Daily Pampering: Celebrate the holidays on the shores of Lake Geneva

The holidays can be a stressful time. To ease the stress La Réserve Genève is offering a special menu of spa treatments for the holiday season from December 1-January 15. And after a day at the spa, celebrate with Christmas Eve dinner or the New Year’s Eve fete, which turns into a DJ-fueled dance party at midnight.

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For the spa aficionado, La Réserve Genève is offering the 4-day “Quite an Agenda” package:

The intensive personalized program spa program on the shores of Lake Geneva is based on a preliminary evaluation of your acid-base, stress level, and concentration, as well as an osteopathic analysis and a breathing and cardiac test. Its goal is to combine nutrition, massage, treatments, and sports activity to cleanse the body, and to adopt new life habits so you head home in top shape.

This includes:

-4 hydromassage baths
-2 personalized body wraps
-1 body exfoliation
-1 skin scrub
-2 La Réserve “Better Aging” body massages (80 minutes)
-2 La Réserve “Better Aging” body massages (1 hour and 50 minutes)
-3 personal training sessions
-1 complete slimming/sculpting treatment (80 minutes)
-Daily sports activities (yoga, do in, stretching, Pilates, aquagym)
-Full board with 3 meals per day at Café Lauren (excluding beverages)
-Access to spa facilities

The cost of de-stressing after the holidays? $3230 per person

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Top spots for mind-body-spirit revival

Sometimes you just need a little “om.” The daily stresses of life can pile up, the chaos of corporate life can get to be too much or maybe the kids are just getting on your last nerve. You can escape to the gym, or you can escape to a more serene environment where mind, body and spirit are the focus of your journey.

Yogis unite — the following are some of the 10 best spots around the world for a perfect yoga revival.

1. Azeda Beach, Buzios, Brazil
With 21 beaches and an ultra-loose local attitude, the Brazilian resort town/fishing village of Buzios, made famous as a favorite of Brigitte Bardot, is sure to make a more than adequate ashram. Azeda Beach, only accessible via a walking path from Osso Beach or by boat, has great space to spread your mat and relax while you gaze out at the ocean. Azeda rarely gets overcrowded, but if you want privacy, go early in the morning.

2. Cape May Lighthouse Park, Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May is a spot on the Jersey Shore unlike any other. The historical resort town has a calming vibe that, in part, is created by its award-winning beaches and colorfully painted Victorian homes. But the best place to take in the scenery and the harmony of the sea, as you practice your asanas, is near the Cape May Lighthouse.

3. Battery Park City, New York, New York
You may forget you’re even in New York City while enjoying the parks of this southern Manhattan neighborhood, except for the excellent view of the Statue of Liberty. The best park to practice in is Robert F Wagner Jr. Park. You’ll have plenty of space and a bit of peace while you ashtanga as sailboats breeze by along the Hudson River.

4. Ventura Pier, Ventura, California
Located on the coast of southern California between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara, Ventura is a city that feels more like a small-town. The pier and promenade, located just off Harbor Boulevard, won’t get as crowded as the Los Angeles attractions, and you still get to soak in the ocean atmosphere during sun salutations.

5. MacArthur State Park, Singer Island, Florida
Claim one of the pavilions in this peninsula park where you can breathe in the sea air among the subtropical coastal habitats. Well worth a hike after your practice.
6. North Avenue Beach, Chicago, IL
Ponder the marvel of the great Lake Michigan from a grassy spot in front of one of the best beaches in the city. While a park that ranges in activities from volleyball to bicycling to swimming off the sand, you can find a place along the beach to take in all in and let it all go.

7. National Mall, Washington, DC
Immerse yourself in the powerful vibes of the country’s capital, and a view of the Capitol, as you perfect your downward dog. The lawns of the mall are active with tourists and local employees, but expansive enough for you to maintain some of your own space.

8. Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada
You’d be hard-pressed to not find a spot on this gorgeous island that’s good for meditation. In Victoria‘s Beacon Hill Park, you’ll be surrounded by the colors and scents of the garden scenery, which will make your pranayama all the more powerful.

9. Wrigley Drive, Lake Geneva, WI
Any one of the lake-front inns in this city located across the great lake from Chicago will provide ample atmosphere for reviving your spirit. But you can also grab a grassy spot near the Riviera Ballroom, on the main Lake Geneva strip of Wrigley Drive. For more tranquility than the summer tourist-season might provide, try going in the spring or fall.

10. Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain
Balance will be your intention at Parc Guell, a garden complex designed by Antoni Gaudi. Pick a high spot overlooking the incredible colors of the structures so you can take in the genius of the artist while you chant your “Om.”

