‘GAL GETAWAY’ TO CONNECTICUT’S SPA AT NORWICH INN

Nothing like a trip to a spa to forge memorable bonds

By Karen Rubin

I have known, loved and been close with my sister in-law for decades, but I realized, much to my chagrin, we had never had extended “quality time,” just us, together.

And so, when the opportunity presented to take a “gal getaway” to the renowned Spa at Norwich Inn, in Connecticut, I grabbed at it, knowing the power of travel to forge memorable bonding experiences.

And I was right.

Our “gal getaway” at the Spa at Norwich Inn in Connecticut was full of surprises.

It began with our dinner at Kensington’s – an elegant space with dark-wood paneling, hand-painted floral mural, shimmering crystal chandelier, and music by Pat Mitchell on a keyboard – as we reviewed the menu and found succulent selections – not that thin, watery, bland stuff you might expect from a “spa”.

Here was beef, lamb, chicken, fish, pasta, even clam chowder, all bursting with flavor, with portions big enough to satisfy, so when you leave, you do not have that empty, deprived feeling. Yes, the preparations were designed to maximize flavor with minimum calories – the clam chowder, for example, was creamy enough but thankfully not so rich that you feel guilty with every spoonful (275 calories, 10 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein, 10 grams of carbohydrates).

The Amaretto Shrimp appetizer, as another example, is prepared with a sweet and spicy Amaretto emulsion and finished with walnut crumbs and a light salad of edible flowers (329 calories, 25 grams of fat, 14 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrate).

And the amazing entrees: Lobster Purse – a fresh lobster saut�ed in shallot and Chardonnay cr�me, wrapped in a crepe with braised vegetables, saffron and caviar (510 calories, 15 g fat, 32 g protein, 41 g carbohydrate); grilled swordfish about an inch thick, with a zesty flavor from garlic and citrus, accompanied by grilled zucchini and tomato, with rice pilaf and cucumber-citrus-garlic yogurt aioli (477 calories, 16 g fat, 56 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate).

The combination of distinct flavors is exciting.

Who would have imagined that the prime rib steak would actually come in at fewer calories (499 calories, 24 g of fat, 41 g of protein and 31 g of carbohydrate)?

This was only the first of many surprises during our weekend getaway.

But in some ways, it was not a surprise, but a fulfillment of expectation – being able to share quality time with my sister-in-law, who has been a part of my life since I was 13. It was, in fact, the first time in all these years (I won’t share how many) that I can remember, that we had time just to ourselves. In this, we became part of the growing trend toward “Gal Getaways” – so liberating, empowering and fun.

And we couldn’t have chosen a better place: the Spa at Norwich Inn has become a premiere spa destination, one of the biggest in the Northeast, regularly among the top four spas in the country, and the perfect place to relieve stress that we all feel, balancing work and family.

The setting of the Inn contributes to the atmosphere: set on 43 acres, in the picturesque “Rose of Connecticut” – so-called because from above, the rolling hills resemble petals of a rose – and just a stone’s throw from Old Lyme, where the landscapes were so bucolic as to attract the famous Old Lyme Art Colony of American Impressionists (see Discovery, 9/26). Its grounds abounding with perennial gardens, shimmering ponds, and inviting walkways, oak trees, a reflecting pool, and an oversized deck which are so conducive to relaxation.

The Vitality Vitamin Wrap involves application of anti-oxidant Vitamins A, C, and E-dense cream to the skin, then you are wrapped, cocoon-like, which activates hydration (© 2008 Karen Rubin).

With 100 guestrooms, suites and villas, The Spa at Norwich Inn, a member of Historic Hotels of America, is classy and classic, and quintessentially New England. You are greeted at the door by doormen, and taken to the room by bellmen. Nightly turn-down service includes fresh towels and chocolates left on the pillow. The concierge helpfully makes special arrangements or suggests sightseeing excursions.

We head up to our room – a king-suite – with an amazingly comfortable king-sized bed, and a separate sitting area with pull-out sleep sofa and TV – all classic and restful.

In the morning, we meet ladies doing their “bachelorette” getaways before the big day; bridal parties enjoying the spa before the big event taking place at the inn; couples in their plush white robes, strolling and holding hands while they wait for their treatment; mother-daughters and I am sure there is a three-generational group somewhere. My sister-in-law thinks how fabulous this will be to return with her two daughters.

