tub and great shower—stocked with aromatic Agraria toiletry (love the soap and body wash and moisture cream, but the shampoo and conditioner were harsh on my hair, big brown, cushy robes and slippers) and an inviting balcony overlooking Canon Garden.
The Spa—ah, what a 20,000 square foot treat. I had a 4 o’clock treatment so went an hour earlier to sit in the steam and mineral whirlpool that is all saline and no chlorine. The facility is understated elegant, nothing glitzy. The piece de resistance was Joseph, my therapist who treated me to the best massage ever—and this from a Diva with thousands of rubs to compare to. My treatment was a 60 minute Elements of the Earth Wrap which included a body scrub, clay body mask, and a deep tissue Shiatsu/Thai massage that left me limp and rubbery. I could barely make it back to my room.
But I did. My husband had a Scientific Rest Facial which is done in a retro Barber Shop (more about this later) that is supposed to make you feel like you took a two hour nap. Well he sure appeared refreshed and glowing.
We ordered wine and sat on our balcony sipping the rich Chard and musing about our treatments. It’s all good. Here's Richard's musings on his barbershop facial: "Facials freak out lots of men. Not only is there the still-lingering pussy factor--a guy getting a facial!--but also the extra anxiety caused by having to enter a spa setting designed for women. Often a man tiptoeing into the spa will be the only male there.

I have been that guy many times, so I know. But little did I realize that facials for men have a long history in this country, dating back to the railroad terminal barbershops that were commonplace in the 1930s and 1940s. There, men could get their shave and a haircut, along with what William Gornik told me was a treatment aimed at rejuvenating the harried (and sometimes hung over) businessman. It was called a "scientific rest facial," William said, and it had the same result as two hours or more of sound sleep.

I learned all this while seated in an updated barber chair at William's Gornik & Drucker barbershop on the lower level of the new Montage Beverly Hills hotel. Here, this men-only facial is called a deep cleansing skin treatment, lasts 45 minutes, and costs $75. After giving me a critical once-over, William swathed my face in hot towels, applied an Egyptian clay mask, rubbed cocoa butter into my beleaguered skin, applied a two-handed vibration massage to face, neck and shoulders, painlessly plucked out blackheads, cleaned up sideburns, applied more potions and lotions, and left me both relaxed and alert.

Gornik has had a Beverly Hills barbershop nearby for years, with a local clientele, some of whom prefer the Montage location. It's a real plus for hotel guests, but a little hard to find since there are no signs yet to lead one to the spot and only a discrete small barber pole marking the entrance. But William is a genuine gentleman's barber who wields the straight-edged razor with aplomb, has lots of fine Hollywood stories to tell, and vintage Ella, Frank, Tony and Dean in the background. He'll even tell you about the opening scene to the original "Oceans Eleven" that was shot at his barbershop." by Richard J. Pietschmann exclusively for

Then to dinner at Muse, a New York/European style restaurant with a super wait staff and chef. The room is dark and handsome loft that overlooks Parq—the hotel’s three meal a day eatery. We started with fresh house made pasta with maitake mushrooms, and Ahi carpaccio and moved along to a perfectly prepared salad and halibut washed down with a bottle of fine Peter Michael Chard. For dessert we opted for a plate of yummy cookies.

After a stroll around the city, we headed up to bed for a great night’s sleep with our 100 percent down pillows.
The next morning—after a workout in the super fitness center which has everything this fitness fanatic could hope for-- we decided to do something camp and strolled over to the world-famous Nate ‘n Al’s Deli a favorite hangout for Beverly Hills industry denizens and out of town celebs (Larry King sat in a booth near us). I had a disappointing bagel (not NY style enough) but Richard loved his fried eggs and potato pancake. The coffee passed muster (we are both very fussy about of cup of joe).
Montage, 225 North Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-860-7800, http://www.montagebeverly/
FYI: pack a bathing suit, the Montage sports an inviting rooftop pool as well as a coed mineral whirlpool in the Spa

Brochure rates: from $495 for Superior to $7500 for Presidential Suite. With this you get complimentary shoe shine using John Lobb polish applied by a certified John Lobb butler who took a 22 hour training course. We didn’t partake of this amenity but I can imagine.
Spa Treatment Prices: sticker shock here, $195 and up but if you have to ask… and well the therapists are truly hand-picked top notch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Spa Queen Heads to the Golden Door

Call me the Spa Queen, fitness diva or pampered princess but I love spa breaks especially the week-long kind offered at the salubrious, luxurious, ultra-serene Golden Door in Escondido, California where I've been recharging my batteries on yearly treks for over 20 years. The Japanese-influenced, transcendental sanctuary set in a valley framed by gorgeous mountains is simply the best of its kind barring none.And that's the truth, why else would the rich, famous, beautiful faces flock there --many to get in shape and look their best for their movie roles or awards ceremonies.
It's always fun to run into a celeb and I have from Sally Struthers and Joyce DeWitt to Pat Kennnedy and beyond. Whether a luminary or ordinary (but rich enough to afford $8,000 a week), the 40 female guests who frequent most of the Door most weeks of the year save for a few men's weeks, bond during the 7-day retreat. Unfortunately the ties usually melt shortly after.
I am heading there Easter Sunday for my week of atonement (no alcohol, healthy food, lots of activities that egins with earling morning mountain hikes followed by a full menu of exercise classes, personal training, gym, swimming, volleyball, pilates, Yoga eith lots of personal pampering in-between. You get in-room massages, facials, foot and hand treatments, body scrubs, herbal wraps, hair care, makeup, steams, saunas and more for one albeit stiff weekly price--worth every gold coin.
Anyhow I'll be reporting daily from Door so keep coming back to hear how each glorious day unfolds.
Today I had my "pre-visit" interview--an amenity afforded return guests that allows you to have your program set up in advance. Us regulars know the ropes and we know what we want and they let us have it. This trip I've opted for a free-form canvas which will allow me to do what I want when I want save for my scheduled pampering. It's all good.
The Golden Door is located just outside of San Diego near Escondio about a 2 to 3 hour from LA where I live, but I don't drive, I take Amtrak from Union Station and relax in a cushy Business Class seat where I read or view the awesome coastline as we chug along. A driver from the Door picks me up at the Oceanside Station, which is only 20-minutes from the resort.
Check it out
A peaceful, remote sanctuary, discreetly tucked away on 377 acres of rolling terrain, five miles north of Escondido, California
World-class spa facilities, including nine treatment rooms, an herbal wrap area, hydrotherapy tub, sauna, steam room, and hot tub
Asian-inspired architecture and philosophy, inspired by the ancient Japanese Honjin inns, famed for their gracious welcome and guest care
40 spacious and comfortable guest rooms, each with private patios and uniquely restful amenities that foster serenity
Meticulously landscaped grounds, complete with traditional Japanese gardens, koi ponds, and a million-dollar antique collection
Premier fitness facilities, including 3 poolside aerobic gyms, a hilltop gym for private fitness sessions, a new 4000 square foot Fitness Pavilion housing a 2000 square foot equipment gym, spinning gym, and additional aerobic gym; two swimming pools and a Kiatsu water therapy pool; tennis courts; and solarium
20 miles of switchback hiking trails, winding through avocado groves and ponds, suitable for all levels of expertise