Traveler's USA Notebook

Great Scottsdale!


Things You Should Know About Scottsdale

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
          The Rooms
         Things to Do
          La Hacienda Restaurant
          Willow Stream Spa

The Four Seasons Resort
          The Rooms
          Things to Do
          The  Spa

The Rooms
          Deseo Restaurant
          Agave Spa



          Spiffing, upscale Scottsdale, splat in the middle of Arizona’s strange Sonoran desert, is a fast growing suburb of Phoenix that threatens to one day become a little Mecca of art, commerce, shopping and generally damn good living all on its own. Scottsdale is definitely and unapologetically an oasis for people who insist on being pampered. Hidden within the spacious Scottsdale hive are fancy-schmancy resorts that exist only to soothe your body and smooth your psyche and that’s alright with TUSAN.

About those cactus plants around Scottsdale: world travelers though some of us may be, we never cease to be amazed by cacti. They seem to be one part cowboy reachin’ for the sky and one part extraterrestrial stranded on this out-of-the-way planet.

  But first. . .

Things You Should Know About Scottsdale


      Due to weird and caring local laws, there will appear odd messages on your restaurant menus:


       Warning: Local restaurants will attempt to put goat cheese on anything they can. This could even be you.


    There was goat cheese in the baked potatoes. There is goat cheesecake. Maybe it's the they have a lot of goats? Do they think goat cheese is still sophisticated? It must be admitted: the mozzarella's not that good out here.


 They do wonderful curvy banquettes in Arizona. Grand and relaxing to sprawl in.


The hotels do not appear to be unionized.  Although individual employees tell you they are well treated by management, pay is low, public transportation is not up to the demands of a city that is the USA's sixth largest, and there are signs everywhere that management are not aware of the hardships employees face. And employees, of course, will be the last to tell them. Good health insurance plans are what hotel employees worry about the most. This is an old story, best chronicled in the Barbara Ehrenreich bestseller Nickled and Dimed. Traveller always recs that money be left every day for the room cleaners, and to tip liberally.


  It’s also good to know that Scottsdale resorts are constantly upgrading and renovating. This game of duelling hotels can only benefit the visitor.


Travelers USA Notebook sampled three of the area’s resorts. Each had its own vibe, integrity and eccentricities. Each offers pampered living, laced with the kind of opportunities for physical recreation that Traveler admires mostly from afar. You’ll find lush, challenging golf courses, well-lit tennis courts, fully-equipped fitness centers, hiking horseback riding and splash and dash water fun. Each is both a romantic hideaway and a haven for family fun. 

  The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
7575 East Princess Dr.  480.585.4848

          Locals call the circa 1987 property “the Princess;” but Fairmont , which acquired and improved it a couple of years ago would prefer that you please call it by its full (see above) and proper name, thank you.

The 650-room resort is a AAA five diamond establishment and its Willow Stream spa has been declared by Condé Nast Traveler to be one of North America’s best spas. We have no intention of quibbling.

             The Fairmont has rooms in both the Main Building and the Villas. Just about whatever you prefer, you’ll find relaxing and even splendid views. The scenery includes gardens, a lake, courtyard, Princess Plaza or the golf course.

The rooms are a lesson in gracious living. They are quietly opulent and generous in size (comfy living area, spacious work area, defined dining area for that room service touch, and, in homage to the song,  big john, with separate shower and oversized bathtub). And then there’s the patio with a table and chairs. (He: Margarita, my dear? She: Don’t call me Margarita.) The rooms come fully equipped with relaxing views.

 An adorable  fireplace and an adjustable CD player, each in its own way, set a mood. Put on the white terry robe and enjoy a night off the town.

And then there’s the outside. A walk through the spacious grounds of The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort & Spa evokes memories of an idealized southwest. The nearby McDowell Mountains calm the eye.  Sunlight glances off the terracotta-hued Mexican colonial style architecture. The building cupolas tell you that you’re welcome and that’s no cupola. Exquisite landscaping with royal palms, majestic and flowering cacti, shrubbery and blossoms soothe the spirit. And oh, was that a bunny rabbit hopping through the bushes?