With men seeing the benefits of stress reduction, they are becoming a growing market for spas, and the Spa at Norwich Inn has catered to this with corporate retreats.

There are at least two wedding parties while we are here, as well, but clearly, the focus of the Inn is on the spa – as you realize when you see men and women wrapped in their plush white robes, everywhere – in the wood-paneled formal dining room at breakfast, in the Ascot’s pub, in the lobby, and not just within the confines of the spa and outdoor patios. It’s a little surreal at first.

I realize when I talk with Betty Loiacono, the Inn’s spa director, that the Inn at Norwich was in the forefront of the now-ubiquitous trend in major spas at resort hotels. The Inn’s spa was one of the first in the East, built 20 years ago, even before the Canyon Ranch opened in Lenox, Massachusetts, when spas were more of an amenity than the central focus of a visit. The Spa at Norwich Inn, now with 30,000 square feet of space and 40 treatment rooms, has become one of the top four spas in the country.

Betty came to the Inn 20 years ago and was here when the spa was first built. In that time, there has been a virtual revolution in spa-going. The focus has also shifted – from weight loss and deprivation, to stress reduction and health.

Then, it was mostly older women, now the spa welcomes teens (as young as 14 with a parent or caretaker, or 16 on their own), and men are coming in growing numbers (Real Men do Spa).

For teens, for example, there are age-appropriate facials, massages and body polish treatments. Therapists have heightened sensitivity so not to embarrass a teenager with acne, and they teach daily facial care – cleaning, toning, moisturizing and using sun-screen. A specially designed “Teen Maxin’ & Relaxin’ Swedish Massage” uses gentle, flowing strokes, delivered with utmost sensitivity (50 minutes, $95).

“It’s a rite of passage. Teens are very savvy about the spa. Everybody is in a white robe – it is an equalizer. It is treating teens with respect, honoring them.”

A Teen spa package provides one fitness class; choice of a Maxin’ and Relaxin’ Swedish Massage or Teen ‘Put Your Best Face Forward’ Facial; and choice of Tip-to-Toe Body Glow or Fab Feet Pedicure or Material Girl Manicure; lunch in Kensington’s Restaurant; and full use of the Spa Facility ($175).

More and more men who appreciate the opportunity to reduce stress, as well. A “Real Men Do Spa” package includes a choice of 50 Minute Swedish Massage, or Men’s Energizing Facial; Choice of “Man Handler” Manicure, or “Man Handler” pedicure; Men’s Hair Cut and Style ; Lunch in Kensington’s Restaurant; Full Use of the Spa Facility ($210).

We also see many couples, both in their plush white robes, strolling hand-in-hand or sitting and quietly talking as they wait to be called in. One of the programs offered is a “Massage Lesson for Partners” where the therapist demonstrates massage techniques and both partners get to practice so the techniques taught may be used at home to generate relaxation and relieve stress (50 minutes, $90). Men are also taking advantage of facials, like the “Men’s Energizing Facial” ($95).

To the extent that disease can be triggered by stress, spa-treatments may be regarded as preventive. In fact, she says, some insurance companies now cover the cost of treatments.

But, she notes, that if you are undergoing chemotherapy, some of the treatments – like those that might move lymph – are not appropriate, or if you are on blood thinners, or have high blood pressure, or pregnant (a Pregnancy massage is offered).

On the other hand, people who are in remission come to celebrate their renewal with children and family.

“It is very healing. It is giving yourself permission to deal with yourself,” Betty says. “It is allowing someone to touch you, to put yourself at peace.”

Connecticut Workout

After breakfast (I request an omelet with cheese, mushrooms and spinach), we go directly to our fitness classes.

There are any number of group classes to choose from during the day -Belly Dancing, Body Definition, Candlelight Yoga, CardioSculpt, Get on the Ball, Hatha Yoga, Limber & Tone, Line Dancing, Making Waves (a water workout), progressive relaxation (all of these are 50 minutes and cost $18).

We opt for the Connecticut Workout, a nonstop cardio workout combining traditional and trendy high-energy movements, followed by Pilattes Mat, which I have come to believe is the best type of conditioning, especially for women at our stage of life. Pilattes focuses on developing strength of “the core” – the abdominals and back muscles that keep the rest of the body in alignment – and on flexibility and balance. This is a way of life that you can take back with you.

