Enjoy my recently published article in the glossy print LA Travel Magazine Spring 2014!

Where the Deep South Meets the Far East
Visit the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta Hotel and Spa for an Oriental Cocoon Experience


My daughter Alexis and I knew something was different as soon as we walked into the spa. A therapist removed our shoes and carried them away on a tray – a traditional shoe ceremony. As she was led to the pedicure area, I was off to discover what it felt like to be inside an oriental cocoon.

Inside the luxurious spa treatment suite, it is time for another ceremony – foot-washing, followed by the gentle ringing of tiny temple bells. The Tibetan chimes are made of seven different metals, ringing at seven different levels. The tone clears the mind and focuses energy. This is the beginning of one of the most relaxing — and interesting — spa travel experiences of Ava’s spa life.

1889141_47_yThe Mandarin Oriental Atlanta Hotel and Spa is tucked deep in the heart of Georgia, but inside its doors, you will find authentic Asian influences. When you check in to this 42-story hotel in the prestigious Buckhead neighborhood, you receive a warm hand towel, steaming tea and an orchid. The rooms feature a lucky bamboo and instead of the traditional American toiletries with often overpowering scents: subtle but soothing Shanghai Tang Mandarin Tea scented goodies. The Mandarin Oriental has the most exquisite turndown in town, complete with orchid flowers scattered across the bed and high-end slippers.

The holistic spa continues this unique and detailed fusion of Asian elegance and Southern hospitality. The 15,000-square-foot Mandarin Oriental spa has been honored with awards, and it’s no wonder why. From vitality pools to an outdoor spa lounge to a private yoga studio, nothing is lacking here.

The thoughtful details and top-notch service made my spa treatment sink much deeper than just skin-deep. It was a journey into relaxation for my mind and spirit, too. I tried a body wrap and massage called the Body Detox and Tone Journey, which centers around oils that eliminate toxins and extra fluid and improve circulation. A full body exfoliation preceded a soothing algae wrap, an indulgent scalp massage and a full-body massage with oil.

This was more than a treatment; it was a true journey. For the exfoliation, my therapist used the incredible ESPA body brush, made with Mexican cactus plant bristles that make your skin feel and look radiant. Pair this with the ESPA exfoliating body polish, infused with apricot kernels and spearmint essential oils, and you are left with glowing skin, improved circulation and tone and even renewed cells. The perfect finishing touch for the skin before the cocoon – a detoxifying body oil.

Then came the cocoon. Oh, the cocoon! This was the best part, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Imagine being swathed in these top-of-the-line products and then wrapped up in comforting warmth. This was not a simple wrap, but a rebirth experience. I felt like a caterpillar in a cocoon. I could feel the stress melting off my body throughout the rest of the treatment, until I was ready to re-emerge as a stunning butterfly. A perfect way to refresh your life any day.

While in the wrap, my well trained therapist, Jessica, massaged my scalp with the ESPA Pink scalp mud treatment, which uses mineral-filled clay, apricot kernel oil and watercress extract to extend the healthy indulgence all the way to the tips of your hair strands. This award-winning conditioning treatment promotes healthy hair and scalp, which is why it is adored by spa clients worldwide.

In fact, the scalp massage was the best part of my entire spa treatment. With my head cradled in the therapist gentle hands, the figurative caterpillar crawled across my forehead in preparation of their new life. For days, my hair felt as soft as the hair of a child. I couldn’t stop touching it. I was delighted to learn the ESPA Pink Hair and Scalp Mud treatment is available for home use, too. ESPA Pink Hair mud is my favorite product that I’ve ever discovered in a spa — along with the Okab sandals and Taylor shoes, also available in the spa boutique.

I left the spa looking and feeling more youthful, with improved circulation and a relaxed sense of peace. I could feel the effects of the treatment for days. The wrap continues to help you rid toxins for about three days. I truly felt transformed. Just like a butterfly perfected inside a cocoon.