The Salamander Resort And Spa, recently celebrating its first year since opening in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, naturally delivers fine cuisine, spa treatments and services. It also has that intangible third element of personality and hominess you cannot install along with your marble, wrought iron, slate and china.
Their 23,000 square-foot, 14-room spa center offers a whirlpool, steam room, indoor and outdoor pools as well as two outdoor tennis courts, but hands-on fitness is their specialty. Salamander’s been working closely for the past year with Inova healthcare, the largest health system in Northern Virginia, on the “Salamander 360 Program,” encompassing a medical staff for health assessments, education as well as a team of fitness and nutrition coaches assisting guests in meeting their diet and exercise challenges in two, four, or seven-day wellness programs. If that doesn’t sound very sexy or romantic, you can simply walk out the back of the hotel into the woods and its miles of trails, or rent a mountain bike at the front desk.
The kitchen’s overseen by Todd Gray, well-known as one of the pioneers of “farm-to-fork” fare, and all ingredients are locally grown. Visitors can dine at the resort’s 110-seat Harrimans restaurant while enjoying sweeping views of the property, or the more relaxed Gold Cup Wine Bar where you nosh on cheeses, charcuterie, shared plates, an extensive wine by-the-glass program, or join in tastings with local wineries.
Their horse program, however, makes the Salamander the all-encompassing spirit-reviver it is. Designed by Equestrian Director Sheryl Jordan, the setup is known as the Equi-Spective Experience, aimed to teach riders how to read horse-body language and to stay focused and present during the entire experience which can range from two hours to the entire day. In theory, this leads to honing leadership skills and following one’s inner light for guidance out there in the wicked world, not to mention Facebook bragging rights about doing yoga on horseback. For me, mounting a horse and taking off into the lush woods, led by a firm, friendly trainer, was enough to reconnect with source, higher power, chi, whatever you call it, zeroing my inner odometer and preparing me for the rest of the Salamander experience.
A resort, no matter how lavish, needs to leave an emotional, mental and spiritual impression on its guests that they may leave refreshed, slowed-down, uplifted and ready to face the world anew, and the Salamander succeeds.