Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SPA DESTINATIONS - From 60 Minutes - To Multi-Day Vacations

The International Spa Association Media Event, NYC

words/event images Judith Ecochard

After a weather filled ten days of a tornado, earthquake, and hurricane...the idea of a respite to a healing, relaxing spa has even more appeal...a healthful way to unwind and disconnect, worry free.

Though held prior to Mother Nature's angry side making an east coast appearance, the ISPA media event introduced us to some calming hands-on body and facial treatments-that had us yearning for actual visits.

The most far flung destination present at this Big Apple event was Australia's GWINGANNA LIFESTYLE RETREAT- located in the scuba lovers' haven of the aptly named Gold Coast of Queensland.

Open year round --- guests can enjoy more than the magnificent views of the lush valleys and the blue waters of the ocean from this destination spa-spending a weekend or several days at the "closed" retreat...  choosing from a full compliment of experiences at the new 33 room Spa Sanctuary-including the blissful 80 minute Rockpuncture™a Japanese style acupuncture and hot stone massage-  hands on relaxer- for the ultimate de-stress...

PLUS: activities including mindful exercise classes that 'balance' the body and mind...and a healthy (not insanely strict) style of cuisine conjured up using locally grown certified organic produce...that feeds the souls, literally.  Packages available ...from two night weekends to multi-day respites.

Two Midwestern locales --- easily reached from both coasts-appeal to locals lucky enough to live nearby too... an easy drive from cities uch as Chicago and Milwaukee...and those wanting a multi-day vacation that doesn't involve hours of travel and passports.

The lakeside Wisconsin located, Aspira Spa is an AAA Four Diamond Resort (too)...seems to us to encapsulate-architecturally and service-wise- a mindful fusion of healing wisdoms' from several cultures. Spa treatments include a full menu of salon services as well as body and facial treatments for men and women like the chromatherapy ("using the vibration from pure colored lights") based Chakra Garden Massage ($190-80 minutes)...that calmly balances out one's personal energy flow via light hands on bodywork.

The Kohler Waters Spa, a top rated spa by the discerning Condé Nast Travel readers- is also in Wisconsin. It's a  full fledged, multi-facility resort - located next to the acclaimed The American Club-with its rather famous golf facilities that attracts (long) day trippers, vacationers and events style types--- like wedding goers.

The services and packages take advantage of the naturally blessed healing properties of minerals found in, yup-water-  and include salon and spa services... aimed at the sportier types (i.e. the Golfer's Massage $145-50 minutes) ) as well as those wanting pure relaxation with the new 80 minute, Complete Harmony treatment-a multi step hydrotherapy based experience that includes  a full body cleansing/exfoliation under a transporting Kohler Custom Vichy Shower-followed by a relaxing, therapeutic deep soak and moisturizing application. Nice.

Miami Beach has always attracted an international crowd needing sunshine---and the recently renovated oceanfront, Art Deco classic Eden Roc (now under Marriott's umbrella) --- includes a top of the line 22,000 sq. ft.  ELLE SPA with extensive 24 hour facilities including 18 treatment rooms- for services that can last an hour long (plus), or up to a half day, and full day via custom packages -of treatments, private fitness and/or salon services.

Using the premier skincare line of AHAVA Active Dead Sea mineral products, Eden Roc's Dead Sea Detoxifier ($200)-an 80 minute exfoliating, detoxifying and deep hydrating multi-step treatment- is on our list of want it body treatments---and is one way to get swimsuit ready-as is a private beach boot camp extreme trainer (50 minutes $125).

Cute-there is even a gently priced menu of haircut/mani/pedi services for the younger set (10 and under).

Attracting hikers, swimmers/boaters (Lake Mohonk) and rock climbers (the "Gunks") from all over the world, the bucolic New Paltz based Mohonk Mountain House, is a spectacular 266 room Victorian castle mega-activities resort, surrounded by 2200 acres of woodlands- that has earned a spot on the National Historic Landmark list. New to us, as we have a place not too far from this Hudson Valley locale---is the plush 30,000 sq ft Spa wing--- with re-invigorating/healing treatments aimed at both women and rugged guys who normally wouldn't step a toenail inside a Spa.

