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Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa

The Five-Mile Getaway

If you live in the city, youíre well aware that every now and then, oneís senses need a little bit of R&R from all the urban hullabaloo. Case in point: most spa enthusiasts have probably run into this situation more than once -- youíre about to settle down to a well-deserved massage after a long and torturous work week when you are abruptly awakened from your blissed-out state by the sound of construction work or the ambient clamor of people on the sidewalk. Certainly, we canít always head out to Napa or Big Sur when a pamperfest (sans any indication of life outside the treatment room walls) is in order. Thatís why Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa (a mere five minutes across the Golden Gate Bridge, or a pleasant 30 minutes by ferry) is such an apt place for a tranquility overhaul when the situation calls for it.

With an unbeatable vista of the San Francisco skyline and Edenic digs above the downtown Sausalito waterfront, Casa Madrona is a perfect blend of Marin County affluence and San Francisco charm. The spa, which opened in 2002, sits not on the historic bed-and-breakfast side of the hotel (a roomy blue mansion) but on the posh contemporary side. And despite the fact that itís carefully concealed by various hotel amenities, itís 3,000 square feet of pure repose.

Walk up the stairs leading to the spa off the main road and enter a calm, plant-filled courtyard flanked by individual treatment rooms. A sliding door on your right leads to the main area of the spa, whose terracotta floors, succulent plants and earthy hues give it a distinctly southwestern feel. When I enter the commodious locker room Ė which includes a dry sauna, steam room and a ton of luxurious amenities and beauty products -- Iím tempted to hang out for a while. But then thereís also the waiting room, which overflows with rattan lounge chairs, wholesome goodies, herbal tea (with genuine aromatherapeutic qualities, might I add), and a generous view of the verdant courtyard.

The spa itself, while spacious, only has eight treatment rooms and a nail room. Even the staff is modest -- comprising ten massage therapists, two aestheticians and one nail technician. The intimate feel of the establishment is further added to with the private treatment rooms, which surround the courtyard and main area of the spa, and provide practically soundproof mini-havens for therapists and their clients.

I opt for a 60-minute Body Booster, one of the spaís most popular treatments. A treatment specially formulated by Aromatherapy Associates. A product line that boasts organically grown ingredients and no synthetic preservatives, the Body Booster blends essential oils and marine ingredients in a delicious, serenity-inducing elixir. After the viscous mixture is massaged into my body, I rinse off, feeling extremely hydrated and soothed. Afterwards, Iím treated to a gentle massage, with particular attention paid to the reflex points on my scalp and feet. The whole premise of the treatment is extremely simple, but its calming, grounding effects feel quite unique.

Given the proximity to the water, other services at the spa have a distinct marine theme; treatments include a sea salt scrub, detoxifying seaweed body wrap, sea tonic firming gel body wrap, and clarifying seaweed facial. While the spa menu periodically changes to accommodate both standard treatments and seasonal promotions, according to spa manager Cassandra Erpenbach, keeping the spa shelves stacked with wholesome, top-of-the-line local products is a must for Casa Madrona.

Aside from the luscious custom massages, facials, and body treatments, Casa Madrona also offers prenatal and post-natal services, including ďbabymoonsĒ for expecting moms and dads (which entail a combined hotel and spa stay) through their partnership with Barefoot & Pregnant, a destination maternity spa based in Mill Valley.

My mood and skin are glowing as I hop aboard my ferry back to the city. As ever, itís nice to know thereís an oasis just miles outside of San Francisco where I can retreat to when Iím beset with the cares of city life.