There’s water, water everywhere (metaphorically speaking. After all, it is sitting on a desert) with five outdoor swimming pools, including the Willow Stream Spa’s Oasis Pool and the Sonoran Splash Pool and there are two hot tubs. the new Sonoran Splash playground comes complete with the two longest resort water slides (186 ft. and 199 ft. long) in the state of Arizona (Wahoo!).



Fairmont Fitness Center  You’ll find the Fairmont Fitness Center (not to be confused with the resort’s Willow Stream Spa) near the South Pool. The center has all sorts of firm ’em up and work ’em out goodies such as squash court, half court basketball, free weights, cybex recumbent, cybex upright, complete cybex equipment circuit, medicine balls  ,resistance tubing ,jump ropes and mats. The center is the check-out location for supplies for such activities as badminton, water volleyball, bocce ball, ping pong, and croquet.

          Fairmont Fitness Center classes include forays into Yoga, morning fitness walk and stretch, aqua aerobics and deep water training, and Pilates. And there are Personal Training Services: “On The Ball,” “One-On-One Yoga,” “In Deep Water,” and  “Power Up Your Golf.”  

          Golf ici parle at the Fairmont. Guests have access to the nearby Tournament Players Club. It boasts the par 71 Stadium Course (site of the annual PGA TOUR FBR Open) and the “more lenient” Desert Course.  Both offer wonderful views and many opportunities for healthy outdoor cursing.

Mention golf and you have to say Tennis. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess offers seven tennis courts (six have night lighting). The 6,300-seat Stadium Court hosts the annual Arizona Men's Tennis Championships. (The upcoming event is scheduled  for 1 March-7 March, 2004.)

All  this healthy exercise talk makes us hungry. Fortunately there are restaurants on the grounds. We ate in a honey of a hacienda. 

La Hacienda  
open evening hours,

La Hacienda is not just another Mexican restaurant. It is the Mexican restaurant.

The only Mex to win four stars and  four diamonds from Mobil and AAA respectively isn't in L.A., Texas, or New is here, in Scottsdale, and it's probably the  best Mexican restaurant in the USA right now.

Oh, we've slurped sangrias over many a silly afternoon at Marix in West Hollywood, sneaked into  that dear, beloved Mexican deli, Gallegos in Santa Monica for organic vegetarian corn tamales,  gone into swoons over organic guacamole in Agoura, and not once, but twice been crushed, bewildered and deeply disappointed at Rosa Mexicano in New York, where you'd think they'd  know better...or maybe they just don't care.

          No, if you could only have one Mexican meal in America, or you're passing through and can only eat only one grand dinner in Arizona, have it here. Or fly here. And bring somebody. It's cozy and dark inside.

          Start with cocktails. Be brave. They’re unlike anything anywhere else. They may not turn out to be your favourite flavours, but  that's the thrill. You won't get  these in London, Paris or Rome, or even the moon, where soon you will be after several sips.

          We  tried the Prickly Pear Margarita,  pink and very sweet, Hindu sweet, to set off the prickly bits, we suppose, and oddly pleasant. Too pleasant. Of all the Hacienda's special libations, this one slips down nice and easy, and before you know it, you'll be ready to buy a round for the whole stinkin', sorry, poor old world. Caramba!

          Then there is the specialite de la maison, er, casa, the Hacienda Margarita. With this drink, you are in a deep earth tone groove, as your baffled tongue sorts through the greenness and the cactus flavours, and the citrus, lemon and lime, sweet and sour and salt, yin and yang, love and death and one part dirty sneaker, an acquired taste and one worth hurrying to acquire.

          Sangria at La Hacienda is a deep ruby in a huge goblet. Was there perhaps a hint of pomegranate? 

          This should have been the pinnacle slurp of a lifetime, but it was distressingly sharp. Had its edges been even a little more rounded , we might have ordered a pitcher or two. Que lastima! Every sangria is different. every time you make it We'll try again, manana

          By now it was showtime, the moment when you tell the staff no meat, fish or anything with a face, please. No chicken or beef stock, either. Vegetarians do this before ordering. We have to, or suffer unimaginable bouts of the Aztec one-step later.  And it's fun to see what the kitchen comes up with, put them through their paces/ Accordingly, vegetarian gourmets read menus rather differently from the way carnivores do. The eye darts to the side dishes and garnishes, noting unusual possibilities. But ultimately, one must give up the menu and put oneself in the hands of the gods. And that is the chef. 