With a focus on on treatments that "address solutions for modern lifestyles" versus some of the more esoteric sounding spa menus out there--body services like the "Texting Tension Tamer -a Massage for Multi-Taskers" - - and "Man-On-The-Go: Real Relief for Hands and Feet,"-take the guesswork out of the whole experience.

Based in Manhattan's SOHO...The Spa at Trump Hotel boasts a luxurious full service spa menu and a plush environment that includes a revitalizing Turkish and Moroccan Hammam experiences---  for men and women--- a centuries' old tradition, starting with guests comfortably lying on wonderfully heated marble stones...with various soothing cleansing/massaging treatments to follow.

Massage Envy Spa-had us just that---envious of the hundreds of cities and towns that host a facility of this chain. What a great concept. The accessibly priced ($49 one hour intro for first timers!!!) clinics offer a full menu of massages---including deep tissue, sports, trigger point, reflexology---and skin specific facials using the high end MURAD line of skincare products. WOW. We think that this type of business invites weekly and monthly regular customers via an affordable membership plan. FYI: The company is hosting a Healing Hands For Arthritis on October 12th, 2011-where $10 from every massage and facial will be donated to the Arthritis Foundation.

HydroPeptide® was actually as this ISPA event---and as it was the second time that day we had heard about the regenerative powers of apple (as in the fruit) stem cells---we spent quite a bit of time chatting with the company.

Based on botanical formulations and paraben free, (yes!) the collection was created by a Dr. Louise Peck, Ph.D. ---a woman with nutritional science as a background. Partnering with skincare experts, we were told years of research served up the Simply Ageless Skin Key™---that "identifies six fundamental elements for achieving and maintaining truly youthful, vibrant skin."

It's not that complicated-the cleanly packaged cleansers, serums, at-home peels, eye treatments, toners, moisturizers etc-focus in-on repair and to prevent wrinkles, firming the skin, evening out tones (i.e. age spots)...and providing meaningful suncare.

The formulations are chockful of proven skin healers-like Aloe, Niacin, Vitamins C, A and E, Green and Black Teas, plus Peptides, Neuropeptides, Polypeptides, the potent Edelweiss (a flower from the Alps that we wrote about in NIANCE products) ---and also the aforementioned nano-encapsulated Growth factors of apple stem cells ...that apparently have real science to back its claim of firming up sagging skin.

Premium priced but not ridiculous----the percentage of effective ingredients is very high, we were told---unlike a lot of mass marketed brands at any price range.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Midtown, NYC

words/images Judith Ecochard

'No bouncin' round the room-meaning-taking a spin, at this showcase---but clearly- plenty of great rides for everyone ---from tots embracing the ways of the wheels-trail demons on re-invigorated GT bicycles' heart-pound potential, mountain bike rides---everyday, urban warriors' city spokes (also heart-pounding at times)-on up to one of the top of the line race rides for the podium wannabes- by Cannondale.

And accessories...less than $100 per.

BPA free water bottles/cages 

Be matches vintage good looks of Schwinn bikes

Cannondale's multi-tool at most bike shops...very handy&compact

For kids---a lot of fun stylish options that any boy or girl would be happy with. Remember the 80's? GT does with the Performer- a 20"redo of that decades bikes---also in 26" for adults.

For the Chevy in you---this Corvette bicycle----details like an odometer adds to this cruiser's appeal.

Mongoose BMX are sold at Walmart-good looking bikes under $200.

Schwinn's Petunia bike fo girls $99.99

Helicopter parents everywhere...a bicycle for you---errrr...meaning your kids but these Schwinn Easy Riders have push/pull steering---and when you get comfortable letting your children get along with their young lives (finally)-the steering handle detaches...but no fear, training wheels are an add-on option too. Grow With Me rides $99.99

Schwinn's Grit 

Scwinn's Tricycles...that kids can ride on their own---have Roadster cred---pneumatic tires, adjustable saddle, gripped pedals in cool retro style...

Gripped pedals on Roadster's-nice!

Other accessories---include colorful bicycle helmets---but we loved this wagon---reminded us of a jaunt to Ocean Beach on Fire Island---where seemingly everyone had one of these in the no car community.

Next up ---we ventured into the adult realm of rides. Cannondale's Quick Line ---got tagged as the 'SUV' of bikes---here the Quick CX is the next level of that series-with front suspension, knobby tires for extra traction over hazards like potholes, disc brakes---and a sloped top tube "a little up" for a comfy ride.

