Ahhhh, the ultimate spa

By Dalia Wheatt
Published June 29, 2007

It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it.

In the spirit of investigative journalism, I slipped into a one-size-fits-all Belleview Biltmore robe and signed up for the spa's signature service, the hot sea shell massage.

Turns out there weren't any shells involved, but a CD of waves crashing over acoustic guitar music gave the room that oceanside feeling. With the lights dimmed, I dropped my robe and scurried under a sheet, face down.

Here's what I observed before everything got all tingly:

Licensed massage therapist, esthetician and nail specialist Kimberly Hume warmed a pile of stones in a massage stone heater, which resembles an oversized Crock-Pot filled with water. As Hume lined the rocks along my bare spine, they felt hot, then pleasantly warm. She alternately traced them along my skin and massaged a light oil into my muscles. She rubbed my back, my legs, my shoulders, even my earlobes. She kneaded lotion into my feet.

I was down for the count.

About halfway through the 80-minute massage, Hume coaxed me back into consciousness so I could flip over. As I drifted back to LaLa Land, Hume worked her magic on my arms, hands and neck. She placed cool stones around my face and over my eyes, plus more hot ones between my toes...

- - -

"Okay, Dalia. That's the end of our time."

Talk about $150 well spent.

I pulled on the robe and headed to the lounge, where Hume offered me a glass of cold water to help me return to my right mind. While walking back to the women's locker room, I caught a whiff of chlorine from the grandiose indoor pool.

So this is how the other half lives, I thought.

- - -

If not for those pesky mortgage payments, I might have also sprung for a hydrotherapy treatment or the Ladies Golf and Spa package, which includes nine holes, lunch on the veranda, a 50-minute aromatherapy massage, a facial and something called the paradise pedicure. I also wouldn't mind researching the Chardonnay manicure or the "ultra-slimming" seaweed body mask.

I want it all: the fountain of youth facial. And the yoga classes. And an overnight stay at the Biltmore - haunted as it may be.

I want an up-do from the salon. I want my body sprinkled with gold dust. I want my dog to have her nails painted and teeth brushed.

Okay, so I don't have a dog. But if I did, I'd be sure to save her the scraps from my lunch on the veranda.

Everyone deserves to be pampered once in awhile.

The Spa at the Belleview Biltmore Resort: 25 Belleview Blvd., Clearwater, (727) 443-6424; www.belleviewbiltmore.com.


How you voted

The Spa at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel and Resort, Clearwater: 71%

Tranquility Day Spa, 8%

Awa, Tampa: 7%

The Spa at the Don CeSar, St. Pete Beach: 5%

Other: 5%

Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, Safety Harbor: 4%