Had a great birthday yesterday at Glen Ivy. Really, I'm not sure why everyone doesn't celebrate their birthday there, especially since the birthday child gets in free.
It's difficult to get people to road trip on a weekday, but since I'm in rehearsals most weekends I wanted to keep to the day. Celebrants were dropping out at an alarming rate, but then Karina came through, and her friend Jackie (who's now MY friend Jackie) so we had a merry trio on the road about 9:30, Starbucks in hand.
One of the great pleasures of late October at the hot springs is that there are no crowds or lines. Both the girls remarked on this with glee several times during our day. As for me, I've only ever been there at this time of year, so I'm a bit spoiled. We checked in and I got to whip out the very generous gift card I received from my VM cast, so that was the icing on the free birthday cake.
In honor of the proximity to Halloween (and because I get cold in a wet bathing suit all day) I'd brought a fuzzy black robe covered in hot pink skulls, and you better believe I got a lot of compliments on it. As we were shedding the trappings of the outside world and gathering just what we'd need to spa (my ever-present Carmex and my phone for [silent] birthday greetings) I discovered that two other women on our side of the locker room were also October 28 babies. This is a fun moment that only happens at Glen Ivy, and we all wished each other many happy returns. After a short silence, one of them added: "Let me guess...you guys are 29, too?" "Always, darling," I said. "Always."
We headed for the Roman saline baths just because they're so pretty, and the first gush of bubbly water over my body told me that I'd been right to brave disrobing in front of two nubile, long-limbed lasses with gallons of long, shiny hair. At Glen Ivy, no one cares. You see all body types, all ages, and all manner of, um, fashion. It's a cornucopia of physical diversity, and it's all about feeling good, not looking good.
Next, a beautifully leaf-shaded terrace with a feature I'd never noticed before: the hot/cold plunge. One pool 95, the other 55. My companions thought this was a smashing idea, and not wanting to be the uncool one I followed along. I did scream like an opera singer when I immersed myself in the cold, and then it was a bit disconcerting to feel the massive tingling all over after a few moments back in the hot. And we actually did this a few times! I had to admit after a while that it was strangely relaxing.
On to a Glen Ivy first, at least for me: tropical cocktails poolside. Heck, poolINSIDE. We floated on puffy blue lounges, enjoying the warm, clear, perfect day as I got a case of the happies from my Hurricane, which was like a giant pink slushie that somehow made me very slow. All too soon, we'd been there two hours and were in need of actual lunch to sop up the alcohol before our respective treatments.
I don't really get lunch at Glen Ivy. The system is confusing and unwieldy, you can't really see the food even though it's supposed to be cafeteria style, and it's laughably expensive for what you get. I ordered a turkey sandwich on wheat, an oatmeal raisin cookie and a Pepsi. And these items together, Dear Readers, were over TWENTY dollars. And the sandwich wasn't even made to order--it had a distinct whiff of cold refrigerator--hello! No matter. I ate it (and must admit the cookie was sublime) and was off to the Massage Center after agreeing to meet the girls at Club Mud afterward.
The Massage Center was also new to me, and took me on a peaceful, winding path up above the main entrance and down into a set of shaded cabins. I love how there are so many possible locations for one's massages. I bonded with the ladies in the waiting room over how we need to remember to bring a second bathing suit for after massages--shimmying into a cold, sticky thing after being rubbed with hot stones is less than delicious. But the massage itself was a treat, and my therapist, Heidi, was a sweetie. We had a lot in common--single girl children of the same age, married to someone from the British Empire, and her birthday was the next day. "I won't be here," she laughed.
By the time I stumbled over to Club Mud, I was pretty noodly. Jackie was already clay-covered and lounging, so Karina and I waded into the warm, red pool and starting slapping our arms and legs with goo. I have no idea why this is so fun and satisfying, but it is. We proceeded to the land-locked mud mound and continued until we were red and crusty from head to toe. A little breeze had whipped up, so we waddled into the Wafa, like a big oven for clay-covered people, and settled on the stone benches with a friendly gang of women who were cracking me up. One of the best things about Glen Ivy are the crazy conversations you strike up with strangers, that often seem like you've just wandered onstage in the middle of their scene and just picked up wherever it seemed appropriate, or vice-versa. There's an ease about what to say, when and how. No one really worries about it. We've all been soaking in salt and mud all day and, like, whatever. Earlier, a tattooed gentleman begged us to eat the ahi nachos (see? weird food) he'd just purchased, saying it could be an appetizer for our lunch. "Trust me," I told him, "if I didn't hate raw fish, I'd be all over it." "You like a big bloody steak, don't you?" he said, staring into my eyes like he was telling my fortune. "Oh yeah," I said, though I really don't like anything redder than medium.
After scrubbing off the mud, we just had time to guzzle some water (an important spa activity) before descending in the magic elevator to The Grotto, which was closed for renovations on my last visit. Again, I don't know why I love this concept, because it's very weird, but I do. You emerge in a Pirates of the Carribean-like cavern and hand over your earthly goods (towels, shoes) at which point you are steered into a crevasse so a dimly-lit figure can slap you all over with a big paintbrush full of avocado-colored goo. In the next room, you lounge in steam while the goo moisturizes your bits. We joked that we'd never spent quite so much time massaging our own appendages in a rather lewd and lascivious way. The next door leads to a rainfall shower and big fluffy towels, which leads to a waterfall room full of dry-ish rocks for perching while enjoying some hot tea and green apples. I don't care for green apples, but I ate one anyway, since everyone says they can fix whatever ails you.
Now it was free time until closing time, and we happily traversed from pool to pool, doing a bit of soaking in the stinky sulphur (noticing that some people had been in there ALL day) and a bit more lounging in the lounge pool, now totally deserted except for us. After that, there was still time to singe our nostrils in the steam room (intense!) and do a bit of backstroke in the large Roman bath near the showers.
It's a little bittersweet to shower off the last of the rocks that have gotten trapped in your bathing suit bottoms at the end of the day, but at least we knew we were stopping in Temecula for dinner. I wish I had planned a snack, though, because by the time we'd showered, dressed, driven 30 miles, tried to park and discovered there was a 45 minute wait for a table, I was getting a bit light-headed. We sat at the bar but a table quickly opened up, and then we really enjoyed the goat cheese artichoke dip that tided us over until our meals arrived. Then I got seriously busted from the waiter for extricating the bacon from my otherwise perfect burger. I would have ordered it without bacon, but the menu said they'd charge me five dollars extra if I made any changes! This was at Public House in Old Town, a place that I love for the food and the sassy service, though this time we were overlooking the (surprisingly rockin') street life and I was deeply disturbed that the town pipes in hideous saxophone light jazz so that everyone within two miles has to hear it.
There was a lot of yawning on the drive home, and David told me Jarrah was upset that she had to go to bed without giving me my presents, but otherwise the day was a grand success. A trip to Glen Ivy on my actual birthday suits me so well because I have trouble admitting that my birthday is a regular day on which regular people go about their regular business. Heading to a tree-lined hideaway oasis in Corona is a nice way to pretend that I'm the one who's right.