My husband Chris and I have never been away together for a weekend…without the kids. We have had a handful of overnights together (one of which was when Chris stayed the night in Holy Cross Hospital with me after Alice was born) and solo trips to see friends, family or do work. But this was the first time we spent two consecutive nights away without kids since December 2003…when our oldest child was born.
We are not martyrs. We are not helicopters. We just had not yet had the opportunity, or really, worked to make a kidless getaway happen. But thanks to the generous offer of our brother and sister-in-law (who have four kids themselves), we celebrated a Friday night through Sunday afternoon retreat at the most peaceful, beautiful, relaxing and chic resort we have ever visited: Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg, Virginia.
Heaven. On. Earth.
Over the years of A Parent in Silver Spring, readers have e-mailed me or left comments on the blog asking about getaways for couples. And I have not had any first-hand recommendations to offer. Sure, we have gone away for the weekend to Lancaster County to see trains and ride Ferris wheels. We love visiting beaches and amusement parks and taking trips with the kids. But a couple’s weekend? Clueless. I literally Googled “nearby Washington, DC getaway” and stumbled upon the Salamander’s idyllic photographs.
Now I have an emphatic, firsthand getaway recommendation for my parent friends: Head thee to Salamander.
Family-friendly resort…but we went kid-free
I will write a piece in the future on all of the family-friendly offerings at Salamander Resort, and there are many. Kids are welcome, family activities are available, there are Kids Club nights, babysitters can be hired for evenings and we loved seeing children enjoying themselves throughout our weekend.
But last weekend, we really needed the chance to recharge our depleted parental batteries and enjoy some time together as a couple. And we wanted it to be relaxing and luxurious, a celebration of scoring sitters our marriage.
After ensconcing our kids with family, we headed to Middleburg, probably the most simultaneously chic and quaint city in America. We turned onto a graveled road and immediately entered the Salamander bubble.
Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill
Our car was whisked away, our luggage was deposited in our suite for us and we were immediately escorted to dinner in the resort’s signature restaurant, Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill. It is stunning, at once relaxed and luxe. From the octagonal dining room you can see views of the grounds, from fire pits to rolling greens and the equestrian barn.
We settled in with cocktails and dug into delicious fish and steaks. The food is nouveau steak house, with something decadent or healthy for everyone. Chris treated himself to a steak with the trimmings, I went with delicately-dressed rockfish and a sashimi starter. The wine list was well curated and diverse. We were too full to even consider dessert (that never happens with us!) Harrimans is a fabulous dinner choice even if you are not staying as overnight guests. I look forward to driving in for a special brunch or dinner in the future.
That night we walked the gorgeous grounds and were startled by all the stars. Since moving from downtown Silver Spring to northern Colesville/almost-Ashton-Silver Spring, we have been having some awesome astronomy nights. But nothing compares to the wealth of stars you can see in Middleburg. Salamander even provides Celestron Sky Scouts telescopes and start-gazing experiences if you are so inclined.
Our suite was big and beautiful. We did not even use the sitting room, as the big king bed was ideal for reading and watching movies, and the massive bathroom provided lots of relaxing hangouts, from the claw-footed tub to the experiential shower. I am a sheet freak, and the linens were a perfect Pima cotton sateen. The gift shop manager said that sheet sets would be available for purchase soon, they have been so loved by guests. Each room has its own Keurig for coffee, tea and cocoa self-service, and the minibar was stocked with the two in-room must-haves: healthy snacks and spirits.
We awoke refreshed and ready for our first resort activity: a tour of the equestrian center and a mini/modified Equi-Spective learning experience. Neither Chris nor I are experienced riders. Chris took lessons as a boy and I have bumped along on trail rides on friendly country horses, but absolutely all levels are welcome and will find an equestrian experience for them. From the never-ridden to the experienced rider with her own mount (you can bring your own horses with you and they will be lodged almost as luxuriously as the guests), everyone is accommodated.
I would live in Salamander’s stable if I could. It is flawless and like something out of a Ralph Lauren pictorial. Cocktail parties, conferences and formal events are frequently held in it, and I can see why. It is such a great combination of fancy and homey, with the friendly horses offering ears to be scratched, the fresh wood and hay smells and the Hermès-esque leather riding tack all around. I immediately started thinking of women’s blogging retreats being held in the glass conference room, followed by Yoga in the Stable sessions. (Who’s in?)
Sheryl Jordan, the Equestrian Center Director, led Chris and me in a one-hour Equi-Spective learning experience. There was no riding involved, instead we learned how our interactions with horses can teach us so much about ourselves and our leadership abilities. Chris is a director in his workplace, and I am constantly switching gears as a freelancer/consultant/blogger and of course, mom. We learned about self-carriage, how to better listen to others and our environment, how to be open-minded in our communications, how to lead with humility…all through interacting with the most incredible horse, Gentleman’s Quarterly aka Gent (named because he himself is very confident and stylish.)
