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Pampered

California Spa resorts treat guests like royalty

By CARY ORDWAY

Few would disagree that one of the most relaxing getaways is a visit to a spa resort - a place where images of Cleopatra come to mind with servants fanning palms and a bevy of chamber maids attending to every square centimeter on the queen's body. After a hard week at the office, such pampering may be well-deserved.

Today it's possible to be treated like a royal just as in Cleopatra's day - although with some slight modification. The fans most likely will be in the form of the latest high-tech climate control, and the chamber maids are more apt to be clinical technicians with training in ways to ease those aching muscles, retard those nasty effects from aging and improve your nutritional intake. Spend a few days here and you'll be ready to go out and build a few more pyramids.

Interestingly, spa resorts are no longer just for the rich and famous, and is not limited nearly as much to "older" people as it was in the past. A whole new generation of spa-users has sprung up - both men and women - who are in their 20's and 30's and learning the long-term therapeutic benefits of paying attention to your body and its needs. Accordingly, many major California resorts have added or upgraded spas, and tout those facilities as they search for ways to distinguish their lodgings from others.

Such indulgence usually is not cheap - treatments of $200, $300 and up are not uncommon. But relative to the price of rooms and suites at today's best resorts, the cost is just a modest add-on to ensure that the resort experience will be one of the best you've had.

We've visited several spa resorts in California and offer here a few to consider for your next California vacation:

Historic Mission Inn

Located in Riverside, this inn has been vacation home to presidents and luminaries for many decades. Entering the lobby, we noticed that spectacular chandeliers and giant wood beams complemented the elegant flower-patterned carpet to create a sense that this building was at once luxurious and historic. The lobby's grand piano is the only piano made by Steinway for the 1876 Centennial. But this was only the beginning - the Historic Mission Inn is like a fun house for those who marvel at historic and creative architecture. Around every corner there is something unique or fascinating.

The 239-room inn was built to resemble an early California mission and is situated on an entire city block - a total of 320,000 square feet. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a State of California Historic Landmark.

The inn features a year-round heated swimming pool and jacuzzi area for relaxation but, if you want the ultimate, Kelly's Spa will pamper you until you won't want to go home. A recent addition to the Historic Mission Inn - and proving especially popular with local residents -- Kelly's features a variety of scrubs, polishes, body wraps, therapeutic baths, massages and facials. You'll be treated like royalty, all right, but plan to spend about $250 for a half day or about $400 for a full day, although that can vary depending on the treatments.

For more information on the Historic Mission Inn, call 800-843-7755 or visit www.missioninn.com.

Monterey Plaza Hotel

If you want to visit an amazing waterfront hotel, the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa is right in the heart of historical Monterey. Perched partially on pilings right out over the beach and coastline, this hotel proved to be ideally situated for our walks along Cannery Row and to other attractions in the area including Fisherman's Wharf. This is one of those places where you can step out on your lanai and take in sweeping views of not only the Cannery Row coastline, but of the shoreline northeast of the peninsula where you find the sand and rolling hills near the cities of Seaside and Marina.

It became obvious very quickly that the Cannery Row coastline is also a natural habitat for many other sea creatures that kayakers paddle out to see up-close and personal. From our hotel balcony we could see a steady stream of kayakers headed out to survey a small fraction of what is called the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary - a 5,300 square-mile area that protects species such as seals, sea otters, shorebirds and many others that are endangered. Also nearby is the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Our balcony offered quite a panorama of the waterfront - the sights, the smells, the salt air - and we enjoyed just relaxing with this great view. The spa services offered are varied and the resort offers a complete selection of treatments to feel young in Old Monterey.

The Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa can be reached at (800) 368-2468 or visit www.woodsidehotels.com.

La Quinta

About a half hour east of Palm Springs is La Quinta Resort & Club, a massive 42-acre collection of casitas, golf courses, swimming pools and tennis courts that, for the first-timer, requires a roadmap to navigate. Charming Spanish architecture and abundant vegetation weave a colorful tapestry against the mountain backdrop, making La Quinta Resort & Club one of the prettiest hotel layouts you'll ever see.

There's no excuse for being a couch potato here - although we're told plenty of guests are content to do just that. For starters there are the resort's 42 swimming pools -- many of the resort's casitas have their own swimming pool.

Our "starlight" casita was a spacious upstairs unit in a two-story building overlooking one of the swimming pools. Floor plans at La Quinta offer more than the usual amount of space - 450 square feet or more - and that, along with the high ceilings, gives a feeling of openness. Casitas each are decorated with a Southwestern flair. Mexican influenced pottery designs, wrought iron mirror frames and bed treatments with browns, reds and yellows created a fiesta of color in our casita's main room.

Spa La Quinta is where guests are offered many treatments borrowed from the area's Native ancestors. Unlike many spa resorts, this retreat puts emphasis on outdoor spa treatments under the desert sky to add to the serenity and relaxation of the experience. Inside the spa facility, you'll also find the Yamaguchi Salon, which is internationally known for cutting and coloring techniques that integrate Asian Feng Shui philosophy into these services.

For more information on La Quinta Resort and Club, phone 1-800-598-3828 or visit www.laquintaresort.com.

OTHER DESTINATIONS: If a California vacation is in your future, be sure to check out other California Weekend articles on Sausalito, Point Reyes National Seashore and Bodega Bay.


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