I had long wanted to go to Mirbeau Inn & Spa. I only live three hours away by car, in the Hudson Valley. The Finger Lakes are legendary for their beauty. And I wondered how an 34-room inn and spa in chilly upstate New York could pretend that it's somewhere in Provence, down to the replica of Monet's bridge and a pond with water lilies? Could Mirbeau really pull it off?
French Cafe Mood Music
I got my chance to find out when Mirbeau Inn & Spa launched a special Fresh Start Cleansing Retreat (the next one is June 19-20,2011). I was slightly worried as I drove up -- the parking lot surrounds the inn. There was corny French cafe music as I walked through the front doors. And was the desk clerk really wearing a beret?
But then I sat down in the lobby (something one almost never does in the walk-through zones of large resorts) and took a deep breath. The room was human-sized, with comfy sofas and a fireplace. The windows looked onto a pond, Monet's green bridge and pleasant, warm yellow buildings. I really could believe that I was in a European Inn. So far, so good!
My "detox" got off to a rocky start, however, as it was Sunday, and a big delicious carrot cake from Sunday brunch was still sitting out, calling to me. Fortified with sugar, I went to my room, one of the cottages that have larger guest room and sitting area. I LOVED my room. It had a gas fireplace, trees outside the window, and a big claw-footed tub.
There was an arrival gift of a box of herbal teas from Tea Forte, known for their high quality and individual silken bags, special for Fresh Start program participants. Nice!
Mirbeau Inn & Spa is just outside Skaneateles (pronounced skinny-atlas) is a wealthy, picture-perfect town set on the northern edge of the long and skinny Skaneateles Lake, the highest of the Finger Lakes. There are wineries nearby (Anyelas's Vineyard overlooks the lake), shopping in the quaint town and day trips to nearby Seneca Falls and Aurora.
Setting Our Intentions
But my group was very much centered on ourselves! This special program only lasted two days, with several speakers to help us help ourselves. The first evening, we met as a group for a "Purification Ritual and Tea Ceremony," lead by yoga teacher and raw food advocate Judiann Cesta. She talked about the benefits of raw food and how to purify and detox our lives in general -- by getting rid of toxic people, for instance, and taking purifying breathes during the day.
Judiann talked about how to set intentions, and how having an altar at home can help with that. We wrote down five things that we were grateful for, something we need more of, and something we want to get rid of. Each piece of paper went into a group basket that went on the altar.
Then we got another welcome gift -- a beautiful loose tea "Kati" cup with a lid to keep it warm.(buy now) We drank a cup of special detoxifying tea together.
Then it was off to dinner, where there were more detox obstacles! We were in the beautiful, romantic main dining room, famous for its steaks! No wonder the chef didn't quite nail the detox menu. It's just not his thing.
Mirbeau is also known for its wine list. The tables were set with wine glasses. And the Wine Bar keeps 16 excellent bottles in special conditions so you can order a glass and be sure it will be in pristine condition. We succumbed, and ordered organic wine. The next night, I went totally off the reservation and had a steak! And it was everything a good steak should be -- flavorful, juicy, tender, and perfectly cooked. Just not detoxifying.
A Spa With Fireplaces in the Rooms
Judiann is taking a firmer hand at future Fresh Start retreats. The menus will be 80% raw foods and free of dairy, meat, wheat, gluten, refined sugars, processed food, caffeine and alcohol. And the group will dine in a separate space, away from temptations! (If you want the romance and steak and fine wine, you can go any time!)
When we got back to our rooms, the bath had been laid out with two piles of herbs (chamomile and rosemary) and a miniature bottle of Aromatherapy Associates essential oil blend (buy now). Into the tub I went. Sweet.
The next morning we had a great yoga class with Judiann, one of several instructors in the mind-body studio. (You can also get personal training and nutritional counseling.) Then it was off to the spa for the first of our two 50-minute spa treatments, included in the package price.
This gorgeous spa was designed by Sylvia Sepielli, with fireplaces in most of the 18 treatment rooms. After you get your robe you go into the Rest Area, a round, dark, almost womb-like room with paintings of classical figures on the walls, a large stone in the middle surrounded by a stream of warm water you can put your feet in, and a fireplace. It also has the most amazingly comfortables chaises for relaxing before or after your treatments.
I chose an Aromatherapy Ritual, which uses those great Aromatherapy Associates oils, but when it turned out the lymphatic drainage protocol was too gentle for my aching shoulders, the therapist adapted. Good work! She also gave me stretch and posture tips to address my problems at home, which most therapists don't do.
Making Our Own Essential Oil Blends
In the afternoon we had a wonderful workshop on essential oils with Amy Jane Stewart of Organica Jane, a massage therapist and certified aromatherapist who appeared on the Dr. Oz show with her Natural Hand Remedy. She showed us how to make our own essential oil blends based on what we wanted them to do, and the smells we were attracted to.
That evening we had a guided meditation with Wil Alaura in Rest Area, but the chaises were so comfortable I was asleep for most of it. Afterwards, by the fire, he showed us how to use a pendulum to help answer questions.
There was another yoga class the next morning, and another amazing spa treatment, this time a deep tissue massage from an amazingly skilled Russian therapist -- powerful and well trained. (She studied three years in Russia.) Sometimes it was even a little more than I could take, but I let her go for it, and she got out knots I didn't even know were there.
The final talk was a "Balanced Living" workshop with Jessica Charbonneau, a social worker who lead us through a mindful eating exercise, where we focused on the smell, taste and texture of foods as we ate them. She told us how to distinguish between stomach hunger, eye hunger (the carrot cake) , and nose hunger -- and how to work with old patterns like overeating.
I can't say I detoxified, but I learned a lot. And Mirbeau won me over. I even liked the French cafe music by the time I left!
Mirbeau Inn & Spa At A Glance:
Type of Spa: Inn Spa
851 West Genesee Street, Skaneateles, New York. 13152
Telephone: 877-647-2328 or 315-685-1927 (spa)