A good urban ride for women---great fit with gals wanting to get fit-"with gears that you can get going in.".

Full suspension mountain bike 29ers are getting a lot of love these days-with stiff frames, techy suspension systems and deft handling for all skill levels.

GT Karakoram---with 29 inch alloy dics hubs -hits that segment of the market for under $700- a hardtail mountain bike with Tektro Aquila linear-pull disc brakes, front suspension for FUN off road adventures, Shimano 27 speed drivetrain a tough/lightish  Triple Triangle 6061 aluminum frame with hyrdroformed top tube and downtube, . For the price point "damn good." And nice to see that GT-known in the past for its high-end performance BMX rides-with a new parent company these past two years-is delivering innovative options for consumers-at 'average' price points. (FYI-named after that mountain range Pakistan, India and China).

If the best looking bikes were given their own awards show-Schwinn's Signature Series would be up for Mr/Miss Congeniality.

The City-new for 2012 has the form function/lifestyle design thing down---as part of this iconic American brand 's Heritage signature line.

Snazzy elegant leather grips-plus internal gears-you can shift while you stop-"adds weight" but not a factor for this cruiser-ideal for flat beach communities.

Industrial and graphic- double top tube shape

Sold without basket but it's sold as part of a new accessories line for Schwinn-lifts off  and attaches on for easy hauling

Pretty, pretty cool the GT Laguna/$385-terrific price point for a basic ride -21 different speed options, front suspension in an aluminum frame. 


Cannondale's urban bike Bad Boy- spawns Bad Girl-3 models/2 sizes ($800-$1670)-in eye-catching matte black frame, with micro-suspension for commuters-and multi-tasking for fitness rides, all in one.

What really grabbed our attention-the- one sided mount "Lefty Headshok"with One Piece Integration fork (Cannondale offers this on different versions of their mid-high end priced bicycles-we were told)---kinda like a car mounted tires---engineers developed this for better, more responsive feel and agility, laterally more stiff, and it saves weight-pictured in the Bad Girl 1-top tier version...with a drivetrain -Shimano Deore/SLX with Magura Hydraulic disc brakes. Sweet. And more sweet-can change the inner tube without taking off the wheel.

Remote lock out suspension-for rigid uphill climbs-or not racing downhill.

maybe appealing to the same gal-in a different frame of mind-the All American/Nascar ($660)-super deluxe-a fun throwback to the 50's, IMHO-with a beverage and bottle opener---and life made simpler-an easy gear and a hard gear.

Arched hubs line race car wheels...

Springy fork


2 gigantic springs on the saddle for comfy ride

GT's Zaskar XC bike replaces the Marathon-----"that was good for endurance racing---but is now tailored for the 'average' individual"-wanting a FUN racer type/cruiser bike-with efficiency. Ideal for jaunts on cross country trails for riders who "just want to chill out." 

Out since July (Expert/Pro Models $4400-$5500, parts dependent)- with both front and rear shocks, with leg oil damper-like a motorcycle-with rebound adjustment and remote lockout on fork.

Completely redesigned from the ground-up-changed frame to full carbon, redesigned suspension system-independent drivetrain remains isolated from movement of the suspension-"no interference" -tracks the ground well---so "going downhill in mountain biking-you can still feel the ground." This full suspension bike "levels it out" so you don't have to develop the riding skills of a hardtail mountain biker. User friendly-and 29 inch wheels.

The priciest set of wheels at this event belonged to Cannondale's SuperSix EVO Team Bike-all carbon, SRAM components-and with the company's proprietary crank "the lightest and stiffest on the market."

Probably to the horror of the nice PR gal that led us around-we got educated for many minutes- on exactly why BallisTec™ Carbon is the top of the food chain for carbon, so to speak-with strength, resistance and stiffness-in higher modules or lower modules ----depending on specifics. "The key to carbon manufacturing is figuring out the right blend ratio of stretchy/ hardness."

WHAT ELSE-the lightest and stiffest frame "does not have sexy curves"---so the continuous BallisTec™ carbon fibers of the EVO---"takes modules and super charges it." Interesting we thought-it was originally designed for the military---and made in Japan-a country with not much of one. FYI- we were also told Cannondale must sign documents accounting for each ounce bought of this highly controlled substance---that the fibers go into bicycles-not weapons, we it was originally made for bullets. Impact resistant-we think so.

