I’m standing on the deck of creekside Cabin #2 at L’Auberge de Sedona, coffee mug in hand, still in the white bathrobe I pulled out of the wardrobe in the bedroom. The water’s flowing, the ducks are squawking, the trees are whistling in the breeze, and sunlight is peeking through the leaves while I watch spa staff set up chairs and a few tables directly across the grassy yard from me. On top of one table, they arrange bottles, jars, scoops and other utensils, along with various ingredients—dried herbs, botanicals, salts, oils—and on another they place settings with ceramic mortars and pestles. In a few minutes, I’ll step down off my deck and join them, as I’m here, along with four other writers, on invite to sample the resort’s new L’Apothecary service.
Apothecary. The word comes from medieval times and refers to, “one who prepares and sells medicines.” In this case, the word has been transformed to something more luxurious. This L’Apothecary offers guests the ingredients, space and time to prepare their own custom spa products. In either case, it’s about wellness.
At L’Auberge, you can now schedule a visit to the newly remodeled spa—the lobby, which smells heavenly inside, is now designed to look like an old apothecary shop, complete with glass bottles and jars, elixirs, oils and herbs neatly tucked away in new but old-looking cabinetry and shelves. For $25 (price may vary) you can mix, blend and grind natural ingredients, many of them indigenous to the area, into your very own take-home jar of body scrub or bath soak.
They offer a choice of recipes to take home with you so you can make more later on your own. And you don’t have to be an overnight guest at the hotel to enjoy the new service.
When I meet the other writers—all women—down at the creek, we get a quick lesson about how this works. Then we are given a choice of three recipes, including one for an aphrodisiac or one that smells like desert rain. The Clear Mind Scrub sounds perfect to me, so I gather the ingredients for that: 8 ounces of organic cane sugar, 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves, ½ teaspoon of hulled cardamom, 2-3 leaves of ceremonial sage and ½ cup of sunflower oil.
Into the mortar at my station I mix the dry botanicals.
“You’ll want to grind these into a fine powder,” Spa Director Catherine Powers tells us, to make sure there are no sharp edges left to poke your skin.
I stare down at the mortar, the ingredients loosely filling the inside, and think, “that’s easy enough.” So I start to grind. And I grind and grind and grind, switching around how I hold the pestle. When it starts hurting one way. I try another. I’m working up a sweat. Sheesh!
As I pound and whisk the pestle around with a tight fist into the ceramic mortar’s sides and bottom, I joke with the other ladies, “working out some aggression here.” They laugh. They’re doing the same. Fifteen minutes later, my arms are tired, but I have my smooth powder. Meanwhile, the grinding brings out the botanicals’ natural scents, and we’re taking turns smelling each other’s hard labor. You hear a chorus of deep breaths followed by a bunch of “oohs” and “aahs.” I’m beaming. The healing has begun!
My body scrub calls for sugar, so that’s next. I pour it into a big clear bowl and stir in the freshly ground ingredients, scraping them out of the mortar with a rubber scraper, a blend of herbal dust reaching my nose. Then I pour in the oil and stir everything together with a spoon. The spoon comes in handy for the last step: getting the product into the jars. Each one has a label with our name on it. As I’m spooning my new fresh and organic scrub into the jar, I’m feeling giddy at the thought of using it for the first time.
I wipe oily product residue off my hands and say out loud, “this smells so good,” and laugh when someone else one-ups me with a confident, “mine smells better.” By now, all I can think of is getting back to my cabin and using it, maybe in the outdoor shower.
L’Auberge, a tranquil lodge and cabin resort that sits on the banks of Sedona’s Oak Creek and was just listed on Condé Nast Traveler’s 2014 Gold List of the World’s Best Hotels, opened L’Apothecary this spring. It offers guests options of 10 different Mountain Rose Herbs and botanicals, including the sage, rosemary and cardamom, as well as chaparral, lavender, rose hips, cacao, nutmeg, cinnamon and calendula to make custom take-home products. You don’t even have to follow the recipes offered at the spa; you can create your own. Staff is available to help you find the ingredients that will work best for you.
For more information or to make your reservation for a girlfriend getaway, a mother-daughter trip, or even a couple’s date, visit www.lauberge.com.
Phoenix-based, Jackie Dishner, author of Backroads & Byways of Arizona (The Countryman Press, 2010), is always ready for the next Arizona road trip, especially when hands-on fun is involved. She writes about her travels for state and national magazines, and tweets about her travels as @bikelady.
Jackie is a part of the Arizona Office of Tourism's Guest Blogger program. To learn more about this program, or to apply to be a guest blogger, please visit: arizonaguide.com/guest-blogger.