collegetourmapMy youngest daughter, a senior in high school, decided that it only made sense to visit every college and university to which she will apply this fall.

But, doesn’t it make even more sense to visit once you get an acceptance letter?” I queried (hopefully) back in January of her sophomore year when she started her “wish list” of schools.

Nope,” was her twitter-friendly reply. “How can I apply sight unseen? What if I don’t like it?

True, but, unlike her older sister who had only two criteria for schools to which she would apply–(1) had to be within 4 hours driving distance from NYC (where we live); and (2) no more than 3,000 students, preferably less–this one wants to see schools from one coast to the other, of all shapes and sizes.

It was only fair to take her to visit some of her target schools since I had done the “college tour” with her sister. But, I did draw the line at traveling further than the state of Georgia.  For all others, I proposed, she will take the “apply and visit upon acceptance” approach, especially since I was smack in the middle of trying to complete my second book, on time.

She agreed. And soon we embarked on a multiple-city car trip that included stops in Pennsylvania, Virginia (also to visit Grandma), North Carolina, and yes, Georgia. That’s a lot of time for one person (that person would be me) to hunch over a steering wheel.

RCBuckhead My daughter and I had a fabulous time together, touring parts unknown on our summer college road trip: listening to NPR stations in each state, playing “How much do you know about this state?” trivia games, finding the best restaurants in each location, exploring small towns. We drove for hours, sat through scores of information sessions, and walked miles around incredible campuses, so by the time we got to Atlanta towards the end of our road trip, I was more than ready for the spa day I had booked for myself at the fabulous 5-star Ritz-Carlton Buckhead.

I specifically chose the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead because the hotel had recently revamped its Spa Wellness Level, the hotel’s floor dedicated entirely to health and wellness. This very special level offers guests a restful retreat with a gorgeous spa, luxurious treatments and spa lounge, and–my favorite part–two recently renovated specialty Spa Suites: the Jasmine Suite and the White Lotus Suite.

Both the Jasmine Suite and the White Lotus Suite feature signature amenities tailored to individuals’ wellness goals, and guests should choose based on whether they want to feel more relaxed, or re-energized. My pick? The Jasmine Suite. After many hours of driving and touring, I was ready to relax and be pampered.

In addition to soothing colors, the room features an electric fireplace, hidden television, soothing wake up technology, aromatherapy, relaxing furniture, and–much to the delight of my yogi daughter–a yoga and meditation corner. cerabloomproductAnd I made a new discovery: after taking showers in the suite, my daughter I agreed that we had to have the same ones at home and recently ordered a few Cerabloom 07K shower-heads (a Japanese company) for my apartment in NYC.

Arriving around 4pm on a Sunday, we were greeted at the desk by the extremely helpful Clark, who saw to our every need, which included arranging a much-needed pre-dinner massage for me while my daughter did yoga in our room, using the room’s yoga DVD as her guide. (She was still at it when I arrived back at the room 90 minutes later.)

The charming spa concierge, Francisco–who is also a personal trainer and has spent time at the Ritz-Carlton in South Beach, Miami–was waiting at the entrance to the spa to welcome me. I felt like royalty. After a brief tour of the exquisite spa which was completely renovated in 2010, I was gently ushered into a beautifully appointed treatment room, where I met the incomparable Melinda, one of the spa’s resident massage therapists. Melinda told me she’s been with the spa for several years and has been giving her therapeutic and rejuvenating massages for over ten years. I secretly hope she moves to NYC some day. Massage room Ritz Carlton Buckhead

This was the best massage I’ve ever had. Repeat: best massage ever, including the foot massage (their feet, not mine) I got in Hong Kong. Was it because my body ached from all the driving and campus tours and was happy to just be lying down? Perhaps. But I think it had more to do with the combination of Melinda’s perfectly firm hands coupled with the massage table that radiated heat from head to toe; the lavender-scented oils; the hot, rolled towel that was placed under my neck when I was lying on my back; head rub; and so many other special and thoughtful touches that made this a singular spa experience. It begs the question: why don’t all spas do these things?

Before I left the spa (with regret), Francisco handed me a lovely little glass into which he poured some “Jasmine Milk,” a specially formulated yummy drink created by Bamboo Juices, a local juice purveyor, for guests staying in the Jasmine Suite. Seeing how much I enjoyed it, he handed me the bottle to share with my daughter.

When I returned to the room–conveniently down the hall from the spa–my daughter said she had never seen me look so calm and relaxed.  Still in my robe, I joined her in the meditation corner, sat still for well over 20 minutes with legs crossed, letting my mind wander and my body relax. Ohhhhhhhmmmmmmmm.

A knock on the door roused me from my relaxed state, just in time to start getting ready for dinner. When I opened the door, a lovely, smiling woman asked if I needed anything: Towels? More coffee for the morning? Chocolates for the evening? Dark chocolate? Milk chocolate? Anything? I could get used to this.

We started chatting, telling her that we were touring colleges but that I decided to spend one night at the Ritz-Carlton to give myself a spa day. Saede, who was born in Ethiopia, convinced my daughter that she had it in her to do anything she set her mind to do, including getting into the college of her dreams. All she had to do was be herself. After Saede left us so we could get dressed for dinner, my daughter was beaming and announced that meeting Saede and hearing her wise words were one of the highlights of the trip. I agreed. Later that night, after returning to the room, we found a lovely hand-written note to my daughter, wishing her the best of luck. In all my years of traveling for business and pleasure, I don’t recall ever receiving this kind of note from anyone on a hotel’s staff. All we could do was smile, and feel blessed to have met Saede.

salmonDinner, served in the lobby lounge, was fabulous and healthy: salads, grilled salmon, a glass of Pinot Noir for me and iced green tea for my daughter. We were happy, relaxed, refreshed, and ready to go on another college tour the next day. But not before we explored the other Spa Suite–the White Lotus Suite–which included a spin bicycle–and walked around outside for a bit.

The next morning we ordered a healthy and delicious breakfast in the room while we got ready to visit a college in the area.  Before leaving the hotel that morning, I checked in with Jordan, who was managing the front desk, to do two things: ask if anyone had found my Jawbone UP fitness band, which I had removed from my wrist in the massage room the day before and probably left on the table; and to get change for a $20 bill. Jordan assured me that while I was touring the college he would arrange to have the spa area searched for the fitness band, and he gave me the change I requested.

Two things happened as a result: 1) the fabulous Melinda found my wristband, left a lovely note in our room, and had the wristband secured in an envelope in her pocket for safe keeping; and 2) the impressively honest Jordan left an envelope in our room with a $20 bill and a charming note. Apparently I had inadvertently handed him a second $20 bill before rushing out the door, still chatting about the wristband, directions to the college, arranging for late checkout that day, and so on.

We checked out that afternoon after returning from the college visit, ending our stay with a lovely lunch in the hotel’s restaurant, feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready for the long trip drive home.

collegetour2015But more than that, we left that day knowing that a “spa day” will not only re-connect you to yourself, and give you the energy and vitality to truly enjoy the journey, but can also connect you to people in ways that make you want to come back and have the experience all over again.

It was a remarkable and memorable 24 hours.



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