          Out came chef Andrew Macdonald. We asked for vegetarian tasting plates. No problem. How were we to know that he would be our spirit guide to a gourmet's divine Valhalla? Roses to him!

          So off you shall go, on a halcyon Hacienda culinary adventure. Here's what appeared, in no particular order.

          A basket of fresh little rolls and perfect warm tortillas with the best salsa we’ve ever had, a medium dark brown and smoothed,  we suspect , by a bit of chocolate. The butter: a heavenly blend of roasted garlic, cilantro and poblano chiles.

          Then: A vegetable flan. Horchata crepes. A salad of organic greens ,fine strings of jicama and panella cheese, which is a Mexican mozzarella, dressed in a  perfect pumpkin seed  vinagrette with lime and cilantro. Wild mushroom tart Snap peas. Haricot verts. Calabacitas, a little baby kind of squash.Bulgar wheat pilaf with chilis and a spicy flash-grilled tequila cornpote. (not sure about this last  - the cocktails were doing what cocktails are supposed to do, and while forks were flying, our notes became alarmingly like Aztec symbols),

          (Must go back to La Hacienda soon for more fact-finding), pickled carrots, Mexican white sweet potato casserole with breacs, a Mexican chili and tomato sweet jam, and caramelized onions. 

          No one - there were four of us - can remember dessert. But my notes say that the fffzswrquerrr was very, very good.

          I want to live here, right under this table, for ever.  
          When we recovered, we headed straight for the spa.

Willow Stream the Spa at the Fairmont
480.585.2732 or 800.908.9540  

Willow Stream is an  awesome spa. Willow Stream is a large, dazzling, superior spa.

          What makes a spa great? Ask any bedraggled - or, let's be frank - any narcissistic, spoiled-rotten, demanding, jaded consumer what makes them enjoy the spa experience. At the end of the day, it all bubbles down to how it makes us feel. Anyone can slap a mask on your bumpy bod. But few spas can wow you from brain to toe. Willow Stream does.

          Call it the whoosh and wonder factor. Enter and you  feel as if you've stepped into a magic, modern, mystical one-of-a-kind space. Well-thought-out architectural features are designed to have an extremely exhilarating effect on your psyche.

          All these places have to have a New Agey, mystical theme.  This one's the Havasupai (pronounced Hah-vah-so-pie), a hidden oasis in the Grand Canyon. You know, fire, earth, air and water, bla, bla, bla.

          It works. You've got a mesa rooftop pool with loungers for reading and napping and private cabanas, where you can see the McDowell Mountains. (Well, the mountains ain't so pretty in Scottsdale. You want mountains, you go to Sedona. Mama!)

          Here's a sample of the delightfully, ridiculous, over-the-top, purple (I beg your pardon. We meant crepuscular) prose from the spa literature. Try to keep a straight face. And no drooling:

          "From the Mesa the rhythmic flow of our Havasupai Waterfall cascades over the red Sedona-hued stones to complement your journey through the spa. You can relax in the Desert Oasis, or the open-air reflection atrium, or experience the sheer joy of the waterfall’s energy. Many of our treatment rooms have private outdoor patios, allowing for experiences indoors or outdoors under the clear desert sky.

          The Willow Stream Suite is perfect for couples, mothers and daughters, or girlfriends on a spa retreat. Guide your own experience in our Men's and Women's Relaxation Areas, taking advantage of the multiple therapeutic amenities, from the whirlpool to the eucalyptus steam room. "

          By the way, they have lots and lots of excellent massage therapists, who are extremely well-vetted before being hired.

          The most pacific and beautiful, almost transcendent spots in the spa are the little hot and cool pools, which are almost a magic healing temple in the year 8000, and the eucalyptus inhalation room, which is like being in a modern Egyptian meditation space while you clear out and calm the lungs. And there's a steam room, and, and, and. and.  The lighting is lovely throughout. Men and women have separate facilities but can meet in the middle at the pool and waterfall.

