Bright Spot

After getting settled in and oriented on my recent adventure at a “hiking spa” in Vermont, my friend and I got ourselves together in time for the evening yoga class.  The yoga instructor was well-trained and seemed to know what she was doing.  She reminded me of my first yoga instructor in Columbus with a voice that combined happy with soothing.

Things were looking up.

We made it to dinner and things looked up indeed.  The dinner was really delicious.  There were two choices and I got the combo because I couldn’t pick between the two.  The portions were not as generous as I might have liked, but I consoled myself with the thought that it really wouldn’t be bad if I dropped a couple of pounds.

What was really exciting was the number of repeat customers.  All participants in the hiking spa sat at 4 large tables, so we got to talk to others who’d been there before and/or had been there for several days.  We got the low-down on the place and what to expect.

If the spa director is smart, he will start offering these repeat customers some sort of discount–they are his best advertisers.  One woman at our table was on her 10th visit to the hiking spa.  She is the one who told us it was more shabby than chic.  Her honesty made her more credible and her enthusiasm for the program made us more excited to be there.  She knew everything from the menu for each day to the hikes that would be scheduled.  I really think they should have hired her to do the orientations for new arrivals–we would have felt much more welcome and better informed.

In general, the people we spoke with at our table made us feel like we were joining a fun club with lots of cool people.  They were from all over the place–some from as far as London.  There was a doctor, a spa owner, a retail business owner, and a chemist who held several patents among the many different career choices represented.

The next morning, we got up early to attend the 7AM stretching class before breakfast.  When we walked out to the semi-permanent outdoor tent setup exclusively for the hiking spa fitness classes, the sun was barely visible through dense fog.  It was hard to tell it was nearly 7AM through the gloom of the fog.  The glow of the sun peeping through the thick fog made me happy I’d decided to bring my camera with me.

I would have preferred a short yoga class instead of  a boot-camp style stretching class first thing in the morning, but it was still nice to get unkinked before breakfast.  I just prefer to have calming music and be in a meditative state of mind over having a big, hairy guy leading us through marching in place and elementary-school-style stretches.  But, it definitely got us ready for breakfast.


Unguided Tour

After arriving at the hiking spa in Vermont, I worked on getting settled into my room while waiting for the spa director to call for our tour and orientation.  They’d given us some paperwork to sign when we checked in.  I was more than a little shocked when I realized one of the things I was supposed to sign was acknowledging that I was going to be on a restricted calorie diet.

I somehow missed that there was going to be a limit on calories.

Under “special dietary needs,” I made sure I put that I needed at least 1800 calories a day if I was going to be hiking and working out, worried that this was some kind of crazy starvation diet.  Then, I stared at the phone.

There is nothing I hate more than waiting for a phone call.  It’s been so long since I’ve even had that experience that I’d forgotten how annoying it is.

I tried to find things to do.  After taking photos of the room, I opened a bar of soap and washing my hands.  No call.  Then, I moved to unpacking.  I hung things up in the closet.  I placed folded things into drawers.  I got out my toiletries and lined them up on the bathroom sink.  Still no call.

I called the front desk.  The front desk guy said he would call the spa director again.  We waited another 5 minutes and then we took off.

We wandered down the hall and found some stairs.  We were deposited in an outdoor courtyard.  We walked around, discovering the golf course that abutted the hotel lawn.

The indoor pool looked a little suspect and the hot tub that was supposed to seat 10 looked like it would only be comfortable for 4 people who knew each other well.

We wandered around discovering the features of the hotel and eventually found the front desk.  When the guy at the front desk saw us, he rolled his eyes as he asked if we still hadn’t been called.  I smiled and explained that we got bored and left.  The front desk guy called the spa director and told him we were in the lobby.

The spa director found us and took us on a repeat tour, showing us far less than what we saw on our own.  His idea of showing us something seemed to be waving his hand in the general direction while we were standing in the hall.

I can’t say that I understood any of the positive reviews of the spa or the staff by the time we’d completed our orientation.  He hadn’t asked us a single question about why we were there or what we were hoping to accomplish and he had rapid-fired information at us.

I chose to simply be amused by this adventure.  After all, we were there, it was beautiful outside, and we were only staying for 3 nights.  I could think of no reason to complain.

More Shabby than Chic

The word “spa” is an evocative word that conjures images of crystalline pools with gurgling waterfalls and people passing by serenely in bath robes, faces covered in green mud, on their way to their next massage.

Since the spa in question was called a “hiking spa” and the hotel was described as a “country inn,” I figured I wasn’t going to get a scene out Sex and the City.  I was, however, somewhat startled by the condition of the hotel, which another guest later described aptly as “more shabby than chic.”  She also called the program a “hiking camp for adults.”

When we walked into the lobby, I was still smiling from having had such an enjoyable ride to the inn via Gramps shuttle service.  The dark and tired looking lobby was not enough to deter my enthusiasm.  What did give me pause was the guy at the front desk who wasn’t the most welcoming character.

Having read reviews on the website where people said the staff seemed like friends, I expected a more enthusiastic greeting.

Everything about the lobby was dingy.  Even the light bulbs seemed dingy, casting a sort of gloom over what should have been a very nice, lodge-like space.  It’s never good when the hotel lobby looks bad.  If the hotel isn’t investing in keeping the first impression good, it’s guaranteed they’re not investing in the rest of the property.

As we navigated the dim halls lined with stained carpet, a putrid colored light flashed around a corner.  When we turned a corner, we were thankful we didn’t have epilepsy because we both would have had seizures instantly.

It was just a fluorescent bulb gone bad in the little room with the ice machine, but it made me think of Joe vs the Volcano and the horrifying office he worked in.  It was the kind of thing you expect to see in a horror film right before an axe murderer jumps out from behind the innocent victim staring into the light.

All of this actually turned out to be a good thing.  I was mentally prepared for a room that made me wish I’d brought my own sheets.  By the time I opened the room door, my expectations were so lowered, I was pleasantly surprised by the homey looking quilt (although it did have a few tears) and the large space.

In spite of the poor lighting and my lack of a tripod, I had to take a few shots. ISO 1600 made that possible.  I’m astounded by the second and third photo.  02 is straight out of the camera while 03 is the same image post-processed using only basic adjustments in Aperture.  I’m impressed by the recovery of detail in the fan and window, which were over-exposed in the previous image.  It amazes me what my camera will record.  I’m also impressed by the lack of graininess in the photo.  With my old camera, I’d start to see grain at ISO 400.