We learned a great deal from Sheryl and Gent in just a small amount of time. It was exciting to lead Gent as he cantered around the ring (note: the flag stick I am holding visually directs the horse in the ring, it does not touch the animal) and then to signal to him to stop and lead him toward us. It may sound goofy, but I felt extremely calm and empowered and connected when I brought Gent to me with only my body language, and when he approached me to be petted and our heads touched, I felt pure happiness. We learned also how to lead Gent and have him follow us. We loved every second.
Gold Cup Wine Bar and Billiard Room
Invigorated by our new horse sense, we were ready for lunch (after believing we would never want to eat again after the night before) in the Gold Cup Wine Bar and Billiard Room. We loved the cozy leathery club feel of this more casual restaurant, located right next to the lobby and porches for perfect people watching. And dog watching! Salamander is extremely dog friendly, a rarity in a luxury resort.
Our lunch started with a Bloody Mary for Chris, a cappuccino for me and then a charcuterie board to share. Delish! Our sandwich and pasta entrees were yummy and healthy, too. We plotted future Saturdays of horse riding and then game-watching and lunch-eating in the Gold Cup. It would be a fabulous day destination, and the meal and service were truly great.
We headed back to our gorgeous room for a nap. For all the glamour surrounding us, an elusive nap in the middle of the day was one of the best items on our itinerary!
Salamander Spa and Wellness Center
I do adore a good spa treatment. It is a problem. But I feel so incredible for weeks after, I have to say that massages, facials and other wellness treatments are totally worth it. I have tried many spa locations, from the bare-bones to the schmancy, and Salamander’s Spa and Wellness Center does not disappoint.
I recommend that everyone book a holistic spa treatment experience at the Salamander, no matter how small, simply to have access to the indoor vitality areas. The aromatic steam rooms, therapy pools, custom experience showers (you can program the shower to recreate a warm rain forest storm!) and spa-exclusive outdoor pool and cabanas are divine. There are other indoor and outdoor pools at the resort, but this special area is reserved for spa guests.
Chris and I each enjoyed a 50 minute massage, but we spent a few hours trying out all of the relaxation options available. The indoor relaxation areas are sorted into male and female areas, but we met up at the outdoor pool.
Our massages were amazing, tailored to our personal preferences and our bodies’ needs. I mentioned that I have been having more headaches lately, and my massage therapist, Colleen, recommended a scalp and temple treatment to help with that. I walked out of there feeling better than I have in a long time.
I loved choosing the aromatherapy scent that would be utilized during the massage and the absolute professionalism of the staff. Every breath we took while in the spa was infused with zen. It was such a treat, and such a retreat, too.
Feeling so naturally high and giddy as we approached 24 hours kid-free, Chris and I could not help goofily smiling as we walked around the resort taking pictures and soaking up the relaxation that permeated the place. We then walked the 3/4 mile path into Middleburg, and I will share our favorite finds in the town in an upcoming post.
Tree Top Zip Tours
The next morning we harnessed our adventurous spirits – literally – and suited up for our first ever tree canopy zip line tour. (Yes, we live one mile from Sandy Spring Adventure Park, but we have not yet tried.) It felt exciting to do something thrilling after experiencing so much relaxation.
Tree Top Zip Tours by Empower are based on the Salamander Property. You do not need to be a guest to sign up for a zip line tour. As this was our first time zip lining, we opted for the standard tour. We had a blast! We flew over 20 acres of trees and countryside via two “Indiana Jones”-esque bridges and five zip lines of various lengths. The tour lasted approximately two hours and we were led (and kept safe) by our two guides. We were joined by five other brand-new zip liners who were delightful. We created a fun community while up in the treetops, taking each other’s photos, filming videos and encouraging each other.
There are other, more intimate, intense or educational zip tour experiences available, as well. The tour is open to children who who are at least eight years old and weigh 75 pounds, and kids age 8-15 must be accompanied by an adult. Learn more.
Salamander Resort and Spa is the perfect weekend getaway
As we waited for the valet to bring our decidedly un-Salamander-chic minivan around, Chris and I could not help grinning. We were recharged, relaxed and just happy to be together. We were looking forward to reuniting with the children, and we missed them…but not as much as we expected. And we felt a little sheepish admitting that.
When we arrived at their aunt and uncle’s house, we found our kids playing with four cousins and two dogs, hardly looking up to greet us. The kids happily declared they did not miss us at all. It was a wonderful weekend for everyone.
Disclosure: I initiated our reservation at Salamander Resort and Spa, and we were prepared to pay full price for our weekend getaway. However, we were generously provided a reduced rate, upgrades and several comped experiences for review. All opinions are my own.