I Went to Miraval for the Spa and Left with a New Mantra

"I choose my own choice!"
Publish date:
June 25, 2012
shoppables, Clarins, beauty, Oprah, Arizona, miraval

Last week I joined a group of six online writers for a beauty pilgrimage to Miraval resort in Tucson Arizona courtesy of Clarins. The award-winning Arizona destination resort encourages guests to live by the mantra "Choose your own choice," a practice wherein you do only what you want.

Life at Miraval is what I would imagine every day feels like for an out-of-work Kardashian. It's not difficult to master, and within hours of my arrival I was wandering the resort's lush grounds wearing only my terry cloth spa robe with a baseball hat and sunglasses.

I choose my robe.

My stay resembled the requisite episode of "Basketball Wives" when the cast collectively decides to get away from all the "drama" and migrate somewhere exotic like Tahiti. Each season the trip varies slightly, but three elements remain the same: extravagant spa treatments, fancy group dinners and at least one meltdown, much like my Miraval experience.

The Spa Treatment

Designed by interior decorating legend Clodagh, the Life in Balance Spa at Miraval features a pool, private garden and an extensive menu of exclusive Clarins treatments. I tried a Thai Massage, which doesn't actually involve any Clarins products, although I used plenty of them back at the room -- more about that later later.

I choose deep stretching.

If you work out with a personal trainer who favors boundary-pushing stretches, then you're semi-familiar with Thai massage. While this sort of closeness might cause certain spa-goers discomfort, I was more than happy to let masseur Matthew put his bare feet all up in my business. Having him contort my limbs for an hour increased my flexibility -- at least temporarily -- without suffering through a boring yoga class. I would choose visiting Matthew every day if I could!

The Food

Unlike some destination resort spas where guests are virtually starved and deprived of alcohol, at Miraval everyone can eat and drink as much or as little they want.

I choose drinking in the pool.

On the first night, head Chef Chad took my group on a private tour of the resort's Cactus Flower Restaurant followed by what felt like a 10-course dinner set in a nook of the kitchen. Highlights included tuna tartare and scallops that were probably ethically sourced minutes before our meal and blessed by a shaman, knowing Miraval.

Afterward, we all went back to our rooms to digest and sleep since there's not a huge nightlife scene at the resort unless you practice evening meditation. I woke up around 2 am ready for more and called room service to bring me fruit and mini muffins, which I devoured shamelessly in bed. My choice.

The Meltdown

Not just a spa destination, Miraval is also famous for its focus on mindfulness. There are a several classes and exercises available to guests. The most famous, the one that people travel around the world to experience, is called equine therapy. It essentially involves crying with a horse and it's not where my meltdown took place.

No, I had my Miraval Moment at 35 feet above ground during "Swing and a Prayer," the outdoor activity made famous by Oprah and Gayle.

Gayle King, also skeptical of choosing this extreme swing set choice.

Unlike those who sky dive and bungee jump, I don't enjoy simulating danger. Vertical drops are so unpleasant! Still, I wasn't about to leave Miraval without choosing as many of my own choices as possible, so I chose to participate.

There's a lot of foreplay before arriving at 35 feet, which gave me plenty of time to reconsider. I threatened to quit at each juncture of my slow ascent to the top, from strapping into my harness to releasing the rope until finally I was swinging and screaming like a profane human pendulum over the Tuscan desert. Swing and a Prayer is not my choice.


Back to the Clarins products that I mentioned earlier. My favorite product, the one that has made it into my ironclad skincare regimen and makes me feel most like a willowy French Courin-Clarins girl, is the Gentle One-Step Exfoliating Facial Cleanser.

Packed with teeny tiny beads, the orange-scented formula effectively removes sunscreen and makeup without leaving skin feeling raw or dry as other exfoliants often do. I've been using it every day for a week and I see a noticeable improvement in my supervirus acne. It's an Acne Awareness Month miracle!

Now let's talk about eccentric spa experiences. Have you ever gone on a spa vacation or spiritual retreat? Was it difficult to resume your everyday life once you came home? It was for me.

Follow Julie on Twitter @JR_Schott.