Monday, July 6, 2009
HEIDEL HOUSE RESORT & EVENSONG SPA~PEACEFUL AND EXTRAORDINARY
Although a rather arduous drive from the suburbs of Chicago to Green Lake, WI tested my patience and perspective with all of the hideous early morning rush-hour traffic and ubiquitous highway construction, getting away from most vestiges of the hectic 24/7 life has its moments, but once I finally made it past the evil of this “stuff”, I found myself a less stressed and enjoying going down country roads that meandered through glacial terrain-ed roads of small town America; it was real sweet and melancholy. Without the road challenges, the Green Lake, WI area is slightly over three hours from the Chicago-area and west of Milwaukee. The rolling glacial hills and abundant conifers and deciduous trees makes for an idyllic setting for heading to a property like the Heidel House Resort and Evensong Spa. As a reference, the quaint town of Green Lake is named after Wisconsin’s largest and deepest fresh water glacial lake, Green Lake; the town is picturesque and crammed with antique shops and specialty boutiques; it’s definitely a tourist town that grows exponentially during the warmer months with the good-and-plenty-type folks that have their summer “getaway” homes situated around the beautiful lake.
The Heidel House Resort began as a private residence in 1890 (Heidel House), although an adjacent residence was built in 1873 (Grey Rock); the overall property was then purchased in 1899 where it continued largely as private residences for the moneyed, with additional structures being built (Stable House and Pump House). By the mid-1940s, the overall resort area really began to be regarded as a preferred lodging, meeting and dining location. From that point on, the twenty-acre resort area expanded to include seven structures for accommodation, a conference center, and an upscale restaurant. The resort is a major draw for vacationers who enjoy hiking, fishing, swimming or golfing. The resort also houses a fitness center, indoor pool and whirlpool. During the summer, there are organized water sports (fishing, boating, etc.). For an exceptional dining experience, the award winning upscale Grey Rock is a throw-back to an earlier era (1950s); overlooking the beautiful lake, this favorite “night spot” offers an impressive menu and wine list; food fare is definitely in the surf ‘n turf type although there is an equally impressive vegetarian/vegan menu to select from with wonderfully inventive and mouth-watering selections. For toned-down to casual dining, there’s the popular Sun Room, which has a lovely view of the well-landscaped terrain. The resort is also a popular meeting and retreat for corporate-types; the resort will custom design a team building experience for those on retreats; also ideal for families, the resort offers many special focused activities for the kids that are both fun and educational; some lodges also offer extended stay options for multi-week/month stays. Weddings and other special occasions are another major guest-draw for the resort. My accommodations were comfortable, especially my down outfitted king-sized bed; I had no trouble falling asleep quickly; my bathroom was a bit dated. I did have a beautiful view of the lake and opened my windows to let the clean crisp air come in while I slept; I was pleasantly awakened with the cheerful banter of songbirds, although the raucous sound of the alarm clock going off at 6:00am also kept me on schedule for an eventful day at the spa.
Given the resort’s decades-long emphasis and focus on family vacationers, the corporate meeting-types, sport’s enthusiasts and other special occasion draws, it really wasn’t until the early 2000s that the resort’s emphasis and focus finally turned to deciding to build a spa that would be distinctive and unique, and something that would brand itself like no other spa, especially within the Midwest. The resort had the land for this new and vital amenity, and decided to build the beautiful single-level structure a short walk from the resort’s Main Lodge.
The Evensong Spa first opened its doors in September 2006. Situated near a forested area, the spa is contiguous to part of the resort’s main path of carefully mapped walking trails for the outdoor enthusiast, which creates natural interest for these passers-by. This 16k s.f. spa was designed by CMD Architects, Inc. The eleven generously sized treatment rooms, also includes a couple’s suite and hydro room. There are steam and whirlpool facilities in both the men's and women's areas. Currently, there are twenty staff during the shoulder season, with that number expected to double during its high season, summer.
Design Elements: Frank Lloyd Wright-esque Prairie Style with a character that’s clean, crisp, minimalist and retro (1960s/1970s), with matching angular furniture styles (sixties acid-green colored chairs in the Spa Café; even the serviceware has a retro feel); high ceilings, very large waiting and relaxation areas that overlook nearby forested areas; floor-to-ceiling windows; huge granite fireplaces throughout. Accoutrément blends the indigenous with Asian influences; the combination is unobtrusive and comfortable. Color palette is nature-based with muted colors of beige, ochre, brown, and green; beautiful black and white wall art renderings of plant life; deep earthy natural slate floors; towering bamboo accents set in river rock, enveloping the outer perimeter of the labyrinth area. Throughout the spa, there are insightful and contemplative sayings on the walls written in flowing calligraphy, with artfully positioned variegated copper leaf, adding to the importance of a juxtaposition of mindful introspection and the nature’s beauty. The sayings are attributed to the Dalai Lama, Swami Sivanada, Ram Dass, Nietzsche, Frank Lloyd Wright, Taoism and Zen proverbs, inherently forces the guest to slow down, take some time, and become aware of them. These same sayings are part of their collateral materials, as well as their user-friendly and well designed website. The treatment rooms are named after essential oils: lemongrass (massage), lavender (couple’s), chamomile (hydro) and geranium (facial); the hair, makeup and nail areas are separate from the spa treatment area (no chemical processing of hair, or artificial nail care is offered at the spa.) Dining in the Spa Café for lunch was a wonderful experience; the emphasis on cuisine is fresh, healthy and local; I had a delicious guacamole appetizer served with jicama and cucumber, and an equally delicious chicken and avocado salad with fresh fruit; portions were rather ample (I wasn’t able to finish eating my fresh fruit, and the Café kept it chilled for me and later re-served it to me while I was getting my pedicure; that’s exemplary service!).
