31 July 2008

"America's Resort"

Ah, the Greenbrier. White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Vacation spot chosen by Presidents and rich people alike since 1778. Originally discovered in the 18th century as a location for taking in the "waters" - the sulphuric waters that occur naturally at the site. Sulphur is good for circulation and skin conditioning and I'm sure early Americans drank it as well with some other medicinal benefits in mind.

The Greenbrier has a wonderful iconic spring house in the middle of their grounds that tells the history of the spring and you can peer down into the well and smell the lovely sulphur smell. Yum. Two of the men in my life, George Washington and Robert E. Lee, spent time here, along with other presidents and political and military leaders. It was also the chosen location of a large bunker outfitted for the President and Congress during the Cold War - the bunker is still there and tours are offered (we didn't go) plus there's a great PBS show on it too. But anyway, enough history lesson - back to the vacation...

My mother and I got the chance to go on a mother-daughter spa package that gave us the basic room (overlooking one of the rooftops with heat pumps, etc.) for two nights along with spa treatments (big sigh). BUT we still got to live the luxurious lifestyle for a little while.

For those of you who have seen Dirty Dancing, the Greenbrier was much like that - lots of structured activities you could participate in such as nightly movies, afternoon teas, croquet, meditation walks, childrens' activities. Sadly no wig trying-on. And now that I mention it, I don't remember dance lessons or a talent show. Oh well.

This is the North Entrance to the Greenbrier - the most recognizable view. This is where you meet your instructor for your riding lessons. You can also pick up the shuttle bus if you don't want to waste the energy walking over to the outdoor pool or golf club or tennis courts.

The lower lobby (where you check in and where the shops are located) also has a grand mural running around its perimeter and up the steps to the upper lobby. Wonderful scenes of "colonial" life. The building had its major decoration in the 1940s - calling upon great Art Deco and great Colonial Revival design - what a mix!

The legendary interior designer Dorothy Draper led the major redecoration of the 1940s and her company continues to decorate the resort today. Her aesthetic is bright pinks and greens, crazy prints, and animal patterns all combined into one quirky look. It was fantastically impressive. They had a little exhibit of archival materials in one of the hallways all about the project and I spent quite a bit of time reading through that (now, how do I become the curator of the Greenbrier...). I thought of my friend Steve the whole time. These wing chairs sit just outside of one of the cafes - now named after Ms. Draper herself.

Even the public restrooms have the Draper influence. So glorious. This one was my favorite (yes, Mom and I checked them all out!). The one at the golf club ran a close second.

The most glorious spot, however, was the indoor pool. Words cannot describe how romantically retro this space was. According to old photographs, the pool at one time had diving boards and it looks like they'd have demonstrations of diving tricks in its heyday. The area around the pool had casual wicker furniture upholstered with great oilcloth-covered cushions in a wild tropical print. 1940s Cuba vibe along with a wonderful 1920s bathing beauty aesthetic (complete with draped fabric ceiling!).

My mother and I would take walks in the morning before our spa treatments and buy coffee and pastries and sit on these rocking chairs on the back veranda to watch the resort come alive. Very peaceful.

The golf club, fitness center, tennis courts, walking trails, and outdoor pool were all located a short walk from the main building. As you walk you begin to get great views of the mountains. This is the path leading to the golf club (which also has a restaurant, bar, and pool tables (yes, we ate, drank, and played).

There's even shuffleboard courts for those who actually know how to play.

Sadly, it rained on our last morning at the resort (when I was in picture-taking mode), but the outdoor pool on a sunny day was amazing. It is an infinity pool overlooking the golf course and the mountains beyond. The view was just so relaxing. Lounging in a chaise, with someone bringing you cold towels, samples of smoothies, mixed drinks, food, and whatever else you may desire. Aahhh, that was certainly the life. My mother and I spent one of our afternoons lounging.

After three wonderfully relaxing days of spa-ing, drinking, eating, walking, and other various activities, we had to say goodbye. I would love to spend more time - take up tennis again, maybe try off-road driving school in a Range Rover, or just lounge by the pool a bit longer.

We were next off to Lexington and Staunton. More to come...


Theresa said...

looks wonderful!! Funny about the Dirty Dancing....did you take any dance lessons?

Janet said...

Ahhhhh...fabulous! I was thrilled to come back and discover this new blog ~ and read all about your summer adventures. Girl! I love it! Can't wait to catch up in person. xo.

Mommy, Esq. said...

I want to hear more about the spa treatments - were they worth it? The space is amazingly beautiful. I'm glad you went with your mom. Maybe we should do a GWU reunion there - I don't think men can truly appreciate a place like that.