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By Jane Cassie
For Travel Writers' Tales

My husband's a total spa supporter. Not particularly for himself, but for me. He appreciates the effect that a good massage has on my tired torso. He likes the way my pasty skin glistens with exfoliation. He'll even comment on my painted pinkies after a new pedi. Yes, when I feel renewed and revitalized, ironically so does he. It has nothing to do with codependency. Bottom line -it's all about 'happy wife, happy life.'

So, during this recent trip to New Mexico, he's totally stoked when I suggest that we book a couple of nights at one of the hottest spots in Santa Fe, The Bishop's Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa.

Although this chic retreat is just a ten minute drive from the bustling downtown core, it feels sublimely removed from anything urban. Our ribbon of back-road, scented with Pińon pine, laces through the flourishing Sangre de Cristo foothills. Then, out of the blue, beyond trickling waterfalls, is this four hundred and fifty acre resort property that I'm sure could also be called paradise.

Seclusion and beauty were, no doubt, two of the alluring features that caught Jean Baptiste Lamy's eye back in 1851. During his busy stint as Santa Fe's first bishop he needed a place for a little prayer and reprieve, and what an idyllic hideaway. In honor of his legacy an original clapboard chapel, complete with a hand built altar remains on the grounds today. And surrounding this century-old gem are posh Pueblo-style havens that offer luxury-loving travelers, like us, a timeless escape.

We meander into the Central Lodge, an adobe delight with a welcoming and informal reception area. Although initially it was home to horses and buggies as a 1915 Carriage House, the only rustic traces today are a few precious memorabilia and photo moments that line the walls. Gleaming hardwood trails through to a cozy living room-like setting, a convivial lounge and the award-winning Las Fuentes restaurant. Over the next two days, while enjoying nightly live music, this fireside setting becomes a favorite haunt where we wine, dine and unwind.

But hibernation in our guest room would not be an arduous task. Fifteen curvaceous structures that terrace the adjacent hillside house one hundred and eleven divine sanctuaries -everything from cozy ranch-style abodes to spacious celebrity-class villas. While some, like the Chamisa and Cienega Lodges are named after the region's indigenous flora, others, such as the Jemez and Sunset, pay homage to the sensational outlooks.

Little Tesuque Lodge, becomes our getaway retreat and from our private hilltop patio we have one pretty Tesuque Valley panorama. The flavour of New Mexico also makes its way into our well-appointed interior. Navajo-prints, handcrafted furnishings and regional artwork all glow in the warmth of the traditional kiva fireplace. And beneath the viga-beamed ceiling we have every necessary nuance to permit that lengthy stay: high speed internet, premium cable, plush robes and spa style amenities. It's all in the details and all are delicious.

But for the whole meal deal, I'm lured by scents that waft from the SháNah Spa. This virtual oasis hugs up to the resort's outdoor pool, soothing hot tub and high tech fitness centre and, from behind its boutique storefront, offers a line-up of transcendental escapes. In addition to six treatment rooms, there are two outdoor private massage gardens, a Watsu pool, whirlpool and a Plains Indian-style Teepee.

Will I go for a wrap, facial or rub? This hedonistic refuge, symbolizing vitality and energy, imbibes many of the ancient Pueblo healing traditions. It's also been awarded the "Most Outstanding Spa" in North America by Condé Nast Johansens. How can I go wrong?

So, while my husband heads off to the neighboring corral to check out the horses and discover his western spirit, I equalize mine with a full body massage.

Strains of new age melodies blend with the aroma of lavender, and while being slathered with natural healing remedies I drift in and out of consciousness. "Am I applying enough pressure, Jane?" Her soft voice fuses with the background harp and, in a trance-like voice, I respond, "Yes, it's all good."

I'm never quite sure whether Michelle is using her fingertips or forearms but it certainly does the deed. After ninety minutes of incredible bliss my gnarled muscles have miraculously unraveled and the tension that has been built up over time has vanished. I walk away in a euphoric state feeling renewed, revitalized, recharged, and claiming ah La, SháNah! Yes, for this happy wife, it is a happy life!

Where to stay:

Bishop's Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa
1297 Bishops Lodge Road
Tel: (505) 983 6377
Toll free: (800) 419 0492

Photos: Brent Cassie

1-Bishop's lodge offers an adobe welcome
2-2517 - View of pool and SháNah spa
3-2497 - hot tub soak
4-6577 - Zen-like outdoor treatment area
5-6526 -stables and neighboring corral
6-2201 - chilling out in the Central Lodge

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