TEXAS: COMFY, COZY AT LAKE AUSTIN SPA

Lake Austin Spa

by Roberta Sotonoff

I would like to discuss the redeeming qualities of bathrobes. Doesn't slipping into one after a stressful day feel great?

Well, picture this. You are supping on a gourmet meal and surrounded by flowers, lush greenery and a lake. And get this. Most of your dining companions are wearing bathrobes.

Bathrobes are a social leveler. A stay-at-home mom of four and a yuppie investment banker look the same. Then again, in a relaxed atmosphere, who cares?

The dress code at Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas is bathrobe casual. It also focuses on simple pleasures -- the smell of fresh flowers, the sight of beautiful gardens, scrumptious food and air-popped popcorn every night. It gets guests in the mood to restore their minds and bodies.

Want to sleep in or lay out at the pool? Fine. Want to do a killer exercise class like Spinning? Whatever. Want to have your whole body rubbed for almost two hours with herbs and oils? Do it.

"We want you to feel like you are at home," says Darlene Fiske, director of sales and marketing.

The 40-room spa has a residential feel. A comfy living room replaces the lobby. Every night hors doeuvres like rainbow trout and shrimp mousse are served there.

This relaxed atmosphere empowers me to try new things. Even a quintessential klutz like myself can enjoy Nia -- barefoot dancing with no missteps. My body moves in lots of directions so I am getting a great workout. Circuit training and yoga also work for me

Exercise classes are one workout choice, but three pools and a scenic setting offer other outdoor options, like lake cruises, hiking, kayaking and pontoon bikes. Tai Chi and yoga are often held outside, too. Please forego your robe and put on some clothes for outdoor activities!

Wear anything to Dr. Deb's de-stress class. The spa's health and wellness guru forbids you from worrying about next week's big presentation and helps you focus on the present. Her methods put your frantic lifestyle into perspective.

Kern's methods include Ayurveda, an East Indian holistic healing practice which provides guidance for maintaining a healthier life. I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to things like this. But, after Dr. Deb administers a short test to identify an individual's psychological and physical differences, she nails my personality to a "t." Suddenly, I am anxious to learn more.

Ayurvedic practices are used in spa treatments, too. One such heavenly facial massages your Marma points -- places where flesh, veins, arteries, tendon, bones or joints meet -- with herbs and oils. Never mind that it exfoliates, regenerates, hydrates and is supposed to balance skin and emotions. The end result is that your face will feel 20 years younger.

Another Ayurvedic treatment -- the 110-minute Star of India - does the Marma point thing for both a facial and massage. Combine this with the ancient healing practice of Shirodhara where warm oil slowly oozes over your forehead (the third eye) and is massaged into your scalp and neck. You'll come away feeling like Jell-O.

Besides Ayurvedic, there are a multitude of services from Swedish massages and body wraps to chiropractic care and energy balancing treatment with "singing" Tibetan bowls. All are performed at the 25,000 square-foot LakeHouse Spa. Surrounded by gardens, streams, indoor and outdoor pools, fountains, waterfalls and rock gardens, LakeHouse has private courtyards and sound-proofed rooms. The Blue Room, a bastion for bathrobes, is a waiting room designed for chilling out.

Lake Austin Spa Resort has come a long way since it opened in the 1940s. It has been a nudist colony and a cowboy rodeo camp. Fran McGee, one of the guests, told me she frequented the place in the 1970s when it was the Bermuda Inn, a true "fat farm." She said she hardly got anything to eat, but was weighed and measured before every meal. In 1979, the facility began to focus on wellness, health and fitness.

While many guests come to relax, the food alone is worth a visit. Choices on the daily changing, low-fat, menu contain cuisines that circle the globe. Calories, carbs, protein, and fat are listed beside each entree. The variety is endless -- seared tofu, sea scallops, lamp chops, falafel and pizza. Often, dinner conversation starts with, "I can't believe this has so few calories."

Every morsel is fresh, yummy and artfully presented. Executive Chef Terry Conlan has put many of the recipes in his book, entitled Fresh, and Chef de Cuisine Curtis Cooke gives cooking demos.

Lake Austin's treatments, exercise programs, scenic setting and spa are great. Still, what really puts it over the top for me is that by ringing the kitchen's bell, you can get low-fat yogurt swirl anytime I want it. And I enjoy it while lounging in a robe.

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For more information on Lake Austin Spa Resort go to www.lakeaustin.com


Roberta Sotonoff is a freelance travel and spa writer based in Glenview Il. Contact her at rsotonoff@aol.com

 
We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) of the Department of Canadian Heritage towards our project costs.

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