SITTING IN MY HOME office on a cold day last January, I couldn’t stop staring at the silver maple tree outside my window. Just looking at its parched branches had me reaching for my misshapen tube of hand cream for the umpteenth time that day.
I definitely had a case of the winter blues.
Looking for a bit of commiseration, I called my childhood friend, Ladan, who lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three kids. Before long we were perusing online pictures of the Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond in St. Michaels, Md., fantasizing about getting away.
The images were idyllic: sun-washed waters lapping the edge of a lush lawn and hydrangea bushes hugging the Ionic-columned historic mansion. “I hear it’s got a fantastic spa,” Ladan said of the luxury resort, which lies equidistant between us.
Though we both knew the Inn at Perry Cabin wouldn’t look much like those summery pictures at this time of year, the chance to spend some time together was appealing. We seldom get the opportunity to see each other these days because our lives are so consumed with work and family. And an all-girls spa getaway sounded like the perfect way to recover from the holiday madness.
“Let’s do it,” I said, hitting the reservations button and tossing the tube of hand cream into the trash can.
ON THE FRIDAY I drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the sky is a bitter lemon-gray and the waters are shrouded in mist. By the time I arrive at the inn, it’s pouring rain, so I make a beeline for the check-in counter.
It all sounds a bit Club Med to me, but I wander into the book-lined library anyway and join a group of guests clustered on plump armchairs and sofas. All eyes and ears are on server Chance Miller.
Miller hands me an Orange Blossom cocktail of cava (a sparkling Spanish wine) effervescing over a sugar cube, balanced by a dash of Bitters and topped with fragrant St-Germain liquor crafted from elderflowers. An expertly applied orange twist garnishes the rim.
Miller shares the history of Sabrage, the Napoleonic art of slicing open a champagne bottle with a sharp saber. “Usually, I’d invite you onto the lawn, but today, for obvious reasons, I’ll demonstrate the technique under the awning and you can watch from the window,” he says. Seconds later, Miller swipes straight through the glass bottleneck with a sharp blade. The guests “ooh” and “aah.” Not a drop of bubbly was wasted.
OUR FIRST MORNING begins with a handwritten note on our breakfast tray, reminding us of our spa treatments and times. Sheets of rain continue to come down, but the inn’s oversize navy umbrellas amply cover us as we make our way to the outbuilding that houses the Linden Spa—named for the allée of linden trees leading up to the original mansion.
Olson gives us a quick tour of the spa, which has eight treatment rooms and a fitness center. She says summer is the busiest season, but that winter has its own charms. “It’s peaceful and quiet,” she says, “beautiful and relaxing.”
After donning terry-lined seersucker robes in the locker room, Ladan and I are led down a hall lined with shelves holding jars of dried herbs to the relaxation room. In it, the walls are decorated with framed pressed flowers, and a row of tan recliners faces an enclosed courtyard. Healthy nibbles, such as walnut halves, dried apricots and fresh berries, sit on a sideboard. We are offered cool cucumber water or the inn’s signature tea made of rose petals, linden blossoms and French lavender. Heated and weighted neck rolls are placed on our shoulders.
The inn’s most popular winter treatments include the “Herbal Remedy Massage” ($200), which incorporates a hot, herb-filled detoxifying poultice; the warming “Hot Stone Massage” ($200); and the “Winter Renewal Package” ($135), which features a massage or facial followed by a light meal.
ON SUNDAY MORNING, we decide to give another resort activity a whirl. “I’ve been wanting to try Qigong forever,” says Ladan, who is far more athletic than I am and regularly does yoga. Turns out we’re the only guests that day trying out this ancient Chinese practice designed to enhance the flow of energy throughout the body through physical poses, breathing techniques and focused intention.
Our instructor, Doug Musser—a formidable 63-year-old former Army captain—is also the activities coordinator for the resort. He says that during the winter months, the inn offers a wider array of indoor activities, such as classes on picture-frame making, journal writing and wine-tasting.
As Musser guides us through a relaxing, limbering exercise involving multiple neck rolls, he asks “Do you hear the clicks and pops? The medical term is crepitus, same root as decrepit.”
Later that afternoon, back in the spa, feeling decidedly less decrepit and completely oblivious to the rain, we are getting more footbaths as the prelude to “Winter Renewal Packages.” We have both opted for facials instead of massages, and have yet to pick either a two-course luncheon at the Stars restaurant, with its picture windows and French doors, or high tea in the morning room and aforementioned library, which are connected via a bookcase door.
My facial involves hot towel compresses; tight circular massages with creamy cleansers; a buffing mask that gently sloughs off skin; an apricot-infused toner; and a rehydrating moisturizer. I also opt to tack on a 15-minute Anti-Aging Hand Treatment ($25) and the Feet Treat ($25). In the end, I come out feeling more relaxed than I can remember being in years.
“MY WIFE IS OF Japanese lineage,” says Miller, setting down a French press with tea leaves steeping in it, “so I know tea is an important part of culture.” Ladan and I chose the high tea option, which will double as dinner, as we are both headed home soon.
Tea includes petit fours, finger sandwiches and the inn’s signature blackberry scones, all served on pretty china. From where we sit on a powder-blue linen sofa, we can see that the rain has finally abated—no sunshine yet, but we are glowing. The trip has been a complete success. No work, no kids, and lots and lots of pampering and girl time.
My friend and I part ways happy and refreshed. When walking out, I pass Miller before another rapt audience in front of a roaring fire. A wrought-iron implement is glowing in the hearth, and an ice bath and a feather are nearby.
“Has anyone ever seen vintage port opened the proper Portuguese way with port tongs?” he asks.
Charlotte Safavi is a freelance writer living in Alexandria, Va. To comment on this story, email email@example.com.
The Inn at Perry Cabon by Belmond, 308 Watkins Lane, St. Michaels, Md. | 410-745-2200 | belmond.com