Where I'd stay and what I'd do - with a wellness touch!
It’s amazing how sights, smells, and sounds can transport us to another place and time! Just like smelling a certain candle takes me back to a beautiful resort in Mexico where we stayed as a family, because it smells like that restful lobby.
In part 1 I talked about U.S. destinations that feel like Switzerland, Denmark, Britain, and Germany. Today I’m going to take us to Spain, France, the Netherlands, the Greek islands, and Italy, along with recommendations of where to stay and a wellness focus for each.
St. Augustine, Florida – wellness focus: adventure
If you know anything about the history of St. Augustine, you’d have picked this city in a heartbeat. It’s America’s oldest city (closest airport: Jacksonville, 50 miles away), founded by the Spanish in 1565, with 144 blocks of Spanish colonial style buildings and homes, and brick streets lined with cathedrals. Here, be sure to visit the Lightner Museum, the Governor’s House museum, and the Colonial Quarter for interactive activities, and the Castillo de San Marcos (a Spanish fortress built in 1672 to fend off pirate raids). For adventure, visit the 12-mile Swamp Conservation area, where you can hike, bike, or go horseback riding on the 2.8-mile trail. Fishing charters, parasailing, kayaking, mini golf, and Segway or scooter rentals are all available in the area.
Where I’d stay: Casa de Suenos Bed & Breakfast in the historic district. There are seven guest rooms, some with 2-person jetted tubs and private balconies. There’s no spa on-site, but you can include a massage package at the nearby Salt Spa. The B&B has hearty breakfasts, evening socials, free off-street parking, and wifi. Besides the spa package, the hotel offers sailing packages, a ghost walk and paranormal package, romance package, chocolate lovers’ package, dolphin & nature boat eco-tour, and beach picnic package.
New Orleans, Louisiana – wellness focus: culinary
New Orleans was originally founded by the French, and boasts the well-known French Quarter with colonial townhouses, French Market, gourmet food (try Café du Monde, Galatoire’s, and Antoine’s restaurants), and local arts & crafts. Be sure to visit the museums, historic homes, St. Louis Cathedral, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, and Steamboat Natchez. For a cooking class, cooking demo, or delicious tastings, schedule visits to the New Orleans school of cooking, Mardi Gras school of cooking, and/or Crescent City Cooks Cooking School.
Where I’d stay: Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter. This luxury pet-friendly hotel houses the incredible Criollo Restaurant and the Carousel Bar & Lounge, and is complete with a rooftop fitness center & heated pool, 24-hour valet parking. You might want to book the Deluxe Monteleone experience at the onsite Spa Aria: a 90-minute relaxing massage, Ultimate Facial, Ultimate pedicure and Aria manicure.
Holland, Michigan – wellness focus: leisure and exploration
Holland is located 30 miles from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was settled by Dutch immigrants in the 1800s. They have the oldest working Dutch windmill in the U.S., and host an annual Tulip Time Festival at the Veldheer Tulip Gardens (which brings 1 million visitors each year!). Definitely visit the Holland State Park and the Big Red Lighthouse. They host year-round fun here, including the Fall Fest (with professional pumpkin carvers), a re-enactment of the Battle of Five Forks & Battle of Appomattox, a live mannequin night, and winter & summer farmer’s markets, just to name a few activities.
Where I’d stay: Hotel Saugatuck, an adults-only couples retreat B&B. They have 18 rooms and include breakfast and fine desserts delivered to your room. Each room includes a fireplace and hydrotherapy tub, and the use of the on-site bikes is included with your stay.
Catalina Island, California – wellness focus: adventure
This Southern California island, just a short ferry ride from the mainland, boasts the same Mediterranean climate as the Greek islands, and has the same look and feel. With one town, Avalon, and plenty of space to roam, it’s a great combination of food, shops, hotels, and chance for adventure. Available activities include ocean tours, an open-air Hummer island tour, zip line, a ropes course aerial adventure, a climbing wall, falconry experience, mini golf, and a golf course. A dive & recreation center rents kayaks, mountain bikes, stand-up paddleboards, and snorkel gear for your island entertainment.
Where I’d stay: Hotel Metropole. This beautiful property accesses the Metropole Marketplace, with cobblestone walkways, cooling fountains, and boutique shops and eateries. Accommodations include guest rooms, mini suites, a VIP wing, and 2-bedroom 2-bath beach house. Oceanfront VIP suites have fireplaces, jacuzzi baths, and balconies. The hotel’s 1-night spa package includes two 1-hour spa treatments (massage or scalp treatment), one night in a deluxe room, and continental breakfast.
Napa Valley, California – wellness focus: fitness, spa, food
This Northern California region includes so many Tuscan highlights: vineyards, winding roads, lush hills, charming rural towns, red wine tasting rooms, over 500 wineries, olive oil production, and Michelin-starred restaurants with Italian cuisine. For amazing food (and wine), experience the Napa Valley Wine Train, Napa’s most distinctive restaurant, with its beautifully restored antique rail cars. Don’t miss the Old Faithful Geyser of California. Additional activities include hot air balloon rides, paintball, horseback riding, Lake Hennessey (a large reservoir for fishing & boating, but no swimming), fly fishing, motorcycle & bike rentals, and hiking.
Where I’d stay: Meadowood Napa Valley (it’s hard to decide, there are SO MANY incredible spa resorts in the area). Meadowood has two professional croquet lawns, golf (a 9-hole walking course), 7 tennis courts, 3 swimming pools, over 4 miles of hiking trails, and fitness classes including yoga, aqua fitness, cardio, weights, and eco fitness.
Do you feel like you could almost go somewhere in Europe, without leaving the States? Hopefully you have some great ideas! If you’re a yoga retreat or other group leader, I may have just sparked a thought for you—let me know if you want to talk more.
I’m happy to say that I have been buying the candle and the room spray for five years now, so I can be transported to that beautiful Mexican resort experience in my own home. I guess that’s just one more way that travel is transformational for me.
If you’re interested in talking to me about a European lookalike destination, or anything else travel related, reply to this e-mail.
I have a podcast and a YouTube channel! I give a lot more details about these locations in my recordings. I’d love for you to listen or watch! The podcast is Suite Dreams Wellness Travel, and my YouTube channel is Barbara Tuckett. Come find me there!