There are a limited number of offerings that are complimentary, such as “Fit Tips,” a 20-minute session with the personal trainer in the gym; a 20-minute Meditation session, and a 50-minute 2.5-mile morning walk. But just about everything else is a la carte, even tennis court time ($25 per hour), and a seasonal Devil’s Hopyard Hike (a three-hour trek through a hemlock forest with the scenic Eight Mile River meandering through, offered on Saturdays from May through November, weather permitting, $40).

Tips & Tricks for Healthy Cooking

The Norwich Inn's Executive Chef Daniel Chong-Jimenez gives a "Tips and Tricks for Healthy Cooking" luncheon-cooking demonstration (© 2008 Karen Rubin).

After our fitness sessions, we take part in a “Tips and Tricks for Healthy Cooking” luncheon-cooking demonstration presented by Executive Chef Daniel Chong-Jimenez on the Garden Patio.

After our dinner at Kensington’s, I was fascinated to hear him discuss cooking techniques that maximize flavor and nutrition while minimizing calories.

As a food scientist, he understands the importance to metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrates, and the interplay of the chemistry of food to nutrition. He graduated with a Bachelors of Science in animal science from the University of California-Davis, and teaches culinary nutrition at Johnson & Wales in Providence.

It turns out that Chef Daniel draws upon his early training as an animal scientist – an understanding of metabolism and chemistry – and applies this to his culinary art. He also draws from his heritage – Asian and Latino – to produce exciting combinations of flavors and textures.

The menu selections, which are so flavorful, turn out to be loaded with antioxidants.

“Scientific evidence continues to mount that points to Antioxidants as the most important component in the human diet after fats, protein and carbohydrates,” he says. “This menu represents the most Antioxidants I’ve ever used. And I haven’t skimped on flavor – in fact, the opposite is true.”

It’s like being given license to enjoy eating.

For example, the new Baked Portabella appetizer, where the giant mushroom is served warm and crusted with chevre, roasted garlic, roasted shallots and topped with crispy pepitas, organic olive oil and cabernet syrup – the olive oil and cabernet syrup, a reduction of wine made from red cabernet grapes, provide the Antioxidant kick.

The pairings also provide the Antioxidants – the Long Island duck entrée is breast meat seasoned with star anise and hot peppers with bok choy, shitake mushrooms and licorice-root infused duck brother. The Antioxidants come from the mushrooms and licorice root.

Fish oil also is a good source of Antioxidants, so the Cassoulet of Halibut, as well as the Grilled salmon and monkfish saddle also are good sources.

Antioxidants, he said, are important because they can absorb free oxygen radicals, a normal byproduct of human breathing, an essential component of cellular communication, enzyme synthesis and immune defense. But too many of these in the wrong places can have a detrimental effect. They have an unpaired electron that is looking for a “buddy” to bring its energy level to a stable state. If there isn’t a nutrient from a helpful fruit or vegetable or fish oil to pair up with the free radical, it will “steal” a hydrogen atom from a cell membrane to stabilize its energy field.

This can be bad over time, diminishing the ability of the cell to function properly. These cells affect memory, heart, kidney, lungs, thyroid, muscle, bone, skin, and the body ages faster because the cells are wearing out, he says.

But the most important “ingredient” is simply the freshness of the ingredients, he says. The fresher they are, the more natural flavor they impart, and the more healthful they are. So he has cultivated relationships with local farmers and fishermen.

There are many reasons to become a “Locavore” – a person who eats locally grown food. A key reason is that the vegetables and fruit are picked closest to peak, are riper and have ripened naturally, have the most nutrients, are livelier, have been handled by fewer hands, exposed to fewer markets, and doesn’t need to be transported far (burning fossil fuels). And because the taste is so vibrant, needs less added seasoning.

“That’s the secret to the intense flavor,” he says.

So he starts our lunch with a gazpacho soup that has more the consistency of a salad, made with vine-ripened tomatoes from a local farm two miles away that have never been refrigerated, yellow bell peppers, cucumber, onions, olive, sherry vinegar and white balsamic, salt imported from France, and extract of virgin olive oil. It is served unabashedly with bread fried in olive oil (it’s healthy, I am delighted to learn since it is so delicious).

