In Defense of the Spa-cation – Beth Jenkins

For Christmas I gifted my mom a Spa Day at the Four Seasons Baltimore. But this was also a gift for myself… of course it was a Mother-Daughter spa day, and I’d been dying to experience the Four Seasons spa since it opened just a few years ago. We’d leave that day wondering what took us so long to get there… and how soon we’d be back! So on a cold Sunday January morning, we bundled up and headed downtown for some post-holidays R&R.

You may be asking yourself… what were 2 self-respecting Ravens fans doing at the spa on a Sunday during the playoffs? Don’t worry, the Ravens had already beaten the Steelers the night before.

The Spa at the Four Seasons Baltimore is a true urban oasis. You enter to first class facilities, a well appointed changing and locker room, with plenty of space and amenities to put yourself back together comfortably post-spa . Then you step into the Serenity Area (as I have named it). They have a brilliant Vitality Pool with individual seating compartments with personal jets… I spent about 30 minutes in there waiting for Deb and another 15 with her, so my body was thoroughly relaxed and loosened up for my massage! There is, of course, a nice sauna, steam room, ice bath, and huge multi-function rain shower. Finally, we relaxed on the heated tile spa loungers to warm up those muscles.

My advice to you is to arrive at least 1 hour prior to your treatment time in order to take advantage of the spa facilities. When you book a treatment at the spa, you have access all day, so you could book an afternoon treatment and come in the morning for hours of relaxation and even order a spa lunch. In the summer time, this is an even richer opportunity because spa access includes pool access… so you can take plenty of time to come early for your treatment and enjoy Baltimore’s best outdoor pool with expansive views over the harbor.

Our treatments were five star. I considered getting the creative Seasonal Spa Treatment: the Baltimore Beer Treatment. This includes a scrub, which is a blend of iconic Baltimore staples –Natty BOH beer and Domino Sugar. How fun!  Tempting, but instead we both got hot stone massages. It was my first hot stone, my mom always gets hot stone, and we were equally impressed. We were so pleased with our massages that we basically couldn’t speak as we spent another 45 minutes in the relaxation room regaining our composure. I felt like zen jello the rest of the day… now that’s the way you want to feel after a spa experience.

Now all we wanted to do was stay in our robes, ghost up to our room, and order room service. Unfortunately it was a Sunday and I had to be back In DC for work in the morning, but if you have the time, it is so worth making your spa day a staycation and spending the night at the Four Seasons. Book a room with a harbor view and you’ll have the best hotel room view in all of Baltimore. Once you’ve recovered from your spa treatment (and rehydrated) head downstairs to the bar for a cocktail. You can lounge on their fun leather chairs and ottomans and take in the view from the floor to ceiling windows facing the harbor. Top off your staycation with dinner at Michael Mina’s Wit & Wisdom, one of Baltimore’s best restaurants. If you’re there for the weekend, remember the Four Seasons is right in the heart of Harbor East with great restaurants within walking distance, and shopping from South Moon Under to Under Armor… and a favorite boutique Handbags in the City.

When you book your stay with a Four Seasons Preferred Partner like McCabe World Travel you’ll receive the following benefits with our compliments:

  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
  • Food and beverage credit of $100
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites)
  • Complimentary basic Internet (up to 2 devices) in all guest rooms, complimentary premium Internet (up to 4 devices) in all suites.

 

Read more from Beth’s blog here!

Photo credit: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

 

Boastful Boston – Jessica Griscavage

We often forget that there are amazing destinations within our own country and a quick flight away. I am biased as Boston is my hometown; however, I had the opportunity to experience Boston in a new light as a tourist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had lunch with family and friends at the fabulous Boston Harbor Hotel.   The hotel is right on the water and from Logan you can arrive by boat – such a true sense of arrival.  The hotel is located just a five minute stroll from Faneuil Hall, the New England Aquarium, and Boston’s famous North End Italian neighborhood. Duck Tours and walking the Freedom Trail is a must.   Let’s not forget about all of the amazing sports teams the city has – Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics.

