Escape to Wellness / A destination inn and spa
Winter getaways don’t have to be on beaches
Photos courtesy of Mirbeau
Mirbeau Inn and Spa
851 W. Genesee Street, Skaneateles; 877-647-2328 or mirbeau.com
The cold weather months in Western New York can drag on to a point where even the most ardent outdoor enthusiast hits a wall and needs to get away. But not everyone can (or wants to) go to Florida. An easier alternative: pack a bag, hop in the car, and take the back roads to France—well, actually Mirbeau Inn and Spa in Skaneateles—for a getaway that requires minimal travel and offers maximum relaxation.
When this writer first heard of Mirbeau in the early 2000s, the very notion of a European-style luxury spa set on grounds inspired by Monet’s gardens at Giverny seemed almost phantasmagorical. After all, this is Central New York, not a region generally known for luxury destinations. Monet’s actual gardens in Giverny might get a few inches of snow over an entire winter—not the ten feet that annually dumps on the Syracuse area. It all seemed like someone’s quixotic pipe dream, but on my first visit, it was readily apparent that owners Gary and Linda Dower not only had a clear vision for Mirbeau, but also the passion and expertise (Gary is a real estate developer, Linda an interior designer) to bring that vision to fruition. While the inn has subtly evolved over time with new touches that repeat visitors may notice, the overall experience has remained unchanged. “World-class” is a phrase used so frequently in the hospitality industry that it has almost lost all meaning, but Mirbeau is truly deserving of the accolade. Eighteen years after opening, Mirbeau is now widely recognized by travel authorities and travelers alike as one of the top spa destinations in the United States.
One key to Mirbeau’s success lies in what it is not: a retreat where guests are put on a health regimen of detox diets and workout routines that they will quickly discard upon return to the real world. What Mirbeau offers is a luxurious pause, a European-inspired environment with a wide range of classic amenities. Each guest can readily create the individual experience they seek. The subtly Roman-themed spa facility can provide the gentlest of pampering or the most intense of workouts. On our last visit, my wife and I both scheduled massages. My wife received the seriously relaxing, tension-relieving treatment she desired. I opted for an intense deep-tissue massage to help flush out years of chemotherapy—the best massage I’ve ever had.
The wellness instructors lead a variety of classes ranging from yoga and pilates to core strength and circuit training, not to mention tap dancing. All the spa facilities are calm (a welcome contrast to the bland New Age music I find just as grating as robotic dance music) and spacious. As a bonus, cell phone usage is not permitted in the spa. Hurray! The scent of eucalyptus gently permeating the air adds to the sense of tranquility and invigoration.
While there are a lot of spa activities on the menu at Mirbeau, it’s also a perfect place to do absolutely nothing but unwind. Each of the thirty-eight rooms are beautifully appointed and feature phenomenally comfortably beds, ideal for turning on the fireplace and curling up with a book. Not far from the guestrooms is the Aqua Terrace, featuring a large, landscaped whirlpool and an outdoor fireplace, perfect for gathering with friends or a casual conversation with new acquaintances.
Although Skaneateles offers a range of nearby restaurants (a trip is not complete without fried scallops and a cold beer at Doug’s Fish Fry), the Mirbeau dining room serves four-star cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As with the spa, the options range from creatively health-conscious to pure indulgence. Whether you’re having the chick-pea burger on rosemary ciabatta or the award-winning Mirbeau burger with truffle fries, you’ll be dazzled by the “clean cuisine” focused on local and regional ingredients. The menu changes seasonally with one current favorite being a plate of raw or creamy baked oysters with tomato pancetta, chive dill cream, and fennel pollen. The atmosphere is decidedly relaxed and includes an interactive self-service wine bar with twenty-four different expertly chosen wines, perfect for predinner drinks or postprandial lingering.
Without the hassle of air travel to rattle you unpleasantly back into the real world, a day or two at Mirbeau is a soothing break that’s as easy to arrange as it is to enjoy.