          You can pick and choose and customize what treatments you desire, and where and how they shall be done. There are scrubs, body polishes, medicinal moor mud wraps, chamomile gels, aromatherapy, loofah rubs, pumice stones, foot soaks, gentle exfoliation, facials, rose hip oil, loosenings for muscles, tension releasers,  and infusions. Aryurvedic oils include sage, rosemary, cinnamon and rose. Don't forget those hot rocks for stone massage. Lots of treatments can be 60 or 90 minutes There's even a gold performance treatment kinesiology, and a sports massage to enhance muscle recovery for stress to move lactic acid out of the system (you may have a mild soreness after, but it's heaven to get those little devils out of your body. Also, there are pregnancy massage on a special table, Shiatsu , Reflexology  on the feet and hands, and they can add neck,  face and shoulders, loads of baths and wraps, and !thalasso KUR  You can bet this will cost you,. I don't want to think about it - just rub me, rub me, rub me.

          For people who like such things, there's a fitness center with state of the art equipment and specialty fitness programs, with  5-Diamond personalized training services. Do it solo or in a class. Or not at all.    

           For more Fairmont info, click here.       


The Four Seasons Resort
 Scottsdale at Troon North

10600 East Crescent Moon Dr. 408.515.5700

Sing a song of Four Seasons, a three-year old (opening day 22 December, 1999) establishment. It received the AAA Five Diamond Award soon after opening. The resort’s design evokes a southwestern pueblo village. The individual buildings are one, two and three-floor casitas. Its casitas feel like individual retreats scattered about the property.

The casita interiors are simple and understated without being plain or austere. Not surprisingly, southwestern motifs prevail. The walls — cream with just a blush of yellow — calm and cheer. You’ll see Native American or Mexican patterns in the stone, tile, and fabric. They are subtle but they resonate. Patio doors invite a step outside to drink in the night air.

             The suites have fireplaces to banish the chill of the night and pump in atmosphere. Champagne, my dear? A CD player is thoughtfully tucked into the room so that milady shall have Kenny G wherever she goes — unless she’d rather listen to music.

In-room services include evening turn down (hopefully, the only one you'll receive) ice delivery, stargazing constellation charts, dual line phones, and, in all suites, telescopes. Spa lunch menus include organic spinach and micro green salad, Portobello mushrooms melt, and wild mushroom ravioli.  (A note about Four Seasons dining. It’s okay. The restaurants have pleasant decors. The views are excellent, day or night. The menus are creditable. The service is thoughtful and polite. There’s vegetarian stuff we can eat, and, of course, a great number of things carnivores routinely do, as well as a stunning selection of wines. But, for vegetarians, there’s no wow or pow, let alone a biff, bam, boom. Waiter, there’s goat cheese in my double-baked potato.)

This Pueblo comes complete with the kind of accessories that soothe the frazzled spirit with sense and sensation. An attentive staff that cares about your comfort and grace helps. So does its 12 thousand foot spa and fitness center.

We headed straight for the spa.  

The Four Seasons Spa 


          One particular joy at the Four Seasons Resort’s spa is its “Massage 101,” a private class for couples in the art of giving (and getting) a massage.

MASSAGE 101 –   How To Rub Your Sweetie the Right Way  

To be sure, a good part of this tutorial involves getting rubbed. And that is good. Very good. Oh so good. Yeah that part. Do it again.

          But it is a genuine class. Our instructor, Steve Ellis, brought a masterful – okay we’ll say it – hands-on approach to his lesson. He manages to be both discreet (we are dealing with body parts here) and direct (when messing with some one else’s body certain principles must be followed depending on the body part). A licensed masseuse for nine years, he previously ran weekend couples massage seminars in Seattle. He teaches, explores and explains. Because the 80-minute Massage 101 is not and does not pretend to be “everything you could ever know about massage” Ellis seems to follow three guiding principles.


·        He gives the very basic info you’ll need to give your partner a satisfying massage (You’ll need the thumb, middle three fingers and heel of your hand; how to move them and where to move them.)


·        He identifies the particular area where your partner needs and deserves special rubbing attention – and how to do it.


·        He teaches that two-way communication really is an essential element of a winning massage.

