Destination Detox: Hudson, NY
Hudson has gone through a number of transformations as a destination spot since being chartered as a city in 1785. In its earliest days, it was the port of call for whaling and merchant ships returning from the ends of the earth laden with exotic goods, barrels of whale oil, and tons of whale bone. A century or so later, it became a hotspot for those seeking the illicit delights of the city’s notorious red light district, Diamond Street. After bottoming out in the 1970s, Hudson has, throughout the past couple of decades, become a mecca for devotees of historic architecture, collectors of antiques and fine art, foodies, and young musicians.
But its most recent appellation is Destination Detox: Hudson, NY, the newest program offered by Escape to Shape, a traveling spa that takes its guests to exotic places to immerse in local history and culture while cleansing and toning the body and “expanding the mind.” Past Escape to Shape excursions have journeyed to faraway places: Russia, to view the architecture of St. Petersburg from a private canal boat; Uruguay, to trek through the vineyards of Colonia on horseback; Marrakech, to experience an authentic Berber meal high on Mt. Atlas. Wherever they go, Escape guests partake in luxurious accommodations and food along with the rigors of yoga and fitness classes, eased with daily massages. Having gone to the farthest reaches of the earth, Escape to Shape now offers a domestic excursion to a destination closer at hand: right here.
The concept began three years ago, when Nicole Meadors of Pilates Hudson met Erica Gragg of Escape to Shape through one of Meadors’ clients. Gragg invited Meadors to teach and travel with her luxury fitness caravan, and Meadors brought several of her Hudson clients with her on trips to such places as Morocco, Bali, Cartagena, and Puglia. A year or so ago, Gragg and Meadors started talking about doing a program in the Hudson Valley. Destination Detox is the result. “It was a dream project to connect Erica with all of my favorite people in Hudson who are doing what they love in our community,” says Meadors.
Base camp for the week-long spa outing is Hudson Merchant House (above), a chic and cozy boutique inn near the river, in a building that is at least as old as the city itself. Innkeepers Roy Ardizzone and Mike Webber spent months working with Gragg and Meadors to fine-tune the program. “This program creates so many opportunities for employment to so many in Hudson,” says Ardizzone, “from the farmers’ market to yoga teachers to hikers, juicers, and kitchen help.”
The week starts out with a personal assessment of needs and goals, which are reassessed and refined throughout the week. The daily regimen includes yoga and meditation, taught by Sondra Loring at the Sadhana Center for Yoga and Meditation, and, of course, Pilates at Pilates Hudson. There is also a daily hike—to view Hudson’s historic architecture, the Hudson-Athens lighthouse and the house and landscapes of Olana, Frederic Church’s home and culminating work. Farther afield, there are hikes in the Catskill Mountains to view the natural beauty and breathtaking vistas that have been inspiring people for centuries.
With all the physical challenge, there is a softer side—full body massages at Bodhi Holistic Spa and evenings devoted to “mindfulness, transformation, and long-term effectiveness.” To this end, life coach Nicole Vidor provides group sessions. And then there’s that favorite indulgence: food. For the first two and a half days, guests experience a raw food and juice cleanse, with concoctions created by Max McLeary “to rebalance the body and cleanse the palate.” For the rest of the week, they enjoy, in controlled portions, the seasonal and sustainable bounty of the surrounding region. No alcohol or coffee is permitted, but plenty of green and herbal tea is served throughout the day. To ensure that guests continue to pursue an enlightened, healthful diet, there are nutritional talks by Erica Laurion, the nutritionist for Destination Detox, and cooking classes taught by Nicole Gimmillaro, the chef.
The first retreat in Hudson took place in July. From an innkeeper’s perspective, Ardizzone could see firsthand that it would be a success. “The transformation we saw was remarkable. The ten people who did the program in July collectively lost 60 pounds. They came as strangers and left as friends. There were actual tears at the end.”
The price of finding your personal best is not cheap, from $4,500 to $6,000. But if you live close by and don’t require accommodations, you can do the whole week-long program as a day camper for $1,500. Day campers enjoy all the same experiences — the only differences being that they get only one massage a day instead of three and go home at night to sleep in their own beds. The next event is scheduled for November 4 -11. If you miss this one, there won’t be another until May 2013—one each month through August, two in September, and one in October. Better later than never, whichever date you might want to chose. — Carole Osterink
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