In front of us, he demonstrates how to prepare a watermelon salad with shrimp and scallops with goat cheese and balsamic that you would say to yourself have no business being on the same plate.

As he prepares, he answers our questions – such as the efficacy of eating foods in certain combinations so they metabolize more efficiently (leaving less fat on our bones).

“We are most metabolically active in the early part of the day, which diminishes later and slows down at night. It is better to eat carbohydrates early in the day – pancakes, French toast – but in the evening, eat a lot of vegetables and proteins because the body repairs at night.”

Also, choose high quality protein. Beef and chicken are best that have been fed grass rather than grain (corn), which became the popular method during the Nixon Era because of a surplus of corn, he says. Corn-fed beef produced more marbling, but Americans got fatter, and the animals raised on a corn-diet are stressed.

Grass fed meat is leaner, less marbled, gives off a cleaner smell when it cooks, and shrinks more (because the animal is less stressed).

He says that he likes to serve portions of 6 or 7 ounces – more than the 4-ounce servings at many spas. “It is the amount at which people usually feel satisfied. I learned not to starve my guests. They won’t lose significant weight here, anyway.”

His approach is to give generous portions of protein, and limit the amount of carbohydrates. “30 grams is the threshold where the body feels challenged by sugar load… It’s one of the secrets of the Atkins diet, that proteins satisfy.”

Chef Daniel has been cooking throughout this, and has finished saut�ing the shrimp and now holds up these massive, four-ounce scallops, harvested from nearby Stonington, so are as fresh as they can be. “We buy direct from a fishing family – two brothers and a sister.”

He cooks them over a high flame, not even adding oil, because the scallops release their own oil. He cooks them until they caramelize on each side.

While they are cooking, he turns to arranging strawberries and the shrimp against thick, blockish squares of watermelon, and when the scallops are finished, puts them on top of the watermelon, with a mixture of “micro greens” – arugala, bean sprouts – finally spooning a balsamic reduction of honey, orange and vinegar, on top and finishes with goat cheese (no lactose).

He discusses the difference in salt – he prefers the Fleur de Sel from a marsh in France – and the different taste it imparts to seafood and tomatoes, and in this case, the watermelon. Watermelon, he said, is high in Vitamin C and beta carotene, is naturally sweet, and compliments the protein in the shrimp and scallops.

With vegetables, he says he roasts instead of steams and uses a toaster oven.

When asked how he describes his cuisine, he says, “Fusion. When I look at the dishes I have crated, there is a lot of cultural heritage. I can’t help myself – I know how to play with spices, but enjoy most the Asian, Latino, and French. Lucky for me, these are also the most popular.”

As for cooking for a spa, he says, “it is the quality of ingredients, eating seasonally. There is no substitute.

Chef Daniel offers these demonstrations, “Tips and Tricks for Healthy Cooking: An interactive demonstration and tasting,” each Saturday at 2:30 ($25). People with food allergies are welcomed – he modifies to accommodate (they ask about allergies when you sign up).

Potpourri of Spa Treatments

The historic Norwich Inn provides just the right amount of elegance (© 2008 Karen Rubin).

A similar concept to the “freshness” of ingredients in cooking, and the natural setting is apparent in the spa treatments, as well. The spa takes advantage of its New England ambience, temperate climate and four seasons, manifest in the seasonal treatments.

Fall Harvest selections include a pumpkin wrap, using aromatherapy of pumpkin and spice, mixed into the dead sea salt scrub. This pumpkin wrap exfoliates dead skin cells and provides the ultimate stimulating cellulite reduction therapy. Pumpkin is best known for its high concentration of Beta-Carotene and Vitamin E, two very important antioxidant agents to fight the effects of aging. Rich in minerals, the pumpkin will re-nourish your depleted skin to a vibrant glow. This treatment is followed with an application of our Pumpkin Body Butter (50-minutes $125).

