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Mayflower Inn Spa, Washington, Connecticut

The Pinnacle of Luxury

Mayflower Inn

Six years into the 21st century, the spa vacation has officially entered the travel mainstream. Every new opening in the world of spadom, whether it is a stand-alone destination or an addition to an already existing facility, creates buzz in a world of spa-goers eager to discover whether the product matches the publicity. A spa has become a must-have for hostelries even if they are in the middle of the countryside.

When I say that the recently unveiled Spa House at the Mayflower Inn in Washington, Connecticut exceeded my expectations many times over, I get ahead of myself. If you could eavesdrop on the dinner conversation on Sunday, the day of arrival, you would hear the women -- Sundays to Fridays are almost exclusively reserved for female guests -- talking about other fitness facilities and making comparisons. I had been on board for just a few hours when I realized that I had uncovered a gem buried in the hills of the Nutmeg State and would try to extend my stay.

The program began before I arrived. I received a surprise advance phone call -- as far as I know a first in spa services -- from Helen Brown, director, asking what she might do to facilitate my visit -- goals, preferred activities, specific requests. Alternately you can complete the on-line Blue Heron Interview so that the advisors get to know you before you ever turn into the driveway.

Ninety miles northeast of Manhattan at the bottom reaches of New England, the Mayflower overlooks woods, a pond, and gardens, landscape classics in this part of the country. Nearby are a river, lake, and reserve, other familiar ingredients of nature in these environs. The style of the buildings is hardly quintessential New England. Perhaps the gray shingled exteriors whisper Americana, but the patrician interior of the Inn speaks luxury, a quality that has made Mayflower worthy of membership in the prestigious Relais & Chateaux.

Spa House, a gray structure with white trim and a frame similar to the Inn’s, is beyond an artists’ maze garden and over the hill. Inside the décor is contemporary; you could be centuries away from the genteel English manor house where most of the guestrooms are located. The proprietors, Adriana and Robert Mnuchin and their daughter, Lisa Hedley, along with their architects and decorators, have managed a smooth blend of yesteryear and today by mixing the venerable comforts of an old world country retreat and the modern aesthetics of a dazzling spa. The karma in the antique-filled lodging and the 21st-century fitness center match and both fit seamlessly into the setting.


The Inn and Spa’s signature is tranquility and perfection. One morning Adriana, a woman with exacting taste and a keen sense for detail, was engaged in a hushed conversation in the lobby with a guest. She softly remarked that the front door creaked, a slight sound that others would not have noticed, and that it would be it fixed.

Pass through the doors of either structure for the first time and the staff seems to glide forward to receive you. As you pursue your individualized program you feel as though you are the only guest being looked after.

The first afternoon began with a tour of the Spa House, an oasis of such matchless design that it is almost too much to absorb in the first go-around. Even if you never meet the Mnuchins you discover, as you wander this space, that they are lovers of art and books, which are on display throughout.

Embellished with a palate of subtle pinks, pale blues, and creamy whites and beiges, the effect is one of calm. The hub of the building is the restful high-ceilinged Garden Room with sink-in sofas and chairs overlooking the forest and Blue Heron Pond. Fabrics in light hues continue the theme of quiet and a beige and blue custom-made carpet ties the entire color scheme together.

Flooring and marble-topped cupboards are made of bleached oak. Glass fixtures, not only serve as lighting, but as artifacts. At a bend in a staircase a vertical sculpture of nine spheres in descending size are strung together. In another corner a whimsical seven-foot clear glass teardrop reaches almost to the floor. A plate formed like a splash of water sits under it. The dining room, where lunch is served, is illuminated with blown glass shaped like spun sugar. Mosaics, glistening and twinkling from the bottom of the swimming pool, feel like music for the eye. In the reception area sepia-toned panoramic photographs make up a visual essay about nature.