M. Fuchsloch is a Seed.com contributor

The Abbey Resort and Spa: A surprise foodie retreat in the Midwest

When you stay at a resort like The Abbey Resort and Spa on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, chances are that you’ll eat many of your meals at the property’s on-site restaurant. This can sometimes mean dining on uninspired dishes like rubbery “hotel chicken” or resigning yourself to the fact that you’ll be spending a fortune on each meal in order to avoid heading offsite in search of better or cheaper food.

So one of the things that impressed me most about The Abbey Resort was the clear dedication to quality food at affordable prices. Over the course of my stay, I had the chance to sample several of their signature dishes, from a hearty dinner that included grilled scallops, tender beef filet and rich espresso creme brulee to a light meal from the spa menu that featured an Asian chicken salad, fresh veggies and a dessert of grilled pound cake with strawberry puree. I’m a picky eater with a former chef for a husband, so I can be hard to please. But there was not one dish I tried that I did not like. Even more impressive: almost everything served at The Abbey is made from scratch.

The Abbey’s foodie focus extends beyond the kitchen walls though. On summer Sunday afternoons (Memorial Day to Labor Day), the resort hosts “Burning Down the Docks” -an all-day celebration of “brews, blues and BBQ”. Nearly 200 people attend each event and indulge in $2 Leinenkugel beers and BBQ straight from the onsite smoker while listing to live performances from local (and local to Chicago) blues bands.

With the season for outdoor barbecues behind them, The Abbey has moved on to a new series of culinary events for the Fall. For three weekends in October and November, The Abbey will host their third “Great Chefs at the Lake” series. Guests who pay for the package ($219 per person for two nights) will arrive on Friday for a welcome reception with that weekend’s featured chef. On Saturday, they’ll watch that chef prepare some of his or her signature meals and then enjoy a four-course dinner, with wine pairing, created by the chef specifically for the event.

The Abbey has pulled in some pretty big names in Chicago dining for the series. October 23-25 will feature the cuisine of award-winning chef Todd Stein from cibo matto and the trendy ROOF bar at The Wit hotel (and formerly of acclaimed restaurant MK). November 6-8 they’ll welcome Dudley Nieto from tapas restaurant, Eivissa. The last weekend, November 13-15, food from Coobah, helmed by chef Jimmy Madla (who is also the drummer for the band Veruca Salt), will be served.

To find out more about the strategy behind the food focus at The Abbey, I talked with Director of Operations, Michael Lucero, who previously worked as Food and Beverage Director of House of Blues in Chicago. Here’s what he had to say:

How did working at the House of Blues prepare you to run operations at The Abbey:
When first interviewing at the House of Blues, I realized that [with multiple venues in one] the operations were very similar to a resort, without the guest rooms. The main reason I joined the House of Blues [was] because of their dedication and commitment to the culture. . . They never wavered from the quality and service standards that helped build their brand. This is where I realized broader benefits of “scratch cooking.” Although it costs more to do so, the quality is always better and more consistent. It also allows creativity and this is where chefs thrive.

When I joined The Abbey, I wanted to bring that aspect to a resort setting. When compared to stand-alone restaurants, customer perceptions of hotel food tends to be lower – too expensive, inferior food, and relatively “staid” menus. We are changing those perceptions here at The Abbey. It started with our philosophy of “hiring the smile-training the skill” – bringing back service dedicated people. Then we focused on the food. Well over 70% of the menu is prepared with raw ingredients.

A great example would be our new BBQ menu in the Waterfront (restaurant). All meats and fish are butchered by our Chef, mixed with home-made ingredients, and smoked by our Pit Master on our outdoor smoker. The Pit Master is certified with the Kansas BBQ Society. This is as good as it gets. This philosophy extends throughout the kitchens in all food preparations.

Speaking of your Pit Master, Matt Whiteford, how did you select him as The Abbey’s BBQ master?
Matt was the perfect person to do the grilling. Our goal was to create a menu and an experience unique to our dockside location, a destination that locals can enjoy frequently, and a dining scenario where all guests would share in the gospel of great BBQ. We realized a great opportunity to align the resort with an award-winning Pit Master. [Matt] has competed for the last five years nationally. . his process was exactly what we were looking for. His “layers of flavors” technique, applying spice rubs and various marinades and glazes during the cooking process, followed by one of Whiteford’s gourmet BBQ sauces [which the resort sells], delivers exceptionally tender and delicious BBQ. He truly has a passion for BBQ and his personality is perfect, always interacting with the guests as they enjoy their food.

I didn’t get a chance to watch Matt in action (or try his famous pulled pork), but I did chat with him for a few minutes and it’s true, his love for what he does is immediately apparent. It’s that obsession with quality food that I think makes The Abbey stand out among other Midwest resorts. They not only serve delicious meals at a variety of price points, they recognize that their guests have a passion for creative cuisine too.