A Cranberry Pomegranate and Pumpkin Facial uses a pumpkin enzyme masque that works to gently digest and exfoliate dead skin cells and impurities as it delivers pumpkin’s botanical benefits to repair the skin. It is followed by a luxurious cranberry pomegranate moisture masque that re-hydrates and plumps tired cells. The facial ends with amino-lift peptide complex that diminishes fine lines, smoothes and firms the skin (25 minutes, $70; 50 minutes, $110). There’s also a Cranberry Fig Body Scrub; Pumpkin Body Wrap; Oatmeal, Walnut and Pumpkin Manicure or Pedicure.

Since Norwich is designated the ‘Rose of New England, the Norwich Native Flower Wrap treatment incorporates floral essences that are indigenous to New England, with Rose being predominant, combined with the benefits of a hydrating body wrap. The purely natural ingredients relax the body and stimulate the senses (50 minutes, $115).

Phytotherapy?

In the afternoon, we get to experience the spa treatments first hand.

I enjoy a phytotherapy massage – essentially two treatments in one, incorporating the aromatherapy of the plant oils, and a Swedish massage.

As I am taken into the room by Heather (that’s really her name), she points to open bottles of so I can choose the aroma for the oil. The aromatherapy is taken into the body through the skin during the massage or body wrap. Each one has a different benefit.

For Relaxation, a soothing blend of ylang ylang, lavender and tangerine, which brings peace and ease to your body, and mind.

For Energy, a stimulating blends of peppermint and rosemary to awaken your senses and invigorate you for the day.

To improve Respiration, a clearing blend of eucalyptus, fir and pine that helps open your lungs and respiratory channels.

For Muscle Relief, a rich warming blend of birch, thyme and juniper that penetrates to help release stress in your muscle and joints.

For a Clear Mind, a warm blend of peppermint and ginger to help settle that wandering mind.

That one sounded interesting, but because I am not fond of the smell of peppermint and ginger, I decide on “Ambiance”, with a blend of orange and geranium, which is supposed to help center my body and mind.

This notion intrigues me. I can’t wrap my mind about what that feeling is supposed to be like – and wonder if I will rise from the table with a focus, purposefulness that I never had before, a sense of what is “right”; a clarity and single-mindedness. And then I wonder what it will feel like when the treatment wears off and I return to myself.

I also wonder if you are drawn to a certain aroma because your body craves the relief it provides, much as you crave foods when you need certain nutrients.

To be honest, the massage was so relaxing, I am not sure I was aware of being particularly “centered”, though I did fulfill my plan to sit and read, swim laps, and explore the property.

Situated near the 17th tee of the Norwich Public Golf Course, the Norwich Inns grounds abound with perennial gardens, shimmering ponds, inviting walkways, oak trees, a reflecting pool enhancing the sense of peace (© 2008 Karen Rubin).

I also wonder whether people are drawn to a certain scent – like they are to certain foods – because of a need for that particular remedy – relaxation, energy, muscle relief, and so on.

Reva does the Vitality Vitamin Wrap that begins with gentle exfoliation with an aromatic natural algae followed by a stimulating and fragrant application of shower gel. After showering, the therapist applies a richly blended and skin nourishing anti-oxidant Vitamins A, C, and E-dense cream. Then, you are wrapped, cocoon-like, which activates hydration.

There is a dizzying array of treatments to choose from (I can see how people can keep coming back just to try different ones).

Thalassotherapy is a thermal algae body mask, rich in nutrients from the sea, is designed to cleanse, tone and detoxify the system, which finishes with an application of the Inn’s private-label Avocado Lotion (50 minutes, $115).

Ayurvedic Mud Wrap is an application of rejuvenating Ayurvedic herbal-based mud imported from India which is designed to gently balance circulation and deep cleanse your system. The treatment finishes with an Ayurvedic oil application (50 minutes, $115).

One of the new Specialty treatments is CranioSacral Therapy, designed to release the tension that has made your tissues tighten up, to allow the body to relax and “self-correct.” The practitioner uses light-touch techniques, freeing the central nervous system. The treatment requires specialized training, so there is limited availability. ($95 or $152).

 

A Coffee Body Polish is designed to awaken your senses with an invigorating 25-minute body polish.�You relax as each muscle is exfoliated with a blend of ground Coffee, nature’s own micro-cellular stimulant; Dead Sea salt, prized for its detoxifying and regenerating properties; and soothing essential oils.� The coffee and salt gently remove dead skin cells and soften rough patches, while the invigorating aroma of rosemary, mint and citrus oils awakens your senses and invigorates your body. An application of Coffee Blossom Essence Lotion is then applied that completes the experience ($70).

