By MK Bateman
We all know those iconic Vermont images like covered bridges, maple syrup and world-class skiing, but what about sophisticated resorts for primping, pampering and eating your way to complete relaxation? I bet that isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, is it? You’ll be happy to know that you can find just what you’re looking for at the fantastic Essex Resort and Spa.
Snuggled between the Green Mountains and stunning Lake Champlain is Vermont’s only AAA 4 Diamond Culinary Resort. The 18-acre campus has everything you need to unwind, relax, enjoy nature and indulge in delectable cuisine, no matter what time of the year.
My partner and I decided to take a little stay-cation to the Resort – a get away in the middle of February to warm up our Winter-weary bones—saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, and massage tables—it sounded glorious. With the winter we had in the Northeast, we felt we deserved it!
The Essex Resort is as progressive as the State it resides in. At the main entrance, we were showered with welcome greetings in many different languages. We couldn’t help but notice the rainbow flag and Human Rights Campaign logo proudly displayed, as well. The staff was just as welcoming.
Like many gay and lesbian couples, our dog is like a child to us. Whenever possible, we try to bring him along on trips. With a little extra charge, the Essex Resort had no problem with our canine companion. They even supplied a little welcome gift for him with a travel bowl, a rope toy Frisbee, and house-made dog treats. That was only the tip of the iceberg of the level of service you can expect at the Resort.
Our room was large, with huge windows overlooking a tree that had been wrapped in white lights, bringing a soft glow to our room in the evening. The bed was just right – soft but not too soft – with more pillows than we knew what to do with. Truth be told, it made thoughts of anything but long, luxurious naps difficult… We rallied, though, because there was no way we were going to miss out on everything the resort had to offer.
There is so much to do at the Essex Resort that with our two-day stay we felt we had to concentrate on one aspect of the services offered. While there are cooking classes that sounded fantastic–they offered a Paella class during our stay – we decided that on this particular trip we would concentrate on the indulgence of the incredible in-house spa.
There are tons of choices for treatments at the spa. Just by staying at the resort you have access to the 25-yard indoor pool (with an additional outdoor pool for the warmer months), an oversized outdoor hot tub, sauna, steam room and fitness center. The first night that we got there, we decided to take a swim in the pool. Though it was bone chilling outside, we braved the cold to sample the outdoor hot tub. We lounged comfortably, not even realizing our wet hair was freezing up! Once we were ready to go back inside our warmed bodies couldn’t even feel the frosty air against them.
The Essex Resort has two onsite restaurants. We chose to eat at the Tavern (a traditional pub-style restaurant with a vibrant bar scene), rather than the more sophisticated dining experience of Amuse. Both restaurants are part of the Vermont Fresh Network, so you can expect amazing locally sourced meals. The Tavern was so delicious that we went back for breakfast the next morning. It was just what we needed: low key, great food and wonderful service.
The next morning, before breakfast, we got up early to walk our dog and enjoy the crystal blue skies and white landscape that makes February so special. We couldn’t wait for 10:30am to arrive, so we could begin our spa treatments. I chose an 80-minute massage that began with a steam, a sauna, and a shower (with a rain shower head – my new obsession, by the way). An indulgence, indeed… but austerity has never been my cup of tea… Comfortable with a copy of US Magazine and a cozy terry cloth robe, I had a short wait in front of a roaring fire before my massage therapist brought me upstairs for the treatment. It was a delightful experience; we chatted just enough, she used just the right amount of pressure, and the requisite world music was sufficient to wash away my cares.
My partner, coming off of months of his busy work season, decided to really splurge with a package deal. His choice was the two-hour Pure Relaxation: a 30-minute deep soak; a 30-minute muscle melt, consisting of a warm body wrap to relieve sore, tired muscles and joints with a healing blend of herbs, mints, and grains mixed with aloe vera and a stimulating application of Sport Massage Cream. It was finished off with a 60-minute aromatherapy massage.
As I was finishing my massage and being escorted to the lounge, my massage therapist pointed out the aroma in the hallway: “Can you smell that?” she said. It was an invigorating perfume of eucalyptus and other products. “That’s your partner’s muscle melt.” If I hadn’t been completely relaxed from my wonderful massage, I probably would have felt some envy. As it was, I was too blissed out to be anything but happy that he was getting his much needed pampering.
I relaxed in the lounge for a few minutes until he was done with his spa treatments. Then, we were served a delicious, light lunch, which we’d ordered earlier. It was the perfect ending to our spa day.
After a lazy stroll with the dog on the bike path across from the resort, we decided that we need a little retail therapy. Not even a half-mile down the road from the resort is the Essex Outlets. While it may not have the largest assortment of stores, it has some great ones like Polo Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, and Orvis. We spent our hard-earned money in a few stores and thought about a movie at the adjacent Essex Cinemas, with stadium seating and the largest screen in Vermont. Instead, we decided to go back to our room for that much needed afternoon nap… in our king sized, insanely pillowed bed. Pure heaven.
By the time we were ready to check out, all three of us were perfectly relaxed, thoroughly warmed and comfortably satiated. The Essex Resort provided a charming experience. While far from inexpensive, it was certainly worth it. Vermont truly offers so much more than what you may imagine.