“There she is! How was it? Amazing? Oh my God, you look so relaxed,” she rambled without taking a breath or waiting for a response. Somehow the calming scent of lavender and chamomile that wafted through the ladies side of the spa at the Claremont Hotel wasn’t doing anything to mellow her out. The waiting room was carefully decorated with neutral colors and purposefully placed plush couches and chairs. Health and fitness magazines dot the side tables and offer a quiet way to pass the time as you wait to be called to your next spa service. That is, unless you came with a company of your peers and insisted on passing the time with high intensity gossip worthy of its own Bravo reality television show. The room got smaller by the second as woman after woman emerged from a massage or facial and joined the growing group of women by the large sofa to dish on their treatment and enter the chorus of voices deriding Cynthia (who wasn’t present) for being “lazy” and “bad at her job”. Unable to connect with my own thoughts over the cackle of voices next to me, I wished this was a channel I could change.
The Claremont Hotel, nestled on the rolling Oakland Hills, sits a top the landscape like a magnificent wedding cake. The heavenly white exterior highlights the intricate architectural detailing in the molding that lines the windows and roof of this 100 year old structure. This is as close as Oakland will get to a castle. The majestic draw of this place is compounded by the full service spa, offering ten different kinds of facials and body treatments and eleven distinct massages. Though the exterior of the hotel tells a story about its early 20th century origin, the inside has been pleasantly updated with a clean modern decor and impressive furniture accents to classify this lodge as a premium luxury establishment. The long hallway guides you past an upscale cafe and restaurant and several meeting halls before leading you to the lobby in the center of this extensive space. Approaching the staircase next to the lobby, the scent of mineral oils and salts lure you downstairs to the spa entrance.
The staff, soft and welcoming in their reception, show a hospitality reminiscent of my native Southern roots. After directing me to the ladies side, I broke away from my male companion to await a reunion later during our five star couple’s massage. I quickly unloaded my personal belongings in my newly designated locker space, and headed for the eucalyptus steam room.
Thick vapor spills out of the room as the heavy door opens to allow passage. The tiled floors are warm against bare feet and become hotter as they reach the top bench. The oppressiveness of the humidity quickly becomes overwhelming and, if handled correctly, coaxes it’s inhabitants to enter a quiet, meditative state. After about ten minutes, the hot sweat embellishing my skin is quickly cooled by the air outside the steam room. Several nooks surround the bath area providing a private shower, complete with multiple shower heads to make sure every fold gets rinsed…and I mean EVERY fold. Of course, had the saline whirlpool not been closed for renovations, there would have been the inevitable hot tub soak overlooking the beautiful San Francisco skyline before washing off.
The vanity across from the locker space is stocked with everything a woman could need to feel hygienically taken care of: hair spray and q-tips, combs and brushes, mouthwash and face moisturizer.
Sitting in the waiting area wasn’t as relaxing as the rest of this spa experience, but, it’s hard to complain about the popularity of this place with all the other amenities it has to offer. “Mary? They’re ready for you, ” was all I needed to hear to let the the petty gossip of strangers roll off my shoulders and embrace the present as a place designed to be whatever I needed it to be. The Claremont Hotel & Spa had always been a place I wanted to experience. The grandeur and comfort of this institution provide a welcoming environment to restore the soul. Sometimes, lots of souls need restoration, so who am I to complain about the rat pack on the ladies’ side? I’ll leave that to Cynthia.