Somewhere deep in the suburbs, I am lying face down with a warm stone in each hand — and it’s one of the most calming sensations I’ve ever experienced.
When stressed, I am normally one to head into nature — to go for a hike or, if time permits, to drive to the beach and stick my feet in the sand or bike through Cape Henlopen. I remove myself from the greater mass of humankind and would never, for example, go to a mall.
And yet here I am, inside the Live! Spa and Salon in the glamorous Live! Hotel at Arundel Mills. The hotel, with its colorful and conversation-starting art collection (there is a video mural of ever-changing flowers behind the concierge desk and a Warhol in the VIP area), is the tallest building in Anne Arundel County. Earlier I stood on the 21st floor and felt the full height of this palace as I gazed out over the events center under construction, the mall itself and the houses that stretched beyond. It was one of those clear-day-see-forever afternoons, and it was both beautiful and peaceful.
I am beginning to understand why people check into hotels for staycations. I am beginning to imagine what this could be like. In truth, this place makes me wish that I was a high roller instead of a quiet, rowhouse-dwelling editor. I want to gather a few friends for a stay in the West Wing penthouse with its two-sided fireplace and retro-swank décor of lush burgundy and gold, its pool table and dressing room with a moiré silk wall. Then there’s Club 21, the hotel’s private gaming room, which makes me want to stage my own “Casino Royale” party. And maybe win a little money. Prices for either accommodation are not made public, a fact that makes them all the more intriguing.
Ease is the word that comes to mind. Live! Hotel is a place of ease and easy luxury, and that can be relaxing. I gather with a group of women for lunch at David’s, the lobby restaurant that offers such treats as all-day breakfast, a flight of crushes and an onion soup served inside an entire crouton-topped onion. They also offer something called Hong Kong-style pancakes, two syrup-splashed bricks of bread product that remind me why I exercise regularly: When presented with a chance to try something this delicious, I never want to turn up my nose.
I am settling in, you see. I have toured the penthouse. I have tasted the pancakes. I think I will stay.
Then, there is the spa, with 6,000 square feet of treatment rooms, a full cardio room and a patio. I sign up for a hot stone massage and wonder if I should offer a short prayer for the therapist who has to uncoil the neck kinks earned from too much desk time. He is successful, I must report, and provides some excellent stretch tips to follow my long writing sessions.
The spa offers full- and half-day packages and gears itself for groups of women (and couples) ready to be pampered — bridesmaids, day trippers, anniversary celebrants. When groups of four or more book a massage or body or facial treatment, for example, a complimentary lunch is included. There are champagne toasts and cupcakes and also spa suites, where guests can receive in-room treatments. The best of these is the spa villa, with its own patio.
Awed by the art and the décor, well fed and stress free, I head home. I have seen how the other half lives, those staycationers, and my flight instinct has quieted a bit. A day of luxury, it turns out, is very relaxing.