The Nirvana combines the Herbal Body Exfoliation with the Shirodarah treatment to create “an Ayurvedic experience for the mind, body and spirit.”It begins with a Herbal Body Exfoliation – a total body detoxifying experience that provides deep cleansing. The powerful combination of herbs and oils is supposed to work to strengthen the immune system and eliminate the feelings of stress and anxiety. Next comes the Shirodarah that begins with a gentle stream of warm herbal infused oil onto the third eye to quiet the mind and soothe the senses. The oil is then massaged into the hair and scalp to nourish the hair roots and condition the scalp ($175).

Rain Drop Therapy uses nine therapeutic essential oils, hot stones on your back and energy work that balance your Body, Mind and Spirit. Oils are dripped ceremoniously ‘drop-by-drop’ down your spine and on your legs. Then, using gently choreographed strokes, the oils are delivered to your system leaving you feeling very relaxed. You are told to avoid alcohol and heat after this treatment ($125).

There is Hydrotherapy, including a Volcanic Mud Bath which utilizes therapeutic anti-inflammatory properties of mineral-rich volcanic ash mud extract; Lavender or Rosemary Aroma-Mineral Bath; and Seaweed Bath, which is rich in trace elements, vitamins and minerals and has healing properties that stimulate circulation, eliminate toxins and nourish the skin.

Various Body Polish Treatments are offered: Coco Mango Body Buff; Crystal Sea Salt Glow; Lavender Salt Polish; Orange Blossom Sugar Polish; Sensitive Skin; and the Teen Tip-to-Toe Body Glow.

There is a choice of facials, from Anti-Aging, to the Antidote for Fragile and Sensitive Skin.

Most intriguing are a Caviar facial that uses Russian caviar, pearl extracts and Excutox ™, a natural herbal topical alternative to Botox®, to smooth wrinkles, improve elasticity and promote cellular activity ($225); and a Champagne facial, designed for mature skin, that uses Champagne yeast extract with a high concentration of Vitamin B Complex and amino acids to stimulate the skin to combat the effects of free radicals ($110).

Men also are getting facials. The Norwich Inn uses its own Men’s Facial Care products to address the specific needs of men’s skin. A thorough facial cleansing and exfoliation is followed by a serum and masque to help calm the skin. A gentle massage detoxifies and enhances tone. $95

A particular novelty is the in-house astrologer and Tarot card reader, Rosemary Williams, who does a basic Astrology reading, baby chart astrology, couples astrology, even relocation astrology (to find out what your life would be like in another town or country), and Tarot Card reading. All 50 and 90 minute sessions end with an optional Tarot Card reading, and each session is taped to take home ($80).

The various spa treatments are offered a la carte, but there are packages:

For example, the Ultimate Day of Beauty includes an 80 minute Caviar Facial; a choice of New England Foliage Manicure or New England Foliage Pedicure; Make-Up Application Service; lunch in Kensington’s Restaurant; and full use of the Spa Facility for the day ($300).

The midweek Personal Escape Plan allows you to customize your stay. for one to four nights, and provides accommodations, breakfast, choice of two spa services and two fitness classes, (from $318 per person per night/double occupancy, and from $397 single).

Besides the full use of the Spa facility, the packages also offer daily complimentary morning walk, FIT TIPS, Morning Meditation, Make-Up Color Analysis Q&A, SPA 101, afternoon tea and scones, and afternoon wine tasting.

Foxwoods Connection

Now completely mellow from our spa treatments (I have also had a swim in the indoor pool), we meet our small group for dinner in the separate stone cottage that once was the clubhouse for the Norwich Public Golf Course, the 17th tee just outside the door.

Indeed, this historic inn, a member of Historic Hotels of America, has such an interesting history.

The pool at the Spa at Norwich Inn(© 2008 Karen Rubin).

Built in 1929 as a civic project of the town, the Georgian-style manor house was for a time a boarding house and the basement was a holding cell. The popular inn passed through a succession of owners and in 1994, was acquired by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which also owns Foxwoods casino (so no surprise that there is a nightly shuttle to the Foxwoods casino).