Ellis is an easy-to-understand and encouraging tutor. He seems to take pride in creating a customized lesson that exactly fits the individual needs of each student pair. And school never felt so good before

You’re not going to spend all that time on the massage table. Are you? Oh. Well if you do manage to climb off, here are some other explosive balms.

The resort has a special, favored nation arrangement with the nearby golf community, Troon North – home to residences, a spoil-em-rotten clubhouse and the Pinnacle and Monument champion golf courses. Both courses have been honored, celebrated and even written about by all sorts of golf magazines. Golfers beware. The breathtaking views may make you forget why you are there. Both courses are beautiful. Monument, the older of the two, offers splendid desert views. When you come to, you might want try out the tennis courts. There are four, two of which light up at night.


While staying in the Four Seasons, you can enjoy activities within the resort well as in the surrounding Sonoran desert. The fitness center has treadmills, StairMaster, recumbent bikes, upright bikes and elliptical trainers. Those who like to accessorize will make smart use of which pinches dumbbells the Zurich tubes exercise balls, step benches, jump ropes and stretching mass. Classes are 45 minutes and they include warm up, cool down, and stretch. Types of classes offered are our stretch, that Pilates, cardio obstacle, hath yoga, fit to call and total body toning in. An exercise specialist takes advanced to intermediate hikers on a guided tour of Pinnacle Peak.  

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
6902 East Greenway Parkway 480.624.1000

Westins always feel cleaner, slicker and shinier, more modern than other hotels, and Traveller has a warm spot for clean hotels; have always preferred them. This one even is even more so...the place opened in November 2002.

The room: First we pick some nits. Uh oh. No CD player. No fireplace. One robe for two people. No more fooling around. No C-SPAN on the telly. Rough towels. Lots of note around the room telling you about how good you'll think the $40 velour bath sheet feels---and there isn't one anywhere in your bloody room. At these prices, you wish they'd stop leaving signs around telling you how much they'd rather not wash your towels every day---to save water of course----or pushing their $90 bathrobes.

We are back in the land of the grown-up business world Decor cold, and corporate, and of course very clean, There is a reason for that “taking care of business” look. The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa is very much a player in the conference part of the business; but Traveller cares little for such matters. We can note that that corporate look will reassure business execs who are being dragged kicking and screaming into a bona fide let it all hang out meltdown getaway. 

And there is an undertone to this look that is – if not downright subversive – at least subliminally welcoming. It is what the Westin people themselves call the “sense of Arizona.” The design materials and art scattered throughout the property all resonate with Arizona aura —wood, stone and fabrics with patterns derived from the cultures of local Native Americans.

This is a glitzy normal hotel with some fizzy whizz bang extras and excellent convention facilities. The meeting rooms have wonderful names: Hall of Discovery, Hall of Visionaries. Etc. And there is its glitzy restaurant.



Deseo’s fresh and innovative Latin menu was created by chef Douglas Rodriguez of New York’s Patria fame. The soothing, modern restaurant has an open kitchen, where, if you like such things, you can see it all happen, seated sushi bar style, or join the majority of diners who plump for the banquettes and white table-cloths, with a view of the greens outside. South and Central American food isn't what vegetarians think of first when going out on the razzle for a little ‘sport dining’ — these are meat and fish loving peoples. What a serendipitous opportunity, we thought, to have master Chef de Cuisine Mark Dow cook up something cruelty-free, ‘off-menu’.

The Drinks

For wine, we chose a red, a a soft but serious Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon Errazuriz Reserve 1998. The wine selection is nicely rounded, with wines from Chile, Italy and even France, and includes a large selection of California wines, which seem to be getting better (and pricier) by the year.

For cocktails, there was a curiously refreshing Cuban mint julep, the Mojito Cubano, made with Appleton rum, lime-mint, white cane sugar and soda. The fresh, crushed  dark green mint rises up to meet one’s lips, fragrant and perfectly .balanced, one’s own private and secret garden. Hey, greens are good for you. Also, there was the Deseo Colada, a siren of a drink, made with Myers dark rum, passion fruit juice, and coconut. This one is pure Martin Denny: you are in the tropics, and soon you will be supplying your own birdcalls. This lovely libation, a layered, custard-coloured  flan of a drink, is draped with looping lines of coconut; it is  sweet, delicious, and deadly.