Performance Features: Impressive and a must-do is to journey through the spa’s eleven-circuit indoor labyrinth occupies approximately, which is a wonderful way to quietly awaken one’s inner self. Evensong Spa is the only Midwest location with a labyrinth and was also designed by principal architect Riccardo Cattapan. This labyrinth is based on a medieval design and one of the more elaborate ones in existence. It is comprised of eleven circular circuits and thirty-four turns that lead to a perfect circle in its center. It is made of slate tile and washed river stone edging; the labyrinth’s area is nearly 2k s.f. and has floor to ceiling windows and three skylights, which add spatial depth and openness to the contemplative qualities of the labyrinth’s journey. For reference, the spa offers a number of books on this subject matter for guests to peruse. All guests are encouraged to experience the labyrinth; a brief introduction with suggestions on approaching the experience is available. For guests wanting a libation or repast, the Spa Café offers menu selections from the light to the ample (soups, appetizers, salads, sandwiches, wraps, dessert and smoothies).
Products, Etcetera: Decléor, Carita, Naturopathica, SkinCeuticals, CreativeSpa, OPI, Senna Cosmetics and Prive Hair Care; robing and chenille throws by Chadsworth & Haig, and sandals by Okabashi; toweling by Cypress. All of these brands (except for the toweling) are available in the spa retail area; other items are available for purchase to extend the guest’s spa experience at home (journals, books, music, aromatherapy, etc.). When a guest checks out of the spa, any of the products used in their treatment are pulled for a final review with the guest, along with their take-home regimen prescription their therapist has prepared, which is briefly reviewed at the conclusion of the treatment. The spa’s website also lists its complete treatment product lines. With product descriptions and manufacturer’s links, this resource tool is a unique spa-goer aid, and a definite plus when it comes to taking out the mystery and guesswork in trying to figure out what product’s will be used in the treatment phase. I think a further extension of this favorable guest resource would be to consider listing which product lines are used for each treatment in their site menu of services. Another plus in the spa’s retail area where treatment product lines and other spa must-haves for the at-home spa experience are waiting to be snatched up.
Treatment Therapies: My experiences included the Evensong’s Botanical Body Journey (Donna), the Inner Journey Massage (Nick), and the signature Solar Song Pedicure (Shelley). For the Body Journey, although it was supposed to begin with a trip to the steam room for a detox inhalation, my therapist began the session instead with guided deep breathing inhalation therapy to calm and balance; once relaxed, my body was exfoliated with a private blend of cranberry herbal salt; the salts were gentle and the aroma very pleasant. Essential oil infused hot toweling was then applied to remove the salt residue; a body mask was then applied and my body and feet were wrapped in warming blankets and towels, while my therapist massaged my neck, shoulders and face with essential oil; after twenty minutes or so, I was then assisted to the in-room shower, where I rinsed off all traces of the body mask; my body was then moisturized with a very hydrating cranberry shea butter body balm; my therapist concluded this restorative treatment with various subtle massage techniques to further balance my state of calm; all of the scents added measurably to the treatment’s effect. For the Inner Journey Massage, I was first asked to select which Decléor Aromessence scents I preferred (www.decleor.com); I chose the Spa Relax (a blend of essential oils) and the Spa Relax Balm, although choosing one scent was very difficult, since I adore all of the scents. Another round of inhalation therapy and guided breathing by my therapist set the tone for this treatment, which incorporates various massage techniques, including foot reflexology; hot stones were strategically placed on the chakras, in the palms of the hands and in-between the toes, which radiate soothing and calming heat while the therapist methodically works on targeted areas of stressed muscle and tissue. Both therapists were two of the better ones I’ve had working on me in recent years and my treatments were by far the best I’ve received to date of their type; it was clear to me that both individuals not only had formidable training and experience, but that their commitment to the guest’s healing and restorative process was of paramount importance to each of them. Another outstanding treatment experience was the Solar Song Pedicure; I don’t always treat my peds to this type of treatment, and as a frame of reference, a few weeks prior to coming to Evensong Spa, I had received a pedicure from a local day spa; I thought that one was fairly good, until I noticed that the other nail technician hadn’t thoroughly groomed my cuticles. My nail tech at Evensong Spa worked her extraordinary skills on me, using a host of high-performing CreativeSpa products (www.creativespa.com); an exfoliation of feet and parts of the leg (almond oil sea salt) also soothed; the application of densely hydrating shea butter was exceptional; the grooming and subsequent OPI (www.opi.com) brilliant red polish application was also one of the better pedicure treatments I had received in recent years.
Futures: Industry veteran Spa Director Pamela R. Andreotti continues developing additional spa packages that will further emphasize wellness and holistic approaches; this will also include comprehensive fitness and body movement classes, such as Yoga and Pilates, that will occur in the spacious movement studio; also on the books is developing guided outdoor fitness hikes in the ideal natural setting.
Lastly: Overall, the emphasis on inner self and well-being and connectivity comes through beautifully at Evensong Spa; from its specialized treatments, to the design elements, and the outstanding labyrinth, Evensong Spa knows how to add relevancy and reality to the mind-body-spirit experience. This is one of the better spas I’ve experienced recently, including the level of proficiency and skill by my individual therapists and technician. This is another great addition to the Midwest's, and especially to Wisconsin’s, impressive spa population. A must-include on one’s spa circuit and a five-loofah definite!
Resources: For additional information on the Heidel House Resort and Evensong Spa, visit www.heidelhouse.com and www.evensongspa.com.
By Terry Herman
Terry Herman is a recognized expert in the spa industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In addition to writing and reviewing, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker. You can email her at email@example.com.
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(Eleven-circuit labyrinth. Image by Heidel House Resort)