An infusion of capital resulted in a $15 million renovation, completed in 2000, which enhanced and doubled the size of the European-style spa, and built a corridor connection to the main building; reduced the number of guestrooms to make them more spacious, and included classic appointments, signature toiletries, luxurious robes and CD players. Nestled in the woods are 51 private villas, equipped with wood-burning fireplaces.

Guests can play golf on the Norwich public course, which is PGA-rated, and is absolutely gorgeous, as well as at the award-winning Lake of Isles Golf Course, designed by Rees Jones surrounding the 90-acre Lake of Isles, which also is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. (A Golf & Spa package includes overnight accommodations at the Inn, golf for one, choice of two spa services, breakfast and dinner for two and other package features (M-W, from $644; Thurs-Sun, $744).

After dinner, we hop the shuttle to Foxwoods’ newest addition, the MGM Grand with its own casino, and are lucky enough to catch part of Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar’s show in the 4,000-seat theater, wander around the casino, and take in the scene and the heart-pumping sound at Shrine, the disco.

The ambiance at the Norwich Inn is so refined, so classy, it is no surprise it is wonderfully popular for weddings (there are two that weekend) for up to 150 people, bachelorette parties, as well as corporate functions and executive retreats (the clearing the mind thing, especially). A wedding coordinator is on staff can plan everything – even an elopement!

There is a ballroom and five different meeting spaces, for a total of 6,500-squre feet, accommodating up to 250 guests. Special activities can be arranged, like corporate stretch, yoga, and even as a novelty, astrology reading.

The services are offered a la carte, but there are a wonderful array of packages which bundle in the kinds of spa, sports activities, dining options you might want.

ReNew You offers a fitness class, a choice of two Spa offerings, lunch at Kensington’s, a spa boutique lotion to take home, and use of the spa facility. ($275 including tax, gratuity and service charge).

Spacation is a weekday plan that offers one fitness class; lunch in Kensington’s Restaurant; A Spa Boutique Lotion- to take home; a choice of Aromatherapy, European Facial, Hearthside Relaxer Massage, Swedish Massage, PhytoTherapy Massage, Pregnancy Massage, Reiki, or Teen Swedish� Massage, Hair Conditioning Ritual; and a choice of Express Facial, Eyebright, Hand Massage, Foot Massage, Spa Manicures, Spa Pedicures, Body Polish, Hydrotherapy, or Salon Wash, Cut & Dry, Wash and Blow dry ($229 with tax, gratuity and service charge; available weekdays; an overnight stay can be added at a discounted rate).

A Country Getaway Retreat includes accommodations; breakfast and dinner; full use of the Spa facility; and Daily Complimentary Morning Walk, FIT TIPS, Morning Meditation, Make-Up Color Analysis Q&A, SPA 101, Afternoon Tea and Scones and Afternoon Wine Tasting (from $150 pp/night/double or $220/single midweek; and $195 or $325 weekends, with a two-night minimum).

For the best value, the best time to come is after labor day, after New Year’s, and in June before the summer rush. Midweek room rates are naturally lower than weekend. You can check the website for special rates at the day spa.

It is easy to reach the Norwich Inn by train from New York City and Boston; to feel as if you have really gotten away, take the Orient Point ferry to New London, where you can arrange a pick up to the spa (11 miles away). By car, it is about 2 1/2 hours from Long Island.

The Spa at Norwich Inn is a member of Historic Hotels of America (www.historichotels.org, 800-678-8946).

The Spa at Norwich Inn, 607 W. Thames Street, Norwich, Connecticut, 06360, 860-886-2401, 800-ASK-4-Spa, www.thespaatnorwichinn.com.

Tuesday, 28 October, 2008

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© 2008 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit us online at www.travelwritersmagazine.com and at www.familytravelnetwork.com. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com.

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About Travel Features Syndicate

Karen Rubin is an eclectic travel writer who has been spanning the globe for more than 30 years reporting on interesting, intriguing people and places to explore for magazines, newspapers and online. She publishes Travel Features Syndicate in newspapers and online including examiner.com, Huffington Post and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate and blogs at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. "Travel is a life-changing and an interactive experience that mutually benefits travelers and community." Contact Karen at FamTravLtr@aol.com. 'Like' us at www.facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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