experiencing the experience

today is my aunt’s birthday. it’s a milestone, but we won’t get into numbers (or she’ll kill me). she enjoys celebrating her birthday almost as much as i do. she also enjoys pampering herself with mani-pedis or a trip to the spa. today we went to the spa! and what a day. have you ever seen “the blah blah blah experience”? and wondered if it was actually an “experience”?? i personally think it’s completely overused, but today i was pleasantly surprised to actually experience an “experience”. it was better than i expected, and i’d like to share with you the details of the day without turning this into a full fledged advertisement or boring you to death.

today we went to glen ivy hot springs. off the freeway and hidden by nature, apparently it’s been there since 1850. who knew? anyway, the morning started pretty gloomy on our side of town, not ideal for a trip to the spa, but not going and rescheduling is just not what we do. so, with SuperBoy dropped off and our bags packed, we hit the road. clear sailing all the way. as we got closer to our destination, it got warmer and brighter outside. nice. it was packed! well, the parking lot was packed. as you approach the entrance, you can tell that you’re somewhere else. i think that they have a retractable roof over the place. it always seems to be blue skies without a care in the world over there and i just don’t see how that is possible. the are no empty spaces. there are plants, trees and foliage everywhere. there was even a little brown bunny sitting quietly in the shade. cute.

up the stairs to the registration and payment location. the staff is extremely polite, helpful and cheery. they all seem very happy with their jobs. they are always helpful and often caring of the guests. it’s not like going to the local store. it’s a place of pampering, and they do their share. at the registration and payment location there are lots of questions, an exchange  of money or credit and then a map! a huge map!

“this over here, this over there, these things: here, here and here. have fun.”

today we started our fun with the mud. yes mud.

wait.. i started my day with a mango flavored bellini. i don’t know what’s included in a bellini, but the first ingredient is champagne, and so, as you should already know.. i’m in, with both feet. whoooo!

i would also like to share with you that this is a spa. a place of relaxation. everything done here is in, on, around or related to water. if you have problems with seeing people of every shape, size, color, swimsuit type and tattoo coverage, this is NOT the place for you. if you do decide to go, approach with an open mind and be aware that the same is being done for you. this is not a place for judgement or commentary. just go, do what you do and enjoy yourself. honestly, no one is worried about you, so don’t be worried about them.

ok. back to the day.. today we started our fun with the mud. yes mud. red clay mud. fun stuff. you walk under a small gazebo and BAM! mud everywhere. people are in varying states of mud coverage or drying. you start by stepping down into the mud pool. it’s not what you think. it’s not a big bowl of thick mud looking like oatmeal… it’s a huge pool, filled with warm water. just beyond the stairs is a large cement surface and in the middle of that is a huge HUGE ball of mud. the red clay mud. the water is not clear, but it is far from “dirty”. once you’ve dipped yourself, it’s time to play. gather mud from the rock and slather it all over. from head to toe. some only cover their limbs and perhaps their back and chest… whatever they can reach. the fun stuff is watching the groups of (mostly women) folk laughing and covering each other. not too thick now, or you’ll never dry. with our visible areas covered, it’s off to dry. you can lounge on one of the many beach chaises or take a trip inside the “wasa” (a warming room). either way, once the mud dries, it’s time to slough it off. along with any and all of the dead skin you have ever accumulated and/or missed previously. scrub scrub scrub. gosh, i was so ashy that my skin was white. you are also welcome to rinse off and wash with lavender cleansing gel. here is what the website says about the red clay mud:

“Red clay has been used as a purifying agent since ancient times. It draws from the pores, absorbs impurities, and releases waste and dead skin cells while tightening and revitalizing the skin.”

i have to admit that while i have been to the spa several times, the mud is my favorite. they will even take commemorative photos of you and your friends covered in mud and mount them in a “Club Mud” paper frame. good stuff. i personally scrub the dried mud off with a towel and then rinse. my skin is soft to the touch and void of any rough spots or problem areas. some folks choose to lounge in the mud pool for a while and rid themselves of those impurities. others, like myself, just mud and run. we dry, we scrub and one to the next one! lessssgoooooo!

after the warm rinse and dry off we ventured to Cafe Sole for lunch. we were not the only people with this idea! a line for salad, a line for hot food, a line for something else and a line to pay! whew. all of the food is fresh and prepared in front of you. it was gorgeous! absolutely gorgeous. at most places that you go to for services, food does not tend to meet one’s expectations, but this DID. it was in the medium price range, but healthy sized servings. servings for adults enjoying the day away. most people shared their entree, particularly the nachos. good lord, the size of those things was just huge. score! one bellini down, hardER lemonade in it’s place.