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The famous Duck Tours

 

Clam Chowder, of course!

 

The hotel does an amazing job with plenty of seasonal activities.  After lunch, we took a spin around their ice rink followed by a horse and carriage ride.  In the summer, enjoy movies on the waterfront.

 


If you are looking for a quick getaway filled with history, great food, and plenty of entertainment – think of Boston!

Christmas in Peru! – Damian McCabe

I just returned from a family trip to Peru with the perfect first timer’s itinerary. We spent 2 nights in Lima, which allowed us one full day to tour the historical sites. We stayed at the beautiful Belmond Miraflores with views of the ocean. Miraflores is the best location in the city – upscale, safe with lots of dining options. And the parasailers are out over the beach all day long! $40 for 20 minutes – I didn’t take advantage but my kids wanted to! Do not miss a visit to the Larco Herrera Museum, probably the most amazing collection of Incan and pre-Incan pottery in the word. And the best meal of the trip was at Huaca Pucllana, outdoors overlooking an archeological site in downtown Lima.

We then flew to Cusco, located at over 11,000 feet. Because this altitude presents problems for most travelers, it is recommended to drive out of Cusco down to the Sacred Valley (9000 feet above sea level) for the next few nights. This is only a 90 minute drive, but the difference in altitude is appreciable. The way to combat altitude sickness is to stay incredibly hydrated and no caffeine or alcohol for the first few days! If you still get a headache or upset stomach, Coca Tea is available in all the hotels and there is also oxygen available for short periods of time. You just have to take it easy for the first few days at this altitude – walk slowly, get lots of rest and above all, drink water constantly!

Cusco1

The Sacred Valley is an incredibly authentic region of Peru. The Andean people live much like they always have, in simple houses on hillsides tending sheep or selling vegetables, mostly dressed in their native costumes. There are a number of world class hotels in this area now, notably the Tambo del Inka (Starwood Luxury Collection), the Sol y Luna, and Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado. These hotels are in the tiny town of Urubamba, centrally located, have great restaurants and offer a lovely “sense of place”.  There are less expensive hotels in the area, but my recommendation would be to spend less elsewhere so you can enjoy this kind of quality in the Sacred Valley.

This area boasts many amazing Incan sites, notably Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Moray (see photo below). Moray is not the ruin of a city or a fortress, it is an earthwork. The ancient Incas tool four enormous natural depressions in the landscape and sculpted them into multiple levels of agricultural terraces that served as an experimental agricultural station for the development of different strains of crops. The engineering alone is a marvel! Other interesting sites in this area are the typical Andean village of Maras, the Pisac Market, and the Maras Salt Mines.

Moray Peru (2)

After a few days in the Sacred Valley it’s time for a 2 hour train ride through the Rain Forest to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. You can stay here for one or two nights depending on how much time you have. The majesty and beauty of Machu Picchu is almost indescribable.

Machu Picchu3

It’s a mountain top city abandoned by the Inca Empire and only rediscovered in 1911. NOTE – you must have a hat and sunblock and sunglasses for this day. The elevation 7000 feet, lower than the Sacred Valley, but the sun bakes you here. It also rains a bit almost every day here so a rain jacket with a hood is a good idea.

Machu Picchu Dec 2014

After Machu Picchu, we took the train back to the Sacred Valley and drove up to Cusco. Only half a million people and incredibly charming. Lots to see and do in the city and there are half a dozen archeological sites within a 20 minute drive of town. My favorite was Sascaywamman, where the stones used to build the temple are as large as those in Stonehenge. Again, the engineering here is amazing – these stones were rolled from a quarry 8 miles away on round stones! My favorite hotels here were the Inkaterra (11 rooms – like a private home in the city), Palacio del Inka (a grand hacienda style hotel operated by Luxury Collection) and the Belmond Hotel Monasterio.

Another great choice is the smaller and less expensive Aranwa. Again, a wonderful sense of place in all of these.

All in all an awesome family trip, my only regret is not tasting roasted Guinea Pig, a local delicacy!

Perupigs
Guinea pig, anyone??