Mixing Health and Hedonism: The Little Washington Spa

The mountains in the early summer light were luminescent. The wildflowers swayed in the morning breeze. And the sun cast languid shadows across Main Street in the charming, historic town of Washington, Va.

It was one of those perfect days in Rappahannock County that those who live here never seem to take for granted – the days that make visitors wonder why they never discovered the place or why it took them so long to return.

A smiling Buddha and the peaceful tinkling of flowing water welcome the lucky spa-goer as she enters Little Washington Wellness and Spa. One thinks, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” But – it did.

Soft greens, blues and lavenders – tones of the meadows, the rivers and the Blue Ridge Mountains outside – reflect the spa’s connection to the land, to naturopathic pursuits and spiritual harmony. The calming, candlelit treatment rooms, smelling of fresh linens, are a prelude to the repose and relaxation to come.

The spa’s approach is best described as a union of natural healing and serenity with a hefty dollop of luxury.

Spa founder Jackie Meuse wanted to create a retreat where patrons could restore the body as well as the spirit. She is constantly refining, making sure that all of the elements –talented technicians, the best organic products, a setting that is both pretty and restful – coalesce into an excellent spa experience.

After lots of searching for and testing green, nature-based products, she discovered Eminence Organic Skin Care, a Hungarian line that touts its products as being good enough to eat. I can attest to being tempted.

“Having traveled to special healing and wellness places in the States and in China and Thailand, I made it a point to notice all the extra touches that I appreciated in those spots,” said Meuse. “I was sure that I wanted to have a center of wellness that draws upon the positive energy from the mountains and from the people in this wonderful place that is Rappahannock County.”

Her team of experienced and friendly specialists offers a full menu of spa services and detox treatments, with an emphasis on the holistic approach. The massage menu includes hot stone massage, Thai massage and reflexology, plus romantic and relaxing couples massages. An array of facials and body and nail treatments – including microdermabrasion, waxing and brow tinting – is also available.

My Spa Wellness Massage, an hour’s worth of bliss, easily compared to great massages I have had in many a far-flung, exotic location. Massage therapist Dustin Pennington, a graduate of the Virginia School of Massage in Charlottesville, expertly “read” my muscles (including a tightly clenched jaw muscle, a consequence of city living) and vanquished all remnants of soreness and stress. The aromas of warmed herbal and fruit-based unguents and oils seeped into my consciousness as I surrendered to total stress relief.

The Signature Facial, deftly administered by esthetician Ciera Backe, gently dislodged exhausted skin cells and toxins with fragrant strawberry rhubarb dermafoliant and soothing chamomile tonic. Although I was drawn to many of the ambrosial sounding hydrating and skin-boosting masques and serums – including Pumpkin Latte Hydration, Apricot Masque, Lime Stimulating Serum and Key Lime Vanilla Cream, redolent of healthy smoothies – I was guided to the Firm Skin Acai Masque, which limbered up my normally very dry skin. My face felt rejuvenated, gleaming and fresh.

It is important to Meuse, a county resident with her husband, Joe, and mom to two young boys, Hunt and Bo (plus two dogs, three horses, a few dozen chickens and two baby ducks), to ensure that her business serves the community.

“I have always felt so honored to be living where I do,” she said. “I want my neighbors in the county to know that this is for everyone, not just tourists. And I want the talented wellness practitioners who live and work in the county to know that together we are creating a place where everybody can come to feel happy and balanced. In a tight-knit community like ours, you have old-timers and newcomers who want to know they are equally cherished.”

In addition to in-house services, her staff provides mobile spa services to county residents in their homes – including Washingtonians with homes in the county who crawl out through the traffic on weekends. Once they get here, in-home spa services are a very attractive alternative to leaving their country cocoons.

Acknowledging its location in one of the most stunning rural counties in the state, the spa offers guided hikes in the gorgeous Rappahannock County countryside and the Shenandoah National Park, located nearby in Sperryville. For those who just can’t bear to leave, there is even a lovely suite available for weekend stays.

There is a trove of outdoor activities in the county, notably hiking and horseback-riding, along with beautiful wineries, a local distillery of fine bourbon and rye, terrific restaurants and a number of distinctive galleries, antiques shops and boutiques, including the well-stocked spa shop.

Little Washington Wellness and Spa aligns location and setting, making it the perfect spot to unplug and recharge. Even better, there is no need for planes or trains: it’s a pleasant 90-minute drive from Big Washington.

261 Main Street, Washington, Va.

Michelle Galler, a resident of both Georgetown and Rappahannock County, Va., is a realtor with TTR Sotheby’s and an antiques dealer.

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