But health food was and is always first on our minds, and parked in a champagne bucket near our table a bottle of Sole stood guard, a sparkling mineral water imported from Italia. This apparently is the Westin  chain’s house brand of water. In a place like Arizona, where the temperature in July can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit, this is big business.

And then there was Food

First came the Vegetable Arepas, scrumptious corn cakes topped with spinach, fresh bits of tomato, and huge green capers, garlanded with crème fraiche, accompanied by a basket of plantain chips and a typical Colombian bread, pandebono, bland, round little rolls made from a little mozzarella and a biscuit like batter.

Next, Gloria's Black Bean Soup (Gloria is Douglas Rodriguez's  mama), served  up with a deeply satisfying croquette plopped into its middle, soaking up the soup, crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, made of asagio cheese and cilantro.

And then a pretty, crisp white hearts of palm salad arrived, in a shallot and thyme vinaigrette with bleu cheese sauce and (oh well) goat cheese, dates stuffed with almonds, a stack of jicama strips, egg white strips, endive. Its textures –crunchy and soft and slidey – and sensations – sweet and tangy –made one feel one was on an adventure.

The entree was a proud Vegetable Napoleon, complete with a huge rosemary feather in his Portobello mushroom cap. This is a stacked dish, with layers of mushrooms, both red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella, roasted peppers and a grilled purple onion. It comes with a heavenly quinoa. Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa" is actually a Peruvian berry, but it feels and comforts like a starch.

Anyone for Dessert?

A word about high end desserts. American restaurants seem to operate under the belief that the more huge and disgusting, gross, layered, recombinant, X-treme and in your face the dessert is, the more the public will go for it. How else to justify the $9 price tag? Most of the dessert lists we saw in Scottsdale were completely unappealing. Deseo's was the scariest, the over the toppiest in this category. Fortunately Deseo’s desserts are far better than they sound. See what you think. Here is the dessert menu:

·        Guava Goat Cheese Cake
with crème fraiche ice cream and poached prunes  
·        Cafe Y Tabaco
white chocolate mousse cigar dipped in dark chocolate with dulce de leche, coffee ice cream, and chocolate espuma.  
·        Churros
cinnamon dusted donut sticks with dulce de leche and chocolate dipping sauce  $8  
·        Tres Leches de Chocolate
served with orange sorbet and a strawberry gaspacho  
·        Almond Flan
with ice wine gelle, white grapes and almond cookies

Okay. After much deliberation and trepidation, we had churros a happy surprise. The dippin’ donut sauce chocolate was deep` like blood,  and like wine. This is voodoo chocolate, aphrodisiacal like you see in the film Like Water for Chocolate.  Traveller asked if it was a special chocolate, but they didn't want to say. And who can blame them?

The flan? It came, crowned and speared by a little lacy cookie. Let us just say it was unremarkable. Call me a peasant, but I like a flan that wiggles and shakes.

But wait — there's more.  The flan came in a clear, eerie jelly, with thin translucent slices of grapes, suspended like eavesdropping eyeballs looking back at you with gelid glaze...this odd liquid landscape called out to my inner octopus, or perhaps the little kid who loves rubbery toys, inner tubes, squishy squeezy gooey yo-yos, and the like. Not for the squeamish, and my colleagues at Taller would probably pass or scream, "Eeeauwwwwh!" but hey, they ain't eyeballs, we do not consume sentient beings with eyeballs, so forgive Traveller for revelling in a plate that returns one’s affectionate gaze was lovely to be looked at by something that was not two over easy or tapioca. And after those mojitos, I could swear it winked.  

The next day we headed straight for  the spa.  

Agave, The Arizona Spa

It's new (opened in  November 2002), impeccably clean, as are all Westin enterprises, friendly, intimate and rustic.  Agave, named for the cactus that is a extremely valuable local resource and provider of tequila and mezcal, to name two, feels a little woodsy, with all those local stone floor tiles, Southwestern style, and entirely easy. Ranch-y, not raunchy.