Multiple layers of carbon fiber  are not random-each of the key areas of the frame are analyzed under real riding conditions-and  addressed-for structural specifics-like impact, other demands for 'snappy-ness'-others for stiffness..i engineered layers-.and of course,  to eliminate redundant material because it adds weight. Similar in theory to cutting edge technical fabrics which are really multi-layered- with laminates and treatment and fiber blends fused in what looks like a simple sheer textile but is actually a result of a science project-often driven by a critical-  particular the military's requirement for no-melt breathable/moisture wicking materials for uniforms.

Consisting of strips of unidirectional carbon layered onto one rides for fast times...these wheels were "built in a lab-you crash them you are done." $3500
A hard wipe out in these carbon spoke wheels and learn to feel 'Sayonara' in a New York minute.
ADDED PLUS; Cannondale also know for its vibration dampening, via special flex points incorporated in its tube design in  "Synapse Active Vibration Elimination"

Switching gears---this retro style Schwinn

Eco friendly-reviewed here

More accessories-always welcome....

Helmet -good for ponytail wearers.

Air pump with a gauge-we need to give this to every rider we know. very handy

GT Performer- the classic 80's BMX ride-with crusier 26 inch wheels -that is skate park to parking lot fun- an affordable freestyle ride in high tensile, straight gauge steel. Here in chrome with gold components- $425---nice.

Another Schwinn Signature looker "411"---an all around the town ride-with built-in racks-$690

Reminds us of the days when milk was delivered, 5x week- by the milkman

Best Selling urban ride-Bad Boy by Cannondale-reviewed here

Well another reason the world shops Walmart---for the Mongoose bicycles-that come in many variations...including  all terrain rides- affordable ways to burn off all those super cheapo, junk food calories.

Pictured here-the men's aluminum frame, 29 inch All-Terrain Deception ($219) ---with 21 speed, Shimano equipped drivetrain with SRAM grip shifters, and disc brakes...FYI-at home-assembly requ

Front Suspension

MTB Saddle

We finished up the bicycle portion of the Dorel Industries owned brands with very value priced versions of vintage style Schwinn bikes-all available at Walmart-and we note-all with cool padded Schwinn saddles.

Aluminum frmae POINT BEACH with hand/rear pedal brakes-7 speed rear derailleur $179.99 @Walmart. Stainless steel spokes and chrome fenders-built in back storage rack=classic beach cruiser. 

700 C Solitaire Hybrid Bike-Women's-$199

26 inch-steel frame-Sidewinder Mountain Bike $164 for street or off roads-21 speed with SRAM grip shifters


Old school Schwinn Breeze Saddle

Schwinn Breeze $149-Retro style cruiser with distinctive brick color tires-chrome fenders-women's here-men's available in charcoal. 

smart flatlock seams-no chaffing.. mesh panels-breathes

ergo sleeves that's don't bunch up

Now that we train on tri bikes a whole lot-the importance of smart functioning apparel makes a difference in how we feel. Though we still can't quite get used to the whole guys in tight spandex thing-we get why...

So when we admired "Jason"-it wasn't so much his lack of body fat-after all he is a mannequin-but we loved his attire-the top of the line Racing System's Elite (RSE) by Sugoi.

leg grippers don't ride up -but not constricting

Bib short-10 panel construction insures perfect fit &no inseam reduces chamois bulk

Fall 2011 selections include Hot Shot Jersey in flattering princess tapers---nice graphics---and a warm inner fleece.

no chafe collar

Capri-Mid Zero-made from that fabric- proprietary to Sugoi-warm inside-and stretchy with RC Pro Chamois-articulated paneling=great fit.$100

Arms warmers, wind mitt gloves and skull caps...for colder rides.

Firewell-mid zipper...base layer or on its own

Thumb holes

Side pocket zip

OUR TOP PICK-the versa jacket---a vest/jacket combo-remove sleeves on the go---they're attached by magnets...can rip off during a ride and stuff in back. $120

Hydrolite Jacket -water beads right off it still allows you breath w/perforations-semi-fitted with Scotchguard reflective detail