Disclosure: The Abbey Resort and Spa did cover the cost of my stay, but the views expressed within my post are entirely my own. Gratis or not, the food here was delicious and I’m carrying the extra five pounds to prove it.

Escape from Chicago with low Fall rates at The Abbey

Several weeks ago, I had the chance to check out The Abbey Resort and Spa on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. 80 miles from Chicago and even less from Milwaukee, it’s the perfect Fall escape from either city. Chicago residents don’t even need a car to get there; the Metra train runs from downtown Chicago to the Harvard stop, where a resort shuttle bus will pick guests up. Relaxing on the train as the colorful Autumn leaves go by sounds like a great way to get into “vacation mode:”

Fall rates normally start at $216 per night, but for select weekends throughout the next two weeks, The Abbey is offering a special promotion for its Twitter followers and pricing rooms at just $79 per night. The deal is valid on October 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14 with limited availability.

Covered in the rate is daily admission to the spa, which includes use of the locker room, pool, sauna, steam, whirlpool, and all group fitness classes. The resort also offers plenty of Autumn activities onsite and nearby, like games, fall foliage drives, wine-tasting, and you-pick farm stands.

To snag the deal, follow The Abbey on Twitter, and book online using the promo code: TWEET.

The mail jumpers of Lake Geneva

For the residents who live on waterfront property in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the daily mail delivery comes by boat. The U.S. Mailboat Walworth makes the delivery every morning at 10am from June 15 to September 15, stopping at over 60 lakefront homes. At each dock, the mail girl – or the occasional mail boy – jumps from the boat, races to the mailbox while dodging rafts and dock furniture, grabs the outgoing mail (hoping that the owners haven’t played a prank and tied the mailbox shut!), drops off the incoming envelopes, and then runs back to the boat, which – and here’s where it gets interesting – never stops moving (check out a video here). It’s a process that takes as little as ten seconds, and leaves no room for error.

The mailboat delivery began in the late 1800’s out of necessity. The roads around the Lake were not well developed, so delivering the mail by boat was quicker and more efficient. The tradition continues today, but now tourists can tag along for the delivery on daily mailboat tours run by the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. While watching the girls work, passengers listen to information and anecdotes about the area and the historic mansions on the lakefront.

The mail girls, or “mail jumpers”, are not postal employees – they work for Lake Geneva Cruise Line – but they work closely with the U.S. Post Office. The mail jumper work day begins at 7am with the sorting of the mail and ends around 1pm, after the 2.5 hour delivery tour. Of the hundreds of houses on Lake Geneva, only 60 or so receive their mail by boat because many are summer houses that are only inhabited part-time.

For young adults in Lake Geneva and the surrounding towns, being a mail jumper is a coveted job, and one that requires an unusual application process. Elle Vogt, a two-year veteran mail jumper and a sophomore at UW-Madison, said that when she first saw a video of the mail jumpers, she knew right away she wanted to try out. The tryouts are hands-on: the applicants will make several jumps, first at the pier and then out on the lake, and then give parts of the scripted tour. To get the job, applicants need to show that not only can they quickly make the jump from boat to dock, but that they can also deliver an engaging presentation to the passengers.

Elle says that she really enjoys being a mail girl, but the job isn’t without its challenges. The biggest one of course, is falling in the Lake. Captain Neal has been driving the mail boat for almost 50 years and has seen at least one mail jumper get soaked every season. It’s nearly guaranteed for each mail girl to fall in at least once in her career. Elle had her turn this summer. One wet and rainy day, she was running a little slower than usually down a particularly long and slippery pier. As she made the jump, the boat passed by and she just missed it, landing in the water with a splash. When a jumper misses the boat, they have no choice but to finish out their shift soaking wet. It’s no surprise then that jumpers also need to be strong swimmers to get the job.

The job does come with perks though. This summer, Elle met Andrew Zimmern when he visited Lake Geneva and filmed a segment of his Travel Channel show aboard the Walworth. Andrew jumped mail and received a special package from a fan, a bag of “bizarre food” left for him in a mailbox.

In addition to the mailboat tours, Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers several other lake tours, including an ice-cream social tour, champagne brunch cruise, and a full lake tour that cruises past the stately lakefront homes. Mailboat tours cost $27 for adults and are conducted every day in the summer, including Sundays when the newspaper is delivered.

Disclosure: My ride on the U.S. Mailboat Walworth was covered as part of my stay at The Abbey Resort and Spa, but my opinions of the Resort and the lake cruise are my own. Even without a gratis tour of the Lake, I’d be pretty impressed with the antics of these mail jumpers.