“Relax,” ordered the massage therapist as he grabbed hold of my rigid arm.
And so I allowed my limbs to fall limp, my toes to uncurl and my mind and wallet to succumb to the allure of Salamander Resort & Spa.
After all this time, it’s nice to finally meet you, Salamander. Since 2002, the luxury Middleburg property has suffered fitful starts and stops of development. To pass the time, we played the game of “Will it or won’t it?” Well, it did, on Aug. 29.
Over the years, a few crumbs of information dropped onto our empty plates, piquing our appetite. We knew that Fauquier County resident Sheila C. Johnson was the superbizwoman behind this venture, the fourth member in her Salamander Hotels & Resorts family. We also heard murmurs about a high-end spa, exemplary dining — and horses, since Middleburg is the Land of Their Little Ponies.
With the resort finally open, we wanted to hear the real noise, not just the buzz. So in late September, I visited the property, taking advantage of every offering (spa, trail ride, bar, fitness center, room service, etc.) and every fireplace (five). Granted, the staff is still learning the trade, so I returned a month later to check up on its progress. The test: Could I fully relax in Salamander’s company, or would I need to book an emergency session with Brian to survive the weekend?
Reservation highs and lows
Salamander left the gate in admirable form. I easily booked a Friday night stay online, reserving a 545-square-foot estate room with a king-size bed, an “experiential” shower, a 40-inch TV and a balcony. As part of the Inaugural Offer (available through Dec. 5), I earned a $100 credit that I earmarked for the spa, or maybe horseback riding, or dinner and drinks — or a portion of all the above.
A few days later, my cellphone started to ring.
An employee left a message asking about my “preferences.” I interpreted the request as an interest in my personal tastes: Fuji apples in the fruit basket, please, and Diet Coke, not Pepsi, in the mini-fridge. But no, the agent wanted to remind me to book any extracurricular activities before availability disappeared.
At the spa, I knew that I wanted a facial but was unsure of which one. When I asked for advice, the voice on the phone simply dictated the description from the brochure; I read along to identical text on the Web site. I gravitated to the Purifying Facial, but he suggested the Signature Facial. Frightened by the sentence “one of our trained experts closely analyzes your skin’s needs,” I passed on the lab-coat inspection of my pores for a less intrusive scrubbing.
Plans now set, including a one-hour afternoon trail ride, I could kick back and — ring, ring, ring. Yes, spa, what’s up? Oh, you can’t remember when I’m coming? No, not a Saturday in December; this Saturday. Oh, you’ve forgotten which treatment I scheduled? The purifying facial. Yes, thank you. See you this Saturday.