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Monterey opens new spa

Within a two hour drive of San Francisco are getaway spots to please even the most jaded traveler: the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Carmel and Monterey peninsula and Big Sur.

The Monterey peninsula is packed with both natural and manmade sights. The famed Monterey Bay Aquarium showcases the area’s water ecosystems through its touch and deep water tanks. The peninsula has 19 golf links such as renowned Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. Monterey County is also the fourth largest grape growing region in California with dozens of local boutique wineries.

Monterey Plaza Hotel

A hospitable vantage point for touring is the Monterey Plaza Hotel, one of the area’s premiere lodgings. Named the Best Hotel in Monterey in the 1999 Zagat guide, the Monterey Plaza recently completed a $6 million renovation, adding a rooftop spa and opulent penthouse suites. The outdoor sundeck and tiled hot tubs overlook the everchanging coastline. The state-of-the-art fitness center and spa also afford dramatic views and plenty of natural light. The spa offers a European array of services including massages, facials, body masks and wraps, hydrotherapy via bath or Swiss or Vichy showers (multiple adjustable showers cascading horizontally or vertically). The spa uses Babor and Phytomer products. The Monterey Bay Salt Glo, the Detox Kelp body mask and facial are signature treatments.

The interior of the spa is as luxurious as the therapies: Mahogany woodwork, thick pile carpeting, marble countertops and custom made tiles decorate the rooms. When all that rejuvenation whets the appetite or thirst, the hotel’s main restaurant, the Duck Club serves both spa cuisine and wood-roasted specialties and offers an extensive local wine list. The hotel’s summer/fall room rates start at $185/night with suites from $365 to $2400 per night.

National Steinbeck Center

Twenty miles inland from Monterey, is the recently opened National Steinbeck Center, a multi-media review and archive of writer John Steinbeck’s life and works. Native son of Salinas and former Monterey denizen, the center is probably the most elaborate devoted to a Hollywood screenwriter (“Viva Zapata” and “Lifeboat”). Actually he’s better known for his books like “The Grapes of Wrath”” and “East of Eden” for which he won the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. (Though in a familiar story he wanted his name removed from “Lifeboat’s” credits.) Similar in scope to a presidential library, the center should inspire every writer.

Lodge at Skylonda

Closer to San Francisco, only 45 minutes from the airport, is the Lodge at Skylonda, a 16 room secluded retreat, amidst coastal redwoods. The private inn has attracted a Hollywood following to its restorative grounds and personalized services. The daily guided hike is a key part of the idyll. A full selection of massage and body treatments, emphasizing balance and renewal, are available. Fresh, healthy gourmet meals are included in the minimum $250 per person/per night rate.

Monterey Plaza Hotel

Phone: (800)631-1339

www.woodsidehotels.com

National Steinbeck Center

Phone: (831)796-3833

www.steinbeck.org

The Lodge at Skylonda

Phone: (800)851-2222

www.skylondalodge.com

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