This is a small spa, with a rather comforting, middle-class suburban feel to it. If you lived here, you might want to use it as your local health club, and you could.... as long as you buy a treatment. For hotel guests, it's $20 a day, which is rather a lot for using a steam room and an ordinary little Jacuzzi. There are yoga and other fitness classes, plus a sauna, and huge lovely rolls of towels, drinks, limeades, waters, green tea, and even free Starbucks coffee (thank you) on offer. Agave's looks are definitely a bit of a comedown after the Fairmont Princess spa, but what isn't? 

Here, the treatment is the thing. And small can be beautiful, providing a more intimate and relaxing setting for healing. And healing is what Agave offers, along with an array of wraps, hydrotherapies, body buffs, aroma glows, many types of massages, including couples, pregnancy and moisture surge massages. In fact, Agave was the only spa we encountered that offered possibly the most deep and ancient Chinese technique of Tui-Na massage, where they actually massage your internal organs to free up your Chi and get your energy going.

The Tui-Na is performed by Mary Houge, a  Scorpio massage master (she can do Swedish, Shiatsu, Sports massage, Reflexology, etc) who seems to have x-ray eyes at the ends of her gifted fingertips. She seems to be able to tell just what is bugging your body and where it hurts. 

I have never met a massage therapist who had as much range of expression when giving a massage. Her fingers can be very strong or a gentle as feathers. Like an orchestra, from the ting of the triangle to the toot of the tuba, she has the full dynamic range at her fingertips.  When she does the Chinese Tui-Na, her hands move in  strange, effective motions completely unfamiliar, as if her hands were speaking another language, 

Tui-Na is not your ordinary sort of massage; it is done in hospitals in China and is felt to be deeply therapeutic.  Not your ordinary, Madame Bored-wants-a-back-rub sort of treatment; I didn’t like it one bit, and wouldn’t have it again, though  I did feel lovely afterward. Shiatsu and Swedish are more pleasant, without the mumbo-jumbo of getting your organs squooshed. Mary also has her own private practice, but is in much demand at Agave, so do book in advance.

I also tried the Agave Moisturising Enchantment, and by chance had the luck to be booked with Mary to do this one as well. First, your dry skin is rubbed lightly and exfoliated, then slathered with a green goo, (which consists of yucca, arnica, basil, and agave extract in a Bentonite base) then you are entirely wrapped like a mummy in mylar, and while you heat up like a baked potato in its foil, your head is massaged with relaxing feathery touches. Shower off, and more massage, this time with agave oil, which contains oils of vitamin E, hazelnut, and citrus, plus agave extract. This one's quite fun, and your skin will be silky afterwards.

There is some wonderful writing in Agave's brochure that explains this spa's style. It says:

"In the 1800s the population of Arizona was made up of cowboys, miners, pioneers, Mexicans, Native Americans, and Chinese. All of the people brought their own culture to this area and used their ingenuity to make the best of it in this rough and inhospitable land. The miners and cowboys had saddlebags full of determination and know-how. The Mexicans had a wonderful array of spices and held the secrets of tequila, which comes from the agave. The Native Americans had great knowledge of the lands and the spirits and used the agave for food, fibre sand medicine. When the Chinese came to build the rails, they brought with them a treasure chest full of healing remedies."  


For more about the Westin, click here.

          A postscript: There is life beyond the resorts. And if you are curious, antsy, adventurous, and/or sufficiently sated, you may want to go shopping. Several malls should appeal to your inner consumer. They include:


·        Biltmore Fashion Park. Its more than 70 shops  include Saks Fifth Avenue , Macy's , Neiman Marcus , Gucci , Polo/Ralph Lauren , Cartier , Cole-Haan , Pottery Barn  and Escada.,(602)955-8401 or click 
 Biltmore Fashion Park website


·        Borgata of Scottsdale  For that14th Century Italian piazza in the Old West experience. Sit and sip espresso or buy things at any of the 50 shops  and restaurants.(480) 998-1822 or surf to  Borgata of Scottsdale website.

bulletScottsdale Fashion Square It’s big (over 225 stores - count’em – 225) and ever so chi-chi. Retailers include  Dillard's, Nordstrom , Neiman Marcus , Robinson's-May , Nine West , Jessica McClintock , and J. Crew,. (480) 990-7800

Kierland Commons

We look forward to going back to Scottsdale and bringing you more news from the front. In the meantime, would you like some goat cheese with those fries?



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