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Resort Sneaking a Spa In

Mohonk Mountain House opened in 1870 in one of the most spectacular settings in the Eastern United States, a craggy private mountaintop with views of five states. By 1902 it had grown into one of those monumental country hotels that exist in only a handful of places.

The solarium in Mohonk’s new spa.
 
courtesy of mohonk mountain house2006_6_17a
Resort Sneaking a Spa In

Mohonk Mountain House opened in 1870 in one of the most spectacular settings in the Eastern United States, a craggy private mountaintop with views of five states. By 1902 it had grown into one of those monumental country hotels that exist in only a handful of places. Then it spent most of a century staying true to its austere Quaker roots, for years not even serving alcohol, despite being just 90 minutes from New York City.

Some found the resort ideally old-fashioned; others found it suffocatingly old-fashioned. How could it remain true to the ever-fewer former while drawing in the desperately needed latter? Mohonk has come a long way. Just in the last couple of years room air-conditioning was introduced, and a bar was built. Now the Mountain House has capped its embrace of the best of today by building a big, sumptuous spa in a new 30,000-square-foot wing, with a 60-foot heated indoor pool, saunas, steam rooms, meditation and yoga classes, and a menu of dozens of massages.

The new building that holds it all is gorgeous, with gleaming pine floors and stained-ash wainscoting, made largely with local materials. It fits perfectly with the rambling buildings beside it, and it adds an element of modern resort life not dreamt of when they were built.— Frederick E. Allen

Amenity The Front Porch Comes to the Airport

In the ancient days of our own times, flying was actually glamorous. Passengers dressed up for a flight. But gradually through the years, members of the flying public had to accept the fact that they were no longer personages. Long before security concerns added extra rules, passengers were turned into nonentities by the airports and airlines. Service personnel learned to excel at condescension, a contradiction in terms that left a trip through an airport as something to be endured. And endure it I did, but barely, before a flight in late July. In fact, by the time I reached the gate I wanted to go home. But with requisite obedience, I settled into a seat in a fixed row of chairs like those at every airport, as sturdy as an I-beam and just as ergonomic. Then I noticed in the middle of the section, where the rows slacked off, a pair of rocking chairs .

Rocking chairs in an airport? A bastion of nineteenth-century domesticity as an antidote to twenty-first-century regimentation? It is certainly a step in the right direction. To see them, and the lucky people contentedly rocking away in them, was heartwarming. Maybe the warden doesn’t hate us after all.

Rocking chairs, I have since learned, first made an impact in the Charlotte airport, where they were supposed to be part of a temporary exhibit about the traditional front porch. Passengers insisted that they remain after the exhibit left. Since then the idea has been adopted at other airports. Possibly hooked rugs, an Autoharp, and a calico cat at every gate will be next.— Julie M. Fenster

Cruise The Queen of Memory

On the recently launched Queen Mary 2 , you will find many nods to Cunard’s past, including “Maritime Quest,” an exhibit using photos, film, and audio that winds its way through eight decks. This would qualify as a best, except for another offering that appears just once per sailing.

Scan the “Daily Programme” for the Queen Mary Reunion, aimed at those who sailed on the original vessel between 1936 and 1967. These gatherings are especially popular on transatlantic voyages, where Cunard can usually find between 20 and 40 qualified attendees.

“I remember when it [the new ship] didn’t have a name, but I guessed what it would be,” one passenger recalled. “I won a bet and got a penny off my teacher in Wales.” A passenger who admitted he had been “a difficult child” was left in the nursery for his whole trip. “I didn’t appreciate it.”

More memories: “My father had left his shoes out to be shined, and one night they got lost. So he immigrated to the United States in sandals.”

“She pitched and rolled very badly,” several people agreed. Also: “Violinists from the ship’s orchestra serenaded us through the corridors.” And during the nightly turndown service “the steward arranged my nightgown in a very provocative position.”

Then there was the couple who had honeymooned on the Queen Mary in the 1950s and been deeply impressed by “its tradition and all its glory. We were young, we danced, it was so romantic,” the elderly woman said. “Now that we are about to end our cruising days, we thought it would be appropriate to do so on the QM2 .” Carla Davidson

Historic Destination Shacking Up with Bette Midler

Dreaming of a road trip back in time along California’s Highway 1? Pack your surfboard, roll the top down, and book an overnight stay at Crystal Cove Cottages , a historic beach-cottage colony dating from the 1920s that has been restored and is once again open to the public. Situated between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach in Orange County (that is, between Los Angeles and San Diego), these pleasingly raffish pastel cottages offer prime oceanfront views and pristine coastline at an extremely reasonable cost for the area. That’s because their former inhabitants banded together in 1999, when the bungalows were threatened with demolition (in favor of a fancy resort hotel), and formed the Crystal Cove Alliance. The rescued cottages are now part of the Crystal Cove State Park system and are registered historic landmarks. Part of the colony’s funky appeal is that it was built by hand from scavenged materials found in the area, including timber from a capsized lumber ship that washed ashore in 1927. The colony’s Hollywood connection lends historic savor as well. As early as 1910 the studios began planting palm trees and building thatched-roof huts to serve as sets, first in South Seas–themed silent films and later in classics like Treasure Island . Bette Midler fans might recognize the brown shingled cottage from her 1988 movie Beaches . The best part of a stay at Crystal Cove, though, is that glimpse of a California that’s difficult to find outside the movies—vintage surfboards and miles of unspoiled coastline. For reservations, call 800-444-7275 or visit www.crystalcovebeachcottages.org .— Amy Weaver Dorning