with lunch barely finished we turned a couple of corners to “the grotto”. umm, no, it is NOT the infamous grotto at the fabulous and fuzzy Playboy Mansion that donned the phrase “what happens in the grotto stays in the grotto”, no.. this is a grotto containing a “moisturizing experience”. and an experience it was.

ok. so this is where i got the title. have you ever embarked on something called “an experience” only to find out that it was anything but? i have. epic fail and total disappointment. but the grotto, well, that’s an experience worth experiencing. so, now that we are mudded, scrubbed and grubbed, we are ready to moisturize. check in and what? downstairs? wow. we load into an elevator and downstairs we go. when we exit, we are given simple instructions to remain suited, but to remove everything else. through the door where

“The fun starts as an attendant coats your skin with a rich, warm, light green body moisturizer of aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, and other beneficial elements.”

they literally paint your exposed skin from the neck down, slathering you with this magical lotion potion that would moisturize a rhinoceros. through another door and deeper into the grotto you go. warm air and low lights make it inviting and comfortable. this is it. this is the experience. you sit in this warm room, coated in magic and just absorb. the warmth encourages your pores to open and allows you to maximize absorption. wait, i found some mud. how did that get there? there is ice cold water everywhere you go, even in the grotto. i didn’t try to sit on the fiberglass formed rocks for fear that i would slide right off and onto my rump with a smack. there were several others in there and everyone was just smoothing the magic on. rubbing their silky smooth and slick skin. it feels nice. oops, wait, i found some more mud. perhaps the grotto is no different than applying waaaaaaay too much lotion, but without a grotto, clean up is going to be mission impossible. i’ll leave it up to glen ivy.

when you’ve had enough of the warm air and trying to sit, through another door to rinse it all off. the showers are ideal and perfect. there are standard shower heads, some lower so assist with all that is lower and for someone like me, there is a giant round rain shower showerhead, up high. aaaaaaah. heaven. my shower at home is very low. even with the showerhead pointed as high as possible, the water hits me in the chin, so THIS is a treat. the grotto moisturizing magic is thick and requires a little help in addition to the water rinse. towels.

once rinsed and equipped with towels, through another door. cooler air to close your pores and help you KEEP some of the moisture. cold water, apples and a very juicy pear. the grotto experience is phenomenal if you ask me. i don’t think i would ever go back without partaking in it. it was thoroughly enjoyable.

hardER lemonade finished, bellini number two. next on the list was a trip to the saline pool. warm warm warm. and just a lovely place to relax. it’s only three-and-a-half feet throughout and has a bench seat all the way around. it also has bubbling jets just high enough to massage my lower back. i never want to leave the saline pool. i enjoy glen ivy as a whole, but the saline pool reminds me of my days at the besties house, jumping in and out of the swimming pool and spa. according to the website:

“The Saline Pool earns its name from its warm water treated with Epsom Salts. An excellent place to soothe tired muscles.”

maybe that’s why i enjoy it so. with SuperBoy the rambunctious four-year-old, something of mine is always sore. today it is my left ribs. he kicked me so hard the other night that i was unable to comfortably continue sleeping. i guess this is my version of “calgon, take me away”, so:

“epsom salt? do yo thang!”

we finished the day with a brief sit in the sauna. another of my favorite activities. sitting upon almost hot tile with hot steam so thick that you can’t see each other. an instant sweat from head to toe without pilates, kickboxing or chasing my son. yes! sadly, you can’t stay in there too long. people tend to get light headed or heart palpitations. me? i just love it. i stretched out for a moment and watched the steam turn into water droplets that slid along the angled clear glass window above my head. usually there aren’t so many gals in there, but today, we were thigh to thigh.. and so.. i’m out!

off to another shower. to rid myself of any more mud or grotto magic. the showers at spas are to die for. tall enough for a gal like me to not have to fold herself in half. the water always seems to be the right temperature and everything smells so great. now, for me, the hair and body care products provided are nothing shy of a  complete breakout. my skin is too sensitive to use them, but i enjoy their smell just the same, so i wash my hands and feet several times so i can revel in it.

after rinsing again, spinning my swimsuit dry in a handy contraption made for just that and replenishing some of the water that was compromised by the sun, the heat and the bellinis, it was time to redress and vacate. sad. it took me a significantly longer time to get dressed. having to drive home after a day at the spa is nothing shy of torture. with spaghetti for arms, i gathered my things and walked out with a smile.

having had time to consider enjoying an “experience” helped me to actually enjoy the experience. i didn’t read too far into it, i followed the instructions and i enjoyed myself. i would definitely consider “the grotto moisturizing experience” an “experience” and i would love to do it again. there are many things to do and enjoy at glen ivy. this is what i did and this is what i enjoyed. go. and when you’re done tell me if what you did was an “experience”.

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