The activities that followed the tour: chair massages; cardio-kick-off; stretch and release, a daily sequential activity using yoga techniques; and guided mediation convinced me that I could never get enough of this place. Getting acquainted with Natasha Raymond, a warm, enthusiastic, and creative yoga instructor, clinched my determination to remain here longer than originally planned. Some days I met with her twice.


A typical morning begins with a 45-minute "constitutional" walk. The routine takes place even if there is only one taker. Some guests prefer to start the day after breakfast when they consult with Sue or one of the other advisors about their personal schedule.
You can organize a day of your own design, an aspect of the spa that stands out. Some of the activities could be one-on-one. Lizzie, a personal trainer, gave me a private session in the gym and two archery teachers helped this solo student play Robin Hood.

Most guests come here to work out. No wonder! The variety of active body sessions -- indoors, outdoors, and in the pool -- are challenging, exhilarating, results-oriented and, sometimes even low-keyed. Nearby Steeprock Reserve serves as a playground for adventures in the snow, biking, fishing, and kayaking. Classes in the gyms and pool incorporate all levels of physical movement from restorative to very vigorous and use many forms of exercise -- cardio, yoga, gym equipment, pilates, dance, and toning. Some are unique to Mayflower, like NIA acquatics.

If you want to completely fill your hours improving your body, there are more than enough satisfying choices. If your desire is to be pampered, you could crowd your days with massages, facials, scrubs, wraps, baths, body therapies, and salon services at no extra charge. Mind-spirit activities round out the roster of offerings. I participated in drumming, dream interpretation, hypnotherapy for sleep, stress management, and Blue Heron Lifestyle Insights, a standardized personality test. Some were hokey, but fun, too.

Every treatment room -- there are eight -- is named for a flower like lilac, lily, primrose, and gardenia. The walls in each room are done in the color of the namesake flower and a picture of the blossom is painted on the walls.

When other guests comment that your skin is glowing, your multi-layered daily defense facial, using several products, had to have been a nourishing one. An intensive eye and lip treatment was equally revitalizing.

"Would you like me to customize your treatment?" asked the aesthetician, who gave me a smooth-as-silk scrub, a beauty therapy invented here, which purifies, energizes, or relaxes. Always enthusiastic about spa services, I answered, "Gladly."


My Mayflower Massage was administered on a heated table by a nimble-fingered masseuse who seemed to be prescient about which muscles needed her attention. It is suggested that a ground-breaking ritual, the Thermal Sanctuary Experience, one that can be undertaken on one’s own, might be paired with a massage. Warmth, color, sound, and scent are the Sanctuary’s elements for healing and relaxation. Colors change to promote varied personal experiences. Scents and music fluctuate, too. Deliciously aromatic Red Flower products are provided for purification and moisturizing.

A perusal of the dinner menu awakened memories of tasty dishes. Had I eaten similar food elsewhere? Yes. Chef Nick learned to prepare "conscious cuisine" devised by Cary Neff when he worked at another spa. The starch and vegetables are always listed first in descriptions of the entrees. Thus risotto and wild mushrooms would be the header, but the accompanying filet of beef would be just as central to cooking a satisfying main dish. Dinners are comprised of two amuse bouche, like shrimp and stuffed cucumber; appetizers, such crab cake or salad; and a choice of three entrees. The pastry chef offers three scrumptious desserts. How did he dream up that heavenly pumpkin cheesecake with only 60 calories? Most guests find the portion size adequate, the food quite good, and are happy with their weight loss.

When I think about my time at Mayflower Spa, one memory stands out. All staff members followed each treatment, workout, or mind-spirit activity with the words,
"Thank you for taking time out to do this for yourself." My reply is, "And thank you all for making the days I spent here so meaningful."

Mayflower Inn & Spa, 118 Woodbury Road, Route 47, Washington, CT 06793. Tel. 860-868-9466. Three, four or five-day all-inclusive spa packages available mid-week.
Weekend inn guests can use the spa for a fee.


Winter, 2006-07