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Posted by on Mar 24, 2009 in Spa Reviews | 1 comment

Away from it all at Cliff House

Away from it all at Cliff House

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Cliff House Sunrise

Many resorts promise a "getting away from it all" experience. Cliff House in Ogunquit, Maine delivers on that promise. I traveled to Maine by train from Boston these days I find train travel is so much more relaxing than air travel and when I arrived at Wells, Maine, I took one of the waiting cabs for a leisurely ride to Cliff House, all the while thinking how pleasant it was to unwind while driving through small town streets.

"The labyrinth at Cliff House is based on the ancient form, a metaphysical device associated with spiritual quest and search for new meaning. Eidence in labyrinths has been found in Siberia and Central Asia, dating from 20,000 BC. Throughout the ages, the form evolved and became more elaborate, as reflected in the 13th century French cathedral at Chartres.

"In the United States, interest in labyrinths revived near the end of the 20th century and has been growing ever since. Today, they can be found in churches, hospitals, parks, on beaches and in the woods; they can be temporary lines drawn in the sand or permanent intricate paved patterns in floors and terraces.

"According to myth, Ariadne gave Theseus a thread with which to find his way in and out of the labyrinth, so the metaphor of the labyrinth as a way to find a thread of meaning is apt.

"For more information, call 207-361-1000 or visit www.cliffhousemaine.com."

Arrival at the resort was easy, too; no waiting to check in. My room in the spa building was as spacious as many New York studio apartments and had the bonus of a balcony. The view was spectacular. During my two-day stay, I spent a lot of time on the balcony, gazing at the sea, the horizon, the cliff below. It was instant serenity and a feeling that the everyday world had dropped away, if only for a while.

With only the sounds of the sea and the birds to break the silence, I left my balcony door open and slept the sleep of the truly relaxed. And now to breakfast, my favorite meal. At Cliff House, it’s more than simply food; every table has an ocean view, so the day begins with a sense of being somewhere special. Though the a la carte menu was tempting it included Eggs Benedict and pancakes made with Maine blueberries I chose the buffet. Everything on it fruit, baked goods, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats–was fresh and appealing and abundant. Carpe Diem coffee was served; it was full-bodied and flavorful and much better than the usual run of hotel coffees.

Dining turned out to be quite special for all meals. Once, I did a take-out lunch and ate on my balcony. Once, I took my evening meal in the dining room, again savoring the view, enjoying the soothing music that’s part of the dinner service, and chatting with diners at a neighboring table. The atmosphere was casual and convivial, so I didn’t feel at all awkward dining alone and without a book for company. My meal, a sumptuous Maine lobster (and yes, they are better than other lobsters), engaged me completely. Though I had my mind set on lobster from the moment of arrival, the menu is extensive and includes other local specialties such mussels, the signature clam chowder, lobster bisque, lobster Cobb salad, diver scallops, and oysters.

Though I did plenty of relaxing during my stay, I did take the morning walk with one of the spa staff; for about a half hour, we rambled around the 70-acre property perched on Bald Head Cliff. Cliff House is more than a century old and certified green, so it was a real pleasure to see so many years of history brought into the 21st century.


Relaxing at Cliff House

Relaxing at Cliff House

The labyrinth at Cliff House

The labyrinth at Cliff House

Cliff House Pedicure

Cliff House Pedicure

I spent some time in the property’s unique Labyrinth on the Spa Terrace. Beginning at the entrance, I walked a single path to the center, alternately winding through concentric loops, a route that was meant to center and focus the mind. I felt not so much focused as lighthearted and free. The sounds of the sea, the blue sky and the sunshine enhanced my sense of wellness. I paused in the center before walking outward. There was no one else around and I experienced a profound sense of peace.

From the sublime to the earthbound, I moved on to the 2500-square-foot fitness center (free to guests), which had strength training equipment by Nautilus and Cybex and cardio by Star Trac. Personal training is available and there are complimentary classes for hotel guests.


Cliff House Food

Cliff House Food

Cliff House Maine Wild Blueberries

Cliff House Maine Wild Blueberries


And then it was time for the spa. In keeping with the resort’s luxurious yet cozy atmosphere, the spa lounge resembles the living room of a lovely country house (but one with a great ocean view). There is soothing music, a fireplace, comfortable chairs, couches and ottomans, and an espresso machine along with Poland Springs water and a nice selection of teas and fruit. I had signed up for the Atlantic Antioxidant Facial (80 minutes, $160), which the menu promised would rejuvenate and hydrate the skin. The products to be used were a blend of three forms of Vitamin C and the spa’s signature algae enzymes, said to protect against harmful environmental elements while stimulating collagen production. As she worked, my esthetician, Angela, informed me that my pores were open and clear, that there was some dehydration. She recommended a regimen of skincare support that used some the same products she was using. In the morning: Lavender Cleansing Milk; Marine Moisturizing Mist, Antioxidant Balm and Eye Contour Serum. For the evening: the same regimen, except I would use Maine Retinol Eye Repair instead of the Eye Contour Serum. She recommended that once a week, I use the Micro Pearl Dermabrasion Cream. When my facial was over, my skin felt soft and smooth and well-hydrated and I was once again very relaxed.

My Crystal Blueberry Pedicure (50 minutes, $70) was next. It was so comprehensive that I rate it more as a treatment than a nail service. It included a warm seashell massage to improve circulation and lymph drainage, a refreshing spritz of Blueberry Mist, and a silky Blueberry Smoothie Mask with a seaweed base for deep moisturizing, a blueberry cream to finish–along with the usual exfoliation, cuticle grooming, nail shaping, and so on.

In addition to the services I sampled, the spa s a full menu of treatments for face and body, for men and for women. Guests who don’t choose any services may purchase a Spa Day Pass for $12, good for the duration of their stay; it includes use of the lunge, sauna, steam rooms, and refreshments. Robes and sandals and private lockers are provided.

On Sundays, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (by appointment), the spa offers a terrific way to close out the weekend: a $99 Special Sampler, which includes three 15-minute mini-treatments: a relaxing head, neck and shoulder massage, a relaxing head, neck, and shoulder massage, a revitalizing hand treatment, and a lower leg hot-towel massage plus a glass of wine and a sampling of the chef’s hors d’oeuvres.

A much fuller package, the three-night Spa Sampler, in a spa room, runs between $744 and $921 (depending on the season) per person, double occupancy. It includes ocean-view spa lodging; full breakfast each morning; lobster dinner or choice of beverage, appetizer, and dessert for one night; a $100 spa credit and a $25 Cliff House money per person; Maine sales tax and service charge.

Though I spent much of my brief getaway in the spa area, Cliff House has much more to offer. In season, there’s a freshwater outdoor pool for families, as well as a 75-foot indoor pool, two adult-only pools, and a whirlpool. The second level of Cliffscape is the recreational level, where guests will find table hockey, video games, and coin-operated pool tables, along with complimentary ping-pong, board games and puzzles, and large-screen television. There are also two tennis courts and a business center; Wireless is available throughout the resort.

If I’d had more time, I could have taken advantage of the many available activities and attractions in the area: historical sites, the Ogunquit Museum of Art, Ghost Tours, sailing, whale-watching, kayak excursions, not to mention shopping and Ogunquit’s lovely beaches just three miles north of the area. In season, the Shoreline Trolley serves as a shuttle.

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